Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 22nd.

The last two posts were started over a month ago, with the images uploaded, and the text added this morning.  

Now is my chance to speed things up.

Annaliese has started making meals, some edible, some creative expressions that include every herb and spice in the pantry.

The door on the brand new walk in cooler was faulty, and they had to ship us a new one.  

We found the bathtub we wanted for our upstairs bathroom, and the faucet to go with it. Sink and counter and commode installed. (Baseboards still missing.)

We've been to the park to play, attended endless birthday parties, and hosted one for Caspian's fourth.
This year we took the kids, with a friend, to the movies.  Pre-movie time in the arcade, popcorn, candy, and a viewing of Epic in 3D.  4 and 5 year olds do not like keeping their 3D glasses on, and a G rating doesn't mean that you won't watch the last 20 minutes of the film with 4 kids piled into your lap. 

Post-movie party at the park, with pizza, and the blueberry birthday cake Alexe made for our little boy, per his request.

There have been porch-pickin' pool parties with friends:

We've been joined by home-grown chicks, four, and since have lost 3 to various travesties.

Ms. Betty at the newspaper was visited by her son, and they started clearing out the old herald building on Main Street in preparation for selling. That building, under the endless piles of hoarded junk, houses the full history of printing over the past hundred years, from the smelting, type setting and printing machines of the 20s, through the letter presses, paper cutters etc., up to the first computerized type setters, ending in three little macintosh computers.  Annaliese did a bit of stealing while I was visiting with Jim, and had her first out-of-family return of stolen items.  It included lots of wailing on the sidewalk outside the new newspaper offices.

We had to spend a week at the Blue House, moving all our stuff out, and fixing/touching things up in preparation for the new tenants.

We had some good times on the porch eating the traditional moving-day takeout.

The kitchen french doors had to be replaced, along with a hundred other little things we neglected when we were living there and busy with other things.

We've been out for pizza after the family of the owner who passed away during a gallery opening on a Friday evening here re-opened his restaurant.

We've sorted through the tons of baby clothes we forgot we had in the attic of the blue house, and taken many trips down nostalgia road.

We've played family-Jenga.

Alexe and I got away for a date night, and found that Dixie has ruined eating out for us.  Nothing competes with Chez-Dixie, and that particular eatery is only available one night a year, on Alexe's birthday.  

We took a family trip to the dentist, Caspian's first. 

Cliff and I snuck in another morning of fishing.

There was an accident with Annaliese's piggy-bank, and a super-glue project to fix it.

Alexe, looking particularly fine, and I were called away from a birthday party when our neighbors called the cops about one of our new pups getting into their garbage.  They went after her with a shovel, and they reported her for being aggressive when she growled.

Granted, she is a pit bull.

So we left the kids at the party to scoot the four blocks home, put the dogs up, and while I was doing that, Alexe received a ticket from the polite and apologetic police officer that when I read it said she had been arrested and released on her own reconnaissance to appear in court later this month.

The siding is finished on the house.

I could have moved the scaffolding up here from the building, but instead a chose to go up and down that ladder several hundred times.  

Annaliese made this meal/installation for the birds.  Not sure what the toothpicks were meant to accomplish, I had to pick a few out of my soles over the following days.

We're thinking of calling the farm Turtle Hills.  They're everywhere.  (I love turtles.)

The Spring was lovely and cool, if a little wet, and we have been able to eat outside under the pecan tree a few times.

Annaliese continues to be my morning "helper" 2 to 3 mornings a week, and while I'm busy working, she often finds little side projects of her own, like applying full sheets of temporary tattoos to her belly.

Some days she's just full of herself.

Caspian is still going to the learning center until noon each day, and then I have both of these helpful characters until Alexe gets home around 4.

Another set of shelves in the corner of the kitchen.  It turned out we had all sorts of things at the Blue House that needed a place to live up here.

At some point I took my beard off.

We harvested two pigs, roasting one whole, butchering the other in the kitchen.  It was a long day, starting at 5:30, finishing the work and eating around 6.  If I get to it I'll put a full post up about that day.  The other two pigs were brought to the butcher on Wed., and will be in the store as sausage some time next week.  

Caspian and I took care of the pig transport to Billy Ray's house, where Caspian hopped on the various swings.  The girl were at the Oxford Farmer's Market working the BTC booth.

That left us some rare boy time, and we took a hike in our oak forest.


We received some excellent branded hoodies from u.William's sugar maple operation in Vermont.

Moose Mountain Maple.  Hmmmm, Turtle Hill Pork?

The steel wagon wheel railings are installed on all the porches.  They look pretty great, even with laundry drying on them.  (A pulley laundry line running from the porch high into the pecan tree is on the list.)

And those are some of the highlights from the past month or so.  There's more to do on the house, but the list is now something I can count on my fingers, and shrinking every day.  My mind is already feeling light and free and enthused for the next thing, and there are some fun and sufficiently scary thoughts on that bouncing around in my head.  Alexe is finishing up her edits of the book proofs, and the layout and design looks great.  I'm gearing up for another long drive north with the kiddoes, but this year Alexe will fly home with them, and I'll have the time to wander down the east coast and visit with folks on the way.

