Some things to know
September 29, 2011, 10:24 pm
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Things to know about me living in this space.  My Honey dumped me on the tenth day after moving here.  An earthquake happened that afternoon followed a few days later by a hurricane and loads of rain since then.  The weather was always bad when we were not seeing each other and it has, for the most part sucked, since then. So there will be no romantic snuggling in front of the fireplace with him coming up in my blogs- sorry if you were looking forward reading about that.  At this point,  38 days later, I feel much more myself- a generally happy person and much less obsessive over the situation.  We (now referred to as My Former Honey) have been in-touch via email and telephone and things are more settled- meaning we are on a path to being friends rather than lovers at this time. I think less about it/him.  Cry less over it/him and generally feel that recovery is taking over.  I am sure I will be dating soon but that is another project.


My daughter was away at camp during the entire process of searching for, deciding on and moving into Black Cat Cabin.  I moved in the day before she was to return home from a month long stay at overnight camp.  It was quite jarring for her to come “home” to a strange place, particularly as different from our former home on the city, stay three days, go to Mexico on vacation with her father then start school the next day.  Her adjustment has been a little challenging but she also seems to be settling a bit better.


In my next blog I plan to attempt to describe the cabin beginning with the exterior and moving inward to each room.  It is so unusual and my architectural vocabulary so limited  it should prove a good challenge for both me and you the reader.


Today there is a thick mist or fog around the cabin.  It is nearly 8:00 am and I can barely see the horse barn which is about 30 yards away from my bedroom window.


Zen Discovery part 3
September 28, 2011, 7:05 pm
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I am awakened an hour early this morning by a loud hard rain.  It rains so hard that I decided to arise from between my soft sheets and close some windows.  Usually, I ignore closing windows when it rains on Black Cat Cabin because the floor boards are made from the sides of an old barn or something or brick (as in the sun room and kitchen) and they lack the danger of ruination from rain-water spitting in through the screens.  But this morning the wind was blowing a bit as well and I feared damage to my furniture, journals, magazines or other items placed nearby.


The combination of sounds from chirping crickets, residual raindrops hitting the tin roof underneath the northern window of my bedroom combined with the occasional grumble of distant thunder, flash from its accompanying lightening and a middle ground humidity heavy temperature that keeps me too warm or too cool for comfort cheats me from enjoying the last hour of my needed rest.  So I will finish telling the story of how my daughter and I came to live in this unconventional dwelling….


Four days after my Honey and I make a drive-by viewing of the cabin, we find ourselves back in Charlottesville with realtor O driving all over the area to look at possible landing spots for S and myself.  It is important to My Honey and me that he be a part of this decision as we are planning our future together and for the time we will be apart until he can move to the area himself, he wants to have a vision of my surroundings – I just want him to be part of the decision making process as I have had many years of making big decisions alone and desire the experience of making a decision with the person who is committed to me and future together.


Black Cat Cabin is our first stop.  We drive 15 minutes from town through a succession of idyllic horse farms, rolling green hills dotted with grazing thoroughbreds and gracious mansions of varying designs. A flash of excitement runs through me as we make our way down the longish gravel drive past a sign requesting visitors to drive slowly to avoid roaming animals, right at the fork dividing the drive from the way to the big house vs to the barn and the cabin.  We are parked in front of the big house and must search for someone as our knock at the front door is unanswered.  P is in the back garden dressed in what looks like an oversized T-shirt and a pair of brown oversized sweatpants cut into short-shorts and belted at the waist creating a gathered effect resembling some rustic medieval garment.  She is tiny, leathery and has a Peter Pan gone wild hair cut.  She informs us in her clear drawn out voice that sounds the pitch of a sheep bleating without the resonance, that she will get B, her husband who will show us the cabin and she disappears up the wide back steps up to the kitchen.


B shows us the cabin through an ongoing commentary about the farm, the cabin and its elements. He is polite with twinkling blue eyes and a Connecticut nasal tone to his speech.  My Honey and I course through the 1800 square feet of rooms with delight marveling at the simple eccentricity of the place, the rustic combined with the elegant.  Rough hewn beams extend at the base of high ceilings, brass chandeliers hang in the main rooms over rustic wide planed wood floors, stone fireplaces in the bedrooms and kitchen- it simply oozes charm though there are ample bugs, plenty of cobwebs, no air-conditioning and I can already see myself freezing in winter despite the electric base board heat and old fashioned cast iron wood stove in the great room. But there are no structures in sight from the back of the house- only rolling green hills, trees, some white fence.  There are horses and two ponds and plenty of space to roam. My Honey and I envision ourselves snuggled up together on cold weekend nights, in a warm bed with a fire crackling in bedroom fireplace -so romantic. It is irresistible.


