Sunday, June 23, 2013

Solar Kiln in the Works

Wood Pile is looking smaller!

Floor joists prior to being jointed and set.

Building a solar kiln

Future solar kiln

Eastern Fence Lizard

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

House Progress

Jeff and Randy have finished cutting, jointing, moving, placing, and leveling all of the foundation beams.  They are all set on the mocked up foundation pillars in the backyard.  I must say, at first I was disappointed at the size of the house's footprint, but the bottom floor is only the kitchen, living room, dining room, and a half bath.  Plus, as I told Jeff, I would much rather see a smaller foundation than expected, but have the possibility of actually building the house, than to see a large and roomy space with the looming fear that it will never, ever, be finished!

The next step is to finish cutting, jointing, and assembling the floor joists.  I think we have 30 or so rough cut, which would be enough for the 1st floor. 

We continue to be on the lookout for trees that are big enough to serve as the tall posts for the house. I think we have 2, and need 10 more.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Little Breakdown

I had a little breakdown this weekend.  A good thing has happened.  Someone is buying our house.  Not just anyone... but the right couple is buying it.  They are young, and energetic, and I can tell that they are just quirky enough to accept that house for all of its unique imperfect perfection.  It is a great house.  I love it.  I love it because we worked so very hard on it... and because our children grew there... and because it was like a living, breathing member of our family.  We molded it and helped it to grow and flourish back into its beautiful self.  It had lost itself for a while... and it needed us.  I love that house.

It just hit me like a ton of bricks that we are in this in between spot, and the only way to get out is to dig to China with a spoon.  Somehow, we have decided that we can accomplish this monumental task of building an entire house from nothing... from trees.  I feel so far away from a place to call my own... from a place where I can unpack all of the treasures that have no place to go.  

It hit me that, for 14 years of marriage, we have worked on things without enjoying the comforts of our hard work.  I am 35 years old... and I just want somewhere to make pretty.  Somewhere that is my own that I can be proud of... that I can have guests visit without a long explanation of its state.  For my entire adult life I have had to explain the process we are in, why there are piles of crap everywhere, and why things around us are in a half-finished state.  

I had a pitty-party.

Our 10 year plan began about 4 years ago.  We moved almost three years ago. Phase I was selling (ok, so that part took longer than expected) & moving, Phase II was to work on the house in Inman, so that we could move to the very long and hard Phase III... building our home.  I think that, unlike working on the house in Bethlehem, it's hard for me to get my head around this process.  This leaves me with a panicky feeling of just not knowing what to expect.  What I do know is that Jeff is working his tail off.  We are deep in the trenches of work, where he and Randy are working on it about 5 days per week, after work and on weekends.  I bet Jeff puts in 20 hours a week, on top of a full time job, farm, and family.  The foundation beams are cut, joints cut, and they are in place.  Now, they will move to the downstairs floor joists.  A lot of times, I am focused in the day to ay running of our family and not thinking about the 10 year process that we are in.  But, times like this weekend make me feel like I am in the middle of an ocean, on a tiny piece of wood.  I cannot even see the shore.

Part of me is jealous of all of the normal people out there, who sell their house and move into a new one.  Jealous of those who move into a house where they choose their paint colors, unpack their boxes, hang their curtains, and live there. What are we thinking?  What are we doing?  What if we work this hard and don't succeed?  

And then, Jeff sent me a text.

"Family isn't a house."

He reminded me that, by the time the beams are in place and the structure is erected, my kids will be old enough that I can really be a huge help... like my pre-mommy self was on our past house projects.
I know he is right.  I just have to trust, and I have to learn to be very patient.  

Five years ago, I cried because I wanted to have a closet and a master bath.  This weekend, I cried for the same reason.  The thought of not having these things until I am over 40 years old takes my breath away.

But, I have to learn to trust.... and to be patient... and to let go of the weight of embarrassment.  

And it is not easy.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

House Work

It has been almost a year since I posted about our crazy house project, but that does not mean nothing has been done!  Here's the last year, in a nutshell.

We spent most of last year finishing Randy's barn (our "practice house") and continuing to clear the driveway on our property.  The old shack has been completely torn down, without the use of power tools, only Jeff, a hammer, and a crowbar.  Jeff found a load of concrete chunks on Craigslist, and had it dropped off to use in raising up the low spots around the front of the drive.  (Funny enough, we realized after the fact that the load came from the old gas station right at the end of our road here!)  We also chose a building site, and it didn't result in marital strife!

