Monday, May 21, 2012

August 1, 2012

Holy shit, we both gave our notices at work today.

August 1, 2012 (or thereabouts): The Odyssey begins.

8+ weeks to coordinate movers, animals, furniture, donations, utilities, and, oh, that's right, SELLING A HOUSE.

woo hoo!

Bonnie and Clyde - Halloween 2008 [unrelated I know, but I don't care!]

Friday, May 18, 2012


Remember (if you're old like me) that Big Dogs brand from the 80s and early 90s? Jay mentioned last night that the big dog himself is a St. Bernard, which I never really remembered until now.

We have a St. Bernard.

Which got me to thinking.

Vintage drawings meshed with modern fonts.

Then I had some more fun.

I could never be a graphic designer (not that I have that kind of talent anyway) because I can't stand taking direction from people when it comes to art. However, I could design apparel graphics for myself ALL THE LIVELONG DAY.

I know I would buy a women's fitted t-shirt with one of the above graphics if I saw it somewhere. Or a hoodie. Or a trucker hat. Or a onesie for my Goddaughter.

The question is, would anyone else?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

future main garden panorama

I got a little crazy with GIMP the other day.

Did you know that drawing out garden beds into a perfect, seamless panorama and getting the perspective even close to believable can be quite challenging? Very worth it, though, because now I can just take a quick looksie and be instantly transplanted back to the holler when I need to do a little daydreaming.

Jay thought I went a little overboard with the wildflowers, but I say you can't have enough for the native pollinators.

Don't worry, there are more panoramas to come. It will be fun to see how close we get to making the land actually look like my handiwork.

Friday, May 11, 2012

friday eye candy: vintage views

I don't know about you, but I could be perfectly content giving this rickety pad some love and navigating a trick ride like that Plymouth Fury.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

wildflower identification

Jay and I bought two Audubon identification books, one for eastern wildflowers and one for eastern native trees, during our recent trip and attempted to identify some of the flora on our property. I understand that you can also contact the Tennessee Department of Agriculture's Forestry Division and have them visit your parcel to identify and give advice on what trees you might plant (and which to remove) that would be beneficial to the local habitat.

Ranunculus bulbosus (Bulbous Buttercup)

This pretty yellow perennial weed was just about everywhere, including in the lawn. Pretty easy to yank out, too, since it is considered toxic to livestock when fresh (but is okay if harvested and dried).

Salvia lyrata (Lyre-leaf Sage)

This herbaceous perennial grew mostly by the creek, and I had a devil of a time identifying it at first because the first specimen I picked must have been more mature and didn't resemble anything in the Audubon book. Wikipedia tells me that the root can be used as a salve for sores or the whole plant as a tea for colds and coughs.

Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard)

This herbaceous biennial does have a faint garlicky scent when you rub the leaves between your fingers and can supposedly be used in salads and pesto. So I'll be ripping it out left and right because it's considered super invasive and hurts innocent little butterflies!

Brassica nigra (Black Mustard)

This mustard is not invasive (but not native either), and the seeds are known to make a bitchin' curry sauce, so I won't be quite so vigilant in removing it. If it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.

Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)

For a while I was saying in my head "germanium". You can laugh. A pretty plant that is even sometimes cultivated in gardens. Which means I will be cultivating it because you can't beat free plants.

Rosa multiflora (Multiflora Rose)
Just a wee bit obnoxious.

Apparently, this is also very invasive, but goats love it. But we're still not getting goats. It was originally introduced to be used as a living hedge, among other things, so maybe I can force it into submission and use it for natural fencing since it's right near the barn.

Salvia lyrata (right), Geranium maculata (middle),
and Magnolia tripetala (Umbrella Magnolia) flowers...

The magnolia tree is not on our place but is on the side of the road leading to us. It's actually not the best smelling magnolia (described as "disagreeable" in the Audubon book), but they sure are pretty trees.

And that concludes our wildflower (and one shrub) tour of the holler. Wasn't that exciting??

