A Win is a Win is a Win!

The Vocal Yokel Merch business is going, well…slow.  But it is going. There is definitely a lot to learn. Just this second, Perriee had the bright idea to send an email to our mailing list! We kew it was an option to do it, but had sort of lost sight of it in the midst of working on other aspects of the site. Worth a shot, right?  Even though it feels like it isn’t moving, we at least keep trying to learn something new about it and try something new whenever possible. Once we crack the code of ecommerce, watch out! It really is something we both enjoy, so I am sure we will get somewhere with it once we have a little more time to dedicate to it. Until then, we will forage ahead with the cabin whilst I daydream about working on our business, side by side from our a-frame’s shaded deck.    

After getting within a couple of thousand dollars of paying off our basement waterproofing that we financed five years ago, we decided to divert our cabin money towards paying the bill off.  I think we can say we are within three weeks or so of getting there so we are feeling really good about that part of life at the moment.  

We had our basement waterproofed several years ago and are just about to pay it off.  At the time, a ten year loan did not sound so bad but three years into it, and I was ready to wrap it up. Don’t get me wrong; we both agree that it was an amazing investment.  Our house was built in 1911 and she had a musty under-carriage. Having it waterproofed and ventilated gave us the opportunity to use the space as a type of rec-room which came in really handy when we starting hosting through Airbnb.  As a matter of fact, I am typing this post while sitting in it, right this very moment. It is going to feel good when we can say that we own this fresh basement air.  

In spite of the temporary diversion of cabin funds, we have really been able to make some progress on getting the cabin weathered in before the first snowfall.  We had enough materials on hand already to knock out several things and still have things to do. The front windows are framed in, we covered the front with plywood, Tyvek is up on the front of the house, and we are getting ready to put in windows and doors.  We already have the back windows in, but will be putting in the window above the door opening this weekend and will be trying our hand at retrofitting a steel hollow door. Once we are back in savings mode, we can get ready to purchase the rest of the windows for the front of the house (and maybe a door, if this one does not work out).  

The current plan is to get two big-ass triangle windows which will be installed on either side of the door.  That journey in and of itself has been a big to-do! Because we are going super custom, and we are doing them ourselves,  we have been in contact with many different places. Some do them, some don’t and there are other factors like delivery and price which have varied quite a bit.  We are finally settled on Lowes, but I will keep you updated because there is a great chance that could still change.  

Homework

Recognize your wins.  

Of course we want to report through the roof merch sales, and of course we want to report that the cabin has a door on it, and we will.  But for now, we can focus on paying off this basement bill five years early, We can also celebrate not running into another long-term loan and work really hard to keep it that way.  Building a solid financial future is just as important as building a home and I think that is something we do really well together. Good job us! Good job you for that thing you rocked out!

Perriee napping in the rec-room with Mr. Mittens!

Keep throwing the spaghetti on the wall!

What??  Throw the spaghetti on the wall?  Yes! Keep throwing it on the wall.  One day it is going to stick! In case you haven’t heard about that before, when you cook pasta, you can toss a piece of spaghetti on the wall (or ceiling, if you are feeling feisty) and when it sticks, you know it is done.  I don’t think I would recommend throwing a lasagna noodle or manicotto on the wall. Although it would be impressive to see, it might leave a big glutenous smudge. Long spaghetti seems to be the best choice, or perhaps a delicate angel hair or hearty bucatini.  Once again, I digress.

Perriee and I have been tossing the spaghetti on the wall for a few years.  Most of the time, it falls off. Sometimes, it never even reaches the wall, but we have had a few small wins for sure.  Ok- maybe just one sizable one: Airbnb stuck. This is our 5th summer hosting! It is hard to believe we have been rolling with it this long.  I am hoping we can develop our space here a bit more so we can charge a little more and generate longer stays by offering the kitchen space for use.

