November 26, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] and then there were seven...

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Kelly’s added a story to our blog:   (As always, comments are welcomed & appreciated!)  

We had our neighbors and their daughter over for dinner the other night, so the dining room got closer to ‘done’ than it’s ever been.  I will post some photos to flickr, and update them on blog over the weekend, so keep a lookout for another post like this one.

We’re going to have our official grand opening in just a few months, so keep 4/24/10 open (it’s the last Saturday in April).

Here’s where you can find Mockingbird Acres online:

Friend us!  Follow us!  Web 2.0 your little heart out!

Hugs and good wishes to everyone!


November 07, 2009

New post at Mockingbird Acres Blog

Floors! (YAY!)
        Ladybugs! (boo!)
                Gravel! (YAY!)
                        Siding! (YAY!)
                                Ice Cream! (YAY!)

4 out of 5 YAYs isn't too shabby...

October 23, 2009

FW: [Mockingbird Acres] Falling Into Autumn

Kelly blogs about our new floor plan, insulation installation and a rescued turtle, using more puns than you can shake a stick at.

(Added Friday, October 23, 2009 7:23 PM)

October 22, 2009

Mockingbird Acres: Red Rooster was our dinner last night.

Yesterday, Kelly and I butchered and ate one of our chickens.

Read the whole story at


October 15, 2009

September 26, 2009

New posts on Mockingbird Acres Blog

Hi, everyone!  Lots going on down at the homestead!

    Washer & Dryer!  Not only are we no longer showering in the backyard, we can do our laundry at home (though I’ll still hang stuff out to dry if it would stop raining for more than 5 hours at a time)

    Egg Collecting!  We’re getting at least 3 eggs a day, and a few times as many as five, so we’re pretty sure that all the hens are finally earning their keep. Even the white leghorns are laying! Their eggs are white, but the other chickens lay brown or pink eggs. The roosters are earning their keep too, even if all they do is make me laugh each time they crow.  The black & white one calls out clear as a bell, and sounds like any rooster you’d ever hear, but the red one sounds like he’s got a frog in his throat, struggling to crow properly. it’s just comical. They both seem to know when I’m on the phone!?

    Tonight we attended the locals’ Social Gala of the Year – the Stella Fish Fry.  Even hours later, as I write this, I’m so full up on catfish & hushpuppies it kind of hurts.  Kelly and I shared two different kinds of home-made pie!

    Also today was Opening Day of Bowhunting Season!   Kelly tells all about it in the blog. (

We also added a few other blog posts lately, uploaded a bunch of photos from JoAnna's cellphone to flickr, and ordered a replacement camera cable so I can get some older photos out of the “real” camera. The original one is either still packed away in a box somewhere or it’s vanished. Rather than let the fancy expensive camera languish unused, I forked up the $15 for a new cable.

Finally, we really enjoy getting your comments by e-mail, but we’d love to have you share in the conversation, and post comments directly on the blog.  There’s a link after each post, just click on it and you’re able to post a few words or a few paragraphs.  Also, I understand it helps in the rankings for Google.  Also, I’d love it if you’d send this e-mail along to friends if you think they would be interested.

We’re shipping the dogs off to a sitter this weekend so we can celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary with a trip to New Orleans. We didn’t know what to do with the chickens, but since they’re out roaming around unattended all day when we’re here, we figured they’ll be okay roaming around when we’re not here. We anticipate coming home to a big pile of eggs, which my dear friend Kris assures me will all be safe and edible. Omelets for everyone!!

Hugs from Prospect, TN!


September 10, 2009


Finally added a new post at the Mockingbird Acres blog:

Please read, forward to your friends, add a comment, and let me know you’re out there!



August 29, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] Everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink!

The publishing of the following entry was delayed by a week in order for it to be cleared by our legal team... actually, I was distracted and forgot to dial-up and "git-'er-done".

Nothing major to report at this time. We have had full power now for 2 weeks, so the air conditioning has been keeping us cool. We still have 9 1/2 chickens, but the guinea keets have all disappeared. We'll never know if they went off to find more pleasant surroundings or if the hawks and owls were well fed this year. Next year we will be better prepared if we try for guinea fowl again.

My parents returned for another 4-day work blitz, and they helped us get a bunch of things done. They painted the utility room a nice green color, and they also primer-coated the master bathroom. JoAnna painted two of the walls of the great room a deep blue color. My dad and I installed the sink in the guest bathroom and we all worked together to hang the french doors which separate the kitchen from the great room.

The biggest job was the installation of the flooring in the kitchen, pantry and utility room. Using my trailer, I picked up the 12-foot-wide roll of Armstrong fiberglass flooring from The Home Depot. It probably weighed 200 lbs. so it was not easy to manage at first. There was also some confusion about how many feet were on the roll. I thought we had ordered 50 feet but the paperwork said 66.67 units. I should have thought to calculate what 50-feet of a 12-foot roll is in square yards (it's 66.67). We ended up a little short in the utility room, but it looks OK. The material was easy to work with and we like it so far.

I have been working on getting the kitchen sink installed, but it's taking longer than I had hoped. Everything seems to be that way, taking twice as long as it should. I guess that's the way it goes since I'm not an expert at these things. The plumbing jobs are especially tricky with all the various parts and fittings and such. I'd swear the plumbers of the world all got together and made their trade as confusing as possible, just to dissuade DIYers from doing plumbing. Why can't it all be flexible pipes and hose clamps?

