Sunday, June 23, 2019

Brick Dust: Still in West Virginia, My Health, Summertime

Felt like it was time for an update, so here it goes.

We are still in West Virginia.  The house has not sold, but we've had a couple of open houses, and there's been a good amount of interest.  We are waiting to see if a recent visitor is going to make an offer.  They had some things to square away on their end first.  I'll be checking in with my realtor probably Tuesday.  (I last talked to her on Friday.)

Meanwhile, we have finished with the major stuff we needed to do to the house, so we are more or less just taking it easy and working on the smaller projects. He has done some planting, even though we will likely not be here at harvest time.  We have corn, squash, pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and I'm not sure what else he has planted or is planning to plant.  He doesn't want to take our seeds with us, so he's planting them. Hopefully, whoever buys our house will get to enjoy the results!


My fibromyalgia continues to get worse.  The weather this Spring has been very unstable and unpredictable.  There have been wide temperature swings, which always throws me into a flare.  Add in the various stresses I'm facing, and it's been rough for me. I work just 2-3 days per week at the cat rescue, but we're pretty full right now, so the work there is pretty intensive.  I usually come home in immense pain.  Last week, I was pretty much in bed for two days.  I've been in bed again today, because we hosted a cookout yesterday! Basically, if I am not in severe pain, I'm doing, doing, doing.  I'm due to see my rheumatologist this week and I'll be sharing some new symptoms and my illness' progression with him.  I'm also going to be asking for a six-month supply of my primary medication, due to the fact that we are moving.

I'm having more bad days lately, but when we visited New England back in January, I noticed that I did better.  Other than getting a little more tired than is normal, I do not recall that I had any flares. What this means, hopefully, is that I should do better living at a higher altitude. Fibromyalgia is a progressive disease, but I'm hopeful that in a better environment I can slow the progress and accomplish more.

My disability hearing is scheduled for July 23.  I am hopeful that I will be approved. I live one day at a time, because I never know how I will be feeling from day to day.  I'm fortunate to be surrounded by loving, compassionate people.


As long as we are here, we are spending as much time as we can with those who are special to us.  Our gatherings tend to draw 10-20 people, and everyone always has a good time.  For our cookout yesterday, he made BBQ seitan kebabs, which were fantastic, and I did grilled asparagus, which got raves. We are doing more cooking from scratch at home these days.  He does most of it, since I have my health issues, but when I am feeling good, I am very happy to get into the kitchen and shake things up.  I'm looking forward to making pickles again this year, and we continue to make our own pasta.  Cooking, especially cooking healthy meals and doing it well, is so gratifying.

We will more than likely throw another party when we know when we are moving. I've already had one "farewell" event.   I'm willing to have more!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


Photo by Josh Edgoose on Unsplash

We are moving.  Our house is on the market, and we've had two potential buyers, but neither one has worked out so far.  Meanwhile, we are proceeding as if closing at both ends--here and Massachusetts is going to take place on schedule. There are so many things to juggle, and I'm spending money like I have it.  It's very stressful.

We have found a home we love in NW Massachusetts, where we are moving.  We love this house, but the name of our 'stead will be changing.  So far, I'm leaning toward Hard Won Acres.  This process has been a real challenge.  I'll get to that in a minute.  The house is about half the size of our current one, but still pretty comfortable.  It was built to green standards (but not sure if it's LEED) and for passive solar, so there are windows everywhere.  The quality of the light in the house is just amazing, and the house is really comfortable.  This assessment is based on our one visit to it back in January.  We were not there for more than an hour, but I know "home" when I find it.

We will have about three times the acreage that we have here.  (16, to be exact.)  We will have a lot of privacy, as well. All but about maybe 1.5 acres is woods, which is really nice.  The yard itself will have enough space for the dog run, the garden, and maybe one outbuilding.  We will most likely have to clear a little bit of forest to build the other two my partner has planned.  We will choose what to clear very carefully.  We will also be using all wood we harvest.  Not only will be using wood to heat, we are also thinking of getting a portable lumber mill!

Now back to our current house and the selling process.  This part has not been easy at all. As I said, so far we've had two potential buyers, but they both sucked.  In the first case, it was the real estate agent on their end who sucked, and the fact that not only was their purchase contingent, but the sale of their house was contingent, as well. It was too shaky a situation to chance it, so my agent kicked them out.  The second set of buyers suck, because they suck. Their agent is actually pretty awesome.  They came to us with a laughable offer, but they accepted our counter.  BUT...their behavior has been greedy and obnoxious.  We are giving them a substantial chunk  in closing help, but they are also trying to demand that we make all sorts of repairs.  We have sent back an addendum saying "no."  Hopefully, they will accept that, but if not, we will simply put the house back up.

