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Monthly Archives: July 2008


The bear came back. He had tampered with my bunny cages again. I got pissed.
So, I called the Georgia game warden and we made arrangements for him to come out to give me some advice.
Whatever is attacking my rabbits tends to defecate at the base of the cages, so this time, I saved the poop.

The warden came. His name was Joe. I said, “Joe, look at my poop. What do you think?”
Joe spit. Joe happens to spit every third sentence, which I thought was weird until I described it to Mark and he pointed out that the man probably had chew in his mouth (Ah yes. That makes sense. I’m not used to government officials with a wad of tobacco in their mouths, but then, I’m sure he’s not used to farmers calling him in who have classical music blaring on the loud speaker either.)

Joe considered all the evidence and took a look at my cage damage. He kicked my poop. Then he announced that yes, I have a bear. Nothing else could reach so high and bend the steel supports of my cages or leave me such a nice, big gift poop. I pointed out how the bear throws the heavy cage covers half way around the barnyard. He said they do that because it amuses them. He also said it was odd that a bear would be visiting my rabbits this time of year, because the forest has so much to eat now that the blackberries and such are in season. But the fact that he appears every ten days or so means he had staked out a large territory and he’s made of habit of his rounds. Joe suggested I stop leaving food in my rabbit cages, and then maybe the bear will take me off his grocery stops. This means more work for me and inconvenience for the rabbits, which seems sort of unfair. Joe did say that if I tried to discourage the bear and he continued to visit, they could come set a trap to have him removed, but they rather that be a last resort. The traps are dangerous to dogs and kids, and they’re a lot of trouble. He said that deer season will come around soon, and then we can shoot the bear if we want. Gee, thanks for nothing, Joe.

I said, “What if I start feeding the bear, just leave him a bucket of food so he won’t bother my animals.”
Joe about choked on his tobacco and said that would be a really bad idea.
I showed him my llama skull, now sitting in bleach in a bucket in my barn (which everyone in my family thinks is totally gross. Mark says, “What are you planning to do with it, Dear.” I told him I was going to use it to decorate a Christmas wreath for the barn or something.” (I was kidding) What can I say, I just felt compelled to save it. Actually, it is a fascinating thing – it looks like a dinosaur skull because the shape of the skull is so unlike a familiar cow head on the desert. The jaws are long and thin and filled with teeth like a pterodactyl. If only I still had a preschool, I’d donate it to the science collection where they had butterflies and beetles and bird nests to study. Probably scar my students for life, but still, it would definitely be something other preschools didn’t have to offer. Oops… I’m off the subject. Pardon me.)

I asked about mountain lions. Joe laughed, spit, and said that they had reports of that often, but they have yet to document a case. People call them in to see tracks, and they take a plaster, but it always ends up a big dog or something. He said we have no mountain lions – but we do have a few bobcats. They won’t eat anything bigger than a chicken. I told him the rumor down at the feed store about the person whose horse was killed and “split down the middle”. He said, “Trust me, it isn’t a mountain cat.”
Well, that is good news, I guess.
Joe said that a bear didn’t kill my llama. A bear would have buried the remains to come eat later. They won’t attack anything that big unless desperate, and with all the goodies I have around here, that just wouldn’t be the case. The fact that the skeleton was intact meant Dali was probably taken down my coyotes. They would gnaw at the flanks but leave the rest for other creatures to polish it off, just as they often do with deer. Had I discovered him sooner, I might have had evidence to support that theory. Glad I didn’t.

Joe suggested we try to shoot the coyotes, because they are not indigenous to the area and there is no law against killing these marauders. But, even if we were crack shots (and we aren’t) we won’t ever get rid of these pests, because they’ll repopulate faster than you can blink. Gee, Thanks for nothing, Joe.   

He said my dead chickens are not a result of the coyotes or the bear. That is probably a possum or dog or fox or something else or most likely a combination of the above.  So, catching the bear or shooting the coyotes still wouldn’t solve my problems. Apparently, nature is a resourceful enemy and she is going to keep coming at me over and over again, despite my best efforts to thwart her.

