Happiness Engineers

Everytime we have friends and family together we get to see a bit of magic happen, and I have to admit that I get a bit of a high off of the feelings of love and smiles I get to see.  Just last weekend we got to break-in our cabin area with a proper gathering that was full of calm, comradery, food, and peace. Consequently, the world is in a state where we are in desperate need of as much love and happiness that is possible.  We need to keep recharging our souls so we can face each day out in the battlefield of life so we can return safely home to the those who would be lost without us: our partners, pets, children, parents, room mates- whoever.  

Perriee and I love hosting so much that we have both aspired to and succeeded, in some ways, at making it a part of our livelihood. We hope that we can continue to develop that aspect of our lives.  What better way to spend your time then to prepare for and then make others happy? After last weekend I could really envision that cabin space as a gathering place for many things: receptions, birthday parties, showers, team building, small conferences, fund raisers (wink wink, Crystal), anything.  

It would of course be a seasonal gig, with the hope being, that we could take off two or three months a year and recharge and travel and breathe.  Yep, that is crazy, but I don’t care. I am sure it is possible if we choose that life for ourselves. It would take a lot of planning and financial discipline, but we can do it.  Those are two of our very strong points. This idea of working several months, then taking time off has been in my mind a lot lately.  Originally, it occured to me that I could probably do anything long-term, if i knew i got to take significant amounts of time off. I thought, if only my job now offered that option. Sadly, I understand that piece is actually highly unlikely.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the requirement to work for money, and I believe as humans, we have innate drives to be useful and productive. I just don’t think we should all have to do it so much. I digress…

I know I have mentioned this before, but currently, we are hosting our second level of our city home through Airbnb.  We have been doing it since 2015 and still take great care to ensure our guests feel welcome and comfortable and special when they stay here.  We hope to expand our services to the tipi soon as well. We would only offer it when we are there, but we can already imagine the experience we want our guests to feel while visiting us there.  It is a special space.  

We are going to paint the sleeping pallet space and take out the hoosier cabinet which will be replaced with a wash area.  The floor is already prepped for water, so we should go with it! We will install a shower pan and which will be “plumbed” out the back of the tipi where we have already have a drainage ditch. Toss in a nice shower chair and a wash basin, and voila! You have a bathing area. There will be a gas grill, available to cook on, the fire pit, and the most beautiful night sky you could ask for.  Perfecto!  

Homework: Have a party! 

Aside from the money and the happiness factors, there are bonuses to sharing your personal space with folks.  It forces you to show off your good side. It helps you reset your environment. Friends once shared a funny meme with me in advance of one of them getting ready for a party:  Clean like it looks like no one lives here! One a year is a good way to give you a reason to clean the baseboards or dust the top of the refrigerator and toss out the old mail that has been piling up.  Some people don’t need a party as an excuse, but I do and the reward is always sweet.  

Hosting with Airbnb forces us to keep our home in the best shape possible, both functionally and aesthetically.  If it doesn’t look good and deliver, folks won’t want to stay here. I wish i could put more into it then we already have, but over the years I feel like Perriee and I have managed to keep it looking fresh, whether it be by buying new towels or a new area rug or redoing the bathroom (which we are very proud of, by the way). Then in the space we have, which can be see by our guests, we keep our junk piles to a minimum and make sure it is ready to look at should someone want to peek at while here.  I look forward to bringing this process to the tipi. It keeps us looking good which feels good to us too.  

To host an event at the cabin  will push it all to another level.  In the meantime, I will keep mapping it out in my mind.  So far, it looks amazing.

You might not be able to buy happiness, but you sure can create it. 

We got bit by solar bug (and the mosquitoes, and ticks, and chiggers, and…)

Perriee and I finally spent our first nights in the cabin.  It was wonderful, having the chance to fall asleep, shielded only by the plastic and Tyvek that were hanging on the front wall of the house.  I will admit that I felt some guilt using the tipi only for supplies that we needed during our stay. One thing i look forward to however, is having the chance to glampify it here and there now that we don’t need to sleep in it everytime we go.  We need to finish the floor under the stove, paint the hoosier cabinet, and rearrange a little to make it feel more open.  

Even with our building materials stashed inside, the cabin already feels so open inside.  The best part is being able to walk around freely without a wood stove in the center of the room.  

This trip out there, we were able to install our solar “attic fan” in the gable end where the sleeping loft is going to be.  We bought the Nature Power 24208 Powered 1350 CFM Attic Gable Vent Fan with 20W Solar Panel.  This involved fitting the last two pieces of plywood around the fan at the top of the cabin.  It was so incredibly hot that I thought we might melt out there, but we managed to get it measured and screwed into place.  From the inside of the cabin, we cut and mounted the 2×3 supports that we attached the fan to. We then Tyvekked the new area of plywood and attached the fan.  Lastly, screwed the solar panel to the roof. Perriee rocked out her valedictorian brain (yeah, I know, it’s awesome!) and suggested we test the fan BEFORE mounting it on the roof which was definitely the best way to go.  The instructions suggested wiring up while in place, which would have been a nightmare to do while on a ladder, in the heat. Overall, the entire project was pretty simple. The best part? It freaking works! 

The fan only runs when there is sun, but it started up Sunday morning around 8:30 and should consistently run through the worst parts of the day.  Matt suggested attaching a battery to the solar panel to hold extra energy for overnight, which I would say we will work towards, but for now, with as much time as we spend there, I think the current setup will work out great.  

So now we have the solar bug.  During breakfast on Sunday morning we sat watching the fan whir and decided we need more.  The fan installation was the perfect way to dip our toes in the water or, should I say, sunshine, to get the basic gist of how a system works.  If we can do it, anyone can!  

We revisited looking at the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Package and decided two of those might be all we need to power the entire cabin!  Hear me out, but we might even mount a tv in the sleeping loft, which I had never even considered being an option.  The Yeti has three 110 outlets, a place to plug in the solar fan, plus USB ports for phones. CLEARLY we are not ready for this, but it is a new goal (pun intended).  

Next steps?  

I think the next big step will be to install the back wall’s two windows.  We had ordered two, but realized after watching some installation videos that we bought replacement windows as opposed to “new construction” windows, which have the flange, or lip that you use to nail the window into place.  This worked out though because we ordered a slightly different style (the kind with the window pane look) which I had been having some regrets about not getting in the first place. I love happy accidents.

Homework

Be a deviant!  If we had followed the directions that were inside of the solar fan, we would’ve been so frustrated trying to wire it together after we had it mounted up in place. Trust yourself and the way that you work.  One of the biggest things we have learned since starting all of our projects as a couple of novices is that one source, be it person, video, or manual, does not necessarily have all of the right answers.  Gather your information, listen well, but in the end, make your own recipe. Often, the best answers lie within you.

Some sort of recovered nest.
We pulled this down off of the cat ladder that goes up under the gable of the a-frame. Whatever kind of nest this is (bird or mouse), we pulled it down and relocated it. Sorry kids, you have to move on.

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.