Sunday, February 2, 2014

A new month, thank goodness.

A short hike through the woods from our house we found a sand pit.  This bodes well for parent-free adventures when the kids are a bit older.

The kids have discovered my box of comic books. I amassed these as a teenager in bulk purchases, always ore interested in quantity of reading for my buck than following any particular storyline.  This resulted in a smattering of random super heroes that have never warranted a movie franchise, but Caspian has found enough spiderman comics to keep him excited.

I spent a Friday driving to look at a piece of equipment for the project buildings.  Annaliese came with, and every part of the day, except her company, was a let down. The produce pickups we were doing as a favor for Alexe were delayed by 45 minutes.  The feed store was busy and slow.  The piece of equipment was not as advertised, and I spent 2 hours haggling before leaving empty handed, but with a contract to buy and have it delivered within the week after half a dozen repairs were completed.

My patient companion finally sat down at a McAlisters for the promised mac and cheese lunch around 1:30.  After 40 minutes of chattering and taking pictures of each other, it turned out the kitchen had lost our ticket.  15 minutes after that we were able to eat.

And yet, she was cheerful through it all.

It's hard to be grumpy with a treasure like her.

That was a Friday.  The girls took an overnight trip to Birmingham to visit Alexe's longtime friend, and meet the new baby.  That left the boys home alone on the farm.

We had a blast.

At four and a half, Caspian is a capable and conscientious tractor operator.

We did a general farm cleanup and burn.  Caspian found a snail, and his job of picking up sticks and throwing them into the bonfire was abandoned while he wandered around and sang to his hand.  (A trick Alexe taught the kids to soothe snails out of their shells.)  After the snail relaxed and started wandering around his hand, he filled a milk jar with dirt and leaves.  Let's presume it's living happily in there.

A little bit of pick-up...

A few super-pushes on the swing...

A little more clean up.

We went down to the buildings for a few tools, and Caspian took a ride on the old freight elevator.

An early evening, with snacks prepped, and a classic Michael Keaton Batman flick.  After a question-filled movie, (he's a very curious boy and the Penguin took some explaining,) he curled up in my bed, his sister's absence made the first floor too lonely, and slept peacefully, his legs merrily kicking me all night.

The cold weather, in the single digits around here, has slowed everything down on the projects.  While I'm not including the basics of those renovations here, I'll mention a couple particularly unpleasant events.  This Monday morning a strong gust of wind pushed through this building from the rear and blew the storefront glass onto the sidewalk.  All of these windows are slated to be replaced with tempered glass after they are reframed, but that wasn't on the schedule for January.

The mason is having to hole up and burn massive amounts of propane and diesel to keep his work from freezing, and each morning the water lines have to be thawed with torches. (The water meters have been freezing.) The fill dirt we're using to build up the back of several buildings to prep for concrete keeps freezing, which makes shoveling it incredibly difficult.  The upstairs apartments have been waiting on sheetrock mud for a month.  This particular morning it was snowing, and in the early afternoon I hit an old gas pipe that was sticking 3 ft out of the ground, and I had the most heart-racing period waiting for the leak to be sealed as gas screamed out of the 1" pipe and stunk up the entire downtown.  Why do these old pipes hang out, unlabeled, with no way to cut them off except to stick an expansion plug into the escaping gas? And why do the people at the gas company take 10 minutes to collect information before dispatching a repairman, and why does the first repairman take 30 minutes to arrive, and then why does he wait another 45 minutes for a second guy to arrive, when the part they end up using, ($2 expansion plug) was in the first truck?  And why do they drive their trucks within 15 feet of the screaming gas leak, and why do they walk up to it and talk near it and stand around for an hour and a half, when the repair, when they finally decided to do it, took less than a minutes?  

All fair questions, I feel, especially when I think of the money we were required to spend on safety equipment in the store before installing the gas stove.  

But as the person who hit the pipe, I'm not really in a position to complain.  Waiting to see what kind of bill they send me.

Anyhow, the home life, with a few hiccups of its own, has been overall peaceful, if a bit chilly.  Our very sunny house, so light filled and window-rich, does have some warmth challenges when it's close to zero degrees outside.

Lots of tea, wood fires, and blankets. 

Then, as though something knew we were all near a breaking point, the sun came out on Friday.  The brewery started brewing, and I picked up a hefty load of steaming hot mash for the pigs early in the morning.  We were able to pour some concrete, which put a spring in my step, the Country Living article came out on the BTC cookbook and the January slump at the store started to shift.  Everything looked brighter.  

Charming Caspian interlude. Organizing bottle caps. 

That spring in my step, and the ability to finally pour concrete without having it freeze, translated into deciding to finish out the storm shelter at the farm.  This is the hole we had dug last spring in preparation.  A very rough approximation of what will house an 8x8x8 strong box with power and bunk beds for the kids.

With Alexe at work on a Saturday morning the kids and I suited up and got to it.

The kids could only find one of their three shovels, so they swapped out picture taking duties for shoveling.  

This is a gratuitous picture of my muscles.  

After hitting a hard layer of sandstone while trying to square out the bottom of the hole, I broke out the pick.  An hour later I decided to quit roughing it and go get some tools.

We took a quick trip to the buildings, where the kids played, and I gathered the jack hammer and a spade bit.

A couple hours later, after lunch, and a nap that only took with Annaliese, we finished.  

We'll get the rebar in place and pour the floor this week, block it next Saturday, and pour the walls solid and the roof the following week.  

Alexe came home just as we were putting the tools away.  We grabbed some cold Yalobusha brews and soaked in the sun.

We are blessed with such a lovely piece of this Earth.

And we can't get over how amazing these two are.