Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tumbling Tumble Weeds

 Yesterday we made a quick turn-around trip to Moore to drop a piece of plywood at someones house.
Since both LC and I never developed our artistic skills beyond stick figure drawings, we had searched for a local person who may be able to draw a horse and cut it out for us on plywood.  
The plan was to paint it black and attach it to the side of the house, since horses seem to be an unplanned but developing theme.
As we drove to Moore yesterday morning we kept glancing warily back at the bed of the truck hoping that the plywood would stay put in the gale force winds we were driving through.
It was so windy.............and as we headed north through the desert and then through the small town of Arco and beyond, we found ourselves greatly amused by the seemingly endless tumbleweeds that tumbled through the desert and across the highway.
There was no end to them.
And as these light brown streaks tumbled ass-over-tea-kettle in front of us they almost looked like small animals scurrying at warp speed across the road.
Our truck rocked and it rolled in the wind and eventually we reached Moore.
We met a very friendly couple and ended up visiting for an hour before leaving our plywood and heading back towards the house.
As has been the standard over the past couple of weeks, we had boards to stain and they were calling to us in the wind.
Endless boards and endless stain but one day soon it will end.
Heading away from Moore I looked to my right and was momentarily startled.
Having lived in the south east for so many years, my first instinctive thought was "Tornado".
But we were no longer in the south east.  And the sky was not filled with ominous clouds slowly moving in ominous circles.  The air wasn't green and filled with violent energy.
We lived in the west, and the sky was completely blue, and the wind was strong enough to knock your head off.  I was looking at a dirt devil.
The biggest one that I had seen since we moved to Idaho.
I watched it for a few moments, mesmerized by it.
It moved in circles just as a tornado does.  It was picking up dirt as it traveled from my right to my left, just as a tornado would pick up moisture.
Finally snapping out of my short trance I reached for my camera and snapped this picture through the windshield.
I snapped others as the dirt devil continued across the highway and moved across the flat land to our left.
But by then it was beginning to lose its form and within another minute or two it was simply random dust flying in the wind....................

As we approached the house LC and I looked at each other, both stunned at what we were seeing.
The first thing we saw was the huge pile of tumble weeds that was piled up in front of the house and which effectively blocked access to the front door.
As we climbed out of the truck I headed towards the fence that we had built late last summer.
It was filled with tumble weeds.
Looking across the road - tumble weeds.  
Tumble weeds everywhere................
 More tumble weeds along the fence line at the side of the house...............
 If it had been up to me I would have just left them all until the wind died down, and that did not feel like it was going to happen anytime soon.
Surprisingly, LC made a grab for a pitchfork and promptly began pitchforking endless weeds-that-tumble away from the house, letting the wind carry them over the open field across the road from us.
Once they were untangled from each other they merrily continued their journey - carried on the wind to wherever tumble weeds end up once they are done their tumbling.
Reluctantly I reached for another pitchfork and walked to the back of the house intending to pitch the tumble weeds (that were contentedly locked to each other and to the side fence) over said fence.............
 As I walked into the back yard though I stood looking at another huge mountain of the prickly beasts.
Holy Cow!
I had never seen so many tumble weeds.
Not last spring.
Not since we had moved here.
Not ever actually.
As with the ones in front, and the ones at the side of the house, these puppies were all locked together, making them too heavy to blow away to their ultimate tumbleweed-destination.
With little enthusiasm, I began to break them apart.
Some headed towards the fence at the side of the house, and I quickly walked over to open the gate.  Some would happily find the open gate and freely continue with their journey.
Some would add to the pile up at the fence line, and that was OK as well.
After making a dent in the back, I unethusiastically walked over to the fence and commenced to pitching up and over, and then watched with gratification as they quickly headed towards the Twin Buttes............
 The unfinished back of the house, with its mostly torn-down green house, and trials for window frames.
We had thought maybe white painted frames, but then decided on natural wood............
 A few hours later LC, Kory and I wandered through town, curious to see if other homes in town were as inundated with tumbling tumble weeds as we had been (and to a certain extent still were).
Every tumble weed in Idaho apparently decided to set up camp in Tiny Tune Town Atomic City on this early spring day.
It'll take the entire town a week or so to dig out...............
I cut and pasted this picture from someones Face Book page, and can't seem to change the size so.............the picture of our horses.
We'll paint them black and they will go on the side of the house.
He's beautiful................

