Friday, August 22, 2014

# 524 - Country Home Construction - Sneak-Peek Preview of Exterior!

Well, here is the house that we will have built...with some tweaks.

It will not have the log-cabin siding, but will have hardy-plank that will be painted white, with a dark grey metal roof for contrast.

Sgt. Dave used an ap that kind of gave the house the look it would have with our supplies, colors and trim. I'm standing on the front porch of this picture, texting someone.

Our look will be more in keeping with a Colonial Farmhouse style.

The main living room and formal dining, well, the only dining room, will have vaulted ceilings and lots of natural light. You can catch a peek in the photos I am sharing.

Upstairs, there is a small loft area, a bathroom, a bedroom with nice sized walk-in closet and a functional hallway that will have bookshelving and room for storage and a second bedroom that will only have enough space for a twin size bed, but it will provide extra bunk space.

The builder is standing in the photo below with Sgt. Dave --- they are standing in space that will become our master bathroom. It is roomy and will be full of natural light.

Normally, I do not like staircases, unless there is a landing, at least one, to help break any fall that might occur. However, this stair will have sturdy railing at the side of banisters and probably a wall rail for additional safety. I think it will be okay. At the bottom of the staircase, it will be blocked by a custom-made gate to prevent any people or pets from going upstairs without us knowing.

In the shot below, Sgt. Dave is standing inside our Master Bedroom. I like the location. We have a lot of sound buffering because our bathroom and master closet seem to encase us into that corner of the bedroom. But, we might add a door from the master bedroom to lead us to the screen-in back porch. That would be enjoyable.

The ceilings in the master are not too high, they are just right. I don't want that window on the backwall where Sgt. Dave is standing---it has to go. In fact, that is the headboard wall and I don't want any solar heat coming through that wall, so it will likely be windowless and the other wall will have the beautiful outdoors coming indoors through a pair of great French Doors.

The room below...well...that's our master closet! Isn't it awesome? It's about the same size as the closet in our last home. It will have some built-ins to make it for efficient and to glamorize it a tad so that my country life will not dictate my wardrobe.

Here's another shot of the master closet.

The photo below is looking through the kitchen area to the large Mud Room with the backdoor. It is great and will also be tweaked, until just right for our needs.

We will need to re-configure the current plan for the A/C ducts, etc., as ours will be much higher on the wall so that we can use that space underneath as a hallway to walk to another room upstairs at the end of the house that would have been closed up as wasted space. We are using creative construction so that we can utilize every spare bit of living space this house has to offer.

The other home-owner has their house designed with the kitchen separated from the rest of the house, but that wont work for me. I must have my kitchen be part of the flow of traffic through the house - it's a critical room toward making things happen for every event. We all want to be together. So, I am moving the kitchen to where the kitchen has a straight line of vision all the way through the dining room and to the end of the living room. My sink will position me so that I am able to overlook everything while washing dishes.

Our house has ample architectural drama that will make the best of our natural light and the vaulted ceilings.

I love the openness of the house.

 The porches, we might do a tad different, but these are eight feet wide across the front of the house. Plenty of room for porch swings and hammocks.

 Our own view across our acreage will be very similar to what you see in the photo below.

 Very nice porch - the main porch across the front of the house.

Eight foot wide porches across front of house. Plenty of front porch moments will be seen across that space over the coming years.


 We will definitely have a covered carpet built with a drop-down-ladder for accessing the carport attic. Our wish list had been that we make that vaulted space an additional hang-out/living space for kids and company. So, we will see how it goes and how much more money it will cost to make this happen, if so, we will build the lower part of the garage with walls to enclose the space and build a true staircase to access the vaulted room. Perhaps we will build a safe walkway coming from the garage vaulted space to the upstairs loft in the main house. We shall see. I would like for the floors of the garage to be concrete, but we will probably do these after market to save money and to keep taxes down.

With hard work, we can build our dream home. It will take time and lots of careful planning, but I am now working on making the floorplan suit our lifestyle. At least we have the main parts of the construction process decided upon.

Our builder is easy to work with. He goes fast. He is a true custom builder and will move walls, ceilings, and do whatever you would like for him to do. For now, I am just thankful that we found a house that speaks to me...I BELONG TO YOU!