I finished painting the ceiling of the great room and bedroom and master bath. The vaulted ceiling made it tricky, but the extension pole on the roller made it possible to reach to the peak without the use of a ladder or the scaffolding. Now, the only painting left to do is the tan/beige of the great room, which I am hoping to get to tomorrow. I want to get the scaffolding out of the way and back to the generous man (Roger Daly) who is letting us borrow it.

The garden has been on auto-pilot for a while now. We have been getting good soaking rains often enough that we don't need to water at all. The tomato plants are producing well (and delicious), but a few of the varieties are splitting their skins. I'll have to figure out why. The okra, cucumbers and squash are all doing very well. The bean and pea plants never really got going, and the corn isn't looking like there will be much in the way of ears. It looks nice, though.

I guess there was a lot to report after all. I'm sure I am forgetting something.

Posted By Kelly to Mockingbird Acres at 8/29/2009 11:32:00 AM

July 17, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] On Track

The drywall (aka sheetrock, aka rock board, aka gypsum board) crew just left for the day. They expect to be finished with the job on Saturday. They have been so great, especially considering the fact that they have to move our stuff around whenever it gets in the way of where they need to work. They have been careful and really hard-working. I highly recommend this crew to anyone who needs drywall work done in south-middle Tennessee. They even brought us some vegetables from their garden this morning.

I am sitting in the house amidst the drone from two air circulators. An unusual weather system pushed in last night bringing rain and cool, moist air which does not help the drywall mud to dry quickly. I also have the portable propane heater running on high to help the drying process. We are staying in a local budget motel for the next week to avoid the noise, dust and - soon - paint fumes. I'll be turning the heater off before I leave.

BTW: If you ever think you can drywall your own home by yourself (and you are not a professional) you are crazy. JoAnna and I were crazy for 2 minutes a few weeks ago, until she perused a How-To book at the Home Depot. Believe me, it is best left to the pros.

The house is really starting to feel like a home now that we can no longer walk thru walls. The walk-thru closet that connects the bedroom to the utility room is jam-packed with our meager belongings, so we can't walk thru it at this time. I hung the drywall in the closet ahead of the real drywall crew so we would have a dust-free place to store stuff while work was in progress We have our tub set in place and hot water run to it via a potable water hose made for RV use. A fancy hose nozzle with multiple spray patterns and a lock-on feature makes it easy. A nice feature on our tankless water heater is that it allows us to set the temperature of the hot water, so we get a perfectly heated stream of water without having to mix the hot and cold together. I like 104º F.

JoAnna collected a nice bundle of veggies from our garden yesterday morning. It won't be long before we're overrun with squash. I have been encouraging the guinea keets to roam about the garden, hoping they will eat any pest bugs they find, but they rarely venture away from the fence line. The other night I found them all (3) outside the fence boundaries, down near the pond. I got behind them and herded them back toward the garden gate, and decided I wouldn't do that again. They're supposed to roam the property and eat the ticks, which is why we got them. But they are so timid, I doubt they will ever be of much use for that. I guess I'd be extra cautious too if I witnessed 18 of my crew disappear in a few short weeks.

The other flock of birds is doing well, except for one of the leghorn chickens. This one chicken - which I call Halle Birdie, JoAnna calls her Halle Barely - decided to fly up and perch on my half-lowered car window to get a better look at the giant furry beast inside, aka Render. Well, Render acted in self-defense and got a bite on Halle. She let her go after the brief altercation, and Halle limped away and under the house. She perched there for a while, and then made her way back to the chicken tractor (coop). She was limping at the time, so I thought she might be okay after a day or two. This took place about two weeks ago, and Halle is not quite better yet. She hasn't left the tractor without my help, but she has a good appetite and is showing signs of using her legs again to move around. She manages to scoot around the coop using her wings and beak, so she can get to the water and food. I probably should have killed her (it) after 3 days of idle behavior, but I am new at this and I have hope that she will recover.

Yesterday, the big rooster sneaked up behind Render as we headed out of the house for a potty break. We were just a few steps away from the house, and before I knew what happened, Render had the big bird in her jaws. I don't know if the rooster was being bold or just stupid. Anyway, the scuffle lasted 5 seconds, and the rooster was freed. Immediately after the incident, Render briefly growled at me like a psycho dog. I sometimes call her "Cujo" as a pet name, but I didn't think she had it in her. I calmed her down and led her out to the potty area and everything was okay. Even the dumb rooster is fine, if not a little more skittish when I'm around.

We got our land-line phone installed today. The ATT guy lives just down the way in Prospect proper. He was kind enough to wire the RJ-11 jack in the house since he had the tools and parts. Now we can enter the 90s and start connecting to the world using dial-up. 25kbps, here we come! Anyone remember Prodigy™?

There's a giant sink and a nice electric range currently in the side yard, waiting to join us in the house. I can't wait for JoAnna's la-bor-atory to be in working order. Even though she has been producing some really great meals and snacks under these rough conditions, I miss the glory that is her food. I think she is eager to start cooking at home again. She has been so patient, and patience isn't usually her thing. At least she can see the progress. This kitchen is so big, we're planning to install a monorail.

Progress Summary:

indoor hot water at sink - √
indoor hot water at tub/shower - √
reliable communication to the outside world - √
walls - √
food provisions grown organically in native soil - √

We are on track.

Posted By Kelly to Mockingbird Acres at 7/17/2009 08:53:00 AM

July 11, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] Y'all doin' allright? How's 'at house comin' along?

