Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Ten directions at once

Don came in from the shop the other day, looking a bit frazzled. The problem, he explained, is he had so many projects to do that he felt scatterbrained about which one to tackle first.

He was pulled in so many different directions that he would do just a bit of this and a bit of that, without bringing a particular project to completion.

In particular, he wanted to get a chicken coop built, but felt a more pressing need to begin the barn infrastructure for getting cows. (We can always get fertile eggs from our neighbors and hatch our own chickens, but he was worried we might have trouble finding Jersey cows.) The trouble is, accomplishing one thing was often hinged on first accomplishing another thing first, which in turn was hinged on accomplishing yet another thing ... and so it went, until he felt like he was a hamster spinning on a wheel, unable to focus and accomplish anything at all.

So we decided to do something we did many years ago, when a similar dilemma arose as we were developing our last place into a homestead: Make a list. Simple, right? But there's something profound about seeing it in black and white that propels people out of immobility.

We hammered ideas back and forth for our "wish list" while I typed it up. Wishes ranged from the immediate to the long-term, from lesser priority to greater. Here's what we came up with:

• Build deck for Older Daughter’s suite
• Build storage platform above shop
• Organize a yard sale
• Fence the pasture
• Build chicken coop
• Build more garden beds
• Build wood shed
• Order drip irrigation supplies
• Install hand pump for well
• Build loft above shop
• Cut firewood
• Make a well house
• Re-plumb pressure tank
• Disk field for corn
• Coat decks with sealant
• Install sunshade on western wall
• Build deck storage room
• Clean gutters
• Build cattle infrastructure in barn
• Clean out shed
• Buy cows

We looked over the list and came up with two priorities. The first is to build a deck off Older Daughter's suite. She has an outside door installed, but it's three feet off the ground and her cat Frumpkin has no place to go outside. Building a deck (and then installing deer mesh so the cat can't get out) would also allow her to open the door and get more cross-ventilation in her rooms.

The second priority is to get cows, but before we can do that, we have to build the infrastructure inside the barn to keep them in comfort (including a milking stall, calf pen, and feed boxes), and to find room for hay storage.

Right now the barn is still a mishmash of tools, equipment, and mountains of things we plan to sell at a yard sale. We also have some items in long-term storage for Younger Daughter. Before Don can work on building barn infrastructure, we need to clear floor space. He hopes to build a loft above the shop where we can store some bulky but seldom-needed items.

This is what I mean by projects hinging on other projects. Doing this hinges on doing that, which hinges on doing that, which hinges on doing that, ad infinitum.

But at least Don now has firm guidance for which projects to focus on first. Number one, Older Daughter's deck (which she'll help build). Number two, the loft above the shop.

It might seem strange that something more homestead-related isn't higher on the list – such as a chicken coop or more garden beds or something – but there's a method to our madness. We can build a coop later in the summer and it's too late for a garden anyway, so we may as well focus on different things.

And frankly, getting cows is becoming our top priority. We have all the lumber, fencing, and other materials necessary to install cows on the property. We just have to get these projects done.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Spring colors

While walking Mr. Darcy morning and evening, Don and I kept seeing a semi-distant hillside absolutely cascading with yellow. I finally got a photo (sorry for the power lines bisecting the image).

Turns out this froth of beauty is a field of wall-to-wall arrow-leaf balsam root, a common spring plant around here with huge showy blooms, generally found on south-facing slopes with thin soil.

They normally die back fairly quickly, but I think the massive amount of rain we had this year allowed them to linger longer than normal.

The blooms are so profuse and showy, in fact, that it's hard to believe they're wildflowers.

We'll enjoy them while we can.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Supply-chain update

Recently, I asked my contact at Lehman's the following: "When you have a moment, I'd love to hear your take on supply-chain issues and what kinds of products are in short supply."

