June 30, 2017

We are due to move tomorrow. We’ll see. It will be opening day for our school’s summer camp, so both DH and Lucy (who has a job in the camp office) have to work. Not perfect planning on our parts.  I think I will have the help of young Nick plus possibly another teenager.

No calf. Poor Moxie’s bag is so engorged I’m wondering if I will be able to get a bucket under it.

Yesterday morning I put up the last two sheets of sheetrock. With great difficulty young Nick and I pulled our big old white melamine TV cabinet up the stairs out of the basement of this house (it has been a storage unit for DH’s climbing gear for the past two years), carried it to the farm, and cut it down to fit in the corner of the farm basement. By quitting time at 5 PM we had all the bookcases in place around it.

After a quick supper I went back to the farm and worked on the basement until 9:30 PM. All the structure is now in place. There are still hours of unpacking and shifting of boxes to do down there, but I can see that my plan will work if I can get it done.

I just need time. And energy. I’m very tired. Too anxious to sleep.

Still, as worried and exhausted as I am, this move feels very different from the last one. When I walked out of the basement late last night, lightning was flashing across the distant horizon, and fireflies winked in the dark over the pasture. I’m moving into my farm! And my farm has fireflies!

It is tremendously exciting.

Rain has drummed on the roof all night. I’m going to walk and feed the dogs, pack a few more boxes, and head down to the farm to get back to work.  Yesterday morning I found the men had left me a message scrawled across the basement wall on the final sheet of insulation.

I was grinning as I fitted the last sheet of sheetrock to cover it up.


June 29, 2017

Still no calf. Moxie’s udder is so swollen it resembles a rubber glove inflated to the breaking point. Yesterday at morning chores I anxiously ran my hands over the hot, giant teats and discovered that she is freshening with bad mastitis in one quarter. The milk is clotted like cheese curds. My sense of doom is increasing.

That feeling is not allayed by a walk-through of the house. Though progress is being made in every room, it’s still far from ready.

It has also dawned on me that we will be moving with two dogs into a work space where men leave all the doors open all day long. Another problem to solve.

For now I am thinking we (Lucy, DH, I, and the dogs) will sleep upstairs but, for the next week or two, spend any other time hanging out in the basement. Yes — that big chilly space stacked with boxes and furniture. It sounds crazy but the basement doors can be closed and then we will be removed from the rest of the house and the ongoing work. (Except for the day they replace the stairs.) To make the basement a comfortable spot will require considerable effort, but I have a plan.

The boy Nick texted early yesterday that he could not come, but that was fine. I often find it restful to work alone.

I spent the morning cutting more sheetrock and putting it up. At one point I had struggled to carry an upright sheet through the maze of mess and finally got it safely against the far wall when I turned to find the electrician staring at me.

“You work so hard,” he said, his eyes concerned. “I feel sorry for you.”

I smiled. “I like to work.”

It’s true. If it weren’t for the time pressure, I would be having great fun.

With the pressure, it is indeed a little stressful. To cheer myself up I have been wearing Allen’s old baseball hat. He gave it to me years ago at the end of one of our long working days. It looks foolish on me but that’s OK.

Though clearly I was a strange woman and without most practical skills, it was my impression Allen respected my sheer determination. I always recall him saying to his son-in-law, back in 2009, “You’re gonna be workin’ with girlie, here. Try an’ keep up!”

His belief in me is a happy thing to remember.

* * *

After lunch Lucy and I drove to the city an hour away to get more bathroom tile (believe it or not, a box fell out of the second floor window and smashed, and now we were short). Lucy went along to pick out her bathroom shower curtain. I would also take the opportunity to buy mastitis meds for Moxie. The last thing I wanted to do was interrupt my day for an unexpected four-hour trip, but it could not be helped. In order for us to have one working shower by Sunday morning, Nick needed to finish tiling the children’s bathtub.

We bought the tile, we bought the shower curtain. Naturally, Tractor Supply was sold out of mastitis meds. We found some in another store in the other direction and had them held for me; I will be driving to pick them up this morning.

