Running On W

It’s been an odd week around here.  For one, I STILL sound like I’m channeling Bea Arthur.  And I get a small cough attack two or three times a day, need extra kleenix, and feel the need for a nap after exhausting tasks such as breathing.

But…I’m not exactly sick either.  In fact, I managed through a yoga class with nary a cough. Although I did wish I’d grabbed some tissue from the bathroom before I was barefoot.  I am beginning to think the exhaustion is more about a status quo my body fell into rather than actual need for Zzzs.

Another thing is that I finally got to sink my teeth into a new responsibility at work and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that.  Except I’ve also been given the task to re-vamp the procedure on this responsibility.  That is not in the repertoire of tasks I’ve done previously anywhere ever.  So…maybe I do have a little reason to feel tired in the not-so-PM.

Lastly, Tom has started working on the business.  Capital W.  (Which is not the W suggested in the title).  We’re looking at spaces, contacting vendors, making business plans…basically acting like a real business.  And that’s cool but scary.  I have the added element of balancing-act.  I do not want all decisions and work to fall on Tom.  However we agree it is best if I keep my part-time gig as long as possible (i.e. into the first year of business, perhaps longer) because statistically we won’t break even for a while.

Other News And Events…

1) My new tires rock.  I thought, the day I got to drive the truck and Tom took my car to get the tires installed, that I loved driving the truck in the snow.  Then I drove my car with the new tires.  LOVE.

2) Today the temperature did not hit a negative number!  We celebrated by taking a quarter mile walk to the public boat landing then walking out onto the lake.

3) Tree is up!  Decoration achievement unlocked!  We will, once again, be alone this Christmas.  There was no way we could convince his family to come here and my family has some goings-on in New Mexico.  We didn’t want to leave here because of the cost and because of the logistics of the house and the cats.  My whole point is that sometimes its hard to get into the Spirit Of Things when it’s just the two of us.  I still haven’t figured out which is more depressing – trying to get the Spirit and failing, or not trying at all and then sitting around December 25th realizing you didn’t even try.

But last year, we didn’t even have a tree.  I sold our fake one and our tree stand before the holidays as part of prepping for the hike and the move.  So at least we have that.

And we will definitely have a White Christmas.

Life Is A Highway

Are you going my way?  If so, you’d better hope you’re not behind me.

I’m not sure I’ve ever documented this here, but I will say it at the drop of a hat (or stomp of the brake) in real life: I am not a good driver.

I am not a…horrible…driver.  And Tom even proclaimed recently – as he watched me teach myself how to back the truck into our driveway – that I am actually not a shabby driver.  But I think that was the endorphin release he had when I threw it in park and all the bumpers were still attached.

Good, very bad, horrible, or somewhere in between….I am definitely not an experienced winter driver.

I have learned though.  After my first skid*, and my first drive to work after really bad weather, I figured out I just need to drive VERY SLOW.

You can imagine that excites me.  Because it goes hand-in-hand with the CONSTANT VIGILANCE winter driving also requires. The way tuna and chocolate go together.

Not only do I have to pay 110% attention during the entire commute, I must elongate that commute via The Way Of The Snail!

For the first week of this driving tactic, I was pretty OK with it.  There is, for better or worse, not a lot of traffic on my commute in the morning.  (There is not a lot of traffic here period, Population: 1,625.  But even so, the drive West on 70 is less traveled in the AM then the drive East.)

It sucks because if I get there before the snow plows, little else has disturbed the snow into ruts.  However it is awesome because it means I encounter very little traffic and don’t have to worry about the other drivers as much.

I mean, over 1/3 of my commute is right along the Wisconsin river.  (I just tried to look up fatalities by car accident in the Wisconsin river and came up empty.  Good news!  If I take the plunge, you’ll probably hear about it!)

Except I won’t.  Because currently I’ve figured out that 40 mph (45 in awesome conditions) is as fast as I feel comfortable driving in these winter conditions.

