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:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bad Dog

Remember how just two days ago we were cooing over how cute Nick the Berry-Eating Dog was? What a difference two days makes.

So yesterday was a scorcher. After staining the front porch the day before, we were banned from walking on it, which meant our usual respite from the heat was off-limits. We moved the porch chairs out to the "back yard" and did what we could to cool off in between the odd chores we had lined up for the day. But by 5 o'clock, Mason threw in the towel and suggested we drive down to Steve's Landing, a local restaurant where the food is crappy but the beer is affordable and the outdoor patio is shaded by the most beautiful silver maples. And most importantly, there's parking in the shade, which means Nick can go for a car ride -- a rarity in this summer's heat.

So on the outdoor patio, just a few yards from Nick's spot in the shade in the truck (with the windows down), Mason and I enjoy some cold beers, crappy chicken wings and greasy onion rings. There are a couple of cats on the patio, begging for food and attention. Offered some wings, even they turn up their noses.

OK, so we drink, eat, hit the head, then go back to the truck. I beat Mason back, so I let Nick out to have a quick pee before the drive home. He sniffs here and there, and quickly makes his way toward the outdoor patio. It seems Nick has seen the cats. And it seems he is no longer listening to his owner, who is trying not to make a scene and is calling his name with hushed urgency.

Next thing I know, Nick is on the outdoor patio, weaving his way through tables toward the last known sighting of said cats. Then, I'm hopping over the patio railing (in my short dress) and chasing after Nick as restaurant patrons watch and laugh. "Nick, come here," I pleaded.

At this point, Mason has exited the building. About the time he sees me hop the railing (in my short dress), he promptly makes a beeline for the truck. "Who her? The crazy lady chasing the dog through the outdoor eatery? Nope, never seen her before in my life."

Alas, I finally corral Nick before any cat incident can occur and immediately chide him, "Bad dog, bad dog," which brings a new wave of laughter from the patrons.

Like any good wheel man, Mason has pulled the truck around to the entrance of the patio for a quick getaway; I herd Nick into the front seat, hop in and we flee  -- with our tails between our legs.

Our clean escape calls for a celebration: We pick up a newspaper and a roadie at the Outpost convenience store on the way home. 

And another pleasant day winds down ... 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trail Mix

The blackberry bushes along our driveway and paths have finally started to hit their peak, and guess who's discovered them?  Nick the Dog had been limiting his feasting to his daily walks, but the other day while we were doing chores, we noticed someone had disappeared. Sure enough, he had walked himself down the road to the berry patch and was helping himself.

The word is that this year's yield isn't quite as good as in years past. But we're not complaining. Besides, we can still go down to the "corner market" and pick up those berries you saw that continue to be the size of a bricklayer's thumb.

Monday, July 11, 2011


OK, fellow HGTV fans. Here's the "before": 

And the "AFTER"!!!!!:

WE think it's an improvement. How 'bout you? We scored the door for $55 at a salvage place, so this project was mostly about sweat labor. The old door didn't let any light into the cabin, and it was short, like a family of trolls lived here (yes, I know I'm short, but ...). The new door needed lots of sanding and painting, but has some nice charm to it. It's leaded glass on the top half, etched with a leafy pattern on part of it. And the artwork to the right? It's something Mom made when she was in college. Thinks it's what's called an enamel (Mom??). I've always liked it. The old door? It will get recycled and moved to the tool shed that's nearly finished.

If you're sharp, you'll notice that we took the time to clean and stain the outside siding on the right-hand side that Mason took down and trimmed to accommodate the bigger door. (And if you're wondering, yes, Nick the Dog is still with us; he just declined to be in the "after" photo.) We plan to stain the whole house that gray/green "Gray Seas" color. It may even get done before Cindy and Dean, our first visitors, come in August (you ROCK, Johnsons!!).  The porch will also get some stain -- not sure what color yet.; maybe Cape Cod gray.

Also thinking of adding a recycled plastic "rug" to the front porch, where we basically hang out from 9 a.m. 'til 8 p.m. -- it's the most-used room in the house, especially since the South's summer heat and humidity have moved in for the season.  Having lived on a non-air-conditioned sailboat in the tropics,  we thought we were at least accustomed to the constant sweat-inducing temps. But, oyy, it's been ... warm. All I can hope is that all this sweat means a loss in weight.

Next project? Getting that door on the shed and finishing up some trim on it. Mason's also gotta reinstall the siding inside the cabin where the front door is. And then?? Yes, ladies and gents, THE BATHROOM!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We're In It Now

Yes, that's right. There's a giant hole in the front of our little house. Nick the Dog looks a little worried about it, too, doesn't he? (It's the camera; he hates it.)

Mason seriously got jiggy with it this weekend and made great progress on the project he had been avoiding for weeks. Just getting started is the hardest part, he always says. I beg to differ; I thought it looked pretty hard yesterday, when he was on his back prying siding off the house on a 90-degree day with 80 percent humidity. I promise, I wasn't eating bon bons. I got to scrub clean and stain the wood siding that got temporarily removed during the project -- the first step toward staining the entire exterior.

After a long day Saturday, with the sunlight fading into the forest, Mason got the new door -- which you can see in the background here -- hinged into place. We slept with just a chair and a nail keeping the door shut. Today he worked on the jamb and threshold a bit, but then it was beer-brewing time. Priorities, my dears.

By tomorrow, if all goes as planned, the project will look nearly done from the outside. Stay tuned for before and after photos!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Drum Roll, Please

See why Mason has been putting off the new door project? The door is taller and wider than the old one, so the project involves removing the siding on both the inside and the outside of the cabin, so that Mason can install a larger door jamb. Poor guy!! But alas, the good news is that the project is started, so there's no going back now! The end is in sight. More or less. There's always tomorrow ...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Social Butterflies

After nearly six months of spending every night on the mountain at our little illuminated cabin, the past three days were a socializing bonanza. Clearly, the spirit of patriotism, gunfire and revelry runs high in the Tennessee hinterlands.

On Saturday night, Dennis the Welder (aka the Lady Slipper Hunter) was throwing a fireworks fest over the lake. Most folks came over on their ATVs, so we hopped on our patriotic red Farmall Cub tractor and made an appearance. Stayed longer than we should have, of course, but it was hard to resist. This is the guy with the 30-foot-tall teepee built alongside the lake; his property is set up like a playground, with rope swings and fishing coves, a hideaway "cowboy cabin" and multiple fire pits.

On Sunday, we were invited to spend the afternoon at another neighbor's cabin. After soaking up the sun on the porch and stuffing ourselves with slabs of porterhouse, we dove into his private, spring-fed lake and lolled around on floaty toys like we were kids. Now that's living!

So when July Fourth finally rolled around this morning, we were moving pretty slow. I made a hearty breakfast ...

... and we spent the entire day on the front porch, reading.

Oh, the front door project, you ask? Ummm ...