Friends: I haven’t visited this blog in a while. There have been times when I’ve gone on a writing streak for weeks and months at a time, and here now has been a 2-year lull in my muse.
Analyzing the Why is a post for another time, but you might notice it parallels quite closely our national heartbreak in November of 2016. Let’s pick up that thread on another post in the near future, shall we?
This post is about life and all of its changes.
It is with excitement and great anticipation that I announce here that we have been offered the tremendous opportunity to spend some time in the Pacific Northwest. Sometime in October, Eliott and I will be driving transamerica to the west coast, dogs and cats in tow, to overwinter in Florence, Oregon.
We will be one hour from daughter Amy in Eugene, and a day’s drive from son Ben in Spokane. Son Sam and daughter Glenda are the southwest children for the time being, but this move still puts me closer to them than I am here in Tennessee!
Freethought Cottage is in the very capable hands of a property management company, and will be waiting for us upon our return. We plan to relocate the cattle, donkeys, goats, ducks, and chickens, but of course the pups and kittens will be with us. After we’re settled into our new place, we’ll share some pictures and blog posts about life in Oregon.
As has always been our policy at Freethought Farm, we’d like to extend an open offer for friends to visit, anytime! We would love to see familiar faces, and walk along and view the left coast with you.
After a winter of some inside projects, pulling up old carpet and refinishing hardwood floors, and redoing a suspended ceiling, it was time to turn attention to an outdoor living addition to Freethought Cottage!
Son Sam, with a few weeks to spare before beginning graduate school, came home and brought his construction experience with him. He is a teaching and research assistant at the University of Wyoming, and there is a reason he was selected for that position. He is a patient and knowledgeable teacher in addition to being a competent craftsman with an eye for detail. Along with constructing the porch, Sam walked me through the steps of building.
The weather, in typical Tennessee spring fashion, was different every day. In our week of construction, we had a warm sunny day, 2 cold rainy days, a cold clear day, and an overcast day.
Let’s begin with the before pictures:
I have a killer patio on the south side of the house, which is great all summer long – it’s completed shaded by big leafy trees, from morning til sunset, and in the dog days of summer it’s wonderful for picnics, coffee, cocktails. But in the fall and spring, I’m longing for warm sun. The deck will get sun almost all day long.
The obligatory Home Depot trip:
It’s perfect. The sun is warm and delicious at sunrise, and soft and beautiful at sunset. C’mon over for coffee in the morning, picnic in the afternoon, or wine at dusk.
Sammy, what a wonderful gift you have given me. Best kid ever.
Before I blog about my latest cottage DIY, can I just restate that I am SO HAPPY IT IS CHRISTMAS 2015 and no longer CHRISTMAS 2014??
Last year at this time I was hip-deep in Bar Review, so much that I didn’t get out a single Christmas decoration, not a nutcracker, not an ornament, not a light. I had asked my sweet family for solitude for these months, and I was down to 1/2 day off per week to get away from studying. Everything festive has double the meaning this year since I missed the whole season last year.
So on to the project. When I moved in to this cottage 4 years ago, one of the first things I added were shelves in the library. I had to move a big corner wall unit to do so, and when I did, I discovered a little secret under the carpet.
I realize it doesn’t look like much here, but I knew that someday I was going to pull up the carpet in that room to get to that floor. No better time than the busiest season of the year, amirite?!
The walls in the library are lined with shelves, which makes the room a large rectangle with a door in the middle of each of the 4 walls. I often keep a table in the middle of the room, and a chair in a couple of the corners.
That exposed corner there is where I originally found the hardwood, under both the current beige carpet, and the groovy 70’s-era green carpet under that.
First order of business was old carpet removal. This home is a home of pets, so you know both layers of carpet and the padding were….pungent.
Carpet and pad out. Now the real work begins. Eliott and I are complete amateurs, but we’ll Youtube the crap out of home projects to figure it out. I already had a belt sander, so our 1st trip to Home Depot was for sandpaper, and lots of it, kneepads, safety glasses and mask.
