Sunday, April 29, 2012

Meadowlark Progress

 click here to read the previous Meadowlark Cabin post

Twenty posts in the ground, 100 bags of concrete, and a very tired husband.  The foundation is set and firmly in place.  Very soon, the Amish crew will arrive for an old-fashioned cabin-raising!  I AM EXCITED!  Soon, we will have enough room to roam, which means extended stays.  Our interior won't be finished until next year, but that is fine by me.  A "shell" is quite habitable and will keep us plenty dry and warm.  Good deal!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Brick Lady

Although I have my weekend cabin at Burr Oak, the majority of my living is done in my in-town home, The Brick Lady.  She is an old Victorian, built head-to-toe of Nelsonville block.  Many hours of research, both on-line and at the county courthouse, have revealed that my Brick Lady was born somewhere between 1895-1905.  Phil and I traced our parcel back to its beginnings, but the actual construction of the house was unclear in the records we uncovered at the courthouse.  What we did discover was that there used to be a tannery that covered most of my block, which would have been very convenient during the time period, considering that the back of the block (which is now route 33) was a canal!

Daniel Nelson laid out the original town plat map of fifty-seven lots on June 16th, 1818  .  According to the plat, our property is lot #1.  Yes, number one, numero uno!  We definitely do not have the oldest house in town, and our piece of earth is not any older than the earth down the street, but by golly, our piece of earth was deemed number one by Mr. Nelson(ville) himself!  How exciting for us when we discovered this tidbit of historical trivia.  I'm not sure anyone in town really cares about what number their piece of Nelsonville was assigned, but when you just happen to coincidentally be "number one", all of a sudden it becomes a big honkin' deal.  In fact, one of these days I need to get an official looking bronze plaque for my house that says something of real importance... like those historical markers you see in significant cities such as Boston or Philadelphia.  I'll put that on the to-do list.

1875 Nelsonville Plat Map

The Brick Lady definitely has a few...umm... issues.  For starters, none of her floors are straight which causes us to use creative solutions to make our furniture appear to be level (ie - wadded up cardboard placed under a cabinet leg!)  The basement is the sort of place that dwells in kids' nightmares.  Dark, damp, dirt floors, cobwebs and insects of the deep earth everywhere.  To be fair, the basement was built for important and critical functions of the time, like coal storage and a root cellar (not to store excess Christmas decorations).

House centipedes find the dank basement ideally wonderful.  A centipede could not ask for better habitat and therefore they've made themselves at home by the dozens...or hundreds..of dozens!  We've battled the house centipede since day one of inhabiting the Brick Lady.  Some summers are worse than others.  The summer that a centipede crawled out of a stack of papers was particularly bad.  Why was that incident so bad? Because I was CARRYING THE PAPERS at the time!  Yes, the feathery legs scurried at lightning speed up my arm before I went into some sort of primeval instinctive dance to rid my arm of the hideous beast!

I don't like centipedes.  I hate them... and "hate" is not a word that I use often.  They are the absolute worst insect that I've ever met.   Over the past five years, I've worked hard at overcoming my childhood fear of insects.  I'm no longer afraid of most crawlies, but the centipede is the last bug standing... and I just can't get past it!
But last summer wasn't so bad.  We only saw three centipedes the entire season thanks to a dehumidifier in the basement and a few strategically placed bug bombs!  Hey, I never claimed to be organic when it comes to chemical warfare against centipedes..... and yes, entomologists, I do know that bug bombs kill all the "good" insects and just drive the "bad" ones elsewhere (like upstairs into the house!)  yeah, yeah, yadda, yadda, blah...BLAH... BLAH!

Sooo, why do I love The Brick Lady?  And I do love her so!  She has the charm, grace, and elegance that only comes through the passing of time.  She has the practicality and frugality of someone who has lived through rough times like floods, storms, The Great Depression, and The Parade of the Hills.  She is a true artist at heart, throwing her walls to the whim of creative expression! Her tile fireplace hearths, twelve inch woodwork and carved rosettes, glass doorway transoms, and hand-turned baluster staircase are the glitzy jewels that adorn her otherwise humble and modest existence.

