Monday, February 24, 2014

Beetlejuice, Chickens, and Mud

Following staycation, we haven't had a ton of time to do any work until this weekend.  Another huge snowstorm came through, and Ghon had to work 9 days straight.

The number of mice and voles we've caught have gone down. We've only had one catch in the last week. Woo-hoo!

The garden has been started. Rather than purchase a gazillion plants, or try planting the seeds directly into the ground, Ghon's trying the peat pot method. The first two trays planted were cauliflower and broccoli, 72 of each.  He's also using the Virginia Cooperative Extension planting guide. The guide helps farmers identify the time frame for starting plants and planting them, to improve plant survival and optimal harvest.

This past Friday, Ghon started some work at the farmhouse while I finished a half day of work. Once I hit my forty hours, I headed to the farm. The plan had been to grab lunch then head to storage to start cleaning it out.

But that wasn't quite what happened.

First stop, Five Guys for burgers. It has probaby been over a year since I'd had a burger there. While we had lunch, I used the back of one of their take-out flyers to create our shopping list. Once we were done, we headed over to Home Depot to get a battery for the screw gun.

Not only did we hit Home Depot, we had to go to Lowes too. Hard to believe that stores do not sell exactly the same things.

Something happened in Lowes that I never expected.

I did geometry in real life.  Seriously.

We needed to buy the lumber that becomes the stringer for the staircase. We weren't sure what length we needed, so I started to consult a few websites on building staircases, when I remembered how to find the hypotenuse of a triangle.

a2+b2=c2 (yes, those twos mean squared)

I flipped over our shopping list and sketched the triangle, formula, then asked Ghon for the numbers.

I did whip out the phone calculator and figured out that I did have a scientific calculator, needed to find the square root of 23,616, which would define the length of our stringer.

I felt smart, but mostly amazed. I found a use for upper level math.

We made the rounds in the store to gather what we needed. There has been a time when I really hated walking around any home improvement store, unless it was the paint counter. That's the only section I cared about. But now, I'm am looking at everything. Tools amaze me. I am still a little timid about using them, but I like looking at them. I love my new tool bag and am always looking for something new to toss in it.

We found a small clearance section in Tool World, and Ghon grabbed a heavy duty utility knife, that folds, has a case and extra blades for $4. I found an screwdriver that has four different tips and has a tiny flashlight at the end. It came home with me for the cool price of $2.

After gathering everything we needed, and only 1-2 things we didn't, we headed out to load up the truck.

Fourteen foot boards in a six foot truck bed. That's how we roll!

On the way back, we made a quick stop at St. John's Lutheran Church, which is about, oh, a minute or less from the house and where the kids and I have been going. There is a small cemetery there, and we knew that the Confederate soldier that lived in the farmhouse, George Crabill, was buried there. We found the tombstone, as I'd long promised Jonathan I'd show him, took a quick walk around then left.

Finally, we headed back to the house to unload. We only had about 30 minutes to do any work before pick-up time for the kids.  After dinner, Ghon headed back to the house. Mission: Stairwell. He was going to work late into the night in attempt to get it done.

Round 'bout midnight, after the kids were sleeping, I took Ghon a big mug of coffee. I intended to stay about an hour. I'd printed some basic plans on how to build the stringer for the staircase so I could get the appropriate measurements and gasp, do more math to determine how many stairs we would need, and the appropriate tread and rise for each stair.

Just in case you want to build a staircase, here's the diagram.

When I arrived, Ghon had cut out the foundation for the stairwell and took the first pass at insulating and critter proofing the room.

The black paper on the wall is roofing paper. Hardware cloth lines the bottom and creates a lip on the floor. There is a gap between the wall and floor that exposes the root cellar below and allows potential critters access in. Not anymore!

Look - our garden is already sprouting!

After a quick show and tell of what was done, I got roped into some work. Here, hold this, find this, do this. Honestly, I was tired and wanted him to come home as well, so I figured if I helped, things might go a little faster. Especially after we both got hurt, him worse than me.

After inserting the header for the staircase, it held it's place by a snug fit, no nails. Snug fit wiggled lose, and nailed Ghon right in the thigh.

Look at those muscles! Oh, and the large 6x6 that came crashing down and hit Ghon on the thigh.
Ghon's leg immediately swelled and turned shades of red and purple. Fortunately, we had some ice and a few grocery bags at the house, so I fashioned an ice pack for him and used duct tape to secure it to his leg.