As I said, for the first week or so it was fine.  Then today, for some reason, a convoy of winter-savvy drivers ended up behind me.  And that commute along the river?  It’s a bit windy.  So they were stuck for several miles before someone got the nerve/timing/opportunity to pass me.

It happened to me on the way home too.  And I’m not sure what’s happened.  Are these people over-zealous because they’ve survived the first week un-towed-from-the-ditch?  Or am I just being a wimp?

Wimp or not, I have my parameters locked in and I’ve made it back and forth successfully, if slowly, so far.

(Note:  We ordered winter tires for my car and I’m so excited you’d think we were strapping puppies and porcupines to my wheels.)

*Tom has actually had a worse skid scenario than me driving up here (think, 360).  Yet he still is wary of me driving the truck in the snow.  I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say because even the most enlightened, “You’re A Pretty Good Driver” man, can be a chauvinist ass at times.

Cut To The Long Of It

Quickly, because…

1) My laptop booted up all “Desktop?  What Desktop?”  A nice quick re-boot to the head fixed it but now I am doing what every IT nerd does.  Frantically backing up all that stuff I swore I would set to automatically back-up.  (If my laptop does byte the big one and I don’t finish NaBloPoMo, is this the blogging equivalent of dogs eating homework?)

2) I’m back from an evening yoga class at a new fitness studio and I really need a shower.  (The studio has a sort of subscription rate for a series of six weeks of classes.  I don’t like paying up front like that.  I prefer a punch card/X # of visits type deal.  But the subscription comes with access to the gym during a few hours each day when classes aren’t in session.  This might solve TreadmillGate as it’s come to be known (at least by me) in our house.  Aaaaaannnd….end parentheses!)

3)  I have no three.  Oh wait!  I also need to recover from my first skid-out scenario while driving.  Sigh.  I am such an animal of instinct.  Yet at least I was going slow enough I had time to go through this entire thought: “I want to turn this way….I want to turn this way…I’m not turning this way…hmm…Aren’t you supposed to turn INTO the skid?…But I wanna go THIS WAY…Fine…I guess there is not much difference between plowing into the forest and turning into the skid at this point…Huh.”

Insert “I Love Living At The Cabin” Qualifier Here

Things I hate about living at the cabin:

1)  The laundry.  Taking laundry to the laundromat is actually no big deal.  How many people have wished for multiple washers and dryers in their own home to do more than one load at a time?

For me, the first agony comes between washer to dryer.  I haven’t gotten a good stain pre-treat system down, and even when I do some of the stains I’m working against are decades old (I’m looking at you, yellow rug).

If I were in my own home, I might let it soak in the sink for a bit.  Try a toothbrush.  At the very least stick it back in the washer.  But at the laundromat, it is wash, dry, fold.  NO EXCEPTIONS.

I also hate trying to decide what to do with the stuff that can’t go in the dryer.  They have those laundry carts with the metal bars for hanging, but I haven’t figured out the correct car-repacking with these wet/damp items that doesn’t make me feel like I’m getting everything, including my car, kinda yucky all over again.

The last thing to hate about laundry day is the folding.  OH MAI GAWD THE FOLDING.  Remember when you kinda agreed with me about doing multiple loads?  TAKE IT BACK.  It takes forever and you would think I’d appreciate the tables because I had exactly zero tables at the condo but somehow that was better.  I start out all tri-folding towels and neat piles.  In the end it doesn’t look much different than when I brought it in.

2) The Water.

We’re on a small, shallow well here in Iron country.  It’s potable in the sense it won’t kill us and I use it for some cooking.  But it isn’t truly drinkable.  We have a cute little crock that holds 5-gallon jugs and every store around here has reverse osmosis dispensers because it’s that big of a problem.

I don’t really care that I’m not interested in drinking what comes out of my tap.  What does annoy me is that the iron rusts everything.  Until we figure out a better filter system, I can forget getting a washer for the cabin.  The iron would color our clothes and gunk up the machine. Ditto dishwasher.  (Although…well, see below.)  And any water-based appliance like the toilet or sink or shower is going to be an awful shade of brown without lots of chemicals and scrubbing.  Then it will be an awful shade of light brown.