As I go along, I will share the changes we are making to the floorplan. Some of them will be unique. Some will be functional. Some will increase our storage and others will make our house a true home to enjoy.

I feel very fortunate that we are able to build a home that we both will love. Sgt. Dave and I look forward to enjoying our first candle-light dinner in this house....the celebrating of this milestone is important to us.

And then, we invite all the family for the best family gathering ever! In fact, we've already been stocking up on some AMAZING fireworks and we will have the first gathering begin with a really big bang and sparkling lights along with great food and a lot of laughs.

Closer and closer, every day. I am happy and grateful!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

# 523 - Fluffy Chicken Sweetness!

I now have 26 chickens. There are a couple of Bantams that my grown daughters picked out, and one in particular has managed to capture my heart.

Yes, chickens can capture our hearts, even Howdy's.

Howdy is a big black fluff-ball, and Baby is a tiny black fluff-ball.
Two adorable balls of fluffiness.

This little one follows me around, hops onto my feet, and sits in my arms comfortably, sometimes falling asleep cuddled against me.

I call her "Baby" because she is the little baby of the group. Her breed will make her the eternal baby of the group because she is a small breed, a Bantam.

But, her personality is completely adorable. Actually, I would love to set up separate accommodations for this little chicken and the little flock that she grew up with because they do stick together, except when I go outside, then Baby runs over to me and sticks with me.

She gives me a guilt complex for living indoors and for leaving her outside. I have to keep reminding myself that she is a chicken.

Yes, at little piece of me is in love with this little chickie.

It is amazing how a little ball of fluffy sweetness can make you smile.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

# 522 - Doggie Disappearing Act

This past week has been full of ups and downs. First of all, I had wanted to go see my oldest daughter and grand-daughter in the Fort Worth area, but things around our own place have been chaotic.

Auntie Stefie with Coraline. My youngest
daughter Stefie with my grand-baby Coraline.

I didn't feel well this past week...for those of you who are long time readers, you might know that I have jumped a few MAJOR health hurdles, which includes two critical Cardio-Thoracic surgeries that were a year apart. I also have a rare condition that actually makes my blood pressure plummet, which can create jello body. Since I have had trouble this week keeping my blood pressure elevated, I knew that driving one-way for 4+ hours might not be the wisest choice. When this happens, I just have to wait it out. Usually, it does happen more often during the summer months because I am outside to do this and that and it causes my electrolytes to get a little off-whack, causing me major issues. Not fun. I have medicine I take to elevate my blood pressure, but sometimes it is more complicated than a little pill can fix, so I have to kind of take it easy and wait it out. I have learned that patience is crucial to getting through the frustrating times. I still have so much to do, whether I am doing outdoor work or handling necessary paperwork and home business to keep things running at home.

So, there you go with that angle. Tough week as my blood pressure yo-yo's.

To top it off, the dog we had rescued from the deep forest a few months ago is scheduled to be "fixed" in about a week at our country vet's office. Apparently, the appointment was off by a couple of weeks because Gracie went into heat and everything went into chaos around here as Howdy entered a zone-of-crazy-dogness.

For days on end, I felt as if I were living around events that closely resembled what I can only refer to as "live porn" and it was fairly traumatic. Thankfully, Howdy could not figure out which end was what, if you catch my drift. However, there was a lot of kennel time off and on during the day with a sharp eye on both dogs to usher my "STOP THAT" command.

You would have thought my blood pressure would've gone sky high with all the constant attempts of the dogs to be "involved" that had been going on around me.

Howdy still has the jewels because we were hoping to one day get another full-blooded Aussie for him to breed with, especially because he truly is one of the best dogs I have ever been around...awesome farm/ranch dog that is great with the animals, a natural lead dog for walks and an excellent guard dog with sharp senses and an ability to follow detailed commands.

However, after these intense days of Howdy being in the zone, I was ready to neuter him, myself.

