Once we finally arrived and entered our abode to actually stay there, I was a little lost amidst the flow. After unloading only a couple items we hit in quick succession: Bug War: Part 3, patching the bedroom back up, deciding on a layout, unloading the mattress and laying the big pieces of the bedroom out. I then headed out to tackle the problem of having no mailbox because a snowplow took it out last winter.
As I did that, Dani completely set up the bedroom, bathroom, removed all the doors from the kitchen cabinets (we hope to use them on the upcoming chicken coop) and began getting a rudimentary working kitchen in order since everything was boxed up and the cabinets were unusable. After that she moved to repotting every one of her some two dozen second-round seedlings. All the while I still worked on my mailbox post.
It was silly, really. Something so basic as a means to keep the mailbox in the air (and hopefully not easily destroyed by a careless or doomed snow plows)… this was nothing but a glorified stick. Yet I felt it a matter worthy of my full attention and my far-too meager skills. After putting the mailbox bits together I noticed a warning on its carton stating most places have standards you should adhere to. They recommended an overall deck height of 41-45″ but said to call your local post office to confirm.
This being Maine, I couldn’t be bothered to do all that, so I wandered down our road (it’s dirt, so it’s not a street), tape measure in hand, and checked out the height of all my neighbors’ mailboxes. They were all between 39″ and 43″ high. So I figured the mailbox carton wasn’t lying to me. I decided 43″ should not attract undue attention. Then began the second wrinkle in my plan.
I had only scrap material I had scrounged around the property. There were three sections of 4×4 none of which were 54″ (the height I needed to sink the post into the designated bucket, which was 9″ deep). So I had to improvise plates to butt two of those sections together. But no two were 54″ total (always longer) and none had clean-cut ends. I had a mediocre circular saw, two saw horses, two quick clamps, a speed square, one pencil, two ham fists and practically zero experience.
Dani and I had built the saw horses. We also built a plant shelf and a bed frame. But this was my first solo project and my most free-form; and I had to only use what I could find around me. I’m actually pretty proud of it.
Even with as little skill and experience I have, I cut the 4×4 pieces reasonably well in spite of an unfamiliar saw that was incredibly clumsy. Also because of inadequate blade depth, I had to cut each 4×4 once, then flip it over and do another cut to finish. I did this free hand as I had borrowed the saw and had neither the time nor materials to make jigs with. It went pretty well, though my binding plates had to be simple blocks as I did not have the skills or the tools to make something that looked like an enclosed ring.
The third wrinkle was the post needed to go in a bucket of cement where the old post holder was: a buried metal milk jug full of rocks, dirt, rust and black widows. It was nether sturdy nor aesthetically pleasing enough to be entrusted with the new mailbox post. Also it was not so decrepit as to just disintegrate when I wanted it removed. As our first evening wound to a close with the sun setting it was obvious I wouldn’t get it all done in one go. So I had to “lay up” and just shove the post in the old milk jug and shore it up with rocks until we could tackle it again with more daylight.
We cleaned things up and went inside. Dani done a great job on the place and I’m glad we didn’t realize just how much work was in front of us at that time. We might have grown a bit feint-hearted.
As the afternoon and evening gave way to night we were treated to twinkling stars and fireflies through our bedroom windows. Coyotes cavorted and the breeze moved through. The Milky Way wheeled overhead. It was like camping in a tent under the stars. But in your bedroom in your own bed! Could a more amazing thing be imagined?! Oh yes, I suppose that the disintegrating, ant-infested floor under the bed was less than ideal. But no place is ever perfect…
What really blew me away was slowing awakening the next morning to sunlight, a gentle breeze moving through and rustling the leaves on the nearby trees – and birdsong. And that’s it. No noisy vehicles, no loud stereos, no barking dogs, no people yammering (or, god forbid, hollering). And this was our home.
