Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It Was One of Those Days

Y'all know that tree that we were getting ready to take down? The one looming over the house? Well, it's down. 

On top of our back porch. 

But in the ever-optimistic mindset of Mason Cook: It could have been worse; there were no career-ending injuries. Plus, see the remodeled bathroom on the right? Spared. The recently finished utility room on the left, untouched.

OK, now, I know what you're thinking. Why didn't they call the professionals? But, really, we were SO close to getting it down clean and easily. But as Mason chainsawed the tree and I accelerated the truck, pulling the steel cable tied up high around the tree, pulling it away from the house, who knew the tree would split up high, entangling the top in all the other treetops? See:

Yup, that's a big-ass tree trunk dangling just off the back of the cabin.  Insert expletive here. We tugged and tugged from all sorts of angles, and heard lots of eerie cracking sounds, but we couldn't get the tree to fall away from the house, so we were left with the option of pulling it straight down.  Odds were good we'd clear the house, we figured. But apparently, gambling is not our thing. Never has been. Sometime I'll tell you about Mason's Las Vegas misadventures.

After some tears (OK, only Nan; Mason just said, "We can fix it."), we ate some lunch, then cleaned up the mess and assessed the damage. Truly, we were lucky; the damage is pretty much isolated to the back porch, though the entire metal roof back there will have to be replaced. But as you can see from the rust, it was going to have to be replaced eventually anyway, right? RIGHT?

(Check out Nick the Dog, here. All he's thinking is, "I still get my evening walk, right?")

And don't the damage look a lot more minor by just getting the tree out of the way? Don't it? No worries, eh?

But ... you know that kitchen remodel that was about to happen? Yeah, it's on hold. Insert expletive here. 

And all evening long, I've been singing that damn NFL Fantasy Football commercial: "So you've had a bad day ..." If only it were just my fantasy football team that crashed through my porch.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Operation Tree, Phase One

See that massive tree perched at an uncomfortable angle over the corner of our home sweet home? That was today's project. And it looks like it's going to be Wednesday's project, too.

To get that tree to fall away from the house, we decided that first we'd have to take down three other trees (the ones you can see here near Mason at the corner of the house). And since these trees are in a prime gardening spot, we wanted to take them out by the roots instead of leaving stumps. Which means a lot more work.

Before the chainsaw saw any action, we dug out the dirt around the roots and axed as many as possible. Then a rock tied to a string was tossed over a high branch; then the string pulled up a 100-foot-long steel cable. With one end of the cable on the tree, the other was looped around the hitch on our poor abused Dodge pickup. A few good yanks and, ta-da, the tree was down. Kinda. The top got tangled in the tops of other trees. More yanking, some chainsawing, yanking, and finally we got it:

That was tree No. 1. All the spindly tops were cut up for fire pit action this summer. Then Mason cut up all the trunks and large limbs -- YES! the firewood collection has begun for next winter!

Once the first tree was done, repeat the process two more times and you'll understand why we didn't have time to get to the original tree we wanted to take down. You'll also understand why our bodies ache from head to toe. Luckily rain is forecast for tomorrow, so the dangerously looming tree will have to wait till Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or New Year's Day, when it's supposed to hit 60 degrees.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Merry Flat Top Christmas

It's a Christmas miracle! We finally live where flowers bloom on December 25th. (This is my Yuletide camelia bush -- love those deep green leaves, not to mention the blooms. The bush is still puny, as I just planted it in the spring, but it should get at least 6 feet tall. I must plant many more of these next spring.)

We rang the holiday in German-style, on Christmas Eve, with beers, of course. A new batch of home brew -- High Octane IPA -- just came online, and oh, it may be one of our best yet. Oak chips are thrown in during the secondary fermentation, giving it a wintry bite.

We were showered with gifts from my mother and Mason's ex, Karen. We opened them all while watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and roasting ourselves in front of the wood stove.