After the barn was completed, in November, we lacked direction.  Jeff and Randy were just cutting what wood they had, stacking the beams up in piles.  Then, the neighbor at our property, who owns a tree service, dropped off 4 dump truck loads of trees in Jeff's parents' backyard.  (If I were Linda, I would have FREAKED.)

It just so happened that right after their backyard became logging insanity, Randy found out he had to have bypass surgery.  In a panic, Jeff began thinking of others who could come and help him out with all of these trees.  If there's one thing Jeff can't do alone, it's move trees and hoist them onto the sawmill!  He thought to call Corey, who just happened to need flooring for his barn.  What do you have a lot of when you are cutting beams from the middle of trees?  1 bys.  The two of them worked through the piles.  Randy was stuck... and antsy.

It was at this point that Randy came up with an idea to let us mock up the first floor of our house in his backyard.  Yes, build it in the backyard.  Remember, this is not a typically built home.  It isn't built with nails, but with jointed and pegged beams.  We would be constructing the house, numbering the pieces, and then moving them to the site.

Randy also contacted the county about building the house on a foundation of pillars.  Because we haven't sold any of our houses at this time, we don't have any money.  A foundation is, well, a pretty important step in building a house.  So, we are trying to come up with a creative way to begin building our house, before we have a lot of money to spend.  Of course, we could always come back and close it in for a basement, but we could get started now... and getting started is the first step towards getting finished!

As he began feeling better, Randy and Jeff cut the corner braces for the house.  We need about 80 braces.  Each 6 ft 3 x 8 will have a decorative arch.  This was a trick.  A jigsaw wouldn't work, so they borrowed a portable band saw.  This didn't work, either, since it was designed for metal.  Randy saw, online, that someone used a skill saw for the arch.  To their surprise, it worked.  It was tricky because they had to make a cut from the top and a cut from the bottom, lining them up in the middle.  To compensate for this, they cleaned it up with a chisel and sander.

Currently, they have finished 25 braces.
Jeff, Randy, and Corey have cut about 1/2 of the 4 huge dump truck loads of trees.  From this, they have cut all of the needed foundation beams.  (For those concerned, we will be treating it all with Tim-Bor.)

Jeff had a shoulder injury from a bout of drunken bar boxing back in college, and it has worsened over time.  He is now doing six months of physical therapy to try to strengthen the incredibly loose/torn tendons and whatnot.  Needless to say, that shoulder has been slowing him down in the past few months! Hopefully, it will continue to improve... and we will continue to plug along.... in spite of our lack of funds! 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Two weeks ago, the boys came in from chores to announce that one of the hens had been gutted.


We had no idea what happened, but knew that some kind of critter had either killed her, or found her dead and helped itself.  A couple days later, after church, we had a knock on our door.  The neighbor had seen a fox chasing our chickens.

Three were dead.

Over the course of the next few days, we set traps.  You see, once a fox hits your hen house, it doesn't stop killing until there is nothing left.  They are relentless.  They will kill more than they can carry, coming back to take the dead to bury for later meals.  Then, they will strike again, and again, and again.

I called some neighbors and borrowed a bigger trap than the one we had.  We couldn't use a steel trap, due to the cats and such. I baited the new large trap, as well as my small one, with a rooster.  Jurassic Park style.

I pretty much sat by the window any time I was home, with the shotgun ready.  I would fix lunch, then check the window.  Help the kids with school... check the window.  I didn't want that fox to get any more of my girls! The days went pretty much like this:

1. Check on traps.
2. Reluctantly run a load of dishes... even though it doesn't help because there are two more loads worth on the counter.
3. Stare out the window at the chickens and fox traps.
4. Tea party with two very persnickety hosts.
5. Stare out the window at the chickens and fox traps.
6. Attempt (and fail) at being productive.
7. Mandatory post-lunch dance party.
8. More fox obsession.

One day, I came home from class and saw it.  I ran inside, grabbed the shotgun, and followed it from our yard, behind the church, and into the Smith's pasture.  At one point I was hiding behind a recycling bin with a shotgun.  In hot pink Converse.  In the pasture, I ducked behind a hay bale.  It spotted me.  I wasn't close enough,  but I shot anyways... and missed.  I blame the hot pink Converse.

Mind you, all of this, at this point, had taken place in less than a week.

After more anticipation by the window, and more baiting of traps (racoons do a number on bait... as they pull it through the bars instead of actually walking into your trap), it his again.  This time, three more were dead.  One gorgeous splash maran rooster, and one blue copper maran hen were left on site.  We knew that fox would be back to fetch its kill.  So, Jeff camped out and waited.

