My siblings, their spouses, and I spent the last week in Madison WI area after my brother’s Ironman race. He finished, but had to walk too much of the marathon portion, from leg cramps. He was not satisfied with his time, but he completed the course. Wow.
We rented a house in Cambridge, right on a tree farm / bird sanctuary. Joe Arrington (owner) took us for a tour on his atv, showing what they do for growing oak and walnut for lumber. They also have ponds and meadows for attracting birds and animals. His family and employees all have homes on the land, and a couple of empty places they rent. This is the nicest one we’ve been in.
We have found for a family like ours, four bedrooms (and five when our mother was with us), with sufficient bathrooms and a living space where we can all gather is so much better than hotel rooms. We’ve had a large place with screened pool and hot tub in Orlando: a house in a traditional summer community on Lake Erie with beach and great yard for lounging; a pretty house in the mountains outside of Asheville in autumn; a smaller group of us rented a renovation in-progress B&B (so the owner let us have the whole place) in our home town; a condo in Key West. The Oak House is one we want to find an excuse to go back to visit.
The kitchen was huge and inviting. We actually cooked in more than going out to eat. The dining table was beautiful, made in their workshop. I would love to have one like it. We had great weather and spent quite a bit of time on the screened porch.
We all enjoyed our visit to the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. There were a number of shoppers for the Duluth Trading Co in Horeb, city with a troll theme. Madison is a very attractive city. We also took a day to visit a recently widowed cousin just north of there. Mostly we just talked a lot and caught up with each other’s lives, as usual. Of the seven of us, I’m the only one indifferent to cheese curds, and we tried appetizers in a few places.
First a picture I forgot to post when I took it. This is a waterfall viewed from the side of Hwy 11 a bit north of Seneca. South Carolina has a lot of pretty waterfalls in the upstate.
Well, I have had good and bad in the past few weeks. The good was seeing friends I do not see often, and going to my brother’s wedding. The not good was all the driving I did, making me very tired and sore from gripping the wheel and sitting too much. The bad was not getting the old house on the market.
I had not heard (email) from the realtor I had planned to use, so I called the office when I was in Roanoke – found she had retired. I went to another company whose signs were frequent in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, her market analysis of 6 nearby homes that sold over the past year gave an average of less than the city even evaluated the house. I have put quite a bit more in upgrades (not maintenance) and want more out of the house. I will talk to 2 or 3 more realtors next month when I’m in town. I may end up waiting until next spring to see what increase there has been. With so many houses for sale again, the prices surely are increasing. I may be biased, but I have been looking online at homes for sale in the neighborhood and do not see any with both bath and kitchen upgrades and a number of other things my house offers. I do worry that I may have made it nicer than the market will handle now. I can’t stress over it, and I know I can handle the second mortgage right now. (But, I was hoping to buy a new car soon, with my old one having over 100,000 miles and 12 years.)
A couple of days resting and not making any jewelry, and my hands are no longer sore from the steering wheel. My back has eased off its tightness – which I am really sure was from anxiety over the house.
The wedding was very nice, held in a restaurant (Spiaggia) in downtown Chicago, with a great view over the lake, beautiful room, great food, and wonderfully efficient staff. Dale and Jim have been together for almost 28 years, with the last 2 in a civil union, and now finally legally married, one week after the date the state of Illinois allowed it. They have a stable, longer-term relationship than anyone else in the family, and I am very happy for them. Especially as we age, they have already had to worry about legalities when one was in the hospital, and this eliminates so many problems or complicated work-arounds. Since Jim’s family is mostly from Illinois, and there are quite a few nieces and nephews, they made up most of the guest list. I had enjoyed meeting them at the 25th anniversary party, and again at the wedding. Both families have welcomed the partner, and rightly so, as these are two generous and kind men. I am so glad they are family.
After the last snow that crippled Atlanta was quite mild here, we are getting hit with this storm. A band of snow has been over our area since very early this morning. Good news is that it is getting a bit warmer and not as much is on the ground as there was earlier. Bad news is that another band is coming through tomorrow and the prediction is for icy conditions. Best news is that I don’t have to go outside – unless the power goes out and I will go to Sharon’s house for the gas fireplace. The snow has been quite pretty, with very large flakes.
