Sunday, August 29, 2010

OH - and...

I have not intentionally avoided full disclosure on The Messiness. I'm just really tired and while it is assuredly behind us, the thought of it is tedious and makes me, well, tired. Probably The Messiness itself and the entire building saga deserve their own section on this little blog for those few, sad souls interested enough to follow. It will be explained in full when I can gather the strength to diplomatically convey the story without ripping a new one for the entire building community. Until then...

here is Boo eating my boot.

Eating Cake

I recognize there's a been a period of silence here over the past week-ish for our devoted
reader(s?). It's got nothing to do with any of The Messiness I mentioned earlier just more to do with non-land-life-stuff that can be somewhat distracting/exhausting. (Now please find a partner to read the following dialogue)

You: (gasp) "There is MORE to your life than the land?!"

Me: (hands on hips) "YES!"

You: "Lying is inappropriate and just bad in general."

Me: (hands on hips) "WHAT IS YOUR POINT?"

You: "Liar."

Me: (hangs head) "Damn."

So. Ok. You got me. I'm fairly one-dimensional when it comes to life. Or should I say, singularly focused? Everything I do seems connected to that slice of property. But lately I find myself wound up in things like work, architectural salvage ideas, meals, and work. Work is connected because it pays for the land and architectural salvage ideas are relevant because I hope to expand this someday into something that will actually be the work (more on that later). Oh - and meals are important because they provide strength for the entire endeavor of life. So there it is. I've been so focused on finding alternate funding methods for the land that I haven't actually been thinking about the land. That's what's been spinning around more recently than ever and more recently than ever I'm so very bothered by that pesky work requirement that keeps me ever farther from what it is I want to do.

But what is it I want to do?

If I'm being honest, I want to stare at this view. All the time. Dusk at the land, Jeremy in his element, the cows quietly looking on.

Donkey curiosity.


Not lucrative goals in life but easily achieved. The focus now, aside from building that damn house, is to figure out how to make a living off that damn land. Spend more time there for a living, not a hobby. Not just a place to come home to, but the place that eventually sustains us.

But. How.

I have some ideas cooking. But. How? We've had approximately 3,291 conversations about this subject that all end with..HOW? And the thought, the notion, the idea, the belief in conventional work schedules and conventional jobs has just begun to depress the hell out of me. BUT HOW to move into something else while still depending on two full incomes? Does my new obsession with finding a way out of conventional work smack of having some cake and eating it too? Well then, I apologize for asking so much. But I don't really care.

(By the way, if you have a response to any of the "how" questions, it'd be really swell if you'd share them. And thanks).

Eh - don't shed a tear for me just yet. We'll figure it out one way or probably some other way, and in the meantime, things are fine. But between The Messiness, the monumental lack of progress with that damn house, and general fidgety-ness; my brain is racing with too many ideas. So instead of choosing between them, I choose to focus on the really important things in life. I choose to watch the Emmy's. Hoping for a Best Comedy win for Glee is essential stuff.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This Too

I realized today that my note about our current predicament falling into the "worst case" category caused some unnecessary concern, so I'm back to assure you (and myself, too) that it's no big deal and will all turn out swell. As soon as it's appropriate to mention the unmentionable, I'll explain in full and stop with the cryptic nonsense. Promise.

Til then I've planned many weekday getaways to the land. Early morning drives into the country before the afternoon heat makes such a trip stupid if not impossible. Days like these require that I go there and be there to remember why we tangled ourselves in that 15 acre web in the first place. During the week, the forgetting comes easy.

I'll spend a few minutes around the hay ring scratching donkey ears, looking out through the stand of trees there that opens onto the sweetest view of a distant rolling pasture. Maybe I'll wander to the pond and count turtle heads poking up from murky water then down to the front gate and look at the neighbor's forest. Or wander into our own little patch of trees where that damn house may one day sit, quietly humming a morning hymn, a necessary mantra, over and over....."This too shall pass."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Oy Vay (or) Don't Count Your Pickles Before They've, er, Pickled

Is there a story attached to that title? You betcha!
Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy. Oh expletive expletive! Oh $^%^&%^&*!!!!!!!! Fortunately for all of you, I can't really share much in regards to my current foul attitude. What I can share is a smidge of sage advice. And that is this: never build a home. Never, never, not once, never, ever should you consider such an endeavor. If you are romanced by a lovely lot - an empty field and swaying trees - a windy road and quiet country - if you picture something lovely and perfect to build in these locations then immediately smack your own face two times, shake your head vigorously, and change the subject.

