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.

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.


May 13, 2017

My eyes popped open at 3:15 this morning. I tried to go back to sleep but my brain immediately began to race with lists. So much to do at work, on the farm, for the family, for the house. I am trying to keep my eyes on the prize and not panic.

After interviews at four different banks, renegotiating with two, and then a meeting with a financial advisor, I have decided on the bank to which I will apply for a mortgage. I emailed this mortgage officer Thursday evening, hoping to get one more concession before I committed. He finally replied last night. I won the concession but the officer informed me he was departing for a 10-day vacation. Oh my. Interest rates have already crept up since I began this process. I have to schedule a 60-day rate lock around the date Nick will have the house ready for appraisal (end of June). DH has long planned to use frequent flyer miles to go hiking in South America for his 65th birthday; he may be out of the country at what may now be the time of closing.

The whole thing is beginning to remind me of those math puzzles Dad used to pose at the dining room table: “If a train leaves Chicago…” I feel the same sense of futile stupidity. I will never figure this out.

Meanwhile I signed up for a 0% credit card to purchase appliances (we have never owned new appliances). I always put DH’s name first on everything because he is the primary breadwinner. There was a typo in the new card and I asked DH to call to grant permission for the company to speak to me. He could not pass the security questions. (This has always been a problem. He’s brilliant but unfamiliar with these conventions. Citibank once asked him for his mother’s maiden name. “Joan!” he replied confidently.) However after a bit of coaching we got the new card ironed out and I hope to have it in hand in time for Memorial Day sales. Until then I am reading Consumer Reports appliance reviews, juggling payments, and every day checking to make sure our bills are covered.

I picked up Lucy from college Wednesday night. Her bags are stacked in this house’s entryway. Does it make sense for her to unpack when we are moving in a month? Probably not. But the sprawling bags and boxes add to my sense of life mushrooming out of control.

At school I am coming down the home stretch with my classes. My 8th graders start Vietnam next Tuesday and my 7th graders will soon study Hamilton and Burr.  The 7th grade class is a week behind — my fault, not properly adapting to a schedule change — and I need to come up with a fix. Two more weeks to wrap up every idea and then my written reports will be due.

I have rented the garage apartment to a pair of college students for the summer. I have to get them the lease this weekend, clean the apartment, set up the air conditioner, and do some minor painting and repairs. They arrive in 16 days.

It takes me an hour every day to move the sheep to fresh grass.

I need to fix fence and transition the cattle from hay to grass. I need to get the mowers out of storage. I need to ferry the truck to its appointment on Tuesday. I need to take Lucy driving regularly before her driver’s test. I need to order bathroom fixtures. I need to figure out countertops. I need to buy bathroom tile. I need to address our complete lack of living room furniture. Friends are coming to stay next weekend and the following evening I am hosting the 8th grade class party. The next weekend we will have school trustees as houseguests.

Breathe in, breathe out.

The metal roofing has started.

It is supposed to rain most of the next two weeks. I try not to be anxious about the ability to put up siding and roofing under these conditions. Instead I am concentrating on gratitude that we are not in a drought.

Thank you, God, for my many blessings.

A Disappointing Design

May 12, 2017

Yesterday I discovered an unfortunate wrinkle in the house plan. The porch posts are centered on the house’s front windows. Thus the “views” from both the living room and the office are of a 2×6 post. If I had known enough to ask for a computer visual, I would have caught it, and asked for either the windows or the posts to be moved, but I did not know.

I’m very disappointed. To me this shouts “punk design,” a favorite phrase of the pilot Charles Lindbergh for basic errors in design that defeat usefulness. Having a window’s view blocked by a post seems punk indeed. I feel like a fool. Though I am not the one who drew the plans, I okayed them. The buck stops here.

There is nothing that can be done about the problem now. I let the house company designer know about the issue in a polite email, in hopes I could save some other homeowner a similar sad discovery. In return I received an email requesting approval of door swings for my final bill. Really?

I have to let it go. Instead I am trying to focus on design choices that I initiated and insisted on that make me happy. Here is the view from our bedroom. Breathe in, breathe out.

The Porch Has Been Started!

May 10, 2017

Despite the mixed sleet and rain that fell all day, the farm house made another leap forward yesterday. When I drove in after work I found the porch roof is going up!

I got out of my car and walked the porch deck in wonderment, filled with emotion. I have dreamed of this porch for years and years.

I realized long ago that there will never be anyone who will share my excitement over this land and this house to the degree I feel it. Allen came closest, with the land. We struggled together though snowstorms and rain and wind to clear every inch.  We constantly plotted and schemed to squeeze the last nickel to get things done. “Y’know what we need —” he once said in the early days, and then caught himself in embarrassment at saying “we.” (It wasn’t his land.)

I had hugged him. I loved being part of a “we.”

With the house, however, I’m on my own. My parents would be happy for me, but Dad has been gone nearly thirty years and Mom thirteen. DH is pleased that I am happy, but his interest is zero. My children — I hope they will learn to love it. I hope we will have years of happy memories. But they are grown, with their own dreams, and can’t really imagine my lifetime of dreaming and yearning for this home.

As I walked on the deck, my heart bursting, I wondered who it was I wished I could share it with. Finally I realized it was my younger self.

Hang on, I want to tell her. Some day it will all come true.

My eyes regularly fill with tears of amazement and joy.

