It's really hard to believe we've been out here for over a week. How can time pass so quickly? As I suspected, the time here has only made us yearn to make it permanent. I know we'll sell our house in town eventually, but it can not happen soon enough.
I intended to write in the blog a few more times, but in all the activity, time just seemed to slip away. Thanksgiving Day was really nice. Bernie and had a huge meal with all the fixings. Eddie came out early that morning to hunt with his brother and 6 year old nephew. They came in to warm up and have some coffee around 9:30AM, headed back out to hunt a little while later, and then home to their own Thanksgiving meals. We were pleasantly surprised when Eddie called Thursday afternoon and asked if he and Gigi could come stay the night in the cabin. We went down and fired up the woodstove for them and made up a bed. They got there around 7PM and we sat in the cabin and visited a while. Bernie and I headed back to the house an hour or so later, and spent some time digesting the huge meal we had eaten earlier.
Friday morning Eddie was out hunting early, and Gigi took advantage of escaping her home full of teenagers and slept in. Bernie and I had business in Woodstock to tend to, so we headed that way fairly early. By late morning we all ended up in the kitchen of the house drinking coffee. Eddie had shot 2 deer over the past couple of days, so Bernie and Eddie skinned and cut them up, and then Gigi and I spent a lot of the afternoon processing it. We ended up with several steaks, a fair amount of back strap, and a few bags of burger. After a nice supper of turkey chili and melted cheese and chips, we split up the processed deer and Eddie and Gigi headed home to Front Royal.
This morning I woke with a heavy heart, knowing it's the last day of our vacation on our homestead. I've been trying not to think of it, but I admit it's been weighing on me. I really love this place so much. I keep up with the Homesteading Today forums and I just love it when the members post pictures of their goats and chickens. It really makes me smile to see them and I am SO looking forward to getting out here on a permanent basis and getting some of our own.
Eddie had mentioned he may come out again this morning to hunt, but he typically parks down by the cabin and walks up, so we never know he's here until he shows up. I looked out the front window of the house about 8AM and was surprised to see his car parked at the end of our driveway. I was even more surprised to see a buck laying on the hood of the car! I didn't know whether to smile with pleasure or cry. After processing two deer yesterday, I was not in any itching hurry to process another one. And it also did not escape me that he was out hunting again! Eddie, his brother, and his nephew came in for coffee around 10AM. After discussing the hunt and how he bagged the buck, I finally summoned enough courage to comment "I guess we'll be processing that deer today". I was pretty relieved to learn that no one was all that excited about the prospect of it, and we agreed to cut it up, put it on ice, and take care of it during the week. Yay! I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining. I really don't mind processing the deer and am very grateful that Eddie always splits his kill with us, but I confess the thought of processing one today just did not appeal to me. Bernie likes to keep them in ice and let them bleed out a bit, so we'll probably take care of this one Monday or Tuesday, along with another deer that a friend is giving Eddie.
So in one week we'll end up with 2 whole deer in the freezer. Not bad! I'm pretty happy about that.
All in all it has been a really nice week on the homestead. Bernie and I accomplished a little around here, enjoyed the company of good friends, and have a freezer full of deer. And I think we are going to go get Bernie's bees next weekend. We're pretty excited about that.
Next week we'll be back in Front Royal and back to working in DC. As much as we'd rather be on our homestead permanently, we know that we are working toward it and we hope that it is in the not so distant future.
I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and took some time to consider all you have to be thankful for. This week Bernie and I spent some time talking about everything we are thankful for. The list is long. Life has been good to us. We are fortunate to have found each other - heaven knows no one else would put up with us. And I firmly believe that together we can do whatever we set our minds to do. I'm never sure if we are optomistic, or just to dumb to realize differently. In either case, life is certainly good on Penny Lane. And I have no doubt that we will soon be here on a permanent basis.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
It's really hard to believe we've been out here for over a week. How can time pass so quickly? As I suspected, the time here has only made us yearn to make it permanent. I know we'll sell our house in town eventually, but it can not happen soon enough.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Well, it's Wednesday, and we've been on the homestead for 5 days today. I can not tell you how much we've enjoyed it. I'm worried we won't be able to leave at the end of the week. We could definitely get used to being here.
The last two days have been full of taking care of things around here. Today I didn't work from home, and dedicated the day to mudding and taping the Great Divide. While I was at it, I decided to take care of another wall in the kitchen. When they put this place together they threw up sheet rock and instead of mudding and taping them together, put a strip in the seams. I HATE that. It looks just awful and just how the heck can you hang pictures with that bulging strip every few feet. So I decided to test a small area in the kitchen, remove the seam strips, and tape and mud over them.
I have to explain something here, "I" ended up doing this because Bernie had some stuff to do outside, so I thought I'd get started in the house on the walls. Well, sure enough, he comes in as I'm in the middle of mudding and says "Boy. You've got some sanding to do." I've got some sanding to do???? I asked him why this is my project and he replied it's mine because I said I wanted to do it. We argued back and forth for a minute, and then I realized what would seal my fate...... I am standing there arguing with a mud bucket in one hand and a mud blade in the other, and he is standing there arguing with his hands in his pockets. *Sigh* I guess this is indeed my project.
At any rate, I got the Great Divide mudded and taped, and I got one kitchen wall mudded and taped. This is not for the faint of heart, but if you are feeling brave you can take a look at my handy work on our website. I updated it with pictures towards the bottom.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and I'll be spending it in the kitchen, cooking with a fury. I hope each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving Day where ever you are, and whom ever you are with. It will be just me and Bernie here at the homestead. We'll miss our families terribly, but we'll enjoy our time here and remember each of the people and things that we are thankful for. And although he won't mention it tomorrow, I know Bernie is really thankful he didn't have to watch me mud and tape.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Today was day 3 of our week on the homestead. I could get used to this. Today I had to log in on my laptop and work from home, which I really didn't mind. Bernie and Tex started the Great Divide project, which involved putting up a wall between the kitchen and the living room. It was an interesting day.
I holed up in a bedroom so I could get some work done, and desperately tried not to listen to the two of them as they worked. Tex brought his dog, Bobo and since Bobo and I are such good buddies, he joined me in the bedroom and curled up on the bed. We stayed in there quite some time before we decided we needed to venture out of the bedroom and through the wasteland we last recognized as my living room. I needed to get a glass of water, and Bobo needed to go outside and potty. We talked about it for a while and decided to take the chance. I swear Bobo kept his eyes closed as he headed from the bedroom, through the living room and out the door to go potty.
I was pleasantly surprised! It looked like a real wall was going up. Between the "Uh oh" and "Well, I never said I was a carpenter" comments we had overheard, Bobo and I were uncertain what we would face when we came out of the bedroom. But the guys were doing a great job! So I snapped a couple of pictures and let Bobo back in and then followed him to the bedroom - which is were he headed at a gallop.
The day wore on and I got a fair amount of work done. I ventured out on occasion to take a picture or two, but Bobo refused to leave the bed. He was pretty nervous about the whole thing. Finally, I logged off for the day and came out to examine the work that had been done so far. Not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, it was downright good! I was pleased as punch. Bobo wandered out and wagged his tail. We both agreed that we had worried for nothing. The guys knew what they were doing.
I put pictures up on the website. Check them out.
Bobo went home one happy puppy. And I stayed here one happy wife. The Great Divide has been constructed. Bernie and I will tape, mud, paint and trim it soon. We'll probably start on that tomorrow. I'll post more pictures on the website as we go.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Well, Friday we started our first full week and a few days on our homestead. This is the second full day and what I thought would be a totally secluded weekend, has been anything but. It's not been bad, just busier than hell and full of human contact. Fortunately for us, we rather like the majority of the humans we've been exposed to.
Friday began our busy weekend as we took the truck to work and then swung by a friend's house to pick up appliances. Alicia and her husband are remodeling a new home they recently bought - and they donated a washer, dryer, refrigerator, microwave, and automatic dish washer to us. Is that nice or what??? So we loaded all that up just outside of DC and looked like the Beverly Hillbillies as we headed down the highway for home. We swung by Front Royal, loaded up a weeks worth of supplies to take out to the homestead and ran by Tex's place to drop off the washer, dryer, and microwave on our way out of town. Tex and Charlotte are sweethearts, and insisted we keep the washer and dryer to use out at our homestead for the week. That really works out well for us, and we really appreciate it as it saves me from running back to Front Royal or to a laundry mat mid week. I've already used them twice and they work like a charm!
We made it to the homestead Friday night, got everything unloaded but the appliances, and called it a night. Saturday morning I surprised Bernie and got up when he did - at 5:30AM. We enjoyed our morning caffeine, caught up on the news of the world, got cleaned up and filled with breakfast, and then decided to unload the appliances off the truck. Bernie opened the front door just as our friend Eddie was walking into the front yard. He had told us he would be hunting the property that day and we were pleasantly surprised that he was ready for some coffee about the time we needed to do some heavy work. Well, at least I was happy because that meant I wouldn't have to do any heavy lifting. I made the coffee. Which seemed much appreciated. Eddie also had his brother and nephew with him, so I'm pretty sure that even Bernie didn't have to lift all that much. They got the washer and dryer inside the house, and the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher off the truck. While they took the frig down to put inside the cabin, I hooked up the washer and checked it out. The dryer needed a different plug, so I couldn't test that. At any rate, the Great White Hunters drank some coffee and headed back out in search of food. Bernie and I took off for Winchester to rustle up the new plug for the dryer and the building material to put up a wall in the house between the living room and the kitchen. If I'm in the kitchen doing anything, the noise seems to bounce off the walls in the living room. And heaven knows I don't want to be responsible for ruining a football game on the TV with a home made meal of any type. So the Great Divide project begins tomorrow.
Saturday morning we greeted the day at 6:30AM. Around 7:30AM I was day dreaming while looking out the window and I noticed evidence that we had a visitor while we slept last night. The bird feeders I made from soda bottles and hung from a tree (check out Kids Corner on our website for pictures) were gone. As I looked a little closer, I could see one of them in the distance on the ground. I went outside and inspected and sure enough, there is very strong evidence of a bear. We've seen signs of bear here and we know they are around, but they've never messed with anything before. Well, I guess that bird seed was just a little more temptation than they could stand. The tree branches the feeders hung from are clawed up and one is missing a fair amount of bark. The feeders themselves are torn to shreds - one was left several feet away and I found the other one in the woods a fair distance off. I took some pictures and put them on our website.
By 8:30AM we were on our way to Front Royal to meet Tex and head over to a couple's house that I met on Freecycle. If you've not joined Freecycle yet, I highly recommend it. As you may have gathered by it's name, this is group you can join and get stuff for free! Good stuff! You may advertise stuff you have to give away or stuff you are looking for. I advertised that I was looking for any building materials. And within minutes I had a note from Patty that she and her husband live right down the road from our Front Royal home and they had 4 windows to give us, as soon as they were ready to replace them with some new ones they bought. Within the next few days, Patty and Mike had dug out a brand new metal outer door (prehung), a brand new inside door, 4 beautiful wooden pillars with the feet, new outdoor carriage lights, insulation, several bifold doors, window shutters, and heaven knows what else! Tex and Bernie each have a fullsize pickup truck, and we had 2 truck loads full of wonderful stuff that Patty and Mike donated to us. They also sold us a gas stove heater and a huge load of 2 X 4s and OSB boards cheap! As much as we very much appreciate all that we were given, we are even more appeciative to have met 2 very nice people. They are generous to a fault and just down right nice. We were there about 2 hours and by the time we left Patty and I were talking like we were childhood friends. Very nice experience all the way around.
We took our bounty to Tex's place and he's storing it in his barn. Tex and Charlotte are family to us, and we share just about everything. We are fortunate to have such good friends. In fact, Tex is coming out tomorrow to help Bernie erect the Great Divide. I'll get some pics of the project.
So today ends our second full day at the homestead. I can't tell you how nice it is to know we'll be here tomorrow instead of fighting our way into the city to work. I'm still working tomorrow - but my job has agreed to let me do it from the homestead. How nice is that??? So while Bernie and Tex labor on the Great Divide, I'll be holed up and working on my computer. I am still on the hook to supply breakfast and lunch for the laborers, but the rest of the time I will be peacefully working on my computer. I can't wait! And I plan to prepare supper tomorrow night knowing that the results of Monday Night Football will be unaffected by the banging and clanging of pots from the kitchen. Life is good on Penny Lane!
I plan to update the blog every night or two while we're out here and keep y'all up to date on what we're up to this week. Happy Thanksgiving week to all of you from both of us!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Two posts in one day - I'm quite ambitious, aren't I? Actually, after I posted the last entry, Bernie reminded me that I had pictures I hadn't put on the website yet. Last weekend I finally cleaned up his backhoe and got some pictures of all my hardwork. And Bernie finally went flying with Garrett and got some pictures of the homestead from the sky. I put these plus pictures of the Trail Wagon up on the website. Check them out at the bottom of the pictures here.
I want to take a moment and thank all veterans of the U.S.A. for their service to this great nation - past, present, and future. For all it's problems, there is no greater nation on the planet and we owe this to the veterans who have given of themselves to make this country what it is. A big thank you to each of you.
Because it was Veteran's Day, Bernie and I had Friday off from work, so we were able to head out to the homestead on Thursday night. Thursday was an absolute gift of a day as far as weather goes during the month of November. It was in the 70's all day. By the time we arrived at the homestead it had cooled off to the lower 60's, but who can complain about that?
Last weekend was nice for November, but much cooler and a little windy. After such a horrible commute from work that Friday night, we didn't head to the homestead until Saturday morning. We got there, unpacked the truck, and spent the day just relaxing. We had a nice surprise Sunday when Tex, Charlotte, Eddie, and Gigi joined us for breakfast on the homestead. What a great day! We walked through the woods, sat outsided and chatted, and just enjoyed the day together. We even had a couple of friends (Jeff and Connie) from SC stop by for an hour or so. They were heading back home from a weekend in NJ and decided to visit for few minute. Jeff, Connie, Eddie and Gigi ended up leaving around 2PM, and Tex and Charlotte stayed until dark. It was really unexpected and really nice.
At any rate, this Friday was yet another absolutely gorgeous day - in the 70's and bright sunshine. We had planned to work on clearing some more land, but decided to head into town to buy a few items that we've had on the shopping list for quite some time (ie: fire extinguishers, blinds for windows, etc.). So after a hearty meal of biscuits, gravy, and sausage, we headed into metropolis of Woodstock to scare up the items we needed. We didn't get home until around 1:30PM or so, and by then it was really too late to start clearing out land, don't you think? OK, maybe it wasn't, but the weather was just so nice.... and how many days like THIS are we going to get in November? Plus we had a couple of rifles that were just begging to shoot at a couple of targets, so.... we ended up shooting for a couple of hours.
Bernie bought me the cutest New England Arms rifle/shotgun. It has interchangeable rifle and shotgun barrels. It is just the most perfect size for me and I love it. There's only one problem. I can't hit anything I aim at with it. And I'm usually a pretty good shot. Bernie is actually an expert marksman with a rifle, and he worked with it a bit on Friday and determined it really needs to be sighted in. So he messed with it a while, but we both got tired of running down range to holler back where the bullet hit, so we decided to wait until a time when we can bring out binoculars and make the job a little easier. We were there to have fun, and sighting that thing in quickly became very NOT fun. So we shot 2 of the rifles Bernie brought out and had a hoot doing it. We decided to work on clearing the land on Saturday and headed in to start supper.
Well, Saturday morning came and as usual, Bernie was up before me. As I stumbled in the kitchen for coffee, Bernie casually said "Remember that little Trail Wagon we saw yesterday? I was just sitting here thinking how much fun YOU would have in that thing. I mean, it has 4 wheel drive and could easily pull the saw mill, but I think YOU'D really like it. And you're always hauling stuff around here and you have to bungie it to the ATV. You could just throw the stuff you're hauling in the bed of the Trail Wagon. You could really use something like that. Just imagine how much fun you'd have driving that thing. I can just see you now. Anyway, I was just sitting here thinking about it."
OK, we've been married going on 20 years. I know this man. And even though I had not had my morning coffee yet, I easily figured out this was something he really wanted. My first clue was the fact that he was determined to convince me that I would really enjoy it and I really need it.
I simply replied "Yea, that was a pretty cool little vehicle" and poured my coffee. When I had finished about half my coffee and had some time to figure out our finances I asked "Do you really want that thing?"
"Well, I was just thinking how handy it would be for you." I looked at him sideways. "I mean, just think about how handy it would be." He proceeded to make his case and ended it with "You take care of all our finances, and I know we've been saving to buy things we need for this place, but this is something I think we really need."
So needless to say, we got cleaned up, scarfed down a couple of sausage biscuits and headed back to the great metropolis of Woodstock to rescue the Trail Wagon. I figured it would take a few hours. So much for clearing land today.
As it turned out, paying for and loading the Trail Wagon took only a matter of about 15 minutes. What ended taking up an additional hour and a half was the fact that we discovered our truck inspection sticker was dead. It was 1 month over due. So after we picked up the Trail Wagon, we hung out with a group of people who were as pleased as we were to spend a significant chunk of their Saturday waiting on their vehicles to be inspected. Oh well. We read up on the Trail Wagon and Bernie helped some poor stranded guy heading from NJ to GA who was broken down with a bad wheel bearing. By the time the truck was finally inspected, Bernie and Poor Stranded Guy had the bearing in and the wheel back on and Poor Stranded Guy wished us happy holidays and headed down I-81 for GA. I said a little prayer that Poor Stranded Guy arrive safely in GA.
We finally made it back to the homestead around 1PM with the Trail Wagon proudly riding in the bed of the truck. As we pulled up to the driveway, our neighbor rode by and her 3 little tow headed boys screamed out the window "It's Bernie and Penny!!!" like we are rock stars. These are cute little kids. They are 6, 8, and 10 years old and for some reason think that we are their best friends. It's really flattering and we love when they come to visit. They spotted the Trail Wagon in the bed of the truck and sure enough, moments after we unloaded it they came up to visit. We rode them around in the trail wagon, taught them how to make a whistle out of an acorn, fed them bologna sandwiches for lunch, and then sent them on their way. I'll put some pictures of the Trail Wagon and the youngins riding it on the website in "Homestead Pictures" area when I finish this post.
By the time we finished playing with the Trail Wagon, it was time to start supper. So much for clearing land this weekend!
It was a wonderful time on the homestead this weekend. No, we really did not accomplish a thing, but we had a relaxing and calm weekend, and we need that every now and again.
Next weekend starts our "vacation" - we're taking the week off for Thanksgiving and spending it on the homestead. We can't wait! We were scheduled to pick up bees next weekend, but we have an opportunity to pick up a few truckloads of building material from a most generous couple (Mike and Patty) who are giving windows, columns, insulation, and many more items FREE for the outbuildings we have planned. I met them through www.freecycle.org when I placed a want ad for any free building materials. If you have not checked out that website, I highly recommend it. I can't believe how very generous Mike and Patty are and we will be supplied with items that would cost us a fair amount to purchase. I put out a simple ad, and through personal emails back and forth, I've ended up with more than I ever could have dreamed of. It confirms what I've always felt very strongly about - Americans are good and generous people. If you reach out, there is always someone there to help out where they can. Too cool. I'll let y'all know how next weekend goes and what all we end up with. At the very least, I've ended up with a new friend!
Friday, November 03, 2006
What a freaking day. It started at 3:15 this morning, when my alarm jolted me awake by blaring what I would normally consider an absolutely spirit lifting song by "The Who". I slammed the snooze button down and pulled the covers over my head. Nine minutes later I was once again jolted awake, and decided to drag my dead tired butt out of bed and into the shower.
I guess this really is not so different from any other school day for us, and any day that starts at 3:15 in the morning can't be all good, but I feel I needed to tell you to make you feel a little pity for me as I continue with this story.
A little side note: In case you're new to the BackToBasicLiving website and aren't aware if our little journey, my husband and I are in our mid 40s. We live in a small town in the Shenandoah Valley and commute 150 miles a day, round trip, into Washington, DC to work. We recently had an epiphany and discovered that everything we've struggled for in all these years, is not worth it to us. We are now attempting to sell our home and move out to our 65 acres and homestead. Our goal is to get back to basic living and start enjoying life with purpose. You can read the whole story on our website, but not before you finish listening to me whine...... and by the way, if you are looking for a beautiful 3400 square foot home in the Front Royal area, WE HAVE YOUR DREAM HOME! Contact me immediately!
Where was I.... oh yea, so we're up at around 3:30AM, fight our way into the city to jobs that are killing us, and the whole time repeating to ourselves that "This is worth it. Tonight we will drive out to our homestead in the middle of 65 acres and life will be good." I'm serious. We're repeating that over and over again just to get through the day. So the day finally ends and I head out of DC to pick up my wonderful husband at 2:30PM. That sounds pretty early doesn't it? Seems like we got a pretty good start to the weekend, don't you think? We'll NO. NO it's NOT early ENOUGH. Seems EVERYONE and their brother ALSO thought it would be a really nifty idea to leave work at 2:30PM this afternoon and head to Front Royal on I-66.
The traffic was horrendous. But that's OK. I'm telling myself "This is worth it. Tonight we will drive out to our homestead in the middle of 65 acres and life will be good." So I was trying to not get too terribly stressed - and that ended up being a total waste of time. Because I DID get stressed. No, not just because of the traffic, which was obnoxiously, ridiculously, stupidly stupid. But because an 18 wheeler wrecked last night on I-66 around Delaplane and TONIGHT on I-66 they still had that section of the road down to 1 lane. No, that wasn't a typo. The accident was LAST night and they still haven't cleaned up from it TONIGHT. 24 hours later and an 18 wheeler carrying lumber is still wreaking havoc. LUMBER. Not one million gallons of gasoline, but lumber.
So we decide to take 55, which is a two lane road that parallels I-66. That should be better, right? WRONG. It probably would have been better if 19,000 other people didn't have this exact same idea in mind and if one of those 19,000 hadn't run into a tree in his/her excitement of escaping I-66.
So we finally make it past the moron that couldn't contain his excitement and are now are TWO hours into our 75 mile one way commute. And we are not happy. But finally, things start looking up. Everyone else decides to jump back up on I-66 after Delaplane. But we're smarter than that. Now I-66 will be congested with all these people diving back on, so we'll just STAY on 55 and outsmart them all! We'll be in Front Royal before they even finish merging onto I-66! We're brilliant - and we laugh maniacally. This is GREAT! Gawd, we are SO ..... yikes! What is THAT? Why is it going round in tight circles? And why is that pickup truck barely off the road with it's driver standing there scratching his head? Oh, I see. It is a deer in the middle of the road that has been clipped in the hind end by that pickup truck and now it's back legs don't work, so it's flailing wildly on it's front legs and can only go in a circle. In the middle of the freaking road. Great.
So here we are, 2 hours and some change into the commute from hell, staring at a flailing, injured deer standing between us and home, with no guns. Because even though we work in one of the most crime infested cities in the country, guns are illegal there. That's right, they are illegal - which honestly does not seem to bother the criminals that use them in that city every day. But we are law abiding citizens for the most part, so we have no gun on us for this particular situation. Fortunately, a good ol' boy that WAS prepared pulled over to help out, so we eaked between the deer and it's poor victim and continued down the road.
I am proud to report there were no other major events in our journey and we pulled into our driveway a mere 2 hours and 45 minutes after leaving work. I am not kidding. 2 hours and 45 minutes. The sad news is we were so frustrated and irritated from the commute, that we decided to wait until tomorrow to go out to the homestead. After being on the road for 2 hours and 45 minutes, neither of us had the heart to pack up the truck and drive the additional 40 miles. How sad is that?
Well, the good news is we ordered a pizza and drank a couple of beers and are feeling much better now. We'll be heading out to the property tomorrow morning and I'm really looking forward to it. Bernie's excited too - right after he bought his back hoe off of ebay, I promised I would clean the inside of it for him. As exciting as that job sounds, I've been putting it off. Tomorrow I'm taking all the cleaning supplies out and cleaning that thing for him. He couldn't be happier. He's so darn easy to please..... which probably explains why he's stayed married to me for going on 20 years.
Sorry this is not my normal "homesteading is great" post. It probably would be if we were actually homesteading as I write this. But today was reality. And it really serves to remind me why we decided to give up this lifestyle in the first place. It's just not worth it. I'd rather be out on our property and working 12 hours a day there to make ends meet than continue to live a life that sucks the life blood out of us. I guess you never know what you left behind until you leave it. I look forward to leaving it. Yes, we'll know what we left behind. And it won't take us 2 hours and 45 minutes to come to the conclusion that we don't miss it.