~ Mitsy

Monday, May 7, 2012

fab homesteads for sale: an introduction

I'm a certified real estate junkie, so as part of an ongoing series, I thought it would be fun to showcase some listings in our neck of the woods that I feel would make suitable homesteads (I'm not committing to any particular schedule, but maybe once a week). When I say our neck of the woods, I mean both in Tennessee as well as California, but don't get too excited about the California listings because unless you've got tons of money, I don't think there's gonna be much of interest because I only plan to focus on affordable ones where someone could actually homestead (and no, I'm not talking about urban homesteading). While there are certainly some listings that are now affordable on the central coast, very few, if any, would make a good homestead. Tennessee, however, has lots to offer! And because we're so close to the border of Virginia and Kentucky, I'm going to include those areas as well. Pretty much anything good within a hundred-mile radius of Kyles Ford, TN.

Because Kyles Ford is awesome and you should move there and be our neighbors.

Being a real estate junkie means that I feel somewhat qualified to offer a well-rounded opinion on property, but by no means am I an expert. Jay and I have bought three properties in our lifetimes and have learned a lot with each transaction. We bought our first home at the ripe old ages of 21 and 22, our second at 25 and 26, and the holler almost exactly ten years later. Also keep in mind that we haven't actually started homesteading yet. So while we have grand plans for our homestead, those plans are specific to us and may not be the same direction anyone else wants to take. In other words, our land is perfect for us but may not be for other folks.

I thought that maybe once we finally closed on our land, the urge to see what else is out there might fade away. And it really has for the most part because we have exactly what we want. A true success story! But that doesn't mean that I don't think it's still fun to look. I would consider it exceedingly satisfying to help someone else find their homesteading paradise. So why the hell not.

In order to wade through the vast sea of listings available via the MLS, United Country, and FSBOs, especially considering how shitty the housing market is, I will include the follow requisites in my search:
  • Less than $150,000 asking price. Considering the current state of the market, asking price is almost irrelevant. It's definitely a buyer's market, so while this may seem high, it gives more selection. Despite what they say, mortgages are readily available, especially through Farm Credit Services, although you will likely have to put 25% down like we did.
  • 10 or more acres. I suppose you could homestead on as little as a few acres, but where's the fun in that? More acreage means more space to do what you want.
  • A reliable water source in the form of a creek, pond, or well.
  • At least a half acre of south-facing, semi-flat, cleared space for a garden.
  • A habitable structure that includes indoor plumbing, a heat source, and a weather-tight shell. Some people might want to build their dream house someday, and some might be content in a shanty hut for the rest of their days, but I'm guessing that most people don't want to live in a self-contained travel trailer for any great length of time. I'm, therefore, excluding land-only listings unless I come across something super awesome.
  • At least 50% of the land in forest. Trees are important, people. Properties with few trees are boring.
  • No zoning restrictions.
  • Privacy, or at least the potential for it.
  • Open or easily reclaimed areas that can be used for at least a few large livestock animals.
  • Scenic beauty. This is really fucking important.
Part of the fun of property hunting is looking at maps. You know how I love them. So I will include screen shots of aerial imagery (Bing has outdone Google recently in this regard, imagine that) and whatever maps I can find showing topography. I'll also try to find out the current property tax rate as well as list any potential disadvantages to consider in addition to all the cool stuff I think could be done with the land.
I really should have been a real estate agent, but I have zero interest in selling anything, so maybe this will be the next best thing. I tried to find something similar online, to no avail (there could be a very good reason for this, like I'm the only real estate geek out there), so like so many other things (like mountainsteading), you heard about it here first, kids!

Your future homestead hunter,

Friday, May 4, 2012

friday eye candy: spooky spiders and mossy barns

Get your Appalachia fix.

Sorry, no cute, fluffy livestock yet. Just scary spiders and mossy barns.

Happy Friday, lovecats!

~ Mitsy

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Matey the Maytag

arrrrgggh, Matey!

The one house that is in view of our place is abandoned. I know for a fact from perusing the tax assessor's site that it resides on the same parcel as our Closest Neighbor (fingers crossed it either stays that way or we can convince someone to subdivide the parcel and let us buy it). Sitting on this abandoned homestead is Matey, my (hopefully) future Maytag wringer washer. Closest Neighbor informed us that Matey's current owner will likely let her go for a very small price, if not for free.

I find the act of hanging clothes to dry in the sun heavenly, so here's to hoping that the washing part will be just as fun. Not sure how well this will work for me in the winter, though, because I have zero interest in freezing my hands off and actually somewhat enjoy visiting the local laundromat because it gives me a chance to read Koontz novels without feeling too guilty.

I'm thinking that a fresh coat of bright red spray paint on Matey would be killer. With maybe some deep green trim. Then I could call her Tomatey! Tomato+Matey, get it?

