Silver Linings, Lemonade, Cup Half Full…

I am not going to lie: the last several weeks have been super heavy.  Things have peaked with plumbing issues, keeping the ducks safe and healthy, waiting on the closing date of a property we may or may not accrue, along with trying to coordinate our move away from Indiana.  When someone talks about the walls closing in, I think I can finally relate. In the middle of it all, of the stress, anxiety, and worry, I keep finding rays of light to remind us of the good things in life.

We broke down the tipi last weekend and it is all ready to move home to the city.  We were hoping to be able to move it to a new place and get the canvas all aired out, but we are not there yet, and don’t even know if we will be there, so it is all coming home to the city. Initially, we were pretty disappointed because we had hoped to only have to move the tipi once, but the universe has other plans.  

One of my two amazing brothers and my amazing sister came out to help us take her down.  It was so awesome to see the tipi in its bare state again with all of her bones exposed to the air.  Surprisingly, it was actually pretty easy. Four people and two hours was about all we needed to get it all broken down and prepped for the move.  We celebrated by having lunch at Jack’s Place on the way home. They make homemade carrot cake and peanut butter pie (which we snagged the last piece of).  

We weighed our options between driving a truck ourself versus paying movers and we ended up settling on Two Men and a Truck, ordered a 26 footer, and called it a day.  Let me tell you, it was worth it. Let’s look at a quick list of why:

  • Successfully pull up the steep, precarious driveway, without getting stuck in a ditch at the bottom, and get out without incident.  
  • Pick up and move the picnic table 
  • Move the cast iron wood stove
  • Successfully pull up our steep hill, park and unload said items above, and drive out of the neighborhood without hitting any cars.
  • Moving tipi poles alone, in order for us to get a smaller truck would have cost between 500-700 dollars.  

The poles look pretty cozy in their new spot, and the things we moved into the city don’t feel at all overwhelming in terms of volume.  The backyard shed is pretty full at the moment, and we have a very large pile of tipi canvass in our basement/family room, but it is ok. We have turned the page, officially.  The sick feeling that I have had in my stomach for the last year, everytime we went there, is gone. That feeling would start towards the end of the ride to get there, until we unloaded everything and were settled at our spot, by the tipi.   Whatever the origin of that feeling was, it does not matter. It was not serving a purpose to enrich our lives so it needed to end. And it feels so good.  

Homework:  Look at how full your glass is and enjoy it! 

Now that we officially do not have to go back to Indiana, and have everything we own all in one place again, we are going to lean into the moment and regroup.  Although we still have a lead on a house, we don’t know if we will be getting it. Instead of worrying about that unknown, we will focus on the home we have and enrich our life here as much as possible.  We already have a list of projects we want to tackle, we have seeds growing for the spring, and are loving the extra time with the pets.  

Here is a quick list of our Northern Kentucky projects:

  • Build privacy fence along one side of the backyard.
  • Redo kitchen sink and install a door between the bedroom and kitchen (contractor please!)
  • Pour a concrete pad for the basement bathtub. 
  • Redo the basement bathroom area.
  • Epoxy the basement floor
  • Redo basement lighting
  • Tiny-house-ify the shed in the backyard? 

Being back in one place feels right at the moment.  In light of the whole mission of our lives to simplify and spend more time together, I think we are actually on to something! Yes, we are still excited about the prospect of the new property and have a ton of ideas about how to fit that into our mission.  But this time in limbo has given us time to reset and refocus what we really want. The cabin was amazing, but once done with it, we would still be in the same place we are at now. We would not have an alternate source of income, except maybe Airbnb in the tipi, which never felt right anyhow in light of the situation with the other family living there.

That time spent was not a waste.  We needed it to learn the skills that we will use in this next phase of life.  We grew closer because of it all. Now we reset and keep pushing forward. We are counting our blessings.  Yes, we have had a bit of disappointment in the last year or so. The true source of the “let-downs” is not failure.  The only real reason we have had disappointment is because we took chances. If you never take any chances, you cannot fail and cannot be let down.  We tried. And we will try again! 