And today we gave Nick his present: an hourlong hike, up and down hills laced with creeks and even a small waterfall. And instead of taking down that tree that's looming over the cabin, like we had planned, we brewed more beer. Go figure.

Here's hoping your holidays are just as joyous! Thanks to you all for your cards and well wishes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Birthday Kiss

Today was Mason's birthday. And yes, people, this is what 61 years will do to you. (Nick the Dog wasn't complaining, though.) Well, maybe it was just that one year on Flat Top that pushed him over the top. Or maybe it was the two beers at lunch or the pitcher of Bud at the bowling alley. Yup, that's how we celebrated today.

We only bowled two games and neither of us did too well; even the lithe blond teenager in the next lane scored higher than Mason, and yes, she might have been the reason he was distracted from his usual high-scoring game. Dirty old man.

Gearing up for our first Christmas on the mountain.  I haven't bothered to unpack my small box of holiday decorations, however. In fact, today we talked about what to do on Christmas Day. I think we settled on trying to bring down a treacherous tree that's leaning over our house. May the spirit of the day bring us good luck.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fire and ... Wasps

See this window? See all those wasps trapped inside it? This was one of the windows in our loft bedroom, at the peak near our roof. It was on our list of top-priority things to tackle as soon as we moved in. A year later -- yes, we bought our little diamond in the Tennessee rough a year ago this week -- we finally did something about it.

We thought the wasps were dead when we moved in, but last spring, when the temps first hit 70 degrees,  the wasps started to stir. Apparently they were just hibernating. Hello, pesticides.

The window was "custom built," like a lot of things around this place. While the glass was double-pane, the window itself had 1-inch gaps all around it, allowing in bugs, birds (we woke up to one flying around the house just the other day) and really cold air.

Anyway, yesterday, while I slaved away in the utility room, mudding the drywall seams -- I HATE mudding -- Mason decided he'd try to caulk the gaps. No go. Too big, so the whole window came out and we now have a hunk of insulation foam filling the hole. Can you say Casa de Basura Blanco? But it'll do for now. We'll wait until spring to install a new -- store-bought -- window.

Meanwhile, here's a word from our sponsor: DO NOT ATTEMPT. Professional fire idiot:

(That's the giant pine tree we downed. Pine's no good for the wood stove, it's too soft and sappy, so we've been burning it in the fire pit. But don't worry, so far we've been finding enough good, dead hardwood to keep us warm.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In the Words of Rick Perry: Oops

As much as it pains us to admit it, winter has officially arrived here on Flat Top: It snowed today.

Ohhh, I can't lie: It snowed about a week ago, too.

I know all you Minnesotans are snickering right now. I know, we thought we were moving away from the woes of winter. But eat this, Northerners: It didn't stick. And though snow does fall here from time to time, it rarely sticks.

But it IS cold. Not Minnesota cold, but dipping into the 20s at night. Our new wood stove is seriously earning its keep -- no, no central heating here, not to mention much insulation -- but its new owners have officially logged Lesson #321 of living in the woods: Always cut enough firewood in early summer for the following winter. Oops.

See that pile in the photo? Gone. Weeks ago. And now we're stuck searching for dead trees to take down and cut up. And determining whether a tree is dead when all of our trees have lost their leaves is not really in our skill set just yet. But on the bright side, cutting firewood can work up a sweat.

So in six months, when I'm so busy nurturing those new plants of mine, someone please remind Mason and me to cut down some damn trees. And don't worry, we have plenty to pick from. See:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Getting Back Into Action

It's not that we've been lazy; we just haven't tackled any big projects to show off. Photos of insulating the utility room just aren't that exciting. And while we enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal on the front porch while soaking up 72-degree sunshine, the chillier nights and earlier sunsets have slowed our momentum just a bit.

Then came that heavy rainfall you see above; rain seems to come down by the bucketsful here. The downpour finally inspired me to tackle improving some of our rainwater runoff issues. See these new driveway ditches?