In fact, Gracie has been a dog that has been prone to give in to her wanderlust, but Howdy has always remained by my side, true blue. We have tried to handle her wanderlust, but on a lot of acreage, that can be a challenge. The good part, overall, is that the older she gets, the less often she wanders and the more often she loves to linger directly in our yard with the chickens at her side. Gracie loves to find a stick or a branch or a bone from the forest and chew on it for a few days in one of her favorite spots in the yard. With the summer heat, she is more prone to elect to stay inside next to the fan.

However, this past week, in the chaos of a dog in heat for the first time, Gracie decided to go on an excursion and the especially bad part is that Howdy followed her.

He has never left the homefront and he flat out left. That morning, I had been outside doing morning chores as the dogs were outside with me. I was keeping my eye on Howdy to make sure there wasn't any "funny business" happening. In fact, Howdy had been commanded to get onto the deck and to stay as I walked a few feet away to collect eggs. In the amount of time it took for me to collect ten eggs against me and turn around to face the deck, he was gone, Gracie was gone, both were gone.


Setting the eggs down, I began to walk around calling for Howdy because he is the one who will turn on a dime at a command. The problem was...he wasn't showing up. Highly unusual. I kept walking from one side of the acreage to another, walking for acres and acres, probably a total of pacing hit around walking a minimum of ten acres as I called out commands to him that he has never ignored before this time.

Finally, I decided to go back to the home-site to wake Sgt. Dave, even though he'd been working long hours and had not gotten a full night's rest, I could not continue searching by myself. He woke straight up and headed outside to start his own calls.

Sgt. Dave even fired the rifle and the .38 because Howdy does NOT like the sound of gun-fire. But, nothing worked. It seemed that Howdy was completely out of hearing distance.

Knowing that we are surrounded by THOUSANDS of forested acres made me feel hopeless. Also, rain was coming, so I feared that their scent trail to find their way home would be wiped clean.

Also, the roads surrounding the acreage are very dangerous to animals because nearly everyone around here drives a huge truck. Then, I was concerned that Howdy and Gracie would come up to a neighbor's acreage and either be attacked by one or more of the neighbor's dogs or that they would be shot by the neighbor trying to protect his own animals from rogue visitors.

No matter...I had terrible thoughts and the more time that passed, the worse the thoughts became.

Sgt. Dave went driving around, looking for the dogs, with no luck. Eventually, he had to leave for work. I began calling local places to see if they could keep their eyes and ears open for anyone seeing or hearing about our dogs being caught.

And, nearly eight hours passed. I knew they would never come home again. I tried to not be angry at Gracie for her wanderlust and for the natural conditions that made Howdy want to stick to her like a piece of duct tape.

Then, after 5:00pm, I walked into the yard to find the dogs coming across the acreage to the deck. Howdy looked like HELL. He was filthy, soaking wet with debris sticking to his fur, and he literally could not make it to the deck...he collapsed on our acreage, in our yard, about half way to the deck.

Better days the followed the doggie-disappearance day.

Obviously, they had also found something to eat because Gracie was dragging a piece of heavy foil with bits of charred meat stuck inside of it, so they had their fast-food with telling where they got that from, probably another reason to almost get shot.

Sgt. Dave had three problems on his hand when he had left for work...Gracie missing, Howdy missing and his wife, me, who was beyond furious. In fact, after Howdy disappeared, I called to vet to also schedule him to be neutered. My husband asked me, "Isn't that premature...I mean...he hasn't even come home yet."

And I have to be honest, I responded, "Well, when he comes home, it will be to face a ball-less future because his following her is because he is not thinking straight and we CAN fix that!"

Yes, I scheduled Howdy for a neutering as he was missing. I had to do something since I felt out of control and scheduling him for surgery to remove the source(s) of the reason for him to stray felt like the right thing to do at that time.

Sgt. Dave has been bringing home wood pallets for us to recycle for
various projects around the land, such as when building a new
chicken run-coop.

Anyway, the dogs came back. I gave them water, then put them in their separate kennels until Sgt. Dave got home from work. I had no energy left to give to them since I had already been feeling like puke and had walked enough that morning to get in a week's worth of exercise. My throat was raw from going outside every twenty minutes to call for them and the stress of KNOWING they had met some foul ending had zapped me completely. I kind of felt like Howdy did as he collapsed, as if I almost did the same thing, weak knees and feeling overwhelmed with thankfulness that they were able to make it home after being gone for so many hours in the Big Thicket forest.