The biggest issue is that we have mold in the attic.  We've had it tested, though, and it's not the black mold. We are taking care of it as I write this.  I obviously don't want to sell a house with mold in the attic!  We didn't know it was there.  If we had known, we would have taken care of it!  Hopefully, since it's not toxic mold, it won't cost too much to remedy.

Hopefully, if we end up delaying our closing on this house, we won't lose the one in MA. We are both very attached to it. If the worst were to happen, though, we'd simply have to make a buying trip up to MA:  Go up, look at houses, decide on a house, buy it. I'm trying to stay positive, though.

I guess it goes without saying that my fibromyalgia is going totally nuts!  I do what I can, and I try not to worry about what I'm not doing.  Mostly, I'm packing and purging.  I'm getting to the point, though, where I can help my partner with paint and patch.  Really, I just want the whole thing to be over!

Look for some photos to come as we settle int our new home. If all goes well, that will be early June!  Blessings!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Brick Dust: Renovations, Preparations, and Cats

Our upstairs hallway.  Can you tell we're renovating?

The moving preparations continue.  Some of the mess in the photo is renovation materials.  Some is homeless items, and some is stuff that needs to be cleared out.  Though my partner and I have both had some down time this month due to illness, this is a very busy house right now!

I'm still packing and sorting. He's still doing the heavy lifting (and, I'm sorry to say, most of the cooking.  My fibromyalgia is really knocking me out right now!)  I do everything I can to help, and I'm contributing money to the cause as I am able.  We'll get it all done!

My realtor has checked in with us.  We're looking at probably listing in March.  This is perfectly normal.  My partner has never sold a house before, so I gave him a heads-up:  Things rarely happen on schedule when you're buying and/or selling a home.

This is the master bedroom, which has been my studio.  See that window with the amazing view?  That's where my work table sat.  It was a great place to work!  Plenty of inspiration, for sure!

The floor is pine, which will be sanded, stained, and sealed to match the rest of the upstairs.  I think it will be  a very dramatic look, especially considering that it is a loft-style room. It looks out over the living room.

Since we have taken over the house, we've brought a very farmhouse-type feel to it.  To continue that vibe, he will be face nailing the boards, which looks really nice in the other rooms.  Once the floor is finished, we'll be moving our bedroom furniture across the hall so we can focus on punching up our current bedroom.

This is the biggest project that we needed to complete.  Everything else is patch, paint, and small repairs.  We should be able to knock those out pretty fast.  (Yes, we. The other tasks are things I can handle!) I still volunteer two days a week at the cat rescue, and I fill in as needed, but other than that and a few get togethers, I've been keeping my calendar clear so I can stay home and work on the house.

Muddy mitigation with Poppi!

The dog pen has issues of its own. Since the entrance is the most heavily traveled area, it is a muddy death trap!  I've tried a thick layer of grass mulch.  It worked fine--for a few days.  I've tried half a bag of gravel.  It worked great!  ...Until the Earth swallowed every last pebble.  My partner suggested we make mulch and put down a layer.  (When's that going to happen?)

Having nearly broken my ass at least twice this season, I came up with my own solution.  We have a box of assorted left over tile in the garage.  We're not doing anything with it, and we have no immediate plans to, so I pulled out three of them, slapped them down in the mud, tamped them down so the tiles themselves wouldn't slide, and voila!

You'll notice they are wrong side up.  That's on purpose.  Tile is very slippery when it's wet, even textured tiles like these.  The back, being more porous, textured, and sometimes having bits of dried mortar on it, makes a great gripping surface!

It's an ugly solution, but it works.  If we were staying here, I would get paving stones and make it look nicer.  As it is, though, we will probably take these back up when we leave, unless the buyers want them to stay there.

I think we are putting in a garden this year, because we don't know when we will be moving. The house could sell right away, or we could be here a few months, so why not save ourselves some money and enjoy the fruits of the Earth?  Worst case scenario, we leave our buyers with a nice garden and plenty of fresh food!  I don't see that as a bad thing.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll talk with my partner, and we'll decide what we're planting.  I'm trying to encourage him to only plan for things we will actually eat.  He loves squash.  I do not.  We had a bumper crop of squash a season or two ago, you may recall.  They took up a whole shelf in our pantry!  Most of them went to waste.  It's much more frugal to grow things because you enjoy them, and not just because you can.