3) The Deer.

Bambi is no longer cute when he jumps in front of my car.  I joke with Tom I might get a deer before him this season.  Between the deer and no experience in winter conditions, that scenic drive to work is rife with anxiety.

4) The Dishes.

About a year ago, Tom and I started hand washing the dishes.  It was in part to prepare for moving here to figure out how horrible we’d feel without a dishwasher.  But it turned out, we kinda liked doing dishes.  We have sort of hard water at the condo so hand washing got them cleaner.  And more importantly, we still had a dish washer!  Not only could we break it out for special Jessica-Just-Cooked-Four-Weeks-Of-Food-In-Two-Days events but IT WAS A PLACE TO PUT THE DRYING DISHES.  Here we have a drying mat/rack on the counter top and then a second rack inside the right half of the sink.  This is no where near our old capacity and there is a 100% probability that washing more dishes will get the right half of the sink rack wet/soapy/dirty again.

5) The Bathroom.

Cramped. Poorly laid out. Full of old fixtures that are an awful shade of dark brown. I especially hate the toilet that takes 1,704,528 minutes to re-fill AND has a tendency for the flapper to not catch every 20th time so I am paranoid to pee in a hurry leaving the house that it will run the entire day. (Yes, we’ve replaced it. But this appears to be an issue with having a really old toilet.)

6) The Splinters

Old wooden cabins and fixtures have not always been oiled and waxed and cared for. Splinter rate for opening the 2nd bedroom closet door is 100%.

7) The Lack Of FrouFrou Shopping

Ok, there are actually pretty good options for groceries including an Aldi in Rhinelander. But where do northwoods people get their quinoa in bulk?? (Bonus: you now know what to get me for Christmas)

This is not a complete list by any means. But as I sit here with Tom and a cozy fire after a good meal, nothing else comes to mind. Plus, I gotta go do dishes.

Yes or No

We’re pretty busy around these here parts. Tom’s working like mad to get the crawl space enclosed and I’m helping when I’m not work-working, cooking, canning, or prepping for guests.

(We had an awesome time last weekend with some friends we know from my Mom. Without them, we would have not canoed at all this year. And Cathy is coming this Wednesday!! I can’t wait!)

My point is, I have little time or energy to write. This weekend was spent digging trenches and feeling like an old woman who dug trenches.

But still. I feel I simply must give you something. And so…

Me: Is it time for bed yet?
Tom: It’s twenty to seven.
Me: Why can’t you ever just answer a question?! “am I digging deep enough?” ” is it bedtime?” These are Yes or No questions! Why can’t you say yes or no???

Me: Are you happy you married me?
Tom: It’s warm in here with the fire.
Me: Good answer. I also would have accepted, “it’s twenty to seven”.

Feelin’ Fine. Ish.

I start work tomorrow.  The past week has been the most fun and relaxing I’ve had in a long time.  I could do whatever I wanted without silently judging myself for not job hunting 24/7!

Of course, “whatever I wanted” was thrill-seeking activity such as, “Go to DMV” and “Donate old bedding to wildlife rehab place so it’s not cluttering up the porch” and my favorite, daring adventure of, “Buy a shit-ton of groceries with little money because it’s a good coupon week.”

But still.  I could DO all of those things WHENEVER I wanted this past week.  Well, except for the grocery shopping because the store only does double-coupons twice a week.  But still.

Other exciting adventures included getting Spike into see a new vet so we have a place to purchase his special don’t-hurt-my-urinary-tract food.  The vet place only charged twenty bucks for a courtesy “Yup, that’s a healthy cat” exam and I was quite pleased with the facility and the staff.