Even tho it's july things 'round here are moving slow as molasses in january. Frankly it's hard to muster up the fortitude to type out the mundane details of things that come to pass on a daily basis, because to me, it feels like i'd be writing about the things that HAVEN'T happened. It's probably not too interesting for you to read, "well, still no walls" again and again ...and again. But enough little things do eventually accumulate and i submit them here for your reading pleasure.

Kelly's fine, I'm fine, both Render and Noodles are fine, the three remaining keets are fine -- although getting uglier by the minute -- and 9 out of 10 chickens are fine. (well, we technically still have 10 but only 9 are fine... Kelly owes you a story, and it's his story, so I'm not going to tell it. Please call him and remind him if you are in the mood.)

The house is inching along towards progress. Today, FINALLY, we had some professional drywallers actually show up and hang some drywall. Dwaine and Randy, twenty-something brothers who are just over a year apart in age, did half the bedroom ceiling and the guest bathroom. They're not twins, and don't even look alike, but they finish each others' sentences and will talk as long as you'll let them. they're fun, but I finally had to go outside, and put armour-all on my car just to be out of earshot. They're hard workers... when they're working, but get them on a topic, and next thing you know another half hour is gone -- but in that time they've offered to share their family's garden surplus, bring over some of last fall's venison, or let you have some of the bounty from a weekend of fishing. Dwayne loves to cook, so i told him if he brought anything, we could cook it together soon as my kitchen's useful!

The past two weeks worth of delays feels like forever, and my patience is running really really thin. (have i said that before? yes? well, it's even thinner.) To avoid losing it completely, I've been driving into town and pulling my digital vagabond stunt for hours at a time: the free wifi at the library, in the parking lot of the Country Kitchen restaurant, in the funeral home parking lot, and -my new favorite - at the Subway Sandwich Shop . I used to go inside Country Kitchen and just order a sweet tea, but I always felt like i was taking up a booth as well as the servers' time. At Subway $1.60 gets you a fountain drink with unlimited refills, and no waitress expects a tip. Plus, they're very slow, so if anything, i'm helping the place not look deserted.

You might surmise that we haven't gotten Internet access at the house yet (you clever fox!) but even more depressing than that, we still don't have landline telephone service. I finally called AT&T and asked what's up, and four operators later, I discovered that they had the wrong phone number to try to reach me. wow. Anyway, I finally got things straightened out and then, as we came home from an errand the very next day, we found a huge truck with a HUGE drill was on our driveway, Two shirtless (eww) guys were operating this beast of a machine to bring us phone service! Alas, they didn't actually do the deed, so I still have impotent blue wires dangling from my office wall.

On a more positive note, I found a used 3-compartment professional sink, and got it pretty cheap. It's a gorgeous solid hunk of stainless steel that stretches over 8 feet long, with a built-in backsplash and gorgeous deep basins. It was pretty grimy when i bought it, but i cleaned it up really well and as soon as the plumbers return, they'll run the pipes to install it. Then, they get to figure out how to install my rigged up invention. I bought a 4" deep hard-plastic prep-table insert pan, in which I'm going to melt a hole (with my Crème Brûlée torch that has peformed many important tasks, but hasn't seen a real Crème Brûlée in a long, long time) so that i can attach a standard sink drain, so that it can mate with the plumbing under the house, in order to achieve the Dept of Health's required air-gap. I also want them to install a faucet similar to the one they installed for the washing machine, so that i can attach a potable-water hose, so i can attach an adjustable garden sprayer. I can't believe i get to trick out my kitchen this much... it will be my own custom designed food laboratory, with all the bells and whistles I want, as soon as i can afford them, (AHEM induction cooker) It's going to be so awesome!

I have been working more and more, with a weekly gig, and a couple more private cooking lessons booked. I have to say, with the economy in its current state, combined with the fact that i've lived here for less than a year, and the realization that so few people seem to know that they can hire someone to do what i do, I'm happily surprised with the amount of work I've been getting. Whenever I go to the Whole Foods in Cool Springs, I try to get a good parking space that will show off my car. I've even been approached a few times - right there in the parking lot - by women asking me "Are YOU Chef JoAnna?" We go inside the blissfully air-conditioned store and I give them a card, and we chat for a bit. Most of them want to hire me for the "in-home-fine-dining" thing, but they don't have anything planned at the moment, so i offer to send them a brochure, and get their e-mail address. I guess it's time to start up that monthly newsletter again.

I finally opened a local banking account for Chef JoAnna, Inc., which took about an hour, because the very nice young lady who was helping me is a foodie and we got to talking, and well, you know the rest. She was really excited to hear that someone's trying to open a place like we're planning, and was very eager to tell people about my chef business. I told her about the concept of food miles, and the garden, and how we can serve our hens' eggs but not any meat we raised, and why it was important to eat locally... she was totally into it.

Not much to add to the wildlife report. There is a mama and baby deer we see on the property all the time. They get up pretty close to the house, but no damage to the garden. Luckily, the Fort-Knox of fence we put up around the garden has kept all non-bug pests out, Kelly and I shared the result our first harvest the other night - a meager handful of green beans - and it was delicious. Today I picked a small yellow heirloom cucumber and a scalloped edge squash. I have dozens of tiny heirloom cherry tomatoes that are still bright green, the okra is starting to grow its little fuzzy fingers, and we have crooknecks and zucchini and pickling cukes and specialty bell peppers and whispers of all kinds of greens that are growing back after the bugs devoured the original foliage.

