Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dusty Overalls

My sister sent me a short email this afternoon.  Her inquiry -- was everything alright?  Her concern -- no blog posts since June 30, 2011.... EEK!  Yes, it is true.  After writing nearly every day for more than 4 years, this spring and summer have zoomed by with very few moments, thoughts and photos captured and shared in blog form.  It isn't as if there is little to write about.  Not at all.  Quite the contrary.  There is so much happening and even more WAITING to happen, that by the time I sit down, with the thought of journaling our progress, I find my eyelids refusing to obey my desire to stay awake and write... and eyelids are eyelids... if they refuse to stay open, whatever I write, well, it would be unintelligible.  And so, most nights I find myself collapsing in bed by midnight, exhausted.
Judy getting "kisses"
from the new goats
So, here it is, 10:15 PM, and aware that I will likely fall victim to my eyelids once again, I am determined to get a post written.

Today was a pretty good day.  I'd flirted with the idea of driving up to Maryland to surprise Dad for his birthday...but as late as yesterday I was dealing with a car that "wobbled" when it was driven at speeds exceeding 40 mph, and I decided I should attend to that before embarking on any long trips.  So, instead, I called Dad over lunch and spent a wonderful hour just enjoying chatting with him.  We spoke of computers, cars, Skype (Dad is enjoying using Skype to chat with my brother Ray who is in China for work), gardens, and more.  It had been a long time since we took time to chat and I really enjoyed it.  Dad is 77 today.  Happy Birthday Dad!

My 35th high school reunion is this weekend. Members of the Bowie High School class of '76 are gathering tonight to catch up on old times and become reacquainted with each other...the BIG day is tomorrow.  Our class had over 800 students graduate and I probably knew fewer than ten percent of them very well.  I recognize almost all of them by name, but I was never a "popular" kid and I doubt a whole lot of them remember me.  I did attend my 20th reunion and the Friday night gathering of my 25th reunion.  But I missed the 30th and I shall miss this one too....just too much going on to take that trip down memory lane.  Maybe for my 40th.  I am happy they will enjoy decent, if hot, weather for the reunion.  As far as I know, none of my closest high school friends will be in attendance, but it would have been nice to see those that are attending. I will look forward to photos shared on their Facebook walls .... when I return from my farm work, sporting my dusty overalls.  Have a great reunion folks!

As if our summer weren't sufficiently "busy" with the old farm house renovation, the MANY gardens of experimental crops, and my 40 hour a week "paying" job, I am also taking a class two nights a week... a course which has no "pass/fail" but which is designed to prepare us for the EXAM... the six hour exam... highly technical... I will be so happy when I am DONE at the end of September.  Of course, I am hoping I PASS the exam since it costs $600 a pop to even sit for the exam.  I know a LOT of professionals who have not passed it in their first attempt and they are a lot younger than I, with younger, better brains! At any rate, if I don't pass it the first time, I'll not feel like the lone ranger.

And around the old farm? Well, though it seems as if it has taken FOREVER to get here, we have managed to get the old farmhouse to the stage where we are about to begin putting in new wiring and plumbing before putting in the sub-floor.  The months of tearing out the old, replacing beams, leveling the house, installing new piers, pouring a cement slurry to provide a better moisture barrier under the house, have finally brought us to the point where our carpenter was able to finish installing the last of the new joists this week.  Next week we will begin the new wiring and plumbing.  Of course, the project continues to grow.  What began as "let's get this house stabilized and level" has morphed into plans to completely remodel and eventually add on the "East Wing...." but that is still a long ways out.
Old Farmhouse
Cement truck backing up to the job
Cement chute through front porch

Slurry starts to pour
Joe raking the slurry

Kitchen floor - cement slurry hardened
New floor joists going in
Living room joists in place
The experimental gardens have both challenged us and thrilled us.  Our disappointments include corn, cauliflower and tobacco.  The winners to-date are melons, squashes, spinach, peas, beans, eggplant, kohlrabi, tomatoes, strawberries, peaches, potatoes, cucumbers.  Still to be determined are most of the fruit trees and bushes/vines, which will require another year to really start producing.  The flowers, all types, have been a pretty good success story and many of them I expect to reseed themselves, making future years more bountiful with less work....(?)

Judy, Inspecting roadside garden

One of the MANY sunflower "trees"
Zinnias, growing happily amongst the watermelons
I turned 53 in July and was treated to dinner with my kids and their spouses and Joe at a local restaurant.  We had fun. My birthday presents were awesome.... and quite varied.  I received an "earth worm farm starter kit" ... my daughter suggested I wear gloves when "unwrapping."  I am now the proud owner of one of those gadgets that allows a person to download books and read them without ever turning a page...the so-called "Kindle"... I am still trying to decide which book to download (purchase) first.  And, I have two new baby goats...both girls and one rather weak and anemic, but sweet.  The vet did the blood work on her and there is no clear indication of why she is anemic, but I have decided to keep her and hopefully, she will become more robust.  The other is quite robust!  Tomorrow we go to see about getting a third baby goat...  I also received a "stuffed goat" from my Dad and Lynne that plays the Julie Andrews classic..."High on a Hill was a Lonely Goatherd.." from Sound of Music.  And finally, from an unknown source, arrived a book on raising goats for milk and meat.  My sister and mother both sent gifts of money that are being funneled into the great farm experiment.  I had a very happy birthday, indeed.

The kids and Judy relaxing after stuffing ourselves

Joe, Judy, Stephen, Kristen, Jenn and Benoit
outside the restaurant

Judy, with gloves,
examining the earthworm starter kit
Goats Napping

On the GEEZ LOUISE side of things, we've suffered through record hot temperatures with humidity levels that make a person believe they will not be able to draw another breath, augmented by the air conditioner going on the fritz -- naturally on the hottest and most humid weekend of the summer.  The downside of living in a garage apartment is that we are literally living in the roof of the structure and it gets HOT quickly when the AC quits.  Several frustrating trips to Home Depot later, and after HOURS in the unforgiving sauna installing the newly acquired window AC units, we were able to bring the temperatures inside the apartment down to the low nineties, and even down to the mid eighties when it cooled to the high seventies outside.  I was never so happy to see an AC guy as I was when the repairman showed up on day five of our sweatfest and replaced the $20 capacitor....  Ahhhhhh....comfortable 80 degrees reigns supreme on the thermostat once again.

Of course, the zillion other "projects" around here keep us busy, even when we think we deserve a rest.  We poured a cement patio last week... a biggish one... 24 X 36 or so. It adjoins the deck on the garage apartment, and will be our "relaxation" spot....when we DO take the time to relax. We will erect the small pool on it later next week, and, if that goes well, next year it will be replaced with the bigger pool.
Joe and the guys raking the cement into place
Joe's trenching all over the property continues.  One day it will be complete, but, for now, we happily celebrate every piece of trench that finally gets closed.  We have become semi-expert in avoiding breaking our ankles by accidentally stepping into one of the open trenches. OK, to be honest, I am CONSTANTLY stepping into holes, but so far have not had any lasting damage!
Joe, forever working the trenches
Gravel into trench
So there you have it.  I guess we have been busy.  I know I have about eight pairs of dusty overalls to throw in the washer tomorrow morning.  I suppose as long as I have work clothes, I'm not done working!

Giant Hibiscus with old farmhouse in background
Gladiola with tiny yellow flowers
Judy, "Hanging" with the Chickens!