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 ....as 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