The School of Hard Knocks is Merciless

I’ve been reading Helen and Scott Nearing’s classic treatise “The Good Life.”  Carter Sio gave it to us, I guess our effort here at the Hoot put him in mind of the Nearings.  I take that as a true compliment.  Most of the time, around here, I think we feel like a combo free-for-all, junkyard, odd petting zoo, and ice-chest.  Anyway, there it is.  And reading their words the other night, I came across what I think should be our motto:
IMG_3987I think that’s pretty self explanatory.
Other things do keep going on here.  Heat installation.  It’s no small thing to have heat in a couple of upstairs rooms, though we keep burning through that propane.  Still no wood boiler hooked up.  Close but still no cigar.  In that regard, I’ll offer another apology to Bob.  I didn’t realize how much he likes dragging heavy things up our stairs.  We used a modification of his rig to get some radiators upstairs, and to get one tub down the stairs and one tub up the stairs (the whole reason for this is that there wasn’t enough room in the bathroom for a radiator and the tub.  So we had to swap out for a slightly smaller one.  A tag-along from Los Angeles, in fact).  Casey picked out some new brass hardware for the tub, so we feel quite decadent.  Ok, maybe not decadent, how about human?  Jackie provided a new kick-ass shower curtain and curtain rings.  Photos of that to come, here, pretty soon.

That’s about all we got right now… a few photos of the wood boiler install in progress  We’ve been calling it “The Spaceship” and “The Racecar.”  You may see why in a future post.  It’s getting more dressed up, anyway:
IMG_3969 IMG_3967And also, we had a visit from our friends, Lauren, Alex, and Sam, and they took some nice pics.  Turns out being a professional photographer really makes a difference, huh?SamCasey2 SamCasey3 SamCaseysmFinally, we’re back to that season again: sugaring and fruit tree pruning.  I’ve only got pics of the sap, not the pruning, but that’s ok.  You can pretty much imagine what pruning looks like.  Our sugaring setup is a little more advanced than it was last year, as you can see from what’s below:



IMG_3991 IMG_3993

sap evap

sap evap

I’ll leave you with this.  Spring is not far off.  I found these bulbs we heeled in last spring.  Gina Fox says they’re Naked Lady Bulbs, and we all salvaged them together from the dump at Strawberry Hill.  We’ll see if they turn out to be just that.
IMG_3995Addendum:  I guess we did something right.  We came up with a couple of pints of syrup that tasted massively good on some pancakes.  We’re still working out the final cooking and filtering, and if anything (Casey, wouldn’t agree with me on this one, I don’t think) it’s too sweet.  Next batch will come off the stove just a little bit sooner, so the sugars will concentrate just a bit less.  Still, I think we’re having pancakes again this morning:

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Photos, nothing more.

IMG_3937 IMG_3913

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A Lever Long Enough

Archimedes supposedly once said the words above.  I know my Dad said them many times during my growing up years.  The full quote of course is “Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the world.”  I guess nobody was around with a camera phone when he said it, because there are no youtube videos of Archimedes giving the exact quote.  So don’t get too angry at me if the quote isn’t exactly right.  Still, the point is well taken.  An illustration of the power of yet another ingenious simple machine.  Lever, fulcrum, force.
IMG_3909There they are, illustrated in my project of yesterday: pulling the last of the concrete footing forms off the new footing.
Ok, next.  Sorry, Bob.  Part of the reason I needed the long lever (yes, it’s an 8 foot four by four) is because it been at least a month since the concrete was even poured.  The whole time I was working, I heard Bob’s voice in my head, chiding me that I’d waited so long to remove the forms.  As you may know, Bob is our bottomless source of knowledge, creativity, info and instruction on this project.  As he’s fond of saying, if we had asked his opinion in the first place, he would have counseled us never to buy this house.  But bless him, in spite of that, he’s still helped us with all sorts of projects.  And in this particular case, we were supposed to take the forms off after a week, not a month.  So I say again, sorry Bob.  As I’m sure he’s noting to himself right now, those forms were hard to get out of there.  The big lever sure helped.  I marvel, over and over again, how little different are the tools we use from the tools used by the people who built this house.  Certain things seem to barely change, especially the really smart ones.
You’ll note in the following photo, the footing, without the form around it.  Looks pretty nice, I think.  Each day, bits of progress:

IMG_3910One other small bit of progress:  We anticipate that our wood-fired boiler will be fully operational, just in time for spring.  Ironic, isn’t it?  To that end, I’ve brought the heat storage tank along a little bit further.  We’re a pond liner away from being ready to fill it with water.  Please leave your floating lounge chairs at home.
IMG_3901Best regards from The Hoot.  Hope to see you up here real soon.