Picture taken on another day when the dogs weren't so worn out.

So, I know that we need to make fencing a part of our construction plan. Acreage needs boundary fencing, but that won't really keep in a dog that is determined to wander off the property. Even though this is probably a rare occurrence for Howdy, I need to make sure these dogs have a proper fenced-in yard they can stay in as I go to town. For now, I cannot leave for any significant amount of time because they have to stay in the RV, which means no potty breaks, so I cannot be gone long.

The lack of fencing has restricted my own freedom and my own ability to live life as I please, so that fenced-in yard area will be crucial to our new residential site. Also, the chickens were left unguarded with the dogs gone, especially since they are mostly free-ranging chickens.

Howdy even listens and jumps up toward swooping hawks and he has taught Gracie to do the same. But, the day they were gone, I realized that I have the animals living too interdependent of one another. It's great that all of our animals can be together, but I do need each to have their separate quarters and fencing.

And you guys already know that I am fed up with having chicken under my feet as I am walking back and forth with laundry in my arms, unloading groceries or trying to just do something simple outside...chickens are great, but not underfoot.

They also have access to get upon our deck, which is a constant battle and a problem that I can only describe as creating "nasty" circumstances that is not acceptable to me. Sorry, I don't want poop on my walkway, on my porch or in my yard.

This one little chicken I call "Baby" might be a chicken
I would let move in, give her a bedroom, and act
chicken-crazy about her. She's fairly adorable. Lol.

So, fencing has become another element of my construction process and it will be given priority over the outdoor kitchen because we cannot even enjoy an outdoor kitchen without the dogs and chickens having proper accommodations.

There are stresses in life that can be reduced with proper planning and action. For me, fencing is now at the top of the list and my priorities are in order.

Having acreage is different from our last few houses that were located in the suburbs and required a few wood picket boards between us and our neighbors to create a nice fenced-in space. The problem was, the space was limited, directly against the neighbor and we had neighbors who didn't want to share the load or expense of fencing. So, I am glad to be out of that situation, but that also means that we have a different scenario with acreage...I will have to make sure we put up effective fencing that is affordable and that will do the trick to keep the animals in the designated place in a way that looks attractive or that does not block our views.

On top of it all, last night, Gracie evidently had a sick stomach and began having diarrhea, inside the RV. She had cried out and I should have immediately let her outside. I have learned that when she communicates with me, she does it because she means business.

Regardless, this week has been eventful and a challenge to search for the "good" has been my task as I have encountered a lot of activity that would disturb anyone's peace.

One of my goals with the new house is to set things up so that I do have peace and enjoyment in and around my home, not to be run over by animals, but a home that I have under control. This year of lacking control has not been a pleasant part of this experience. But, I can change that, and I will.

Fences are coming.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Are you ready for the next Farm Life Lessons segment for the rural country home construction process as we live in an RV for OVER a year?

Breathe deep...

This past Monday, Sgt. Dave and I went to an early dinner meeting with our builder. He has an office, but we decided to meet "after office hours" since we are all busy and wanted the option of fitting in dinner with the business meeting.

This builder passed all of the research hurdles I conducted, he passed the reference checks, as well as shined through the process of me contacting lenders/closers he has worked with to make sure that he, as a builder, did not add to conflicts regarding issued loans or with closing hick-ups due to inspections or other potential problems that could stem from the builder...I am pleased to say that the meeting with our builder went great and this final step gave this builder the seal of approval to build our home.

Fitting in with our country life, the restaurant where we met our builder was actually located next to a truck stop, just outside of town. I had home-made peach cobbler with ice-cream. Yum.

During this face-to-face sit down extended meeting, we learned that all us communicate easily with each other, and I LOVE that he is a straight-shooter and does not allow the lines to be blurred between what he is responsible for and what he is not responsible for during construction. Our builder will be building the "shell" of our home, which will be the foundation, the frame, the finished parts of the structure itself with the windows and doors along with the roof, then he will "builder-assist" with the other elements of finishing our house, as needed. He is loaded with proven vendors.

This is one of our trails near our build-site.