Glenda Lehman Ervin is the Director of Marketing for Lehman's, and she wrote the following:

"I talked to merchandising and they said vendors are ramping up production and demand is softening slightly, so supply chain issues are still there but are loosening up. The biggest issue we have is with the Pioneer Princess wood cook stoves – we are still taking (and getting) orders, but we are at least a year out in filling those orders."

"We have a new canning lid supplier (Superb – made locally just a few miles from the store), which is helping with the canning lid back orders. Customers tell us they really like the lids, which are thicker and work well for high pressure canning."

"Lodge has made investments into production and plans to add back the SKUs that were discontinued (so they could focus on the most popular SKUs during the height of big demand). We do see spikes in back orders for seasonal items (for example, outdoor games and seeds when summer hit) but for the most part, we are keeping up."

So there you go, folks. The latest from a large retailer whose products are in high demand.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Watch for falling rock

Unsurprisingly, we've been having a large number of mini rockslides this spring. We rounded a corner last week and were stopped by some road volunteers, who informed us a slide had just happened, and to be careful around the curve.

We crept past the debris and continued on our way. When we got to our destination, we saw a stout pickup hauling a flatbed trailer. On the trailer was a large trackhoe with a grappler, on its way to clear the road.

No need to bother state road officials. The locals can handle things just fine, thanks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Hello, gorgeous!

I came yawning into the kitchen about 4:45 am yesterday morning. As I stood at the kitchen sink filling the tea kettle, I saw the tiniest fawn. Hello, gorgeous! I snatched up my camera, but the light was pretty dim so the pix didn't come out the clearest.

The doe and fawn were standing on a strip of mown pasture Don had knocked down with the brush hog a few days before. The fawn gamboled about and kicked up its heels in the manner of newborns (our calves used to do the same thing), and I suspect the reason was it had room to move. Because of all the rain we've had, the grasses are nearly over my (5'2") head, so this little baby is normally buried by vegetation.

(Blurred image of gamboling fawn.)

Mama hovered nearby and soon marshaled her offspring out of sight.

I'll keep an eye out for this pair in the next couple weeks. Hopefully the next time I see them, the light will be better.

Then yesterday afternoon I noticed this heavily pregnant doe standing curiously still in our front yard.

It was pouring rain, and for the longest time – 10 or 15 minutes – she just stood there. She had a preoccupied look on her face.

I've seen that preoccupied look before – in a cow about to give birth. It's like they look inward, not outward.

And then – she hunched her back. Yep, I've seen that before too. This doe was in early labor.

I was kinda hoping she'd have her fawn in our front yard, but no such luck. Shortly after taking these pictures, she made her way out of sight, presumably to a more private location.

I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot of fawns this summer.

Monday, June 20, 2022


Older Daughter surprised us with a Father's Day sandwich bar spread. If there's one thing Don loves, it's sandwiches.

She had fried some bacon, assembled sliced ham as well as salami, had three kinds of cheese, two kinds of bread, and a variety of veggies and condiments.

Don was thrilled.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all you dads!

Friday, June 17, 2022

Chuckle du jour

With my longstanding aversion to social media, here's a prediction I can get behind.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

A new housemate

Sorry for the silence, folks, we've had a busy month! Let's back up a bit and catch you up on what's going on. Grab a cup of tea and prepare for a long post.

Older Daughter has been wanting to take over the tankard business. She grew up with it, after all, literally before she was even born, and it's a sure-fire business she can run while living rural.

Don is more than eager to hand it over to her. He's been wanting to retire from the woodcraft business for a long time anyway, and if Older Daughter wants it, it's hers. She's been doing the assembly work, gluing, coating, etc. for years, but hasn't worked the tools. So during the summer of 2020 (before we moved), she apprenticed with Don to learn that unfamiliar part of the process.

Then we moved. Older Daughter rented an apartment in another town, got a job, and all was chaos for a couple of years. Now that things are settling down, she's been itching to get busy on tankards.