One little project that slid down the wall was hosting dinner parties through a site called Feastly.  Although fun, it did not generate any income at all!  We made this amazing dinner with spaghetti and meatballs and homemade cheesecake.  It was delicious and our friends who came loved it, but it never stuck to the wall or generated any momentum outside of our close friends and family who both humored and honored us with their presence.  It did stick to my waistline. This side-hustle pre-dated our time hosting through Airbnb. The silver lining? It served as a bit of a catalyst to get the guest space together enough to show it off to strangers and the improvements haven’t stopped since. 

Cabin Corner

We installed the two back windows last weekend!  Hands down, one of the easiest and most rewarding projects we have done on the cabin so far.  Special thanks to Jonathan from MunozStuccoPA for helping is out with his awesome YouTube videos! The only installation flub we had was nailing the bottom flange all the way across, as opposed to leaving some extra gaps along the bottom for water to flow out, if needed.  That was all my bad. Perriee questioned it and I confidently responded on the contrary and we did not rewatch the video to confirm. As directed, we did NOT use the flashing tape along the bottom of the window.

Check out our thank you videos: Before

After:

These windows were ordered at the end of June and finally arrived the week prior to us installing them  As you can imagine, we were so excited to get them installed so that is exactly what we did. Since we ordered two of the same window, I assumed they would match.    Several minutes after we got the second one in, I noticed that they are different! Ha! There were only supposed to be 4 panes of glass on the top and bottom sections of the windows and one of them has 6 panes of glass on the bottom section! This is one of those things we will call good enough because they are not coming out again.  One of them will technically be in the bathroom and the other in the kitchen anyhow, so you will be less likely to notice from the inside of the house anyway. We are blaming this on Mercury in retrograde and Home Depot, of course.  

Regardless, the windows open, they have screens, and nothing can mess up the view you get while looking out of them.  It is beautiful. I watched some crows dancing in the woods from them the following morning. Overall, it was a huge win.

 

Homework

Keep tossing the pasta!  You can only hope you will end up with a wall-full, but realistically, most will not stick.  Don’t be afraid to try different types of pasta either- if you want to try blogging one day, then a basic website the next, do it.  The only thing that keeps you from succeeding is not trying. I have recently been listening to a couple of inspiring podcasts that have been getting my wheels turning to think of new ways to make money and getting the guts to try.  

Failing Forward is a Cinicnnati based podcast with the premise that even failures can lead to our successes.  In that respect, you should hope to fail at some things. Learn the lessons and move on. Use them as learning experiences to do different things the next time.  Keep tossing the pasta! 

The Side Hustle Show has over 300 episodes packed full of ideas and success stories of people who are now working for themselves.  One hot tip was to make a list of 50 ways to generate income for yourself. By the 50th one, you will have a list with at least a couple of ready to eat noodles.  And if you don’t? Well, make another list.  

The mousenest of the week…
We said goodbye to the hoosier cabinet in the tipi and found this bad-boy behind the bottom drawer. It was its own ecosystem (spool of thred for scale).

One…two…three…go!

Number One

In preparation for our first official get together down at the cabin, we did some landscaping to spruce up the “yard” a bit.  It is so funny because we have one push mower at the city house and two on the country property, but not one of them would start, so to kick off our new car lease, we loaded a rented push mower for the day to get it done.  I planted some flowers that are probably dead right now since it hasn’t rained for a week and we pulled the tall grass that was growing around the base of the tipi. It looks really cool down there.

We hope to have some folks camp and maybe play some yard games around there so we had to make some space with the mower, which also helps in terms of bug control.  Surprisingly, we did not see one tick last weekend, which is either because we started using the bug spray finally or because it was even too hot for them. The transformation of that spot after we mowed, from when we first pitched a tent there three summers ago is astounding.  It looks like someone’s yard now. Oh yeah, its our yard!  

My vision for this party (oh yeah- I am totally putting this out there in the universe) is for people to come and relax.  I want them to take a deep breath and smile. I want them to snack, and laugh, and drink, and decompress. There is so much going on in the world right now and I want our spot to feel like a safe space in the chaos of it all.  A charging station, of sorts, to prep your mind to be able to get back out there and face it all again. Mercury is in retrograde right now, so this might be a tall order, but I am going for it.  Maybe a night hanging out with us can serve as a respite from the effects of it.  

