Saturday, May 24, 2014

# 515 - Grads, Moles and Eyebrows!

This has been an exciting time for our family. Brice (Stefie's long-time boyfriend) has just graduated with his degree in Criminal Justice.

We are very proud of Brice.

Me and Brice - this past Friday night at his graduation party.
During Brice's college days, I gladly helped out with tutoring during research paper writing assignments as well as provided proof-reading and editing assistance. But, the arrangement between us was, "I will help with the paper, and you build my house."

After helping with a paper, I would look out the window over the acreage and say, "I don't see my house yet!"

Brice graduated a week ago, and he presented me with a gift...a house!

Actually, his effort was so sweet, and I will be keeping this house he built with his own hands! :-)

To me, this is a sculpture with a story behind it. Every time I see it, I will remember the joking that we enjoyed during the years he went to college.

Also, during the past couple of weeks, we had another great visit in the country with Stefie and Brice for several days. Those two enjoy going for walks and savoring the peace of the country. But, I love watching them try to run from the chickens and from having their feet pecked.

And Howdy is still in charge. At least he thinks he is in charge.

But, Gracie, the puppy we found in the woods, is a true farm dog. She has gotten to the point of rarely electing to coming indoors. She stays outside. Grace prefers to be with the chickens.

Another thing Gracie is great at...she LOVES putting her nose to the ground to sniff along all the mole trails we have zig-zagging through the land, then she zeros in on their location, digs like crazy and we end up with these...

Gracie is a hunter. No doubt about it. A mole hunter.

As for me, going to Brice's graduation party yesterday meant that I got to take my mop of curly hair out of the perpetual pony-tail, and I got to wear something other than my holy, dirt-stained farm clothes, and put on make-up!

I had to prove that I could still get out of the country-mode as I was preparing to drive off the acreage yesterday...

Good thing Stefie contoured my eyebrows for me this past week, and I did her eyebrows for her. It is SO NICE to have daughters who can save you time and money by helping you avoid "professional" contouring. Well, you know I was born and raised in the Greater Houston area, so those kinds of things were "normal" for us. Only, we girls learned how to do it ourselves. Thank Goodness Stefie came for a visit so we could tackle out-of-control eyebrows!

I thought you might enjoy that tidbit of family fact...we are eyebrow specialists. Lol.

I think Stefie's great eyebrows make her look awesome! The's ALL ABOUT the eyebrows!

Too bad Brice doesn't let us touch one hair on his chinny-chin-chin, or touch his mustache, or sideburns. Actually, the extra-hairy look works for him, but for Stefie and me...not so much.

Life is awesome. I sure thank the Lord for our blessings, even for the rogue eyebrow hairs that were missed. Life is pretty great.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

# 513 - Country House Clarity

The great thing about waiting so long to build the seventh house we've lived in and hopefully the last house we will live in as our main homestead is that we are taking the time to make sure we do it right. Especially since our last home had a great floor-plan.

Location, location, location is everything --- this has been my major hold-up since I have been flip-flopping on the built site of our home on the acreage, until a few months ago, then I went back to our original site. Another full circle.

However, since that aspect of the build is SETTLED, I have been pouring over different floor-plans and house styles. In fact, this past year, I have reviewed no less than 1,000 floor-plans and home designs.

Recently, I came close to deciding upon a beautiful log cabin, but then I got the onslaught of information regarding the added upkeep with the expectation that the cabin will not be plumb, and I know that the lack of straight lines will eventually get to me.

At one point, going through house plans began to be an unpleasant task, so I avoided it. Then, I reminded myself that these frustrations are part of this wonderful process of moving to the country and that I should also embrace those moments too --- this is an American dream I am living. That attitude adjustment led me to a clear mind and to the floor-plan below that is one of my favorites; however, the upstairs will only have two bedrooms and a small loft with ONE bathroom, strictly for guests.

The great part of waiting all this time to build a house in the country is that I have had time to consider this house, full circle. At first, while living in a stylish home in the Greater Houston area, I had thought that I wanted to build a rustic-style home.

But, after living in an RV for nearly a year, I have come full circle, ALMOST, in that I can see that the rustic appearance would probably wear thin on me, but a CLASSIC farm-house style has stuck on me.

The elements I love are the white clapboard, the grey metal roof and painted grey porch floor decking. Of course, I can picture major landscaping around the house to bring the beauty home!

This is the kind of railing I like with the porch beams I prefer.
Also, this roof is my first choice with the grey accent and dark grey
painted porch decking. Any window shutters will be either black
or that same grey color. The house will be built on concrete
piers and wood beams.

One thing that I have changed lately follows severe storms that have been moving through the area. Now, I know that I don't want as many towering trees around the house. We will keep solid, oldies, but we will be removing more trees around the home-site than I originally intended.