Probably, I love her most for her nonjudgmental ways and her immediate acceptance of my cat and me as we came with tear-stained faces and broken-hearts back to the safety of our hometown. She opened her front door and embraced me while giving me the courage to finally learn to live.

she had no objection to me painting her front door plum purple... in fact, she LOVES it

the large front window and the transoms are the only original glass left .  all of the other windows have been replaced with new energy-efficient double-hung windows. = modern = something lost ... I did not replace the windows, the former owners did.  my nostalgic heart has a hard time with that sort of thing even though it is clearly the "smart" thing to do

queen anne's lace... one of my very favorites!   and excuse me, dear husband of mine, they are most certainly NOT WEEDS!

After Phil and I visited Gettysburg one summer, I came home knowing that I wanted a historic flag to fly on my front porch.  The next Christmas, one was wrapped under the tree with my name on the package!  Thanks Philly!

I am thankful for my neighbor's beautiful weeping cherry tree.  it frames my house nicely in spring

The Brick Lady in spring

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The 40

Garden Update: April 15, 2012

 click here to read the previous garden update

We are halfway through April and are right on mostly on schedule.

all gardens weeded
vegetable garden tilled
cabbage planted
vidalias planted
swiss chard planted
three new evergreens planted
ornamental grasses cut down
patio cleaned
salad bowls planted

front flower garden border
mulching in all beds
tomato seedlings

finish all "in progress"
buy more landscape border
plant onion sets for scallions
plant broccoli starts
thin tomato seedlings
till tomato annex
till pepper garden
install privacy fence in sideyard (for Julia)
turn compost and re-start for new season

TO DO (in May):
move houseplants to front porch
plant all warm weather crops
plant purple fountain grass in containers
purchase ferns

TO DO (someday):
replace broken landscape lighting
paint porch (preferably before moving houseplants outside for the summer)
paint window frames

We are BUSSSSYYY!  All of that to do here at The Brick Lady while Operation: Field of Dreams awaits our time on the other side of the hill.  I LOVE IT! 

my salad bowls (aka three whiskey barrels!) -- this will provide me with fresh salad greens until mid-summer when they finally bolt from the heat and go to seed

gorgeous salad greens!!! YAY for salad!  I save tons of money by growing my own salad greens.  the greens at the farmer's market are superb quality and taste, but expensive

stonehead cabbage.  this is the only variety of cabbage we grow.  the other common varieties cannot stand up to the heat like stonehead, which causes them to crack and rot from the bottom up.  this variety is excellent!

cabbage patch -- soon we will be making casseroles galore... and I'm looking forward to trying new recipes that I gathered over the winter

tomato seedlings.  we don't usually start tomatoes indoors from seed, but this year Dad wanted to give it a try.  we started several fun varieties of heirlooms.  they are doing well in the greenhouse window, and in fact, need to be thinned very soon. the containers are recycled fruit cups that are NON-RECYCLABLE plastic5 -- oh, please someone stop me before I venture on a hand-waving, eye-rolling, mouth-spouting rant.  I will happily and pleasantly discuss different plastic recyclables and the misleading claims that the packaging companies make during a different post on a different day.

tomatoes are what it is all about in this household!  we will grow as many plants as our gardens will hold. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

OPERATION: Field of Dreams


The land is what matters.  The land is more important than the cabin, always has been, always will be.  It is sacred family ground that has seen generations of the Kittle family come and go... as is the way with these sort of things.

Currently, my dad is proprietor and caretaker.  It is a huge commitment of love and heart, to be sure!  Mom, Phil and I, all share in the work of the farm, though it hasn't been an operating farm for many years, I still remember the wandering cattle and PaPaw calling them up out of the wooded ravine with a loud bellowing yell that echoed off the hillside.  I am thankful for memories like those - I don't have a picture or a recording, but the memory is safely tucked into my heart.  All I have to do is push the "play" button inside my head and I can see and hear it like it happened only yesterday.   Click here to read more about the land.