Even though the house is an empty shell right now (even more so because all our stuff is jammed floor-to-ceiling in the closet to keep the drywall dust off of it) I'm still having visions of what it could be like as a little cafe. The walls are painted, art is hung, tables are set, and music is playing. A threesome of 50'ish ladies is enjoying a plate of tea sandwiches and home-made sodas. A pair of 20'ish girls are sharing macaroons and madeleines over their lattes. A local couple, on their way to somewhere else, saw the sign on the corner. They had only stopped in for a coffee, but lingered for the strawberry tart and persimmon linzer torte when they discovered the fruit came from my garden. It's an idealized, technicolor fantasy, but if I keep focused, who knows what can happen?

Today I learned: Black nail polish applied to girlie-toes resembles watermelon seeds, and therefore, chickens will peck at your toes if you are wearing flip-flops.

Posted By JoAnna to Mockingbird Acres at 7/10/2009 04:20:00 PM

June 16, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] The Saga Continues

Trixie the dog has been away for 5 or 6 days and we miss her. She has provided many laughs, as well as 3 rescued guinea keets. When the keets would manage to escape their fenced-in area, they would screech loudly as they tried to figure out how to get back in. If I would approach one to try to help, sometimes they would run off into the woods. If Trixie was nearby (which was almost always) she would pursue the bird and eventually either hold it down or gently bring it back to near where I would be standing.
Speaking of guinea keets, only 4 remain in our control. We started raising 21 of them in a large Rubbermaid bin, but when they outgrew that we had to set them up in a fenced enclosure within the garden confines. Many of them either squeezed their way through the fencing or they flew over the top. I also know that the predatory birds were thinning the flock, as well. One morning I heard the keets squawking, and saw a large hawk flying low over the garden. I ran down to chase it off, and found one keet in distress. The hawk had made a grab for this keet, but didn't get it good enough. The keet had claw marks on his head, but seemed to be alright. He is one of the four that remain.

Our "rough-in" electrical inspection was rejected because of a couple minor issues:
1. There is an outdoor recepticle wire that was supposed to be on a circuit that is separate from any indoor circuits.
2. Power run into the guest bath was supposed to be on its own circuit, but it was sharing a circuit with two dining room outlets.

Unfortunately, the inspector only works in this county on Wednesdays and Fridays, so we will have to wait 5 days for re-inspection. Once we are approved we can move forward with these projects:

insulation - walls
Kenny McAfee is a local contractor who does both insulation and heating/air conditioning. He has offered to let me help with the insulation of the walls for a reduced price. He is a really energetic character and I look forward to working with him.

The plumber who was recommended will be available to start on Monday, June 22. He is currently in Montana plumbing on a mission with his church. We have to acquire a tub and ADA-compliant sink before he starts.

We are waiting for an estimate from a guy who hired JoAnna to serve breakfast to a group of drywall delivery drivers as a way to thank them for their good work. I'd like to save some money by doing the walls myself, but there's no way I would attempt the ceiling work.

electric - finish
The electrician will return to install fixtures once the drywall is finished. I am hoping the siding is done at that time so the outside light fixtures can be finished then.

insulation - attic
Kenny McAfee will probably be back to blow cellulose fibers up into the attic space.

The full installation of a heat pump system will have to wait until we have more money. Until then, we will use window units for AC and propane for heat if it gets cold before we can afford the big system. Regardless, a woodstove will be installed before we reach the coldest months.

siding and soffit
The price quote I got from the building contractor was higher than we can afford, so I'll be attempting this work on my own. I plan to hire the builder for a few hours to try to learn the best way to do the work.

June is the first month in 15 years that no monthly rent payment was required. For 15 years we have been doing this, but no more. If I had bought a house when I was 12, the 30-year mortgage would be paid off now. But I didn't. I built forts back then. I am typing this from my most recent fort. It has been a rewarding challenge thus far, but easier than I thought it would be. I didn't expect to depend on outside contractors so much, but when it was time to add the roof trusses, it had to be. I'll learn as much as I can from these guys, and examine their techniques and such so when the time comes to build a cottage or other building, my work may only require a review by the pros.

The greenhouse roof plastic finally gave way under the weight of the recent rainwater. The plastic was never intended to be permanent, and the roof was poorly designed, too. Not enough slope. I'll add some height to the ridge with another 2x8 for next season, or maybe we'll use hard plastic corrugated sheets instead. The greenhouse did its job this year, so I guess it wasn't so bad.

We have been staying in our "house" for two weeks now, and we are both greatly looking forward to the upcoming improvements. What we have is like a shell of a house. Without soffits or ceilings, any type of flying or crawling creature could join us on the inside without too much trouble. This was not desired, so I cut 44 pieces from scrap foam insulation and jammed them into the openings. So far, only a couple needed to be reset in place after stormy weather or a careless bird. I think the incidents of bugs have been reduced, too.

Speaking of bugs, the ticks have been relentless. A local commented that they are especially bad this year, so there's hope for next year. I also heard that they usually subside after July, so let's hope again. Next year we'll start with 80 guinea keets. They eat ticks.

Back on moving day, we had a grand ol' adventure. I had spent the night in Murfreesboro with the full 26 foot truck and Render. In the morning, i returned our cable modem and headed home to Prospect. All was going well until I passed the last gas station and then remembered to check the gas gauge on the truck. Empty. But those gauges always give you some leeway, right? So I made it to our place, but had to pass our driveway to turn around for the eastbound approach. There is a sharp left at the start of our driveway, so it's best to swing in from the west. It is also quite steep at the start of the drive, so I approached with some speed to get up the slope. My biggest concern was managing to get the back wheels to not run off the pavement as I made the turn in, but I actually handled that part well. It was the overhang behind the truck wheels that got me. The back bumper and hitch scraped and dug into the pavement to the point where the back tires were nearly off the ground.

