Saturday, March 31, 2012

Low Flying 'Copters

This week was another nice one, once the rain left.  Spring is definitely here, despite the still chilly nights.  We brought a lot of the plants out of the makeshift greenhouse, where they weathered the winter, into the natural sunlight.  I continue to be amazed at how many plants survive and thrive in that porch-made-into-greenhouse.

Plants Made it Through the Winter Again
Moving the Plants Outdoors
We spent much of the week continuing the digging of trenches.  We are rerouting water lines from the old pump-house location to the new one, and this means digging deep trenches to ensure we don't need to worry about freezing pipes.  We are also changing ancient steel 4-inch pipe from the old farmhouse, to 4-inch schedule 40 PVC pipe.  Finally, we are burying part of the water diversion 4-inch corrugated pipe that takes our downspout rainwater out to the gardens and to the back pond.  So... lots of digging (again).
Ancient Cast Iron Pipe
The new pump-house was delivered this week. We will be insulating and painting the interior this weekend, in anticipation of the plumber, who will arrive bright and early Monday morning to move and re-plumb all of the components from the old pump house to the new one.  With the old pump-house vacated, and her cinder blocks knocked down, we will be one step closer to being able to start really deciding how we will extend the back of the house.  We are still collecting bids on a variety of options.

Before Pump House
Pump House Arrives

Using New Roads
Backing over Temporary Trench Covers

Joe Makes Last Minute Adjustments Under New Pump House

Easy, Peasey
Rolling Her Into Position

"We're in a Tight Spot!"

New Trench From Well to New Pump House

During all of our outdoor activities, we were subjected to what apparently is a regular daily overflight by a very low-flying helicopter.  This is irritating, not only because it literally skims the treetops but also because it is deafening, rattles the house (and our teeth), and scares the goats and chickens.  Yesterday, the daily flyover took on new life, starting at about 11:20 AM and going until around 5:00 PM... At least once ever 30 minutes we had one of these low-flying, tree-topping, teeth-rattling flyovers.  And there were at least three different helicopters involved.  I have no idea what is going on, but if it continues, I will have to find out and try to lodge some sort of complaint.  These helicopters are flying way too low for safety.  Someone is going to get hurt. (I mean, yeah, I know it is VERY interesting to see all the work we are doing around the old farmhouse, but does EVERY helicopter tour have to put us on their "must see" list??? LOL)

Helicopters or not, we continue wading in Springtime activities.  I was pleasantly surprised to see my asparagus had popped up, providing us with our first meal of her bounty.  We ate some of it right out of the garden and it was delicious!  We have tiny plums on the plum trees already and even some uber-tiny peaches....still looking to see when I can espy the first apples, pears, cherries and apricots.  The grapevines are really taking off this year and I am excited by the prospect of wallowing in grapes come harvest time.... that is, if the birds and critters don't wallow in them first!  The raspberries and blackberries are aggressively trying to dominate the berry patch, while the strawberries, ever-multiplying from only a couple of plants my daughter gave us a couple of years ago, quietly extend their territory.  I have a strong suspicion the real challenge this year will be being able to actually get INTO the berry patch to harvest, without crushing something.  Thankfully, all of the plants in the berry patch are thorn-less varieties....
Asparagus.... Yummy
Goats... "WE WANT SOME!!!"

Goat Conference

Free-Rangers Turn Their Beaks up at Asparagus
Another busy week is ahead of us.  Our handyman/contractor who has been doing the majority of the construction work on the old farmhouse will be returning after being gone on other jobs for a month.  The plumber will be here on Monday, the contractor with whom we are negotiating bids for the addition will be here on Thursday, and the electrician will be here on Friday to install the new sub-panel in anticipation of the eventual addition.  And, of course, it is a busy week at church, with Thursday, Friday Saturday and Sunday services.  On Easter Sunday, I will travel up to Maryland to share a ham dinner with family....