After seeing the other choices and nixing three of the five, my Honey and I sit down at a coffee shop in the mall to decide to whom I should write a deposit check, the generic yet clean and relatively bug free three bedroom apartment on the third floor of the big apartment complex a few blocks from S’s school or the erratic Black Cat Cabin with the access to nature and quirky landlords?  We talk it over comparing and contrasting.  I call S’s father to get his reactions- it is his daughter’s home as well and he should be comfortable with it.  I call S at camp and get her opinion, “I want to live in the log cabin,” she informs me with conviction.  My heart tells me the same.  All the important parties agree.  The next day I bring the deposit check to B.


Zen discovery part 2
September 27, 2011, 11:03 am
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A couple of weeks later my daughter goes to overnight camp.  One week following that we sign a contract on our house that is for sale in Richmond.  The buyer wants to move in by the middle of August giving me three weeks to finish at my job, find a place to live, pack up and move.  My fingers are having trouble moving today.  Typing is proving to be a challenge. Anyway… I am rushed.  I look online but everything I find is already rented.  I also have a two day holiday planned in there with my Honey – thank goodness the two week train ride/kayaking trip to Vancouver we had originally wanted to take fell through.  So due to income constraints (he lost his job thus the reduction in our vacay plans) we had set forth 2 days in the mountains of Virginia instead.  On the way down to our B&B in Giles county, we stopped to look at a place which was awful and I contacted a realtor recommended by a friend.  O, the realtor, sent me four possibilities that I failed to look at until my Honey and I were returning from our little romantic getaway.  The second house that popped up was the cabin I had seen from the road, though I could not identify it then as such because the photo showed the front of the house which I had yet to see – the back of Black Cat cabin is visible from the road.

O was unavailable to show anything at the time we would be passing through Charlottesville on the way home but we drove passed the cabin anyway as it was easy to find via iphone GPS.  I almost screamed with delight when I realized it was the place I had seen from the road before as we drove past.  My Honey was amused, as always, when the Universe yields things for me in this way.

Zen discovery- how I came to Black Cat Cabin
September 26, 2011, 10:32 am
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I remember heading east towards Richmond after doing something down this way one day after S was accepted at a private school in the area.  Both private and public schools in Richmond had failed her and the strong academics without pressure that she needed was found at a school in Charlottesville.  I knew we would be moving to the area as commuting the 60 or so miles each day would be out of the question.  The teachings from Last Child In the Woods – a book about the effects of nature deprivation on children had lead me to believe that S also needed to be in a place with more exposure to nature.  It also made sense to me to make a complete change in the location of where we lived.  I had been hankering for a more bucolic homestead for several years having lived in urban or suburban settings my entire life. It just seemed right somehow to make a drastic change. Why move out to some of the most beautiful countryside on earth only to live within the confines of a typical neighborhood?

So the search began for a cottage on a farm to rent for at least the first year here allowing space for us to learn the area and decide where a more permanent residence should be.

Loving the rolling hills of the stately horse farms of Keswick, on a whim I decided to take the exit just east of Charlottesville and drive around to see if any “cottage for rent” signs hung enticingly on fence posts of one of these majestic estates.  Almost immediately I saw the place of my dreams, a quirky, multi-level log house nestled in a hillside surrounded by rolling green hills like an ark floating in an ocean of bright green. I thought to myself, “That is just the kind of place I am looking for!  I wish that was for rent.”  But as I drove past the almost hidden driveway, no indication of availability invited me to inquire about the cabin.  I was slightly disappointed and drove on up the road, eyes darting from one side of the road to the other in search of my future residence.


