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.  

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

And…she’s up!

I am writing this from the living room in our city house. This room is about the same size as our new cabin that we BUILT last week!  Perriee and I took the week off of work to get as much done as possible and let me tell you, we needed every day of it to get the frame up and cover it with a roof.  As it stands, it might already be drier than the tipi and the end walls aren’t even up yet.

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My dad, step-mom, brothers, sister, and brother’s girlfriend came in on Saturday (from Cleveland)  to kick everything off. My brother, Carm, and his girlfriend, Rachel, helped us with some amazing math skills to figure out how to make these beautiful angle cuts on the miter saw with the wood that goes on the end walls.  My sister, Crystal, picked up lunch on her way in and took three, hour long trips to Lowes to make sure that we had the correct fittings for our hose that connected to our nail gun and compressor (just when we thought we had all the pieces, we discovered that the compressor hose we bought months ago did not come with any fittings on it- who woulda thunk?).  

We got the end walls and the ridge beam up on Sunday with the help of Matt and my family.  My brother Mark helped us get up 10 of the 30 rafters before he headed back to the city.  Perriee and I worked on the rest of the rafters, including floating “cat ladders” on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, we put up the nailer boards for the roof and two roofing panels. Brother Mark came back Thursday to bring it home with putting up the rest of the roof and a temporary ridge cap.  It was then that you could see how happy that cabin was to be in her place. That spot beckoned for her. She is settled in there like she has been there forever and we can’t wait to spend the rest of our forever with her.

Friday, Perriee and I decided our bodies needed a couple of days rest, so we tossed up a bit of Tyvek wrap on the back wall and organized everything before we left for the week.  I must not neglect to mention one more pearl…that we moved one of our homemade sawdust toilets into the cabin before we left. Not only did we build the shell of our home, but we also started design on our bathroom.  It is glorious. No more long, muddy treks to either the house or the “Number 2 Room”. From now, until we start sleeping in the there with the potty, there will be only short muddy treks to the cabin. It is even complete with a hand washing station, thanks to Ms. Gwen, Perriee’s mom, who gifted us a water cooler to keep out at the farm a while back.

Before we go back, we will have another consultation with neighbor Mark to talk about how to fix the ridge cap and get some guidance about putting up some of the plywood on the exterior walls. We may need to run some extra wood around the eave ends to give the plywood a place to latch on to.   It seems we may be getting a ladder soon, one long enough to get back up to the top of the roof. We rented ladders for the week, which were picked up on Friday, so we will let our savings recoup a bit before we get one.

Homework:

Need to work on a relationship?  Build a cabin together! Ok, maybe not a cabin, but work on something as a team that neither of you know how to do already.  Change a light fixture, put up some drywall, build a cat house, tile a floor. It might not be cheaper than therapy, but you will get to reap both the benefits of the project as well as grow stronger together in the process.  Perriee and I already have a solid relationship, but i realized this week, that every project we embark on together is like a team building exercise. It is almost comical to think about, but it is true! I am going to miss her so much next week when we go back to our regular jobs.  This week doused a load of fuel on our fire to move towards our goal of being together full time. We had roller coasters of emotions this week, but we were able to problem solve amidst all of our frustrations, and when we were packing up yesterday, it was apparent that not only did we build a strong cabin, but we made our marriage stronger as well.

Happy Hatch Day, #lotsaflocka!

Happy Hatch Day to #lotsaflocka!  I cannot believe they are one year old already.  It has been quite a journey and I love them more now than I could have ever even imagined loving a duck when we first considered getting them.  

One little duckie, Dayz, has given us quite a few worried days, and she likely will continue to do so, but I will not give up on her until she tells me it is time.  Even with their nutritious diet, she has trouble forming normal eggs.  This causes her a lot of discomfort and could be fatal, so we asked our local vet to do an implant that will prevent her from forming eggs for a while.  So far, it seems to be working well.  She has not had to lay in over a week now, and seems to be feeling pretty good. 

I would have never guessed that that would be something we would be dealing with when we got ducks.  Needless to say, we have learned a lot about them in the last year, so we want to pass on our knowledge to you.  Most of what we know has come from both internet research as well as from an amazing group of Instagram duck lovers who share their stories to help educate as well as entertain.   

Here is a quick list of things I have learned since we got them:

Appreciate every egg you eat.  The amount of energy that goes into creating a good egg is underreported.  It is physically taxing and not all fowl are physically able to produce a good egg all of the time, even if their bodies insist on trying. After seeing all of the trouble Dayz goes through to make eggs, it hurts my heart to think of all of the hens out there in industrial farming settings who suffer alone.  As consumers, we don’t get to see all of the ugly eggs and the hens who struggle to lay them.

“His” and “Hers” quarters are a must! The next time we build an enclosure for these turkeys we will at least make it possible to separate them easily, even if they seem to be getting along.  There are those times (aka spring) when the guys just can’t control themselves, and “toxic masculinity ruins the party again”. In the meantime we will supplement with dried chamomile flower in their morning water to help keep everyone as calm as possible.  I slacked off for a bit, and it may have been coincidence, but things got pretty crazy for a bit and just might be leveling out a bit since I re-started.

