Saturday, July 21, 2012

July Is For Puttering

Halfway into July, we decided that the month would be dedicated to NO BIG PROJECTS!! Just puttering. A little gardening here, maybe some gutter installation there, and lots of reading. OK, some of you may think that gutter installation sounds like a big project, but not when Mason's on the job.

Helping us out has been rain, rain and more rain. Ever since we got that $%*#! Cow-on-a-Tractor rain gauge, we've been clocking an inch or two of the stuff a day, so we really don't know what "drought" everybody's talking about. Even our little nearby creeks, which usually dry up in summer, are running full steam. Today I even had to run-and-jump to get across one.

On the rainiest days, we did a lot of reading. Yup, even Mason, who pored through three novels in six days. Our highest recommendation goes to "City of Thieves," a WWII-era Russian buddy story that my hip friend Leslie sent me. We also consumed "Child 44," another Russian thriller, post-WWII, and I devoured a few books about living the country life. It got me all worked up about adding a chicken coop to our homestead. Stay tuned on that.

So on last week's trip into town, Home Depot had a bunch of shrubs on clearance, and I couldn't resist a wisteria vine, which I had planted and loved in our Minnesota garden. So, as soon as I got it home, Mason got energized to build a pergola on our fenced-in well-house/garden/generator storage area. We had planned to build the pergola about a year ago, so it was one of those smaller projects that we had left in mid-construction. But, in the past two days, we got much of the pergola completed (see photo).

The next big project is adding solar power. (That job will entail taking down MANY very large trees. We're hoping to not drop any of them on the house. ... This time.) But all this rain also has us talking about adding a French drain to help direct the rainwater runoff away from the cabin. Not sure which project we'll undertake first, but tomorrow we're going to build several little wooden "bridges" that will help the runoff find its way around my mulch pathways. For the record, "little wooden 'bridges' " qualify as a puttering project.

And also, for the record, I'm still LOVING my new kitchen! (And our very laid-back, no-worries mountaintop lifestyle.)

Aloha, y'all ...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rainy Day Confession

I'm fancy myself a gardener, or at least a severe garden putterer. I can spend hours in the yard, pulling weeds, digging shredded leaves into the sandy soil, or just wandering about my plants, which I confess I talk to, and possibly treat better than family members. I check in on them daily, pamper them and worry about them. I know, it's pathetic. Just buy me a cat and call me Old Lady.

So I've done a fair amount of planting around the cabin, and after two weeks of nothing but 100-degree temps here, I was starting to get a bit concerned about our ability to keep everything alive.  We usually get a fair amount of rain, but the TV weatherman kept telling me Chattanooga was down 7 inches for the year. I couldn't believe it, because when it does rain up here on Flat Top, it's almost always a gully-washer. But then, after two weeks of Africa-hot heat (without even a fan to cool us), I started to think a bit too much about getting enough water for my garden. (Maybe blame it on not having a kitchen remodel to fret about?)

So I told Mason: Let's get a rain gauge so I can keep track of how much is falling up here. Oh man, just call us Old People.

Mason dutifully put it on The List. (We keep a serious list up here; we have to, because we only go to town once or twice a week, and lord knows our aging brains couldn't remember whether it was wasp spray we needed or cooking spray.)

Now, with the kitchen remodel finished, The List hasn't had much on it. Maybe that's why Mason seemed overly determined to fulfill the order. First we hit up the Tractor Supply store in Soddy-Daisy, but all there was to pick from was either a really boring plastic tube or a hideously kitschy cow-on-a-tractor gauge. It's on clearance, Mason said excitedly, as he picked up the mini-tractor. ("It's imported!" he mentioned, trying to close the deal and not have to stop at 14 more stores looking for a damn rain gauge. Me? "China does not count as 'imported.' ") I wanted something a bit more "cute" than a piece of plaster, but a cow on a tractor? Um, no way. So off to Home Depot. Nothing but the boring variety. Stockdale's. Nope.

So guess what now graces our upstairs deck railing? Yup. So, so sad. And sure enough, as soon as we brought home the hideous lawn kitsch, the heat broke and the skies fell open. Yesterday it rained nearly 3 inches, and today? Check out that photo (that's our real tractor in the background)! Four inches of rain by about 6 p.m., and it hasn't stopped falling since then. See what I mean? It's nothing but buckets up here.

Oh man, I just hope that smiling cow doesn't show up in a nightmare tonight.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Our Kitchen: Then and Now

OK, let's refresh our memories and take a look at what the kitchen looked like on the day we moved into our little cabin in the woods:

Oh dear. But really, how appropriate that our utility room door -- yes, that's a door -- had a sailboat/beach scene painted on it? Note all the water jugs (no running water at the time). That red tile table served as an "island" -- and the only real work surface. The cupboards were that cheap crappy oak-laminate stuff, warped on the outside and filled with mouse turds on the inside! Here's another angle in a shot taken about a month after moving in:

OK, are you ready for this??? Here's our kitchen today:

Yes, we're very happy. Looking at those photos, it's hard to believe it's the same room. The addition of the matching window over the stove was a winning idea, bringing in a lot more light. I'm also in love with the checkered floor. The other real game-changer was painting the ceiling (which I finished up just today in 98-degree heat and humidity).

OK, OK, the whole thing was a game-changer! Seriously, the new kitchen has transformed my ability to cook. (Tonight, I'm making babaganoosh!) and every day I smile when I see it. Sometimes I even hug that damn island. And I can't tell you how much I owe Mason for making it happen!!

OK, photos are better than words, so here are some more:

That last photo is Mason's ice tea urn, which I made sure would have it's own special place in the new kitchen. It's the least I could do, right?  (OK, he'd rather have it out on the counter, but ...) And that pantry!! It's culinary heaven. Mason pushed for the butcherblock countertops, and I'm glad he did.

Well, that's what we've been up to since about April, in between brewing beer and bottling beer and drinking beer. What's next, you ask? We're already researching our next project: installing solar panels. Step one is more tree removal. Lots and lots of trees. Hello winter firewood!