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Monthly Archives: October 2006

A pictorial blog

As quickly as I take pictures and get around to having Mark download them (I have to learn how to do this myself one of these days) , the house evolves, making it seem as if I am posting “old”  news. Ah well, it will be new to you. Actually, we have progressed beyond this construction point this week. They are now laying the floors and finishing details that make it all start to look like a fantastic home, rather than a rustic cabin filled with construction. I take pictures with the construction team in view because I like to remember them, though it might seem odd to you. Hey, it is all about preserving the process – remembering the stages that linked to create our new home – NOT about my wanting to capture photos of the cute young, muscle bound builders (ahem) .

But first, I thought I’d start with my chicken house. Admit it, you are dying to see the foolish cage I spent way too much on. This is the scaled down version of my origional plan, but still it cost me over 3 grand. Taught me a valuable lesson – leave the building to the men . . . when they have time to pay attention to what you are talking about. Anyway here is my chicken coup, complete with six scrawny chickens. May be folly, but it is still mine to enjoy.

A side-front view: Note that the chicken coup (the actuall laying boxes) is still in the delivery box leaning against the wall-  not put together or hung. Hummm…… I have to conspire a way to get Mark to help me with this still.
It isn’t easy when I have more egg on my face than in the coup.
This is the coup from the back. You can see that I have a bunny cage on the side too – but it is still in disrepar since the bear tore the hinges off. It also has some holes torn in the heavy duty wire that you can’t see. The nesting box is full of teeth marks and paw gashes and torn open in the front too. It is a sad reminder of the carnage. Boo hoo.

I’ve also include a close up of my door decoration. I went on-line and ordered this metal chicken thing-a-ma-bob to mount on the entrance. Mark saw it and said, “You are the biggest queer-bo I have ever met.” (That is his idea of romantic.) I didn’t have the gall to tell him I’ve also been searching for an inexpensive rooster weather vain for the roof. How cute would that be? Mark thinks (now that he is the big shot house designer) that he is the only one with good ideas. Well, I think my smartly decorated chicken coup will prove he isn’t the only one with an eye for classy design!

Now, for the house. As I’ve mentioned, we have 4 fireplaces, so I thought I’d share them with you. They don’t look nearly as good as they will when the construction is removed and they have things on the mantle etc.. And we have track lights to aim at the primary fireplace to bring out the chrysals in the geods and stuff, to make it more a focal point. But this gives you the general idea.

The first is the fireplace in the great room. You can’t see the geods in the picture, but they are all over – to the ceiling. The second fireplace is on the porch. We have nifty holes in the stone to stack wood into. Mark made this mantle from a tree on the lot. Cedar. He carved out the burls and finished it. Cool, hun? He also did the logs above. This floor is being laid today with slate. It is a striking room, more so if you can see the view because it looks down on our creek. I suspect I’ll waste many afternoons reading out here when I should be doing something productive. What can I say, my ambitions have shifted. Now I sway towards “shiftless”.

The bedroom fireplace is actually a wood stove. It has a nice leaf pattern so when it is turned on the glow of leaves fills the room. This one is gas with a remote and a timer, because we are lazy and want to be able to fall asleap with it on with no effort on our part. The next one is in the downstairs family room. This is the “kid’s fireplace. Gas also, because they can’t resist throwing things into the fire and messing with it and we now have a house that can be burnt to the ground with a single match and a good wind. We designed a place for the TV on top, thus explaining the hole in the stone. 

This is what my kitchen looks like from the living room. Well, you can’t see much except that it curves around into the room a bit. There are no doors on the cabinets yet. They have since built a wood slab bar to sit at by the sink. I love this kitchen, but you have to wait for pictures, ’cause not enough is done to show it off yet. Next is a picture of my super, collosal, fantastic, wonderful, adaquate food pantry. Think it is long enough? I plan to fill the dang thing with jars of blueberry jam and pickles once I learn how to make pickles. Yep, a pantry like this is aching for homemade stuff, and I won’t let it down. It is the principal of the thing. Across from it is the washer and dryer and cabinets, etc. I’m loath to admit I will be spending plenty of time in this portion of the room. At least it will be neat.

