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Cottage Living

Social Distancing. Week 4.

Monday, April 6. Day 22

In addition to keeping my honey and I isolated on the farm, and conversing with the 4 adult children and their partners in isolation, and tracking my grandson who lives in Utah, I’m also trying to ensure that my 83/82-y-o parents are complying with social distancing protocol alone in their home just south of Atlanta.

They’re doing a great job of tolerating the circumstances. Their church services are all cancelled, I have groceries delivered once a week, we text and chat every day. They have vast cable tv resources, but no internet, so to me that means they miss a lot (streaming their online church services), but they’ve never had it, so they don’t complain about it.

Last week I had a delivery made to them of some plants from their local nursery. It was a gorgeous pile of blossoms:

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She was so surprised and delighted. They have a big front porch and they sit out there for hours birdwatching at the numerous feeders. Her hanging baskets are always beautiful, always red and white, and last year I found tiny hummingbird feeders that can be added to each basket so the birds get really close.

She immediately set to planting, digging and designing, then getting my dad to help her hang them.

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She sent picture after picture of getting them arranged – 4 large baskets to hang on 4 hooks on the front porch.

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Then this morning, she called me in tears, hardly able to talk. You can imagine me holding my breath, waiting to hear what she was so upset about. Did one of them fall down? Is it one of my brothers? My dad? Is someone showing symptoms?

The squirrels had gotten into her baskets and dug around and flung plants everywhere. In the span of 5 seconds, I went from relieved, to anger at her reaction, to laughter, and back to neutral as we talked it through. By the end of the conversation, we decided I would have some kind of rodent repellent delivered, she can pick up all the plants and sweep up the dirt and reassemble the baskets. She was even able to laugh about it at the end.

The whole experience fractured me. Of course I know the psychology of it – her emotion was entirely displaced, she’s tried so hard to be optimistic and comply with the rules, and those baskets mean a lot to her in a non-weird spring season. But sadness overwhelmed me at the thought of their suffering at this time in their lives – the isolation, the loneliness, the separation from their very active senior adult group at their church.

It will be a story we can tell and laugh about in the future. But right now it is a total gut-punch, and tiny example of what is playing out in millions of households around the world. This is so unnatural, and is taking a toll on our social species, in far more dramatic and significant ways than this short tale reveals.

It was a lovely day on the farm, but my morning phone call stayed with me well after sunset.

Tuesday, April 7. Day 23

Nothing but planting from sunrise to sunset! I think this theme is a little repetitive on this blog, but it is spring on the farm, so.

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Starts with a big ol truck bed full of dirt
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Beautiful.
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Home grown tomatoes. Nothing better. 
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Sunshine and water is all we need now. 
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And suddenly, it’s gin o’clock. 

Wednesday, April 8. Day 24.

Today was a day.

We lost John Prine last night. I went to bed sad, thinking about listening to him in college, the impact his music and lyrics had on me.

I was out of sorts when I woke up, stressy and worried and restless. It was house-cleaning day, although 2 old people don’t mess up a house too much in a week. Before my honey and I got started cleaning, I put on some Prine, and the first chord hadn’t finished before I gave in to my tears. I cried about everything – fear of the virus, worry about the children and my parents, the loss of this beautiful man, the absolute frustration of what the Republicans have done to the country, the despair for the suffering that so many are experiencing in this health crisis.

I swept and mopped and scrubbed as JP’s voice soothed my raw nerves, like it used to do in my youth. In a couple of hours my house was clean, and my emotions were spent. My honey took my hand and led me outside without a word, where we headed out for our daily 3 miles on our little country lane.

We walked and chatted, he gave me space to grieve and rant, and before long around the bend came a very familiar car.

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It’s hard to see, but that hatted bandit is my girl Steen. She took a moment to drive out to wave from the window, and at a safe social distance to see our faces. It was the sweetest moment, and one I needed.

I had also posted a little whiney rant on Facebook, and after our walk I saw comment after comment of love and support.