You're welcome.

Let's just say that we now are wrangled in some messiness that fulfills almost every negative stereotype we've ever heard. It's the type of stuff that always falls in the "worst case" category when people talk about the pitfalls and foibles of building. We look horrified and they say "No no! THAT doesn't happen, it's just the worst case scenario!" Well. There ya go. And here we are. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

But moving on to happier news: Like all good homesteaders, Jer and I invited some friends over for an 'ol fashioned pickling party. You know the kind. Everyone gathers around steaming, vinegary pots of brine. Then everyone gathers around empty mason jars, gleaming with promise. Then everyone excitedly stares at the mountain of cucumbers. And starts to ask who's in charge of what? And did you know that botulism is used in botox? And that it's probably time for lunch. And the cucumberse can be cut up after a beer.
Ok, so mostly it was the ladies who lost the will to pickle and the men folk finished the enormous task of turning 500-ish lbs of bright green cucs into salty, shriveled, army-green treats. Essentially we heckled the guys while they oversaw the Herculean task and plan to take most of the credit in 6 weeks when we eat them. So what?? For the record, pickling was our idea. Had it not been for us, the guys would never have experienced the joy of sterilizing mason jars.

So - we've covered two of the hottest topics discussed right here at No Name Farm/Ranch. Right?......(ahem: homesteading and homebuilding) To bring it full circle I'll include the third, and arguably the hottest topic of all: salvage.

See, pickling was mostly suggested because of another (yea, yea ANOTHER) sweet salvage find I made last weekend. A local guy was cleaning out the parent's barn and came across a gorgeous art deco light fixture pulled from an old country church. It had all the classic deco lines with intricate etchings to boot. I got it for aaaaalmost nothing.

How do you like that? I picture this in the entryway by our front door in the house that will never be built.

When I arrived to pick her up, the guy had graciously loaded four cases of old mason jars in varying sizes. These also were packed away into the overstuffed barn. Since I told him we had property in the country, he assumed we were probably the type to make preserves, to pickle, to be your all-round country folks, so he tossed in the lot of jars for free. Good man.

I promptly washed them all and fixed myself a stiff summer drink in the only mason jar that came with a handle. They double as lovely glasses, tupperware, etc. To me, the sight of mason jars is as comforting as chickens in the backyard. The world can change around you but some things were made so right the first time that they're not worth changing. Chickens scratching, pickles pickling, gardens growing. Simple stuff like this gets lost in the jumble of greedy dreams to build big houses on hills in the country. The key is remembering why you want to be out on that hill in the first place. Doesn't have anything to do with the damn house.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chin Up, Son

Good lord it's been a time. This week we are two builder meetings down - one to go. This was after one truly splendid (note: this is a rare moment where I am not being sarcastic) in-office meeting with a company who's website was so fantastic, shiny, and functional that I assumed his bid would blow us out of the water. And it still may, but boy if you get what you pay for then based on that first meeting, we may just go the extra mile.

First of all, and this is of the utmost importance, the gentleman let me speak (gasp!). When he began to ask me direct and specific questions about the project I was stunned to silence. I have waited exactly one year to meet a builder who wanted to hear from ME. In fact, I prepared a speech several times in front of the bathroom mirror prior to builder meetings, using the hairbrush as a microphone. But my shock in his interest literally knocked that speech right out of my head.

I became a bumbling mess muttering things like "metal" and "porches" then something about "insane asylum interior doors." The poor man squinted and tried following along, doodling notes and leaning forward in an effort to decipher my gibberish. Finally he asked me to "slow down and start from the beginning. Tell me about the house you have planned."