This is how I spent Thanksgiving (and the day before and the day after and the next few days to come). Hmm, now that I look at it, it doesn't look like as much work as it was. Mason? He's been busy working on insulating and drywalling the utility room, fixing the generator, fixing the roof leak, cutting firewood, brewing beer (and the list goes on and on).

The return of rain has also brought our nearby brook back to life:

Beautiful, eh? It sounds great, too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A 75-Foot Whim

It was a glorious 70-degree day on Flat Top, and our chore list was slim. So, on a whim, we decided to take down the near-dead pine tree that loomed over our house, rising up just inches from the upper deck. See?

First, Mason got the extension ladder on the upper deck and fastened a 100-foot-long steel cable to the tree at about the 25-foot level. The other end of the cable was hooked to the bumper of the truck, which we then drove into the timberland south of us, after Mason chopped down a few small trees that were in the way. What could possibly go wrong, right? So while Mason put the chainsaw to the tree, I pulled with the truck, and wouldn't you know it, after a few good tugs, down came the 75-foot (yes, we measured it) beast.

Just another glorious, adventurous day on Flat Top. Too bad it's a pine and we can't burn it in the new wood stove. But that's a LOT of fire pit material.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's a Chick Day

We've lived in the Chattanooga area now for about 10 months, but we haven't spent any time exploring the city itself. Getting running water in the cabin always seemed more important. And heat. And electricity ...

Mom to the rescue.

City exploration isn't really Mason's thing. I mean, he likes a bit of it, if a beer joint is thrown into the mix, but ...

Today Mom and I DID Chattanooga. We started with the Hunter Museum of American Art, where Mom was able to rattle off all of the big (and not-so-big) artists' names and their reps. Then we did a quick tour of the Arts Bluff District (galleries, cafes and coffee shops) and lunched at the 212 Market, which is a local food/organic eatery. Dogs welcome. Big supporter of our local NPR station. You know, Nan's kinda eatery.

The city's free electric bus took us down to Warehouse Row, a high-priced shopping district that's half empty but features the super cool Revival home decor store, where we got some good ideas for the cabin that we're sure to steal!

Then it was up to the North Shore shopping area, so I could walk up and down every aisle of the new Whole Foods store.

And when we got home, we collected beautiful fall leaves while we took Nick the Dog on his nightly walk.

A girls' day out or what?

And as a bonus, Mason and Nick got to go to the landfill AND the Home Depot!! Everybody was a winner today on Flat Top.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Momma's in the House

Well look who's on Flat Top? Momma Gerri Williams! She arrived Monday, on her birthday, and will be here a week! Brave woman, willing to take on the rigors of off-the-grid living.

Today's goal was to let Mom completely unwind and breathe in the mountain air. We walked Nick, twice. Stacked firewood that Mason cut. Discussed the kitchen remodel. Then there was lunch. She sketched a drawing of the tractor...

... then took a nap. We even found time for a hand of Rummy. Is that not a good day, people? Flat Top delivers.

Did you check out those hip sneaks this hip grandma Mom's got?

Tomorrow we hit Chatt-town. The art museum and a few shops. Needless to say, Mason will be staying on the mountain. Wise choice.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Visitors! Visitors!

Look at this radiant couple! We would never have guessed that Jamie and Leslie Plesser would be our first visitors from Minneapolis to brave the wilds of Tennessee, but we couldn’t have been more pleased! Perhaps they look radiant because they spent their 12th wedding anniversary on glorious Flat Top Mountain, which is awash in full, lavish fall colors. They’re on a road trip, hitting all of the great sights from Nashville to Asheville. Lucky for us, Flat Top falls right in between.

For those who don’t know, Leslie is a photographer (check out her fabulous work at and designer, and is the brilliance behind, the Star Tribune’s weekly entertainment mag, and Jamie is all about social media at Best Buy and the dude simply oozes cool.  The two are what I call hipsters. They dress hip. They go to concerts five days a week. They live in a fabulous Linden Hills home. And, best yet (for Nick), they’re dog people!