Plan for the water.  We go through so much water so this year we are planning on growing a lot of stuff that needs water!  I think we need a watering can too. We have made three raised beds in the back yard and are going to plant all zinnias in the front yard.  We also have talked about a way to recycle the water, similar to aquaponics.  

Ducks are so smart.  As ornery as they can be, they are so quick to pick up new tricks and will do almost anything for a pea.  I feel it is important to make them work for their treats sometimes to keep their mind busy. The boys, especially, get really bossy when they are bored.  

People dump domestic ducks all of the time and think it is ok.  It is not ok. It is so sad and heartbreaking. I am afraid to go to a park right now because I am fairly certain that now that I know what I am looking at,  I will find ducks who should not be there.  Domestic ducks (Pekins, Khaki Campbell’s, Magpies, Runners, Muscovy, etc.) cannot fly to get away from predators, they do not migrate, and they depend on us to provide shelter and nutritious food to keep them safe and healthy.  Yes, they can fly up and then fly back down, but they are not going any significant distances. With proper care and good health, a duck can live to be at least ten years old. They are not a short-term commitment.

People love ducks!  I can tell you we were nervous to welcome them to our urban backyard.  I was worried that the neighbors would be upset about them and complain.  The actuality is that our neighbors love them. So many of them sneak peeks when we don’t even know about it.  They come to watch them when they are feeling stressed and just need to unwind a bit. Ducks are so fun to watch and very therapeutic when they are just going about their business.  

Ducks are tough.  I have already thought we were going to say goodbye to Dayz several times in the last few months.  She has looked so tired and has bounced back beyond belief. Someone said the other day, “there is a reason that this descendent of the dinosaur is still here today”.  Boy were they right about that!

Happy hatch day duckies!  Thank you for all of the joy you bring into our lives and thank you for allowing us novices to do our very best to make your lives as perfect as possible.  

It is just a big puzzle.

Except for the fancy cuts on the ends of all of the roof rafters, we have prepped all of the framing lumber and have it organized for “Barn Raising” day.  Overall,everything came out exactly as planned. There are a couple of small things that we will be re-cutting, which we decided to do after sitting on it for a minute at the city house.  

The 5 foot pieces of the sill plate actually need to be 5 foot and ¼ and the door header came out ½ inch too short so we will try that one more time as well.  We ended up with enough 2x6x8s left over to redo them. Everything else is beautiful.  It is all separated out into sections and just needs to be put together like a gigantic puzzle.  

We stopped at Lowes on the way out and got a business account set up with them. They were so awesome about the whole thing and even suggested it to begin with.  It saves about 40 dollars per truck delivery and they are always willing to help you find ways to save some more money where they can. The women at the counter really made us feel special. I don’t care if they got a commission on our account. I hope they did.  It kind of felt like a women helping women moment. While we were there, we looked at windows and bought enough hardware to tie our floor tight enough to the beams to withstand a hurricane (ok, some people call them hurricane straps, hence the reference, but it still better do the job).  We will put those on next weekend.

The family who lives on the property was out of town for the night so Perriee and I were the only people there.  While working in the barn during the rainstorm because it was raining in the tipi Perriee noticed someone was pulling up the driveway. It was an interesting situation.  I walked out while Perriee sort of hung back behind the barn door. She is black, I am white. We are married. As I walked out, I quickly came to find out that it was one of the neighbors, who explained that she came up to make sure the chickens were cared for since the weather was getting bad and she knew our friends were out of town.   We know that the other family who lives there knows the neighbors. They have told us repeatedly how friendly the neighbors are. I took the opportunity to introduce myself and called out that it was Perriee who was in the barn. I did not force her to come out and say hello, nor did I introduce her as my spouse. We still live in the shadows. We are careful.  

Speaking of feeling awkward in the world, last weekend, we helped hang signs up for our friends’ dog who ran off and did not come back.   Wilbur lives there at the farm and he is old and needed to be back home at the farm to lay in his old-man- chair.  He was thankfully returned to home, a couple of days later.  We wanted to help bring him back, but to do so safely, Perriee stayed in the car, while I jumped out to hang up the signs in the surrounding area.  It was all an avoidance act, but it works.  We do whatever possible to fly under the radar.  

We want to believe everyone is cool.  We want to believe everyone is accepting.  We don’t let our reservations prevent us from interacting with the wonderful people we have met out there up until now, but we are still careful.  We operate from a unique perspective in the country and I think that is the best way to go. In spite of all of our optimism, we are also realistic and know that some people are not so open and accepting, and you feel extra vulnerable where the population is a bit thinner and there are less people around.  We would think carefully about taking the ride up a neighbor’s driveway, unannounced, and I could bet that Perriee would likely never do it alone, could she help it at all.

In the city, we are comfortable.  We know our neighbors and have a family-like relationship with many of them.  The trust on the city street is reciprocal and comfortable. I will remain hopeful that we can have that in the country too, but if it does not happen we know what we can fall back on what we have at our city house.  

Homework

Be kind to one another. Try to remember that everyone does not navigate through the world like you do.  Believe people when they tell you that there are places that they are, “not allowed” to go.  They know.  If they are alive telling you, their acts of self-preservation are working well.  Be willing to experience people and places that are unfamiliar to you. That is the only way to normalize the unknown and break down our differences among one another.  

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P.S.  Our cover photo was taken on the side of the tipi on Saturday.