When we got home I discovered that the toilets and kitchen sink had been delivered at school. The stack of giant boxes was chin high. Toiling slowly, I partially unpacked some of them in order to fit them in the truck to carry them to the farm. One toilet was in shards. Though I do wonder how toilet companies stay in business, I have no more emotion in the toilet department. I asked Nick to unpack the others carefully in case they, too, have to be returned.

Today: Moxie, mortgage calls and paperwork, finishing the basement.

Pressing On

June 28, 2017

Yesterday young Nick and I cut and hung sheetrock in the corner of the basement. I have never worked with sheetrock before and made sure to read about it online before starting work in front of the smiling pros.

The job was difficult primarily because the space is so packed with boxes and furniture that it was hard to find room to tilt each piece to stand it upright. Then we had to shuffle with each piece (just short of 8 feet high) through the narrow aisle without catching it against the 8-foot ceiling or the floor.

Moreover, after we had our first three sheets up, contractor Nick (working nearby on plumbing) glanced over and realized he should not have told me to place the top furring strip so far down the wall, because it was too low to be a brace for a future dropped ceiling. He jumped in to help us fix this problem with more furring strips. We had only proceeded by another sheet when he similarly realized we needed some bracing behind the long vertical seams, to help keep the drywall from bowing. Again young Nick and I unscrewed, removed, braced, and rehung the sheetrock.

Two more sheets to cut and hang today to finish the corner. I’m not sure young Nick will be with me. It will be a challenge to stand up and carry the sheets on my own, but I imagine I will figure it out.

Then it is on to moving all the boxes out of the way, moving all the bookcases into place, and unloading books onto the shelves. It actually would be a fun assignment if the time pressure didn’t feel so crushing.

And if I didn’t have the potential disaster of Moxie’s impending calving in the back of my mind.

My Dear Sword of Damocles

June 27, 2017

Poor Moxie. I check on her a dozen times a day and she looks so uncomfortable. The later she goes, the more worried I get. I tell myself that my sense of impending doom is merely due to all the other stresses going on in my life.

Yesterday after checking Moxie I started the day by building a new platform for a propane tank delivered last Friday. Due to the weeds and the yellow jackets, the gas man had installed the tank at the edge of the house, where it was visible as one drove in. I figured the easiest way to get the tank moved further past the corner was to set up the new spot myself. I hauled dirt to level the ground, hauled #2 stone for drainage, and set up and leveled identical pavers I had on hand. The work took an hour before breakfast but it was done. When they arrived, the men moved the heavy tank in less than a minute.

(The paint on the garage has been scraped preparatory to the entire house being painted in a few weeks. The sewer pipe is a clean-out that Allen and I installed in 2009. Once the building is finished, I will cut it down to just above ground level.)

Meanwhile, see this mess? This was originally an orderly, very large pile of boxes, most of them filled with books, moved by me from the mudroom. Unfortunately, in the last few weeks of rush to get things out of the way of the builders, various other items have been thrown on top.

The outside doorway into the basement is similarly blocked with “stuff.”

All of it must be moved in the next two days, to make room for a water heater plus various other items to be brought in.

I have thought and thought about how to scaffold all this labor. I hope my plan will work.

I have stumbled upon a sweet, lanky 16-year-old, also named Nick, who is willing to be hired to help me with this move. What a stroke of luck!

Back in March when I was moving all the boxes to the basement, I planned ahead and left a two-foot-wide path around the giant stack. Yesterday young Nick and I fastened furring strips along the Fox Blocks lining the basement walls. Fox Blocks are the styrofoam forms into which the concrete walls were poured. The blocks have nailing spaces between the concrete about every ten inches. By attaching the furring strips to the block wall with 3″ coated deck screws, we have created a frame on which to hang sheetrock.

Someday the basement will be a finished space, but given the dollars involved, not any time soon. For now my goal is to hang 8 sheets of drywall in this northeast corner to smooth out the walls.