This is our bathroom – well, the guest bathroom that you would use if you stopped by to visit. I haven’t taken a pix of our master bathroom, which is the best room in the house. Next time. I think this bathroom is the kind Fred Flinstone would have had with the stone and all. Ha. Next to that is a picture of our driveway, what I see each time I drive away from the house. Pretty, hun? It isn’t finished yet either, obviously.

Now for the serious stuff. Here are our stairs. Mark and the building boys made these out of huge trees on the lot. They weigh a billion pounds, more or less. This is an origional design, because usually these are done in a different way, though don’t ask me to explain it. The rails are made of smaller trees, and what you don’t see yet is the interesting laurel posts that will be between the rails (Mark is cutting the laurel today at the national forest with a permit from the forestry service).  This stairway leads to his loft office, that opens to a small deck over the front entrance of the house. The stairs also lead down to the lower level of the house where the family room, kids bedrooms, pool table room, guest room and DANCE STUDIO/WORKOUT ROOM are.  The stairs are kind of a focal point in the house, seen from every room since it is an open plan. They are prettier than the picture shows, and when they are all oiled and finished, they will be amazing. (My humble opinion)

I’m running out of pictures here, so I will end with a pix of the path Mark cut into the woods so I can walk (or ride) to my chicken coup. And a picture of our new pasture area that we fenced in for the horse. I think I am missing my horses, because I have had two dreams this week about them. In both, they have run away and I am searching for them frantically and only find the one who is still on our land. Clearly, my psychee is unsettled with this thing we did, loaning them out to the neighbor. Guess you only know if you try. Anyway, I do miss them and I can’t wait for the month to be over so they come home. It is like sending your kid to camp. You are dying to get rid of them, but when they are gone you get all mooney and sad and you want them ho
me where they belong. 

Now, I have homework to do. I promised I wouldn’t blog until my paper was written, and look at me, acting as if posting pictures doesn’t count. Amazing how I can justify something I want . . . . sinful, actually.     

It’s time for dinner, deer . . um, I mean “dear”.

Last night, I made a savory stew, but I also made some homemade, oat bread with pecans –because I knew that would draw the attention away from the main course. I felt this was wise because I was feeding my innocent, unsuspecting family deer meat for dinner. I was careful not to share this truth until they were halfway through their “beef” stew. I wanted to give them the opportunity to consider the taste and texture, after they fully acknowledged that were enjoying the meal. I didn’t want them pushing their plate away and saying, “Pass the salad” at the thought of being a Bambi carnivore – (which Denver did indeed do the moment she found out what it was she was consuming.)  


Hunting season opened two weeks early this year because the deer population is so large. They claim this is important to keeping wildlife in balance (and considering how many deer I’ve seen these past few weeks, I can believe it). Therefore, we’ve been hearing shots in the evening around the cabin.

Denver said, “What is that sound I keep hearing?”

We told her it was deer season.

Incensed, she said, “They can’t shoot them anywhere, like where we live can they? That seems awfully dangerous.”     

I explained that they can shoot them anywhere the deer lived, so they probably don’t shoot off their guns in downtown Blue Ridge or suburban areas where most people dwell. Since we live in the forest, they actually can shoot them where we live. We need to keep that in mind when we take walks this time of year.

Sad, but true.


Of course, I pointed out that no one can shoot deer where we are going to live, because we have claimed our 50 acres as a “Wildlife Preserve”. This decision was made to take advantage of a great tax break, while also living true to our (my) moral ethics. (I should point out here that Mark is more and more open to the concept of hunting now that he has made friends with hunters. I don’t imagine he’ll ever go hunting himself, but he thinks it is fine for others if they eat what they kill. And he happens to adore deer meet.)   Making our land a wildlife preserve means no one can shoot anything on the property for the next ten years. Even if we sell the land, the new owners must accept in advance that it is a wildlife preserve until 2016. Do I need to tell you how much pleasure this gives me? Heck with the tax break – I just love that our land is a safe haven (with lots of goodies set about from the mistress of the preserve) for animals.


Anyway, back to my deer meat dinner. At the end of the season, last year, our builder and friend, Ronnie, gave us several packets of deer tenderloins to try. Venison happens to be low in fat and very healthy for you. Mark has been pushing me to try it. I tucked those neat little butcher paper wrapped packages in the back of my freezer, where I planned to forget them. But as hunting season opened up again, it occurred to me that Ronnie was bound to ask us how we enjoyed his gift last year, and if we wanted anymore from this year’s bounty. I think it would be rude to admit we never even tried his meat– and I certainly don’t want to lie about it.