We did our best to give them the full Flat Top experience. The 75-degree blue skies didn’t hurt. Nor did the cinnamon, lime and auburn glow of the fall canopy.

In return, they brought us all sorts of treats (from Trader Joe's nuts to a big fat Vogue magazine).

Thank you, Jamie and Leslie, for braving our little life experiment in the woods.  You delighted us. Happy Trails, and pass the word on: It wasn’t that bad, right?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Winter? Bring It!

Remember our old wood stove? Lemme remind you of the rickety rust bucket that broke every safety rule in the book:

When we moved here, every night that we fired her up, I was convinced we would burn down our new little wood-frame love nest. Seriously, I couldn't sleep. So we bought a new stove in June ... and of course, waited until two nights of 35-degree temps to install it.

Now, I was all fired up to pay for the install, because it involved: 1) climbing our steep metal roof, and 2) somehow getting to the smokestack up to where it enters the house, which was 18 feet above the living room floor. But Mason -- "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" -- Cook wouldn't even consider hiring out the $500-plus job.

First we built a raised hearth and tiled it and the wall behind the stove:

Then Mason built scaffolding that extended out from the loft bedroom, so he could perch a ladder atop it and reach the ceiling:

Then came the fun part. (Warning: Professional thrill seeker. Do not attempt):

Now it's hard to see, but we had two lines (ropes, you landlubbers) tied around the little wood ladder laid flat on the roof and thrown over the back side of the house and tied to two trees. The ladder gave Mason something to kinda lean on and sit on while perched on the steep roof. Needless to say, the man slept real hard after those two days topside.

And the finished product?

And the beautiful warm flames now licking at our feet?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Bathroom: Before and After

Before, there was no running water, the toilet was cracked and leaked on the industrial-grade blue carpet, which was disturbingly moist. The door was a piece of particle board. The cupboard (hidden in the left corner next to the toilet), also built of particle board, was the home to unidentified rodents. The clawfoot tub was cute, but needed refinishing and posed acrobatic challenges to even the most nimble while climbing in and out :

After? Well it's still a tiny little bathroom, but we're happy:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mixing It Up

After months of scouting tillers now and then on Craigslist, we finally got serious about our hunt last week, and sure enough, two days later we had ourselves a fine Craftsman rear-tiner. Two days after that,  I had purchased grass seed and dug up about 800 square feet of our "back yard." Dug down about 5 inches, then mixed in manure and peat. The next step called for leveling and flattening the new lawn space with a rented "roller." Screw that. Mason chainsawed off a fat hunk of a downed tree trunk, and we rolled that around (it took two of us) until we had a nice level future lawn. Hopefully we'll see some sprouts in the next few days.

Once I got my hands on that machine -- and make no mistake, this is MY toy, not Mason's -- I couldn't resist doing some more yard work with it, so I tore up the front bed and some spots here and there, and then planted a few new shrubs and moved a few others around. So far I've completed 5% of the plantings I have planned out in my head. Yes, I dream in green.

Oh, and Mason? He's made a fine run at a long list of assorted projects, including reinstalling the interior wood planks that we took down when we installed the French doors, and OH, finishing the bathroom! Guess I better post some photos of that tomorrow. That is, unless tomorrow turns out like today, when I curled up on a living room chair and read half a novel, while Mason hammered out crossword puzzles and roamed the property aimlessly. The truth is out: We do have the occasional lazy day!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guest Writer, Cindy (Eggert) Johnson!

Lili, the Johnsons' wonder dog

When Nan and Mason describe their location on Flat Top Mountain as "remote," they aren't kidding. Once you leave the last bit of blacktopped road, you'll spend the next 20 minutes bouncing over outcroppings of boulders and thinking the idea of a Hummer is not so completely out of the question for some trips. Edina's 50th and France, this is not.