The Fox Blocks website says that the concrete should cure for a year before sheetrock is taped. This is convenient for me, since I don’t know how to tape.

Once I get the sheetrock up, I will line the walls with some of our two dozen bookcases. Then I will start emptying cartons onto the shelves. Though DH and I like our books to be grouped by subject, for now I will just get them out of boxes, to clear the space.

Yesterday young Nick and I carried ten bookcases from the garage (where Kyle and I had stored them in 2015) around the house and down the rough slope to the basement. We carried four more inside for the office.

Here is Nick trimming the back of one of these latter office shelves so it will fit tight to the wall over the molding. Long experience has taught me that the best way to keep a teen’s attention through a long day is to give him access to a power tool.

Meanwhile Lucy and Amanda have been helping me with bathroom decisions. Last night I rushed to the lumberyard 20 minutes away just before closing and picked up samples for the molded vanity top (less expensive than separate top and sink). Here is a sample of the flooring tile, a piece of white trim matching the plain vanity cabinet, a white subway wall tile, and two “faux granite” options for the molded top.

After I check Moxie I have to drive the box of samples back. I have to order the vanities this afternoon, cut and hang the eight sheets of sheetrock, move bookshelves into position, carry four more shelves down the stairs of this house and into the basement, and start emptying boxes.

If I have any energy left, it would be good if I could prime the mudroom ceiling tonight.

And perhaps Moxie will calve today!

A Restorative Afternoon

June 26, 2017

All of the kitchen cabinets have been installed, though not yet the trim, the island’s back panel, or the counters.

Nick is very careful and the floors are covered with paper and flattened flooring boxes to protect them.

The dining room is stacked with trim pieces.

The living room is set up as a painting operation.

Upstairs looks similar — activity in every room. There are many details that are exciting: door trim!

But with no bathrooms, no water, no kitchen, no staircases, no cleared areas to set up beds, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the house is not ready for us to move in.

I remind myself stoutly that DH and I lived for our first year of marriage in a log cabin in the backwoods with no water and no bathrooms and that there are five more days until the Big Move. Still, my heart flutters with anxiety.

Though our exit date of this house is June 30 (the contracted interior finish date at the farm), due to the holiday the new people are not due to take over until July 5. I planned that we would move June 30 and have this house clean by July 3. I need this to happen. Our move in 2015 was a scarring experience for me and I am determined never to allow anything like it to happen again.

In the meantime the farm was deserted yesterday and after cleaning this house for a visitor tour, I headed down to take on the yellow jackets so our gas line can be installed. The bees had a ground nest under the waist-high weeds which I could not locate without weedwhacking first. Here I am in commando mode: baseball hat, hearing protectors, mosquito hood (would it work against angry bees?), winter gloves, and a full suit of foul weather gear.


Encased in thick rubber, I was sweating. The geese took one look at me and fled, honking. But armed with my snarling weedwhacker, I was Great Yellow Doom to the yellow jackets, and prevailed.

Victory left me so cheerful I decided to mow lanes for the next move of the sheep.

This in turn made me so happy that I spent another two hours mowing off the weeds left behind the sheep. The skies cleared, the sun shone, I was listening to hymns and roaring along over the noise of the mower. All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing! 

It was exactly the replenishment my heart needed.

On the cow front: here is Moxie with bulging udder and vulva at evening chores. It’s impossible to think she can go much longer.

Moving Forward Moving

June 25, 2017

Yesterday was a tiring day, spent mostly on the phone and computer. I’ve never liked shopping, I’ve always been extremely anxious spending money, and I fray under time pressure. This building experience has combined all three.

Normally when I am making any sort of purchase I do hours of careful research, reading reviews, weighing advantages and disadvantages against my limited budget, getting outside opinions. When it comes to money, I am the opposite of impulsive. I have zero gambler in me. (I feel sick just walking past the busy slot machines in the Reno, NV airport.)