Since the land passed to Dad's hands three summers ago, we've spent countless hours and dollars restoring, resurrecting, and rejuvenating.  It isn't an easy job, but we are all committed to it for more reasons than I could ever list here.  The land quickly became an integral part of our lives and it was a natural next step to invest in housing that would allow us to stay the weekends and the occasional longer stretch of time.  During the first summer, we bought a very small one-room Amish built cabin. 

our current cabin sits uphill from the pond, nestled into a grove of fruit trees
The cabin was large enough for a bed, a kitchenette, a "bathroom", and a few chairs.  Once Julia was born in August of our second summer, we quickly realized that we had a space-problem on our hands!  That was when we started ever-so-slowly formulating a plan of what to do next!

Phil dressing Julia during her first trip to the lake.  She was about two months old.

Last year (third summer), we made do in our tiny cabin, but it wasn't easy!  Julia refused to sleep in the pack-n-play and I had to put her in the full-size bed with Phil and me most nights.  This caused us so much crowding and lack of sleep that we eventually ended up building an additional twin-size bedframe where Phil could sleep.  And the mornings weren't any easier! The size of the cabin (and the fact that it was wall-to-wall sleeping apparatuses - twin bed, full bed, and pack-n-play, and DOG BED!) prohibited Julia from having any floor space to play.  And since she wasn't yet walking and couldn't be put down in the dew-soaked morning grass, someone had to be responsible for toting her around the farm or trying to appease her with endless stroller rides to the front gate and back.... over and over and over!

Once the summer came to an end, one thing was certain - we needed more space!  Expanding our existing cabin was not feasible.   The size and shape and log placement made a cabin expansion a gigantic challenge, if not impossible, that stumped even my father (whom I deem a master carpenter and contractor). So, Phil and I began our endless conversations of what to do.  Should we build from scratch?  Should we buy a separate cabin down the road from the farm and move off of the land?  Should we buy another pre-built Amish cabin, but in a larger size? 

We decided a few things quickly:
1.  We were not going to leave the farm (although we had found another cabin for sale that was within 100 yards of the edge of our property, we knew it wasn't what we truly wanted)
2. We did not want to build from scratch.  That option would have taken Phil away from Julia and me a thousand evenings and we weren't willing to give up that time!
3. We wanted to be able to "design" the cabin ourselves.
4. The cabin location had to be at the edge of the woods with a view of open meadow in front.

Finally, after months and months of deliberating, we decided on a site location, a design, and a builder.  We are laying the foundation ourselves, purchasing our own doors and windows, and completing all interior work including electricity and plumbing.  The exterior shell and roof will be built by an Amish crew using only hand-held and gas-powered tools. They will come to our property and stay for a few days to do an old-fashioned barn cabin-raising!

the back of the cabin will have a 32 foot long screened porch that will face the woods

one of twenty holes that had to be dug for the support pillars

drilling holes into the earth with the auger

Dad chopping down the dead tree. BELIEVE ME, it was dead as a doornail, I would NEVER chop a living tree for the sake of moving my building site an additional few feet down the hillside!
squaring the cabin and doing a whole lotta other stuff that I don't understand! ha!


Saturday, April 7, 2012

April's Pink Moon

Each full moon throughout the calendar year is given a name.  The name is usually derived by that particular month's natural happenings.  For example, the ever-popular Harvest Moon, is the full moon that graces our skies during the harvest.   I really like the tradition of naming the full moon each month as it is a direct link to nature as viewed through the eyes of Native Americans.  I often think about the Native Americans and try to imagine what they saw in our hills and valleys.  I walk by large rocks in the woods and wonder if they used that location for shelter?  I look at a found arrowhead in a freshly plowed farm-field and wonder whose hands last touched it before mine?

According to my research and the Farmer's Almanac, most of the full moons were named by Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.  Luckily, early European settlers continued the tradition and kept the link to nature alive and meaningful.

April's Pink Moon is named for the pink phlox that was thought to be the earliest wildflower to bloom in spring.  There are a few other full moon names for April, such as Sprouting Grass Moon and Egg Moon, but I don't think they are as well known, and I prefer the sweetness of the Pink Moon!

