Friday, December 31, 2010

The Joy Of Destruction

In the last month or so, Jeff and the boys have spent a good bit of time down at our property. As is typical with us, we bought the land with a great vision. It seems we have the ability to ignore the complete ruin something is in and envision it as something completely different. Well, with this piece of property, even I had a hard time seeing past the mess.

I did not have the same "love at first sight" feeling with the land that I did with our old house. The first day we saw it, we drove to the end of a dirt road and stopped in what Jeff described as "shanty town". A full grown turkey literally puffed up and wanted to fight us. Chickens and ducks ran around everywhere. I took one look at the dilapidated old nothing of a shack, as well as the surrounding area, and decided that there was nothing left for me to see.

Luckily, I have a very persuasive husband. When we first pulled up and saw what was a house long ago, we were on a very small section of the property. Jeff drove back beyond the depressing structure and managed to take me back to see the rest of it. I couldn't believe he actually got me out of the van. Just as he suspected, I opened up a bit once I was out walking the property lines. The hardwoods were gorgeous and I saw spots that I would want to clean for pastured chickens, turkeys, maybe a cow or other animals that could join an intense rotational grazing plan. I could start to see it... the paddocks, the fences, the chicken tractors, the possibilities. Now, mind you, all of these ideas are coming up a we walk through an overgrown disastrous mess. We didn't see all 25 acres, but we saw most of it.

This was taken when we bought the place.  Ivey was a baby.  I LOVE the look on their faces in this shot!

Work doesn't scare me. Regret scares me. We have two goals with this move. Goal #1 is to build a great home with our own hands, in whatever alternative manner that can get us in with no additional debt. We've looked at everything from permanent yurts, concrete structures, shipping container homes (a possible winner), building with cordwood, bagged earth, hay bails, and the choice that has Jeff currently enamored, timber framed homes with wood that we mill ourselves. Goal #2, to be able to raise more of our own food. Instead of milking my two fabulous does, Gretta and April, why can't I also milk a small Jersey cow? Why can't we raise heritage breed pork and my own turkey for Thanksgiving? I would love to know exactly what the food in our freezer was fed and how the animals lived.

Right now, we are in a goat milk slump. Both of our girls started drying up a few months ago. We bred them last month and they are due in April and May. It's very annoying to now have to go purchase 3-4 gallons of milk per week. Heck, the kids had to readjust to the taste and consistence of cow's milk. One day, I would love to have a better system down. Not just for us to provide for our own needs, but to be able to have a place where the family could come for holidays and where I can give homeschool field trips. The public health educator in me, and the homeschool teacher in me, get themselves all fired up just thinking about the possibilities!

So, all the dreaming aside, Jeff and the boys just finished tearing down the kitchen, pulling it over with a truck... much to the delight of all of my boys and the dismay of the hen that was laying eggs in there. Asa and Addison spent a day pulling off siding with the claw of a hammer. Don't all seven year-olds do this stuff? There's a long way to go... a very long way to go... but wheels are in motion. It's not the destination, but the journey, right?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Got Your Back

It's official.  Farm chores facilitate team work.  Although only one boy has to do the outside chores each week, they have made a deal with each other.... the inside-chore-doer goes out to protect the outside-chore-doer from the roosters in exchange for reciprocal protection the following week.  So, this week they headed out, Asa with a squirt gun full of water and Addison with a large cane that he calls his "staff".  Problem solving... check.  Working well with others... check.  Learning responsibility... check.  My work here is done.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Things to Ponder

We loaded up the truck and trailer and made a trip to Fayetteville this weekend. I packed up clothes, diapers, baby food, and all of the necessities for our family of six to go on an overnight stay. Ivey spent the car ride down barking orders at the boys. "Stop it, guys!", "Hush, boys!", "Quiet, Asa! Odive nite-nite!" (Asa was not even talking and Olive wasn't asleep, so this was just Ivey wanting to tell everyone what to do.) She has become quite a bossy little girl in the car.