That's because this past week, during a terrible storm, lightening struck a tree nearby and it made a deafening crack. I've been around many close lightening strikes in my life, more than is comfortable for me.

Living here for this past year has indeed been critical to this complicated process of moving from the city to the country, especially to acreage that is so raw and rural.

I cannot believe that in a few days it will be have been a year since the day came for us to leave our home in the city...

...and drive away with our RV...

and drive nearly two hours to literally drive up to our acreage, unload the chickens, set up the RV, and not have water connections and no electricity power connections to the land.

All the chickens made it safely to the acreage by riding in their special
cage alongside their coop in the trailer that I pulled as Sgt. Dave
pulled the RV with his truck.
Living with that generator noise for weeks on end was extremely challenging, but I am thankful to have had that generator to provide enough power to give us air-conditioning through the hot weeks of summer.

My dad stopping by to visit, even though he was in the middle
of his chemotherapy treatments, administered through a port in his
chest via a chemo pump attached to him. At this point, he'd lost
all that was left of his hair...along with his mustache. Thank God,
he is doing much better now, under close watch, a difficult battle.

We've come a long way. We have longer to go, but knowing we are narrowing down our home design and floor-plan means we are closer to breaking ground. Since I am figuring out our floor-plan with the perimeter measurements, this means we can go to the actual build site and mark it off, then begin removing the trees that must go. Since that area of our land is densely forested, this is an important and necessary step that we cannot avoid ANY LONGER! Haha.

Oh a hike along a back trail with a boundary marker. You can
see how thick the forest is in the entire area of our construction site.
And there are towering, massive trees there as well, which I am
going to do all I can do to keep. We will also be working carefully
through the area to retain the Oaks, Cypress, Cedars and to
keep the Wild Magnolias.

There are a lot of steps for us to take. I have to get official Floodplain maps and to certify that our build site is not in the 100-year floodplain through the Office of Emergency Management - Flood Planning Management for our area. I have to get a new appraisal of our land with the upgrades. We also have to get a new survey, which stinks because the one we currently have is too old to use, and we have built structures on our land since that survey was completed, which invalidates it.

Our first small barn. I still need to paint the outside of it, Barn Red.

Once all that is completed, then I must have copies of our architectural-construction drawings prepared and ready to submit to various venders for bids. Lots of bids.

This is a view of my favorite design, so far. However, I do prefer
the thinner clapboard that runs horizontal instead of this vertical version.
If the size is available in Hardy Plank, we will use the cement siding
to reduce maintenance on the house. I am hoping it will also
making the building process more affordable.

My head is spinning again. This week, I am simply happy to have gone through hundreds more floor-plans and designs to become more settled upon the direction we are taking. My old love of traditional colonial-time homes and Victorian homes is something that I can't escape. I hope that by honoring the type of home that has most appealed to me throughout my life, that we will indeed find ourselves living in a very beautiful home ready for new memories.

Here is an example of the house we will probably build. It's about
2,500 square feet, with most of the square footage downstairs as is
shown in the above floor-plans. I will be incorporating
pocket-doors into the plan, for sure!

Everything is happening in its right time. It will be worth the wait. Even so, I CANNOT WAIT!

Monday, May 12, 2014

# 512 - A Copperhead Kind of Day

For the past few days, I've not felt very well, so my stamina and abilities are low. I am trying to get through this bout of being sick, but it is so hard to rest when your yard beckons you to come work, garden, play, and be free!

May 2014
So, it was a great that last week we were able to spend a lot of time outside getting things accomplished.

At one point, I was working in an area that had inadvertently become a landing zone for a bunch of stuff, and it was looking crappy. So, Sgt. Dave agreed to work with me in the area that lay between our RV and the barn and shed. The weeds had grown thick among the trees in this area that also held two kayaks laying against a tree, old fishing equipment, and pieces of wood and a few bricks.
We began moving everything.

Here is the area where we were working---area with trees.

Then, since I could not fit the lawn tractor through much of this area, I wanted the area weed-eated. First, I had to go move the old boards that were laying across the top of the septic tank lid and remove old bricks that had piled up next to the boards.

Since I am too comfortable on the land, I was walking around in my summer clothes...wearing my comfortable flip flops and fabric gloves to keep my hands from getting filthy.

However, before moving the boards and bricks, I noticed the wild blackberry vines tangled with plenty of ripe blackberries ready to be picked. Aware that snakes love blackberries, I began to carefully pull the leaves aside to find the ripest berries closest to the ground. Within ten minutes, I had a handful of berries to bring inside.

Then, back outside I went to finish cleaning up the area.

