Raccoon Tracks On My Dashboard

The Marvelous or Mediocre Meanderings of a Mountain Mama

And Finally… February 26, 2011

Filed under: Home & Garden — mountainmama79 @ 7:11 pm

#5. There is a bottomless pit called “home improvement”. 

Also accompanied by a bottomless pit of money.  Oh, I mean debt.  Sorry, I was imagining I won the lottery for a second.  But I suppose you have to actually PLAY the lottery to WIN it.

I love our house, but it’s 27 years old and in need of some updating. And since it was built in a series of additions, it needs some revamping to really make sense. 

For instance… The master bathroom is separated from the bedroom by an open office area.  We can wall it off and connect the two rooms to make a master suite, but then you would need to go into the master suite to take the stairs to the basement.  Therefore, I need to move the stair access into the office space (there’s still enough room for a desk and cabinet area).  In order to do that, I need to put an actual floor in that part of the basement, cut into an eye-beam, and re-route some gas lines.  It’s complicated and daunting, but doggonnit, it will work!  I’m determined that it will. 

The nice part about moving the stairs is that if we ever finish that part of the basement, we can put another bedroom where they are now, which is the only area that has full-sized windows down there.  Plus the stairs are behind our bedroom closet, which would open that space up into a nice big walk-in. 

For some reason (if there was a good one, I don’t know what it was), the contractor painted the whole exterior in a pasty, manila-envelope yellow.  I’m not much for yellow in the first place, but when I saw what was under it, I really had to question the thought process behind the new paint.   

I noticed the doorjamb of the front door was left in its original state- a beautiful gray blue stain that shows the wood underneath. 

Now, color aside, a good painter knows you are not supposed to use latex paint over stain.  (I’m not a good painter… I got that info from my dad.)  It started peeling a couple months after it was painted, and you can see the blue behind the cracks. 

My intentions are to try to power-wash the yellow off and see about re-staining the house to its former glory.  Yeah, I’ll let you know how THAT turns out…

The kitchen leaves something to be desired.  With the exception of the refrigerator, there’s no evidence that it’s ever been updated since its birth in 1984, and the cabinets and countertops are in sorry shape. 

My mom and I did paint the walls and cabinets (thanks Mom!), which helps the appearance until we’re ready to overhaul. 

Please ignore the mess.  The kitchen is currently being used as a nursery.

For plants, not humans. 

The nice thing about the kitchen is most of the appliances are in tip-top shape, so no need to replace those anytime soon.  I’ll certainly be hanging on to the professional grade gas range for a long time.

My plan is to gut this space entirely and change the floor plan to add a couple feet to the dining area.  The faux wood paneling will come off and wood floors will replace the tile.  Yes, this is a huge project.  Yes, it will cost some dough.  But if there’s one thing I learned from my parents, it’s how to be frugal—DIY and research shopping are no strangers to me. 

These are the cabinet pulls. 

Aren’t they cute?  I found them on eBay for $1.19 each! 

And then there’s the pond and patio to put in out back, and the stone steps to go down to the creek, and the bamboo screen to plant between us and the neighbors, and the man cave……… 

So in order to do all these things, I estimate I need about a billion dollars and a major sabbatical from my job.  Of course, these are the big projects— some that we want to start soon, others that can wait a while.  There are many, many other smaller things that need to get done in meantime. 

But as we start to check these off one by one, I will be using this blog to document our progress and ask for advice.  And then, once all these things are done, we can die from exhaustion and it will need updating all over again because it’s the year 2079.


The Fourth Thing February 25, 2011

Filed under: Home & Garden — mountainmama79 @ 5:06 pm

#4. This place is prone to high winds. 

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like this whole area has been superduper  windy this past year.  Over the summer, we had what was called a “micro-burst”, which basically means “tornado”.  While I was at the fairgrounds, hiding in the poultry building, waiting to be sucked up into the sky with 150 chickens, my husband was at home, hiding in the basement, waiting for all the oak trees to pummel the house. 

When I finally did get home that day, he showed me where two large-ish trees snapped in half, and one large tree was completely uprooted.  Pro:  we now have a ton of good firewood.  Con:  most of it is at the bottom of the hill. Living on a steep hill with a creek at the bottom is really quaint… until you want to bring something heavy up the hill. Solution:  we get some equipment to haul it up.  In the meantime, we can get some good exercise carrying 2-3 logs at a time.  (These suckers are heavy–2 or 3 is all I handle by the time my heart explodes.)