No, not a squid attacking his leg, but a Home Depot bag.

To put the two posts in for the stairwell and reintroduce center load bearing support for the room, we had to jack the center of the room up again. During the first attempt, the post slipped of the jack and popped me in the knee. Now, my left knee has two purple spots, one from a fall on the ice, and now this.

If this wasn't enough, stuff started getting weird.

Ghon was hammering away, music blaring when he stopped, looked at me and said, "Did you hear that?"

I didn't hear a thing.

Ghon swears he heard, clear as can be (and he's hard of hearing!) "Hey, What are you doing?" in a male voice with a southern accent.  As he told me what he heard, his arms shot up in goosebumps. Twice. I told Ghon he better answer, and he called out "fixing your house!" I followed with "our house!"

Those of you that have been following our story for a while will recall, we have suspected some paranormal activity in the house. No concrete evidence of, but just figured since so many people died in the house and due to it's age, if there is such a thing as a ghost/spirit - good chance we could have one. A few people have suspected activity as well.

Shortly after, I mentioned that I was getting hungry. We ate dinner at 630, and here it was about 1:30 in the morning. It was time for a snack - or breakfast! I went to the kitchen to grab a string cheese stick. On the way out of the kitchen, I swore I heard something, turned to look, but nothing seemed out of place. I shrugged it off to a potential mouse, and headed back to the living room.

Ghon and I started talking about fried chicken. I can't remember why, but I think it started as we talked about his schedule for later in the week and making dinner. I only recall that I said something about chicken, complaining that I was still hungry, and when I asked how Ghon planned to make chicken, he answered "Fried of course, is there any other way?"

Within ten minutes, I started smelling something. Not quite a burning smell, but cooking - kinda like grease. It hit Ghon a minute later. I start freaking out, wondering what could be on fire. There shouldn't be anything in the root cellar. I ran to the kitchen, despite already having the propane off so the stove doesn't work - and there's nothing, including no smell. Back to the living room, and the smell is still there. Ghon suggested dust on the work lights, but the smell wasn't right. We both thought it smelled like...well, fried chicken.

Seriously. Seriously? First Ghon has someone talking to him, then we both smell food cooking? This is why I've never been in the house past 10pm. I'm freaked out. I don't like to go in by myself in the dark. There, I said it, I am thirty something years old and won't go in the house in the dark alone. I've been told about the witching hour, and I haven't been in the house during that time until Friday night.

We smell the grease/cooking smell for maybe 5-10 minutes, then it's suddenly gone. Not a trace of it. It's closer to 2:30 now, we are still working away, and there's a knock at the door. I stop, look at Ghon and asked if he heard it - when it happens again, this time with a voice, asking if we were home.

It was Tim. He works a mid/late shift and was on his way home from work. When he saw the lights on, he stopped by. I almost lost it. Almost.

By 3am, I was toast. I knew Ghon was tired. I knew by the time we finished chatting, got home, changed and in bed, it would be 4am. The kids would be up anytime between 6-8am, and I knew that 2-4 hours of sleep would not be enough for the next day's work.  Finally, we headed home.

I don't think it helped that Ghon said "Beetlejuice" three times while creating the base and supports.

According to Ghon, our friend Clint was a little amazed at Ghon's hammering skills. We had established during the staycation that I was far from talented in this department. If you combine genetics (Ghon's grandfather was a skilled carpenter - and home builder) as well as 20 years as a mechanic working his upper body, and OK, a bit of high school woodshop/cabinet making, it's no wonder Ghon can drive a nail like he can. Both Ghon and Cindy remind me of something their Grandpa Vikingstad used to say: Any carpenter can drive a straight nail. A good carpenter can drive a crooked nail.  Grandpa would be proud, Ghon can drive a crooked nail.

I had high hopes of getting up early despite three hours of sleep, to take Jonathan to his Taekwondo class. Ghon had high hopes of starting some work at the house while we were at TKD. The kids slept until 8:30, so we slept until 8:30. No class, no work at the house.

We drug ourselves out of bed, grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out. We made a brief stop at the house to fuel the fireplace, then headed to our storage unit. We've had our unit for almost three years, and it's past time to review and purge. We spent close to five hours condensing down between two units. We were able to throw away a good bit of stuff, bring some back to the farmhouse, reorganize and pack some items into plastic bins for transfer later to the attic.