The fall could be very exciting.


The farm came with an old pond. In the neglected years of this place it had silted in and grown up to a point that with a good pair of boots you could walk straight across it.

We had long term goals of having it dug out, and a fortuitous sale of the boom lift provided the budget.

I talked with a few local companies, and didn't like any of the quotes, but I went with a guy I know who owns the local mill that has cut all our cedar and cypress for the house project.  The big difference between him and others was that we agreed on a ceiling to the project cost, something that I could not get anyone else to agree to.  These machines generally charge by the hour, and these projects have a lot of unknowns until the digging starts, but our budget was fixed.

It took an hour or two to clear all the scrub and small trees that circled the original pond.

We all though the pond would be a sludgy mess going down pretty deep, and I wanted to simply scoop out all the muck and make space for the water.

What it turned out to be was a couple feet of squishy vegetable matter, with a solid clay base.  Apparently the pond was never more than a few feet deep.  We wanted a deep pond suitable for swimming, so the machine kept going down through the white, dense, pottery-grade clay.  That stuff is hard, heavy, and makes for slow-digging.

I was busy on the house, so there aren;t many pictures of the digging.  After a couple days, the dam was built up, the pond was scooped out as deep as the machine could reach, and a small nub was left in the middle as an island where the excavator's arms couldn't reach from any direction.

At that point the budget was blown, and I was left with lots of grading work to smooth out the perimeter.  I've been keeping at this over the past few weeks, but with the heavy rains we keep getting the soil hasn't really dried enough to let me do the final smoothing.

It took about a week for the pond to fill in.  There are three springs that come out of the hillside right above her, and I am guessing quite a few that come out of the ground under her.  We hop in every now and again, and the top five inches are bathtub warm, below that it's 50 degrees.  

There is work to do, the edges need to be smoothed and planted, and once the surrounding soil is stabilized with roots we can deal with the clay particulates that make the water so cloudy.  Then will come fish, and a dock, and long term a cooling system for the house that uses that cold spring water, and a windmill to pull the water up the hill to our swimming pool and for irrigation in the back fields.  Looooong term.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Vacation #2

This has gotten a little ridiculous.  It's now the 22nd of June, and with the final push to finish up the house, the many to-dos that come long with spring and summer, the new projects that may be coming up, and the many other excuses I could provide, this diary has fallen far behind.  

On this hot Summer morning, with the massive solstice moon set, the kids playing in their rooms, annaliese's feet bandaged after she dropped a bottle of milk on the kitchen floor, and the temperature approaching 90 degrees at 9:30 am, this feels like a fair reason to stay in the air conditioned sun room and play on the computer.

To catch up, we're going to go at a fast clip.

Driving down to the Mississippi coast in Boatie, we stopped for a catfish dinner in a local all-you-can-eat fried buffet, that also featured a big business in diet pills.  The signage was about 50/50, greasy food to diet pills.  I'm not sure if it was tongue in cheek, both businesses seemed to be doing well.  

We stayed at a quaint motel built in the 50s, a block back from the beach, ten units total, big pool under huge live oaks in the back, kitchenette in the room.  It was relaxed and comfortable.

We took a long drive on Sunday morning trying to find a non-chain breakfast joint in Gulf Port that was open.  We ended up way out by the train tracks...

And found this gem of a bakery/authentic vietnamese deli.

The recovery money on the coast post-Katrina has been used in part to put in a few great parks.


We walked to the beach a few times, but mostly spent the days lounging at the pool, which we had to ourselves, no matter what time of day, for the entire long weekend.  Not sure what the other guests were up to.

Food is a central part of our vacations, and we hit up fruit stands on the drive south, grocery stores when we got to town, and restaurants in between our constant snacking.

These two are the best of friends, intermittently.

We took evening walks on the beach each night.

The kids having an impromptu dance party on the patio of a restaurant.  

That wasn't enough to get their wiggles out, so we pulled over on the way back to the motel for a beach-run.

We toodled North on a Tuesday morning, stretching the five hour drive into a 9.5 hour quest for soft serve, (unsuccessful, a critical flaw with this state,) and timed our drive up route 7 to cross paths with a storm system that included tornadoes.

10 miles from home we pulled over and spent a little time in a culvert that cuts under route 7, watching the doppler on our cell phones, and dealing with the grumpy kids who had been asleep in the car and didn't go in for this new "adventure".

We made a break for home between two fronts on the doppler, and though the drive was in near white-out walls of rain, we made it home to a collection of scared and wet dogs.  The newly refinished floors were dry and ready to be lived on, but we had left our mattress on the upstairs porch, and the blowing rain had soaked it.  The kids were deposited in their beds, the dogs curled up in the sun room, and Alexe and I had to sleep on the couches.