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.