Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Personal Thoughts...

I don't have any project updates for you since the other day.  I can tell you though that our dogs have taken a liking to eating our pumpkins that we got for Halloween:

They have (as of this posting) eaten two and are keeping their eyes open in case we leave more out where they can get them.  

Bonnie has been doing everything she can to keep the garden (or at least the spirit of the garden) alive into the fall and winter.  Here she is re-planting some corn in one of the compost piles.  She is a "die hard" when it comes to the garden and we love her dedication:

And finally, before I move on to the commentary portion of this post, It's been cold lately and our pipes in the house are not insulated so I shut the water off at the main to prevent any "surprises."  The other day I found a new "friend" waiting to help me with my task:

Yes, it's a snake.  It was about 3' long and was using the water line to keep warm.  It's not a dangerous one (although we do have those here too) and I just picked it up and let it go a few feet away.  It wasn't very interested in me and I am happy to let it go about it's business.  You can't really do too much here without finding a "critter" or two so we've learned to share our space and they've learned to share theirs... So far.  Yesterday while I was standing in the yard nine deer ran right past me (about 30' away) up from the back field, across the road and down to the river.  It sounded like horses running up the hill and when I turned, there they were.  It was pretty cool.  Ok, on to commentary...

More than one person (locally and back on the west coast) have asked me if the move has been difficult for me in any way.  People here have asked me what I "did" back in California and once I run through a description of my job they ask me if I'm bored here and how I could enjoy life here compared to California.  So I decided rather than avoid thinking about it I would give it some serious thought and see what I came up with and so I did and here are my biggest conclusions.

I would be kidding myself I said said moving here was a "piece of cake."  Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoyed the constant challenges that came from my job in California.  There was always something that needed dealt with or something that needed attention.  It's not that I had all the answers but I did have input into most things and helped out where I could.  Most of the time I was busy from "bell to bell" with this that or the other.  It's not like that here.  I now have a great deal of time to think and plan and review.  Where I used to have to make snap decisions, now I have the luxury of time (unless I encounter an unexpected snake... or skunk).  I will tell you honestly that at first I really struggled with my new life.  It wasn't that I didn't love this place, it was that so much of my identity was back in California.  I was no longer someone with input and answers.  I was just a guy working on a house and that was hard.  I KNEW that this was the right move for us and that the kids would benefit in ways that none of us could imagine but my selfish nature still hung on to my "California identity." 

Now that we've been here almost 6 months I can see the results of this move on my family.  Nick is doing fantastic in school and we never hear the complaints from him that we did in California.  Gone are the phone calls and notes from school talking about his behavior issues and boredom in class.  And he goes outside everyday and runs around with kids in the neighborhood, something he wasn't able to do in California and he is happy.  Bonnie has taken to our outdoor lifestyle better than any of us.  She loves to just trek around the property and look and touch stuff.  She eats veggies right from the garden (sometimes dirt and all) and she sits by the fire and talks about how the coals look like jewels and asks questions about all the stars up in the sky.  She is already talking about next years garden.  She is a girl with a plan.

So when I consider all the benefits of this move and stack them up against my selfish few issues it's easy to do the math.  All of the struggles I've had are simply about me and my ego.  There is nothing tangible that I can list that I have lost but there are so many tangibles that have been gained.  We have a beautiful house (relatively speaking right now) and property.  We have great neighbors and we live in an area filled with history and adventure.  And, most of all, we have the kind of life that we really wanted but could not have afforded to have in California.  We came here instead of going to Seattle for a job and it's pretty amazing how much life can change based on one, single decision.  One, single, RIGHT decision.

Now, I gotta go watch the sunrise.

-- Kevin

p.s. Ann wanted to share these photos she took sitting on the front porch on Friday:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall and Winter Projects

Over the past couple of weeks fall has really arrived.  Most all of the leaves have fallen from the trees and the grass has (finally) stopped growing.  We have been busy of late trying to button up some outside projects before it starts getting cold.  The picket fence is painted but only one coat.  We are going to try to get a complete second coat on before winter but we're not quite sure we'll get it done (we do have extra brushes and paint... HINT HINT).  The dining shed is coming along slowly but surely and the garden is now completely gone.

Ann has been busy planning next spring's garden.  We found a guy in our town that has been developing open-pollinated seeds over a number of years so that they are optimized for this microclimate. We've already purchased some tomato, corn, squash, bean, okra, melon, cucumber and flower seeds from his company, Face of the Earth Seed Company. We are also going to get some apple, pear and mulberry trees from him to start our orchard. It's great to deal directly with a local business, for many reasons. Ann would like to figure out how to possibly turn this hobby into a small business and participate in a new farmer's market that will be starting up next summer.