Now we have a room full of raw wood. This room is in the center of the house, with no windows of its own, so opted not to add any stain. We knew the polyurethane layers would darken the wood a bit. We think this wood is pine, and our resident wood expert coincidentally was home this week and agreed with us.
Second trip to Home Depot. This time it’s for polyurethane, brushes, and more sandpaper (very fine, to use between coats).
Now all that’s left is trim and thresholds. Since the shelves are unfinished, we chose to use an unfinished quarter-round for the base trim. Experienced remodelers already know we’re off for trip #3 to Home Depot for a mitre-box and saw, nails, and of course the thresholds.
The finished look:
I am delighted with this adventure! Next up is the living room floor (and if I can talk Eliott into it, the living room ceiling…).
I’ve tagged this post under Cottage Living. If you go back through this tag, you’ll see descriptions about life on Freethought Farm, my 8-acre slice of paradise in Middle Tennessee. In addition to my little old cottage, there are barns, a pond, pasture, cedars, limestone and more limestone. To these natural and manmade wonders, I’ve added longhorn cattle, donkeys, a horse, chickens, goats, and the occasional duck.
Life out here is delicious – bucolic and grounded and a refuge from all things. However, I also border a large, multi-acre wooded area, which houses the usual assortment of woodland creatures, up to and including a class of predators such as foxes and coyotes. In the balance of predator and prey, I will sometimes lose one of my animals to one of these predators, “nature red in tooth and claw”. It’s the circle of life, and I recognize that when we share an environment like this, there will be an expected cost associated with it.
Last year was an exception. Over the course of the last 10 months, I lost 20 hens, 4 roosters, and my entire batch of spring chicks (25) to one extremely bloodthirsty fox. I watched him prowl my fenceline, just out of shotgun range, for long periods of time, only to slunk in and kill 2, 3, sometimes 4 and 5 hens at a time. Kill, not eat. He would break their necks, bite off their heads, and leave them dead and dying in the winter sun. I shot at him at least 3 different times, and missed. He got more and more brazen, mocking me for my bad aim and poor marksmanship. Another neighbor got hit hard, and we tried trapping, but there’s a reason that foxes are known for being so sly.
I needed another solution.
And here she is.
This little ball of fluff is a Great Pyrenees/Karakachan mix. Here are several of the many many sites Eliott researched before we located her. Here, here, and here. These dogs are bred to guard livestock. The information on training them is extensive, and it involves both socializing them with humans, and allowing them to bond with their tribe, the animals in the farmyard. They are known to recognize and ignore a non-predator, like a deer or a fawn, but recognize and intimidate or destroy a threat to her pack.
Here we are, introducing her to her family:
She has to sleep up in the barn so that she establishes her territory. Don’t ask how many times we’ve gone up there tonight. She’s doing great, and I’ll continue to post her (and our) progress.
One final thought: we don’t yet have a name. Post your suggestion in the comments. The Karakachan breed is of Bulgarian descent, so extra credit for connection to that heritage.
Not that I’m restless until Bar results come out (less than a month now).
Today’s lesson is Making a Rain Barrel. First, get a barrel.
Summer in Tennessee means fresh squash, tomatoes, peppers – a bounty of vegetables that are on the vine in the morning, and on your plate for dinner. I’ve already blogged about my composting operation, which is easy when you’ve got goats, cows, and chickens “obliging” with their contributions. The soil is rich and healthy and produces produce by the bunches.
Now the next step is the watering. Water is cheap and abundant in my county, but rain water has awesome nutrients missing in regular tap water, plus Tennessee thunderstorms are often heavy and unexpected. I wanted to be able to capture this natural ambrosia, so, once again, Youtube comes to the rescue.