No traction to move forward or back. I was stuck. And blocking half of the road. We tried jamming rocks and wood under the drive tires, but to no avail. I started releasing air from the front driver's side tire which lessened the pinch of the back end to just the trailer hitch being on the road surface.

The U-Haul emergency road service phone guy told me that it wasn't an emergency, but he did find the number of a towing company for me. Luckily, a kind neighbor was passing by and offered to head home and return with his tractor. When he did return, we hooked some chain between us and he popped the truck loose in a jiffy.

Then he drove off before I could thank him. We had a busy day after that, unloading the truck - load by load - onto my car trailer, then hauling it uphill to the house. Later, the unloading was a shorter distance as the first stuff on the truck was destined for the shed which is just 20 steps from the road.

Posted By Kelly to Mockingbird Acres at 6/16/2009 01:52:00 PM

June 15, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] Moby Dick reference makes me seem literate!

We got up early (again) and put more stuff in the ground (again) Other things have had a higher priority, and I find myself putting in 'seedlings' that already have lots of flower buds. Some even have blossoms! I'm trying to learn what the things are by looking at the leaves and the stems, getting to know the plants more intimately than just reading their nametags, but today, what i thought was cucumber, was actually okra.

One of the spots where we were digging resulted in a loud CLANG when Kelly struck it with this huge digging spike. The spike weighs about 25 lbs and is about 6 ft of solid iron. Kelly named Ishmael because it looks like a big harpoon. He used Ishmael to find the edge of the thing, then employed it as a lever, wedging it under the rock. A few grunts and groans later, he unearthed - literally - a huge, flat rock that was probably 6" thick, 18'' wide and 2.5 feet long. we didn't know what to do with it so we placed it in one of the paths. As he was wresting it from the ground, I said, "I bet nobody from your old job would picture you doing this!" With all the climbing and carrying and hammering and shoveling, and all the other heavy lifting that comes with building a house, Kelly's kinda ripped!

After a few hours, it started raining. First just a sprinkle, then a decent downpour with lightning and thunder. We went in for breakfast, and then Kelly took a nap while i picked over a few boxes to see if anything could be consolidated. Then i had to do some office-work for the two jobs i'm doing this week. It's weird to sit down at the computer and not be able to check e-mail!

We still haven't made our 'big purchase' at lowe's, but we'll have to do it soon... we need to get the lights so they can be installed, and we need the bathtub so the plumber can put it in. We allotted space for an extra-long tub, and Kelly seems to be considering upgrading the bathtub to one with whirlpool jets. A guy at the local kitchen & bath fixtures store showed us the difference between a traditional jacuzzi-jet type tub, and one with whirlpool style jets, and the difference was night and day.

We also have to figure out what to do with all our stuff that's scattered all over here while the drywall goes in. Kelly mentioned he might rent a uhaul truck for 3 days and park it up here, just for the waterproof storage ability. He's encouraging me to go on a "Drywall Vacation" since -- in his words -- there's no reason that both of us have to suffer. The major stipulation is have to take Noodles with me, so I can't fly anywhere, but I can drive up to 8 hours. Where should I go? If we were still in L.A. I'd choose Las Vegas - only 5 hrs away and plenty of cheap places that would not only accept pets but would also have kitchenette units.

When the "Drywall Vacation" can start, tho, depends on a lot of factors. The first one being that the electrician we hired made a couple bonehead mistakes and we didn't pass the inspection. One of the mistakes was that there were too many wires being run to one switchbox, and the other is that it's against code to have an outdoor outlet and an indoor outlet run to the same breaker. For someone who made such a big deal of the almighty "CODE" and how many outlets had to be on a wall and whatnot, that one seems like a no-brainer, so i'm especially disappointed with that.

So the electrician has to come in and make the adjustments, and then HE has to buy another permit for re-inspection, and then we have to wait another week before the inspector will come out again. Until we pass the rough-in inspection, we can't do the wall insulation, or plumbing, or drywall, and then the roof insulation, and THEN the electrician comes back to finalize his work, and then the inspector has to come another time.

Kelly's found professionals to do all those other things, gratefully. He wanted to do more himself, but he admitted that he just doesn't have the experience to do it right the first time. Luckily he can be nearby and watch, and a couple of them have made it clear that they wouldn't mind him actively helping and learning.

I've still been making all our food in this makeshift little kitchen, using only electricity indoors. (We haven't fired up the grill in a while, but I probably will later tonight) We have a toaster oven, a microwave, and an electric 'burner'. It's working out okay. I baked a couple dozen cookies to give to Tom Merritt, the guy who brought his big red farm tractor to our driveway, pulled the uhaul out of the rut in the road, and saved the day. I used an electric skillet to make pancakes the other day, which was a nice break from monotonous mornings of cold cereal. Kelly attached the tankless hot-water heater to the wall today, but our propane tank doesn't arrive until tomorrow, so i've been heating water for washing dishes (and showers!) in a 60-cup electric coffeemaker. I also have a rice cooker, a deep fryer, a waffle iron, and even a george foreman grill... none of which have been recruited for active duty. Now that we have reliable electricity, i haven't been using those butane stoves. They were awesome to heat up food when we were eating lunch in the shed, but the fuel is costly and hard to come by, so if we can avoid using them, we will.

