Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Back in Action

We've finally transitioned from Vacation mode to Mountain mode,  thanks to all the leaves. First we found a wood chipper/leaf shredder on Craigslist. Then we blew and raked, and raked some more.  We raked so much, that we even gave ourselves the night off from the Flat Top Homebrew Rule:  30 push-ups per beer. (Sore arms; raking, ouch.) Praise The Hop Gods.

So far we've raked up about half of the area around the cabin. Tomorrow we'll start tackling the other half. The plan is to use the shredded leaves as garden mulch. I haven't done this before, but my sister has, and she says it works! And while she gardens in the challenging climate of Texas, she has a lovely yard and some amazing roses.

After several hours of raking and an unhealthy dose of pain relievers, somehow I managed to pull myself together and make dinner.  Of course, I really had no choice -- one of the downsides of living at least 35 minutes from the closest fast food. On the plus side, my new subscription to Cook's Illustrated paid off with a damn tasty Italian Wedding Soup:

And on two final  notes: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!! And here's my cutie: Nick the Dog.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To Texas, and Back

Some of you may know these proud new homeowners, but for those who don't: that's Mason's son Matt, Matt's wife, Joanna and their cutie of a son, Jack -- and in the background, their new house in Arlington, Texas.

We just got back from two weeks of "vacation" there, helping them with some of the chores that come with buying a home (mostly electrical work for Mason; yard work for me) and also visiting my family, which involved building a wooden deck/walkway in Mom's back yard. (Sorry, no photo of the deck, unless Mom e-mails me one. Hint, hint. Let's see how long it takes her to read this and send one!)

I use the term "vacation" loosely, because, No. 1: We haven't had jobs for at least two years now, and No. 2, there was no lounging in the sun with fruity umbrella drinks ... unless you count this mother-of-a-margarita that a grizzled Mason sucked down on the road trip West while in North Little Rock, Arkansas. (Mason, a Texan though he doesn't advertise it, apparently holds great distaste for all things Arkansan. Who knew?)

And No. 3 ... We worked more on this vacation than we do on a normal day on Flat Top!

But we did come home richer for the experience: Mom gifted us her 2003 Honda Element, which greatly improves our vehicular collection. I got to drive it home, chillin' in the air-conditioning and rocking to some horrendous Pop 40 radio, while Mason got wind-whipped in the Jeep Cherokee. Nick the Dog wasn't so excited about the air-conditioning, but was happy to ride shotgun.

And who wouldn't be happy to be home when this view awaits them? We may have missed peak color by a few days, but it's still beautiful ... except for the acre of leaves that need raking. So, back to work!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Building Bridges

While I've been mothering my new front lawn (which you can see in the distance above), I've also been working on what I call my "bridge project" -- building little wooden bridges that help guide rainwater runoff away from the cabin and also keep my mulch pathways from washing away.

So far I've built eight bridges, using leftover lumber that we pulled off the walls in the bathroom and guest room remodels.

For the latest portion of the project, above, I tried to build a little retaining wall and then dug a graded trench that hopefully will channel the rainwater down toward the front of the cabin and into the front garden, then onto the driveway.  If this doesn't work, I'll have to dig a French drain along this channel.

See? The projects are never-ending up here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Old Man's Old Truck

And we thought Minnesota was hard on our cars ...

If you've been here, you know how rough our road is. After the hard-top road ends, you crawl along better than two miles of dirt road before you reach our little oasis in the woods. In some places, you could call it a gravel road, but in others, it's more of a rocky outcropping. And when it rains here, like today (and it rains here a lot), there's even one rocky outcropping that turns into a lovely little waterfall, which we drive over on our way into town.

So it shouldn't surprise you that our two aging vehicles are in constant need of a little TLC. The other day, riding in our 1992 pickup (mileage in the neighborhood 230,000, a rough 'hood), we started to feel overwhelmed by gas fumes. Now, we knew the truck had an exhaust leak, but that only slightly smelled. (Yeah, it's on Mason's list, but the bolts involved are so rusted out that we've come to embrace the constant cough of exhaust as one of the truck's eccentricities.)

But the gas fumes, they kept getting stronger. So Mason found an afternoon to climb under the truck and it didn't take him long to find a cracked gas line. Who knew that gas traveled from the tank to the engine in this tiny little metal tube that's just exposed? OK, Mason knew, but I didn't.

So he removes the cracked portion of line and replaces it with some rubber tubing. But in all the jostling of removing the bad piece of line, it seems more of the tubing kept cracking farther down the line. Expletives followed, along with more cracking even farther down the line.

After several afternoons positioned on "asses and elbows" (see photo above), two trips to the auto parts store and a good soaking in gasoline, Mason was able to get it fixed.  Or so we hope. We'll find out for sure on our next trip into town.

All this brings you to the fabulous news that my generous mother has just donated her 2003 Honda Element (four years newer than our Jeep!) to the Great Flat Top Experience (she scored herself a fine new SUV in the deal). Get this: The Honda has heat and air-conditioning!! Woo-hoo! So soon we'll be two unemployed persons with three vehicles, living one hell of a life up here in the Tennessee backwoods.