Friday, June 30, 2006

That little birdie went....

"Wheet wooo!"

In the past week, our household has gained not one, but two new singing voices. DD would like you to meet Pikachu, her new 4 month old Budgerigar. Pikachu is really not much of a singer. He's actually pretty quiet, except for an occasional chirp in the morning. On the other hand, the vibrato rings out...

To DD, we would like to say "Congratulations!" for being accepted into the New Jersey Youth Chorus, a professional choral ensemble of NJs most talented singing voices. Impressed by DD's vocal abilities ("she sings like no one else in the whole school"), her school's music teacher whispered in someone's ear, and then DD was invited to audition a few weeks ago. She felt sure she flubbed the audition, and just last week resigned herself to the fact that she must not have made it. And then we got the letter! This winter, she will be singing at Carnegie Hall! Wow!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Where I Want to Be

Strawberry in the back field

Why am I not there yet?

I hesitate to link to this amazing blog I found because then no one will ever want to read mine again. Heck, I don't even want to read mine again. I just want to slip through the ether and materialize out the other side.... to this farm, this life. She even has my dog, Friday. This is what I've wanted my whole life. This is what my dreams are made of. Why can't I find it?

The closest I've ever come is Tempe Wick. And that's a distant memory. I'll never find mine in New Jersey, not unless I win the lotto. So, depression sets in. In the past two days, I've called no less than 10 contractors to tape and mud the new walls and replace my rotting deck. Guess how many responses I have gotten? Zero. I've said it before, I'll say it again. No one in NJ wants to work on my puny house when they can be working on the $6 million mansions down the road. It's a futile escapade. Even Angieslist, which was a life-saver in MN, has been no help here. I am hopelessly zip-coded, a greasy french fry lost in a bowl of caviar.

The house is dirty. And unfinished. The weedy grass is 2 feet high. The barn needs painting. Contractors are working hard at the estate across the street, erecting a new (and quite tastelessly designed) entry gate, which makes the place look like some kind of suburban apartment complex. Ugh. There is no oil in the tank; therefore, there is no hot water this week. No shower for me. Good thing DH is away on another continent, taking photos of the English countryside as he travels from one financial meeting to another financial meeting. "You'd love it here," he says. Duh. My DD talks of attending Oxford, and living in Cornwall. Where does she get these ideas?

So, as the house gets darker and the walls close in, I listen to a woodpecker tapping on my roof while I live vicariously through photos of a farm in Missouri. I suppose I should get off my butt and go hang some drywall.

Monday, June 19, 2006



Thursday, June 15, 2006

Weekend Plans

While the cat is away, the mice will be .........drywalling!

Tomorrow I am leaving for Ohio, where I'll be performing surgeries for the Humane Society of the United States in an underprivileged area of the Appalachians. We'll be spaying and neutering about 100 - 150 animals over the course of 2 days.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, DH and his dad intend to finish insulating all the ceilings and walls, and hang as much drywall as possible in 2 days. Happy Father's Day to them.

Then DH leaves Monday morning for London, and I arrive home from Ohio Monday afternoon. So, progress will be stalled a bit since he won't be back home until Friday. On Thursday, I get to pick up the rest of the laundry room cabinets from IKEA. Fun!

Here's a sneak preview of what our new wide-plank pine floor will (hopefully) look like.


Kitchen Plans

Not only has the kitchen itself morphed over the years, the design and layout of the future kitchen has also gone through dozens and dozens of renderings. I began designing it with a program that doesn't even exist anymore. In my newest design software, I have at least 40 different plan files saved over the past 3 or 4 years, with about 12 of those files involving major structural differences, like the kitchen on the west side of the house, then on the east side, etc. Within the last year or so, we finally settled on the basic layout and began building the foundations around that (windows, doors, lighting, etc.) . Once all the new windows were purchased and installed, there was really no turning back.

Some driving factors in the current design:

1) The need to stand anywhere in the kitchen and be able to see the barn, the aviaries and a good portion of the fenceline at a glance.

2) The need to be able to physically get out the door and access the back deck within one or two seconds flat from anywhere in the kitchen. (Basic predator control - hawks, foxes, the occassional black bear...) It eliminated having a peninsula or large refrigerator along the back wall, blocking a path to the door.