Number Two

This will be a mostly off grid party, so we also spent some time prepping the new number two spot behind the Number 2 Room.  Our old poo deposit spot we set up turned out to be a little too close to things people use, namely my sister’s bedroom, so we haven’t dumped any buckets in preparation of getting the new place set up to compost the waste at. We can take it down in a year after the pile has rested for two years.  It will be rich compost.

The wonderful thing about the bucket system is the fact that they are sealed so well, that you can sort of let them hang out in a safe place until you are ready to clean them out. It is a pretty easy process to maintain sawdust potties. We connected four pallets into a square, dug a basin of dirt out of the center, lined it with straw and dumped the buckets we had into the center.  You then cover, cover, and cover it some more with straw, which will be peeled back to dump again in the future when new buckets need emptied (and them recovered again). Please check the official handbook  for more detailed information.  Personally, I would not do this in an urban environment, because it would be impossible to control any runoff, however small, which in the spot we have selected, will be both minimal and unobtrusive.   Of course, you can invest in the more official compost potties, such as the Nature’s Head composting toilet, which we will be considering for the cabin, but for now, sawdust (pine shaving) potty is absolutely enough.  

 

Number Three

On the city home front, we had a party for Independence Day with friends and family that was wonderful.  We had Airbnb guests staying that weekend, so it forced us to be extra cozy in our part of the house which consists of the first floor and half finished basement.  My favorite part was packing up our new mattress we have been sleeping on and moving it into the living room to use as extra seating and we were able to move our dining table into our “bedroom” for the day. This was our first go at doing this transformation since getting our new sleeping arrangements.  It was really exciting because basically, I realized we are already well on our way to tiny living and efficient living.  It was a good feeling to actually know we practice what we preach! 

 

Homework

Be mindful of the “things” in your life.  Try to have multiple purposes for some of your belongings so you can have fewer items to look after or find space for.  The less space that the material things take up in our lives, the more room we have for people who make us happy or moments to cherish.  The less you have to lose in life, material wise, the easier it is to take chances on things you really want to do.  

We are not “Instaperfect”

Part of building the a frame now is so that it will hopefully contribute to making it easier to visit our spot in the future.  It is situated only an hour away, yet the preparation we take each week to go there for a night or two feels big. I thought I would take this week to share a bit of what we do to get there on the days that we plan on spending the night or the weekend.  

Every time we go, we tell ourselves, “This time, we will be packed and ready by Thursday night to leave right after work on Friday.  If I don’t vocalize it, I think it, but somehow, we are never ready when Friday afternoon rolls around. We might have some general food plans worked out and a pile of clothes half-packed, but it never fails that Friday looks like this:

Twelve hours after waking up…

5:00 am:  The alarm goes off as it does each weekday.  I always hit the snooze just in case, but we are typically vertical after about four minutes. Mittens is slow to stir, but Tux is first out of bed and ready for breakfast.   Perriee feeds the kitties and I wake up the ducks by letting them out into their run for the day with fresh water and food. Luckily, it is almost always dark so they don’t give me too much fuss about wanting out in the yard.  That equals less guilt for me too.

5:20 am: Perriee leaves for work to clock-in  by 5:30 (incredible, huh?). I finish getting myself together and am gone by about 6:00.  I am at work by 6:30, brewing my pot of coffee and getting the day going.

2:00 pm:  Perriee is done with work around 2:00 and is usually home by 2:15 or so.  She comes home and might jump in the shower and start changing out duck pools and fluffing their house bedding and enclosure for the weekend.  We have our neighbor look after them when we are gone, but we don’t expect him to spend too much time cleaning up after them so we leave them as fresh as possible when we leave.  They have two kiddie pools and a deep “indoor pool” which is just a big tote with a ramp. We also leave them with fresh drinking water for the rest of the night.

3:00 pm:  I leave work for the day and get home around 3:15 if i don’t have to stop for cash to pay the neighbor with.  We clean litter pans and vacuum all of the duck straw that collects at the back door. Suddenly, I start to feel like I could lay down and fall right asleep.  This is when my regrets of not planning more before Friday start to kick in. I will start by scooping the duck food into containers. That is mindless and it smells good.  I scoop their dry food into containers and then their duck salad with apple cider vinegar into other ones. We try to make it super easy, to the point that someone just needs to open the lid and dump it in.  

