Monday, July 30, 2012


Before going to the inside of the house, I thought I would do a post about all of our animals.  Not just our pets, but some of the critters that decided to investigate the farm.

Our nearest neighbor came by to say hi the day we closed on the house...

We enjoy seeing and hearing her and her friends moseying around the fields that surround our property.

As for our pets, we had only been in the camper 3 weeks (moved in 4 Nov. 2009) when Max showed up.  My daughter and I were sitting at the table and heard this pathetic cry outside the window by the little dining booth in our camper.  Now the day was cold and drizzling rain and we were especially surprised to find a tiny kitten hovering outside.  He was wet, cold and hungry.

We brought him in, dried him off and fed him some warm milk.  And that was it.  I was smitten and he has been with us since.

 Max is full of life and has such a personality.

He has grown into a magnificent cat.  And he is still... after 3 years... a stinker!!!  He loves to find places to hid, especially in our little clothes nooks in the camper. 

 He even got into our farmhouse renovations and decided to check out the progress being done on our roof.

 He was our first rescue and is still our favorite.

Our second one was a kitten that we found online.  He was a Norwegian "Weegie" Forest Cat, who also happened to be a Manx. A lady had rescued him in a trailer park in Blacksburg, VA, and was looking for someone to adopt him, as he was being terrorized by the local kids.  We adopted him and named him "Bubbles".
Bubble's was a BEAUTIFUL cat and SUPER lovable.  He was what cat breeders consider a "stumpy" when it comes to Manx cats.  At times that was challenging, but he DEFINITELY made up for it with his personality.

He was also a HUGE cat.  He and Max got along FAMOUSLY, the below photo being the two of them curled up in the old sink that used to be in the bathroom of our farmhouse before the remodel.

Unfortunately, we lost him this past spring.  We buried him in a small grave in our pine grove, and planted a beautiful rhododendron over his grave.

Our next pet was Bella.  She is a BEAUTIFUL dog that I picked up as a puppy at the local Hardees'.  Apparently her mother, who was a pure bred Great Pyrenees, wondered onto a local farm and fell in love with the owner's Blue Merle Great Dane.  Their love affair culminated in a litter of beautiful puppies, most looking like the father, but a couple that were a great mixture of them both.

Her birth date was 1 January 2010, and we got her in March when she was 10 weeks old.  Apparently her mother decided she was tired of farm life and went her merry way, leaving the owner of the Great Dane with 10 puppies.  Bella weighed in at 25 lbs, and now is about 125.

What a PERFECT pet.  She is huge, but just a big love bug.  She loves to travel and from the very beginning has never had an accident in the house (all of our pets are indoor/outdoor).

Karl's daughter fell in love with Bella when we brought her to MA with us and so the search began to find a similar dog for her and her family.  There were none to be found in the area of MA where they live, and with so many in this area we decide to find one locally.  Now the funny thing about Great Pyrenees is that in the on-line want ads, they are listed under the farming section rather than pets.  That is because their nicknames are "guardians of the flock", as they are bred to protect livestock.

We found a beautiful, purebred puppy and decided to foster him until they could come down and pick him up, which would be in June.   They named him Mojo, and golly gee... he definitely had his mojo going.  He LOVED to beat up on Bella, even though Bella could easily have eaten him with one bite.

But they became best of friends (still are).

Mojo is now a HUGE, BEAUTIFUL dog himself.  He is larger than Bella, and yet just a big lap dog.

The above photo is Mojo sitting in Karl's lap.  Can you imagine?

Now about the same time as Mojo came into our lives, we had a plethora of cats and kittens show up.  Late December of 2009, a scrawny cat that we eventually called "Shadow Kitty" had showed up.  Her name was derived from the fact that she stayed in the shadows of the trees, rarely allowing us to get a good glimpse of her.  She never allowed us to touch her, but we fed her and hoped eventually she would trust us enough to become a part of our household.  She stayed around about 2 months and eventually disappeared (remember... this was THE year of the BIG snows).  We were never able to determine what happened to her.

However, come spring we had a large white male cat that had taken up residency on the farm, and a young female cat that looked EXACTLY like shadow kitty... just younger.    We started feeding these two cats and hoped they would stick around.  Well... they did... and more.

One day when I was mowing, I saw a tiny furry, white kitten sitting on one of our brush piles.  I turned off the mower and walked over to the kitten and it happily let me pick it up.  I brought it to the house and Karl, being his vintage self, just smile and shook his head.  I brought the kitten into the camper and fed him and then went back to mowing.  Well... by the time I had gotten back to the mower, there was a SECOND kitten sitting in the same area as the 1st one! I picked this one up and repeated the same scenario as the 1st one.  I then went back to the mower... and lo and behold... a 3rd one in the exact same spot!!!  However... this one would not let me near him.  He ran into the brush pile where I could not reach him.  And then the mama cat (the young one that looked like Shadow Kitty) showed up and went into the nest to feed this one.  It didn't take us long to figure out that the white male cat was the local Lothario and that we had the whole family living in our brush pile.  The camper was getting quite crowded at this point (2 dogs and 6 cats).

We got the new cats shots and neutered/spayed them.  We named the male "Frankie" because of him being the dreamboat of the bunch.  We never named the mother cat or 2 of the kittens (by this time we had caught the 3rd one) because we immediately found homes for them.  We eventually found a new home for Frankie, but kept one of the white kittens because Karl's daughter decided she wanted it, as well as Mojo.  She named it "Floyd", since he came from Floyd, VA.

He and Mojo fast became buddies.  AND... we found out from the vet that the kitten was deaf and that it was quite common for white cats to be deaf.  That made sense because of him having no fear of the lawnmower.  He was and still is full of himself, and both he and Mojo are enjoying a wonderful life in Wrentham, MA with Karl's daughter and her family.

So by the end of June 2010 we were back to Bella, Max and Bubbles.  Bella was so heartbroken after Mojo left and we decided to get a permanent companion for her.  Again we went to the on-line ads and found a boxer-mix named "Maya"  She was already spayed, up to date on shots, familiar with cats, and we felt she would be the perfect fit.  And she was.  She got along with Bella as well as both cats.

The camper was getting smaller by the day... but everyone got along and we were one big happy family.  Maya proved to be the perfect mate for Bella and later helped Bella through a very difficult 3 months after a hunting accident and subsequent surgery.

Unfortunately living out in the country sometimes isn't easy on the heart or the animals.  Maya disappeared last fall and we haven't seen her since.

We found another boxer to replace Maya, although anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet knows that a pet cannot be totally replaced.  Our new pet's name was "Snickers" and proved to be quite the clown.

We have since called her "Maya Too".  She loves the farm and is a constant companion to Bella.

This past spring we decided it was time to get some chickens.  We purchased several from our local Tractor Supply and put them under a heat lamp in the camper.  Now we REALLY had the funny farm!  2 cats, 2 dogs and 10 baby chicks... plus Karl and I.  Oh... we also have a beta fish!  Gotta be able to get along to have that many breathing animals under one roof!

Everyone got along and we had a peaceful flow until one of the chicks decided it wanted to move out of the box in the middle of the night.  We were awakened by Maya Too when she tried to corral the rogue chick back into the box.  We knew it was time to move the chicks into a larger area.  Which meant...

the bathtub in the house!  Yep... Karl made a wired door and we put wood shavings on the bottom and the chicks took up new residence inside the old bathtub.  They had more space to roam and were able to stay in the tub for about 3 weeks.  Also, the cats LOVED it.  They would sit on top of the door and watch the chicks run around... kinda like 'kitty TV".  We kept them in the tub until we finished out the chicken house.  We knew it was time to move them when they would stick their heads through the wire and talk to us when we were in the house.

 Now the chicken house was what at one time was a corn crib.  Karl removed 30 loads of corn cobs out of the building.  We cleaned and braced and then walled up the walls with plywood and added a window.  We used the door that we had torn out of the old store (a previous post). and got the chicks moved without incident.

Eventually we added roosts and made nesting boxes and automatic feeders to the house, and a great fenced chicken yard in which they could play. We planted morning glories and beans to climb up the posts holding the wire fencing, and added blue-bird houses to the top of the posts.

We have happy chickens... and they lay fabulous brown eggs...

We DID have one additional farm animal... but just for a couple of weeks.  He was a handsome little pygmy goat and we named him Jose'.

He was quite funny, but unfortunately he decided he was in love with our dogs and couldn't understand why they didn't want to breed with him.  Additionally, he had a hard time understanding that he was not welcome in the camper.  Goats are not easy animals to corral and we eventually had to say "good-bye" to Jose'.

Now one of the hazards of country living is the wild life.  The grandson of the gentleman that built our farmhouse shared some photos of his grandfather.  One of them showed him with a bobcat that was killed on the property.