So, although of course I’m aware how very privileged I am to be worrying about toilets, hall lights, and cabinet pulls, the need to make a dozen expensive decisions on the fly — without weeks of information-gathering! — has felt exhausting.

DH has had a grueling work schedule and leaves for Manhattan at dawn tomorrow. He wanted to help pack in his small way. He stopped where I was working at the computer and asked innocently, “Where at the farm should I put my climbing gear?”

So little is finished at the farm that there is no obvious place to put anything. For several days I have been trying to figure out the choreography — if this can be moved then that can take its place — while not impinging on the construction and painting operations that are going full bore in every room, including the basement and stairwells (both sets of stairs must be installed this week). I have not yet come up with a plan, and the clock is ticking. Somehow, yesterday, dealing with lists and lists, DH’s little question was the straw that broke me.

“I have no idea!” I wailed.

DH was understandably alarmed. “I’ll just put things in the cabin,” he said hastily, patting my shoulder.

The good news is that Home Depot has a fabulous Customer Service department, just as kind and helpful as the people in the store. They apologized profusely for their online errors, they are shipping the correct toilets to me for free, and they gave me a $75 discount on each toilet for my trouble. Moreover, I found the inexpensive floor tile on their website along with the matching non-slip pieces.


*   *   *

Today a couple is coming to tour this house so I must clean for an hour and at least stack our boxes neatly.

But first I will run down to check on Moxie, now huge with calf. Last night her progress out of the barn was so slow and stately (despite her limp), I wanted to call out, “Take her to sea, Mr. Murdoch!”


Tired, Discouraged, A Little Panicky

June 24, 2017

The headline says it all.

Still no calf. Yesterday I drove to Vermont to pick up the replacement toilets. I hated to burn the day, but that would be another big thing on my list to cross off.

Home Depot had the toilets waiting. I opened the boxes with a nice young male attendant and found one was smashed. Oh, well, I thought. We will still have two ready for our move in a week. As I processed the reorder, with the broken toilet on the counter, my eye happened to fall on the inscription on the box: 10-inch rough. (This refers to the distance from the wall to the center of the rough opening in the floor for the toilet pipe.) The online specifications for this toilet said they were 12-inch. I had checked this meticulously.

All of the toilets, including the broken one, were the wrong size.

I wanted to rub my fists in my eyes like a tired toddler and fall on the floor shrieking. Instead I handed over my credit card to have my money refunded, numbly got in my truck, and drove home.

We move in six days. Time is running out. A great many things are not coming together. I am starting to feel overwhelmed.

Today I have to tend to Moxie (will this be the day?), move the sheep, deal with financial papers, get boxes, and pack my office. I need to reorder toilets. I need to count and order kitchen cabinet pulls. I need to choose and order a kitchen sink. I need to order bathroom floor tiles (the inexpensive ones I chose from Lowe’s don’t work because there are no matching non-slip pieces). I need to decide on and order vanities and sinks (the cabinet person has gone on two different vacations — do I ditch her and call someone else?) I need to choose and order hall lights, bedroom fan lights, and porch lights. I need to choose bathroom paint colors. I need to choose the exterior white paint.

These are a lot of decisions to make.  I hate doing it under intense time pressure. Today I woke up at 2:15 AM in a panic.

Meanwhile last week I realized that my decision to stain the mudroom the color of the apartment trim was a mistake. In my hurry I had not thought it through. More on this problem another day, but it means that in the back of my mind I’m worrying about potential solutions.

At the same time, my lovely builder Nick realized that he had forgotten the farm sink in the mudroom. Back in February he had allowed the electrician to move the electrical panel in the basement to a location that means water pipes cannot be run above it. I am trying to stay calm.

There is a yellow jacket nest in the tall weeds under the apartment deck. So that men from the fuel company can work on piping for the gas stove, I need to weedwhack the area and kill the yellow jackets.

Such is my mood, this seems the easiest and most straightforward task of the day.