It's weird being hyper-attentive to cash these days. I mean, we always were -- which is how we were able to save up to move out here and buy land. We haven't had the guaranteed promise of Kelly' weekly paycheck since September of last year. We're still using our savings and have taken a relatively small loan from Kelly's parents, but within 6 weeks, this house will be finished! Best of all, the land it's on is paid for. No rent. No mortgage. Just utilities, cellphones, groceries, dog- and chicken-food, and an amazingly low annual property tax assessment. Things are looking good.

A bunch of miscellaneous things about the fauna of Mockingbird Acres:
-- we're down to four keets. Despite our best efforts, they rest have either escaped or been attacked. It's sad, but as i've said before, they're not the smartest birds. Not by a long shot.
-- our chickens love watermelon seeds, and then they will peck at the rinds (after we've finished) until nothing's left but the hard green shell. They also love the cracked-corn and wheat berries we bought for them. The maker called it 'scratch' but we call it 'crack'. The most fun i have all day is when I put some in a can and rattle it and call out "CRAAAAAAACK!" and all ten chickens come running full-speed-ahead from wherever they were and look at me expectantly. running chickens are gut-bustingly funny.
-- We are surrounded by critters here! So far we've seen a box turtle, a HUGE snapping turtle the size of a dinner-plate (OMG that thing was FAST and SCARY when it went in for a snap at you! Kelly rescued it from the goat farmer's barking dogs and took it way back past our property line) salamanders, squirrels, and SO MANY kinds of birds of every shape, color and size. We've seen at least two groundhogs, but no other large pests since the possum.
-- there are catfish - and maybe some other kind of fish - in our pond. I couldn't believe it when i saw it but there they were, dozens of them, sunning just below the surface.
-- we have all kinds of frogs, including a big baritone bullfrog whose voice carries forever, and a few toads, too.
-- there are hummingbirds!!! I was really going to miss the hummingbirds that came to our feeders in Glendale, and I'm so thrilled to be able to enjoy them again.
-- butterflies are abundant here, too. Like the birds, all sizes and colors. They're everwhere, all the time. It's like an animated Disney movie: there's a certain kind that seem extra 'friendly' and will come right up and land on you! Sadly, they don't seem to realize that they have two too many legs for me to be okay with them near me and I still freak out.
-- Trixie hasn't been seen for days. I really miss her. I hope that someone just decided that she was as awesome as we thought she was (She never even chased the chickens!) and decided to keep her in their house, but in the back of my mind i fear for the worst. Come back, Trixie!

Kelly's writing his own post, too... so you'll get a double dose, and hopefully not too many repeats.

Today I learned: did you know that you can spend as much as $1600 on a bathtub faucet? That's more than twice what i spent on the whirlpool tub!

Posted By JoAnna to Mockingbird Acres at 6/14/2009 03:14:00 PM

June 07, 2009


3 NEW BLOG POSTS on Mockingbird Acres   

Let us know what you think!

May 28, 2009

New blog entry

A new post has been added  and is ready for you to read:

To Kimberly K: I didn’t find anything about mugwort for poison ivy, but lots about jewelweed. Haven’t really had a chance to try to identify it yet.
To Del D: Yes, I have a flushing toilet now!
To Charlie & Cassandra: I had a good laugh at the “smell of prosperity”... It smelled VERY prosperous at the cattle auction!
To David T: Hurrah! Keep cooking! I’m really glad you’re enjoying it so much! (and congrats on the new BF!)
To John A: we also got tired of the L.A. Lifestyle, and all it entails. We’re building this is so that you (as in, “y’all”) can maintain your status quo , but you can escape once in a while.
To Julia & Morgan: Congrats on Desmond! **was** it a slip when you told me about pre-natal vitamins?  ;-)
To Shelley H: Keep me posted with what’s going on with your folks... And give me more notice for your next visit out here!



May 25, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] Tha ROOF! Tha ROOF! Tha roof is in PROSPECT!

We've been working a lot again, and Kelly mentioned before, that means that by the time we have had supper (that's dinner to most of you folks, LOL) we're plum tuckered out.

Here's what we've done lately:

We finally found a guy to sell us guinea keets. "Keet" is the word for chick when referring to guinea fowl. We got 20 of them, and he threw in an extra. They're cute now, but give them time, and they'll become as ugly as this:

adult guinea
Everyone we tell that we got some guineas always make two comments "they're good for keeping the ticks down" and "boy they sure are loud, aren't they?" When they're eating and just hanging out, they peep like little sparrows. When they're being held, or when they're disturbed, or sometimes, just out of the blue....SQUAWK~ SQUAWK~ SQUAWK! It's ear piercing.

The chickens are doing great in their home-made tractor. I'm typing this in a word processor so i don't remember if I said this already, but we have only two roosters out of the 10 I picked! Not bad for a first-time chick-picker! I also don't remember if i identified the breeds: One rooster and two hens are silver laced wyandotte one rooster and three hens are buff orpingtons and the last three hens are solid white, so it's likely they're Leghorn (colloquially pronounced LEG-urn)

Noodles and Trixie got into a little scuffle, but i managed to settle it for them. Sometimes i want to wring her neck, but usually Noodles is pretty mellow. The past two days she was acting ill. She seemed to not have a good sense of balance, she wouldn't jump up on the car tailgate as eagerly as she had before, and wouldn't do that whip-around head-shaking thing things dogs do when they get wet. Also, she spontaneously makes this pained noise that sounds like she was being crushed. She has always been very vocal, but this was different. She'd also be shivering, even when she was warm. I manipulated her legs and poked her a bunch: no reaction. I thought i narrowed it down to her head, so I gave her a chew stick and she went at it like normal: no toothache. I looked in her ears thinking maybe she had an earache, but besides the usual dog ear-gunk, i didn't find ticks or anything unusual. Finally, deciding i couldn't figure out what's wrong with her, and being concerned it wasn't passing, I decided I'd take her to the vet this morning. Therefore, today, she seems back to normal. Go figure. $300 and a couple prescriptions later... I hope she feels better soon.