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pratts Lumber

So why would someone blog about a lumber yard?
There are many reasons but the main reason is that LC and I are still busy working on the exterior of the house, which means we have had both little time and little money for exploring and adventures either small or large. 
Hopefully that will change soon, as a camping trip is in our near future.
The other reason is that Pratts Lumber is not your normal, every day, germane lumber yard.
With an arm that needed to rest, there was no painting happening by me on this day, and so we decided to pick up some 1x4s to build the frames for the windows and the uprights on the corners of the house.
Helpfully I searched the Internet, looking for phone numbers for Lowes and Home Depot, a lumber mill in Arco and a second one called Pratts in Blackfoot.
We were both physically tired from doing so much to the house so quickly, but we both also wanted to keep moving forward with improvements (suck it up and drive on) - eager to see each new piece of wood in place, each painted wall completed, as it improved the ugly appearance of the house.
Blackfoot is a town of only 10,000 people.
If you want to buy groceries there are a handful of options.
If you want to buy farming supplies there are a couple of options.
But aside from that, if you need to buy almost anything else it requires a trip to either Idaho Falls or Pocatello.
 And so it went with lumber.
There is a Lowes and a Home Depot in both of those cities.
We got the prices.
We called the place in Arco.  More expensive even for a lower grade of lumber.
Finally we called Pratts in Blackfoot.  Cheaper than Arco, more expensive than either Idaho Falls or Pocatello.
By the time we took gas into account, it would cost us about $25 more to buy in Blackfoot.
We could live with that.
Less time.  Less energy.  Less driving.  The wood quality was excellent.  And we were both pleased to support a local business as opposed to a chain store.
Pratts it was..................

LC had been to Pratts a couple of times over the past six months or so, but I had not been there in well over a year.
I had forgotten what an interesting and unique place it was.
Located in back of town, the entire place feels like some low key, welcoming, creative, gated compound.
The owners have both their home and their business on the same piece of property.
The land looks out over the hills that are in back of Blackfoot, and also contains large green spaces that are filled with trees.
As LC walked into the main office, I opened the back door of the Tahoe and made a quick grab for Korys' leash, trying to grab her before she bolted out of the vehicle in one smooth blur of motion.
LC would get wood, and we would wander............

Holding tight to my dog I looked around me, trying to get the lay of the land again.
The main office was a rustic log building, and standing outside in one corner was a Native American carved totem that towered over a two sided wooden bench.................
Walking beyond the totem I turned and looked back the way we had come.
There were small and functional structures to my left, directly in front of me lay the office and (further down the paved driveway) were all the expected covered structures that held various sizes and lengths of lumber.
As I stood there for a moment I realized that I had a good feeling about this place.
It wasn't frenetic Idaho Falls, and it wasn't frantic Pocatello, and it wasn't chain store Lowes or chain store Home Depot.
It was a quiet small business that had the feeling of an Old Towne as opposed to a place of commerce, and in my tired state that fit the bill.  It more than fit the bill.
It just..........worked.....................
Letting Kory follow her nose we wandered further and found this large wood statue of a lumber jack laying in front of endless logs.
They sawmill on-sight and me and my dog stood watching a guy moving logs, slowly building the pile higher in front of us....................
We headed back towards the main office.
With LC still nowhere in sight we wandered beyond the building and I stood for a moment looking at this owl.
It was crudely carved and whimsical, and it stood on its platform silently amusing me.
Walking beyond the owl I smiled at a middle aged man driving a Bobcat, and he stopped and spoke with me for a few minutes asking if I needed help.
(Well yes I do.  But not help with wood).........No thanks, we're waiting for someone.
We talked about the weather.  Yes it had been very warm recently.
And yes we would probably get nailed again soon.
I liked this place......................
On the opposite side of the property was a private home to the left and a series of interesting things to the right.
A windmill.  A log cabin.  An old wagon.
We headed towards these things, intrigued by the sight of the unexpected.................
Slowly we wandered back the way we had come.
As we turned the corner and again headed back towards to main building I saw LC.
The back of the truck was loaded with wood and he enthusiastically smiled at me.
Did you get the screws??
Got 'em!!
Do you want to eat a muffin before we head to the paint store?
We sat on the wooden bench beneath the Indian totem eating muffins and drinking coffee, and occasionally handing crumbs down to my happily watching dog.  
She's partial to blueberry..
So how much did you spend?  He told me.
With muffins quickly eaten and coffee quickly drunk, we grabbed a red plastic flag and stapled it to the longest piece of lumber.
It was time to head to the paint store and then get the hell out of Dodge................