And then problems started cropping up. She can't just move anywhere and set up shop. Her apprenticeship on the power tools was two years ago, so she needs guidance until she refamiliarizes herself on the equipment. Plus, the tools are in our shop – it's not like she has a shop of her own. The logical solution was for her to move closer and work in our shop.

The big thing that was holding us up was housing for her. Our new location is so remote that rentals are nonexistent. We racked our brains trying to figure out how to get her a place to live, to no avail.

At one point we thought about building a guest cabin on an unused piece of ground near our house. Two things prevented that: One, the cost of materials kept climbing and climbing. And two, we were on a time crunch. Her apartment lease ran out at the end of May, so she needed to either extend it for another six months, or find a place to live near us. There was no way we could build her a place inside a couple months (and that wasn't even factoring in all the rain we've been having!).

We talked to some folks who run a business building sheds and small barns, and explained we were looking for housing for an adult daughter, and was it possible to retrofit one of their larger sheds into a "tiny" home? The answer was yes, and they quoted us a fairly reasonable price. But by the time we counted in the necessary materials to turn the structure from a shed into a home, the costs were ratcheting up again – concrete foundation, insulation, sheet rock, wiring, plumbing, running pipe to the septic system, hooking up water and electricity....

The costs and hassle kept mounting, especially once we realized we were essentially building a second house. We didn't have either the time or money for this. Back to square one. What to do?

Finally, with time running out on Older Daughter's apartment lease, we had to make an outside-the-box decision: She would move into our home. Our home is a three bedroom, two bath, 1400-sq.-foot place, and we only used the two smaller bedrooms for overflow storage. What if we partitioned that section into separate "in-law" quarters?

The more we thought about it, the better a solution it seemed. It would give Older Daughter privacy. She would have a separate entrance, a bedroom and sitting room, and a bathroom. She would use our kitchen and laundry facilities. A new hallway door would keep her cat, Frumpkin, on her side of the house.

Older Daughter was fine with this solution, so we got to work partitioning the house.

The first thing to do was sort through the overflow items in the extra bedrooms. When we moved in, Don took one room and I took the other. Giving these rooms up gave us the impetus to take a hard look at what we really wanted to keep and what we didn't. We stored some things in the barn, found spaces for other things in the rest of the house, and made an enormous pile of things we'll be putting up for sale later in the summer.

This is the short hallway leading to the back bedrooms. On the middle-left is the bathroom, on the middle-right is the pantry. Don's aim was to build a door right in front of the bedrooms.

Here's the new hallway door, installed (mostly).

He also got to work in "his" room, cutting a hole in the wall for an outside door as well as another hole on an inside wall to give inside access to the bathroom.

(Yes, the shocking fluorescent-green paint was here when we moved in. The previous owners had some interesting tastes in paint colors.)

By late April, Don was able to punch through the wall, getting ready to install the outside door.

Here's the door, ready to install.

With the door in place, we have plans to build an outside screened porch, but that will have to wait until the rain stops. Meanwhile Older Daughter can use the main house entrance.

Next, Don cut a separate door hole in the bathroom to give Older Daughter access from her sitting room (as well as the hallway). Here's the bathroom, before the extra door was cut:

 And after:

Installing the three doors (hallway, bathroom, outside) was all Don got done before his surgery, and of course he had to recuperate for a couple weeks before he could do any physical labor again. Meanwhile the clock was ticking for Older Daughter's lease to expire at the end of May.

So we pushed through and got things done (except painting over the awful wall colors – Older Daughter will have to take care of that on her own).

Here's "my" room, cleaned out and ready to become Older Daughter's bedroom:

(The shade of green in this room isn't as bad as the other room, but it's bad enough.)

While we were busy on our end, Older Daughter was just as busy on her end. She interviewed with a local business and got a job working 30 hours per week. She buttoned up her last job. She packed her belongings, giving away what she didn't need. She called U-Haul and reserved a small moving truck to bring her belongings to our place.