Tha roof! Tha roof! Tha roof is in Prospect!
Right now there are two men walking along the new roof of my house, wielding an impact hammer that drives nails in with compressed air. What an amazing machine. They're wearing t-shirts and shorts and gym shoes, no safety glasses and they're being lifted up and down on a forklift that has an articulating arm. I can scarcely watch.

Kelly said it would be a nice gesture if I would make dinner (lunch) for them, and I was happy to cook. I made burgers yesterday, served with grilled corn-on-the-cob and coleslaw, and (sadly, instant) chocolate pudding with bananas for dessert. Today I'm doing apple & chipotle glazed pork chops, with potato salad, and sliced cucumbers & tomatoes, and chocolate chip cookies (store bought. I want to cook!).

Today I learned: No matter how nicely you ask for a ride on a big green extension forklift, you won't be allowed to ride.

Photos, as before, are up on flickr: Click here!

Posted By JoAnna to Mockingbird Acres at 5/20/2009 10:49:00 AM

[Mockingbird Acres] cattle auction

8:36 PM Another two-day stint at Mockingbird Acres. Tuesday is the day of the weekly livestock auction in Pulaski, so we went yesterday to find goats. We didn't know what time it all started (and it's not so easy to find these things out!) and while we missed out on the goat part, we arrived just in time for the cattle auction (which included a few pigs, too)

We parked in the lot among the many pickup trucks and trailers, and Kelly noted how conscientious everyone was about leaving room for everyone else.

I'm not exaggerating when say that i felt that I'd entered into a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. Baseball caps outnumbered cowboy hats, but there were plenty of overalls. The men who arrived early got the "good" seats, squeaky old office chairs arranged in the first two rows, and they had the best view of the pen. Behind them, and to the sides, there was sturdy wooden stadium seating. There was a lot of visiting going on, and Kelly wondered how many of these guys had been coming to this place since they were teenagers. I was one of only three women in the seating area, but I'm not used to the feeling. I can accept that i may stick out a bit, and I'm fine with it, but I'm just not used to it yet.

The smell was strong, but not horrible. It smelled like going to the zoo, inasmuch as you could tell there were animals there, but it didn't have an intolerable strong stench of manure.

After a little bit, the auction started. The yeller (guy who calls the auction) kept up a steady chatter -- we could barely understand him -- and we marveled at how difficult it would be if we really wanted to bid on a cow! I didn't realize that a yeller's chatter was so much nonsense. What's the purpose of this? "herewehavetwoheifersandonesteer twoheifersandonesteer openingbidonehundreddoihearonehundred beedeebeedeebeededoihearoneten beedeebeedeebeedeeonetenoverhere onetwentybeedeebeedeebeedeeonethirty beedeebeedeebeedeeonethirty beedeebeedeebeedeeonethirty beedeebeedeebeedeeonethirty" I always thought that a yeller was actually SAYING something during that unintelligible part, but it's really just gibberish.

There was a well-orchestrated arrangement where the livestock would enter from stage right: a man pulled a rope to open the door from the pens. He and two other men wielded electrified plastic paddles, which they used to keep the critters moving in the pen while they were being auctioned. Each of the three guys had their own area sectioned off by a strong metal gate. They'd retreat behind these before any animal was let in the pen, and then come out to jostle the animals, or to guide them out the exit door, stage left.

Incredibly, there was an onsite restaurant: The Stockyard Cafe, serving up fried pork chops, greens, and other rib-sticking fare. I didn't go in, and i only saw one person eating food from a sectioned Styrofoam tray. I said before that the animal smell was bearable, but it certainly killed my appetite.

My Chicago family has told me that they have a hard time reading the blog when there are too many photographs uploaded here (they've got an old computer & (gasp!) dialup, so please click here to see the most recent batch of photos!

Posted By JoAnna to Mockingbird Acres at 5/13/2009 10:45:00 AM

May 09, 2009

Blog Update: Mockingbird Acres

You can also read this post with photos included at

We stayed in Prospect for three days and two nights this time. I am horribly behind on e-mail and I owe a bunch of you phonecalls, too. This is going to be a rather epic post, because things are moving fast around here, and everything's kind of blending together from one day to the next.

This was the longest stretch of staying overnight so far. I am happy to report that Kelly and I are both alive and well (meaning we haven't killed each other) as are Render and Noodles, and Trixie, and all 10 chickens.

Wait, what about the ducklings? I gave the ducklings away to a French-Canadian farmer now residing in middle TN. They were getting too big and too loud for me to keep hiding them in the apartment, plus, they were really messy. They were very cute, but somehow I managed to not get too attached to them.

Kelly's doing the construction of the walls right now. In fact, as of 6:05 PM on 05/07/09, 2009 he's got half of the wall studs up! (PHOTO) I've been spending most of my time planting seeds and caring for our seedlings; more on that later.

