Painting Team

May 31, 2017

A few weeks ago I had the idea that I would paint the ugly OSB in the attic. Because Luke and I put it up with Dean, who was rarely around, it’s not perfectly aligned; edges are rough and the trim slightly cupped. I figured painting it white might make it disappear, so as not to reproach me forever. The attic would be bright and clean and fresh.

I loathe painting. I’m not good at it and I’m generally hot and sticky with paint long before I’m done. However I got the OSB painted with half a can of dual purpose primer and ceiling paint.

Then it occurred to me that maybe Lucy, home on vacation before her job starts, could paint the rest of the room. She was happy to oblige. In two long stints, she got 3/4 of the attic painted before she was claimed by other commitments.

Meanwhile, in the garage apartment I had painted shellac over knots that had bled through the trim in the stairwell. My plan was to repaint it white after the shellac dried. However as I tussled with the site Rocket Lawyer to produce a lease for the new tenant, taught my classes, talked to banks about a mortgage, and rushed from chore to chore, somehow I could not force myself to finish this painting. The renter was going to arrive and the shellac stood out in dozens of ugly orange blotches.

My friend Alison came to my rescue. Alison is a fabulous painter. She has painted the interior of her entire house. She has nice brushes (I buy throw-away brushes); she has a painting outfit; she has patience and skill. Listening to an audio book on her Kindle, Alison repainted all the trim in the stairwell without spilling a single drop on the stairs. It was lovely. It was done!

I knew a godsend when I saw one. So many of the current chores in my life are multi-step. This cannot be done until that is accomplished. The appliances I ordered from Sears on Memorial Day sale are due to be delivered on Friday. They must be stored until the floors of the house are laid. The ideal place would be the garage, but the garage is chockablock with all our furniture. I figured Lucy and I would carry Jon and Amanda’s king mattress and box spring and various other items destined for the second floor upstairs before the interior painting, banister, and stairs were completed — thereby making room for the appliances in the garage. However, before we filled the attic with furniture, it would make sense to finish the attic painting. As the time pressure increased I regretted I had ever had the brilliant attic-painting idea. But then Alison’s fabulous painting skills appeared on my radar.

Last night she stopped by the farm and finished it all.

This is a portrait of a wonderful friend. I am so lucky.

Lucy and I will need to move furniture this morning before work, as the flooring men arrive this afternoon, I work until 7:30 PM, and Lucy leaves for the weekend tomorrow morning. Whew!  

As with so much these days, it will be finished just under the wire. But it will be done!  Yay! Thank you, team!


May 30, 2017

Feeling so rushed and anxious I can hardly breathe but at the same time, paradoxically, so happy. I look around the empty rooms at the farm and my heart soars. I just have to get through this hectic time. Our house is nearly here.

This morning I saw that one of my lambs may have broken his foreleg. I’m not sure how it could have happened — caught in a rock cleft? Perhaps the leg is merely sprained, but he can’t put his toe to the ground. I was in too much of a rush to begin to deal with it before work. Tonight when I’m free at 7 PM I’ll try to catch him and see what I can do.

In the meantime I am making lists of lists and pushing on. This morning’s talisman is my gander, Andy.

Only six months ago I was tube-feeding Andy three times a day, despairing that he would recover from a snapped thigh after being stepped on by Moxie — and look at him now, out perambulating with his family! Never give up!


A Family Weekend

May 29, 2017

It was a busy weekend, blessed by family. My daughter-in-law Amanda, my brother Mac, and my niece Lizzy all arrived Friday afternoon.

Lizzy will be in town for the summer for a job; Mac was her loving chauffeur. Amanda came up to visit and help with house decisions. She also brought a car-load of used furniture that she and Jon had picked up for me in Connecticut from Craigslist.

I spent a lot of the weekend researching appliances on holiday sale. After many hours of reading reviews, I decided on a washer, a dryer, a refrigerator, a dishwasher, and a stove. I even got Sears to agree to give me the extra 5% off without using a store card. (The only thing I need to know before I order is: gas or electric dryer?) Of course I had Lucy and Amanda okay my choices. They are both canny shoppers.

I also wrote a lease for a college student who will be renting the farm apartment for the summer. On Sunday morning the girls and I drove down with cleaning supplies and did some last-minute vacuuming and dusting. The renter arrived shortly afterward to sign the lease and drop off a few of her things.

Meanwhile it was lovely to catch up with my big brother, and to show him through the new house. Mac is an unfailingly kind and encouraging person.

On his way out of the Adirondacks, he took me to the Chevrolet dealer to pick up my repaired truck. Instead of dropping me off to get on the road for his long drive, Mac walked me in and waited patiently while I paid the bill. His thoughtfulness reminds me so much of our father. I can’t wait for the house to be finished so he can come up to visit more often.

The girls helped me visualize our furniture needs for the new living room by pushing a giant cardboard box (representing a couch) and cardboard sheets (representing a bookcase) into various positions. We are now sure that a full sofa would be too big for the space and that we need to find a loveseat and club chairs. Lucy had helpful thoughts about colors. Amanda had the excellent idea to look for swivel chairs, that could turn easily between a focus on the fireplace and a focus on the room. All this clarity is a great relief to me, and now that the truck is fixed, perhaps I will be able to make some of it happen.

We accomplished a lot. In between other chores I moved sheep, dug the weeds out of half the apartment path, walked the fence in the back pasture, and repaired a downed line. The girls shopped for groceries and semi-gloss paint, cooked a delicious dinner, and walked the dogs.

It was a lovely weekend. Now it’s back to real life and the job.

It won’t be long now.

Crossing Off the Days

May 25, 2017

I’m in countdown mode here. Every evening after I successfully solve the last problem of the day (“What will I serve for dinner?”), I’ve felt victorious. Another day in the bag!

However I’ve been so busy rushing — from town to buy gasoline to barn chores to teaching to correcting tests to painting the attic to cleaning the apartment for arriving renters to barn chores to cooking dinner — that I’ve entirely overlooked one essential: laundry.

Yesterday I realized the full laundry basket was topped by an additional two-foot-deep pile of dirty jeans and socks. This problem always reminds me of the movie Notting Hill, when Hugh Grant asks his roommate why he is wearing scuba gear to eat breakfast.

“A combination of factors, really. No clean clothes.”

“There never will be, you know, unless you actually clean your clothes.”

“Right. Vicious circle.”

I started a load this morning before baking two loaves of chocolate chip bread for my 8th graders. Tonight I show the last movie of the school year. Ten more days!

Business Travel

May 24, 2017

Yesterday DH gave me his travel schedule for the next three months, as it now stands:

June 6-7 Manhattan

June 8-12 Guatemala

June 26-27 Manhattan

July 5-11 Colorado

July 31- August 21 Peru

All but the last, his annual vacation, are business trips for work. Also in July are a high-stakes board meeting and surely many more trips to Manhattan.

He travels like this for work all the time. He turns 65 over the summer (this year, apparently in Colorado). No wonder he is tired.

I could not do it. I’m grateful that my teaching will be over in two weeks and then my only goal will be to pack and move us … and keep the home fires burning.


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.