I found my barrel on Craig’s List:
Most of these barrels come from car washes, so the detergent residue must be rinsed out thoroughly. Mine cost $10, plus about a 7-mile drive to pick it up.
There are a variety of methods for creating one of these barrels. The concept is the same – capture roof runoff following a rainstorm, access at a later time to water plants. Simple: intake, outgo, overflow. Youtube has a variety of options, so after having watched several, off to Home Depot to get the parts.
About halfway through my shopping, I found this:
With about half the parts in my cart, I was up to about $15. This kit was $25, and has a very specialized piece that I really wanted to use, so I bailed on the individual components, and bought the bag.
This construction is so simple, pictures can almost tell the whole story, with a little additional commentary:
This kit came with 3 different size hole saws. I didn’t get that far in my shopping, but I think I came out ahead by buying the kit. Of course, you have to have your own drill.
The lower hole is for use with a garden hose/soaker hose. The upper hole is for use with a bucket or watering can.
Spigot and drain plug. Offset to accommodate a bucket.
Now we need an intake.
And its gasket:
Then the scary part – cutting into a perfectly functioning gutter:
So here’s the magic of this kit:
See how it works? Most of the rain is captured as it runs down the inside of the gutter. When the barrel is full, and cannot take more water, the overflow goes right down the gutter and out the splash as usual.
And don’t forget:
And in case you wondered, you do have to empty it in winter. In order to preserve the special flange from winter’s harsh freezes, here’s the winter gutter replacement cap:
$35 all in, and another cottage project done! Now just waiting for rain. And since Murfreesboro has decided it is now Seattle, that should be about 2am.
This post is the third in the series linking to the actual Bar Exam experience and law school graduation. I’m going to hold off on commentary until results are released in May, 2015, so it will be void of helpful hints and suggestions. I kept a journal during Review that I plan to post later; until then this is simply a summary and description of what I did in the months and weeks leading up to the California Bar Exam.
I attended and graduated from Concord Law School. Concord is a non-ABA-approved online law school. Graduates are allowed to sit for the California Bar Exam, and with a passing score, are allowed to practice law in California. Some graduates have been admitted to Bars of other states, although on a case-by-case basis.
I chose Kaplan Bar Review for my review program. Most law students choose a commercial Bar Preparation program. It’s a review of all the law learned through the years in law school, in a format designed to prepare the student to take the Bar Exam of his or her state. Typically these programs are marketed as a 2-to-3 month, 6-day-per-week, 8-10 hours-per-day review.
I began my Bar Review in October, in preparation for the February, 2015 Bar Exam. The months of October and November were spent in a soft review of all of the testable subjects, on about a 6-hour-per-day schedule. In December I transitioned to longer days and more intense study.
There are 3 portions of the California Bar Exam, each of which requires a different type of study. Additionally, there are about 14 topics upon which the testing can be based, and the California Bar does not reveal before the test the subjects that will be tested. Predictions are made, some with more accuracy than others, but ultimately, students have to be prepared for any subject that may appear on the test.
On a personal note, in October, my honey reached out to my social networking family and sought a little note of encouragement – one for each of the 100 days leading up to the Bar Exam. He got an overwhelming response, and each day’s study began with the opening of the envelope. Each note was encouraging and sweet and kind and loving and supportive, and I am grateful to him for starting the project, and to everyone who participated!
Besides the world’s best partner, I also had in place a tremendous support group in family and friends. I live alone, which is very conducive to study, but left to my own devices, I would overstudy and underrelax. My kids checked in with me regularly, and my local girls’ group (the Ish Girls: we meet a noon-ish, for a glass of wine or 2-ish, for a couple of hours-ish) held me accountable for taking some down time. Emily, Susan, Caroline, and Maddie Mae – you will never know what that half-day off per week meant!
Because each segment of the exam tests a different set of skills, each must be studied differently. For the most part, I followed the guidelines given by my Bar Review.