I also canned a bit.  Apple butter and pomegranate jelly and syrup.  The pomegranate jelly and syrup are the first things I’ve made where I’m not raving over them.  The jelly seems to be getting better with age (it’s low-sugar and it first it tasted way too tart) and I hope cooking the syrup up as suggested with some corn starch will provide an adequate pancake topping.

Tom’s been a little under the weather.  And I vacillate between being sympathetic and fed up with his attitude.  I seem to recall when I was sick not too long ago and while I might have been a bit whiney, I also made sure I thanked him constantly for all he was doing for me.  Today I spent a good portion of my last free day before work cleaning the house top to bottom so he doesn’t have to.  His response?  He was agitated with how go-go-go I was.

Because he’s had this cold, we waited until yesterday to do the big “Must finish before Jessica starts a job” task of renting a hopper thingy and blowing insulation into the attic of the house.  There was a small bit of fiberglass rolled insulation in parts of the ceiling, but not all of it.  And not enough to do a good enough job for winter.  We purchased a ton of non-fiberglass, cellulose (85% recycled content!) insulation to blow in.  It’s messier than rolled, but a lot cheaper.

It was a completely exhausting and muscle-taxing day.  I have a lot of aches and pains and I’m walking like a thru-hiker again, but this time because of my back and not my legs (I did A LOT of twisting in one direction while loading the insulation into the hopper).  I hope I’m moving around better tomorrow lest my new bosses think they made a mistake.

Last week I also enjoyed getting to write more and posting regularly.  I do have a couple more things I started that I might be able to get up sometime soon.  But the likelihood is that the new job will consume me for a little bit.  I haven’t had to dress up and act like an adult five days in a row for a l-o-n-g time.  (You’re crying real tears for me, aren’t you?)  My guess is it will throw me for a loop and I’ll spend a lot of my free time drooling in the recliner until my mind catches back up to a regularly scheduled schedule.  So if you don’t hear from me as frequently in the next couple of weeks, it’s not you – it’s me.



Getting Warmer

We’re settling into fall here.  The day time temps are hovering at or below 70 degrees.  And the nighttime is anywhere between 32 and 52.  We had to do a lot of driving between job interviews, appointments for stuff to accomplish before I start a real job and can’t tell people, “whenever”, and a quick visit over to Minnesota (You betcha!) for the weekend to see a cousin of Tom’s.  Not only is driving more pleasant here because I’m not melting in my car or screaming at the traffic, but the leaves have started to change and I am ecstatic over it.

I have thoughts of putting together a huge, how-we-fixed-the-cabin list post.  But I can’t do that right now because, well, we haven’t fixed the cabin.  But every day we make progress.  And just in time for some colder nights (and days), we got a few things crossed off the list that made a real difference.


Please ignore the ladder and attic access panel.  Don’t you love our super powerful blower?  Sigh.  Everything done just requires more doing.

The first, biggest, thing is the cast iron stove was installed in the old fireplace.  This involved a lot more work than I realized, and perhaps Tom realized as well since he kept adding little fancy extras like fire retardant in the chimney.  But our (his) hard work and his (definitely all his) research paid off.  We’ve had three or four fires in it, getting the temperature in the interior of the cabin to 80 degrees!


So that you know, for once, I am not just hyperbolizing.  Why is there a red squiggly line under that?  IS TOO A WORD.

This will not be our main source of heat.  The radiant floor heating will be able to warm us 24/7 without the need of an axe.  But a lot of people with radiant heating mention liking a second heat source to warm the air, so we decided to go ahead with a wood stove when we found one on craigslist cheap.  It has the added bonus that I can still roast marshmallows (unlike a fancier fireplace insert/gas stove) and it is protection against us freezing should something go wonky with the floor heating.

The second, smaller but incredibly useful, improvement was to install a cat door.

The interior living space of the cabin is sandwiched between a front and back porch.  The porches span the entire length (or width) of the cabin, and are almost entirely glass windows.  They are wonderful to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while inside.  But they are horrible at retaining heat.