To those of you who have never gone through this experience, please note that this is a rare query from a builder (in my now vast experience). Having one begin a meeting asking for YOUR hopes, dreams, and opinion is as likely an event as seeing a unicorn in the forest. It just doesn't happen.

So there I was, drooling on self, convulsing in shock and trying to snap-to in order to grasp the fleeting moment. Before I knew it, I had shared everything. The plan for the house, the drawings, the soil test, the explanation of this. Of that. Of the other. It was a beautiful time in my life. And just when I was prepared to hand over my credit cards, wedding ring, and any other valuables in order to instantly obtain his services, he asked about my cows and explained that years ago he helped write a book about organic dairies. Suffice it to say, at this point I was a sniveling lump on the floor, so grateful I hadn't canceled the appointment (which I originally intended to do). It was then that he began the arbitrary spiel to explain his company and services so I put my hand over his mouth and told him to "SHUSH," since he had me at "Tell me......."

Today this builder's engineer came out to walk the land and get a sense for the property site. George instantly became another semi-permanent character in my slowly developing book called "NOT Losing It 101: How to build a house and keep your sense of humor." But George is another story for another time. Just know that there is much to come. None of it is pretty. Little of it is amusing. And all of it will end up right here with the rest of the ugly truths I've been sharing. Today's moral has a little something to do with lights at ends of tunnels. Not that we're seeing them, but sensing they exist.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Art Of......?

It occurred to me this weekend, as I stood knee deep in trash behind a remodeled building, that this is not really what my parents had in mind when they carefully raised me with exposure to the arts, sciences, and literature. When they helped me through college and beyond I'm sure they, like many parents, hoped I'd have a more, er, expansive future than trash hauling and manure chucking. Not that these jobs are something to sniff at. But still.

Yet there I was Sunday morning, unscrewing glass lights from fans stuffed into huge trash cans, pulling wood and scraps from beneath, well, rubble, dragging marble shards out from under empty bottles and trash - happily tossing the loot onto our trailer. Clapping excitedly. For me, August 1 was Christmas come early. See, I'm a self-avowed craigslist junkie and every day starts with a cup of coffee and quick perusal of the "antiques" and "materials" section. An odd combination, no? No. I've found that often antiques can serve as materials, and materials are often actually antique, vintage, old, and beautiful. Garbage to some. Treasures to me. A particular ad caught my eye last week. A contractor had just pulled several huge old marble slabs from a remodel project and asked for offers on the lot of the slabs and various smaller pieces of the stuff. Obviously I was on the phone with him in under 2 minutes and had made a deal of $100 for the whole group. That is, if you know anything about marble, a totally ridiculous price. It's not that I had a specific use in mind for this lot. Between this score and some other previous antique marble acquisitions, I've got enough to plaster a small room with the stuff. But at this point I've transcended the constraints of reason and sensibility. If there's a deal to be made, I must make it. Handle the details later. It's a sickness people, really.

Fast forward several days to Sunday. After some quick planning, Jer and I managed to wrangle a few friends to help with the nearly impossible task of loading one ton (no. really) of marble onto a trailer - without breaking the marble or ourselves. It's important here to give a shout-out to Joe and Kelley (and Lily-the-wonder-pup) who rock our worlds in general, but made us truly indebted by lifting, hauling, and carefully placing my precious loot. Not only did they seriously risk life and limb for this endeavor, Joe particularly scored extra points by excitedly jumping into the jumbo trash can to pull out a few more finds that would otherwise rot in a land fill. Joe, we knew you were awesome when you became ordained via shady website to marry us (we're still pretty sure this marriage ain't legal), but you're now my personal hero for openly sharing in the joyful art that is: dumpster diving.

If you're scratching your heads over just exactly what we managed to pull out of that trash bin, or exactly why one might lose their sh*t over old marble then check it:

OH. And those marble slabs? They were bathroom stall dividers pulled from a shmancy old 1930's sorority house on the University of Texas campus. If you can beat that salvage story then I'll give you a free piece of marble. I'm just really generous in this way.