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: