May 23, 2017

The good news is that Damon figured out what was wrong with my truck. We were due to pick it up on Saturday when he called me. “I woke up in the middle of the night and I was thinkin’ — maybe the brake shoe in the back fell off and is jammin’. Have ’em pull off the drum and take a look.” The shop called me yesterday. This was indeed the issue.

The bad news is that the total bill for repairs will be $1500. My scalp is starting to twitch. I have had our expenses parsed to the dime and was already short. $2000 in vehicle repairs in two days was not in my plans.

My days are crazily busy, every minute scheduled from now until June 7, when school is out. So many tasks and so many worries that I’ve forgotten something. Did I order the toilets? Did I measure for the countertops? What about the bathroom tile?  On Saturday renters for the farm apartment arrive; after work this week I need to clean the apartment, touch up paint, and write the lease. I’ve chosen a bank for our mortgage but must schedule the application date around the time the house is expected to be ready for appraisal. That appears to mean I cannot apply until June 15. Not only may the rate go up but sixty days later, at the closing date, DH will be in South America. I’m adding Look into getting a Power of Attorney to the list. In my professional life I’m teaching, correcting tests, and writing diplomas. This weekend I have to start writing final reports for all my students and creating yearbook pages for all the graduating seniors. Monday I host a class dinner for 25.

Meanwhile the coyote apparently came back yesterday in daylight and stole another hen. I need to walk the fences in the north and south pastures and turn those lines on. The challenge is to find the time. Every morning it takes an hour to move the sheep before work, and another half hour to muck out the barn.

My brain is so overloaded I don’t make a move without my lists. I can’t take my eyes off the ball. Focus, focus, focus.

Two more weeks and the worst will be over.

Busy Day Ahead

May 21, 2017

My eyes opened at 3:15 this morning and I was immediately wide awake, my brain racing. I never allow myself coffee until 4 AM but I sat at the breakfast table and made my list.

My weekend felt jammed yesterday and that was before I realized I had to spend the afternoon in the car shop. Mike’s face had blanched at the sight of my tires. “Sis, that car’s not safe to drive!” Oh, dear. I could not search for a good deal or drive any distance, I just had to get new tires as quickly as possible. Moreover, since the car is All-Wheel Drive, I had to buy four. What an expensive whack! As always at such times, I reminded myself how glad I was to have the opportunity to pay $500 not to be in a car wreck. Still, I gulped as I passed my credit card over the counter.

I could not do any computer work while I waited, so I’d brought my story notes. I haven’t had a moment to glance at any of this creative work since spring break.  My eye stopped at a note I’d made on Isaac Sears, the head of the Liberty Boys of New York City in the 1760s: “bully and self-promoter, much like Ethan Allen but without the humor and charm.” It occurred to me to wonder what either of these gentleman would have thought of the idea that someone would be thinking about them 250 years later — while waiting for car repairs.

I’ve made today’s list and tried to assign approximate times to each chore. It appears I have twelve or thirteen hours of work ahead. This would not be particularly daunting except that I’ve had many fewer hours of sleep.

Yesterday as I was hurrying to set fence for the sheep, I heard the liquid notes of a warbler in the shrubbery above me. It was a reminder how lucky am I to live in a place of such beauty. I can’t let myself get so fretted by lists that I lose sight of this.

Coffee and go!


Doors and Paint Decisions

May 20, 2017

The front door is in! I have been waiting for this for a long time.

I’ve worried about this for almost exactly as long. For some reason that now feels elusive, at the hour to choose doors I chose a solid front door with sidelights, rather than the usual six-light door I have everywhere else.

A friend in Maine whose home I admire has a front door with sidelights. The big old farmhouse that Kimberly and her husband are renovating is beautiful; I think I was hoping that by copying her door, something of Kim’s lovely taste would magically rub off on me. But now I am anxious.

Here is the door from the front. (As you may surmise from the angle, the sloped front yard has not yet been graded nor the porch steps built.) My concern is that I missed an opportunity to make the dim front hall (north-facing and further shadowed by a ten-foot porch roof) marginally brighter. Here it is from the inside…

…using the camera flash for light. In actuality it is indeed a darkish space. However, I tell myself robustly that it will be fine. I do that a lot these days.

In more exciting progress, the window in the basement has been installed —

… and so has the basement door. With both in, the entire cellar is instantly less of a dark cave.

Meanwhile, I’ve made important paint decisions.

Remember my worry about yellow for the kitchen? All the choices seemed wrong — too neon, too mustard. I spent a lot of evening hours researching yellows online. Finally I thought I had hit on just the right one: Pale Straw. I bought a sample, and as a test I decided to paint a piece of white posterboard with Linen White (the main house color, chosen after lots of hand-wringing) on the left, and Pale Straw on the right. I worried they might clash.

Here they are.

It was at this moment that I finally was able to laugh at the timidity and worry that have been gripping me over every single house decision. Linen White and Pale Straw do not clash — they are almost indistinguishable! And both are so pale as to be nearly invisible.

I belatedly realized that two rooms in this house in which we are living are yellow. I rummaged in the basement and found the rusty can. It is Weston Flax. Now I painted my poster again, adding Provence Creme (my original bright yellow) on the far left and Weston Flax on the far right.

Weston Flax looks gold-tone on the poster board, but not in the two rooms in this house. I think it will be fine. I made that decision. The kitchen will be Weston Flax! Done!

Meanwhile Lucy looked at her Fresh Mint and agreed it was a little too close to “Electric Blue Toothpaste.” She has changed her choice to Italian Ice Green.

Now I just have to pick a white for the doors and trim and all the paint decisions are made. Phew!

Porch Progress

May 19, 2017

We’ve had two hazy, hot, steamy days and the men have finished framing and sheathing the porch roof. It is very exciting to me.

Nick of course did not wear sunscreen. His shoulders and back are burned to a crisp. I have had to restrain myself from scolding him like a mother.

I have investigated Ray’s brilliant suggestion of replacing the outside “sandwich” boards of the porch header with LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber, extremely strong) and then removing the regrettable posts in front of the front windows. The engineer says it would work fine.

Unfortunately, LVL is thicker than 2″ lumber (which is planed to 1.5″, as opposed to LVL at 1.75″). More problematically, even at the early stages of porch construction the men simply could not imagine pulling everything apart and going backwards — especially with our move-in date of June 30 bearing down on them like a freight train. Nick is already planning to work nights on the interior.

His father Mike had the thought of bolting a steel plate across the inside of the header, and then covering the plate with wood so it is invisible. They are going to look into it with the house company. If this idea doesn’t work, I will, of course, live with posts in the view. There are worse problems in life.

The house company is aware that this was a design oversight, and I believe they won’t let it happen to anyone else. That may have to be enough.

*   *   * 

In the meantime, every night after dinner I am poring over lists and product reviews. So many decisions, so much potential expense. I wish items were labeled: This is the plain, reliable, no-fuss version for people who don’t care about designer toilets.

I’d buy the entire house line.

Grass At Last

May 18, 2017

Yesterday evening after work, before cooking dinner, I took down snow fences, pulled T-posts, and fixed perimeter lines for 90 minutes — and finally got the cattle out on pasture. It is always heartwarming to see their gamboling and excitement.

Grass at last. Not great grass, but grass.

Thirteen years ago, a state biologist came to the property. He said my soil was so thin and sour that I would never be able to grow grass. He underestimated the transformative power of manure.

Also a dreamer’s maniacal effort. Every year, in addition to spreading manure, I have pulled rocks and stumps, picked up broken logs and branches, burned brush, pounded fence posts, strung electric line, cut back saplings and choking weeds, and mowed for countless hours. (I’ve also saved up for truckloads of lime, only to need the money for school tuition and other real-life demands. Someday liming will happen.)

Still, the land is slowly improving. Last summer I was frustrated not to have time to dig out rocks in the south pasture that forced me to dodge and feint while mowing. Every two weeks I would add them to my list and two weeks later they would still be there. When school started again I looked at the rocks and told them mentally, “I’ll get you next year.”

I’ve realized this is the secret of progress when one doesn’t have enough time or money. Even the tiniest gains eventually accumulate.

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

May 17, 2017

Heading to the barn shortly for 90 minutes of farm chores (moving sheep and bringing the cows in out of the heat and flies) before my teaching day begins (Gulf of Tonkin in 8th; Hamilton and Burr in 7th). However my brain is stuck on a single thought: what to do about my 2008 Chevy truck.

I called the dealership yesterday after work, braced to learn the extent of the bad news, and to my surprise a voice told me brightly that the truck was ready to be picked up. “The mechanic says nothing is wrong with it!”

I have now spent over $1200 at four different shops to investigate why this truck’s wheels are seizing up — and no one can find any problem at all. Nevertheless the truck is completely dangerous. Thankfully Damon has experienced the situation or I’d almost believe the impatient you-must-be-imagining-it looks I’m getting from these men.

I don’t know what to do. If I could afford it, I’d trade the truck in on another used one. Unfortunately I don’t see how I could swing a purchase of anything right now. Moreover, what about my responsibility if the dealer sells this dangerous truck to a new buyer and that buyer is injured? Will that be my fault? Am I obligated forever to this lemon? My brain goes round and round.

In the meantime I am creeping around my pastures in my retired, rusted-out, 17-year-old pickup to water the sheep. I hear the broken frame grind against itself and hope the whole thing doesn’t crack in half and collapse on the grass.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Grey Day

May 15, 2017

8 AM: It’s raining. I’ve been working since 5. My heart is starting to race at my apparent inability to get on top of the workload, between the house, the farm, and the job.

Yesterday I was on the road most of the day to Vermont to pick up flooring. When I finally got home, after unloading 500 pounds of tile I discovered at evening chores that one of my Buff Orpington hens was missing. I searched without success, but hoped against hope she was hiding somewhere in the barn. This morning she is still missing. I am worried that the coyote who came boldly to the door of the barn last summer — killing four of my chickens — may be back. This thought is especially anxiety-provoking with the new goslings now outside during the day.

Clearly I need to spend a couple of hours mending fence and getting a charge in my perimeter lines. Though these fences won’t stop a coyote, they will teach him caution. However, after work today I will be spending two hours with Damon ferrying the truck to a neighboring town for its repair appointment tomorrow (the first I could get). Meanwhile all the rest of the chores on my list are piling up.

I don’t have time to worry about it. I have to get ready to teach Bloody Sunday at Selma.

*  *  * 

PM: Hectic day but at nearly 8 PM the sun is now out for the first time in ten days.  Damon and I got the truck delivered to the dealer, despite setbacks. After work I drove to town and picked him up, waiting through road construction in the rain. Back at the truck, we discovered the battery was dead. What? I jumped it with my car. Damon got in the truck and the wheels locked up. He reversed, drove it back and forth, got it rolling down the driveway, began to pull out into the highway and — the wheels locked again. He was directly in the path of 55 mph traffic. He is missing one leg. He threw it into 4WD and hit the gas. With a terrible screech the truck shuddered forward, leaving rubber on the road from the locked tire. But he was safe on the far shoulder.

From my car I watched him play with the problem. The truck would roll free and then seize up again with a lurch. The tire smoked. Oh my goodness, I thought. He took a test drive down a side road. I watched his lights disappear, then return. “Let’s try it,” he called to me. “I ain’t gonna go fast!”

I followed him slowly down the mountain. We stopped for gas. He grinned at me with his old naughtiness. “You’d a had a heart attack!”

We drove 25 miles to drop the truck without further incident (except that the dealership had no record of all the repairs to be made) and I drove Damon home. Then back to school work for an hour, then to barn chores for 45 minutes, then to cook dinner. I am now working on my list.

Damon mentioned that my car’s rear tires are bald and need replacing.

I need more time.