3) The possibility of a future addition onto the east side of the house. This determined the placement of the french doors and open space for the table, in case we ever needed to open the kitchen up to a family room or breakfast room on that side. (Ahh, dreams....maybe someday. But maybe someday we'll just move and leave the addition to someone else.)

Unfortunately, we no longer have any ducks, geese or birds that need such intricate monitoring. Well, maybe in a few years... how about pygmy goats? :-)

Here are the elevations....

The refrigerator wall:

The south (sink) wall:

The cooktop wall:


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Kitchen Progress

The kitchen looks much cheerier today than three weeks ago when I arrived. I even decided to cut a rose bouquet this morning to brighten up the decor. (We were definitely in need of a little flair!) Those are two of my new IKEA cabinets on the countertop. I couldn't wait to put them together. How easy! And I love the unique hanging rail system.

Progress has been stunningly expedient. DH has worked tirelessly almost every single night and every weekend day for the past two weeks (except for last Saturday when we ventured into the City to take DD to the American Girl Place).

This was the view a few weeks ago. It may not look that different, but believe me, it is. DH finally got the plumbing installed for the main sink, so we could move the temp sink out of the laundry room and into position in the kitchen. He also got the rafters installed in the ceiling below the upstairs bath. (I'm so surprised the house didn't cave in years ago.) We abandoned the notion of bumping back the load-bearing wall, deciding it was too much extra work for a couple of feet of floor space. Plus this will give us more room in the adjoining guest room for a full bath in the future.

I installed the last of the can lights, although I'm going to have to move two that I installed last summer due to a change in floorplan. Today I'm wiring the island light and connecting the last of the 3-way switches for the cans. Last week I wired and installed our new vintage hallway lights. Don't they look grand against the studs? (Okay, they're a little crooked. They need a ceiling.)

The first weekend I was here, he installed the red oak flooring in the hallway, feathering the new into the old. Here's a shot of the new hallway floor and mudroom cubbies.

Today I ordered our new kitchen floor! Reclaimed wide-plank Southern yellow pine from Maryland. Woo hoo!


Of Dreams and Neighbors

Life could be worse. I woke up from a bad dream this morning where neighbors had moved in next door to us. They were fat and loud and had about 6 teenage kids. They cut down all the trees and rode those loud ATVs around the swamp. In my dream they had to enter my back porch to get to their garage, and they walked through my garden, stopped to loiter and sat on hundreds of little seedlings I had just planted. I screamed and threw sticks at them and they just laughed, like they owned the place. Then, as will happen in bad dreams, big omnipotent snakes materialized, and Jurassic-size plastic crocodiles came to life, and I suddenly realized I was late delivering 30,000 mealworms to my grandmother. Running from the crocodiles, I dropped all the worms in the hallway and had to stop and pick them up one by one while my classmates stood by impatiently and watched...

There are many things to hate about this house, but at least my real neighbors are not riffraff, are fairly far away and across a road, and never invade my space except with their noisy leafblowers and lawn services. And every year before they leave to spend their summer in France, I have to endure a week or two of listening to their kids, now teenagers, yell and holler as kids will do. Yes, life is good.

Off to make breakfast in my lovely, wall-less kitchen.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Life in the zone...the Construction Zone, that is

Where to start? It seems silly to start at the beginning of this fiasco we call home. That would entail backtracking 10 years. Too much work, too much time, too many memories. Let me just say that we've been living without walls for much too long.

I suppose I should start with the Kitchen, since that is our current project. Well, actually, it's been our ongoing project for the past 10 years, but this year we're serious. I'm serious. We must have a beautiful, functioning kitchen by the end of August, when I leave for an extended, vacationless stay in Minnesota. I thrive under pressured deadlines. Three months should be perfect.

I remember standing in the horrible kitchen the day we bought this house and saying to the PO, "The kitchen will be the first to go." Ha. Life gets in the way sometimes, I suppose.

That's not to say that the kitchen hasn't changed and morphed and moved locations around the house several times over the past decade. It's not been pretty. It's not been homey. It's never been permanent. The only thing steadfast about life in this house is our permanent state of upheaval. A never-ending remodel. A constant decor of 2x4s, bare wires, reciprocating saws and nailguns. This photo shows just one of the many morphings...this one is from 1999. Oh and the cats? Four of the 6 have already died of old age.