Almost to Saturday

May 5, 2017

What a week! Moving sheep before work, bank meetings after work, showing history movies in the evenings. On Tuesday we rose at 3:45 AM so DH could get off on his business trip. He should be home by midnight tonight.

Between meetings I ran to the hardware store and ordered my paint samples. It is testament to my jangled mind that I ordered two of one color (a color that naturally it turns out I will not use). It is Montgomery White. Maybe I just was hearing my mother say Montgumreh in her soft Southern accent.

Yesterday I got up early to prep for classes, bake a couple of loaves of chocolate chip bread for my evening movie, and then run down to the farm to paint swatches before barn chores. Of course, since I was under time pressure, the truck wheels locked up and none of the usual tricks to unlock them worked. I parked the truck again and carried the bag of paint samples to our car. As I walked the bag split and the cans bounced all over the driveway. Stay calm. Breathe deeply. I collected the dented cans and continued on.

The light in these photos is poor. You will just have to believe me that the colors are much, much louder in person. After seeing these photos, I’m thinking I can never trust the look of any paint photographs online.

These are potential kitchen yellows. They are, in order: Provence Creme, Hawthorne Yellow, and Montgomery White. Hawthorne Yellow is perhaps the most popular yellow paint going. I was almost sure I would use it. Unfortunately, to my eye it is a muddy Dijon Mustard yellow. Montgomery White, promised to be a creamy yellow, is a creamy peach. (It must be all the iron in that Alabama soil.) And Provence Creme is so bright it should be called Kindergarten Yellow. I think if it were multiplied across the walls it might appear neon. So, this weekend I will have to try again.

Here is Navajo White. Again, the color is not registering in the photos. When I look at the wall itself, I try not to think: it looks tan. Or: it looks dirty. I have to make a decision and I may say that it’s fine.

Here is Lucy’s bedroom with her mint. I painted swatches on both big walls. It is much more minty than it looks here, where, bizarrely, it can barely be seen.

I am a timorous person when it comes to style choices. I remind myself that the color will be the backdrop for a lot of cottage white: bedspread, chest of drawers, nightstand. Still, I am going to let this color decision wait until Lucy sees it next week.

After the painting I hurried to barn chores.

I have had a hen sitting on a nest. The entry to the barn (where she is sitting) reeked of rotten eggs. Though I had no time, the stench was so awful I stopped to investigate. It appeared that many of the eggs on which she has been sitting were not fertilized. Instead of developing into chicks, in the warmth the yolks had been rotting — and now, exploding. The industrious hen was splattered with wet, horribly stinking blackish yuck but sitting on, oblivious. To her indignation I cleaned her up as best I could before hurrying on to the rest of chores. Sheep out to pasture, cows fed, hay distributed. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Then I headed home for a quick shower before work. Leaving the farm I was nervously aware that I was driving our good car with hands splotched with paint and rotten eggs. I tried to sit very lightly, perching like a praying mantis.

The wood flooring was due to be delivered yesterday. It was the only day in the ten-day forecast without rain or snow. At 5 AM I’d written to the supplier to thank him. When I got out of my shower, my hair dripping, I found his reply. There had been a miscommunication. I’d have to go to my bank.

I had 40 minutes before work. The bank is 15 minutes away. Oh my goodness. 

I packed up my computer and school files, stampeded down the stairs, and raced into town. At the bank I concentrated on looking calm and relaxed instead of crazy and frantic as I waited in line. Out of the bank, I raced back to the farm and then raced to work. My briefcase banged against my thigh as I jogged to the building from the parking lot. I almost skidded into my classroom, just in time for my first class.

At the doorway a colleague was waiting. “Do you mind if I observe your class today?”

“Oh, fine, fine,” I gabbled.

I taught the class in a blur. The colleague later sent me this photo from the beginning of class, a photo mostly remarkable because I am not frothing at the mouth.

After work I drove to Damon’s house to help him with some paperwork, and then drove back to the farm. Before chores I stopped to look at the wood delivery. Nick, who is an athlete, said he’d had his strength workout for the day lugging all the wood into the house. Looking at the many stacks, I was sure this was an understatement.

Here is the tongue and groove pine for the mudroom walls. It is rough, industrial quality. My hope is that I will be able to pick among the boards and cut around knots, cracks, and other imperfections to get the walls decently paneled.

And here is one of the dozen piles of oak flooring stacked through the house.

The wholesaler calls this flooring “rustic oak.” It is essentially the leftovers from premium oak flooring. It is mostly short pieces and they, too, have knots.

Though I am not excited about this, I remind myself that for months I believed I would have to have vinyl floors. Then I discovered this far less expensive option and I decided that imperfect real wood floors were preferable to vinyl. As always when it comes to decisions I make alone, I have done a lot of second-guessing on this one. I hope I was right — but either way, it is done.

I painted a second coat on my wall swatches. Then, after barn chores and walking and feeding the dogs, I went back to school, moved all of the desks in my classroom, and showed my 8th graders the movie The Long Walk Home, about the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in 1955. This is a quiet film and every year it requires energy to keep restless teenagers absorbed in the story. Still, it feels important to teach children that there are many kinds of heroes.

By 9 PM I was home again and brushing my teeth. Despite all my showering and scrubbing, I realized my hands still stank faintly of rotten eggs.

Only one more day until the weekend.