When I got almost all the way there, I realized that the extra large bag that I pack everyone's clothes and things in was STILL AT HOME. Everything I packed up... toothbrushes, underwear, diapers... everything... was still sitting there on the dining room table. We managed to survive, but that night each and every child slept in the buff while I washed their clothes. At least I'll have less laundry to do when I get back home.

We left to come home late last night, just Addison, Ivey, Olive, and myself. Within 10 minutes, Addison and Olive were asleep. Ivey, on the other hand, stayed up for the entire hour and a half ride, talking the whole time. She talked about airplanes and bridges and Twinkle Star. She wasn't satisfied with a one way conversation, either. So, I had to sing and talk and be thoroughly entertaining until we made it home at 11:00 at night. She is a major night owl. I was majorly exhausted!

Jeff and Asa are at the other house, finishing up the goats' new fence. Jeff said that at one point Asa looked up, deep in thought. "Daddy, wouldn't it be cool if we were the same size?" Jeff agreed that it would be cool. "What if half of us were a grasshopper... because grasshoppers have really strong legs and can jump really high... and half of us were an ant... because ants can carry like 50 times their weight. We could get a lot done then." Jeff again agreed. But, why did Asa begin this conversation with the dream of them being the same size? Because if you didn't start out the same size before you turned in to an ant and grasshopper, then morphing wouldn't work very well, of course. That's just plain silly.

On the homefront, Addison, Ivey, Olive and I are working on packing up. As I was head down in a box, I heard Ivey say, "Tail in, Momma!". Now, little kids say lots of things. All. day. long. The trick is to learn when to pay close attention. Of course, there are key words to look for, like "mess" or "uh-oh" or "potty", but sometimes things are a bit more esoteric. At this point, I am able to hear "Tail in, Momma!" and know for great certainty that there is a cat somewhere who has been sealed in Tupperware. After inspection I learned, once again, that Mommas are usually right.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Old House Perspective.

As we pack up the house, Asa and Addison have been asking what goes and what stays. Do toilets stay, do the beds stay, does the refrigerator stay, and so on. As they look around the rooms, Addison pointed out the area on the dining room ceiling where a closet used to be. The sheet-rock is damaged where the closet walls once were... and we never got around to finishing it.

"What is that?" Addison asked.
"A closet used to be there." Jeff responded.
Addison looked confused.
"It attached to the ceiling?" he asked.
We explained that, although they use a wardrobe as a closet, most people have closets that are like little rooms in their house. We call their wardrobe a closet, but it isn't really a closet.

Later on...

"Does the tub go?" Asa asked.
"No. It stays."
"But, it's not attached to the house." he replied.
I explained that even claw-foot tubs have to stay with the house.

Later on I heard Asa say to Addison, "You know what's weird? When we move, our tub and closets will be attached to the house!"

Weird, indeed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Flying by the seat of my... plans.

It's not final yet. We don't have our t's crossed nor i's dotted. However, I'm fairly certain that changes are coming, and soon. The plan that we concocted may soon be put into effect... we are most likely moving soon. It is shocking that we would be able to work so hard on our house, take it from a dilapidated borderline shack to a very comfy super cute old house chock full of warmth and character and charm. But, I need to be close to our family. We need to be close to our family.

In the last couple weeks, my mind has been reeling with thoughts of packing and hauling loads down south. The logistics behind moving a family of six are mind boggling, but for our funny little plan, they are even harder to grasp. Most people sell their house and buy another. Some people choose to build a house instead (not usually with their own hands, mind you, as we just may do). We have a longer term plan ahead of us... requiring some patience and hard work and saving. We don't do anything the easy way, do we?

Assuming all goes according to plan, we will be moving from our house into my parents' house by the end of October. Yes, into their house. Thankfully, they are willing to let us do such a crazy thing. And, thankfully, I know that they are laid back and flexible enough to make it work. We will be staying with them while we work on fixing up another old house... this time, it's the house I grew up in... which is next door to my parents. Jeff and I have talked about moving in and fixing that house up for about ten years now. It needs it. I need to do it. I think it will be good as good for my soul as it will be for our old house. So, we will live with my parents while we work to make the "old house" livable. I am guessing that it will take six months, but I don't exactly know what needs to be done at this point. Once we can move into it, we will... and we will do what we did to our current home... renovate.