Fortunately, after all off the cold weather we've had, it was a beautiful day in the upper 50s. The kids were able to run in the unit, and we had three cars blocking off space so they could run around outside. Once we finished, it was off to the farm to work. Jonathan was a bit disappointed, he thought it was home time. The Beetlejuice staircase needed some tweaking, so we sent the kids upstairs out of harms way, and re-squared the base and pillars. Once that was set, we headed back outside for some work. I resecured the fencing on the chicken run while Ghon started to clean out the coop.

The other big objective for the weekend was to move the young chicks out of the house and into the coop. However, they are still to young to mingle with the big chickens. Ghon planned to construct a small pen within the coop for the chicks. He cut a few 1x3s, repurposed from the room we tore out upstairs and got to work. The yard was extremely wet in spots from all the snow melt and rain. Ghon and I made two drips out to our compost with a trash can filled with coop shavings and chicken poop. It's a long walk, made harder from the mud. Some spots in the yard still have standing water. Where there was mud, my feet would sink about an inch easily. My jeans were soaked and mud coated halfway up my calf.

We got most of the shavings out of the coop, but Ghon still had one more can to empty when it got dark. The kids were exhausted, hungry and getting cranky, so I ended up taking them home close to 7pm, and Ghon worked until close to midnight again.  He finished a few things up in the coop then worked inside. He was able to build one section to start framing in the wall. First comes framing, then comes drywall, then comes paint and living space!!

Sunday morning, back up at 7:30. After breakfast, Ghon headed to the farm to finish up the chicken pen while the kids and I went to Sunday School. Today was a very rare Sunday, in that Ghon didn't open the store, but is working an overnight shift. He was able to finish the chicken pen then meet us, and Pop, at the church for worship. The church is close to the farm and up on a hill. When it was close to time to start, I came out to see if Ghon had arrived. I could just barely see the chicken coop through the trees, then movement and a flicker of the sunlight on the truck bumper. I showed Jonathan the coop. As quickly as he could spot it, we could hear Ghon's truck coming up the road, then into the parking lot.

After worship, we hit up the firehouse for their monthly pancake breakfast. I hadn't seen the signs for the breakfast, which is why I'd cooked at home. We never miss a Sunday, so we opted for pancake lunch! Lunch complete, it was back to the farm for Ghon, then home for the kids and I to change before heading back as well. Ghon and the kids poured fresh pine shavings through the coop and in the chicks' new pen. After filling the space with fresh food and water, it was time to move the chicks.

The chicks were divided into three tubs. The lid was only on for transporting purposes.
The kids took charge of moving the chickens into their new home.
Jonathan the chicken charmer

The moving crew.

Moving the chicks.

Genevieve only moved 5-6 chickens. She spent more time holding them. She looks so much like her Daddy here.

If you like the sound of little'll enjoy this video of the kids moving the birds. Except for Genevieve. This is when she captured the chicken in the picture above, and notes how quiet it now is.
Happy in their new home.

All secure in their new home!

After the chickens were secure in their new residence, we took a walk through the swamp. We broke out the large tape measure, and walked sections of the yard making rough measurements for a future fence line. Squishing in the mud and helping - this, the kids were into.
Daddy and Genevieve walking along the power line...

...while Jonathan held the end of the measure.
Then it was time to switch spots.
Outrunning the reeling in of the tape measure became the sport of the afternoon for the kids. On Saturday, I gave Jonathan a notebook I found in storage. He's been carrying it around all weekend, drawing and writing notes in it whenever he can. My favorite was Saturday afternoon, when he wrote "I love you so much I will explode" all by himself with a ton of hearts and a portrait of me.

Once we measure a good section of the property, we headed home. Jonathan watched Superman (1978) while Ghon took a short nap to prep for his overnight. Genevieve fell asleep watching the movie. As for me, I started the blog post, did laundry, and made dinner. Where's my real chicken dinner when I need it?


  1. Thanks for sharing. You guys are making memories!

    1. Thanks, John! We sure are! Lots of work, but we try to have some fun too!

  2. Kim....I think that you all should be a reality show..... you all are something else. Your children will never forget this experience no matter how old they are... I applaud all of you for being the great American, Joanne

    1. I applied for one show! No response though, so I guess we weren't interesting enough! I agree, I think some of these memories will be with the kids for a long time. Love you!