We are simplifying.  We are Making Time for Tipi.  Our glass is half full of lemonade and it tastes so good.  

Heaters and fires and woodstoves, oh my!!

The temps are dropping for the season and we love staying in the cabin at now (as opposed to the tipi), so after our last night at the a-frame we decided to move forward on a heating solution. We settled on the Dyna Glo 20,000 btu propane space heater.  We believe it will be more than enough to heat up the cabin, once we get it up and running.  

Once again venturing into unknown territory, we did our YouTube research and bought a few parts that we thought we should use to get the propane flowing. Although we are clearly amateurs here, I guess I should not discount our experience with the one-pound propane green things, and Perriee did hook up our gas grill this summer.  But this time is all about indoor gas in a house.  We really don’t have a lot of room for error!  

What we noticed upon our research was that most people kind of half-assed their installations.  I mean, they did not have propane spewing out of their hoses or anything, but their processes were pretty far off of the manufacturer’s recommended instructions.  There was one kick ass family though, who rocked it out!  Really, the whole video is awesome from start to finish.  The guy gave a great supplies list demo, his partner (a bad ass woman) threaded it all together with their beautiful baby on her hip, and ultimately, did the final walkthrough to make sure he did it all right.  Ok, I don’t know these people, and I am making a lot of assumptions, but damn…

Per usual, we found our sweet spot somewhere in the middle of doing it “by the book” and doing it half assed!  We chose to hook up the propane hose that connects to the propane tank to a flexible gas pipe which connects to the heater.  Once we figure out for sure where the pipes need to be routed to, we will re-run some the gas lines with solid pipes. For now, however,  we can just push the propane hose through the roof and connect it to the pipe inside.  

When we went through this process, it sort of worked, but when we tested the leaks before firing the heater up (the ole dish soap and water trick).  We quickly found our line was not sealed. Perriee turned the gas on from the outside and I immediately heard the hissing of the gas on the inside. We soon came to understand that we were lacking a fitting and it would require a trip to the hardware store.  Being about 6:00 pm, I was miffed. It was already dark and the temp was dropping.  

For some reason, I was not feeling like sitting in the tipi for the night to keep warm by the wood stove that already had a nice fire burning within it.  I jumped into bed and covered myself up. Pouting, you may say. Luckily we had stopped back home in the city before heading to the cabin for “Big Blue”, the blanket.  Big Blue is this super heavy comforter that is what I imagine a weighted blanket to be like. It is both warm and heavy. So, I knew we werent going to be cold, but I was mad that we were stuck without a ready solution.  Perriee suggested that we make a fire outside and enjoy the evening. That was the tall glass of lemonade that I needed.  

I drug myself out of the bedand we collected some sticks and branches from around the homestead and made a beautiful fire.  The best part of it all was this video I took once the coyotes started howling in the night. They sounded a little too close, but it was spectacular to be witness to.  

In the morning, when I finally poked my head out from the cover of “Big Blue” ,  we huddled back up in the tipi for coffee and cast iron oatmeal. It is so funny how we are able to tolerate extremes when we need to.  I can’t wait until we get the heater going and have a warm space at the push of a button. That is fact. What I am worried about, is that once we experience the cabin with those comforts of heat-on-demand, we will feel like we can’t be comfortable in there anymore if we don’t have it.  

Enjoy the Best and the Worst

Totally digressing here, but it reminds me of the time that a friend of ours tried to fix our bathroom tub faucet.  He cranked it so hard that it broke the pipe. This all happened during the height of the recession- I think it was 2010 or so, and Perriee and I were consequently also super broke at the time.  To shut off the flow to that water, we had to shut off the water to the whole house. We had no money for a plumber and therefore no water. 

It was also really rainy at the time, so we started catching water in containers outside to supplement with bathing and such since it was there and plentiful.  We were like, “We don’t need water! We can just collect it all!” Once we finally saved enough money to call a plumber, fearing the cost would be out of our range of affordability, the water was back on.  It was awesome, and I cannot imagine collecting it all again to service the house. How quickly we adapt. I guess it is good that we are fast to adapt to either end of that spectrum of comfort.  

Homework: Women Can Build Shit Too! 