My dear old dad came down and helped us take care of some of this fallen wood.  I don’t have “before” pictures, because I lost them, but here is one of the trees in its current state:

The smaller limb is still there, but the larger trunk that was hanging beneath it is now cut up into logs. 

And here is the corner of the deck where my mom was standing precisely 2.4 seconds before the giant limb twisted the wrong way and smashed it.

My poor dad felt so bad, he went to Lowes and bought lumber to help fix it.  We still need to put the rails on.

The sad part is that when we first moved here, there was a little hole right where the tree snapped, where little baby squirrels would poke their heads out of every day.  It was so cute.  They still live in that one hanging limb. 

And here is what’s left of the other two trees.

This stump was uprooted, but when my dad cut the trunk, the root “ball” righted itself back into the ground.  You can see the dark ring of the root spread. 

I was going to make benches out of these logs, but the heartwood is rotted out of the middle, so I may have to find another part of the trunk. 

Other things to look out for when it’s really windy:  1) Barrages of gigantor acorns from above.  2) Trash from the neighbor’s house.  3) Forest fires. 

This is the Shenandoah National Park, about 30 miles south of us as the crow flies.  It was on fire last weekend, forcing hikers and nearby residents to evacuate. (Press photos)

I wasn’t this close (don’t worry, Mom!), so my pics aren’t as impressive:

Speaking of high winds, we’ve been under a High Wind Advisory until 7:00 tonight.  It’s pretty gusty out there.  Things are a-blowin’.  Apparently part of the interstate is closed due to downed power lines.  Luckily it’s been raining, so I think the chance of fires is pretty low.


Numero Tres February 23, 2011

Filed under: Animals,Home & Garden — mountainmama79 @ 5:16 pm

#3. Living in a private secluded area is really peaceful…

…until it turns into night and you’re alone in the house and you start hearing all sorts of things you can’t see.  I grew up in a secluded area, and camping is something I do on a regular basis, but I never heard noises quite like these.  I try to focus on the good noises, like owls and crickets, but the other ones get the best of me sometimes. 

Raccoons and opossums frequent the deck, and I know we’ve had horses come down to our creek from the next ridge, but I don’t mind any of them.  It’s the weird noises that start in the middle of the night and sound like a cross between a coyote and a pterodactyl.  In case you’re wondering how I know what a pterodactyl sounds like… I watched Jurassic Park 3 once.  Those movies are scientifically accurate you know.  And yes I had to Google it to spell it.

There was once a wild pig behind the house, and that was pretty weird.  According to the neighbors, some pigs from a local farm got loose a few years ago, and at least one of them is still running wild.  It’s reportedly pretty large, and the whole neighborhood is itching to shoot it so we can have a pig roast.

And one time, when I was out watering my plants at 2:00 am (don’t ask), this screech owl was silently watching me from above for about 20 minutes before he let one of his screechy hoots.  (Not to be confused with squishy toots.)  He sent me tripping over the hose and nearly face-planting into a tree. 

But seriously, we are really lucky to have this piece of land.  We have 3.5 acres with a creek at the bottom, and for us nature lovers, it’s a pretty perfect piece of property.  Said Peter Piper.  As he picked a peck… oh nevermind.   

Since we bought the place in the winter and it was under snow every time we looked at it, we had some really nice surprises in the spring: lovely moss-covered rocks, dogwood and redbud trees, blueberry bushes, and a variety of flowers planted by the original owners (albeit neglected for the past few years, but still beautiful).

The nice thing about living “out of the way” is the wildlife.  We have a large collection of wild birds that visit our feeders daily, and although it’s a constant battle with the squirrels, it’s totally worth it to see them every day.  The sound in the spring and summer is unbeatable.  Except maybe by my parents’ place, which borders a bird sanctuary. 

We also see deer regularly and have heard a bear at night (we still haven’t seen him).

And then there’s this guy:

May his antlers be mighty, his harem large, and his head without bullets. 

Stay safe, little guy!  I like to feed you corn and apples.


2nd Piece of Homeownership Wisdom February 22, 2011

Filed under: Home & Garden — mountainmama79 @ 3:35 pm

#2.  A two-car garage is niiiiiiiice.  

In all my years of renting apartments and houses, I have never  had a garage to park my car in.  And in a climate prone to snow and ice (not to mention a plethora of oak trees and mischievous squirrels), a garage is a priceless commodity.  I haven’t had to chip ice off of my car in over a year! 