We’ve had activity next door, at the commercial property. The owner has put it up for sale and completed clearing away all equipment and concrete pipes. My only problem is living so close if it becomes a busy business of some sort. The back of the concrete block building is about 50 feet from my cottage, which is okay in the summer, but when the winter comes with die back of foliage, it seems closer. You can see in the snow pictures from the back patio, how close the building is. We are discussing what evergreen grows fast that can go in for a hedge along the property line. Sharon has done such a good job of clearing away weeds, vines on trees, and other brush out to the property line, now we want to fill it in with selected plantings.
The sunflower seeds I put out on the patio have brought in a lot of birds, even a small flock of juncos. I have not seen any here in SC yet and am glad to have these handsome little birds. We have had lots of cardinals, morning doves, house finches and goldfinches, a few sparrows. I saw a towee yesterday, not at the seed, but digging in leaves not far away. I suspect they are a lot like humans, driving past a restaurant and seeing a lot of cars makes us decide to try it, as the food must be good. Once I started getting more birds, another bunch decided to try our place.
Well, Sharon has decided to give up the young male mini schnauzer she thought would revitalize her older dogs. He was a good addition and so affectionate, but he has turned out to be a strong alpha male, acting very territorial when another male dog came to board. After much deliberation, she decided her work with rescue dogs, fostering until a forever home was found, is too important. With a very assertive dog, the poor scared fosterlings would be harder to teach what a safe and loving home should be. It would also affect the boarding Sharon sometimes does, which is also pleasant – chaotic, too, when there are half a dozen or so dogs running around.
I just want to brag a little on my brother. He recently finished (his second) Ironman distance race. First was of the Ironman brand, this one was Revolution3 brand. I am very impressed with his drive and ability to train for and complete a race like this. He found he really liked triathlons with swimming, biking, and running. It just progressed to the big challenge after a few years and making friends with people who had already done it. The race starts with a 2.4 mile swim, then a transition to bike for a 112 mile ride, then a transition to foot for a full 26.2 marathon. That’s 140.6 miles with a requirement to be under 17 hours. He has been around 13 hours. He calculated that he’d expended 10,000 calories that day!
This race was held at Cedar Point Amusement Park, not far from where we’d grown up in northern Ohio. I also worked there while in college. The week after the race, 5 of the 7 of us siblings and spouses rented a house near there for a relaxing vacation. It was a good week, but odd with temps in upper 90s, followed by a chilly spell. We were across the street from a city park right on Lake Erie, with a nice beach, rose garden, and fountain. On Saturday we saw 5 wedding parties having photos taken at the fountain.
Seeing friends was great, but we all agreed that the area was a bit unfamiliar, since we’d all been living elsewhere for so long – things change a lot, even between visits.
It is hard to show what is happening on my cottage lately. The place is rather small to get a clear photo of things. The crew completed the jigsaw puzzle of triangles of wallboard for the bathroom dome. It was a long and tedious process for them. The building was originally designed as a storage building and was not constructed like the main dome with the board and re-enforced concrete already applied to the foam. Plus, it is small enough that they were almost getting in each other’s way. They completed the board and taping, plus the various closets that have some strange angles – but I’m happy to have storage in any shape.
They have started to do a knock-down finish of plaster on the walls. It will hide any imperfections and give the interior a polished look. They did a demo in my bedroom closet, with a semi-gloss paint. It looks very good, with the shine giving the texture a nice depth. It certainly looks a lot better than the semi-gloss I mistakenly used on the plaster walls in one room in my Virginia home. It showed every wave and lump, which old lathe and plaster walls have in abundance. They have started the primer coat, tinted with a light gray that I plan to use on the interior.
The septic system is completed, connected to the outlet pipe from the dome now that the electrical conduit has been done. We used our next-door neighbor, Brandon Butts, for this work, and are very pleased. With such a good cleanup of dirt, the grass will recover well. It is nice to be able to meet and hire someone locally (Brandon Butts Grading). He and his family moved a couple of years ago, and are also doing some clearing of their property. The far back edge of the meadow is overgrown on our side, and we are gradually clearing, but will leave a buffer of trees so their house has some privacy.