We made coffee and met the day. What ended up happening in the following days cannot be recounted in detail with any economy of words. As I’m trying to finish writing this we have completed thirteen days living in our new place. And what has transpired in that time is mind boggling (at least to us):
- Installed satellite internet service
- Removed all existing furnishings from the house
- Primed and painted all the kitchen cabinets and all the main living area walls
- Sealed the house with foam sealant and/or silicone caulking
- Cleaned the place from top to bottom
- Found a leak and miscalibration in the new well pump and pressure tank system and fixed that
- Removed everything from the existing shed
- Created a huge junk pile in the front yard (from cleaning out the house, the shed and some bits of our “forest”)
- Eradicated all yellow jackets and wasps from the shed (~20 active nests and dozens of old ones)
- Cleaned up six old mouse nests (full of excrement and hantavirus concerns) and tons of old poison in the house and the shed
- Sealed the shed and repaired it in a few places.
- Took inventory on all existing items on the property; moved junk and figured out a storage solution for the few left-behind items we kept
- Set up storage systems in the shed and house
- Unpacked, unpacked and unpacked (…still ongoing…)
- Got sand delivered and filled in the old well pit
- Got the raised bed soil mix delivered
- Collected, relocated and stowed all reclaimed building materials (including for the initial raised beds)
- Ran hundreds of miles (literally!) of errands for all needed tools, building materials, household items (from storage needs to groceries) and garden materials
- Preparing meals and doing dishes in spite of having not storage in the kitchen
- Rebuilt and painted some kitchen shelves and repainted the only remaining kitchen cabinet doors
- Painted and finished the new mailbox, dug up the old mount and installed the new box in a new bucket and cement – resulting in me puncturing my fingertip with a spade drill bit (don’t ask) and subsequently was very grateful that a nurse forced me to take a tetanus shot last year because of the crash that ended my last (possibly final ?*sniff*) skateboard ride…
- Reloaded the shed
- Removed a giant, dilapidated aerial off the roof
- Found even more plants that we wanted to give a home to; to the point of bungee-cording a young, 8′ tall mulberry tree in suspension in the back of Charley a’ la MST3K: Riding With Death where they have to transport tripolodine. Immortalized on Facebook here.
- Protected our materials from the sneaky, punctuated, rainy times
- Made a plan and almost-complete implementation strategy for Phase 1 of Favorite Day Farms: Operation “Holy Shit I Can’t Believe We Even MADE It Here!”
- Built two 8’x4′ raised garden beds revealing what we would later determine was a white grub infestation on the 2.5 acres
- Transplanted all vegetation including many that were started from seeds in Boise at the end of February and survived in spite of two trips to northern CA, a cross country trip and far-too-extended dwelling in containers
- Did two rounds of battle with a groundhog (or muskrat – data is scant) including damage control after the veggies’ first night in the raised bed
- Installed emergency fencing the next morning
- Planted our first tree, the mulberry; and planted an elderberry bush and many amaranth plants outside the safety of the fence
- Faced an invasion of Japanese beetles eating at all our new transplants. Continually, all are now terminated on site with extreme prejudice. How’s that for trying to live in balance with nature?
- Finished arranging the kitchen, bedroom, living room, bedroom and bathroom
- Built a “first round” compost bin with reclaimed pallets
- Gone further rounds with the carpenter ant infestation (the saga is ongoing), but I think we are on the winning side.
- Empirically Verified it does, in fact, almost always take twice as long and twice as much effort than you thought it would to get anything done.
- Learned from our mistakes and…
- Are continuing to go to sleep in a quiet, beautiful, albeit ant-infested home… the fuckers…
- Aaand… waking up to wind and light; to trees and birds singing sweet songs – of melodies pure and true…
- [We actually have a mom and pop finch raising two little finches the red prince weigela in front of our main window and right next to the gate of our now-fenced garden. Today the chicks became fledglings!]
Sometimes I wake up feeling like I was in a car wreck. But at least the pain is by us and for us. We spent careers killing ourselves for those respective systems. This is our chance to kill ourselves for ourselves – hooray!
I jestingly and lovingly call it: “Farmer Bootcamp”. Fall in, maggot!