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Early American Yard Sale - Part 2

We bought a fixer-upper of a house in a town where few people wanted to live because of the isolation and the lack of amenities.
For a long while after we moved into this house we painted and decorated inside, trying to bring faded and aged and dirty creme walls to life with new color and texture.
Between what we had, what we found, what we repurposed and what we bought used from a multitude of sources, we succeeded (although there are still projects to do) in making the inside comfortable.
Both LC and I knew that we would very quickly need to do something with the outside of the house.
The building was constructed in painted wood siding over cinder block, and the siding was in very rough shape.
The cheapest option was to paint, and so we painted.
And painted.
And painted.
In some kind of weird color that I cannot remember the name of off hand, but which looks sometimes light brown, sometimes sage green, and sometimes medium grey depending on the light and the time of day.
LC rolled, and I used a brush to paint the hundreds of lines that were on the siding.  
So many lines so little time.  
Lines to the left of me, lines to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.  
Lines?  I got a million of 'em.
Lines enough to get tendinitis.
The back of the house was in the worst condition and it took three coats.  The rest of the house took two, and now it is almost done but not quite.
There are still..........more lines.  Lines very high and that will require a tall ladder and a good deal of initiative and balance.
Fewer lines that are low, that my question mark shaped back could no longer handle after spending too much time day after day hunched over.
Once a lot of the painting had been done LC and I began to cut and stain new wood and replace all of the frames around the windows.  
The frames look great but only serve to highlight the really old and ugly windows, and the really old and ugly screens that are complete with dust, the odd paint stain from the previous owners, and don't forget the odd pieces of scotch tape haphazardly placed over holes.
Nobody who ever lived in this house ever cared whether they over-sprayed, used a brush to inadvertently over-paint, used scotch tape to cover a screen hole.
Once most of the painting was done and most of the window frames were replaced, we got the bright idea to cut and stain more lumber and replace all the chipped and gnarly (and sometimes rotted) corner posts around the house.
Over the span of a very long week we moved from peeling and faded yellow house to a beige-sage-grey house.
And we moved from ugly, industrial brown window frames (LC and I joked that it was probably the only color paint the previous owners could steal un-noticed from the Secret Squirrel Lab) to stained natural wood frames.
There is still more to do.  
But the exterior looks a lot better, is structurally sounder, and will hold up (without the need for replacement) for a few years.
The exterior still needs prettying up though.
What to do.......what to make it look homier and welcoming and not such a blank canvas?
Not sure yet, but I'll figure it out..................