I am an optimistic person, sometimes almost unrealistically. I rarely have dark moments, and when I do, they pass quickly. Today was one of those rare occasions.

But with the love and support of my honey, my family, my friends, and my community, I had my moment, felt it, expressed it, and moved on. I know this won’t be the only day like this. I know there are others who are suffering so much more than we are. I know that everyone is affected by this crisis to varying degrees.

Thursday, April 9. Day 25

Ay, this spring weather. Spent the day bringing in my as-yet-unplanted plants, and covering what I’ve already put in the ground.

Friday, April 10. Day 26

This is the easiest day to write a happy thing of the entire distancing series up to now. Today, at 10am, my oldest son texted me one word: PASSED.

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Ben, partner Kirsten, Suzy and River

What he was referencing were the results from the February 2020 Washington State Bar Exam. Which he passed.

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He’d already been hired in the Public Defender’s office in Chelan County, in Wenatchee, WA, but he needed the pass to be official.

Having taken the Bar Exam myself (California), I know how hard and challenging this test is. I’m so very proud of him, and so excited for his career.

Meanwhile, on the farm…

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I’m growing linens, apparently

Expecting a low of 34 degrees tonight, so all those tender plants get a nice cozy blanket.

Saturday, April 11. Day 27

I know I’ve blogged about how we’re eating: low carb, no grains/no sugar, mostly one meal a day, with a later snack. But we’re also trying to be a little playful about it. Here’s the menu board for a few days this week:

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It’s a little silliness, but helps us keep our good humor about not going out to eat, which we love to do.

Sunday, April 12. Day 28

End of the fourth week. Still no plan, especially here in Tennessee.

On this rainy Sunday, it is as good a time for a rant as any.

We have a binary system in our presidential election, for all intents and purposes. You vote for one, the other, for a nonviable 3rd party candidate, or not at all. That’s it. Those are the choices.

We are at such a level of destruction and emergency in our country, it is my opinion that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. In other words, if you are not with us, you are against us.

So I don’t care what your motivation is to vote for Trump.

Don’t like abortion? I don’t care.

Hate liberals? I don’t care.

Bernie didn’t win? I don’t care.

You’re not in a swing state so you claim you can make your political point with no damage? I don’t care.

Your own important and special reason? I don’t care.

Who you vote for is your choice and your right. But it is not without consequences. When you vote for Trump, you have chosen to empower the damage and pain he causes. I take that personally – that hurts so many people. And while I respect your right to vote as your conscience leads you, it affects how I feel about you. If we were friends up to that point, your vote alters the friendship. It alters my respect for you. Our values are too far apart to sustain a friendship. Your voting action far exceeds a difference of opinion or political strategy, or whatever it is that you claim you are doing.

So on your social media when you boast about voting for Trump because derpderpderp, don’t expect my respect or friendship.

And as to it being my responsibility to convince you otherwise? You’re a Trumper, by definition and your own statement. I have learned a slow hard lesson that it is not worth the breath and frustration it takes to try to reason with a Trumper. Hard pass. I’ll be out doing what I’ve done for years: registering new voters, encouraging nonvoters, and trying to win what is left of the persuadable middle.

 

The last day of the 4th week. Let’s end with a photo of my lone little azalea.

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It was a week of highs and lows. Squaring my shoulders to move forward.

Thanks for reading.

Social Distancing. Week 3.

Monday, Mar 30. Day 15

A good day on the farm. Sunny and bright, a little cool. Chicks are growing by the minute, and loving their coop. They’ve learned the ramp, and can put themselves to bed at night (as opposed to me getting the top half of body on the ground into the coop, catching them and putting them “upstairs” under the warming light, one by one).

Baby donk is adorable. A little pastoral shot with mommy:

We have a 3-mile loop on our dead-end country lane, and Eliott and I have made it a habit of walking it daily. It’s rural and I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve met another person walking while we are. Nice for social distancing, one little piece of elevation, so rural there are no lines painted anywhere. It was wonderful to get out and walk it today – it lends itself to long, uninterrupted conversations, as well as a good hour of exercise.