Building materials can range from very expensive (my tastes) to downright cheap (my budget) and we're trying to compromise and find something in-between. We've found some great deals on CraigsList, including the casement windows and two different batches of windows we'll be using to build the kitchen greenhouse (as opposed to the shed's greenhouse where I spend most of my time). Kelly found a CraigsList ad for a company that was consolidating its warehouses from 5 locations down to 3, and had some exterior doors they were selling below cost. Kelly went there first, saw some he liked, and then sent me over to have a peek. I liked the one with the transom & sidelights, for only $120 but it was too big. Then I saw they also had one with just the sidelights, for $100, and some others. We were both excited to find such a great deal, so we both went there yesterday, on our way to Prospect, to go get them. Luckily, Kelly noticed that ALL doors we liked best opened the wrong way. If we mounted that right-handed door as our front door, it would block access to the room. It would have been one of those things that we'd quickly find annoying. We decided that we didn't want to mess around with that - we have enough on our plate as it is! - and opted to pass. It's not a bargain if you have to spend more time and/or money to make it work the way you want it to. So we were back to square one.

We had to buy the doors sooner than later, so Kelly can build the walls, so we can get the roof on. Last night, we went to Home Depot to pick out what we needed. I really wanted to do a nice front-entry door, with the transom and the sidelights and custom glass. Joey the Door Guy at Home Depot typed it all into the computer, and just that one door came out to $1300. WHOOPS! Sorry, try again. In the end, we picked out three exterior doors, a sliding-glass patio door, and the French doors that go from the Great Room to the Kitchen. Luckily it was the last day of their 20% off sale, so we got everything for about $3k including tax. Everything was considered a special order except for the patio doors, so we didn't really do too badly. And I still got a nice-looking front door.

Yesterday I took a drive into Columbia, TN to go pick out the color of the roof. The fabricator represented four companies, and each had about 25 colors to choose from... but the funny thing is that all 4 companies used the exact same 25 colors. We went with charcoal, as we plan to stain the wood of the board and batten facade a kind of a muted blue/gray.

The dogs are holding up well, both Render and Noodles are adapting. I put Advantage on them both, but Render still seems to attract a lot of ticks. Trixie has completely adopted us, and we thing she's really sweet so it's become mutual. The first night we stayed over, she barked nearly all night. We didn't know what to do besides put in earplugs. Recently, she did the same thing, barking for what seemed to be HOURS. This time, though, she was closer to the house. After an eternity, I asked Kelly if we could drive somewhere to sleep. He went outside and saw that Trixie had cornered an opossum. It was a standoff, with Trixie barking and the possum hissing and neither gaining ground on the other. Kelly grabbed a 2x4 and whacked at the possum. Trixie saw her opportunity and went in for the kill. The possum was dead. Trixie was quiet. We went back to bed.

We decided that if she was going to keep barking at every critter she found all night, maybe we could keep her inside the shed with us. The next night we stayed over, we put our dogs in their respective crates, and gave Trixie a sheet to sleep on. She was quiet all night. The next time we stayed over, Kelly fed Render and Noodles... but since we were basically kidnapping Trixie by keeping her closed up with us, I told him that it would be rude to not give her food too! Trixie got a paper plate of kibble and snuggled into her blanket and we all enjoyed another quiet night.

I've been keeping very busy with food production. Four meals a day for Kelly, plus the long-term production of planting seeds for our garden. I've got all the heirloom seeds I've bought, plus seeds from the beans, peas, peppers, melons, tomatoes and winter squash that I've saved. I've also sprouted out lemongrass stalks. A million little containers, a few bags of potting soil, and a hand-pump pressure-sprayer for misting the tiny seedlings. I can put on my iPod and listen to all the NPR podcasts for hours as I sift dirt, fill pots, plant seeds & mist them. I really love spending time in my greenhouse. I get so excited over every teensy little leaf that comes up!

One thing that doesn't seem to have any trouble growing is poison ivy. I've never experienced it before, but I was nervous about it and looked up photos on the web. Oh yeah, we got it. I bought the special Roundup for Poison Ivy because I'm not screwing around with that nonsense. I also bought several pairs of yellow dishwashing gloves for pulling it out. The most important purchase was a bottle of TECNU, a special cleansing cream that gets rid of the urushiol chemical before it can bind to your skin. I hope we never have to use it, but I know I'd feel like an idiot if we needed it and I didn't have it. It's pretty cheap insurance.

The chickens are getting big! So big, we can't even refer to them as chicks anymore. In addition to the grow-ration, we're feeding them food scraps: trimmings from green beans and broccoli, strawberry stems and corncobs. They're in competition with the composting worms for food now! (aren’t you glad I'm sparing you from any photos of 1lb of worms!) The chickens really seem to love their "tractor" since they get sunshine and fresh air and grass to scratch at. Fresh eggs are just around the corner!

We can't wait to share this place with our friends (and hopefully paying guests!) but we want to do more than simply encourage people to visit us; we want to remove as many obstacles as possible so that everyone can come and enjoy the place. We want to create a safe environment and make our home accessible to the elderly and people who have a disability or use a wheelchair. In the short run, this will add to the multitude of things to consider. We already purchased an extra-high-seat toilet, but we'll also need a wall mounted sink in the guest bathroom, ramps instead of stairs, wide doorways... and eventually handrails and special shower seats when we build the bathroom in at least one of the cottages. It would be great if we could just do what logically makes sense, but there are laws in place for this kind of thing. Some people consider them foolish, but want to do it right the first time, because it'll cost more to retrofit than it will to just build it according to code.

So that's the story at this point. I'll upload photos from the library in the morning (it's 12:22 AM right now) but right now I'm going to bed. If you have any question for us, please leave a comment and I'll answer in the next post.