Last, but definitely not least, it's our cat, Noble's, turn in the playpen this week!  Fuji calmed down over the course of her time upstairs, but she clearly does not like the dogs.  So far, Noble is just crying to be let out.  I think they think they're being punished by being put in the playpen.  Unfortunately, we've made the decision not to let the cats wander around the house, because of the renovations.

So, they are getting acclimated for a week or so each, and then they are going back downstairs.  Once we move, they'll be put in a room of their own (not the basement!) for about a week, and then we'll just open the door and let them out--supervised--to get to know their new home.  After that, it's back to business as usual, but with all of the pets!

Instead of all of the baby gates we have up now, we will be getting two or three pet gates.  That cats will be able to get away from the dogs, and we'll be able to keep the dogs out of places we don't want them.  (They are not fully housebroken, mostly Poppi.)

It should be a much nicer setup for everyone.

I'm sure I will have plenty more updates, but in the meantime, I need to get moving and get some more stuff packed up!  Happy Spring!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Introducing a Cat to the Dogs: Fujiko

This playpen is one of the best investments I've ever made.

In the interest of making our move ultimately less stressful for my cats, I've made an executive decision:  I'm going to continue the process of introducing them to the dogs and to Mama Kitty.  Mama Kitty has been surprisingly easy, so far:  She does not like other cats, and she hisses and complains, but ultimately, she avoids the cats.  

We went through this process last year or the year before with Marbles, but ultimately Marbles did not stay up in the house, because Wally, our large dog, couldn't handle it. He's a very high-strung dog, and while I know he would never hurt the cats, he was in Marbles' personal space a lot more than I was comfortable with.  That said, I'm moving forward anyway.  He needs to get used to them just as much as they need to get used to him, because no one is going anywhere.  As for Poppi, she avoids the cats.  She'll sniff at them, but then she goes on her merry way, much the same as she handles people.

Today is Day 2 with Fuji upstairs, and she's done really well.  She did not meet the dogs yesterday, because it was a nice day, so they were outside all day.  I put her back downstairs before we brought them in.  This morning, I brought her up while they were out, and I fed her in the playpen.  Then, I brought the dogs in.  (I wanted to make sure she would eat.)

SOOOOOO scary!

At first, they didn't notice her, but when they did, oh, boy!  She went into Scary Demon Mode, growling and hissing.  Now, neither of the dogs will go near her, and she's perfectly content again, hanging out and talking to us as we go about our business.  Wally won't even lie on his bed, which is right next to the playpen.  It's pretty amusing! 

The fact is, Fuji is kind of a demon.  She's mellowed a lot with age (she's about 15,) but she does have a mean streak.  When I got her as a kitten, I remember holding her in my hand (she was that small!) and trying to brush her long hair.  She was growling and hissing the whole time.  Word had it she came from a hoarding situation, so I think she must have been semi-feral.  With love and patience, she has grown up to be a nice cat, but don't make her mad!  LOL!

This will go on for about a week when I am home (Fuji in the playpen.)  At that time, I'll see how she and the dogs are doing, and if it's going OK, then I'll let her out to wander the house and get used to everything.  Unfortunately, the cats will still be living in the basement, because we are getting ready to put the house on the market and will be showing it, but I feel like any progress we make with the animals will help make the transition easier once we move.  I hate not living with all of my animals, and I know that the cats will be much happier when they have more room to roam and more windows to look out of.

Also, I'm that person who would get a California King bed, just so my animals can pile on with me.  LOL!  My partner, not so much!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

My Life with Fibro: Driving...And Then NOT Driving

This photo was NOT taken while I was driving! (Massachusetts)

I love driving.  Love it.  Like, a lot.  Give me a good vehicle--a comfortable one--and my music, and I'm happy to just get on the road and go. The short, stop-and-start driving that we do when merely running local errands annoys me and wears me out. I'm typically happier on the open road for a good stretch.

Every car I have owned has become pretty much an extension of my body. I quickly got comfortable with each car's proportion and could almost feel the car's surroundings and how close it got to things.  Driving was always easy for me, once I mastered it. (Starting out was another story!  I was terrified of it for a long time!)

Being alone in a car is, for me, the equivalent of having A Room of (my) One's Own. I do my deepest thinking there, my brainstorming, my planning. Heck, I would even do some of my writing there (via voice recorder) if I liked my voice. (I really don't.)  I do, however, spend a good amount of time parked, jotting notes, when something really strikes me.  Some of my best jokes have been jotted down as I sat in my garage before heading out somewhere!