Tuesday, Mar 31. Day 16

Cold and rainy again, but that’s Tennessee spring. It’s convenient when it falls on a day I have to work at my desk, and the end of the month means closing out the old budget and beginning the new.

I’ve modified my plan just a little since my partner got home. I get teased by my kids for my dry-erase, color-coded life, but I’m ok with that. I know all of our minds work differently for how we manage ourselves, and this is what works for me. Back when I was a young mother, I used an old-school clipboard, with a precise schedule for the week’s activities, tasks to do, grocery list, calls to make, etc. Raising 4 children close in age made it necessary, for me, to empty my brain of all of that, so I could be fully engaged and focused on the moment.

So when I share with you the images of this method of management, you’ll understand me a little better.

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Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Seasonal. Projects for the yard. Calls to make. Things to do. As soon as it gets written, it goes into the queue of my life, and it moves up the priority until I get to it. More peasy than easy, but you get the drift.

 

Wednesday, April 1. Day 17

I’ve always celebrated April 1. I know it’s not the equinox, just a day on the calendar, but it’s always been my tradition that it’s a transition day. I think I began the habit before I was tuned in to using nature instead of the calendar, and I’ve just continued it.

My April tasks include filling and hanging the hummingbird feeders, setting out the hammock, putting the outdoor cushion and umbrellas out. It’s still too early to plant my tomatoes and flowers, but I can herald the coming of spring with some of these rituals.

Today was a little cool and still damp from yesterday’s rain, but I pushed forward. The grass is greening by the day, every tree is full of green buds, some with blossoms already, and there’s no doubt the earth is moving.

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This lilac smells as delightful as it looks

I suppose that is today’s thought. No matter what our attitude is, no matter how we approach this era in our world/nation/personal history, time will pass. This phenomena will run its course, whatever it is, and we will move on to a new phase. That’s what I mean when I put Take the Long View on my vision board. Someday this will be in the past, maybe even when you’re reading this blog. While there’s no right way to have done it, I hope I did the best I could with the circumstances.

 

Thursday, Apr 2. Day 18

Now beautiful again. I wonder how different it would have been to distance in another season. We kind of do a winter quasi-hibernation to begin with, which would seem to be a better time, but now at least we can get out and walk and get exercise, so sort of a trade-off. Tomato tomahto.

My honey is still adjusting to being home – walking around the farm, interacting with the animals, walking around the yard. We’ve begun a projects list, and like all of us, he enjoys adding to it and thinking about the sequence. He’s still tying up loose ends at work, so his head is in both worlds. He was working long, busy days before leaving DC, so the adjustment from that to this new pace has him marveling.

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My dear friend Darrel Ray lives on a bit of property, and he and I both remarked on a phone call that we’re being more methodical and slow about how we’re getting things done; we don’t want to get all of our projects complete too quickly. We both acknowledged how fortunate to be both on land that inherently ALWAYS has projects to do, and for it to be spring to get out and do them.

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New chick yard
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New mulch, beds are ready! 

 

Friday, April 3. Day 19

A beautiful spring day on the farm. Today was a day for mowing, tilling, and weeding. And a little chickie-watching.

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How do you not love all this?

Saturday, April 4. Day 20

If you’re bored with farming pics, this blog isn’t going to entertain you much. It was another really pretty day on the farm, so it was a day of mowing and tilling. However, it started off with a pretty exciting phone call.

I had ordered and paid for some tomatoes, peppers, petunias, geraniums, and jasmine from our local nursery. They’re still open for business, but we arranged a contact-free pickup, and they called to tell us our order was picked and ready. We drove the old farm truck over, called them when we got there, and they loaded our things right into the truck bed, and off we went back home.

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I was thrilled to get my plants, but it was distressing to see all the shoppers at the nursery, unmasked, ungloved, not distancing in the least. I just don’t think Tennesseans are taking this seriously at all. Between Trump’s message, and the soft stay-at-home gentle suggestion our governor made only days ago, they are not grasping the situation.

Sunday, April 5. Day 21

A beautiful sunny day to end the week.