Now, Jeff and I have done renovation projects on our current home that I never imagined we could do. We've torn out ceilings, torn down walls, replumbed, rewired, pulled up floors, created a kitchen from an empty room, etc, etc. I have been on top of a garage with a nail gun and been literally dragged across the foyer by a sander. I do not doubt that we can do the work needed to make my old house super cute. However, we have made our current house so toasty in the winter and cool in the summer that it may be hard for me to go backwards. I will be going back to the days of sleeping with a pillow on my head to keep the cold wind off my face. It's only been a few years, but I quite enjoy sitting around with no need for a parka, or no need to suck down Popsicles in the nude.

Beyond my dread of discomfort, the thought of moving back into my old house is bringing up some very strong, very real emotions. I love that house. I do. However, as the innocence of elementary school came to an end, I developed a strong sense of embarrassment about it. I hated the bus. Kids are so mean, and I hated the older kids making fun of my house. My home. I went for a long time without inviting anyone over to play, except for a few great friends whom I loved and I knew would love me even if I lived in a cardboard box. In middle school, I went to Whitewater Middle, with all those rich Peachtree City kids. Needless to say, no one knew where I lived. I can still hear the words of a boy in highschool, whom I thought was my friend, referring to my house as a "slave shack". It was hard. I got an electric blanket from a friend of mine for Christmas one year. For a time, I thought I hated that house. I never really hated it. I love that house... and it needs us.

I've felt a bit of guilt over the idea of moving my kids into the same situation that I was in. Will they be made fun of? Will it hurt them like it did me? I then reminded myself that we will be making it beautiful... and that it will be good for them. I would rather my kids learn through experiences of discomfort and heartache than to grow up thinking that they have it all. If I had to chose between them being the ones embarrassed of their house or the ones calling it names on the bus, I'd take the first one. I hope mine realize that you can have it all and live in a tent on a mountain or a box under a bridge.

I have wonderful memories of my old house, too. I remember how beautiful it seemed at Christmas. I loved having the biggest closet of anyone I knew. There's no counting the number of hours that I spent playing on those concrete steps, and I love the idea of seeing my kids playing right there where I used to. Even though it isn't a huge house, there's room enough... and I always thought felt close and safe and loved. I love the fact that the clouds that Mom put up in the top of my childhood closet are still there to this day. It's a good house... and it will feel good to make it shine.

As we anticipate the move, I have talked to Asa and Addison about it. They will both miss our home very much, we all will. All I can do it explain to them that we are all sad about leaving, but you can be sad about leaving and excited about the adventure to come at the same time. I need them to understand that it's perfectly okay to be sad, as long as you can still look ahead to where we are going. I also explained to them that it's like we have a job... to find old houses that people have forgotten about and help them up and make them as beautiful as they can be. This struck a cord with them both. I told them that we saved our house, like putting a dirty old rock in a rock tumbler. It is now pretty and wonderful and someone can love it and take care of it. But, there is another house that needs us to love it and dust it off and make it shine. A very important house... my old house. Today, as we drove past it, they agreed that it really needs us to help it. They love the thought that I lived there when I was a kid and ask me to tell them stories about growing up there. It has given them a very real purpose to the move, and they are big enough now to take ownership in house's transformation.

The move into my old house isn't the final destination of our plan. Our plan is to renovate it and stay there to save money for a few years, so that we can build a house on the land that we bought in Senoia. That is so far off that I am not focusing on it at all, but I'm sure it will be an insane wild crazy adventure of its own. For now, I am working on grasping steps one and two... and trying to get my head around how to move six people, two goats, eight chickens and two cats... without scarring my children, annoying my parents or losing my mind in the process.