Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mysterious noises in the nighttime

If you've ever lived in an old house, you know about the strange noises. Sometimes you hear these creaks and cracks and you wonder just what's going on. Last Saturday night on the farm, just before drifting off to sleep, there was this . . . um, intermittent scratching sound coming from the hallway outside the bedroom.  At first, I wrote it off as: 1) the wind, 2) the propane heater, or 3) the cat. Then I realized: 1) the wind wasn't blowing, 2) the heater only makes that sound for a second when it first comes on, and 3) the cat was on the bed.

That's when a sort of panic set in.

I jumped out of bed and walked (ever so slowly and carefully) toward THE NOISE, which grew louder as I got closer to the hallway.

The noise was coming from the ceiling.

I looked up just as a smattering of dust came floating down. It was the sound of the dust hitting a notebook that was sitting in a box underneath the area of disturbance that was causing THE NOISE. As I stood watching for a few minutes, it became apparent that there was SOMETHING up there in the ceiling . . . and it wanted out.

Now, this is where it gets ever more weird. You see, as I watched the hole get bigger, I'm pretty sure that I saw brownish-grey fur.

I found a broomstick and used it to gently tap on the ceiling . . . gently because I didn't want to make a bigger hole if the ceiling tiles were rotten (in a house this old, you never know). I fully expected the "thing" to panic and run away, but instead, it just stopped making noise. I searched in vain for some duct tape (what proper farmer doesn't have duct tape? This one, apparently) but had to settle for postal packing tape, and placed a couple of layers over the hole.

Then I went back to bed and fell into a deep and strange sleep where I dreamed of things scratching in the walls. (Seriously.)

Looks like the next project is going to be replacing the walls and ceiling tiles in the hallway. :-p

Sunday, January 23, 2011

No rest for the weary

You'd think that January would be a really slow month on a farm, but no. We're getting ready for Spring already. One of my jobs this weekend was to prune the pear, peach, and apple trees. It took me a couple of hours to do all 10 trees. Hope I didn't kill them!

There's a lot to do over the next few weeks. Next time we visit, we'll need to amend the soil to prepare for the blackberry and raspberry bushes and grapes that are due to arrive in mid-February; we'll also amend soil for a rose garden and for the vegetable gardens. We're going to do vegetables in the field (in rows) as well as in raised beds. I've staked off places to put some of the raised beds, so we'll need to get the untreated lumber and make the boxes. Believe it or not, planting here starts around the middle of February! First up are lettuces, peas, and beets.

I'm sure I'll be writing more about this as it happens - and sharing photos, too. For now, I'm just trying to write everything down so I'll know what needs to be done. So much to learn! But I'm enjoying every minute of it. :-)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Farmhouse project #1

We built a deck on the farmhouse this weekend. OK, maybe it's not 100% complete yet, but . . . it's almost finished. Won't take much longer now.

First, you need to see what it looked like in the beginning. Here's my first photo, after we'd removed the cement stepping stones. As you can see, this wasn't the most attractive or functional back door entryway . . .

We spent most of Saturday removing the existing stairs, placing the foundation blocks, and measuring. By mid-day, we had something like this:

Doesn't look like much yet, huh? That's because we measured. And measured. And MEASURED. And the math kept coming out wrong. The boards were level, and all boards were the same size. So WHY weren't the diagonals matching? It was a mystery. Finally, we squared up the corners. And we realized our deck wasn't the problem. The wall of the house is crooked! So it's not just the floors. Hmmm.

I should mention that those concrete foundation blocks are very, VERY heavy!!! I should know; I moved them about a hundred times each. Or so it seemed. (My arm muscles, pecs, and hamstrings are killing me today.)

The work continued on Sunday until it was time to go back to Charlotte. I'll do another entry of the finished project.

Not bad for two days' work. Just one of many examples of what chicks with power tools can do. :-)

A winter sunrise

The sky was so beautiful as I walked over to M&D's house around 7:15AM Saturday morning. The ice and snow? All melted now. Yesterday was a warm day . . . but the cold will be returning soon. I've heard that this has been the coldest winter here in over 60 years. It figures!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ice, ice, baby

I haven't been anywhere since Sunday afternoon. Why, you ask? Well, for the second time in two weeks, the impossible happened: We had a winter storm. It started Sunday night and went on until late last night. First, we got about 4 inches of snow. That may not sound like a big deal, particularly to my readers who live in places where snow is normal. But the thing is, since it only snows here about five times each century (OK, I'm exaggerating - a little), we're just not prepared for it here. We don't have all the snowplows and salt trucks and such.

But you could have all the snowplows and salt trucks in the world, and still not be able to deal with . . .  ICE. That's exactly what happened. After the "snow band" passed, we got freezing rain and sleet, which created a layer of ice on top of the snow. In some places, the ice was one inch thick or more. I didn't try to measure, but it was as thick as I've ever seen, like a gigantic glazed donut on steroids.