I am going to be building the house to be as similar to a Colonial Farm house look, as possible. We will see how it goes.

This means the overlapping clapboard will be white, the shutters black, the front doors will be gorgeous, the metal roof a dark grey for perfect contrast, the front porch deck flooring painted the same grey as roof and the porch beams and railing will be white. Can you picture it?

Here is a house that the builder is finishing right's the engineered log-cabin look that many here in the country desire, but the point is to show his construction.

Since the soil in Texas can often be uncooperative with a residential concrete foundation and since we see most of our longer-lasting homes in Greater Houston built on pier and beams, we are going that route for our foundation. However, our garage is supposed to be built on a concrete slab because it will actually serve as a workshop with a corner to be my artist-studio. If the soil is not appropriate for a concrete slab, we will still build a workshop with a covered-carport area for the cars. This is an area that is still slab-undetermined.

Once we build our house, it will be necessary to move ALL of our chickens into a new coop area since our current residential site on the acreage is quite a long distance from where the permanent residential site will be located. This means we will have to select a site near the new house, get a new coop built, then haul all of our chickens to that area. That will be interesting. The new coop will have to be closed for several days so that the chickens become acclimated to their new home-zone.

Once we build, there will be no more chickens on my porch...sorry, but I have NEVER liked chickens on my porch, nor do I relish their poop on my walking path, nor do I like the trip hazard they invite as they flock around my feet, nor do I like the disgusting flies that accompany said poop.

Therefore, since Farm Life Lessons have taught me, at my last two residences, to not like chickens in, on, or near the porch, I will have our chicken coop be placed within a decent walking distance from the house, but not so close that the side effects of having chickens is negative upon our day to day outdoor life.

More importantly, when our home is constructed, I will be in MAJOR landscaping over-drive, and I have learned, the hard way, that chickens and decorative or functional gardens do NOT mix. Chickens devastate a garden, very quickly. The chickens even target my potted plants with aggressive destruction. The gardens around our house will not be subjected to a chicken assault...that is for sure.

We will also have an outdoor Café-Kitchen zone which will, of course, need to be kept free of roaming chickens so that space remains as healthy and as clean as possible, which would be impossible to maintain as near 30 chickens intrude upon that space.

I might have to include a small budget to get a chicken run and coop put behind the garage since we will be so busy with other tasks...we shall see how it goes.

I love my chickens, but I NEVER wanted to live WITH chickens taking over my residential space...when I sweep the porch, I don't want to walk back outside five minutes later to find chicken poop on the steps...just...hell NO. Lol.

It is my great hope that our house will be built with our new kitchen ready to be put into good use by Thanksgiving or by Christmas, at the latest. I am sure there will be details for us to finish, but I would like to be moved into the house by that point and this builder is organized and determined enough, according to his factual construction record, to make this possible.

Hell No!
I think I need to work on a sign for the next home to put into the backyard that says "ZONING ORDINANCE...NO CHICKENS ALLOWED WITHIN 200 FEET."

Consequences for violators...hmmm...OFF WITH THEIR HEAD.

Nawwww. I am just kidding. Maybe. Perhaps. Lol.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I am tickled pink. Well, if I were actually tickled, I would be BLUE because I can't breathe when being tickled, and my husband learned LONG ago that such a silly act might shorten his lifespan.

However, I feel emotionally tickled because we FINALLY have selected our builder and have an official sit-down meeting scheduled this coming Monday - July the 14th of 2014! Ta-Da!

If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you KNOW the extensive journey we have taken to just get to this point. If you are a new reader, the synopsis is...Sgt. Dave and I have blogged while living in the Greater Houston area about how desperate we were becoming to move OUT of city limits and to our acreage. However we had nothing but woods waiting for us. We sold our house, bought an RV, packed up, put things into storage and towed the new "house" to our acreage and we roughed it...our electricity was even powered, initially, by generator, only.

It's been a long, eventful year of Farm Life Lessons.

Living in an RV this year has been interesting. For anyone wondering if it can be done, yes, it can be done. However, after more than a year in an RV, I am ready to be land-based again, minus the wheels and hitch.