So far we have 2 cars, a canoe, 2 bikes, a wheelbarrow, a snow-blower, garden supplies, toolboxes, chainsaws, and workshop tables (and one time a bee colony!) all packed neatly into this space.   

Actually not really.  It’s all in there, but let’s be honest, there’s nothing neat about it.  It’s a veritable disaster.  But I’ll spare you and just show you the outside.

Of course, it would be handy to also have garage door openers, so that we don’t have to get out, unlock the house door, go in the garage and open the garage door, then go back out to pull the car in.  It’s on my list…..


5 Things I’ve Learned About Homeownership February 21, 2011

Filed under: Home & Garden — mountainmama79 @ 1:20 pm

I’m sorry if you’ve vistited this site and you think it’s a tad… sparse.  I’ve been away from this blog for a while, mostly due to my job and trying to house train a puppy.  But I’m back and I have no intention of abandoning this site and letting it fall by the wayside!

This month marks the one-year anniversary of a special day in my adult life.  It was actually February 2nd, but since it’s still February, I feel like it still applies.  It was the day I signed roughly 9,283 pieces of paper that gave me ownership of a lovely piece of property I now call home. 

Unfortunately, Feb. 2nd also marked the first day in a series of winter storms that would be the worst this area had seen in over 10 years.  We had intended to start moving that evening, but … long story short: two cars went into a ditch, all of our things went into storage, and we went into a hotel for a week.  It was a true test of a 6-month old marriage. 

When we finally were able to make it through the 50 inches of snow to our new abode, we had enough energy to shovel out space for our two cars and path to the house before we decided to spend $750 on a snow-blower.  (One of three left in the tri-state area I think.)  It was money well spent if you ask me. 

So here are some things I’ve learned over the past year about buying, owning, and keeping up a house:

I’ll start with #1 for now, because when I typed this whole thing up I realized it was REEEEEAAALLLY long. 

  1.  You don’t have to be rich to get what you want. 

If you’re looking for a house, just keep your eyes open and be patient.  When I originally saw this house, it was listed at $40,000 more than what we paid for it.  It was too much for us, so I set my sights on more attainable goals.  When I went back to the listing about a month later, the asking price had come down within our range. 

Granted, the economy actually helped us out in that area, since the housing market is crap right now.  The home had been a foreclosure and a contractor had bought it at auction and flipped it for a profit.  We offered a little less than the asking price, and the seller jumped on it.  (Which makes me think my first offer should have been lower.) 

We didn’t look at actual foreclosures, in part because I had a couple of friends who were also buying, and they had nightmare stories about the process involved in buying foreclosures and short sales.  One of them took over 6 months from the time they made an offer to the time they signed papers.  SIX!  Mine took one and a half. 

In the end, we paid $103,000 less than what the previous owners paid in 2006, and the contractor still made a decent profit.  It was a win-win.  Except for the previous owners. 😦 

But I heard from the other neighbors that they were kind of shady anyway and let their SEVEN dogs have the run of the house.  The smell still lingers in the basement.  Which leads me to #5… which won’t be posted until Friday.  Ha!


Wicked Good January 13, 2011

Filed under: Maine,Uncategorized — mountainmama79 @ 8:54 pm

I spent most of my childhood growing up in the beautiful state of Maine.  For my sisters and me, it was the perfect place to grow up- we had five acres of trees, rocks, and dirt to play in.  We had a little stream and a couple small ponds. One of these ponds was the kind that had bullfrogs, cattails, and puss willows- like the kind that were in storybooks and Disney movies.   

We had a club house with TWO stories (thanks Dad!).  I once tried to fashion a toilet out of a tire and the 2nd-floor window.  Because I guess it was too far to walk all the way across the yard to use the bathroom in the house.  Don’t worry, it never got used (I think).

I love Maine, and if you’ve never been, you must try to visit sometime.  The coasts are beautiful and the seafood jumps off the boat and into your mouth.  And go north where it is still wild and there are mountains to climb!    Like every state, it has its unique qualities and nuances that set it apart.  

It is home to some of my favorite things- moose, blueberries, and Mount Katahdin.   Maine is one of those beautiful places of the earth where I just sort of lose myself in everything around me- all of my senses are taken in- the views of majestic mountains or expansive ocean, the feel of spongy moose moss or smooth birch bark, the smell of balsam trees or ocean air, the sound of wood thrushes, loons, or sea-birds, the taste of blueberries or fried clams!  (Ironically, lobster is not one of my favorites.  I’ll eat it occasionally, but I’d much rather have clams or freshwater fish.  Or chicken fingers.)