As for our 2012 Pink Moon, I waited ever so patiently at Crabtree Field as the dark of night enveloped me. Finally, around 8:30 (about 15 minutes after expected moonrise, due to our hills) I saw the faintest of light above the tree line.  I know the general mainstream population would deem me odd, but I get a total thrill out of watching the moonrise.  I feel my heart rate pick up and the excitement of watching it come over the treeline is exhilarating!  I know that it will only last a few minutes and I try to take in every single second of it!

the last of daylight slipping into the horizon

Unfortunately, in my haste to leave the house, I didn't have time to gather my tripod.  As I was walking out the door at 8pm, I had an unexpected visit from a neighbor wanting help with opening a festive and celebratory bottle of champagne.  Theeeennnn, she wanted to share a glass with Phil and me!  Just my luck, a chance to share a bottle of champagne to celebrate an occasion, and I had to head out the door to chase the moon.  The neighbor understood that the moon would not wait.    So consequently, I had neither tripod nor champagne. To compensate for the absent tripod, I had to use random bricks, concrete blocks, elbows perched on knees, etc.  The photos are subpar, but that's okay, you still get the idea.

April's Pink Moon - April 6, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

The 40

Garden Update: April 6, 2012

 to read previous garden updates, click here

We are about a week behind, but considering we are behind every year, we are actually right on time in historical perspective.  Tomorrow Phil plans to plow the garden, but before he can do that, he has to spread compost over the surface to rejuvenate our tired soil.  We just do not have the room to do a proper crop rotation, so we do our best to supplement with compost and fertilizer -- not organic gardening, but I've never made that claim!

Our schedule has been crazy-busy!  We are in the midst of a *huge* project that I call "operation field of dreams".  In other words, we are building my dream in the middle of a field.  Makes sense, eh?   okay, well to be less cryptic, we are building a new cabin at the farm. We long ago outgrew our current cabin and after hours and hours and hours of discussion, we have finally broken ground on "Meadowlark Cabin", which sits in the middle of "the field of dreams", of course!  ....but as usual, I digress.  (I promise to soon elaborate on Meadowlark Cabin and the field of dreams in which it sits!!  promise!)

back to The 40.  The gardens look beautiful.  I have been weeding whenever I get a rare spare moment.  My immediate upcoming plans are to plant the cold weather crops, put down landscaping fabric around our new evergreens, mulch everywhere, and paint the front porch.  Later this summer, I would like to paint the window frames and replace my broken landscape lighting... but those things will have to wait.

last year's onions.  it always amazes me how onions can stay in the ground seemingly forever, through the seasons, and still look perfect and GROW!  Carrots and parsnips do the same thing!

today I worked on ridding the garden of weeds, up-heaving the divider bricks, and removing all of my doo-dads (aka garden statues) in preparation for the tiller

The only edible plants that are thriving right now are the garlic and rhubarb.  The asparagus that we planted four years ago has been a gigantic disappointment.  Last year, Phil and I harvested about 10 spears, we each had a tummy-filling FIVE spears to ourselves.  Oh well.  I willl probably plant something else in its place and just let it fizzle out.  We've been told that we haven't fertlized properly.  Probably true, but I can't be bothered with fussy plants, which is the main reason I don't plant cauliflower anymore!

gorgeous asparagus spear.  too bad there aren't 25 more just like it.

garlic.  one of my favorite plants to grow!  notice the asparagus spears surrounding it.  I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it is lethal to asparagus to grow it next to garlic.  ha!

rhubarb!  this plant is four years old, the oldest rhubarb in my garden.  I have two other patches that I planted last year.  I love rhubarb plants!  they are so old-fashionably lovely!

The non-edible perennials are all thriving!  I adore perennials and just can't wait each season to watch them poke their sleepy heads above the earth to greet the spring sun.  Over the years, I have planted so many perennials in a haphazard manner, that I have forgotten the names of most of the varieties.  I once saw a garden that was mapped out and each plant was labeled with both common and Latin names, variety, and date planted.  Wow!  I didn't do that.  ha!
I do have random hostas, coral bells, lavender, sedum, roses, ferns, ivy, begonia, peony, hens-and-chicks, milkweed, yarrow, and ornamental grasses.

my largest hosta variety preparing to unfurl.  this particular variety grows gigantic leaves! 

good ol' reliable hostas!

tulips, hosta, and english ivy (and a few weeds)

crabapple blossoms on the tree that we planted three years ago