The fact is (as I explained to Denver) if a deer is shot and consumed, it is really a natural thing. They live a far better (free) life than the cattle we purchase from slaughterhouses, and the circle of life demands that some creatures die to allow others to live. But if we just throw out that meat, then the deer died in vein. What a crime to have the creature killed and then tossed in the garbage. In a way, we are paying respect to the deer by eating it, since it has already been killed.


This was somehow accepted by my children, and we all tentatively sampled the meat, agreeing that it was tender and had great flavor. It’s diety too. I enjoy learning to cook new things, and I have a ton of venison recipes, but honestly, this wasn’t as much fun as thought it would be. Eating a graceful, peaceful animal, such as a deer, doesn’t sit as well with me as it should, considering I accept the logic of the hunting issue. In fact, I am leaning more and more towards returning to my former vegetarian state. I don’t eat red meat much anymore, unless it is a bit of hamburger in a meatloaf, and even then, I use mostly ground chicken or pork. I think of steak and see the soft, gentle eyes of the cows I pause to watch when I run. Can’t help it – makes the bite stick in my throat. I don’t think I’ll ever feel this way about chicken. I have chickens. I like them. But chickens are dumb. I can eat them. Not MY chickens, of course, but other, nameless, faceless chickens are OK for the skillet. It’s a double standard, I admit, but that is how I feel.


Anyway, my family survived the deer meat test – with Mark almost too enthusiastic for my comfort. But to be honest, the best thing about it was my discovery of the new bread recipe.


We must all be open to new things. That doesn’t mean you have to like everything you try, but you should at least experience things before passing judgment.  Gee, does this mean I can pass judgment on the hunters and nag them at every possible opportunity now? Guess that would be a stretch. I’ll just have to let our “wildlife preserve” act satisfy my desire to serve and protect the deer – be happy in the knowledge that they can live out their graceful, gentle lives in peace . . .  with the Hendry’s blessing.   


My overdue blog

     Last night our friend, Jessica Smith, called and said; “I had to call. I feel out of touch. Ginny isn’t blogging!”

Wow. Someone noticed.


    I really shouldn’t blog today either – I have a HUGE homework packet due – but I will write a quick overview of what is going on just so Jessica ,and anyone else out there, knows I am alive and kicking. I will embellish upon things tomorrow after I send my work to my professor and can breathe.


    To say I’ve been busy is an understatement. First, my parents came to visit for five days. As Simon, Kent’s drum teacher, said when I sheepishly got around to showing up at the music store to explain why we missed our lesson and even forgot to call, “Your parents came to visit? Say no more. I get it.”


    It was a wonderful visit, however, albeit a bit sad for me. I was suddenly so aware of how fleeting my time with my folks will be, and small signs (evidence) of their age or slowing down seemed glaringly obvious. Clearly, this was fallout from Mark’s Dad’s passing. I found myself feeling grateful for my parents, for all the fun we’ve had together over the years. And I kept looking at them as people; two amazing individuals who set an example of living well that I only pray I can follow. They have the perfect marriage – a relationship filled with romance and consideration, humor and sincere camaraderie that sets the benchmark pretty high for us mortals. They are committed to each other, to keeping healthy for each other (they look great, eat carefully, workout daily – it’s amazing.) They are active, in touch with the world, and have this wonderful mature wisdom that colors how they view life. I admire them so much. We had a cookout on the land, and my Dad took a spin on the four-wheeler. He rode one of our horses. He went fishing on our creek and tried to walk up our killer mountain (but luckily, we caught him halfway up and drove him the rest of the way). My mother spent the week trying to take work off my hands, always wrestling with me in the kitchen over who would set the table or do the dishes. Made me laugh. I kept saying, “Be a guest for once, will ya? I’m forty-seven. I can make a dinner.”  Her energy puts me to shame.

    We celebrated my dad’s 79th birthday while he was here, and toasting another year of life was fun, yet I feel a bit like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is only a matter of time until one of my parents succumbs to age. I can’t imagine one without the other, and I can’t imagine life without them. Anyway, for all that we laughed and enjoyed a nice visit, inwardly, I wrestled with all kinds of poignant melancholy. I know that doesn’t make sense, because it is silly to worry about things that have not yet happened. But the fact that life does come to an end is suddenly very real to me, and it made me so aware of all I have to be grateful for. I was very lucky in regards to the family heaven assigned me.