Another thing Maine is noted for is its residents’ unique way of expression.  They like to take the “r”s off the ends of words and put them on the ends of other words.  

“Ayuh” is an oldie and basically means “yes”.  People travelling to Maine aren’t tourists, they’re “from away”.  And that can also describe anyone who lives in Maine but wasn’t born there.

And “downeast” refers to coastal locations from Belfast to Eastport.  

And then there’s the use of “wicked” which is actually heard throughout New England, but Maine is the only state I know of to have a band by the same name.  When we were kids, my dad bought a record (a record!) of the Wicked Good Band.  It was called “Dare to be Wicked Good” and some of the tracks were Baked Bean Boogie, Road Kill, and my personal favorite, She’s So Massive.  

Here are some fun facts about Maine that you might find interesting:

Maine produces 25% of North America’s lowbush blueberries and is the largest single producer of these berries in the world.

Blueberry Fields

Tourmaline was first discovered in North America in 1820 on Mount Mica, in Paris, ME.  Maine and California are the only producers of the gemstone in the United States.

In 1939, Maine state legislature considered a bill that would make it illegal to put tomatoes in clam chowder. Although it didn’t pass, clam chowder generally remains tomato-free throughout New England.  

The first Naval battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in 1775 off the coast of Machias, ME, when the British ship Margaretta was captured by colonial patriots.

The Desert of Maine, near Freeport, ME, encompasses a 40-acre sand dune, the result of poor farming practices in the 18th century.  

At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain, located within Acadia National Park, is the highest point on the Atlantic seaboard.  

Maine is the only state whose name is a single syllable and the only state to border only one other state (New Hampshire).

The area of Aroostook County is larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.

Maine has the largest proportion of French-speaking population in any state.  In comes in second to Louisiana in total numbers.  

The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, in New Gloucester, ME, was established in 1794 and is the only remaining Shaker community with practicing members.

If the 228 miles of Maine coastline were stretched out straight, it would run about 3,480 miles.

The Portland Head Light is the oldest lighthouse in Maine.  It was commissioned by President George Washington and was completed in 1791.

90% of the nations toothpicks come from Maine.

In 1607, Popham Colony was established near the Kennebec River, a few months after the settlement in Jamestown, VA was established.  Although the colony only lasted a year, it succeeded in building the Virginia of Sagadahoc, the first English ship built in the New World.

The town of Eastport, ME, is the easternmost point in the United States.

It is estimated that roughly 29,000 moose dwell within Maine’s borders.  

In Bass Park in Bangor, ME, there is a 31-foot statue of Paul Bunyan, the legendary woodsman iconic to the area’s lumber industry.

There’s also a 22-foot Bean Boot outside of the famous LL Bean store in Freeport:

Wicked awesome.


Off to a rocky start January 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — mountainmama79 @ 6:16 pm

As part of a New Year’s resolution, I’ve started a blog! 

A week late. 

I intended to launch this thing on January 1, but our internet was down for over a week, so here I am.  Hey, at least it’s still January! 

This space will inevitably be a hodge-podge of random thoughts/events/ideas/adventures/news/etc/etc/etc.  My original plan to be organized and focused was abandoned for my desire to talk about anything and everything.  For now, I’ll talk a little bit about my doggie.

This is our puppy, Dawson.

We got her a couple days before Christmas.  She is not named after the TV show, but we do have a creek, and I’m guessing before long it will be referred to as…

Dawson’s Creek. 

She’s actually named after two different athletes, a Cubs’ player and a Browns’ player; that way my husband and I each have our own Dawson. 

I’m the Browns’ fan.  And I’m proud of it. 

Some things Dawson likes to do:

Run, jump, lick, chew, poop, pee, destroy her toys, run into things, act like she’s ferocius, run and hide when the neighbors dogs bark, look really cute.

I”m learning not to buy toys that involve polyfill stuffing. 

I’ll leave you with a favorite John Muir quote:  ’There is no estimating the wit and wisdom concealed and latent in our lower fellow mortals until made manifest by profound experiences; for it is through suffering that dogs as well as saints are developed and made perfect.”

Ha!  Dawson has a lot of suffering to do…

And now I’m off to figure out exactly how to write a blog…

Best Wishes!

Mountain Mama