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.

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