(For a videolog of the Johnsons' trip, go to

When Nan and Mason describe their home on Flat Top as "rustic," they also aren't joshing. But in typical Williams-Cook fashion, they've already transformed their humble abode into an oasis of order and charm. I'm fairly certain there isn't another property on Flat Top with Persian rugs on the floor, white slip-covered chairs in the front room and an array of artwork that easily could serve as the mountain's premiere gallery. Glimmers of their master remodeling plan can be seen everywhere, from the mulched trails flanked by new plants to the tidy and sturdy outbuildings. 

OK, I know I'd have a hard time limiting my electric consumption, particularly after seeing the array of gadgets we brought: four cell phones, two laptops, one GameBoy, one solar charger, one iPod, one iPad, one Nook. Thankfully, the Williams-Cooks were gracious with the firing up of their generator, and our boys -- 17 and 14 -- hardly missed a connected beat. Though they did miss internet service. But oh well!

Aaron, a serious chef in the making

Jake, cards in one hand, phone in the other

Nan fed us well for four days, including Lili, who swiped a homemade biscuit from the kitchen. We were treated to homemade pizza (amazing), orzo salad (yum!), chicken sliders, pancakes and more. Mason kept us well lubricated with homebrew, though I will admit to switching to a wimpier commercial brew after a few of his alcohol-heavy versions. But they are tasty!

Soddy Daisy and Chattanooga offered a lot of fun. We had an amazing whitewater rafting trip (class 3 and 4 rapids)...

swam in an amazing little swimming hole at a local park...

which with a little more rain, I'm sure would be even more pleasurable, hiked along Lookout Mountain to soak in a bit of Civil War history, conquered a not-so-difficult rope and zipline course. So, we didn't to a heck of a lot of relaxing on Flat Top. We did, however, take several excellent hikes around the gated community, and even discovered a few new cabins off the beaten path that Nan and Mason hadn't seen before.

The Flat Top Twins say they like to spend as much time as possible on their porch, and I can see why. There's usually a nice breeze blowing, and the quiet of the mountain -- with the exception of some overly enthused cicadas and the occasional generator or two -- is lovely.

So, I encourage you ALL to visit! We're hoping to back soon ourselves!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Outsiders Among Us

Flat Top Mountain was invaded last week by our very first visitors: Milwaukee-ites Cindy and Dean Johnson and brave sons Jake, 17, and Aaron, 14, and their pup, Lili. Yes, we officially love them more than any of you.

We rafted down the 1996 Olympic-worthy Ocoee River rapids, swam in a local swimming hole (or what's left of it in this drought), ate too much and drank a bit more than we ate. The Johnsons also jet-skiied with Dean's longtime friend and zip-lined at Ruby Falls. In between, there was also a Flat Top hike (we found a couple of cabins that are so tucked away that they make us look like we're sitting in the middle of Times Square. Seriously.),  a small bit of fishing, an excursion into the urban wilds of Chattanooga and a mean card game of Up and Down the River.

When they left, Jake said, "It wasn't as bad as I was expecting." I took that as the best compliment an old lady could get from a teenager dragged along on one last family summer vacation before his senior year in high school.

What? You want photos from their visit? Yeah, we would, too, CINDY!?!??!

Next up on the visitor list: the oh-so-hip Plessers of Minneapolis in late October, quickly followed by my mom, Gerri, the most adventurous 70-something-year-old I know. Oh yes, lots of projects are on the to-do list before then. First up: Finishing the bathroom. I promise, photos will be posted as soon as the paint is dry.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sneak Preview

I think today was our 18th or 19th day of showering outside; we've started to lose track. But tomorrow? Oh yes, big plans. The shower is tiled and was ready to go tonight, but of course we bought shower curtain rings that are too small for the wood dowls we stained and varnished for the curtain rings, so the first shower in the new bathroom will have to wait until tomorrow.

Here's your sneak preview of the tile scheme and shower floor:

We're not done yet. of course. We still have to install the bathroom door, the drywall on that wall and the ceiling, and then mud/tape and paint the whole 5' x 7' room.  Umm, yeah, Johnson family (who arrives Sunday), you may have to endure an unfinished ceiling. But hey, we got the shower done! Not to mention the toilet reinstalled; it had been removed three times during the process. Mason says word to the wise: Stock up on No. 1 wax ring kits if you're doing a bathroom remodel, but go with No. 10 (40% more wax) for the final installation.