The essays use compound skills, and each skill must be developed both separately and jointly. Legal essay writing is not like college essay writing, where those of us with the gift of gab can just prattle endlessly about any one topic for an hour. Legal essay writing is structured and concise, and requires recognizing a legal issue, declaring a memorized statement of law, analysis of facts to that law, a reasonable conclusion, and so forth, catching all legal issues in the hypothetical.
The skill of essay writing has been practiced in law school, and becomes refined even further during Bar Review. There are anywhere from 60 to 160 statements of law, so to speak, in each subject, for a total of about 1400 statements. Do you have to memorize them all? Only if CalBar tests them. So yes.
There is debate about the detail and length of the definitions. CalBar clearly states that the analysis portion is much more important than the memorized rule statement, but the analysis can only be done if the elements of the statement are present.
During the course of my Bar Review, I submitted 60 essays for grading, and outlined nearly 40 more.
MBE stands for Multi-state Bar Exam, which is the multiple choice segment of the exam. These questions are written in a manner to test very fine distinctions of law. I once heard a lecturer say that the answer can turn not just on one sentence, not just on one word, but on ONE LETTER of one word. (The defendant LIVES in the house with his girlfriend/The defendant LIVED in the house with his girlfriend: in one sentence the defendant has standing to object to an unconstitutional search, in the other he does not.)
There are hundreds of concepts which can be tested, and thousands of ways in which to test them. There may be a more productive way to study for these without practicing them, but I don’t know it. My posse of fellow students all experienced a similar phenomena in that, toward the end of bar review, after having practiced piles upon piles of these questions, they became the most “enjoyable” part of our daily study. I think it was because they were short, and contained, and eventually you begin to get good at them.
I worked over 2500 multiple choice questions over the course of my review.
The final segment of testing is the Performance Test. We call it the most lawyerly portion of the test. If you’re interested, they’re posted here, complete with 2 good answers for each test. If you weren’t under such time constraints, they’d be fun; it’s a puzzle with clues to the answer, and it’s a challenge to find the answers. However, when you feel the pressure of the minutes ticking, it takes a little of the joy out.
Bar review suggests working 2 PTs per week for the 8-10 weeks leading up to the test. I submitted 12, and outlined 12 more.
In January I transitioned from 6-8 hour days with a focus on review and outline construction to 8-10 hour days of skills and memorization.
My study group was a fabulous bunch of brilliant women from law school. In particular my study buddy (and class co-valedictorian), Liz, was patient and tolerant as we messaged and skyped and emailed questions back and forth. Our freakouts parallelled, and having someone who understood where you were, what you felt, and the emotions you were going through was one of the most valuable things I took away from Bar Review.
But if you don’t want to read a post about dog poop, click away. Ok, forewarned.
On my hippie farm, with my cows and goats and chickens, I have the most delicious compost pile. Cow manure, chicken manure, goat manure, hardwood leaves, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds – it makes the most rich, earthy, healthy soil you’ve ever seen. I’ve got a dual operation going:
But I also have dogs, and if you read my last post, you know I’ve added to the canine contingency. And 4 dogs generate lots of poo.
In an effort to figure out what to do with the abundance of dog waste that accumulates in the yard (I have 8 acres, but who’s gonna walk more than 20 feet outside in the rain? Not my guys!), I did a little Shit Research. I won’t go into all the science, but the poop of herbivores vs the poop of omnivores vs the poop of carnivores has to do with amounts of nitrogen, enzymes, bacteria, and parasites. The short version is that dog waste can’t be composted with other kitchen and farm waste (and neither, therefore, can human waste – a post for another day).
Just to be sure, I contacted my go-to science guy (Sam, if you didn’t know), and he confirmed what my research showed. So it was out of the question to put the poop in the big compost pile. But I still had a poop pile problem in the yard.
I googled that shit and found a variety of commercial set-ups to deal with this issue, but they were all extremely low in complexity and high in cost. I’m bright, I’m capable, I’ve got power tools – I can do this!