I’ll mix up the farming pics with food pics. We’re eating low carb, as we have for years, and we’re doing daily fasting of about 20 hours a day. We have fatty coffee in the mornings, then have a big meal around 4, and another snack/small meal around 8. In nutrition circles, that’s known as OMAD (one meal a day). We keep a lot of meat in our freezer, so our grocery delivery has consisted mostly of fresh and frozen vegetables. Eliott and I both enjoy cooking, so we take turns.

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Meatloaf, cauli rice, green salad, and chaffles

We use our daily walks to talk through our plan, to ensure we understand what we’re facing, to share any news that we have read that the other might not have. We discuss our coping strategies, how to help the children, how we’re managing my parents (82 and 84, distancing together a couple of hundred miles away). It’s been a lovely week, and we recognize how incredibly fortunate we are to be isolating, in such a beautiful place, with the animals, together.

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Thanks for reading.

Social Distancing. Week 2.

Monday, March 23. Day 8

Gah. We need some sunshine. We’ve had a pretty rainy March in middle Tennessee. It hasn’t been too cold, which is nice, but that has resulted in an abundance of weed and grass growth, that no one can mow because it’s too wet! We had a couple of hours of glorious sunshine yesterday, and I was stunned at how warm it felt and how beautiful it was.

I’m committed to getting out every single day, regardless of the weather, so I caught a quick hour walk dodging the rain storms. I really didn’t want to go – like most of you, I was still in my jammies, working around the house answering emails and enjoying the sound of the soft rain. But that’s when I have to rely on my rational brain, not my emotional one, and get dressed and get out. And of course, I’m always glad I did.

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Today’s concern was with politics. I didn’t catch Trump’s press conference live, but when I read about it later, I’m just livid. Hinting that we’ll open the country back up in a week or two might be the WORST possible thing we could do. Why would the US be exempt from the pattern we’ve seen in China, South Korea, and Italy? The sooner we get this lockdown going, the sooner we get this under control, and the sooner we can return to whatever will be normal then. There are just not enough words to describe this timeline: we’re facing the most serious national health crisis we’ve ever faced, with the worst leadership we’ve ever had.

Tuesday, March 24. Day 9

It’s not the isolation or the virus that’s going to kill me – it’s the endless, relentless rain. This is normal spring weather for middle Tennessee, and I get mad at it this time every year. Grass is growing, weeds are up, can’t mow in a downpour. Need to weed the beds and till the garden, but it’s a mucky mess (reminds me of Mark Twain’s description of the Mississippi River: too thick to drink, too thin to plow).

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So today’s agenda includes all the inside stuff, plus I think I’ll start a puzzle.

 

Wednesday, Mar 25. Day 10

Went into double digits today for days sequestered. What will life be like when I go into triple? Current reports indicate that our trajectory is going straight up. Today, New York appears to be the epicenter in the US. Washington and Louisiana are very high, and it looks like Florida will be the next hardest hit. Tennessee continues life apace – no state mandates. Schools have been closed but not businesses, and from my local social media,

One of my guidelines is to restrict/limit/manage the flood of information coming in. I try to ration global, national, state, and local news (which, I’ll admit, is a skill I’ve probably needed to develop). I like politics and government, and at other times I read and watch a lot of political news. Since the virus is devouring the airwaves, and because there’s so much anxiety + anger and how we’re being governed now, I’ve cut my consumption down to about 3 hours a day: an hour in the morning and 2 hours in the evening.

Today was a good day, in spite of. Everything. I braved the outside world and took my trash and recycling to the dump. It wasn’t busy, so I didn’t have to dodge a single interaction. I could put my trash and recyclables in their bins without touching anything. I drove straight there and straight home. We have to find our victories.

Then I earned my Community Action merit badge by picking up a bag of trash on the lane where I live. Even if it was rainy and drippy.

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Then my chicken coop was delivered! My little guys are growing by the day, and I’ll be glad to get it put together for them.