Back inside the house....the framing of the kitchen floor is nearly complete.  We still need to add the plumbing for the kitchen, after which we will insulate and put down the vapor/moisture barrier before closing it up.  That should be accomplished within the next couple of weeks.  Here is a picture from a couple of days ago.

Since this photo we have finished the 2x6 joists and are now ready to plumb.  We will also add some new electrical wire for outlets and things before closing up the floor.  You may or may not be able to tell but there is no crawl space.  This part of the house was basically built right on the ground.  That's why the floor had to be replaced in the kitchen and that's why it's important that we make sure we get it all done before closing it up.  Once it's closed up it will be like King Tut's tomb.  The next people to see that dirt will be archeologists in the distant future.

We have been doing some research on wood stoves.  We have two chimneys and thought that a wood stove would be a nice addition.  I grew up with a wood stove and know that there is a bit of work involved but it's a nice source of heat and will save on our power and gas bills.  The more we are able to move toward being "off the grid" the better for us.  Also, in the event of a power outage it's nice to know that heat will be there.  Not just a backup emergency source but a solid, dependable heat source that we could also use to cook with.  Anyway, more on that as we get closer to making the decision.

Not a whole lot more to report right now.  Things have slowed a little but will be moving into high gear once the kitchen floor is closed up.  Then we will move on to the bathroom and some framing upstairs.  The framing will go quickly and then we have plenty of inside work to keep us busy throughout the winter.

I always like to try and include some photos that tell that story of the beauty of our new home.  Here are a couple of the sunrise that I took the other day:

It's sort of hard to tell but there are cows silhouetted on the hilltop.  All of the pictures I post are from my iPhone so it's not the best camera in the world.

Last week my Dad and his friend Barbara visited.  We took a trip to restored local grist mill called Beck's Mill.  It was built in 1808 and is an amazing place -- and it still grinds corn.  Here are a few pictures from that outing:

Thank you for following our progress and for your comments and suggestions.  We really appreciate your interest and your thoughts on stuff.

Take care.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just What It Needed

The last post shows photos from around the house including our most recent project, the picket fence.  Since we arrived we have been talking about the house's "need" for a white picket fence.  We wanted Bonnie to have a contained place to run, that way we didn't have to chase her all the way to the next county, and for the dogs to have an exercise area.  And, lets face it, what's an old farmhouse without a white picket fence, right?

We started by taking a look at the "lay of the land."  There were a few obstacles that had to be considered, most of which were 100-year-old trees.  As any one who has ever dug a post hole knows, a tree root can ruin the best of plans.  But, thanks to God, we didn't encounter anything other than small roots and rocks that were easy enough to conquer.  After deciding where to put the fence, we put a sting line down that would give us a visual of where the fence would be and the area it would cover.  That simple thing was quite a dog and pony show.  Even though the string was florescent pink, we all tripped on it about 100 times and I eventually got a little... "passionate" and "took it down" (actually I got pretty mad and ended up pulling up the anchor stake and throwing it on the roof of one of the outbuildings).

After digging what seemed like 100 post holes (with hand diggers, no machine) we put up the fence structure and got ready for the pickets.  Luckily, we consulted Indiana Landmarks (because of our  preservation covenants) before going ahead with the fence.  It turns out that had we used wide pickets (5 1/2") we might not have been staying "true" to the house and that would have not been a good thing.  But we did and we ended up cutting the ones we had planned to use in half and all was well.

So we finished the fence and gates (3 of them) and got ready to paint.  You can probably tell from the picture that there are quite a few pickets.  We got "barn and fence paint" and started painting.  Turns out that brushing paint on was a very time intensive task.  After some brainstorming we decided to get a Wagner Power Painter (NOT a product endorsement) and got that route.  Well, DON'T DO THAT!!!  The fact is that the amount of overspray resulted in a lot of wasted paint.  I quickly abandoned that idea (but kept the sprayer for use on the outbuildings) and went back to the brush.  We have taken turns spending time painting the fence and (as of this posting) are about 85% complete.  The truth is that each of us has enjoyed our quiet time painting.  The wind blows and the leaves fall and it is a very therapeutic activity.

Well, it's time to end this post and head over to the house.  Our goal is 100% completion by sundown tonight.  The interesting thing about this is the number of people who have stopped their cars and complimented our work.  The comments have been positive and humbling as, again, we see the emotional connection that our neighbors have to our house.  We are looking forward to having each of them in once we finish.

So here it is again ...  Come by and take a look some time.  We would love to see you.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall on the Farm

Life here in the midwest/upper south is peaceful as summer slipped into fall. Everywhere we look, there is something new to discover and notice. Right now, we are in awe of the Colors of Fall. (Yes, it deserves to be capped.)

Without further delay, I will let the photos speak for themselves.

 Happy Fall!