Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hello Cornhole

Today we finally unpacked the second bedroom, moving out a bulk of the stuff stored in there out to the new shed. At first it looked like we needed to build a shed twice as big, but as things got unpacked and organized,  everything seemed to find a place -- but with no space left over, that's for certain. In celebration, we also unpacked our "cornhole" beanbag game that we built in Minnesota and promptly had a rousing match.  See?

OK, OK, we posed that shot. Never do we get ALL the bags onto the board. And yes, Mason won.

Thursday followed a busy Wednesday, when we raked up and moved a massive pile of rotting leaves -- three hours of raking and wheel-barrowing -- then stained all the trim wood that will finish off the shed. In between there was gardening, when we discovered the coolest mushrooms! Check these out:

I thought only  cartoon mushrooms had polka dots!

This weekend we've been invited over for steaks on the grill at a neighbor's. Score! We'll also finish organizing the shed and maybe -- MAYBE -- get that new front door installed.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lazy Days of Summer

Check out these behemoth blackberries! We bought them at the farm stand at the "end of our street" (that's about 6 miles down the road where we hop onto the highway). They musta been grown in the greenhouse (with plenty of fertilizer), because all the wild berry bushes on the mountaintop are just starting to darken and are still quite bitter. But soon we'll be picking 'em off the bushes that line our property!

Now don't ask where the photo of that new front door is. We managed to putter all week and weekend and not get to that project. But on the other hand, the shed is nearly done, and I've put in some trees (deep red crape myrtles -- OH, so Southern), shrubs and perennials. I also started building the mulch pathway from the house to the shed and started planting alongside it. Yes, yes, photos of all those will come soon, too.

The weather has entered quite the pattern here. The day starts cool, heats up quickly to quite sticky levels, then thunderheads come rolling in and drench us with late afternoon or evening rain. We're told it's not usually this stormy here, so I guess we have climate change to blame. The rainy evenings have been perfect for brewing beer, though, so the cellar has been replenished with a Belgian lawnmower Saison, a California steam and a honey amber ale. Cheers!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fire Under Our Bellies

See this fire trap? We relied on this heap of rust to keep us warm in January through March. The wood stove is the main heat source for our new home, though we do have some propane heaters. But our pitiful stove was declared a fire hazard when we had it inspected in February. Sheets of metal are coming off the top, and at the base of the stove pipe? Oh yes, holes. And the double- or triple-wall stovepipe that's standard on installations? This one was installed using air-conditioning duct. That's kind of like building a papier-mache levee to hold back the Gulf of Mexico. Hello, Corps of Engineers?
But .. the old girl got us through the winter (with a lot of worrying by Nan).

But today we made the big investment in a new stove. It will be a bit smaller but probably twice as efficient. Mason gets the honor of installing it, which should be real fun on our super-steep metal roof. We'll let you know how that goes when it happens. We figure we've got until at least September or October to put it in. It'll be a big project, including replacing the exceptionally combustible wood mantle and the metal wall behind the stove pipe, which will soon become a beautiful wall of (cheap Home Depot) tile.

And yes, we're still working on that new front door. ... This week, it's gonna happen. We promise. Maybe. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Big Flames, Big Plans

Remember those 60-foot-tall trees we took down to make room for the pole barn? Well, we're reusing most of their trunks for the pole barn uprights, but it was time to do away with all those little limbs. FIRE! (OK, yes, ideally we'd chip them and make mulch, BUT we sold our chipper in Minneapolis and haven't splurged on a new used one yet.)

Fires with Mason are always an adventure, and the flames generally are much higher than reasonable people would allow. (Just ask the Edina cop who knocked on our door around 1 a.m. one night when the old man was burning off scrap construction wood in the front yard.)

Today we went to town and stocked up on supplies. Our goal is to stay on the mountain for five days straight. The new propane fridge is stuffed full, we have a long list of projects to keep us busy and there is PLENTY of home brew available. Any bets on whether Mason can make it five days without a meal out?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Welcome Home

After two weeks in Texas -- and two days of driving home sans air-conditioning, -- we are very happy to be back at Flat Top Manor.  Though when we pulled up in front of our little cabin, we both experienced the same reaction: "Hmmm, it still looks pretty shabby, don't it?" But after we got the ferns back up on the porch, watered the plants (sadly we lost a few for lack of moisture) and picked up a tree's worth of small branches that had apparently fallen during a weekend storm, it started to look a bit better.

So alas, all the more reason for us to launch right back into the projects. Within 24 hours of getting home, we were priming the new front door. Once we get that painted and installed, we'll take the old front door and install it on the shed and finish up that project. Then, dare I say, the bathroom remodel?

We also had a treat waiting for us when we arrived: The only "neighbors" we hadn't met yet  -- a couple from Florida -- who own the parcel just north of us. We were told they only come up to the mountain once or twice a year. Their's is the lot sporting just a shed with attached porch, a fire pit and the Confederate flag.

Our fears were of survivalists still fighting The War of Northern Aggression. But we couldn't be more pleasantly surprised. The couple -- about our age and vacationing in RVs with their parents, brother, daughter, a niece and two dogs -- are the friendliest folk we could ask for. And yes, beer drinkers, too, so that doesn't hurt. They bought their land about five years ago and tell a hilarious tale of their real estate agent (driving a Hummer and wearing spike-heeled boots) finding the property for them.

So, three cheers: for a good vacation, good neighbors and being home again. Stay tuned, there's GOT to be a tractor tale on the near horizon, I'm thinking.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A/C, Sweet A/C

Poor Nick. Today we drove from Arlington, TX, to Vicksburg, MS, in 100-degree heat. In the middle of the day. In the Jeep. Which has no air-conditioning.

Yes, we're nuts.

We thought we had the air-conditioning fixed with a $90 shot of freon while we were in Arlington, but it turns out the freon leaked from multiple spots in the system. An $1,100 fix. No thanks. Argh.

We fed Nick ice cubes all along the trip to make sure he didn't overheat, and now at the dog-friendly Best Western, we're feeding ourselves some icy beers to replenish our fluids (yah, yah, yah, we know beer is not the answer ... just play along.) 

This motel is our last chance to soak up air-conditioning for the summer of 2011.  I DID mention we were nuts, right?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just Call Him Pappy

Meet Jack, Mason's newest grandchild. Here Mason jumped into action when Jack got a bit fussy at a Mexican restaurant.  A little swinging (and a little beer?) went a long way.

Phase I of the Texas road trip was in Arlington, visiting all of the various Cooks, high school buddies, et al. Now we're at Lake Kiowa, rebuilding a garden wall and doing some painting for Mom, while getting daily visits with Dad. Also saw the nephews after their first year in college. Man, weren't they just toddlers? And still hoping to work in some yoga with my sister Maggie.

On Friday it's back down to Arlington so Mason can get a belly full of all his favorite Texas eats before we head back to Flat Top. Meanwhile, me? Pretty sure I've gained back every pound I had lost.