Meanwhile....back at the farm.... duck.... low-flying 'copters coming through!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

More Sunshine Promised

It has been a rainy last couple of days.  I guess I should enjoy the rain-forced "relaxation days," but I am eager to move forward with the outdoor projects around here.  Still, the weatherman has promised us the return of sunny days this week, so all is good.
Maybe my shoes got a little muddy....

Last weekend Joe and I took Sunday afternoon off from our current efforts of building up roads (and continuing the seemingly never-ending "water diversion" efforts) to go see a performance of, "Everything I Need To Know, I learned in Kindergarten."  My son was one of the actors in this community theatre production.  I'd never before seen the play and was pleasantly surprised.  It was a cute play with an enthusiastic and talented cast. It was interesting to see my son play several roles, from a kindergarten kid to a harried businessman, to an old night auditor, to an 80 year old man with dementia, who happily lived in his own world where Christmas was anytime it struck his fancy.

However, the most surprising to me was the scene for one of the vignettes which opened with Stephen playing the saxophone.  Certainly, I knew my son played the saxophone, but it had been many years since I'd heard him play.  I thought he'd put it aside in favor of the guitar, mandolin and other instruments he has picked up along the way.  It was nice to hear him play again.  After the show, I asked him if that was the same instrument on which he'd learned to play, and he said, no, it was a replacement -- the original was ruined in an apartment flood many years ago.  Nevertheless, seeing him on stage, in the low light, playing the saxophone, brought back images of my brother, Ted, and my first real introduction to that instrument.

Ted, at age about 20, for reasons unknown to me, got the notion that he'd like to play the sax.  One day while Mom was visiting yard sales or church white elephant sales or something, she came across a saxophone.  She purchased the gift for Ted and he happily spent the next few years teaching himself to play.  When Ted passed away, shortly before his 25th birthday, the saxophone went to my brother, Ray.  I have no idea whether Ray ever played the instrument.  However, when Stephen decided to take up the saxophone in 6th grade, Ray gifted Ted's saxophone to him.  That saxophone, refurbished for the new student, was played daily for the next seven years or so.  It marched many miles in marching band.  It traveled to Florida and New York and as far as Canada for competitions. That yard sale saxophone certainly brought a lot of joy to us.  I think one of my all time favorite quotes a la Stephen came when he was in about 7th grade.

"Mom, I know where I want to go to college," said he, with enthusiasm. 
"Oh yeah? Where?"
"Either Yale or Florida State."
"Ummmmm... OK.  Why?"
"Well, Yale is a really great school, but it's very expensive.  Florida State has a great marching band!"

Well, Stephen went to neither Yale nor Florida State, but then again, he didn't become a garbage truck driver (his dream at age about 5) nor a glass blower (5th grade ambition).... Still he happily performs in community theatre productions and, apparently, still breaks out the saxophone, every now and then!

So that was last weekend and since then we enjoyed five beautiful sunny days before the rain set in. We managed to finish one of the roads and get the drainage systems working (we think) in preparation for the arrival of the new "pump house" this week.  We are relocating the well pump, water tank and softener system from the current location at the back of the house to the side of the house.  This will allow us to eventually add on to the back of the house without obstruction.  I look forward to another productive week on the old farmhouse, with the sunny weather predicted.

Digging trenches

Laying Water Line (for Hoses)

Adding Dirt
Burying Drainage Pipe
Trying to beat the Rain

Compacting compaction soil layer

Spreading compaction soil

Road with first layer of Crush-n-Run

This week I have also been enjoying reading the blog posts of one of my son's best friends from school days.  Travis was Stephen's first friend when we moved to Virginia in 1988 and they remained good friends, both in and out of school, in Scouts, and in church youth group, through their graduation from high school in 1999.  I lost touch with Travis when he went off to college, but recently found him on Facebook and have been catching up.  Travis has, this week, embarked on fulfilling one of his long-time dreams.  He has taken a leave of absence from work, entrusted his "everyday commitments" to his wife for the next few months, and has begun his hike .... he aspires to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in the next five months.