Then the rain stopped. Glorious glorious sunshine. I jumped on the mower and did a quick cut of the front yard. Oh, the smell of freshly mown lawn in the spring.

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Lastly, I had a cocktail party with the leadership team of the nonprofit I work for. Look at these faces. We can get through this, with a little help from our friends.

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Thursday, Mar 26. Day 11

Sunshine all day long. What a difference my outlook has been since the rain stopped. 10 days of nonstop rain right over the top of this national crisis, the claustrophobia of being shut in, and the need to get outside was beginning to take its toll on my disposition.

Today, however, was the opposite. I was outside from just after daybreak til just after dark, and it was delicious.

Mowed everything, weeded beds, turned the compost – spring is here (or close enough to feel like it today). I also had a little fun with last year’s grapevine pruning: made a little wreath to add to the garden gate.

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Friday, Mar 27. Day 12

Now that the grass is mowed, I have picked out the space for my new coop.

Here’s how it started:

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And here’s how it ended:

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My little guys are so happy!

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It will take a couple of days of training them to use the ramp. So several times a day, I crawl in there and put them up in the brooder, then push gently urge them down the ramp.

 

Saturday, Mar 28. Day 13

And on Day 13, my honey came home.

My partner has been working in DC, and the company for whom he has been consulting has finally cut everyone loose to go home. They’ve been observing safety protocol, but nothing’s as good as sending everyone HOME.

It resets my calendar back to Day 1 for the incubation period (although not for the distancing ticker), but I’ll take it. We’ll hunker down together here on the farm for the duration. So glad to have my lovey back.

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Sunday, Mar 29. Day 14

Today’s weather was stunning. Warm and sunny, birds singing, grass growing – you’d never know there is a global pandemic. Eliott spent the day walking around the farm, getting reacquainted with all the animals, looking at my projects – my amateur fence-building skills, the coop, and a little home repair I’d done in his absence.

We had a delicious dinner al fresco – he grilled the steaks, and I baked the mac n cheese (faux, cauliflower version).

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Not a bad week. All the kids and partners seem to be managing, and my parents are complying with all the new rules down in Georgia. I am grateful beyond words to have a warm dry house on a lively little farm to endure this challenging time.

Thanks for reading.

Social distancing. Week 1.

Wow, a blog post about our national crisis! What a completely new and different thing!

Initially, this was just for me. A place to write down all the feels and emotions and fears. I’m not an intensely private person, and I recognized there might come a time when I would share it. This is all about the therapeutic effect writing has for me, but I’ve decided to share some of what I’m journaling about.

 

Tuesday, March 17. Day 1

Today I drove from Washington, DC to Murfreesboro to begin my sequestration. I headed out last week for a speaking engagement at ETSU, then traveling on for a quick visit to my honey who is working a consulting gig in DC. The situation got more serious by the day, so I cut my visit short when it became apparent that this was not going away any time soon. I can leave my farm for a few days at a time, but I couldn’t stay the duration with my sweetheart.
I stopped at my Publix coming into my town to get isolation supplies and a few groceries. I was surprised to see how busy the store was, considering how locked down DC had felt as I left. I was able to get most of what I needed for a couple of weeks of staying at home.
This means that I’m isolating alone (kind of redundant). I’ve always enjoyed solitude, but I recognize the challenge this will be.

 

Wednesday, March 18. Day 2

I’ve been here before. Not with the added layer of a severe national crisis that might affect life on this planet as we know it, but you know. When I studied for the Bar in 2015, I spent 3 months is mostly self-isolation. I was living alone, I studied 8 hours a day with breaks for food, exercise, and relaxation, but only 1/2 day per week socializing with friends in town. This feels a lot like that, but I was so singularly focused on study, I wasn’t really feeling the effects of the isolation.

I’m ready to permanently relocate to the Pacific Northwest, to be nearer to my adult children. It was my plan to put my farm on the market on April 1. Not so fast, I guess. So while I’ve been trying to prepare for the move: I’ve gotten rid of my longhorn cattle, and am still working to rehome my donkeys and goats, I’m reversing some of that.