Back (road facing) porch entrance.  Did you know when you have property on a body of water, you call the water-facing side the front?  I hated that as a child and refused to conform, calling this the front because it’s the side of the house we always enter from.  I gave up on this sometime in my twenties but my family STILL insists that I insist.  And now Tom is just thoroughly confused and calls this the front porch half the time even though I don’t anymore.

In the beginning, before we settled on radiant floor heating, we thought we’d have to completely abandon the porches for the winter.  This was frustrating since they take up a huge chunk of useful space, namely where we store all the pet paraphernalia.  I had already stuffed one cat litter box in the kitchen pantry and hated it.  Where would I put the other one once it got too cold?


Front (lake facing) porch.  Hands down the absolute best ever dinner spot in the entire world.

Luckily, the radiant floor heating is going everywhere under the house – even the porches.  With their glass make-up we still probably won’t want to entertain on them in January.  But we do think the temperature will stay warm enough that the cats will want to go out there.  We just needed a way to keep the doors closed from drafts.


A door within a door!

Here’s the cat door from the kitchen to the back porch.  It took them a day to get used to it, and will still lurk around and see if someone is going to open the “real” door and make a dash instead of using the flap.  They had one at the condo to go out on the balcony, but that was completely see-through with see-through walls all around.  So the solid wood door with a magical opening where another cat could lurk on the other side and pounce isn’t what they signed up for.  But when their feeders go off, they suddenly think nothing of it.

The culmination of this work will be a cat door located in our bedroom.  There is a window in there to the front porch (where I relocated the kitchen pantry cat litter as soon as we realized it wouldn’t freeze.  A cat litter free kitchen!  I haven’t had that since…2004?).  The actual door to the front porch from the living room is a pretty glass-paneled deal that would not take kindly to any remodeling.  Putting the cat access in our bedroom window also allows us to easily lock them multiple rooms away from the main (back porch) entrance.

And yes, this means we will end up almost never locking the cats out while we sleep.  You’re shocked, I know.

Currently we simply leave the window ajar.  My side of the bed gets more of the cool air coming in from the porch and I am antsy to have this little bit of project crossed of the list.  But Tom has another priority.


This is currently our 2nd guest bedroom.  He’s up in the attic, prepping to blow all that insulation in tomorrow.  Before he loses his slave labor (moi) to an office job where I won’t have to type next to bales of cellulose.

Baby, It’s Cold Inside

Autumn is here in the north woods.  Leaves are changing colors, geese are flying migration patterns overhead, and the temperature is dropping to downright chilly overnight.

The family has done little to landscape in the past, keeping the yards mostly trees and ferns.  This is beautiful and low maintenance (on a daily basis at least) and really makes you feel like you’re in the woods.

But once you start looking at it from a home owner’s perspective, you realize that a half dozen trees could collapse the house during a good storm.  Also, the amount of sun they block is incredible; we have moss on our roof because of lack of light.

This natural UV protection also means that the house doesn’t get warm easily on its own.  This is ideal for a summer cabin.  For a 35 degree night where the daytime high won’t reach 60, it’s a recipe for hibernation.

We can’t even have indoor fires right now because we’re prepping to install stove pipe and hook up a used wood stove we got for a steal.  The chimney sweep was here yesterday and gave the all clear so now the pipe has been ordered.

For myself and Tom, the coldness of the cabin during the daytime is motivation to keep busy.  Not so for the cats.  But somehow they survive.  They all carved out warm niches in the house and stayed there until after 2pm today.


Spike was most conventional, choosing to snooze on our bed.  We have one new, portable electric heater and we are trying to only use that one (very, very old inefficient electric in-wall heaters in most of the rooms but they cost a TON to use).  We’ve set the new one up in the bedroom and keep it on low all day so that bedtime will be comfy and cozy.


Pixie gets the “most spoiled” award.  That’s the box my 25lbs of tomatoes came in.  Paired with the heating pad I wish was under my back right now.  Oh well.  She’ll get out some time…right?