     When they left, I was inundated with “catch-up work”, both in the area of MFA homework and housework. By housework, I’m not talking about cleaning the cabin or doing laundry, though I had my share of that too. I’m talking about being out at the land to answer questions and do my part of the tasks of developing our new house. We are in the last stretch now, and there is so much to do. But I must say, the house is spectacular. Mark and I often stand there after everyone goes home, our jaws dropped, and we say, “Do you believe we are actually going to live here?” It surpasses any dream we ever dared have.


    Our house, thanks to Mark’s artistic genius (and his shopping talent) is the most original and remarkable house the worker’s have ever seen – and these guys work on multi-million dollar homes on the lake all the time. It is the talk of the town, and everyone, from the electrician, the stone layer, the plumber, the grader – you name it – comes in and remarks that it is the most original house they’ve ever worked on. They shake their heads and say, “Ya’all really outdone yourselves this time.” Then, they return later with their wives to show it off. Now, strangers keep showing up – builders or workers from other jobs wanting to see this house everyone is talking about. It is quite a nice thing for Mark.     

     He keeps saying, “But what does that mean for me? I wonder what it will lead to.”

     He admitted to me that  somewhere along the line, this house became more than a house for his family to live in. It became the vehicle where he poured a year’s worth of artistic energies, a chance to see what he was capable of. He has always wanted to build – designing things like our school in Lakewood ranch, or remodeling our home in Sarasota or the cabin, only wet his appetite to build. He wanted to start from scratch and do whatever the spirit moved him to do, and this house gave him the opportunity for exactly that.

    Our builder has talked to Mark about a future partnership. He said, “All we have to do is recreate this house on the lake and we could make half a million dollars, easy.” But later, Mark said to me, “What they don’t realize is, I don’t have to recreate this house. I can do it again with all new ideas. I could design five more houses and they would all look totally different and be just as artistic and remarkable. My mind is bursting with ideas. I think I could be really good at this.” Duh.


    I just smile when he talks like that, because I know that great things happen when you let instinct take over and you trust your inner voice. He wants to build. All I have to do is encourage him – TRUST his talent – and I know he will be successful. Behind every great person is a person who believes they are great. I believe the thing that stops us from being all we can be is not ourselves, but the subtle messages our loved ones send. I plan to send messages that will propel him forward.  This kind of work requires a big investment, and that means risk. But the way I see it, everything great we have ever accomplished in life, and the reason we are where we are today was simply because we took risks. No reason to stop now.  


     Anyway, I will post some pictures soon. The fireplaces are all stoned and remarkable. The workout room, a perfect little dance studio all our own, was finished yesterday. I can’t wait for that!  My body craves movement, though I might keep my eyes closed or away from the mirror for a month or two, considering how out of shape I must be in the dance department.

    My kitchen is in and it has a place for everything. Especially me, ’cause I’m gonna plant myself there and cook till I can’t stand any longer. If you knew how much I miss access to a fully stocked kitchen . . .  I have a huge pantry. The workers say, “You can’t possibly fill that with food.”  Ha. They haven’t met the real me yet. I even have an outdoor fridge to hold leftovers and a separate freezer I plan to stock with things yet to be made, or already made and waiting for those busy days when writing takes precedent over cooking.  I could go on and on about this house, but I’ll wait and devote a special blog or two to it. I’m supposed to be making this short . . . Let me just say we are awfully excited about this house and finally closing this transitional phase of our lives – getting settled so we can decide what direction to take our life next..