Freethought Farm stays As Is for the time being, and I ventured out today for a dozen baby chicks. The store agreed on the phone to bring them and the feed to the car, so contact was limited. I’ve ordered a new coop online, since in my preparation I’d given away my old one to a neighbor.

Now these little peepers are keeping me entertained, reminding me of the continuity of life, and will be laying by August.

 

Thursday, March 19. Day 3

Today I drew up some guidelines. Suggestions. Parlay.

A dear friend, mentor, and psychologist recently shared a video with words of encouragement and education. I’ve added to and tweaked some of his suggestions to keep me grounded in the days to come.

It’s a work in progress, but it felt good to write it out, and gives me goals to achieve every day. I’ll repost the shot as I add more items that help me. Don’t ask me if I’m adding a color-coded checkmark to my schedule every day unless you want the answer.

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Friday, March 20. Day 4

Today I changed my strategy, and it was a tough day. I had initially planned on making a once-a-week foray into town to get groceries, and anything else I needed. I could practice good 6-ft technique, limit my exposure, all that. I have a car that is due for emissions testing/registration, a check to deposit, a package to mail.

Now I’ve decided not to do that. I can have grocery delivery. I’m going to let the cars expire (won’t be driving them anyway, and I’ll take the ticket or fine or whatever). I’ll mail the check and hold off on the package. I’m not standing in judgment of anyone who does otherwise – my own beloved partner is still working in DC, my son and son-in-love are still working on-site, and probably will continue to for the time being. But since I can accommodate those tasks without leaving the house, I am.

Right now, the next thing I’d really like to have is some vegetables for my garden. The nursery I use is open-air, and around April 15, I’d like to get some tomatoes and peppers and squash. Something that would have been routine and trivial has now become a Big Upcoming Event. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 21. Day 5

I can’t stress enough how grateful I am a) that I live on a farm and b) that it’s spring. Both of these things are helping tremendously in filling my days with productivity. The video below is a combination of both of those things:

 

Her name is Corona. ❤

 

Sunday, March 22. Day 6

This is the best day of the week. This is the day I Zoom with the Fam. I missed catching my grandson in the screen grab, b/c he had to dash out to go snowmobiling with his grandpa before dark. Notice the ChickCam in the upper right.
The kids are all isolating in their homes with their partners/roommates. We all share the same anxiety about the situation, but generally everyone is prepared to hunker down for a while. This 90 minutes has become the most important 90 minutes of my week. Grateful beyond words for technology that will sustain us through this crisis.

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My first week has been an evolving adjustment. I’m moving toward acceptance that this is going to be longer than just a couple of weeks. One of my Guidelines is to set realistic expectations, and then adjust them with new information. That’s what this timeline blog will be about.

I’ll try to post regularly on Mondays, as it helps me to anchor to a schedule and some semblance of structure. If you’re journaling too, or have a blog about your experiences with this strange new world, please share it in the comments.

Thank you for reading, and staying connected, even if just electronically. We have so much to learn.

 

Good fences and all that

With everything in our nation being as serious as I have ever known it in my lifetime, here’s a little lighthearted DIY about a simple fence.

I live on a little farm in middle Tennessee. 8 acres, with a pond, a couple of barns, pastures, and a huge yard. Lots of room to breathe and roam and spread out. Neighbors just near enough and far enough away. Hard to believe that as much as I love it that I intend to put it on the market for sale this spring. Moving to the PNW to be nearer to my 4 adult children, but that’s a blog for another day.

Anyway, with all of that space, wouldn’t you just know that my favorite place to have coffee or a sunset cocktail backs up to precisely where my nearest neighbors like to have THEIR coffee and sunset cocktail.

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I’ve needed for a long time to put up a little semi-private barrier between our yards. It’s not so bad in summer, when all the leaves on the trees fill in and create a visual and noise filter. But in winter. Yikes. No cover at all. Hidee-ho, neighbor.

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My partner is off on a consult in Washington DC for a few months, so I’m left to my own devices. I’d love to have this ready for when he gets home and we can have our coffee on the deck in our jammies on a warm spring morning.