Celeste (along with Paddington bear) was most creative.  This is an old lamp with a three-way switch and I believe the highest wattage on the bulb is 150.  Her black fur soaks it up; I love snuggling her after she’s had some “sun” therapy.  This was my grandfather’s reading lamp.  My grandparents were always worried we’d go blind reading by dim light.  Maybe they were just chilled?

The Lowlights

A few days ago I started a paper and ink journal, trying a jot down what I do each day. I have a few reasons to want to start this. Although my days are not structured in the slightest – not even a dog to walk – I still keep busy. A lot of the small details of how we’re fixing up the cabin or how I spent my day seem to go by the wayside. I want to capture that information to help me stay on track with projects and remember when certain events occurred, like when tomatoes were canned.

(Oh yes, I canned tomatoes. 25 lbs of them. Working on a post for you in detail.)

I also tend to feel drab and frazzled at the end of the day; I’m tired but also feel like I accomplished NOTHING. Having a daily journal helps me realize how much I do during the day even without a paycheck or grown-up pants.

Lastly, since I’m doing a poor job updating here these days I hope to use the journal as a reminder of bloggable moments (like canning tomatoes). I’m also thinking of trying a weekly post under a category like “Lowlights” where I might share some of the small accomplishments that don’t deserve a entire post on their own but were still fun or funny. But we’ll see if I truly do that. I am still searching for my non-hiking/cabin-dwelling voice here.

(Oh, that’s not lastly. Lastly lastly is that I used to hand write entire TOMES over particularly angst-y weekends without a thought. But while hiking we sent a few postcards out and my hand cramped trying to fill that 3-inch by 4-inch space. Arthritis runs in my family and I’m scared the pains in my fingers are the first sign. Tom says it’s just because I’m out of practice so I want to write in a real paper journal to get back into the habit and keep my hand in, so to speak.)

Today’s lowlight is that I put an old metal pipe in the ground.

While crawling under the house, Tom found that the cabin originally only had water in the kitchen, with a big drain pipe coming from the sink. No one ever took out that old pipe when the “newer” plumbing was installed.

He had to remove it in order to work in the crawlspace. And it has been sitting in the side yard since. We kind of didn’t want to toss it. But what to do with it?

When we started moving in, one of the first things I had to do was deflate four or five float rings for playing around in the lake. I hated to do it because the days it is hot enough to swim are interspersed with 60-degrees and thunderstorms. So you want all systems go when the afternoon temperature starts creeping up there. But the float rings just take so much SPACE. And we don’t have good under-the-house storage right now. Also, when we did use them this summer, we had to bring them straight up to the house because it tends to get windy in the afternoons. I wanted to be able to store them – at least short term – outside.

Ta. Da.


Drips and Drabs

Having too many clean towels and dishes is definitely a first world problem.  I am currently living in ONE of TWO dwellings with water and electricity and a roof that I own.  I am panicking over a dwindling Money Market account, not a growing credit card bill.  Yes, I worked hard to be here and sometimes I don’t feel like it but overall I am pretty fucking lucky.

Having said all that and blessings counted, I still have had this post half-composed in my mind for over a week.  So there you go.

And…there it went!  I got three paragraphs in and decided it wasn’t funny or useful or even that relevant when I got down to it.

(The drips and drabs refers to the overwhelming amount of bottles half-full of products everywhere in the cabin.  We’re trying to be frugal and use them up but I haven’t used a chemical stronger than vinegar to clean in quite a while so I felt quite ill when mopping the floors a few weeks ago.  While it doesn’t exactly fix the drips and drabs problem, mopping the floors less is the best solution I’ve figured so far.)

In other news, it’s Labor day and Tom is laboring under the house, stapling up tubing for radiant floor heating.  I’ve labored inside, cooking and job hunting and general computer work.  It’s quite cool here and you can really feel it through the floor.  I’m cautiously optimistic we’re not just throwing money down a high-tech pit with this heating solution.