May 31st, 2010 §
The keets turned three weeks old last Tuesday. Last week when they moved to the farm, they got new digs in a much larger box that’s now thankfully in the garage instead of the kitchen. Birds are messy.
The birds had been learning to perch on their water and food dispensers, so I made them a nice training perch that they seem to enjoy.
May 30th, 2010 §
As you may have guessed from my long silence, things progressed nicely on the house front. In a one-week blur of C.O. nailbiting, final walks, punch lists, bank meetings, invoice haggling and frenzied packing the house was done. I moved in a week ago today, one year to the day from closing on the property, and I have spent the past week trying to get things in order. So without further ado, I present the mostly finished house before it was hit by the tornado of my belongings:
Living room/someday library, above
Powder room tucked under the stairs
Awaiting a dishwasher, due in next week
Guest bedroom, downstairs
Guest bath directly across the hall
Sitting area at the top of the stairs
Same space from the master bedroom door
Master bath from front dormer
As you can see, there is still a lot to be done. The storage-area access doors, built-ins for the master bathroom and master bedroom. I need to get the cover on my vent hood in the kitchen, and build out the closets. And then there’s the landscaping outside, front and back porch stairs, and finishing the back porch ceiling and screening in the porch. Oh, and the guineas need a coop!
But in the past week I’ve hung towel bars, got a phone line and satellite internet installed, installed window blinds and Dad put in the foyer and kitchen light fixtures. So we’re making progress. Even though there is still so much to do, when I think about how far I have come, those projects seem positively recreational!
And the best news is I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful house. I had no idea a year ago that this would ever happen, let alone turn out so well. I am still a bit in disbelief that it’s a Real House. Everywhere I look, I see through walls to the underlying framing and systems. I still see this place as a collection of two-by-fours open to the the sky, and each time I climb the stairs I remember the months I scrambled up and down a ladder propped in that spot. It’s a hard feeling to articulate…To know something this intimately, to have lain awake most nights for the past year obsessing about every detail from start to finish definitely translates to an intensity of affection I’ve until now never experienced for a place. It’s what I’ve wanted my whole life, and it pretty much blows my mind.
May 17th, 2010 §
The keets will be two weeks old tomorrow, and they’re rapidly growing out of their cuteness. They’ve sprouted feathers and have been experimenting with flapping across their brooder box. I need to start building that coop now!
Last week I sold half of the keets to a nice young woman down the road who is building an organic farm. I got such a response from my CraigsList ad that I am think of becoming a keet broker.
The remaining babies, sixteen in all, are still fun to watch particularly when I give them bugs. That’s a good sign, as I got them to control the bug population at my farm. They are supposed to go crazy for white millet, so much so that it’s recommended as a training/taming aid, but my birds don’t give a hoot for the little seeds. Instead, their drug of choice, which I just discovered yesterday, is grass! They love the little seedheads and the only time they willingly approach me is when I am holding a stalk out to them. Otherwise, they are very flighty and not at all as docile as chickens.
Tonight when I was cleaning their cage, I moved them all to a smaller box in which they roiled and cried and flapped about on their new wings. I left the room to refill their feeder and when I returned one keet was wildly calling with a shrill alarm. Much to my surprise I found that this little one had flown the box and was strutting about the kitchen floor.
I scooped her up and dubbed her Bathsheba, she who dared escape the madding crowd. Away from the group think of her flockmates, she was tame and even perched on my finger like a parakeet. Can you imagine how uncomfortable it must be to have all those little pin feathers poking up all over your body?
May 16th, 2010 §
I worked late on Friday night and by the time I left the office, a beautiful almost-summer evening was shaping up. Thunderheads marched from the west during my drive up to the house, and out of no where the honeysuckle had burst into bloom and perfumed the heavy air that swept into my air conditioned-less vehicle. After checking out the house and watering my new trees, I sat until sundown on the front porch and watched the lightning show behind the mountain. I have to say that the last thirteen months of this often-maddening adventure were totally worth it for that moment, my first porch sit.
New updates include the completion of the kitchen redo. The new counter was installed, and I was very pleased to find the appliances in place, minus the dishwasher, which is coming in a few weeks and minus the range hood, which my dad will install because it requires modification beyond what my “builder” can manage. The kitchen sink was replumbed and guess what!? Now the sink and faucet are aligned on the window above!
My builder is calling for the C.O. tomorrow, so fingers crossed we pass the inspection. There are quite a few things that, although not really hazardous, are probably not perfect if we get a stickler inspector. A big one is we haven’t yet built railings around the porches…so if I am required to have them expect to see a few hastily tacked up 2×4s in upcoming photos!