Now, Jeff doesn't sit still well.  It was hilarious to see him still for that long.  But, there he sat... in my brown duster sweater, with his reusable to-go cup of homemade caramel latte.  After an hour, the kids and I went to church.  It was my day to keep the nursery.  There, I got the text.  He got that fox!

It was nasty, mangy, and gross.  I thought it could have been a chupacabra.  Definitely not the pretty fox that you see in books.

We basked in our victory, releasing our free rangers that had been unhappily cooped up for their protection.  Then, early evening, we saw another fox.

The next day, I called Jeff's parents and asked if they could come and watch the kids while I sat and waited for it to return.  They came.  Randy and I headed out, but the drizzle became rain after an hour or so.  It was cold, too.  Not the sunny warm Sunday that Jeff had out there the day before!

They left, and I went back to my domestic, rainy day duties.  Later in the day, I went out to feed the chicks... and saw that nasty fox, munching on some scraps I threw out to the chickens.  I slinked backwards to the house, without being spotted.  I grabbed the shotgun and ran back out, hiding behind the storage shed.  I pushed myself up against its wall and inched down the side until I could peek around the corner.  It was still there, munching.  I pointed and FIRED.

It grazed the fox.  It didn't run, but kind of staggered and walked back a bit.

I shot again.

It fell.

At that time, the bathroom window opened, and all four of my kids were hanging out.  They had heard the first shot and gathered around, watching the whole thing go down.

"Whoohoo!  Way to go mommy!"  They were all shouting and screaming out the window like they were at a baseball game.

Yes, boys and girls.  Watch your mommy go out there with a shotgun and protect her livestock.

And remember it. 

Yes, Daddy got a guilty fox the day before.  But, as Addison says, "Mommy, you got bonus points.  You were in the rain."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Farm Bureau Annual Conference

This week, we had something happen that has never happened before. The boys and I left home on a trip and Jeff stayed at home with the girls. At first, we were all supposed to attend the Georgia Farm Bureau Annual Conference, but the day before we were supposed to leave, we still had not found anyone who could take care of the animals for us. Jeff decided to stay and hold down the fort.

 The day that the boys and I were leaving, I was already feeling the unusually relaxed state I was in. I did not have to pack blankets, paci's, spill proof cups, coloring books, dvd's, nor did I have to make lists upon lists of ideas that will keep the two girls occupied and happy. No pullups. No wipes. The boys grabbed some clothes, movies, and their school work, and we hit the road. I was asked twice what time we would leave. It felt great to be able to answer, "Whenever". We headed out fairly late, stopping by for an hour and a half shopping trip on the way. Why? Because we needed some things... but mostly, because we could.

Thanks to Mim's GPS, we made it to St. Simons by 1am. Asa was bouncing off the walls! While Addison brushed his teeth in a zombie state, Asa unpacked all of the kitchen items and organized the snacks. Like his daddy, Asa has two phases: irritable/grumpy and bouncy/wide open. He was wide open. The trip was spent attending conferences... some very helpful, and some that didn't apply to me in the least. I always learn so much from the other Young Farmer Chairs, though. These are the people who I feel actually understand what we are trying to do, what our concerns are, and know who I should talk to in order to get questions answered.

The boys were troopers the entire time! When I was in meetings, they were completing their school work. But, whenever I had down time, we tried to squeeze in some fun. Once, we stopped on the side of the road at a little park area to feed the seagulls a biscuit. Addison even put down his book for that! The day before our trip, Addison bought three books. Two were from the Lorien Legacies series. The other was the second Michael Vey book. He has averaged one book a day, and these are not small books! I finally had to forbid him to read in the car, cranked up "Play That Funky Music", and made him participate in some good old fashion parent-induced embarrassment. The only time he has really socialized with me is when I got to hear his hour and a half dissertation on his new strategy to the game "Risk". Seeing as I have never played Risk, nor do I have the desire to play, it was a very one way discussion. He did also look up to see the salt water marshes off of the bridge from one island to the next. He said, "Just imagine those marshes in all directions, as far as you can see.... and imagine you were on foot with Sam and Gollum." Right.

We are really enjoying the time together. We've played board games at night, watched movies, and just appreciated the fact that we could walk from one place to another without having a temper tantrum or a whiny episode about not having the right sparkly shoes on. The boys are getting a great break from the girls. I am getting a great break from the monotonous and unwavering demands of domestic life.

Jeff, on the other hand, has sent me quite a few texts that read, "Your job is hard."  By the looks of things in the frequent photo messages I'm getting, he's having a great time with them.  But, I am also hearing how glad he'll be to relinquish domestic control to the master!