The house we lived in up in Juneau was 30 miles from town in an area known locally as "Out the Road".
One day I was walking close to home with our sweet dog Jamie and passed by a pile of junk that one of the local residents had haphazardly thrown at the end of his driveway.
This weather-worn paddle was laying half-hidden in the pile.
Looking around me to make sure that no-one was watching, I walked closer to the pile and then bent down to take a closer look at the paddle.
Some of the yellow paint remained, but mostly the finish was gone.
Turning it over in my hands I realized that I really liked this dumper-diving find, and after knocking on the home owners door and getting the nod, I walked home with my new find
I never repainted it, but did oil it and now it hangs on the wall above the very heavy fireplace grate that I bought at a yard sale in Tennessee..............
The tall wooden owl, the cast iron horse head, and the old wood box (that contains old shaving gear) were all yard sale finds in Tennessee..................
Not long after me, my two boys and my second husband moved down to Tennessee I went to a yard sale and saw the two pewter goblets that are on the top shelf in this picture.
They were heavy, sturdy, smooth, hard feeling objects in my hand and I regarded them for a few minutes, drawn to them but not really knowing why.
It cost me $4 for the two of them and I drove home pleased with my unexpected find.
That was almost 20 years ago now, and in that time I have somehow managed to amass about 50 different pieces of pewter from yard sales and thrift stores.
They were all equally as cheap as my first two mugs, and I have no idea whether any of them are old and actually worth any money or if they're all just junk.
It doesn't really matter.  They look nice on shelves and they please me.
The fact that they are indestructible has been an added bonus over these past years of moving far too far and far too wide...............
A wolf print from Tennessee, a multi-purpose tool from Alaska, and a rock tool from Idaho..............
Another one of those collections that was unplanned and that developed seemingly out of nowhere.
Stoneware crocks are not difficult to find in the south, and I bought my first one at a yard sale not long after moving down to Tennessee.
These ones are on a small shelf in the bedroom, but the rest (25 or so) are all in the living room.
I doubt if I have spent $150 on all of them.
They are rugged and rustic and utilitarian, and are in all the shades of brown and beige and creme and black that I seem to gravitate towards when it comes to decorating the house................
My Alaska bear rock.............
I don't know what to believe in.
I haven't known what to believe in for a long time now.
But I like the sign anyway...................
This dusty wood mask is hanging on the wall in LC's office.
It is heavy and crudely carved out of one piece of wood, and it spoke to me for some compelling reason that I don't take the time to question.................
I bought this huge swan at a yard sale in Tennessee many years ago.
It made its way safely all the way to Alaska, and then safely made its way to Wyoming, back to Tennessee, back to Wyoming and then over to Idaho.
It was sitting on the kitchen table and a few months after Kory found her way into our lives she learned that she could jump up onto the table to see out of the kitchen window.
When I came back into the house my wood table was scratched, one of the chairs was scratched, and the swan was laying in two pieces on the floor.
Swan had safely traveled all away across the country three times, but was no match for our new puppy.
LC glued his broken neck, and he now sits in a place safe from the youthful energy of a dog named Kory..............
A total dumpster dive find..............
A friend that I was working with in Tennessee found this in a park one day during the summer.
When she pulled into the parking lot of our main work building she pulled it out of the truck and showed it to me, and I admired it greatly.
It was a cast iron door stop in the shape of a cat, and was a weird and eclectic combination of paint and rust.
It was so ugly it was beautiful.
 The woman came to a Christmas party at our house many months later.
It was my last Christmas in Tennessee.  I was scheduled to start a new job on January 9th only a couple of  weeks later.
I was scared.  I was excited.  I was hopeful.  I already missed everyone and everything that I was leaving behind and I had not even left yet.
There were a lot of people at the house for that party, and everyone had brought low cost gifts that were placed under the tree.  The kind of generic gag-gifts that you buy for co-workers who would draw numbers and pick a package.
The lady told everyone that her gift was specifically for me.
When my number finally came up I reached under the tree and picked up a large, flat, heavy box.
Intrigued, I quickly unwrapped the gift.
It was the cat.
I had liked the cat.  The woman remembered that I liked that cat.  And she gave it to me many months later as I was getting ready to leave everything and everyone that I knew.
I'll never forget her kind gesture..
It sits by the fireplace in the living room now.
And it is still so ugly that it's beautiful.........................
There was about a year after we first moved down to Tennessee when money was very tight.
My husband at the time was not making a lot of money, and my immigration status was still not finalized yet so I could not work.
There was occasionally money enough to pick up some odds and ends at yard sales, but even those kinds of trips were few and far between.
We lived in an upper middle-class area about 30 minutes north of Nashville, and (as it turns out) upper middle-class people throw away some very nice things.
Like the wooden sled in the picture further up in this blog post.
And like these wooden boxes.
I picked these up on the side of the road during three separate dumpster diving excursions and have had them for a very long time now.................
Left on the wall in the mudroom by the previous owners of this house................
LC and I bought two newer tractor sprinklers at two different yard sales last summer, and they cover the entire back yard.
This one is the real deal though - heavy, old, slightly rusted, most of its original paint, beautiful.
It sits in a corner of the living room..................
I bought these two rabbits at a yard sale in Tennessee years ago, and they always made me smile because they were both as cute as hell and because they reminded me of the boys.
Cute, goofy, always happily wandering through life, all the while keeping one eye on each other in that semi-competitive way that two boys close in age have with each other...................

Do we own things, or do they own us??...........My friend M&M (previously from Tennessee - now in Arizona)