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Concrete Christmas

As usual things around here are moving at a fairly fast and furious clip.  Also in about 10 directions simultaneously.  I keep being reminded of that classic Tom Waits song, Tom Traubert’s Blues, “No one speaks English, and everything’s broken/ And my stacks are soaking wet.”  I mean seriously.  Have you ever tried carrying on a coherent conversation with a goat?  They just don’t listen.  Not to mention, all I think about these days is what I have to fix, and also, what I have to fix so I can fix the thing I really need to fix, and by the way, I’ll also need to repair the tool (which, incidentally, I can’t find) to fix the thing I need to work on the thing I really need to fix.  I think you can see the pattern, here.  Also, final coda, all our carefully stacked piles of firewood, yeah, they’re soaking wet.  You might almost think Mr. Waits had written this lyric about us, specifically.  Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of firewood stacked and dry in the basement.  So that’s one concern allayed.  Also, the other night, Casey told me that being in our downstairs bathroom is a lot like being in an outdoor privy.  As I stood in that room and heard the cold wind whistling, I realized she was right.  Gotta fix that.
photoProgress is being made, however.  Thanks again to the ceaseless and wildly generous ministrations of our resident rigger, lifter, digger and planner, Bob, we had a visit from the Stickles concrete truck yesterday, and poured just shy of 3 yards of the gray and lovely into the handsome form which Bob made.  The form only cracked in 2 places, so the footer will have a bit of waviness to it, but it will do the job.  We’re just a few short steps away from having our little old ell set back down on its pins, piratical, if you will, on its peg legs.  It was a fast 3 hour day yesterday the culmination of weeks and months of work and planning.  We are making progress, Mr. Waits, just slowly, that’s all.
Finally, not sure if you’ve ever seen a Christmas elf, but in case you haven’t, the Hoot’s first Christmas tree is in.  The cats are really enjoying it, and it lends a needed air of festivity to our interior.  Little full.  Lotta sap.  Here are tree and elf:
IMG_3811Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays from The Hoot!

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Letters from the front; A dispatch from our correspondent

Turf battle in the barnyard; Carnage in aftermath; Culprits apprehended.

barn yard turf battle
as reported by Lenard for the hollow road intelengser

it was a quiet afternoone down in the hollow and then all hell broke loose; according to an extensive interview withe Seneca the watchdog who watched the whole event unfold from the safety of her newly dug hole. it all started when Lilly let walter her consort loose from his tether. using her hoves to cleverly manipulate Walters snap and remove it from the cable. upon  gaining his freedom the two of them immediately headed for the quiet and unsuspecting chickens village. the ducks were the first to sound the alarm, quacking loudly and rapidly. Rudyard and his guinea hen mafia came rushing in attempting to blunt the attack, but were brushed aside by the onrush of the 2 determined goats. Rudyard and his gang dropped back to regroup. by now chickens were rushing from all directions attacking piecemeal withe the goats repelling them handily. withe the goats in control of the hen houses, food and water the birds managed to mount another disjointed attack to regain their lost compound, but to no avail. meanwile lilly and consort walter proceeded to pillage , eating all the chickens food theay could find and cleaning out the round feeder! fortinately the lid was on the big food can. they were getting ready to butt the the hell out of the food can and force their way in when the chickens mounted a unified attack. led by rudyard and his gang, the chickens finally came together to make a determined attack to take back their piece of the barn yard. “i was amazed at the ferocity of the chickens attack” stated eye witness senica “they went in in waves the carnage was appalling , the swalking ,grunting and braying was defining”. but when the dust settled the goats still held the field. then theay started to loot and pillage the hen house moving the shutter and the perch and making a general mess of things. uncle bob who came on the seine late said “at this point i hear the squawking and notice W&L are not on the hill where i left them but trying to escape the seine”. their escape was thwarted by Walters chain being wrapped around a rock Lilly was trying to get him free when they were apprehended. they are now in the hollow road lock up awaiting trial on Monday. justice is swift here in the hollow! according to witnesses the white goat called lilly seemed to be the brains behind the attack on the law abiding chickens withe walter following her lead. senica commented that “they were like bonnie and clide, just coldblooded”. it was recalled that ” Lilly was down looking around and sampling the chicken feed yesterday but was chased away by uncle bob!” recalled Hanna “she was casing out the place i’m sure of it”. there are counselors available for any chickens who feel traumatized. there is fear that the events of the day may effect egg production, lets hope not. the goats did not express any remorse for their actions and the mayhem they caused. dam goats!