Joe told me to erect an electric fence around my bee hives for safety. (Then he spit) I might want to put one around my rabbit cages too. (He spit again)  I pointed out that I have no electrical in these areas, and he suggested I purchase solar units. (More spit) This is getting complicated. Thanks for nothing Joe.

I will have to think on all this. I am getting pretty aggravated and I don’t know how much more my tender heart can take.

I’m mad enough to spit – not mad enough to take up chewing tobacco, but still, mad enough to spit. I’m either going to have to buy a gun and learn to shoot it, or start raising goldfish. Neither option appeals to me. Actually, spitting doesn’t appeal to me much either. Some days I really ask myself what the heck I’m doing here.

Here we go again . .

Our house is now officially for sale. Sigh.
Since not everyone has had a chance to visit, it might be fun to check out the website we are working on as a marketing device. It features all kinds of pictures of the house and if you click the link to the virtual tour it’s like standing in each room and seeing it from all angles. If you had a glass of Ginny’s homemade wine in hand, it would be exactly like hanging out with us here in Georgia. Anyway, this is the house that Mark built.

Click on “home” and you can see Mark’s new realtor website too. It’s a work in progress so you might want to check back later, because eventually it will be linked to his “other business” of rustic furniture and heritage crafts. Everyday he is adding features, learning about his new business. As he grows more confident and learns from others, he is even starting to implement his own creative approach which is interesting to watch.

A few fun details (so you can fully appreciate this final Hendry house show and tell)
All the rustic furniture in the house was built by Mark too –he turned all the bowls and made all the baskets and brooms on display. He made the rustic shelves, coffee tables, chairs etc… One reason we’ve waited to take pictures of this place for the magazine and for selling it was because we needed furniture. It was a great house – but empty! This week, he whipped off the porch table, the dining room table and a few other much needed pieces. Needless to say, I am now at a loss of what to nag about. Gee, what a dilemma. At long last, my article about the dancers who moved to Georgia to “Choreograph a house” (I know, corny me) is finally in the mail to an editor. And I finally have a place to put my coffee cup when reading out on my porch. All is perfect on the home front at last. . . except that if this place sells fast, we will be without a roof over our heads AGAIN. Ah well, what ya gonna do? We assume a house this size will take time to move, but then, we thought that about our business and it sold in 5 days and we were told to get lost immediately, which taught us you can never “assume” things will unfold at a pace you can keep up with. Take it from me. Be careful when you start rolling a snowball down a hill.

We cleared the lot on the other side of our land and started building our new home last month – this will be more of a big farmhouse style home. The setting for the new house is just as beautiful to me – only without the water feature. I will miss my ducks, but we’ll still be surrounded by trees and wildlife and cool breezes and crickets, so complaining would silly. Our decision to go this route rather than sell all our land and starting over means Mark will be able to keep his workshop. I’ll have my barn and bees and animals and garden. I’ll have another office for writing, and even a space in the basement for storing wine. We’ll have 35 acres to sprawl out on, and the new house may not be a “lodge” but it will be big and functional and knowing Mark, it will end up a lovely living space too. There are great houses on the market for a song right now, but building again so we can keep the other things we love on this land is the compromise that sits with us best in light of the wrench thrown in our original plans. 
This is the foundation for the new house. The actual house will sit above this. 

From the back . . .

This is my new back yard. Can’t you just imagine lots of shining eyes peering back at you from this forest like in a cartoon? The entire area where the house sits was dense forest a month ago. We couldn’t use the land as it was because it was too dense even to walk through. In some ways, building here is going to enhance the land by making it useable.

This is what the front view will look like. We took out a milion trees and turned it into a sort of yard – it gives us room for outdoor living. We made a huge circular drive by connecting two short roads that were cut in when this was going to be a development. Makes for a nice drive in and sections off this house site in a nice way.

The drive which is off to the side of this cleared area.

The other day Mark told me someone he worked with said all people were either builders or nesters.      
“I am definitely a builder,” he said.
“I am a nester,” I said.
“No, you aren’t. We wouldn’t be here if we were,” he said, matter-of-factly.

I don’t know about that, but I do know that I am flexible when I have to be. Life is too short to lament about what you don’t have. Gotta celebrate what you do have and move on. I don’t look forward to moving again, and I dread that transition phase and the temporary loss of my office and routine if that occurs– (cause, I’ve learned I’m just not very productive when life is up in the air) but I am ultimately glad Mark had the opportunity to build the house he always wanted to build, even if we didn’t get to keep it. After all, it is the process that counts.  As he once said, “This is the grand recital of houses. I was in heaven being able to just unleash my ideas and finding out what I’m capable of.” I guess it is like a dance. You are totally engrossed with the creation of the thing, but then you must let it go for others to enjoy.

Anyway, back to the tour. The dining room table is sort of amusing to ex-Flexers – because those benches are former FLEX benches, purple until last week. They sat in storage outside of FLEX for about a year after we closed our third location to open Lakewood Ranch. Mark decided to haul them all the way up to Georgia because the new owners had no use for them and he couldn’t bear throwing them out knowing they cost so much to build due to the spring seat design. When we were packing up the moving van with FLEX stuff,  he said, “You know, I might use these benches some day. The darn seats were a thousand dollars apiece to have built. I’ll cover them with an animal hide or something,” And he hoisted them into the truck.

At the time, I thought he was going to a lot of trouble to haul these heavy benches all the way to Georgia where they would no doubt sit in storage for years. But we had room in the truck, so what the heck.  Then, we thought we might use them at the coffee shop, but  that idea was shelved. And don’t ya know, when he needed something for the dining room in a hurry, down came the purple benches. He put natural wood legs on them and we covered the purple seats in orange ultra suede. Voila! Seating for the new table. I guess all those years of making costumes out of whatever we had on hand certainly trained him well.

When we sold FLEX, staff members told us the new owners always referred to us as “the Cheap Hendrys”. Boy, that stung. We’ve always been frugal about resources because we spent so many years struggling to build a business without any funds to work with that we had no choice. We made a habit of finding ways to use everything we had at hand to give the world an impression that the school was professional and well funded when in reality, we were always frantically trying to come up with creative ways to meet the never ending needs of a growing school. Even when we started earning enough to relax a bit, tossing out the things that could have a second life was hard for us because we knew how hard it was to earn the money that bought them in the first place. And needless waste goes against our world view – because a disregard for resources is ruining our planet.

It killed us to watch the new owners frivolously dumping FLEX educational materials, stock, paper products, furniture etc… when it was all serviceable and sometimes in perfect condition, only because they wanted a different color or a new look or to add things that were not at all necessary to the educational product just for show. It was painful for two old timers who had to scratch and make sacrifices to see such waste, and their indulgence foreshadowed exactly what was to come. But what can you do? We watched that train wreck, sick at heart, long before anyone else saw trouble coming. But then, we knew what it took to keep that place humming, and even at it’s most sucessful, there was little wiggle room for such indulgence. Heck, if that school made enough to allow the owners to write a check for anything they desired, we would have kept it. Alas, there was no goose in the back laying golden eggs – just two very tired, overworked dancers who were so out of steam they couldn’t keep the balls in the air anymore.  Ah well, – that is another (retired) story.

The point is, creativity was our means to an end for years and years, until it became an ingrained habit. You’d be shocked to learn how much of this beautiful house was done  for a fraction of what it would cost a normal builder, thanks to Mark’s ingenuity and creative talents. We’d never had had the resources to build this if it wasn’t Mark at the helm working his magic. Limitations are frustrating sometimes, but for him, it inspires creative solutions and great things happen.

Back to the tour. My favorite “pano” is the one of the porch because it shows off the setting of the house. We had the fireplaces cranking (to show off the house’s potential) even though it was 86 degrees outside. Could barely get it to draw since there was no cool air to create draft in the flue. Smoke filled the porch, and we had to wait for a breeze to come along to take a picture.  Were out there coughing, laughing, trying to showcase the “perfect life” as we were bending over with smoke inhalation. If anyone notices that there are sunflowers growing in a pot next to the roaring fire, they will recognize the ruse. Ha. But in truth, in the fall, this room is magnificent. 

There is a lovely hammock by the hot tub too, but when you sit in it your butt hits the floor. Again, this was erected last minute for the pictures. I implored Mark to fix it so we could actually use the hammock while we are still here. He said he would, but in the end, only because he is motivated to create something wonderful for others, not for us.  I’d have to put my homes up for sale all the time if I ever wanted to live in someplace finished. Ah well. Life is not a page out of Martha Steward Living even if sometimes I wish it was.

The workout room and pool room is now filled with pictures we inherited from closing down FLEX. I must say, it wasn’t easy to hang them, considering what they represent. But we are selling the place furnished, so we wanted to take down all the personal pictures and artifacts that have meaning to us. So, if you recognize the wall hangings, know they were put up just this week with mixed feelings. They are definately for the next guy – and again, it was a matter of using the resources on hand. 

Oddly enough, we are not sad about selling. It would have been wonderful had things worked out with the sale of our business as planned, but since it didn’t, the “lodge” has become a source of stress and a symbol of disappointment. It was the perfect Hendry dream house, true,  but in the end, it is just a house and there are more important things in life. I certainly want my world to be about more than acquisitions, so when it came to a decision of working like dogs under stress to try to keep it, maybe even opening another dance studio, or to let it go and downsize to continue living a life with creative options, there was no question.

Mark is busy with building his new real-estate career now, working 7 days a week. This won’t last forever, he assures me. I miss him, but I am proud that he is committed to forging a new career, and I honestly believe he will be very successful. He is out with buyers viewing properties today and he’s already started to acquire listings. People trust him, and well they should. He is very knowledgeable. For one thing, he has always loved land and houses and he has a creative eye which means he sees the potential others might miss– for another, he has a builder’s knowledge to recognize quality and he always makes some pertinent suggestions for improvement. Last week a woman listed a cabin on a creek with him, but the entire creek was hidden behind tons of mountain laurel. Mark went out there and spent a day cutting it all away to reveal 360 feet of creek. Changed the entire property. Not many realtors give that kind of service, and don’t ya know the place had three showings this week and they might be getting an offer today. 

He has a big ol’ billboard with his beaming face going up on the highway this fall and we are working together to develop a marketing plan for him. After being Robin to Batman at FLEX for so many years, it is very nice he has something of his own for the first time ever – good for his self esteem and sense of pride. He’s never felt better about work.  I’d shoot myself in the foot before I’d sell houses for a living, but that is what makes the world go around, right?

I am diligently working on my new book, a memoir called “My Million Dollar Donkey” about our experiences and just how difficult the simple life can be. This story is filled with comical scenes about a city girl going country, beekeeping, horse training and the works, but also contemplates how difficult it is for Americans to shed their consumer mindset and social expectations, despite how wholesome living and an earth friendly existence is all the rage. What is romantic in theory is filled with shit in truth, but what a great adventure life can be when you are willing to sink ankle deep in crap.  I am pretty happy with the project and think it has potential. I am also dabbling with rewriting my second historical romance – big project, but one that keeps beckoning me.

My first book (historical) came back from the agent with a nice note that said the writing was wonderful (whew) and they even passed it around so several people in the firm could read it ( a very good sign that they seriously considered taking it on) but they didn’t like my heroine because she was too resourceful and independent for the time (1848). That is a fair criticism. I agree, and yet, I can’t imagine her any other way considering her circumstances.  I was depressed for a day, then I sent the book to the other agent who had put in a request for a full manuscript. It now sits with her, a long shot, perhaps, but at least it is still in circulation. With each rejection, I learn something new, about myself as a writer and the Achilles heel of my stories.  I am ultimately convinced anything I write now will be much, much better, so really, I am trying to move forward and shelve my early attempts– chalking them up to learning experiences.

Now, it is all about having the discipline to sit my butt in the chair to create something new rather than moseying down to the barn to play Dr. Doolittle. It’s a trial having turned off that constant revving engine that used to reside in my gut making me constantly achievement oriented. Perhaps it is age that is slowing me down, or the slow whisper of the breeze surrounding me out here, but I just don’t feel pressured to prove anything anymore. I guess there is good and bad in that. I may not rock the world with amazing feats, but I certainly feel at one with it now.