The Never-Ending Story

June 23, 2017

Here is Moxie last night before I turned the cattle out. Still no calf. Her bag is so swollen she can hardly walk or lie down.

Last night thunder boomed in long drum rolls, lightning cracked, and rain lashed the windows. I woke up and figured, now will be the time. We shall see. I’ll head to the farm after I walk the dogs.

Fetching Furniture

June 22, 2017

Here is Moxie’s expression yesterday morning at 6:30 AM. “Who, me? Calve?”

Here is her udder, swollen and hanging below her hocks, when she limped into the barn for the day. Surely it can’t get much bigger?

But since there was no immediate milk fever crisis at hand I decided to jump in the truck and head to Connecticut.

Early this spring Jon and Amanda began driving all over Connecticut, picking up furniture bargains I found on Craigslist. After thirty years in faculty housing DH and I owned no furniture apart from a couple of beds and two dozen bookcases, so we needed a lot. Connecticut options seemed to be nicer, more available, and less expensive than those I saw in the Adirondacks. Amanda and Jon were kindly willing to lend a hand.

First up, appropriately, was a dresser and mirror for their room. This is a solid piece, extremely cheap due to a couple of chipped and scratched drawers. I think I will be able to repair the two chips and hide the scratches.

Jon and Amanda were able to get both the dresser and the mirror into their Explorer and safely home to their garage.

(I asked them to document their trips so I could enjoy them vicariously.)

Next up was a dresser for DH and me. This one came with not only a mirror but a matching nightstand.

I like this dresser. It reminds me of the furniture I grew up with. It is a knock-off of an expensive piece, but still heavy, decently made, and, second-hand — cheap. Jon was dubious that they could fit both the dresser and nightstand in the car.

But with squishing and Amanda’s finely-tuned packing ability, they succeeded!

On another trip they picked up a dresser I found for Lucy. It was the heaviest yet, in white cottage beadboard style, exactly what Lucy wanted. (Sadly, no photo — we’ll have to wait to see it in the room.) In an amazing stroke of luck, a few days later I found the matching nightstand up here in the Adirondacks.

Finally, they picked up a set of six ladderback chairs to go with the dining room table I had previously bought in Vermont.

Yesterday I drove to Connecticut to fetch it all (except Lucy’s dresser and a couple of the chairs, which Amanda had brought up on her recent solo visit). When I saw their packed garage I worried that we couldn’t fit everything in the truck, but with some climbing around, adjustments, and clever repositioning, we succeeded. Jon and I were damp with sweat by the time we had the tailgate safely latched.

It was wonderful to spend a quick hour with the kids over lunch. I am so grateful for their hard work traipsing around Connecticut to get all these things for our home. I dream of lots of happy family times in this house.

Thank you, Amanda and Jon!

It was a whirlwind 12-hour trip. DH had baked a frozen pizza and was just pulling it out of the oven when I got home in time for a late supper at 8:30 PM.

And… still no calf!

Kitchen Starting

June 21, 2017

When the kitchen was first painted, I worried. Was the yellow too mustard? Did it actually look green in certain lights? I tried to hush the Worrier in My Brain. Lucy had wanted a yellow and white kitchen and my goal was to make it happen.

A few days ago Nick started to put up the cabinets.

Naturally, that made me nervous, too. I’d chosen a line I’d never heard of (Wellborn) and I’d chosen MDF doors for inexpensive practicality. I devoutly hoped this had not been a mistake.

Nick has been working at night. In the early mornings before barn chores, before the men arrive, I walk around and inspect the progress.

I think the cabinets are going to be fine. They don’t look like expensive cabinets because they are not. But they will be great for us.

We are due to move in nine days. There is so much work still to be done on the house, so much choosing, purchasing, and picking up still to be done by me, and I’ve barely started packing our things in the lake house. Can it all really happen in time? Stay tuned.

 *   *   *  

As of last night, Moxie still had not calved! I’m pulling on my Carhartts and heading down to check on her now.