Doggie Dooley is already trademarked, as is Tidy Paws. I’m thinking Doggie Dumper? Doggie Doo-Be-Gone? Poopmaster?
I think I’ll tag this post Cottage Living. I don’t have a Waste Products tag. Yet. I think I’m going to draw the line at a pit latrine.
Edwin died on March 27. I loved him. I loved his big, fat, beautiful, juicy brain, I loved his irreverent, dry, southern sense of humor, and I loved his unrelenting compassion, desire for justice, and concern for children.
Edwin was the legal director for American Atheists from 2006 until his death. He and his wife Helen were the originators of Camp Quest, a secular summer camp for children. It had grown from a brilliant idea in 1996, to overnight and week-long camps located in many states, and UK and Switzerland. Camp Quest offers children the summer camp experience including educational activities that promote critical thinking, ethics, scientific inquiry, and philosophy. Edwin was the brilliant legal mind behind many civil rights and religious freedom lawsuits over the years, but I believe it was Camp Quest of which he was most proud.
I met Edwin in Des Moines at the American Atheist convention and was captivated by his charm. He was lovely and encouraging to me as a first-year law student. Edwin could be funny and serious and blasphemous, all in one sentence. He was the quintessential cantankerous and curmudgeonly crank whose eyes twinkled behind his glasses under the brim of his leather hat.
Edwin was also an author and blogger. Here is a post he wrote about the death of his lovely wife Helen. Not long after I met Edwin, he sent me a copy of his book Baubles of Blasphemy. I rationed the readings of his writings because they usually had a profound effect on me as a new freethinker just coming out of the daze of religion, and I needed the extra moments to digest the profundity. We corresponded through email and even in this cold, impersonal digital format, his warm, witty personality peeked through.
Edwin and I saw one another at various freethinkers conventions, and always stole a moment or two to catch up. He never failed to ask me about law school and how I was doing and what my plans were. I saw him last in Austin, Texas, and was looking forward to seeing him again in Salt Lake City in April. Edwin died on March 27.
But my sweet Edwin left behind not only a legacy of epic proportions in the way of Camp Quest, but also his two canine loves, Vaughn and Lucy. Edwin’s family put out the word that these two honeys needed a home, and they needed to stay together, if possible. It took me about 10 seconds of reflection before I knew I wanted to provide a home for these babies.
So I introduce to you: Vaughn and Lucy.
We’re getting to know one another. When they learn to trust me, I plan to solicit any legal genius that Edwin shared with them, but I can be patient. Right now we’re working on positioning in my office while I’m studying, and smelling everything that can be smelled on a farm.
What a delight these two furries are.
And what a joy and an honor and a privilege to have known this man.
Thanks for reading.
Before you return to wherever you were before you were born, it might be a good idea to so live that people remember you fondly. This is not a dress rehearsal. Life ends / Tao flows.
Don’t take life too seriously; you won’t get out of it alive anyway.
Do away with the nasty-ass, 1970’s trailer park, ugly, dark brown paneling in my bedroom. The squeeze is out of town, so there’s no one to talk me out of it.
a) Tear it out, replace with sheetrock. Good choice, but expensive, and above my pay grade.
b) Wallpaper over it. No bueno, I hate wallpaper almost as much as I hate the paneling.
c) Paint the paneling. Cheap, quick, looks like painted paneling. Perfect.
In a justification of all the time it would take to do this, I listened to law school lectures the entire time (with maybe a little Pandora mixed in). Finals are December 11 and 13. Gah.
To give a sense of how yukky the paneling is, here are the before pics:
And just for funsies, in case you don’t remember old Aunt Bertha’s house, here it is close-up:
The door jambs, however, are heavy stained hardwood, and I love them. I want to emphasize them and have them really stand out. I have less-than-zero interior design sensitivity, and I could be doing this all wrong, but as always, that’s how I roll, so full speed ahead on the remodel. Youtube is my friend, so I watched dozens of short videos on painting paneling. I compiled a list of the most consistent supplies and techniques and off to Home Depot I went.