Damp and dreary
September 25, 2011, 9:28 pm
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One thing about Black Cat Cabin is that there is no air conditioning therefore when it rains the air in the cabin is damp.  This 1,800 square foot house was built from recycled stones, bricks and boards from dilapidated structures on the farm.  It is a hodgepodge of textures and materials that is both charming and inefficient in terms of temperature maintenance.  Oops, I forgot to set the timer.  You might get more than you bargained for today.  So anyway… the place is as full of  holes as a round of good Jarlsberg cheese.  Mud daubers, stink bugs, spiders, mice, sugar ants, stink bugs and lady bugs abound in here entering the domicile from wide cracks at the windows and the now slightly punched out front screen doors.  There are also cracks in “the passthrough” room where you can look through and see there dirt floor of the crawl through space.  One of my first thoughts when I saw the interior of the cabin for the first time was that I would freeze in the winter (to be determined- will keep you posted).

Humidity is not my personal friend.  It makes my hair frizz like a steel wool pad and often makes what would be perfectly lovely temperatures either too chilly or annoyingly warm.  I tend to be grumpy in high humidity.  But today is OK inside the house despite the constant rain which raps gently on the red tin roof  of the extra room that juts out on the north side of the house.  The roof over my room is slate and makes a duller sound.  It is a good day for relaxing.  A game of Apples to Apples awaits post blog posting with my friend F and daughter S.  Must take the warm newly dried clothes out of the dryer and continue the laundry from washer to dryer and add a fresh load to the washer.  Yes! Despite the ruggedness of our new country life, we do have a washer and dryer set in a cute little laundry room waiting to be described in another installment.

baby steps
September 24, 2011, 1:41 pm
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In an act of what may prove to be mid-life nut case-ness, I have moved myself and my 11 year old daughter from the city of Richmond to a kooky log house on a one-hundred acre horse farm near Charlottesville, VA.  The purpose of this blog is to practice writing creative non-fiction and to share the nuances of changing lifestyles and learning to focus on simpler things in life.  It may ultimately prove to be not only a story of adjustment but most likely a story of basic survival – I have just made a leap of faith in my career (from a person with a salary to a freelance writer), struggle with the ending of a rather intense romantic relationship, navigate the challenges of single parenthood of a middle-school aged girl without an established support system and learn to manage a wood stove as a main source of heat in a hole filled house.

I promise to be a sporadic blogger (that will keep you coming back,right?) and will write about what is relevant at the time.  I am terrible at spelling but at times have a sharp wit and will want suggestions on how to do things from time to time like how to build a fire in an antique pot bellied wood stove, the best way to get rid of sugar ants and a cure for chiggers.

Because I am just writing whatever pops into my head in those ten minutes there may be some strange structure and tangents.  Just look for the nuggets in each one.  You can also offer prompts or ask me to expand on a nice sentence of phrase as a writing challenge.

so here goes the first one…give me a sec to set my iphone timer for 10 mins…

MJ and I were supposed to go riding this morning.  She may not come, she told me, due to a Pink ribbon tennis tournament she is supposed to play in.  MJ is one of the daughters of the people that own this strange farm. There are no chickens, no composting, nothing that makes money or contributes to the sustainability of the land.  Even the hay bails that someone was hired to make were all moved to the wooded edges of the fields to rot. The only thing that is grown here is grass for the horses, some ornamental flowers and two tomato vinesIt is supposed to be a horse farm and at one time I understand it was, housing 20 thoroughbreds.  That was before P and B took over back in the 70’s.  P and B are my landlords.  They are a bit quirky but nice people.  Republican farmers.  Nothing makes sense on this farm.  There are five horses currently.  All thoroughbreds, each worth major bucks and they are hardly ridden.  There is an outdoor ring all set with jumps and supposedly there were trails set up all over the farm for training for hunter/jumper events and fox hunting.  There are remnants of horse jumps all over the land.  The horses are all fat from grazing all summer and lack of exercise.  There is also a burrow named Jack (short for Jack Ass, a recent visitor guessed- I totally missed that one until she mentioned it). Jack is allowed to roam freely all over the farm so when one comes down the gravel drive they must be careful to look for him.  He is old and eats so much that his belly looks distended  like those sad photos of little starving children in Africa.  Other animals that inhabit the farm are: Max the grey cat, loads of fence hopping deer, foxes, some biggish brown thing that scooted out from the bushes the other day and ran down the hill behind the house before I could identify it, several mice that have taken up residence in my kitchen and the kitchen in the main house and who knows what else.  Must go look to see if MJ is here or if the tennis match is on.  She was unsure because of the wet conditions.  I would like to ride though.  It will be the first time since I have been here.  Five crazy weeks today.