4:00 pm:  My anxiety will get the best of me and I will say at least once, “Are you sure you want to leave today?  I don’t know if I will be able to get it together in time to leave before dark.” Perriee will respond, “Whatever you want, Love,  just let me know.” I will keep looking at everything, maybe make a couple of rounds around the house, feeling lost, then I will eventually get some clothes and towels and wash cloths packed and hope I don’t forget anything essential.  I toss our hers and hers occlusal guards in my black farm bag, along with phone chargers and the Biolite camp light as well as my Lowes card, debit card, and drivers license.

I go into the kitchen and open the refrigerator and another wave of anxiety rushes over me.  I think, “What are we going to eat all weekend?” in a slight panic. Some weeks it is easier than others, but I always have to reign it in and get my mind right to pack the food.  Perriee will bring the cooler up and I pack a dry bag of goodies, then the cooler, then grab the Dutch oven.

We grab the batteries to the power tools, of which we do make sure to charge ahead of time,  and gather the extras: screws,brown paper for fire starters, that “thing” we no longer need in the city that might work out in the tip,and If Perriee got any good pallets from work, we will toss those into the car as well.  It really just depends on how much room we have. We make sure our work boots are by the back door or outside so they don’t get forgotten.

Twelve hours after waking up…

5:00 pm:When we are about packed, one of us sends a text to the neighbor that we are about to leave and Perriee brings the ducks’ overnight bag over.  Depending on whether or not they are home, we will leave the duckies out or put them in their run. When we put them up before bedtime, it often takes two people and some meal-worms to herd them inside.  They are quick and stubborn and will make you work for it. We make sure the cats are filled up with food and water. 

5:40 pm:  We get off of the exit and stop at Lowes and the grocery store.  I would say we go to both of them more often than not. It is always a pleasure to go to both of those places.  I will say this again, but they are some of the friendliest folks in the country. I am convinced.

6:40 pm: Back on the road.

7:10 pm: Finally, we pull up the driveway.  We go slowly since it is a choppy ascent. This driveway has never been right!  We have even had it repaired since we acquired the property.

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We park at the top of the driveway by the house and the barn and usually find Matt close by working on something.  We chat for a bit, then start hauling our stuff down to the tipi. We each take a load, always a bit too heavy to carry, and make our way back.  We walk past the house then to either the Tipi Trail or through the open pasture of grass, down the back trail. On our second trip up to the car, we grab the water containers and stop in the house to fill up for the next couple of days.  

8:00 pm: Once we get everything down there, we (might) start a fire in the tipi and set up the bed. We put out our rug on top of our pallets, uncover the mattress and pull out the bedding.  If we are lucky, we find a mouse nest to photograph for our upcoming coffee table book. We inevitably at least encounter one of the artists who will jump out of the stove, or down from the smoke flaps.  At this point we open the beer or wine and decide on cooking or snacking for dinner. This is the point that I start to come down. I can breathe again and let the peace overtake me in time for bed.

10:30 pm:  We brush our teeth and pull out the mouth-guards.  Then we crawl into the most comfortable bed and drift off to sleep.  The last time we were there, Perriee told me she wanted to come, if only for the sleep.  It is so comfortable in that bed. Even if the coyotes wake us up or if we hear a mouse nibbling on something in the middle of the night, we will wake up feeling rested in the morning.  

Homework

List the things that make your day worth living.  I keep hearing things about making a gratitude list everyday and how it makes your attitude better.  We found some little chalk boards at one of the Walmart’s we went to while we were shopping in Georgia, so we have been writing down four things every day when we are home to try to stay centered and optimistic.  I will not lie and claim it has changed my life, but it at least changes a couple of minutes. I need it. You might too.

Putting up walls while breaking them down.