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This is going to be quick

Because believe me, things are starting to go at warp speed around here!  This is going to be mainly a photo update.  We poured a new foundation wall out in the old part!  (Bob calls it a “grade beam”).  Basically a concrete foundation wall that sits on top of the existing (in this case) stone foundation wall.  It replaced the sill, which was completely rotted, and gives us the opportunity to repair the bottoms of the posts and studs, which were rotted too, so that when we lower the jacks, this ol’ part of our house will once again be sitting on solid rock.  So to speak.  We got some great help from an awesome mason, named Mario.  To the photos:

This is before any concrete or concrete prep happened.  This is when we’d pulled off the asbestos siding, and begun to clean the top of the stone wall, in preparation for building the form.  Also, at this point, I’d cut back most studs and posts.  Like this, sort of:
This is my note to myself, prior to cutting the bottom of this post off, so that I know what the overall height of the wall is supposed to be, when all is said and done.  ‘Nother words, I made a mark on the post, measured down from my mark to the haunch of the tenon (the part of the bottom of the post that was actually meant to sit on the top of the sill plate) then cut the post of below my mark to make sure that the concrete could reach everywhere it was supposed to, and to get rid of some of the soft rot in the bottom of the post.  This way, when we rebuild the bottom of the wall, we know how much to add to the bottom of each post and stud.End of the first day… one side of the form in place.Wet concrete!
Skipping ahead, a little bit here, this is the form, duly leveled, tied together, and reinforced with big stones.  The form, you’ll note, has also been filled with concrete.  It has vents made of pvc pipe buried within it, along with rebar.  The whole process of making the form, getting it set in place, and pouring the concrete took 2 days, altogether.  Firestorm!
Note also, the old cedar shake siding.  We think that’s the old layer of siding on the this part of the house.
More to come… we still got that heating system to get in place… and… we got some new livestock, and built transpo and storage for them out of Casey’s old pallet collection.  Stay tuned!

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The big kitchen overhaul.

A warning: Many of you are going to groan when you read this post.


You might look at this photo and say “Well isn’t that a perfectly usable kitchen floor. Good thing you guys have something cohesive and easy to clean while you wreak havoc on the rest of the house.”






You might gaze at this photo in mild appreciation of drop ceilings everywhere in the world, accented by off-centered lighting fixtures, and randomly leaning 2×4’s….



Well, what you may not realize is that these things have been haunting me in my sleep. And time is running out on our dumpster. All the folks we know who have ever fixed up an old house have wisely advised us to not rip into anything until we are totally ready to handle the entire project. Those people may want to take this opportunity to close their eyes and stick a couple fingers in their ears…


You ought to be reassured to know that we did do a tester area first. This is after we ripped the drywall ceiling down in the entryway. I’m loving this gray-painted plaster. It looks like an I-talian fresco.






Bid your fond farewells to this endearingly ripped, and probable asbestos-laden flooring. I can’t say this came a moment too soon…






We’ve traded it in for some of Willy Wonka’s factory flooring.







The entryway now accurately sets the tone for the rest of the house.






I think Sam is fully absorbing the consequences of our decision.








We have a real knack for bringing down ceilings quickly.






Voila! Now we just have to move the light fixture back to where it was before our priors instituted their psychedelic-70’s kitchen design…





Here’s a nice lunch-time shot.







Next, of course, we took to the floors.

Mom, before you call me in a total wedding-related panic, we’re planning to cut down the bad floorboards today so they fit together real nice-like. No more gaps for your chair-leg to fall through…

They might even get a coat of paint…



Ok. now you can take a breather, and check out our new hens! I love how menacing they look. They sort of look like characters from a J.R.R Tolkien novel, if all the characters were chickens.  chicken warriors. Hens of darkness..





Our sleepy sunflowers are finally greeting the world!







Alongside all of our good bug blooms!







All of our chicken readers will be pleased to know that the amaranth is finally coming in. In a couple weeks, our chicken buffet should be officially open.






While I was mowing, I found this renegade cheese punkin growing outside the fence. Very sneaky indeed.







We also have a pretty sizable volunteer squash plant coming out of our compost pile. Sam’s mom’s cousin Bob (bestower of the hens of darkness,) says you can gauge your planting by when all the volunteers spring up. Volunteers only come around when conditions are right for good growing. See? We’re picking up farmer wisdom all the dang time! Yow.



I’m really admiring this plant lately. Actually, I think it might be my favorite thing that I’ve planted. I can’t remember what it is though. I’ll have to flip through the old seed pack pile when I get a minute. It makes me think of calculus, and Fibonacci numbers. It has a very mathy look about it.




Also, we grew this hilarious corn.

It may look a little bonkers, but it tastes real good. I had three ears for desert last night. And I don’t even really like corn. That’s how delectable it is.





Ok, now that you’re good and relaxed, I’ll throw one more snowball at you..

Remember this terrible doorway? We had almost forgotten about it, but then the dumpster reminded us..

















Here’s part of our lovely brick chimney peeking through. And you can see the wooden beam that the old kitchen mantel was attached to. We can also see in the floor where the old hearth was. I started to get really excited about a nice big kitchen hearth and fireplace. Sam was equally excited, but put his foot down when I wanted to tear the whole wall down. And for once, I listened.



And here’s your moment of zen:


A lovely patch of old kitchen wallpaper that was hiding behind the fridge.



Also, here’s a good one. we’ve got this covered.

“Architecture can’t fully represent the chaos and turmoil that are part of the human personality, but you need to put some of that turmoil into the architecture, or it isn’t real. ”

Frank Stella
















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