After the C.O., next week will be spent cleaning and May 23 is scheduled move-in day! Do you believe it? I don’t! It will be a year and a day from when I closed on the property, which was May 22, 2009. And what a year it’s been!
The painting was also done on the stair railing, and I love it. I spent a couple of hours sanding each factory-sharp edge off of each banister and newel, and I love how the whole thing, upon close inspection, looks soft and old, like its been there forever.
I’d also gotten register grates, and the laundry sink, which my dad and I had positioned and installed last weekend, was in place. The gas tank for my stove was also set on the concrete pad we poured last weekend, and gas was flowing to my stove. I can’t wait to get cooking on these beautiful counters and with this gleaming gas stove. I am used to a stove that required me to regulate its temperature by cracking the door and setting fans to blow across the opening, so this is luxury!
Speaking of cooking, doesn’t this just make you want to make a cherry pie? It seems to be the week for cherry ripening here, but the local birds are really the ones enjoying the feast. Which is fine with me—I hope that in future years I will be able to partake in the harvest, but with all the other things I am trying to manage right now, I am happy to share.
May 6th, 2010 §
Today my farm took a giant leap forward in credibility with the arrival of my first livestock: 32 guinea keets. After having had two tick bites already this season, I decided to go the natural pest control route with these little guys. Guineas have a reputation for eating all sorts of bugs, snakes, mice and other undesirables—without scratching as destructively as can chickens. They also make a loud, obnoxious alarm cry that has earned them the nickname “farmer’s watchdog.”
At 8:10 this morning I was on the way out the door to work when I got the call from the postmaster of the little rural outpost office that handles my mail. I sped up the road to receive a small box full of raucous peeping and beady peeking eyeballs. All the way from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa my little babies had flown, having not had anything to eat or drink from when they hatched at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 4. Baby poultry feed off their yolk sacks for a day or so after hatching, which nourishes them through the trip.
Yes, 32 birds in the space of shoebox…but that’s actually what allows them to survive their journey. By being so tightly packed, they can conserve their body heat. I have at least five different colors of guineas, and I can identify pearls, whites, lavenders. The other two variations are somewhat perplexing…perhaps buff and royal purple?
I was expecting to open the box to some losses, but all birds were up and vigorous and ate and drank immediately after I placed them in their brooder. Building a house sure comes in handy when raising poultry—all these giant cardboard appliance boxes make perfect first homes!
My mom took great care of the babies on their first day home while I was at work. She even e-mailed to say that a couple of bugs fell in the box and the birds ate them right up! How precocious are these little pretties!
All this excitement has them a bit tuckered, and they look absolutely hilarious when they fall over and pass out. No this bird isn’t dead, he’s sleeping!
Stay tuned as the birds navigate their potentially challenging first few weeks of life. They are supposedly more fragile than chicks, so I steel myself, like any farmer, to the possibility of loss.
But, I am super excited to now be able to write less about house construction and more about the things I’ve been wanting to do at this home!
May 2nd, 2010 §
The tease at the end of my last post wasn’t entirely about my new front porch sconces, though those are pretty neat. Instead, last week my house traded its zebra stripes and HardiePlank gray for its official paint scheme:
When I pulled up to the house one evening after the first coat of paint had gone on, I was pretty much beside myself with excitement and relief. I loved it instantly and I actually got kind of choked up with happiness that I managed to pull this off to my liking. One would think that to paint a house white would be the easiest choice in the paint deck, but the reality is the thousands of white paint colors are really just a minefield waiting for a very expensive and public misstep. Too cool, too warm, too gray, too gold. And of course, I knew what I didn’t want—anything too stark or modern or anything resembling the shade of the old white aluminum siding we pulled off the house (and which is still on the wellhouse). But I’ve known from the beginning that I wanted the house to be white. It’s something of an homage to the previous house that shared this foundation, and I also enjoy the look of a bunch of white farm/cottage buildings in a field.
The trim color was the easiest decision I made in this whole project. There’s a house not far from mine that’s just adorable…a little 1920s stucco cottage. It has the most amazing trim color—a dynamic shade that looks green in some light, grey in other, and sometimes even blue. I looked the homeowner up, asked her to share her trim color, and she invited me to visit. Well, the inside of her house was just as cute as the outside, and reflected the good taste of a very neat, artistic lady. We spent a couple of hours sharing some wine and conversation. I came away with a trim color and a new friend.
Now the only exterior color decisions left to be made involve the front door and the porch ceiling. I am really liking the raw wood look of the ceiling, so I may scrap my plans for a “haint blue” paint job in favor of a nice natural stain that will preserve the wood but leave its color looking like, well, wood. For the front door, I think I will experiment with the gel stains that are sold to stain fiberglass doors and see if I can get a nice medium oak color. If not, ‘a-painting I will go. Ideas?