Sunday, January 26, 2014

No. 5: Paint Ceiling

The Chinese fan palm was a serious score from the Barn Nursery,
 where I expect to head back to work soon.

No. 5 on my "Month Off To-Do List" was "paint ceiling and beams." And while it's not done yet, we've made major progress in the loft. The ceiling in the cabin is/was unfinished particle board. Fancy pants, eh? And the beams were raw. Of course, if we had a decent income, we'd cover that particle board with slats of real wood. But for now, paint will do ...

After four long days of inhaling a large amount of paint fumes, we've got the entire loft ceiling finished.  There's still a bit more ceiling to do, but it's the part over the living room, which means we're going to need to build some scaffolding to delicately balance on atop of ladders in order to get that portion painted. And because I don't want to splatter paint on our wood stove, that portion of the project will wait until it's warm enough to not have a fire burning, so we can tarp the stove. And with another cold blast headed our way tomorrow, that may be awhile. Our lives are complicated, eh?

The ceiling looks pretty decent now, which means our attention is focused on that gawd-awful unfinished plywood you can see on the walls. Adding that project to the Spring To-Do List.

Love all that natural light! (And that lamp by the bed?
No bulb. The cord doesn't even reach to the one operating outlet upstairs.)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Three Years Later

The new shed. Handsome, isn't he? Oh, I mean it.
Today marks our third year living in the backwoods of Tennessee. Anyone got anything longer in the "I Bet They Regret This" betting pool?

We celebrated by puttering about in 57-degree sunshine. Not bad for January! We finished the day with an hourlong hike, and would have set ablaze a ceremonial bonfire, except that the wood in the fire pit was soaked from yesterday's rain.

Mason has made great progress on the second shed, which now only needs some soffit material and paint. Today he started moving in so much stuff from the first shed, that the new one started to look a bit crowded. Oyyy. But the first shed looks great!

I finally finished layering mulched leaves over all the dirt in the yard. It's a somewhat ridiculous process: Rake fall's leaves up off the yard, shred the leaves, redistribute the leaves all over the yard. All in a bid to improve our dirt. I also spent some time contemplating a fenced veggie garden area ... all in due time.

Mulched leaves now cover all of the backyard planting areas.
Now I just need plants. (Note the almost full moon rising.)
All this time off from working at the garden nursery has also meant a whole lot more cooking. In the past two days, it's been Martha Stewart's ribeye steak and smashed potatoes, Martha's delicious mini biscotti (With grapefruit zest! So yummy!) and America's Test Kitchen's chicken stew, which was outstanding.

So, who's visiting next?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thawing Out and Gearing Up

Good thing the plants don't need watering anytime soon.
Take THAT, record cold! Thanks to Mason feeding the fire every few hours on Monday night, we survived a low of 1 degree, which seems kinda amazing considering how "shacky" our little shack in the woods feels sometimes. The cold water faucet in the kitchen froze, but only briefly. So did the rainwater collection "system." But tomorrow? High of 60, thank you very much (yeah, yeah, yeah, and rain).

We make a lot of lists on the mountain. I splurged and used some gorgeous paper from Michiela for this one,
I used my time holed up inside to come up with a wish list for my one-month sabbatical. Topping the list? Paint the new shed, which is coming along nicely. Except the doors. Doors are much harder to build than one would think. So far, the only thing I've scratched off the list is mulching around the new shed, and Mason did much of that.

That's the new shed on the right. The gray blob (front right) is a camellia covered by a sheet. 
I won't share everything on my to-do list, just so I have a few surprises for you this month. Let's just say the orbital sander is front and center. (The sound of the sander immediately brings me back to Ecuador, where Mason and I sanded and painted the bottom of Run Free, our trusty old sailboat.) And as always, impromptu projects pop up, like yesterday when I worked on making some homemade wooden yoga blocks. Pretty nifty, eh? And they weren't even on the list! (Photo to come -- still have to polyurethane them!)

One last bit of news today: Mason is a grandfather, again!! Grandchild No. 7 was born at an ungodly hour this morning. We don't have a name yet, but he's sure a cutie. Congrats Matt and Joanna!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Hunkered Down

Mason's book of choice? Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat."
With temps topping out today at 17, and tonight down to 7 degrees so far, headed for zero or so, nothing much besides complaining happened today. Burning our little wood stove nonstop, we were able to keep the main floor of our cabin at about 58 degrees. The biggest concern was making sure the crawl space under the cabin stayed above 32 degrees, so that no water pipes burst. Tonight, we'll close off the other bedroom and turn on a propane heater in there so that our wood stove has to heat less area to make sure we stay warm enough. So far, so good ...

We did brave a walk with Nick around noon; he clearly remembers his Minnesota days, because he was all fired up, racing about the light layer of snow that fell last night. I covered a few plants with old sheets, and then we retreated inside for the rest of the day.

We all hunkered down in the loft, spending the afternoon reading and OK, maybe napping ever so slightly. Nick, who only recently was granted the right to get onto our bed (only with permission and never during the night), quickly realized how incredibly soft my new afghan is. My sister crocheted it for me for Christmas and I absolutely love it! (Thank you, Maggie!)

Nick, cuddled on my new, gorgeous blanket.
After an hour of yoga as the sun went down, it seemed the perfect time to bake some cookies and accidentally leave the oven on, 'til Mason caught on. Busted ...

Then I made some homemade chicken meatballs, served up in a homemade broth laced with lemon and rosemary. All in all,  not a bad day.

OK, I'm no food photographer. But it was delicious.

Friday, January 3, 2014

So Much for Resolutions

My Christmas Eve "selfie," in my new gardening hat and camel scarf! See Mason doing dishes? How lucky am I?

It's only Jan. 3, so that's not terrible when it comes to resolutions, right? Right?

Last night we celebrated my one-month sabbatical from the garden nursery by going over to the cabin of some neighbors, Thunder and Sunshine.  Where else but in Tennessee would you meet a couple named Thunder and Sunshine? Well, actually, Florida, which is where they live most of the time.

The best part about Thunder and Sunshine is that they live up to their names, in full living color. He's a shaggy-haired musician who owns a music store at the beach. She's a singer and a crafter. A local radio station is spinning one of their country songs. And they offered us a shot of peppermint Schnapps, which of course I downed, because when was the last time I was offered a shot of Schnapps? (Don't answer that.)

The shot hit the spot on a night where the low hit 14, which I know, I know, in Minnesota is T-shirt weather. Our little wood stove rose to the occasion, as long as one of us got up every few hours and fed it more wood.

On Monday, the low in town is forecast to sink to 5 degrees, which means the mountains may see negative territory, which is damn cold for the South. Needless to say, we're not happy about this. Stay tuned to hear how we endure. (No, there's no peppermint Schnapps in the house ...)

Can you guess the theme of my Christmas? I was spoiled with a ton of great gardening books from gift-goddess Michiela, and lots of other gardening accessories from Mom.