Let's be honest: We're exhausted. We're not used to putting in long (6-7 hours of actual work) days. The tiles cut our fingers; the mortar dried them out like jerky, then the grout? Brutal for grinding sand into those cuts the tile left behind. Yes, there was bickering and whining. But the worst is over!!!

Before you get the final photos, we'll contrast that with exactly how awful that bathroom was ...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Progress Report

So the new shower is framed and hardibacker-ed (don't ask) and ready to be tiled, floor to ceiling, tomorrow, which means Mason and I should be fighting by noon. My theory is start tiling in the most visible corner, so you get the most visible area in a good, pretty pattern, but Mason says starts in the invisible corner and let  the pieces fall as you go. He's SO gonna lose this fight.

So the new sink and new giant mirrored medicine cabinet are installed. Nice view out the new window, huh? Don't worry, there'll be an opaque shower curtain for privacy.

On an unrelated note...

So the past two times we've gone into town, our lunch stops have reminded us that perhaps we are taking a bit too well to the rural life. Both times, lunch turned into sensory overload as we felt bombarded by the crowds, noise and, well, people. We LOVE the chance to have someone else cook for us, but the whole obnoxious environment of modern humanity completely overwhelms us at times.  I'm just not sure this is a good sign ...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day Five of Outdoor Showers

We're trying to continue to embrace the novelty of showering in The Great Outdoors. Mason initially predicted it would be about a week before we showered like real people again. But, of course, every step of the remodeling project is taking longer than expected. The new estimate is two weeks, so that's just another nine days of cleaning the tree debris and bugs out of our (outdoor) claw-foot tub before lathering up.

And poor Nick, he wanders outside with us when we shower and sits there with a look of disgust on his face. He lies in the dirt with his head on his crossed legs and watches us from afar, like a humiliated teenager. ("What is WITH these humans?")

I think we'd be more upbeat if not for the 90+ degree heat and nasty humidity that settled in as soon as we tore up the bathroom. Last night was the worst night we've encountered in our post-air-conditioning world. But about 2 a.m., a storm rolled through and thankfully cooled things off.  Meanwhile, the past five days have been heavy on the productivity level, so the sweat has been flowing freely.

Oh, then there was Wednesday night, when a bat decided to fly into the house. OK, it was a really small bat and I know he was more-or-less harmless, but I don't like bats. Just ask the ex, Dvorak. Mason, of course, thought I should just ignore the bat until it left, but once he realized I was NOT coming back into the house until the hairy flying mammal was escorted outside, he finally got serious. Yes, I am to blame for the death of a small, defenseless bat. (Small enough that he died under the weight of a flyswatter.) And once again, Mason's my hero.

So the new shower is framed and the new shower pan is halfway done. We should be able to start tiling by Sunday. We hope.

Other random notes on rural life:
-- Coyotes (yes, three syllables) have been more vocal of late; must be the heat. At a local breakfast joint, two elderly locals (OK, one MAY have been in britches) were shooting the breeze when one of them mentioned something about "coats." Even the other local had to stop and make sure he was referring to "KY-otes."
-- We spotted a snake track in the dusty sand on a back road of our property. A BIG snake track. We've been told they're here, but haven't seen any yet. We're told that dogs will keep them away. Way to earn your keep, Nick.
-- A 4-inch-long toad was in the middle of our road the other day. He was dead, or we sure hope he was, because he was COVERED in ants. Nasty sight. Saw it on our late-morning walk. But by our evening walk, it was gone. Seriously, could ants crawl off with something that big?

