Home

My sweet Sunshine started saying the word “home” this week.  It’s adorable and comes out sounding more like “ooohhm.”  Every time she’s done it, I’ve felt my heart squeeze in my chest.  Home.

I grew up living in lots of places: California, Idaho (four different times, two different towns), Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee every summer, Oregon (two different times, two different towns), and now Massachusetts.  Most of those houses were parsonages, meaning they belonged to the churches where my dad was preaching and we were just temporary inhabitants.  If there’s one thing moving so much has taught me, it’s that sometimes home must be a fluid concept.

I’ve met lots of people who feel a sense of ownership over the places where they grew up or have lived for a very long time: people who have a deep sense of pride in their roots and not just living somewhere, but being part of the fabric that makes the place a place at all.  For someone like me, though, without those particular roots, I have no sense of the places I’ve loved belonging to me, more I feel like a part of me belongs to them: little pieces of my heart, scattered across the country.  I can’t get them back (and wouldn’t if I could) but I can visit them and I feel whole in different ways each time I do.

I think that’s why her sweet, tiny voice saying “oooohhhm” squeezes my heart in that achingly, lovely way.  She is not quite two, but for her, this old, yellow farmhouse by the woods in a tiny town in Massachusetts is  warmth, safety, and fun.  She is surrounded by love here, she can be herself without reserve, and wherever else we go, whatever adventures we go on, this is the touchstone we return to-to rest and refuel.

This little farm already has a piece of her heart.  Maybe she’ll stay here her whole life through and be woven into the fabric of the town.  Or maybe one day her heart will break and she’ll leave a bit here as she moves on–learning to love another place . . . and another.  Only time will tell.

For now, I am filled with gratitude for this beautiful town, this incredible house, and the fairy tale landscape that altogether make my sweet Sunshine’s first ooohhm.

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All the Updates!

Big changes coming for Mac n’ Cheese Manor!!!  We are working with the Get the Lead Out program to certify our house as lead free which will include: new windows, siding, doors (inside and out), and trim.  We’re working with MassSave to insulate!  It will likely be a few months yet, but the contractors who will bid on the work have been here to look around and after months of paperwork and phone calls, I feel like we’re finally moving forward!

I have never had a garden and know nothing about growing things, but we’re going to give a small garden a try this year.  Wish me luck, I’m going to need it, or rather, our poor plants are going to need it!  On a similar but different note, we are also planning to build a chicken coop!  I mean, can we really call it a farm, even a little one, if there’s no garden or chickens?

On the battle front, we continue to lose to the squirrels.  We have four traps (three live/one kill) and every day the bait is gone but the traps are empty.  We’ll be welcoming two cats to our home as soon as the construction work is complete and hopefully they can succeed where we are failing.

I stopped using shampoo about a month ago and I’m never going back!!!  I’ve started using New Wash which is completely fantastic, but is also quite expensive.  So when I run out, I’m going to try the curly girl method and see if that works for me as well.  I have a friend who does it and her hair looks great so I’m crossing my fingers!

As it relates to writing, I’ve changed my mind about rewrites.  As I’ve gone through it, I find that most of what I wrote doesn’t want to be rewritten;  It was what it was at the time and looks too different in hindsight for me to even know where to begin.  I’m still going to fill out the rest of my Cancer Files, but by adding to them, not rewriting them.  Everything else I’m leaving be.  There are so many new chapters to write!

It’s been a lovely and difficult winter for me.  It is so beautiful here.  I haven’t loved snow like this since I was a child.  I fall more in love with our creaky, old, farmhouse and rambling eight or so acres every day.  We’ve made wonderful new friends, and I love being home with my Sunshine.  And yet, when the anniversary of my mid-December move arrived, I felt so sad for all we’re missing by not living closer to our families and friends back West. There is a certain kind of loneliness for much-loved people and places that is unbearably bittersweet.

2018 is just going to be a big and busy year for us.  Between repairs to the house, additions to the farm, and our wild baby, we’re going to be hopping and that’s not a bad thing.  I feel like I need to be this kind of busy right now.  Lots to do, but not sooooo much to do that I can’t sneak in a momosa and some writing time here and there.   : )

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The War for Mac n’ Cheese Manor

Friends.  Since the day we moved in we have been beating back the wildlife (i.e. mice, bats, and squirrels) and trying to make Mac n’ Cheese Manor ours and ONLY ours.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all creatures, great and small, but I love most of them not in our house: dogs and cats notwithstanding . . . and maybe someday a pot-bellied pig . . . and maybe a mini pony that can come inside sometimes . . . or lots of times . . . do they make mini pony pet doors for houses?  Anyway, I digress . . .

Our efforts have not been entirely futile.  We have removed two bats (safely and with zero human or bat casualties), we have removed countless mice (safely for us . . . not always so much the mice),  and then there are the squirrels.

We have live trapped and removed exactly one squirrel.  We have three live-traps.  We have baited them more times than I care to list, and always the bait is gone, the little door is down, but the trap is empty.  We’ve made modifications to better our chances of catching the little monsters, all to no avail.

In the thirty or so minutes since I’ve been sitting on our couch writing this post, I’ve heard one (or two?) run up through our living room wall to get to the upstairs.  And this morning, when Carl pulled on the retractable power cord to plug in our iron, bird seed literally poured out of it:
IMG_8661Which means we were likely wrong when we thought it was my sweet Sunshine who poured birdseed into my rain boots last week . . .

In light of all this, we are switching from live traps to not so live traps, and we are getting a cat, and I’m moving the birdseed into an old dog food bin with a lid that clicks shut.  We may have lost the last few (okay, maybe all previous) battles against the squirrels, but we are going to win the war for our beautiful, much-nibbled Mac n’ Cheese Manor!

 

 

 

Winter in Massachusetts

IMG_8345.JPGThe above photo is a snowdrift out our front door the morning after winter storm Grayson, which thankfully had simmered waaaaaayyy down by the time it arrived here.  Winter in Massachusetts is no joke.   We knew this before we ever finalized our decision to move here.  In fact, we knew enough that once the decision was made we spent close to a thousand dollars on new coats, snow pants, boots, gloves, yak tracks, and wool socks.  Just today I used every last one of the items we bought for me and I have never once had cause to regret any one of those purchases.

There are all the little inconveniences that come with living where the serious winters are: things like dry skin and hair, occasional bloody noses, digging your sidewalk out when it snows, and having to start your car fifteen minutes before you go anywhere so everything can thaw out.

Then there are the bigger things.  Like what is your plan for when the bomb cyclone hits and your power may go out for days?  Do you have a plan for when the water to your barn freezes in the pipes under the road? Or how will your 16 year old dog make it down the hill in two feet of snow and wild gusts of wind four or five times a day to use the bathroom?  And how often do you check on your horses to make sure they aren’t turning into icicles?  Did you know that the fuel in your basement tank that heats your whole house can get too cold and thicken to the point where your furnace cuts out?

Here’s what we learned from winter storm Grayson:

  1. Our neighbors (who we already knew were the best) are the best!  We had no plan for what to do if our power went out (we would have had less than one night to do something because all our pipes would have frozen in a matter of hours), but they offered to share their generator with us (literally moving it back and forth between houses) if the power went out in the middle of the storm while it wasn’t safe to travel and buy our own generator.  Thankfully, the power did not go out and we can buy a generator of our own before the next big storm!
  2. Sadly, we didn’t have a plan (though we sure as hell have one for next year!) regarding the pipes to the barn.  So, for now, we are hauling buckets from the house to fill the tank outside and the buckets in their stalls until things thaw out.  That said, I did develop a system involving our sled that works like a charm and has taken a lot of the sweat and tears out of the water-hauling job!
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  3. Our sixteen year old dog makes it down the hill several times a day because we dig him a path several times a day!  The wind blows the snow back into what we’ve dug about every three hours and we have to dig it again, but such is life and the dogs are so worth it.  : )
  4. You check on your horses every time you start to worry again, which happens to be every three or four hours for me, but might be different depending on your circumstances and/or personality.  ; )
  5. The fuel for your furnace can, will, and did thicken to the point where our furnace cut out, but luckily the repair man came (even though it was about midnight) and educated us about an additive you can put in the tank to prevent this from happening.  So we were back up and running within a couple of hours and suffered no ill effects.
  6. Lastly, the importance of having and being good neighbors simply can’t be overstated.  I have been stunned again and again by the kindness of the people we are blessed to live by and I’m finally beginning to understand that it’s just part of living in this wild, beautiful place.  We all check in on each other and we all pitch in to make sure everyone makes it through.  I love living here and being part of this kind, generous community.  : )

As to those minor inconveniences, I took a nice, hot shower tonight, slathered up in cocoa butter, poured myself a mimosa (or momosa, as I prefer to call them) and am now curled up on the couch with my laptop and my dog while my husband runs errands with our little one.  So, for tonight at least, all is well.  : )

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I Love my Husband Because . . .

this was the lower-level, back, right section of our barn two and a half months ago:

And this is that same section of our barn now:

That first set of pictures is not how the barn looked when we bought this place.  Back then it had a sloped cement floor, but Carl busted it all up with a jack hammer and piled it outside the barn so he could make the stalls big enough.  He has spent every spare moment since mid-September putting this together so my horses could safely ride out the harsh, New England winter.

Did Carl always dream of a farm life, you ask? . . . No.  Has Carl ever built anything bigger than a cabinet before? . . . No.  Did Carl always want to renovate a 1930’s dairy barn to safely and happily accommodate three horses? . . . shockingly . . . No.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s more than true love.  That is dedication, discipline, research, sleep deprivation, hours and hours of hard work in the freezing cold after already working a full day in the office . . . AND true love.

I’m a lucky girl and I know it.  : )

 

Mac n’ Cheese Manor: So Many Things!

We are FINALLY moving our bed out of the living room today!!!!! : )

I unpacked the rest of my summer clothes and hung them up, so I am no longer using a cardboard box with five outfits in it for a wardrobe!!!!! : )

I cleaned and polished my beautiful bookshelf (still my favorite piece of furniture, sorry new couches!!!) and unpacked my beautiful books.   A house is just not a home until the books go up.  : )

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It was a lovely moment in time, going through my childhood books, combining them with all the books she’s been given, and putting them together on the bottom, two shelves where my sweet Sunshine can reach.  : )

We put the screens in our doors, so there’s fresh air all through the house!  : )

We now have big cans for our bottles, our cardboard/paper, and our garbage and all three of them are out of sight/smell but still easily accessible.

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We put our air conditioner in the living room window so we don’t expire of heat/humidity!  : )

We got a coat of paint on the pantry and, with my parents coming for two weeks, we might just get it finished!  : )

We completely cleaned/cleared out the entry way and organized all of the fix-it-up tools, tool boxes, ladders, buckets, etc upstairs!

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And, of course, we made time for some baby snuggles and giggles.  : )

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We have been busy!  Too busy to write.  And even though I’m technically still too busy to write, what can I say?  The coffee is hot, the baby is asleep, and here we are.  As we get things cleaned up, organized, cleared out, etc, I am falling in love with our house all over again.  For awhile after we moved in, everything was so desperately disorganized, it was difficult to live in, especially with a baby and often, I felt frustrated and overwhelmed.  Now, with my books on the wall, my furniture free of laundry, my clothes in an actual closet and the things we aren’t using tidily stacked in empty rooms upstairs: I can breathe, I can relax, and I am not constantly worried about what my Sunshine might find and ingest.

With my parents here to help, we are hoping to finally finish the pantry/laundry room and maybe, if we’re lucky, get the bedrooms and/or living room painted.  There isn’t much we can do to the kitchen this year because once we start, we’re going to have to tear up pretty much everything.  So, once the pantry/laundry room is complete, we’ll go back to sealing the house and begin work on the barn and fencing.

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I cannot wait to share more of our barn with you all!!!!!!  It is huge, it is old, it is beautiful, and it is full of random stuff!  Before my much-missed horses arrive, we’ve got to clean out the upstairs for hay, buy hay and get it up there, figure out some kind of solution to the sort of bat problem (they are only sort of a problem because they poop, they are sort of awesome because they eat all of the bugs I don’t like!), and get a fence up.  You know, just a couple of paltry tasks, should be no big deal . . .

So there we go!  Now you’re up to date and I’d best get back to work!  Happy Monday, everyone!  : )