Recently, my ability to fly free in this way has become limited, sadly.  Due to my fibromyalgia and all of its wonderful symptoms, I can no longer drive long distances by myself, most of the time.  Sadly, I have developed what I call "road fatigue."  I get sleepy after a certain period of time, if I'm not having a good day.  If I'm having an all out bad day, I can't drive at all anymore.  It's too risky. Luckily, my partner is an amazing man, and he has no problem driving me where I need to go, within reason.  If we can't work it out, then I end up rescheduling or delegating whatever it is I need.

Fibromyalgia is a cruel, cruel illness.  Slowly, over time (if you're lucky and don't just crash,) you lose the things you enjoy doing. If you are relatively young, it's heartbreaking (even if you're not young, it's pretty awful.) For me, it's like I am aging prematurely.  I'm watching my various activities just drop away, because I can no longer keep up with the world.  I'm not house bound or bed bound by any means, but I have had to slow down a whole lot, and that drives me nuts, but the very worst thing is losing my ability to drive.

On good days, I can still cruise like I used to.  Just yesterday, I had to run a long errand, and everything went just fine. (Though I do need coffee to make sure that I don't have any issues.)  I got the errand done, and I came home energized and able to do a few more things around the house.  The days when I can't drive are like knives in my heart.  On our way home from New England a couple of weeks ago, I had some problems, so most of it fell to my partner.  The very worst part was I had two near misses.  This is not who I am as a driver.  It's depressing.

While my purpose for this blog is to discuss our process in greening our lives and in building our homestead, posts like this will pop up from time to time.  Chronic illness doesn't go away. It becomes part of your life--a big part.  It affects everything in your life.  While I refuse to make it part of my identity or wallow in victmhood, I do acknowledge that my life is changing.  Most of the time, my fibro musings will be focused on adaptations I am making, so that I can continue to live my life on my terms.  Unfortunately, not everything has a solution, so sometimes I may come across as whiny, and for that I apologize.  Thank you for your patience.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Saying Good-bye to a Sage "Alley Cat": Sam

Sammy Blue Eyes

Sam came to us the same day we picked up his brother, Musashi. I had looked out our apartment window and had seen kittens running around in the bushes.  Naturally, I wanted to get them off the street.  Along with several of our neighbors, my ex and I went down and chased the kittens through the bushes in hopes of catching as many as possible. Since we didn't have traps, I took a carrier down and just left it open up against the building.  While Musashi was a challenge to catch, Sam panicked and ran right into the carrier!  (I should have realized then that he was special.)  In the end, we just got Sam and Musashi.  Some of our neighbors got the others.

We took the boys (in the future, I would cal them "The Muffins," because they were both fluffy and white) to the vet and then set them up in our bathroom for a few weeks. They also got at least one flea bath each.  They were so tiny that we made them a house by pulling everything out of the cabinet under the sink and putting their bed and a litter pan in there!  They needed a place to feel safe. 

I knew his name would be "Sam" one day when I was sitting in the hall, talking to my ex, who was in our bedroom.  Sam and Musashi were playing between us near the bedroom door. At one point, I was talking, and Sam got up on his hind legs and shut the door in my face! Yup.  Really!  That sealed it.

Sam is also the same cat who built me a a magnificent "poop castle" when I brought Lab Litter home so I could get a urine sample for the vet once.  Sam was a cat of many talents and keep us laughing all of his life.  He was also just full of love.  He was one of the sweetest cats I've ever lived with.

Sam got sick back in November.  Last time I'd had him at the vet, he showed minor renal decline, and unfortunately, things advanced too far before I could get him back to the vet.  Either that, or he developed lympho-sarcoma.  We don't know.

Sammy is buried out in our woods, right next to his brother Musashi.  This has been a very sad time for us.  We miss him very much.

Rest well, Sammy Blue Eyes!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Brick Dust: At a Snail's Pace

We are behind on EVERYTHING this year.

2018 has not been the kindest year, so far.  I mean, I really can't complain, but at the same time, my partner and I have both suffered some setbacks, and as a result, the 'stead is just not running as smoothly as it did last year.

As I've mentioned in the past, my fibromyalgia symptoms are worsening, and my life is getting busier. It's been really tough to get anything done this year, and we're both very frustrated.  That said, I do what I can, when I can, and so does he.