Just another week on Flat Top.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our New, Spacious Bathroom

The bathroom remodel continues at full force. The demo was completed on Tuesday. Today, we finished the day with a new vent stack for the septic tank (trust me, it ain't sexy but it's OH so important), a new medicine cabinet framed out and ... a new shower (outdoors, that is):

Here's our new temporary shower quarters while we build a new one indoors. Mom Williams insisted we hang the shower curtains, even though I explained that there was no one around to see a damn thing -- as if there was a damn thing to see. (If you're sharp, you'll notice the beer on the blue water barrel. Oopsie -- busted!) I built the little wooden path out to the tub. Tomorrow we'll elevate it onto some logs, to keep the dirt off.

(FYI, Johnson family: When you come visit, at least two of us have to opt for the outdoor option every day, to spare the septic any overload. Trust me, we wouldn't want that!!)

While Mason slaved on the bathroom remodel, I've been working on scrubbing down the south side of the house, in preparation for staining. What a difference a scrubbing makes:


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Warning: Contents Is Graphic

Yes, you’re right. That IS a petrified mouse sticking out of the end of a Shop-Vac hose! It was the highlight of our day, which tells you how well Day One of bathroom demolition went.

Let’s all take a second here to tell Mason how incredibly great he is. “Mason, I love you, honey.” That’s all I could keep on saying as he worked for hours today in the 90-degree heat, peeling layers of wood planking off the bathroom walls and ceiling. With each plank came down a pile of insulation that had been shredded by squirrels, birds and mice. It was 4 inches deep and intertwined with rotting leaves and turds of every delight. And all of it was raining down on Mason as he tore it out. (You can see the insulation; be thankful you can't see the mouse turds melting in the sweat on his back and shoulders).

Mason is rarely grossed-out by things. He was grossed-out by this. I kept hearing   him groan ... and cough.   He finally conceded to donning a mask, but tore it off 2 minutes later when his glasses steamed up. Did I mention it was hot and humid today? Oh wait, yes, that’s EVERY day!

SO, first he employed a full-size shovel to remove the nesting.

Then he used a little whisk broom and dust pan. 

Then came the Shop-Vac.

See that well-lit area between the roof of the house and the ceiling of the bathroom? Yup, that's a big gaping hole in the siding to the great outdoors. A very big, bad hole. And the end product of the day's work? Two huge contractor bags full of bags of this:

So, who wants to visit???

For the record, today before Mason got jiggy with this project, he jacked up the back of the house, which was sinking into a rotting 2-inch piece of shim lumber atop the concrete blocks that supply the precarious perch to our little piece of paradise.

And also for the record, after Project Mouse Turd, Mason promptly showered, then launched into beer bottling and brewing – our regular Sunday chore of love.

Oh, and the shower? It may be the second-to-last one we get inside the house for a few weeks. HELLO, Mother Nature au natural. (Don’t worry, we’re quite secluded. We’re well aware nobody wants a full-frontal body shot of the Flat Top Twins.)

(And please thank Leslie Plesser for the photos. And all of the other Minneapolis women who bought me this fabulously handy little camera. THANK YOU LADIES!!!)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Introducing (Dramatic Pause) the SHED

And we are so happy it's finally done!! All of Mason's tools are now tidy, organized on a peg board or on one of the many shelves he built. He also built a workbench and separate table for the pipe vise.

You'll see that the old front door of the house got recycled on the new shed (I secretly like the horseshoe/star door knocker). Mason got a bit creative with the vertical striping, but it IS his shed, so I've promised not to harp on him about it TOO much more. (But it's overkill, I tell ya!)

And a cute little couple of lizards seem to have adopted the shed as their new home, enjoying the shade underneath it. We've named them Henry and Henry's Girl.  We even put out a little flat rock (underneath the window) so they can sun themselves.

Eventually a pole barn will be built right next to the shed, but with our first guests coming in a month, we're moving on to the bathroom remodel, which really, truly is going to start tomorrow.

OH, and here's the front porch with the new stain all finished. That's one side of the cabin done, about 8 more sides to go:

And here's where we hung out in the "back yard" while we were banished from walking on the porch waiting for the stain to cure: