Monthly Archives: July 2011

Getting tanked

I got tanked on Monday…twice.  I remember most of it though so let me tell you about the adventure!  You see, our property is raw.  There are no amenities on the property…no water, no bathrooms, no air conditioned living rooms.  Just grass and trees and chiggers!  Oh my word are there chiggers.  Anyhow, on Monday, we took the first step towards making the place a little more comfortable.

Field lines

We called around and found a local guy who agreed to set us up with a licensed septic system and an in-ground cistern.  His crew started early Monday morning clearing the space where we wanted the septic field and went to work.

Our first toilet!

Over the course of the day,  they found rock here and there and had to adjust their plans several times.  Despite that, they were excellent and friendly, even in 95 degree humid air.  I know I drank over a gallon of water and I am certain that they each did too!

It’s hard to get excited about a septic system but there are a few things that just amazed me.  The guys dug significant holes for the septic tank and the cistern tank.  In each case, they adjusted and dug here and there and fussed, but both tanks laid in their holes were perfectly level.  I couldn’t believe it!  The installers checked it and so did the health inspector.  It’s a requirement but dang if they didn’t get it first time!

Bottom half of the cistern
That poor guy mixed cement with his hands and laid it in manually to seal between the cistern halves

Each tank came in in halves so the bottom half had to be placed and then a top half had to be fit just right into the sealant that was applied to the bottom.  These tanks were huge but those guys hit it just perfectly on both tanks.  It’s a requirement but dang if they didn’t get it first time!  If I heard them right, the cistern weighed over 13,000 pounds when it was all done.  It was no trivial thing to manipulate!

When it was all said and done, they graded the area very well and I think it actually looks better now than it did when they started.  That’s rare I know but I now have perfect spots to set up lawn chairs and watch the leaves flutter in the breeze.  That’s hard to beat!  Getting tanked (twice) was a great thing and really made my Monday!

Our car…the worm edition

So a few days ago, I told you all about the fun we had with crows on our honeymoon.  You may recall that my brother and a friend had put a bunch of birdseed into our suitcases as well as in the car.  By “in the car” I mean inside the car…literally.  There was birdseed in the dashboard, in the heater vents, down in the seats, floorboards, and even more in the dashboard.  Well, you get the point.  Anytime we drove around and hit a bump, even months later, birdseed would fall through the dash and onto the floor.

The start of the birdseed saga!

Jump ahead to our move to Kentucky for graduate school.  We were in marital bliss.  I suppose we didn’t see the world around us very clearly as we missed some obvious things…you’ll see in a second.  So, we were poor and all that but it was cool being married.  Emily seems to remember a rough few years as she attempted to train and civilize me.  Once she gave up, things got much better.  Anyhow, part-way through school, we moved to an apartment above a funeral home (more on that in another post!).

We noticed some wormy things in the backseat one day while unpacking groceries or something at the funeral home.  I didn’t think much of it.  I squished them and went on with my business.  Days later, we noticed them again…and again and again.  It started to get serious pretty quickly.

The car...already doomed!

I got a wild hair and decided to remove the back set of the car to see what was going on.  Why oh why didn’t I just remain ignorant?!  The entire back seat was infested with meal worms!  I don’t just mean there were a few crawling around.  Oh no, the foam in the seat was full.  The carpet in the floor was infested.  It was a regular larval zoo in our car!

I often deal with things like that with extreme overkill.  We had a Chevy Celebrity which, incidentally, was the best car ever made!  I loved that car!  Emily and I sanded the thing down in the weeks before our wedding so we could get it painted.  We wanted to make a flashy exit from the wedding ceremony.  Anyhow, back to overkill.  A Chevy Celebrity has maybe 30 sq ft of cabin space.  An insect bomb for a 2000 sq ft house seemed about right.  Makes sense, right?  If some is good, more is better!

On two separate occasions, I set off house-sized insect bombs in our little car.  The worms remained.  It’s a wonder we remained!  I am certain that a concentration of insecticide like that was not all that good for us.  After losing on the second bomb, I just re-installed the back seat and we looked no more.

How did we finally deal with the issue, you may ask?  Well, we traded that car in for a Chevy Prizm, the second best car ever made!  It was new and worm-free!  I blame those worms on the birdseed.  I have no doubt that the seed had meal worms in it.  They lived a good life for a couple of years on all of the birdseed in the car.  That wedding birdseed was the gift that kept on giving!

Our honeymoon…the crow edition

Emily and I were at a party for grown-ups (it rarely happens) when we got to telling stories.  Emily is a champion story-teller and she decided to spring our honeymoon story on folks.  It goes something like this…

We had just graduated college and were preparing for graduate school.  In translation, that means we were beyond poor when we got married.  We had just plunked down our security deposit on our 350 sq ft apartment and had moved what stuff we had a week before.  Our wedding was excellent and it was a super great occasion.  I cried when I saw Emily come down the aisle.  I am not opposed to crying, but I rarely do it.  Anyhow, it was a beautiful wedding.

After the wedding, we greeted guests and ended up with perma-grins on our faces from all of the smiling we did in the photo shoots.  We were definitely ready to head off on our honeymoon.  I planned it all and didn’t tell Emily where we were going.  I, uh, figured it didn’t really matter as just needed some time to get used to the idea of being married.  I booked us a room at the Mountain Creek Lodge at Pipestem Resort in southern West Virginia.

Little did I know, that my brother and one of our friends had filled our luggage and car with a ton of birdseed while we were cutting cake and smiling.  Honestly, it had to be close to a ton.  So, we got to the room and were exhausted.  We ate and half unpacked our stuff.  Without thinking, I just dumped the ton of birdseed from our suitcases outside in the yard just beyond the edge of our first story patio.  We went straight to bed, dead-tired and desperate for rest and calm.

Around daylight, let’s say 6 am the following day, we were startled from bed by the cawing of a family of crows.  That is, crows, right outside our window.  Crows cawing a mere 4 feet or so from our bed.  Yeah, crows.  I scared them off a few times but it was hopeless.  Sleeping in was not to be on our honeymoon.

There are a few more tails from that week of adventure but I’ll leave Emily to tell them another time.  But before I go, I have to tell you that the crows were not the end of the birdseed story.  Oh no, dear friends, there is more.   I will tell the rest of the story in my next post.


Thank you berry much

We have been busy as cats in a sandbox and it seems that we haven’t had time to do anything, much less anything interesting.  Every now and then, though, we get a chance to take a few minutes to do something simple.  Since it’s July (holy cow!  It’s July?!), something simple means berry picking for us.


We have an excellent raspberry patch at the house so I can stumble out in my pjs and grab a handful of berries.  Our patch makes many more than a handful though so we pick and freeze berries every day.  Our raspberry patch is pretty interesting.  Of course there are berries, but the new feral kittens hide out in there too (anyone want a kitten?  Energetic.  Free to a good home).   I have seen all manner of bugs and spiders also.  Honestly, our raspberry patch is a biology lesson (in a good way) waiting to happen!  I love picking berries just to see what will pop out next!

Black raspberries...not the same as blackberries

By the way, did you know you can spread berries out in a single layer on a plate, freeze them, and then put them in freezer bags.  The individual berries remain intact so you don’t end up with a berry blob.


Anyhow, raspberries are easy for us.  It’s the blackberries that are painful.  I think they have to be that way for folks to appreciate their awesomeness and I am willing to let Emily make the sacrifice.  We all pick them actually.  By “we”, I mean Emily and I pick them.  The kids always seem to wander off into the woods at our secret blackberry location to “look for more berries”.  Uh huh.

Sweet reward! Blackberry pie!

So, blackberries are especially good right now and I love blackberry pies more than any other pie (except maybe Emily’s strawberry pies).  I have an excellent wife who not only helps pick the berries, but also makes me pies!  Thanks you berry much!  You are my favorite wife, Emily!

Making steps…

When we first bought our house, there were many issues with the place.  Like a fool, I thought I wanted an old fixer upper.  I am smarter now but no less obligated to pay the mortgage so I press onward with the repairs.  Anyhow, one of the first things that needed to be fixed was the ladder steps that led to the front door.  There were a number of concrete pads embedded into the vertical dirt wall leading up the patio.  I kid you not, we had to turn our feet sideways and sort of hold on to get up to the door.

The old perches
That shovel is the only thing holding me up
That's a pile of block!

So, when we first bought the place, Emily and the kids remained in Nashville finishing out her job.  I started to work on the new place without their help.  My Dad came down and we went to town.  The steps were the first order of business.  I plucked the concrete pads from the wall and started digging.

Almost done!

The fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to get new, permanent steps in place was to form them from cement blocks.  Dad hauled numerous tons of block with his truck and we made our block steps.


Those steps served us well for 5+ years but eventually, the winter rains got into the block and froze, causing some of the blocks to crumble and break.  After near death (several times…I didn’t want to over-react afterall), we decided that the steps needed some work.  The kids and I chipped out the old block.  We had to cut sections out of some blocks, but most were pretty ok.  Abigail in particular seemed to enjoy the hammer and chisel so I see a possible career path for her if leader of the universe doesn’t work out.

I took a day off last week to form up frames so we could pour new concrete over the remaining blocks.  It was sort of difficult that way because we didn’t have a lot of extra room to make the steps bigger.  Too high and no one would be able to reach the first step, etc.  So, we poured another 1.5 inches or so on top of the old block.  I hand-mixed 17 bags of concrete on the hottest day I could find.   I didn’t think the van could handle carrying all 17 bags at once so I started mixing the third that I had and sent Emily on two more trips to get more concrete.

The framing waiting for concrete to my...feet? Arms and legs? Well, it was like music anyhow

We waited and fretted and finally unveiled the new steps sans framing.  The new steps are beautiful and hopefully will avert life-and-death situations for folks coming to visit.  After all of the work, we noticed that we forgot to write our initials in the concrete.  I figure we’ll revisit everything in 5 years or so anyhow, so maybe we can do it right the next time around!