Karl and I have also had our share of wild life encounters.  We had a young raccoon (we named him "Rocky") show up to eat with our cats.  He also had a friend, a possum.  We named him "Percy".  They hung around off and on for a couple of weeks, then we figured they got frustrated when we didn't feed them.

On occasion we have a skunk that slinks by, and our dogs have had to endure the brunt of their annoyance when they have gotten too personal with them.  YUK!!!   We have also had lots of deer and even a bear.  We don't mind the wild life as long as they don't intrude in our living space or destroy our fruit trees or garden.

The only time we I have ever been scared of the wild life was on a Sunday morning, about 2 years ago.  Karl was still in bed and I was sitting in our breakfast nook, having coffee.  Max was annoyed at something under the counter and so I decided to open the doors and let him investigate.  A ruckus ensued and one of the drawers in the cabinet started shaking.  I opened it up and much to my surprise and dismay I saw a tail with ridges on it.  And when I say tail... I mean as in about 10" long!!!  I screamed to Karl that their was a rat in the camper.

Now... I suppose in Karl's mind I was just using feminine hysteria over a little mouse and so he wasn't too concerned about the whole thing.  He got out of bed and said he'd get it once he had had his... ahem...morning constitutional.  Well... he goes to do his thing, and I am still sitting in the booth, but by this time with my feet in the seat as well.  Then suddenly this HUGE RAT comes out of the cabinet and runs into the bedroom!!!  And to make matters worse, Frankie was sitting on a chair and Bubbles was on the sofa and Max was also coming out of the cabinet and they all just sat and watched the monster scamper by!  I suppose it was so big that they didn't want a piece of it, but that didn't give me any consolation!

I ran out the front door... pretty much in hysteria... telling Karl I would not go back inside until he killed it!  I don't think he still grasped the fact that it was indeed a rat... not a mouse.  He calmly walks in with a crowbar to destroy the creature.  I told him it had gone into the bedroom.  Now a bedroom in a camper is not that big.  But, we couldn't see it anywhere.  I hurriedly jumped on the bed (I knew I was in no danger of it being in there) and peered over the sides of the bed.  I happened to notice it snug in the corner between the bed and the nightstand.  I at once jumped off the bed and literally jumped onto the table top.  Seriously.  I was so scared that I was screaming.  And to make matters worse, the horrible creature came running out of the bedroom and ran right past me!  Now at this point I definitely WAS  hysterical.  I mean come on!  This thing was at least the size of a man's hand with a 10" tail!

Karl corners it in the bathroom and disposes of it, but not before I am in tears and having a complete conniption fit.  Needless to say, I didn't make it to worship service that morning and I was NOT at all  impressed with our cats.

Now... not all of the critters on the farm have been unwelcomed guests.  Even though I was upset when we had a giant rat visit us, I was overjoyed when we had a visit from a giant chicken.  It was just last Halloween when a GIANT rooster named "Rex" showed up at our place.

It had a voice that sounded just like my grandson Garrett, but the rooster swore his name was "Rex the Rooster". Now that's a critter I can handle!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Everyone is in to being "Green" and recycling these days.  However, anyone who has ever lived in the country probably knows more about recycling than most environmentalists.  Heck... we were environmentalists before the term was even coined!!!  It was simply a way of life that was instilled in us from early on:  Don't be wasteful!!!

Now, I will admit that growing up,  I would gladly have given the cooked parsnips or pickled beets that were on my plate to those "poor starving children over in Biafra (Nigeria)."  that my mother used to tell us about.  Even though we lived out in the country, my mother knew there were people on the other side of the world that were starving, and she didn't want to hear a bunch of whining children complain about their food.  She had no time to waste on picky eaters, and if we didn't want to eat what was on our plates for dinner... well... it would still be there for breakfast and we could always eat it then (of course, with it being cold it would taste even worse).  And while I was more tolerant of my own children's eating habits, I don't tolerate wastefulness.

Karl and I have made it a priority to reuse everything possible in the renovation of our house. He built the shelving in the 2 sheds to house the materials that we either brought from his shop in Wrentham, MA,  took out of the farmhouse, or purchased through on-line sites or yard sales.  Recycling old building materials is simply the what we chose to do. Plus, economically it just makes sense.

For instance, just yesterday he and I went to Salsibury, NC (about 2 1/2 hours away from Floyd) and picked up a sink to go into our bathroom.

It came out of an historic house that was being renovated, and is EXACTLY the sink that Karl and I were looking for.  It matches our large tub that was already in the house.  The faucets and knobs are in great shape, and the price (including what it took for gas) was far less than purchasing a new one.  Now... we got what we wanted and the nice lady got rid of it and everyone was happy.  This is how our house is being put together...piece by piece... with stuff that's being salvaged.

Every time we have removed a wall or ceiling, we labelled the boards that were taken off for future use.

Some time in the past, some of the ceilings of the house had had acoustical ceiling tiles added to them and the adhesive that was used was so hard that it couldn't be sanded or chiseled off.

In that case, we had to use a heat gun to remove it.

It was painstaking work, but why waste all the beautiful heart pine wainscoting (You will see how it all comes together in a future post.)?
Now several years ago, Karl had cut down an huge oak tree on his property in Wrentham.  He had it rough-sawn into wide boards, and then stored it under some metal roofing in back of his shop.  This was approx. 30 years ago.  His daughter and I cleared away the weeds that hid the pile, and then he and his sons brought it into his shop...
and made what was once old-weathered boards...

into beautiful counter tops!!!   I find it amazing that something so crude can become so beautiful!

Another recycling moment: The owner of what at one time had been an old store was going to tear it down.

Years after the store had closed, the building had housed the burlap bags that were wrapped around trees for transporting.  We took down a small door (currently used on our chicken house) and all of the shelving and crown-molding.

The numbers in the crown molding and walls were reference numbers for the bag sizes.  It took a lot of bleach, elbow grease, and paint to get everything usable again, but in the end...

we had beautiful, sold grained walnut and chestnut boards with which to build our kitchen shelving, cabinets, and the baseboards throughout the house.  You can see the before and after photos...

SOLID and BEAUTIFUL... And all from RECYCLED materials!!!

Also, in the process of building the dining area, we tore out 4 walls in order to make the area into a dining/library, and we used 2 windows that are at least a couple of hundred years old to frame out the bookcases.  These came from a house that Karl had restored in the Boston area, and although they left that house looking pitiful...

they cleaned up like a new penny and now sit above the window seats that grace our dining area.

And speaking of dining area,  below is a picture of the old wood that was used to make the bookshelves and credenzas.

The picture above is of Karl tearing apart a tripod support from an old library that he renovated in the Boston area.  These tripods were used to hold shelving in an hexagon fashion within the library.  Karl had kept these for more than 30 years in the mezzanine of his shop.  Each board is 1" oak!    He also used some old architectural pieces to add a little panache to the whole area...

and when we put all the elements together, we have a dining area that is both functional and beautiful.  Even our 12' table came out of a Boston library (we refinished it).

Recycling at its finest!

The dining/library area is also framed with corbels that came out of a mansion in Boston that Karl had remodeled years ago.

 We had to cannibalize them in order for them to fit our area, but the end results are stunning.

In the process of renovating the inside of the house, we discovered an old fireplace that had been walled up years before. The bricks were hand made and the fireplace was lined with soapstone that had come from the property.

Karl and his friend Jason, spent many days removing the bricks.  Each evening Karl would pick away at the old mortar and we'd stack them in order of usability.

These bricks were made on our house site and we reused them to face our new fireplace when it was built.

They even had the date they were made:

What bricks couldn't be used for the fireplace were used in making a walkway onto the deck outside the camper.  We used the old soapstone for our raised hearth on the new fireplace...

and the rest are currently being used as a small fire pit outside the camper that is fabulous on a chilly autumn evening.

Throughout the house we have used recycled doors, many that came from a salvage yard in New Hampshire, like these two "Double-tombstone" stained glass doors that went on our pantry and downstairs bathroom...

and our front door (which originally came from a row-house in Ireland).

We even used period knobs and hardware.  If it wasn't attached to the door, we again went online or used other salvage places.

Besides indoor, we've found novel uses for other items.  A cattle feeding trough makes a wonderful container garden.

And we have certainly been the recipients of wonderful tomatoes, lettuce and beans that have been grown in these containers, as well as the beautiful impatiens that we cascade down the sides for aesthetic purposes.

SO.... Just a few (or a lot of) words on recycling and reusing.  It isn't always easy, but the end results can be astounding.  And knowing that we are holding something in our hands, putting something on our walls, or laying something on our floors that has a history... it just feels right. We have had so many friends and family marvel at how an ugly piece of molding or wood has been transformed into something beautiful, almost like magic.

In future posts, I will show each of our rooms as they were before the renovations, during the renovations, and the end result.  Everything in them, with the exception of the electrical and the insulation, has been recycled and reused.  Hopefully everyone will agree that it was all worth the effort. We think so.