And then ... U-Haul screwed her over. It did precisely what it did to us when we were moving! She had booked a truck through the local dealership, literally a five-minute drive from her apartment. And what did they do? They told her – at the last possible second – the only truck available was in a distant city, a four-hour round trip away. Arrggghhhh.

Suddenly she was in a major quandary. She had friends who were coming over to help her load the truck, but there was no truck to load. She had to be out of her apartment within a day or two. We were too far away to be much by way of material help. I tell ya, my opinion of U-Haul, already rock bottom, descended into the pits of Hades after this incident.

Finally in desperation we called some friends from our old neighborhood. And you know what those blessed people did? They took an entire day, drove to Older Daughter's apartment, loaded her belongings into a large trailer, and moved her here. We can't even begin to tell you how grateful we are to these folks. (Harry and Bonnie, we're eternally in your debt!)

Moving day was, as always, wet. The area in front of Older Daughter's new door was a quagmire of mud. We'd hoped to unload many of her belongings through this door, but it was too wet to walk.

So, with Harry, Bonnie, and Older Daughter on their way, we improvised by laying down some of the old boards from when Don remodeled the back deck last fall. Worked like a charm.

Soon Harry drove up and expertly backed the trailer as close to the new entrance as possible.

Then we formed a chain gang to unload everything (except Don – he wasn't supposed to lift anything heavy yet, so he was in charge of making lunch). It took a surprisingly short time to get everything offloaded and make a jumbled mess in the previously empty rooms.

The next few days were chaotic as Older Daughter settled Frumpkin in, unpacked, unloaded, sorted, arranged, and otherwise dealt with the aftermath of moving. Meanwhile it rained and rained and rained some more.

Two days after moving in, Older Daughter and I took a trip back to her apartment and scrubbed it from top to bottom, stem to stern, in hopes she would get her full security deposit back. (She won't know until late June whether it worked.)

Meanwhile, Don's been creating a second shop for himself in the barn, moving all the hand and power tools Older Daughter won't need for the woodcraft business. While this was happening, Older Daughter started her new 30-hour-a-week job and so far is enjoying it very much.

She also offered an interesting form of rent. One thing she learned while living on her own is she enjoys cooking. (I don't.) However she also learned she doesn't like doing dishes. (I do.) So we've come up with this arrangement where she creates the most astoundingly delicious (and low-calorie – we could all stand to lose a few pounds) meals, and I clean the kitchen afterward. It's a system that is working divinely so far. Man, this kid can cook! And since I've never minded doing dishes, it's a perfect trade-off as far as I'm concerned.

So everyone is settling into our new routine and living arrangements. Right now the rain is keeping us more confined than we'd like. (A couple nights ago we had an intense storm cell move overhead that dumped about two inches of rain in ten minutes. It was some of the heaviest rain I've ever seen. Unfortunately it was too dark for photos.)

As soon as the weather breaks, Don and Older Daughter will get started building her porch, so Frumpkin can have a place to hang out in warmer weather. We keep getting calls from potential wholesalers interested in purchasing tankards, so Older Daughter's woodcraft business will be able to take off with a bang once she gets moving.

We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Rain rain and more rain

While so much of the west is suffering from extreme drought, we've had nothing but rain this spring. It shows no signs of slowing down. Here's our weather report for the next few days:

If the predicted amounts are accurate, we can anticipate another 2.44 inches of rain over the weekend, on top of everything else we've gotten.

The soil is saturated. Outdoor work is hard to get done. Rivers are raging.

There's even a flood watch for the weekend.

Knowing how much California and other western states are suffering, it almost makes me feel guilty to have this much rainfall.

How's your spring going?

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Watch those ears

Don stepped outside the other day, then immediately came back in and suggested I get my camera. I had no idea what he saw; but I never turn down a recommendation like that.

I, too, stepped outside and saw ... nothing.

But a closer look revealed a secret...

...right by the fence.


A moment later the doe got to her feet and trotted away, without much alarm.

There were actually two other deer, but I couldn't fit them all in the picture.

They all moseyed away, munching their way down the field. I love country living.