   What else has been going on? Oh yea. Two of our horses went on a working vacation. We live near a popular trail riding company called Blanche Manner stables. Peggy, the owner, has become a friend. Neva has taken some lessons at her ranch. When we couldn’t find a decent blacksmith to shoe our horses, Peggy turned us on to her Ferrier, Chris. Anyway, Chris was at our place shoeing our horses and we were talking about the house and how busy we were and he asked if we were riding much. I told him it was tough finding the time to even care for the horses, much less ride, this month. I was also talking to him about my plans to separate our mare, Dixie, from her baby, April, asking him advice about weaning. He said Peggy has her biggest month in October because tourist come to the mountains to see the leaves change and to enjoy the fall festivals (Of course, we know this – that is what we did for fifteen years before moving here.) They always want to go on a trail ride to enjoy the scenery, so Peggy’s business booms in fall. He said she could sure use the loan of a horse or two if we were interested in letting them go for a short while. She would take care of the shoeing and feeding for the term, and the horses would get ridden everyday, which is very good for them. It would be especially good for separating the mom and baby, because out of sight, the transition would go smoother. (We were told that even the whinny of the colt can cause the mother to lactate and make the process take much longer.) On top of this, we really wanted to keep the alternate pasture empty so we could lime it and prepare the soil for spring. (This is ranch talk, ya’all)  So, I talked to Mark about it, and he called Peggy and offered her a loan of some horses. She took Dixie, since removing her was our first priority and she is the gentlest of our horses, and then asked if she could borrow Peppy, as well. Peppy is a perfectly trained horse, neck reined or doubled reined, and he obeys any command well. But he has developed a few bad habits of late because I spoil him too much. So, we thought, why not?


    Peggy came and took them away last week. They are only down the street at her ranch. We thought April would be distraught without her mother, but in the end, she acts as if she doesn’t even notice the others are gone. She is most connected to Donkey anyway – probably because they are both young and like to romp in the field together. They were both so much smaller than the horses, only now April is passing him up with her long legs. It was Mark’s horse, Goliath, that seems disturbed by his missing friends. He keeps whinnying and trotting around, looking for them. Agitated. We always make jokes about this horse, because he is so like his owner, Mark. He is this big, harmless lug that is obsessed with eating. His behavior is like Mark now too. These boys ignore their family when they are around, but if their loved ones are removed, suddenly they get all lonely and pitiful. They eat more too. Ha. Can’t hurt to remind them appreciate what they have.


     Our horse family will be reunited just as we are moving in. I miss them, but I feel good knowing two of my darlings are getting a crash course on good behavior, and a little hard work will be good for Dixie getting her figure back. I just hope that the dingbat amateurs riding them do not give mixed signals or kick their soft bellies – stuff which will make their stay away from home uncomfortable. Well – maybe that will make them appreciate me more when they come home. In the meantime, I am spoiling April, Goliath and the Donkey horribly. I bought a huge sack of apples for my equestrian friends at the orchard the week before we made this decision (apples are so cheap this time of year) and now I have to disperse them ultra generously so they won’t go bad.  I’ll get back two lean, fit horses and have some big, slackers at home – perfect evidence that the reason my horses are spoiled isn’t them, but me and my treats. Eesh.    

       The chickens are extremely happy in their new digs. But they look a bit skimpy – only six birds in that big facility. I keep eyeballing some new chicks, but I promised Mark I’d wait for spring. Sigh. Took him two hours to pressure wash the porch once I got those baby bird cages out. I think he would have a fit if he came home and saw some little fluffy tuffs of chicken peeping out there again.

    But I get to mess around with my starter chickens now, even if they are sparse. No signs of eggs yet. I plan to throw a big celebration the day I see my first homegrown egg. Can’t wait. I think it might be awhile. They are still babies, under six months old, and my rooster is a squirt. Tiny and not very loud. I still need me a big, fat, colorful LOUD rooster that struts and flaps and acts like he rules the roost, even though it is all for show, cause the girl chickens are doing all the real work. (I’ll name that one Mark junior). Yep. I will put a fat rooster on my Christmas list.


    We went to the national storytelling festival in Jonesborough Tennessee this weekend. It was great fun. But I won’t write about that now. I have to write a paper on that for my non-fiction professor by tomorrow, so perhaps I’ll just post it later. It was a very different experience, so I want to share it with you. I so love stumbling upon something new.

   Kathy is doing well, and she won an award for “most determined” student in her AA group. She is a model of inspiration – a true reminder that our lives are what we make them. Anyway, I’m quite proud of our friendship and the work we are doing together. She is reading some preschool books now. It is a delight to see her progressing.  She is getting teeth too. But I’ll talk about that later as well. 

    OK. Enough rambling. I have to get to my homework packet. I’ve lost four pounds this week. Cool. Think I’ll keep at it and see how svelte I can get throughout October – preparation for the upcoming holiday lack of control gluttony. Kind of like buying canned goods and water when you know a tornado is coming. Early preparation makes the damage less tragic.


   I missed being here. Nice to be back.