I lifted old boards off the top of the covered septic tank, carefully, keeping an eye on my surroundings. Everything went great; I worked steady and took my time...clearing the entire area so it could get a beauty treatment!

As soon as I walked away with my last bit of debris, Sgt. Dave had perfect timing and stepped over to use the weed-eater to slice through the mess of thorny blackberry vines.

Since this area is so close to the RV's (both ours and Heather's), I was glad that it was finally hitting our list of priorities.

However, within the first couple of minutes of his weed-whacking...Sgt. Dave let out a loud, "Augghhh!"

I stopped what I was doing, even though I could not see him, I knew that sound was not a good one. The weed-eater stopped. And I peered around the corner at him and asked, "What's up?"

Then, I noticed he was walking with a snake to the burn pit. I ran to get my camera, of course. Taking photos, I initially thought the snake to be a Rattlesnake that was shedding, especially since we have several varieties out here.

Turns out, it is a Copperhead. One of the first I have seen, in person.

Then, he tells me that he killed the snake with the weed-eater in the exact same spot where I had been spending the last hour...picking berries, picking up bricks and clearing out old wood.

I would be lying if I said I didn't feel a lump in my throat. Looking at the dead snake, I knew that I probably would not have seen it because of it's camouflaging markings. Sgt. Dave said he only saw the snake because it was moving, coming at him. Copperheads are very aggressive.

Needless to say, the Copperhead lost its battle with the weed-eater.

And for everyone out there in blog land...I hope you found a reason to celebrate the wonderful moms in your life. As for me, I was spoiled by Sgt. Dave all day long and given beautiful tributes by my daughters. Sgt. Dave made me a great dinner of grilled Wild Salmon, Lobster Bisque and green beans with Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert. And, I loved the beautiful roses he bought for me, too.

Life is filled with good and bad. But, the days that smell like roses sure are wonderful!

Friday, May 2, 2014

# 511 - Acreage - Top Ten Wish List

Years ago, when looking for acreage, I had a wish list of things I wanted. Honestly, I didn't think I would find two things on my list that I dreamed of having.

Here is the start of mowing as we moved here in May of 2013 as
our permanent residence.

Here is the way things are beginning to look, more recently.

Digging in, here is the Top Ten of my wish list items while looking for acreage:

1.  Approximately ten acres, but minimum of five acres
2.  Country setting, nothing industrial within view or near the acreage
3.  City utilities nice, but not likely, so it would just be a huge bonus
4.  Natural water source, of some sort
5.  Wooded land, not clear cut
6.  Preferably, not flat topography, but with some character
7. Within two hours drive to Houston
8.  Preferably out of Harris County and away from high taxes, insurance rates and the Gulf Coast
9.  Acreage must be able to accommodate some livestock
10. Privacy, the land must have some privacy; be laid out in a way that maximizes privacy

In many rural country areas, most gem-properties are not listed with agents. You have to actively search for them. Most rural properties are listed by the owner who sticks a sign out front, and you will only know it is for sale by actually driving past it or by word of mouth.

In the search for our acreage, Sgt. Dave and I had taken our girls for many drives through the country landscape, and we spent more time than I can log in our efforts to find that "perfect" property.

Once we found this land, I was thrilled to find that we had both electricity and water via local co-ops, but our acreage is still, by law, considered "rural" because it only has two out of five requirements to get out of the "rural" status. But, that's okay with us.

In fact, this property was so inaccessible as we tried to look at it to consider buying it, about 15 years ago, that we asked the previous owner to run a tractor or bulldozer to clear some of the perimeter so we could get imagery on the scope of the property, and he did.

And you should have seen the day that we discovered the creek with our daughters as we traipsed through the woods in flip flops; we were ga-ga over the clear, cool, beautiful creek!

Our creek...picturesque.

 However, the funny part of buying densely wooded, brush-entangled property was that, on closing day, we discovered our property directly led to a fantastic spring-fed lake.

The land had been too thick for us to make it to the lake, but after we purchased our property, it became our mission to find that lake, and we were not disappointed.

Our acreage was and is still heavily wooded, with rolling hills and could easily accommodate some livestock.

Plus, there were so many other bonuses that I couldn't keep track of. Unbelievably, we had found acreage that exceeded my wish list.

I am thankful to have a little slice of the earth to enjoy while we are graced with LIFE. Yes, it is great to love your home-base. To love where you are planted is a true gift. And, as I hear quite frequently from some friends and family members that not everyone loves the country life, but right now, I am savoring this chance to be in the midst of nature. Living a full-time city-style-life is certainly not appealing to me any longer.

Even the dirt boogers don't spoil this country lifestyle! But, it helps to be enjoying my acreage wish-list.