Expose girls to the home improvement projects, new construction, landscaping, D.I.Y. world from birth.  I truly hope you watch the looks of wonderment from the baby in the gas line video. She was soaking it all in and watching her mom hold her while she threaded the gas pipe moved me.   It was the best example of model parenting i may have ever witnessed.  

I am convinced that women should be exposed to all of the things that men are in order to form the baseline connections needed to utilize those brain cells, if needed, in the future.  I am not criticizing my upbringing by any means. I do remember my grandpa letting me hang out in his workshop and I watched him make some cool things, but I wish i had more knowledge to inform the things I am doing today.  I feel like it would all come a bit faster than it is. Yes, sillly, do the same for boys. Reinforce their desires to nurture and coddle like you do with the girls. Give everyone a fighting chance to be their best. Don’t limit children to those roles of,  “boys do yardwork and fix things while girls wash dishes and clean the house”.   

I understand that I am likely preaching to the choir here.  Lets face it- gender is a shaky construct getting ready to collapse.  THANK GODDESSES!! Lets just scrap all of those dumb buckets of his and hers and just teach all people to be their best.  It will be a simplified curriculum and so much more powerful for everyone.  

And remember: Women can build shit too! 

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.

Birthday Weekend 2018

Cabin Corner:

Four tons of gravel is scheduled to be delivered to the homestead this week.  The man I spoke with about the delivery really made me realize how much I need to learn the lingo in the area about where we live.  “You are over there on top of the hill, right?”, he said. “Uhhh…I think so?” “Are you close to the fire department?” , he asked.  “Ummm, I am not really sure”, I replied. “My mother lives over that way, I’ll find you.” There were a couple of more exchanges about where he thought we lived at, then we started talking about payment.  All cash or check. No problem, except for the fact that I did not know if Elaine and Matt would be able to give him money at the time of delivery.   He was not at all concerned and was completely comfortable just having us pay him over the weekend.  People over there are just so very kind. It is so refreshing.

In addition to the gravel order, I have loaded up a cart on Lowes.com and am hoping for an easy truck delivery to the farm.  Since we are getting a truck full of bags of concrete, we went ahead and threw in about 40 bags of mulch in order to touch up the Tipi Trail when we’re done trashing it with our equipment.  We also added 200 feet of garden hose that should reach us at the bottom of the trail in order to avoid the need for hauling water down to our spot.  This will also serve as a life-saver once we move in.  We will use the access to water for both the ducks and some gardening, not to mention for basic teeth brushing and dish washing.  I can’t wait.

All of the holes are dug and currently sitting at a two foot depth.  We decided to go ahead and continue digging down to three feet this weekend, before adding the gravel.  Three is definitely the magic number in this case.  That is the frost line level in our area and we might as well go with it.  The post hole diggers made a 9 inch diameter hole and we will top them off with a 12 inch sonotube pour for a bit of extra stability above ground.  From there, we will add a 6×6 post to the top of the footer and build up. Not sure how exactly yet, but one step at a time, right? We have some ideas of how we want to do it based on a combo of advice and YouTube videos.

Cast Iron Cooking Corner:

I made the best oatmeal for breakfast on Sunday morning.  It was full of apple, walnuts, cinnamon, butter and brown sugar.  Delicious. It took forever because we let the fire go out overnight on Saturday since it was actually pretty warm in the tipi. I did not even think about firing up the propane stove until it was almost done.  Next time!

Gadget Corner:

We left the Biolite Campstove with Matt for the week to see what he thinks about it.  In the absence of excitement, we may return it and put the money we spent towards a different solar package with a little more power.  

Homework:

Don’t be afraid to make your own recipe.

My homemade spaghetti sauce is a hybrid of the influence of many different sauce makers in my life.  I add the carrots from one person, the Worcestershire from another, and the meat from someone else.  Why can’t the cabin design be similar?  I am pretty sure our cabin is going to be a big combo of our advisors input as well as the internet research we have done  on the internet and other places. Ask your questions, get your answers, then make your own decisions.  It is ok to try out your ideas.  Make it your recipe.  

Nikki