Frankly, it would have been more fun to buy acreage with an old house on it and to renovate it, but we are having to build brand new construction, which is always concerning to me because today's construction does not compare to the solid construction of long ago.

So, let me tell you the reasons we selected our builder. First of all, he is not intimidated by me. Little ole me. As you might imagine, some men are indeed intimidated by a woman who has a business background and has no problem speaking directly about a topic without tip-toeing around it. I don't have to have perfect answers, but I do need to work with someone who is a straight-shooter and who will listen to our construction needs instead of telling me what he wants to build with our money.

There you go with that part.

This builder can do...
1) 10 Foot Ceilings
2) A Possible Loft
3) Matching Detached Garage, but on concrete slab
4) Install Any and All of My Custom Window Selections or Work to Solve Issues
5) Can Build a Steep Roof Pitch
6) Can Install a Metal Roof
7) Cathedral Two-Story Ceiling
8) Dormers
9) Pier and Beam Foundation or Concrete

So, we have scheduled a meeting with our builder this coming Monday to discuss the most basic of issues...the floorplan. Basically, since I want to keep my costs down, he will help me decide upon a cost effective structure that would meet my square footage desire, and then we will work on the internal floorplan for separate rooms and overall layout.

This week, I keep looking at different kitchens and am more drawn to a light and bright design.
marble counter, brass/copper industrial lighting, laura casey interiors
The above kitchen is pretty fancy, but I like it.
I have had two white kitchens, those were my favorites due to their welcoming and bright environment, but I didn't like the constant upkeep required of them. Yet, my white cabinets were able to be scrubbed down and that did make it nice. I suppose they weren't any more difficult to maintain and keep nice than any other cabinets.
traditional kitchen
I had considered solid pine cabinetry, but I am not sure whether or not the look would wear on me too fast.
like the tin bar with wood top.  also like the metal light fixture.  Wish I could see it all.
I also like the cream colored cabinetry with the stain in the crevices to give them depth, then a light colored countertop...I no longer want a dark countertop; however, I am hoping they can take our old fallen White Oak tree and make a kitchen eat-in bar out of it, with raw edges left unfinished.
 wood bar.
But, I do know the appliances will be stainless steel and we will have a wall-mounted vent-hood. Actually, we will have the appliances as listed below:

1) Wall Oven with Above Microwave/Convection Oven (looks just like a double oven and is technically a double oven with the convection oven). This gives me double ovens, but I don't have to pay for, separately, and install, separately, a microwave.
2) Cooktop - Larger cooktop, not sure if I will be doing propane or not, at least five burners
3) Oversized Wall Mount Vent-hood to match the size of the cooktop that will be beneath it. The vent-hood is so large that we wont need to buy cabinetry overhead, so the vent-hood will cost more money upfront, but we wont be spending any money on cabinetry above the cooktop.
4) Kitchen sink: I prefer higher end stainless steel with double tubs, one deeper than the other. Sgt. Dave does not really like stainless steel sinks. I don't want granite, been there done that...awful.
5) Stainless Steel Dishwasher
6) Stainless Steel Counter-Depth refrigerator

The floor in the kitchen, dining, laundry room and probably the entry will be a spanish terrazzo tile. After picking and choosing certain elements that I enjoyed from past homes we owned, I know that terrazzo tile is a warm earth-tone color that is diverse and will go well with our pine wood floors. It is also very easy to maintain. For me, the flooring is EXTREMELY important.

We will also have a "Café-Outdoor Kitchen-Combo." It will be a structure separate from the house and will be very rustic, appearing something similar to this...
Rustic Bar
We also will install a rustic outdoor shower for those days when we are grimy and dirty and chicken poopy. We will place this outdoor shower near the end of one of the porches, out of the way, with a path leading to porch steps so that the shower will have privacy. This area will be multi-purpose and will be a great place to also bath the dogs.
Outdoor shower
The great thing about the builder we selected is that he has assured me that whatever I would like to do...he will do his best to get it done or be straight-forward about valid obstacles so we can discuss solutions or alternatives.

I hope the face-to-face meeting will be as great as I am hoping it will go. We have toured properties he's built or is building and I have checked on his references. Everything is looking great. Maybe we will be much closer to beginning to build our house within the next few weeks. We shall see!