Travis writes a journal entry (daily so far) to keep us (those of us who must live vicariously through his adventures) up to date. As of his last entry, he'd hiked a little over 30 miles.  I am adding his blog to the list of interesting reads that appear on the shoulder of my blog.  I hope you enjoy his journal of his trek as much as I have.

It's been more than three weeks since I saw my grandbaby, and I am itching to take a drive back over there.  They grow and change so quickly in these early days. I'm going to try to get over there for a few days in April.  Hard to believe she is already three months old!
Jenn and Eloise (Flower Child)

I do so love Spring .... the big thrill for me is seeing all of the plants that survived the winter and are starting to put on their blossoms and leaves.  I was excited to see that the dozen Canna Lilies I planted last year have multiplied, and I have counted nearly five dozen new lilies popping out of the ground.  The plum, peach, pear, cherry and apricot trees are all in bloom.  The fig, apple trees and the grape, raspberry, blackberry, black current, gooseberry, and strawberries are all leafing out.  The forsythia is brilliant yellow and the azaleas are about to open in pinks, reds, purples and whites.  It will be interesting to see which annuals return from seeds dropped last year.

"Mr." tries out the new road....





Meanwhile...... there's still plenty of work to be done!

Benson inspects trenches

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Inarticulate Am I -- But NEVER Insanely Brief!!

My last post found its way to the discussion forums of the survivalists.  Odd, perhaps, but true.  Apparently, my brief account of the random search to which our funeral limousine was subjected, was of some interest to folks who enjoy discussions about... ummm... I guess, survivalist stuff. How do I know this?  Well, as all of my readers can plainly see, I have a Sitemeter counter on my blog.  It keeps track of how many visitors I have and the referring urls that brought the readers to my blog.  No big secret.

Yesterday, Joe noted that I'd had a pretty big jump in the number of visitors being reported by the counter, and I became curious.  I didn't see anything particularly interesting in that post over any other that would have drawn readers in such numbers.  Lo and behold, most of the traffic was originating from this survivalist discussion board.  So I went to look.... to discover the source of the interest.

I had to laugh when I read the discussion.  What had been a simple ho-hum statement about being stopped for a random search, had resulted in discussions that clearly missed my point.  My point was simple.  The funeral limousine was stopped. The DC Police who stopped it stated they were performing a random search of the limousine. The limousine driver conveyed this to us as the policeman opened the door to, "search" it.  My point in sharing it was a simple acknowledgement, to myself, if to nobody else, that this is no longer the America in which I grew up.  Things have changed.

The discussion board comments varied from those disgusted by the fact that the limousine had been pulled over for the random search to those declaring it was NOT a random search, from those who found it to be a violation of our constitutional rights, to those who found it to be perfectly acceptable, because some 15 - 20 years ago some casket maker was using the funeral limousines to smuggle drugs.   But for me, the most absurdly poignant comment was made by someone who clearly found that even taking the time to click on the link to read my post was a colossal waste of time.  I am quoting their comment here, so I can always refer back to it, in times when I need a good laugh.

"Nothing to see here. A brief investigatory stop and nothing more, not a search under the fourth amendment and therefore there is no issue. Without further details it is impossible to say this is anything nefarious. For all the blog writer knows the police could have been acting in good faith on information that there was a problem that needed their intervention. A quick look and verification that nothing was amiss is not a search under any construct of the word, no matter how twisted.

"I was expecting some sort of news story at the link, not some random person's poorly worded, inarticulate and insanely brief statement with no other background info. This thread is a failure, times ten. Next?"

I laughed out loud...literally....when I read the words, "insanely brief."  In all of my time writing, poorly worded and inarticulate as I may be, I have NEVER been accused of being brief, much less, INSANELY BRIEF!!

Thanks for the good laugh.