What I most wanted was a sunny yellow room. I had a yellow kitchen a lifetime ago and loved every day in it. But I know that the fastest way you can make yellow ugly is to pair it with brown. So I looked at pale aqua, mint green, light lavender, and barely blue. I found this click-happy Glidden website to play with colors. I live alone, so I get to choose what color I want, but the downside is that there’s no one to turn to when it’s done and passive-aggressively say “Hmmm…wonder what the other color would have looked like?” In the end, I went with my first choice – a warm, pretty yellow that went by the name of Morning Sun.
Here’s my supplies and cost list:
Gallon of primer $17
Gallon of tinted paint $26
Quart of trim paint $12
Sandpaper holder $8
1 roll of painter’s tape $5 (plus one-half a roll I had at home)
Paint roller $5
Roller holder $4
Paint Brush $12 (I know, right?)
Paint Tray $4
Day One, as Day Ones always are, was all about the prep. I keep my house pretty neat, so the room was already clean. I had to Tetris all the furniture to the middle of the room, leaving access to dresser drawers, and make a pathway around the perimeter. Next was removing all the faceplates for the outlets and light switches. Then of course I had to vacuum under where all the furniture had been cuz that too is how I roll.
Then came cleaning the walls, then sanding the walls (to rough up the paneling surface to take the primer better), then washing again to eliminate any sanding dust.
Finally it was the actual prep for the painting – taping all the trim with the painter’s tape. That was tedious, but I know that extra work here pays off when the painting begins.
Day Two was Primer Day. First, cutting in all the edges:
This took a long time, and as I was working, I realized that I would have to repeat all of these steps the next day, with paint instead of primer. After cutting all the edges, it was time for the roller work.
I call the next phase the panic stage. This is after I’ve rolled the primer, so any hope of the old paneling is gone, but I have no idea how the painting is going to turn out. Count in another hour or so to rinse and wash the tools.
Finally, Day Three. Keep in mind I’ve chosen my color because of its name, and how it looked on a little picture online. Here goes nothin…
Again, the cutting. All the edges, around the 2 windows and 3 doors, the ceiling and the baseboard. Then back to the roller for the really fun part. One section at a time, my room transformed. I had to keep working at a steady pace because, well, paint, but I couldn’t stop looking at the parts that were finished.
The final half-day started with assessing whether I needed another coat. I had used the gallon of paint I bought to the last drop, scraping the sides of the bucket with my brush and painting it onto the roller to get the last few inches. No, don’t need another coat, but now I have zero yellow for touch-ups, so I’ll probably still have to buy another quart.
Then came Tape Removal. I’m going to say it’s not so much Removal as it is Convincing the Tape It Wants to Come Off. I know nothing about physics (gotta C in Physics 101 in college, and I remember one thing – the Doppler Effect), but I do know that when you put tension on the tape, there is a point that the adhesive will release, and a point where the tape will tear, and that amount of tension is a magical mystery. And it’s measured in microstretches or something. Me, tweezers, and an exacto blade. Just sayin.
Anyhoo, after that most gratifying of experiences, I had a moment of indecision. There is a narrow piece of crown molding, that when the room was paneled was almost unnoticeable, but now that the walls are yellow, may need to be painted. If I keep it natural, it kind of ties together the door and window jambs, but kind of stands out. If I paint it white, it blends the white ceiling with the walls, but there is no other white in the room, so it may be too much. I decided to add the next few pics and ask you to help me out!
I could not be happier with how it turned out. 3.5 days, just over $100 (plus I have the equipment now for the other 2 rooms in my house that have paneling), and my DIY bedroom transformation is done!
I’m an expert now, so let me know if you have any questions.