The last time we were able to visit the a-frame and tipi we started putting up the exterior wall on the tall side of the cabin, which is the side of the house with sleeping loft and kitchen/bathroom. So far, Perriee and I don’t feel too pressed to move at lightning speed to complete the a-frame since it is staying pretty dry inside. This way, we can take our time, get things right, and customize the shit out of it!

It really blows my mind how much we have learned in the last year to do just that. For example, we were able to figure out the exact measurements of how to cut the plywood at an angle based on our experience with the cabin plans.That step alone would have sent my mind into a tizzy merely months ago. Here is a list of what we got done in the day and some change that we were there:

We removed the Tyvek wrap that we had tacked up on the outside wall and took down the tarp that was hanging up in the inside.

Blocking was put up to allow us a substrate to attach the plywood to since our studs did not quite reach the top of the rest of the frame.

We cut and installed two rows of plywood on the outside wall with our amazing new folding extension ladder.

We hung up the bottom two rows of Tyvek on top of the plywood we put up.

A third row of Tyvek wrap was tacked up to temporarily cover part of what has not yet been completed and we rehung the tarp on the inside of the cabin for the time being.

The next two rows of plywood on that side are going to be a little tricky since they are up quite a bit higher, but we think we have a plan for it. We will also be prepping to install the solar fan, which will attach above one of the windows on that side of the house.

While those walls are going up, we had to skip a weekend out at our spot to go to Georgia for our friends’ wedding and to watch some walls get broken down. Except for ours, I have not been to any other queer folks’ wedding ceremonies and I had quite an epiphany while watching through my tears from the doorway at the back of the venue with about twenty other guests, standing, because the room was packed with their friends and loved ones coming to watch their profession of love towards one another.

The epiphany I experienced had to do with the importance of the Obergefell_v._Hodges Supreme Court decision in 2015, which gave same sex couples the right to legally marry. Queer people have been having commitment ceremonies for years, but our decision to unite our lives really did stem from a lot of the legal benefits of being married too, and I suspect that a lot more same sex couples are taking this big step for similar reasons. It gives us the rights to care for one another in ways that would otherwise be denied to us in the times we need it most: in sickness and death.

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All weddings are full of the people who the couple loves so dearly: best friends and family. The ones who make life worth living. That is why they were invited and that is likely why they come to witness the union of the couple getting married- because they love at least one of those two people just the same. What is extra special about a queer wedding is that sometimes, people who come to witness the union might be a little unsure of how these two people of the same gender could possibly fit together in such a way to represent marriage. They have ideas of how a marriage should look, based on their life experience and just don’t quite understand it. But they come regardless because they love one of those two people.

Then the magic happens. The guests start to trickle in, all of them there to support the spouse’s to be. Some are local, some come from far away. The officiant exclaims the couple’s love to the crowd and then the couple exclaims their love to one another. They tell their witnesses how they promise to love and support one another through the best and the worst of times. Then, come the speeches, when the newlyweds’ friends talk about how these two people fell so perfectly in step with one another and how they have never seen them so happy as they have been in their lives as they are with this person.

That is when the walls start to crumble. The mortar of skepticism falls to the ground. First, just dust, then in chunks, then you see the bricks falling out. Those people who came because they love one of those people now find themselves there for both of them.  They are touched with the sunshine of love that is peeking through where a wall once stood.

Then all of the guests go home and the new couple begins their lives together, doing the same things couples have done for a millennia. They go to work, they love, they cry, they sweat together, and they laugh together, just like all married couples do. But the people who were not too sure when they came to that wedding? They do something a bit more profound. They go home and tell one person about that weird wedding while they are still freshly bathed in the love they witnessed between those two people. They chip away at someone else’s wall without either them even realizing it.

See, love can change the world.

Homework

Celebrate.  It’s Pride Month!  Even if you don’t think you have a queer friend or family member, statistics will prove you incorrect!  If you are not LGBTQXYZ, you can still celebrate. Wear a rainbow lapel pin. Fly a rainbow flag. Go to a parade.  The people who might be hiding in fear will see you and it could change their life to know you might be there for them. Most of all, to me anyway, it is a celebration of love.  Love one another. It can change the world.

November 12, 2016