Now that the survivalists have deemed my post a complete waste of time, I suppose I will return to the few visitors I enjoy on a regular basis.  That works for me.  I write and post for my family and friends.  If I manage to inadvertently spark the interest of some sort of discussion board, I guess I should be honored.  But it was genuinely not intended.  It is, however, interesting to read things others post about you when they think you won't be dropping in to read them!

And, for the rest of my fun today....well, we dug more in the pond, mowed lawns, weeded gardens... you know, the stuff that Spring is made of.  Next post will be more newsy.  I just had to share my inarticulate, insanely brief belly laugh.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

February, March -- Ever Forward

February 16th we laid my step-father to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.  It was a rainy, dreary day, but despite the inclement weather, a small group of friends joined the family at the grave site.  The ceremony was moving, though quite short.  The seas of white markers of thousands of veterans who passed before made a dramatic backdrop for the photos. I can only imagine how dramatic it would have been on a brilliant, sunny day.


After the funeral, we took the opportunity to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Photo ops for this were somewhat dampened by the fact that, as per usual, those with the biggest, most vibrant umbrellas elected to stand in the front, blocking the view for everyone else.  No big deal, we saw, we tried to capture the photos, and we made a quick retreat back to the limo waiting to take us back to the funeral home.

On the way back, we were subjected to a, "random search."  I kid you not....Washington, D.C.'s finest felt compelled to stop a funeral limousine to search us.... why exactly, I have no idea.  I felt sorry for Mom who, already tired of sitting in the cramped seat in the limo, had to endure the police opening her door, letting the rain in, and then closing the door on her...when it became obvious to them this really WAS a family in a funeral limousine.  Frankly, I was happy to get out of the Nation's Capitol.  I'm not certain it is a place I'd like to visit any more.

Back in the small blip on the map that we call home, we were happy to find our critters had survived their first overnight EVER without one of us being here to close them in for the night.  Joe had built a completely enclosed run for the chickens to be used when we want to actually leave the farm for more than a few hours.  Everyone seemed happy and healthy and particularly thrilled with the notion of the self feeder...
Lovely Eggs, Courtesy of the Hens

We are inching ever closer to the completion of the old farmhouse, but it looks as if it will still be a couple of months before we can start actually living in it.

Meanwhile, we keep busy with the other projects around here.  Yesterday afternoon found us replacing the rotten boards on the 16 foot trailer with new lumber...quite a workout, for those of you who have never tried this one!

Another of our recent projects, well, actually, an on-going project, is the widening, deepening and eventual landscaping of one of the two ponds we dug to catch the water being diverted from other areas of the property.  With the surprisingly warm days of late, Joe was able to do a fair amount of digging, and once the ground dries a little from this morning's rain, he will use the excavated dirt (clay) to help further build up some of the roads he's creating on the property.


During the colder months, it is hard to work on outside projects, so we naturally turned to the MANY projects that still awaited us inside.  Of course, even the inside projects often require SOME outside work (cutting boards, etc.) so we don't move as quickly as I'd like on these projects, but, with a little patience, they do eventually get completed.  We finally managed to get the LARGE carpet art, that Joe had created years ago, mounted on the wall of the garage (our makeshift living area).  I have been wanting to get it mounted for more than a year, and finally, it is there.  I love it!  The scene is of Yosemite.
Yosemite in Carpet on 8' X 4' Plywood

And here it is  - March, and the daffodils are in full bloom.  The plum trees opened their blossoms today and the peach trees are sure to be blossoming within the week.  Not far behind them are the nectarines and cherries.  We are, all of a sudden, having to rush to get ready for putting plants in the ground.
Tadpoles in Pond

Daffodils in Woods

Of course, the month would not have been complete without a trip to see my lovely little granddaughter, after she, my daughter and my son-in-law returned from their visit to the in-laws in France.  She is growing cuter by the minute!

Eloise in Hat

Eloise Meets Her French Cousins

Eloise Takes a Nap in Her Tutu