The weather here in WV has been inconsistent and unpredictable.  We just came out of a very unseasonably hot and muggy period. At the same time we were planning our Independence Day party and trying to get and keep our yard mowed, our mower crapped out.  It's currently at the dealership being looked at. Luckily, I have a friend with a mowing business, who helped us out.  The job wasn't 100% completed--there's an overgrown patch on our back 40--but we still have some time before the party, so one way or another, it will get done.  (That's where we shoot off our fireworks.  We'll go out there with sickles if we have to!)  **UPDATE:  I'm happy to report that we have a mower again!  The manufacturer replaced it under warranty, because they could not fix the problem, and it was delivered today!**

The garden doesn't exist. Here it is, late June, and due to my health and schedule, the heat (which affects my health very badly,) and his health, we haven't even gotten it cleaned up and mowed, let alone planted anything.  The beds around the house are overgrown and look awful.  I just feel terrible about it all, and I think he does, too.

I'm hoping that, once I get past all of my doctor appointments and he is back on his feet, that we can just knock it out and get some planting done. We do have some lettuce coming in, despite the overgrown conditions of our garden, so I will check on that in the next few days, and who knows what else we will find that has seeded itself and come back?

These things happen.  This isn't helpful to our budget, but we're continuing to do the best we can, shopping organic and local (when we can,) taking advantage of deals, coupons, points, etc, and cutting out extras.

Project 1:  DIY and Zero Waste Dog Bed Repair

My dog is a jerk.

Yes.  I really said it:  MY DOG IS a JERK.  I've written before about how my dogs are inherited and not dogs I would have chosen for myself, and how I really struggle to be patient with them and to bond with them, particularly the English Shepherd.

My parents never bothered to obedience train or even house train them.  They are now senior dogs.  The photo above is of our enclosed porch.  When I go to work, the dogs go out there, as long as it's not too hot or too cold, because they go to the bathroom in the house, and in my partner's current state, he's unable to clean it up.  (We use puppy pads, but the smell is overpowering sometimes, so we like to pick up after the dogs when they can't wait to go out.)

This was the work of our little beagle mix.  She's never done this before, but our routine has changed, so  I think this is anxiety manifesting.  Because my partner has been unable to clean up after the dogs when I'm not home, and because I don't like to leave them out in the pen unsupervised, we compromised.  When it's not too hot or too cold, I leave them on the porch for the day with their beds, puppy pads, and water.  I turn on the ceiling fan and crack the windows open. (If I opened them all the way, the shepherd would destroy them trying to get out!)  As I'm writing this, it's too hot for me to put them on the porch when I am working, so I'm not doing that anymore.  When I am home, they are in the house.

Anyhow, this is what I came home to recently.  I was so mad, I left the mess for a day or so, and then I solved the problem.

What you see there are the shell of Poppi's (the small one, whom I actually really love, but she's lucky she's cute) bed, the stuffing, the partially-filled cushion, three cat litter bags, and a roll of packing tape.  I swept up all of the stuffing she'd scattered all over the porch.  each bag, because they are heavy plastic, got stuffed tightly about 3/4 of the way full and taped shut.  These were the inner cushions.  I simply put the cushions inside of the shell.  The zipper has been broken for a while, so I just folded the extra fabric under, and voila!

I'm sorry to report that, despite my ingenious solution, I came home from work the next day to find my new cushions destroyed and the stuffing once again all over the porch.  I was livid, but that's life with animals.  Under normal circumstances, this would have worked.  Indeed, the night before, the cat had been quite happily curled up on the "new" bed!  Now, Poppi has the shell, and that's it.


Project 2:  Produce Bag Made from...A Produce Bag

To keep plastic out of the waste stream, I recycled this bag.  We are both still trying very hard to minimize or, ideally, eliminate plastic that comes home with us when we are out and about.  One sticking point for me has been these net produce bags, but now I have a couple of solutions.

One solution is the one pictured above:  For the sturdier ones, I'm simply turning them into...produce bags.  They're a little smaller than normal produce bags, but they are big enough to pick up a few items, and they are sturdy. We reuse the plastic produce bags, but over time, they develop holes and fall apart.  This, to me, is a good alternative solution.

To make this bag, I simply took a shoelace from our junk drawer and laced it through to make a crude drawstring.  I knotted each end, so it doesn't slip back out, and there we go!  It originally held about a half dozen limes, so that should give you an idea of its size.

My other solution, for the flimsier net bags, is to add those to my batting and use them along with other stuffing for various projects, like pet toys or stuffed animals.

My number one solution, obviously, is to take my own produce bags with me and use those, but we can't always get to our preferred stores, where the produce isn't wrapped in plastic, so whatever I can do to help makes me happy.


That's all I have for now.  I hope you've enjoyed my latest entry!