Since we had some great weather days, they completed the final coats of concrete on the small bathroom dome and some around the entryways. I know the crew is anxious to finish and take some time off now, and the end is getting near. Once the place is painted, it will be a fast finish for cabinets, appliances, various plumbing and electrical fixtures to be installed. We are planning a concrete pour for the front and back patios, and a load of crushed concrete for the driveway. I have been putting together IKEA furniture, but there are a couple big items that will wait for the end, as there is no room for the platform bed and headboard or the sofabed frame until the cottage is ready for them.
I think my cats are most anxious to go somewhere else, away from dogs. I am starting to see behavior problems which I can hardly complain about after five months cooped up in one (large) room.
We are in the midst of about 3 more days of rain. A bit dreary, but good curl-up-with-a-book weather. I have noticed more critter activity on rainy days.
I am enjoying bird watching this winter. Sharon has quite a few feeders, plus lots of shrubs and trees to attract them. It is nice being outside the city and seeing so many more. I have noticed a difference in which ones stay around for the winter this much farther south – still seeing some bluebirds and robins, both insect eaters who left Roanoke for better feeding grounds. I have only seen a few juncos, so I guess they stay farther north, since I often saw those in small flocks on snowy days. There are a lot of cardinals, mourning doves, crows, blue jays, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and house finches year round, and sparrows of differing varieties. I see a lot of white throats now.
I’ve seen woodpeckers: downy or hairy, pileated, red-bellied, and flickers. Of course with open fields and pastures we see turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks.
We don’t have a pond, so no waterbirds, but the nearest shopping center has a small flock of gulls hanging around the parking lot. They must get fed, or I would expect them to move the approximately one mile over to Lake Keowee.
There are many squirrels and chipmunks, which excite both cats and dogs. With lots of oaks and some pecan trees, I expect we’ll always have them.
There is a large burrow at the back edge of the cleared meadow, where we are pretty sure the groundhog lives. We know there are skunks, rabbits, deer, and foxes nearby, and probably opossums. We are taking this into consideration before we decide to have chickens or bees – not sure what these will attract. Any plants are bad enough to attract deer – I suspect they will munch on anything at least once.
Sharon wants to try flower farming if there is a market in the area. It will need to be well fenced, maybe even keep an outdoor guard dog for chasing deer away. She’ll be posting more on gardening. My plans run to building planters around the patios and keeping elevated containers, plus a keyhole garden for edibles. I’m saving various scraps from construction for my keyhole garden. Here’s some pictures I found in a search – lots of different materials can be used.
This is getting to be a great bird time. Sharon has a group of feeders and birdbath set up just outside the screened porch, and we are really enjoying watching the activity. Late yesterday afternoon we saw 3 bluebirds arrive and take baths. Also saw a wren, surprisingly the first since I have been here. At the feeder we regularly see cardinals, house finches, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, mockingbirds, mourning doves, and a pair of hummingbirds. Since we are in the country, we spot lots of turkey vultures drifting overhead – they always look like they are enjoying flying and coasting. We have pileated, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers keeping an eye on the trees. Lots of blue jays, crows, and even some phoebes, all near the house, but not at the feeders. Disappointingly no goldfinches have shown yet, we are waiting. There were many at Sharon’s previous house, and they over-winter around here. I have to learn all new habits of birds since moving farther south, but mostly I do know the eastern birds. Heard an unusual and unknown bird call this morning, so I’m looking out for a new one.
The dogs really enjoy the squirrels and chipmunks who inhabit the yard – ‘vermin’ to be chased or stalked.
Even the cats are enjoying watching the birds and chipmunks from the bedroom windows on the opposite side of the house from the feeders – plenty of activity in the early morning and evening.
The one abundant population I am not thrilled to find are fire ants. They have not arrived as far north as I have been living, but there are mounds all over this yard. They really do burn/sting when they bite. I now spray my sneakers with insect repellent before walking in the grass, and try hard to remember to change out of sandals. We are treating to get rid of them in garden or near houses.