If Matey/Tomatey ends up not working and being irreparable, which I doubt highly, I might use her as a planter of some sort. The drainage would be excellent. I could set her next to my future outdoor tub that I plan to bathe in during the summertime and have something lovely to look at.

Like this. Don't be jealous of my mad GIMP skillz now.
[ original image credit ]

Friends and family think I'm crazy, but they don't understand the simple pleasure of line drying either, so I certainly don't expect them to follow my lead on this one. I bet you I'll have to beat 'em off with a stick, though, from my outdoor tub. Wait, that's probably the dog I'm thinking of.

Toodle for now,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

modern communication is for sissies

And I'm definitely a sissy.

To recap, DSL and cable internet are not available to us at the holler. Our options for connecting to the worldly web are dial-up, wi-fi (via our cell carrier), satellite internet, or a dedicated T1 line.

Dial-up. I honestly think I'd rather just be disconnected from the universe altogether than use dial-up.

With the Wilson booster, we were able to get my cell phone to work as a hot-spot, and Jay was able to actually make calls in addition to eventually receiving his emails and texts (I say eventually because they would usually only appear first thing in the morning), but the speed was painfully slow, and the one phone call Jay did make got dropped. We did keep the booster despite its ridiculous price tag because we figure that some signal is better than none, and we will likely be able to fine tune the antenna over time to get optimal service, at least for making calls and texting.

Just for kicks, I did a connection speed test from my work computer yesterday (I'm right in downtown Los Gatos, and you'd think our connection would be awesome, but we're about a decade behind the times and on DSL). I got a measly 800Kbps down and around 300Kbps up (cue sad face when one must measure something in Kbps), but I at least now know that my standards are low. Using the same test at home where we have cable internet, I got around 10Mbps/3Mbps. Fortunately for me, I'm used to working on the slower connection; unfortunately for Jay, he's used to the higher speeds.

Initially figuring that satellite internet would be much too slow and reading the horrible stories about latency, I dismissed that option almost immediately, but now that I know what my usual working speed is, I think it would probably suffice without too much whining from myself.

WildBlue claims that its newest Exede product has up to 12Mbps/3Mbps  (yea, right), but the data cap is 25GB per month. HughesNet has a daily instead of monthly data cap at 450MB that only applies to down instead of down/up, which I think would be better, but only 2Mbps/300Kbps speed, although that is comparable to what I have at work now anyway. So I've installed a bandwidth tracker on my work computer to see how much data I go through in a month. If I'm way below that, we'll go with Exede; if not, we'll try HughesNet.

Jay has readily concluded that Netflix will no longer be a source of entertainment for ourselves, so it's not like I had to convince him to go without. Although we will likely miss seeing all manner of cutsie animal clips and whatever hilarious nonsense FB friends tell me to watch on WasteTimeTube, at this point in time, we don't see it as much of a loss. I already got over my Hoarders and Intervention and Housewives addiction since we cut off our cable TV service a while back, so it's not like I can't adapt.

I got a couple quotes for having a T1 line installed, but the monthly fee for the most basic service starts at $500 and involves a $350 installation fee and 12-month contract. I briefly considered asking the Boss Man if he'd sport for this fee in exchange for a smaller hourly wage for myself whilst telecommuting, but Jay doesn't think it's a good idea to be tethered to someone else for one of our utilities, and I'm inclined to agree.

This is the closest cell tower at 10.6 linear miles and about 8 miles as the crow flies from us. No bueno.

On the upside, this is the view looking the opposite direction from the tower lot.

I might just have to go park it up there next to the tower on some days and do some work via wi-fi. I could open the back of the Pathy and sit in there with my laptop and plink away doing research. It would be known as Mitsy's Office With A Fabulous View. The locals already think we're weird.

"Hey, it's that crazy lady from California sitting up by the cell tower again!" I'm sure it would be all over Topix. I don't think that because I'm self-centered. I think that because have you ever perused the Topix forum for a small town in the Southeast? It's a virtual water cooler/locker room/gossip haven where you can get all the local dirt on people. Totally entertaining. I'm kinda wondering when our names will show up.

All that being said, I'm very excited about getting a vintage rotary phone. I'm kinda partial to a 70s wall-mount version in order to free up precious surface area in the cabin, but a desk model from the 50s would be totally bad ass.

~ Mitsy