Phase I: the planning. The 40′ stretch actually has a fence, an old deteriorated chain link, with wobbly posts, and overgrown with vines and trees. I’ve got to see if I can clear out enough brush and vine to put up a straight length of fence.

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All that gotta go
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All that gotta go from another angle.
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What’s a farm story without a dog?
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Or two.

Phase II: The clearing. Clippers. Chain Saw. Hand Saw. Shovel. Rake. Wheelbarrow.

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Damn you, old vine elbow that protrudes into my line! And is grown INTO the chain link. MOAR CHAIN SAW!
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*sigh* And again. Chainsawing dirt is good for the blade.
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Seriously. Such a helper.
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Some removal was too tight for the chainsaw.
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What’s a fence-building story without a stuck chainsaw? I know this is out of sequence, because it’s after the stock panels are up. I thought I could get away with leaving this one up. Nope.

Phase III: Set t-posts. I’ve decided on an unconventional, shortcut version of my fence. I’m going to construct it of t-posts, stock panels, 1″x4″x8′ uprights, and 4’x8′ lattice panels. Semi-private, but not rude or anti-social. Privacy lite.

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Don’t be hatin my old pos farm truck!

Phase IV: Run the stock panels. This will serve as the framework for the uprights and the lattice panels. Attach to the t-posts with a little clippy, easy peasy quick and squeezy.

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Laid in, but not clipped. It gets straighter, I promise.
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Because none of us can give them enough of our money

Phase V: Attach the uprights. This ended up being the trickiest of all the tasks, because I’m attaching the uprights to the stock panels with poultry-netting staples,  small u-shaped nails which have to be hammered into the back, reaching over the top of the stock panel, and with only inches to hammer between the panel and the old chain link.

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Hard to see, but the space between the old fence and the new is about 8 inches. Plenty of room to swing a hammer.
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Here’s a better view.

Final Phase: Set the panels, and watch it grow! This was the most dramatic of the phases, and also the fastest and easiest! Sometimes I joke that Freethought Farm has a second nickname: ZipTie Acres. Those little suckers are handy! I’ll admit if you come see my fence, if you look closely, you’ll see a ziptie or two.

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Suh. Weet. Every time.
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It’s happening!
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A little precision detail work…

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Halfway there.
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Almost done.

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How I Spent My Superbowl Sunday.

Now for an icy mule as I sit and enjoy my deck, now with extra solitude.

I’ll come back and post photos of the mandevilla or jasmine I’ll plant after it vines and blooms.

Thanks for reading!

Seasons

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!

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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.

 

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Deck, Sam style

Home Improvement Time!

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:

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This area stayed muddy and bare, even in summer.

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Big Vaughn there, the big black lab. I heart him.

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:

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I would recognize this printing anywhere.
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1st cartfull…
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Some assembly required.
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Beginning of frame, end of Day 1

DAY 2

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Rainy, rainy workday
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Very soggy crew.

DAY 3

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Cold but sunny for Steps day.

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DAY 4

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Note the mud…
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Final touches
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Party time! 
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Here it is!

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.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Adventures in Hardwood

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.

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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.

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This is looking west…
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This is looking east…

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.

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Blerg. Nasty carpet.
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Hoping against hope there is neither a big burn mark in the middle, or a piece of scabbed plywood.
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Intact! Isn’t it beautiful?

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.

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Man at work.
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Bare naked wood.

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.

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You knew I’d get a picture of either one my kids or one of my dogs in the post. Here’s both.

Second trip to Home Depot. This time it’s for polyurethane, brushes, and more sandpaper (very fine, to use between coats).

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Third coat, each with 24-hour drying period.
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Where shelves meet floor.

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.

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x 4
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x 3. We are so happy with this, we intend to do the living room next, so there was no need to finish that threshold.

The finished look:

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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…).

Happy Holidays and thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Little pup, big job

I am so excited about this adventure.

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.

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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:

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Gus comes around.

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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.

Thanks for reading!

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