Our Governor declared a state of emergency, and we were told to stay off the roads. Schools, universities, and offices closed. The airport canceled flights . . . I read on Twitter that they ran out of de-icer for the planes. Even the malls and shops closed early - if they opened at all. There was hardly any traffic noise. (Actually, it was kind of nice.)

This is why we Southerners go a little crazy when bad weather is predicted. We fill up our cars with gas. We raid the grocery stores so we can fill up our refrigerators and pantries. We buy alternative heating systems and bottled water and generators. True dat.

Every now and then, the predictions come true, and we're glad we did all those things. I'm glad I made those three trips to the grocery store last weekend. And that side trip to the cupcake store on Sunday afternoon.

If only I hadn't eaten all those cupcakes so quickly . . .

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The last word on 2010

For as long as I can remember, I've taken the time on New Year's Eve each year to write a recap of the outgoing year. I did this when I was a kid, and as an adult - first in journals, later in blogs. I wanted to do it as per usual in 2010, but when New Year's Eve came, I found that I just couldn't do it. Looking back on the year was too emotional. It was such an overwhelming year of change.

I could think of all sorts of reasons to hate 2010. Let's see. OK, the year started with knowing that both S & I would lose our jobs with a company we'd worked for for nearly 10 years. That meant we'd also lose our house. Well, OK, we didn't actually "lose" our house. Thankfully, we were able to sell it. And we'd have to say goodbye (or at least "see ya later") to so many friends we'd made over the years. We'd have to find new jobs. And move. Oh, boy, do I HATE MOVING!!!

So I just didn't feel like writing my annual Year in Review.

OK. So the new year is here now. It's over a week old. 2010 is the past. I'm not so angry with 2010 anymore. Why? Because I've realized that it was really a GREAT year. It was great because it allowed us to make changes that we knew we needed to make anyway. Yeah, I just wrote that! And I mean it!

Sometimes, deep inside, you know you need to do something. It's like your inner voice tells you that you need to change something; you need to do something differently. But you feel immobilized. The status quo can be so intoxicating, so alluring, you don't want to rock the boat. Not changing is easier than changing. So you resist the change.

I listened to my inner voice in 2010. That doesn't mean it wasn't painful. Actually, it hurt like hell. But I made it through.

Sayonara, 2010. That's all I'm going to write about you. It's 2011 now, and I have a feeling that 2011 is going to be just fine.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Best of 2010

I was listening to my local NPR station last week when they were discussing 2010 favorites, which got me to thinking about some of my favorites of the year. This is all rather random, but here's what I came up with.

Books I Read:
General fiction . . . (tie) Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Mystery . . .  The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
Nonfiction . . . Down To This by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall

Band . . . Muse
Artist . . . Lady Gaga
Album . . . We Are Born by Sia
Song . . .  Keeper by Butterfly Boucher
Artist Discovery . . . The Rescues

TV Show . . . True Blood
TV Movie . . . Pillars of the Earth (miniseries)
Theater Movie . . . The Girl Who Played With Fire (original Swedish version)
Note: For the record, I don't think that 2010 was a great year for movies or TV!!!

Restaurant . . . 1900 Mexican Grill (Charlotte)
Food Rediscovery . . . Eastern North Carolina BBQ :-)
New-to-Me Food Discovery . . . (tie) Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar and Deep Fried Sushi
Dessert . . . gourmet cupcakes
Coffee . . . Dean & Deluca's almond hazelnut soy latté
Coffee Shop . . . Dilworth Coffee (original location)
Farmers' Market . . . (tie) Stadium Village (Indianapolis) and Atherton Mill (Charlotte)

Facebook Game . . . Verdonia
Vacation . . . Kauai
Weekend Getaway . . . Georgia Sea Islands

So . . . what were your favorites? Did you discover anything new that you really liked? Or re-discover something you hadn't had in a while?

P.S. Today's photo is the view of Phillips Place from the Dean & Deluca parking lot. :-)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Plant a tree & watch it grow

Happy New Year! Hard to believe that 2011's here already. 2010 seemed to fly by, but I'm glad it's over. It was a major year of change for me . . . way too many changes . . . anyway, I hope that things will settle down in 2011. Actually, I'm kind of hoping for a quiet year, and my New Year's resolution is to strive for a more simple life. I think you might see reflections of that goal in my blog this year. Starting with this entry, perhaps.

On Saturday (New Year's Day), we planted 20 Leyland Cypress trees on the farm. First, we had to measure (we planted the trees 9 feet apart) and lay the stakes. Next, we had to clear off the Bermuda grass where the stakes were. That was the most painful part, because Bermuda grass is very, very stubborn. Then we dug the holes. Fortunately, the ground was soft due to the recent snow and rain, so digging the holes wasn't difficult.

It was hard work, though, and I'm still aching in places I didn't know I had muscles. When it was time to eat the traditional New Year's meal of black-eyed peas, greens, and cornbread (and not so traditional blackberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream) on Saturday afternoon, I felt no guilt whatsoever.

They say it doesn't take all that long for these trees to grow. We'll be keeping an eye on them! Today's photo is our baseline.

Hope 2011 will be a wonderful year for everyone reading this!