December 19, 2012

Racing the Storm in Arizona

We had a load to Indiana which we delivered last Tuesday. It's been a while since we had a load on that side of the country, unless we were trying to get home to Tennessee.

After delivering we had a wait till the next load came in, but it didn't take too long. Just long enough to give us time to eat and take a nap, which was appreciated after driving all night.

Wednesday morning found us even closer to home, as we delivered in Guntersville, AL, about 90 miles from the house. It was hard to turn west instead of east, but it was too early to go home for Christmas break. So we headed to Flagstaff, AZ with a load of chicken meal for a pet food place.

Three things of concern with that load. The delivery appointment wasn't till Friday evening, which would leave us sitting in Flagstaff for the weekend with no load. Also, we'd be arriving on Thursday afternoon, and sitting for a day with nothing to do till we could deliver.
And finally, Flagstaff was supposed to be getting a snowstorm Thursday night.

Normally that particular place is difficult to get an appointment changed, but luckily this time they worked with our broker and allowed us to deliver on Thursday at noon, which meant some hard driving to get there. We didn't exactly get good fuel mileage, but we did make it on time. And we dumped that stuff out and high tailed it north to get ahead of the storm.

The scenery was absolutely gorgeous going north towards Utah. Highway 89 scoots just east of the Grand Canyon, and you get to enjoy a taste of what it might be like if you were to go on over to the park, which I will do one day! It was late afternoon, with an amazingly blue sky, the perfect light for photography, and the way it was hitting the red rock cliffs....well, it was just perfect!
We've been on this road before, almost always going south, and almost always in the dark. So it was a real pleasure to drive through here in the daylight and see what all we've been missing.
We'd been missing out on a lot!
I've known for some time that I want to come back to this area as a tourist one day. I think that's going to have to happen pretty soon.
It was almost all straight roads, until we came to a sharp turn and then started climbing into the sky.
And we didn't feel like we'd climbed that far, but a look back at the valley floor make it clear we'd come up quite a ways.
Once we crossed the hill the land leveled out and we were on a plain of sorts. There was hardly any indication that there had ever been any canyon walls or stone spires.

We drove till dark and a little after, crossing over into Utah. We were tired. It'd been a long hard drive to get to Flagstaff in time, and since it was 53 degrees and we felt like we'd gotten far enough north that we shouldn't have problems with the snow coming in, we parked and went to bed.

When woke up at 6:00 the next morning, we discovered that we'd made a mistake. We hadn't gone quite far enough north. There was about 2 inches of snow on the road, which normally wouldn't be that big a deal, but we had some hilly country to go through, and, an even bigger issue, our trailer was empty. That's about like pulling around a big sled that has a mind of it's own. The load is what helps give us traction on slick roads and without it, things can get interesting. We were spinning tires and sliding around a bit, but we made it over the mountain and onto I-15 where we found nearly dry roads for the remainder of the trip.
We weren't completely problem free at that point. We'd picked up about 1000 pounds of snow and ice that was stuck all to the trailer and the frame of the truck. Malcolm and I got out and beat on it with a hammer and scraped with a hoe, trying to dump the weight off. We were on our way to load and carrying around 1000 pounds of snow meant we'd get loaded shy a 1000 pounds of product and get paid less. Fortunately it was just hovering at freezing and so a lot of our snow fell off be the time we got to the shipper.

We're leaving the shipper in Utah now and will be delivering in North Carolina in a few days and then going home for the holidays. By the time you read this, I'll be a home visiting family and playing with the horses and sitting in my favorite chair in front of our fire. I decided to do a few posts in advance and schedule them to post next week, since I don't have internet at home.

So this will probably be the last you hear from me till we go back to work after the turn of the New Year. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by your closest loved ones and dear friends.

In case I don't manage to get back on here:
Merry Christmas! And may God bless you all in the year to come!

December 16, 2012

The Other Side of South Dakota

A couple weeks ago, I shared some scenes from South Dakota with you, pictures that I'd taken while driving through eastern South Dakota. Well last weekend, we spent Saturday morning driving through western South Dakota, and I thought I'd share some scenes from that part of the state with you today.
Last blog post, I left you in Fairview, MT where we had just loaded Safflower seed. It had started snowing by the time we were loaded and it was still frigidly cold, so even though it was late evening, and we only had 600 miles to go by Monday, we decided to go ahead and drive south a ways.
We went as far as Bowman, ND and stopped there for the night. We got up really early and headed south. Our destination for the day was Rapid City, SD, only about 3 hours away.
Highway 85 goes south out of Bowman and drops down into South Dakota. We're very familiar with the route, as this is back in our old stomping grounds when we lived in Montana. As the crow flies, we were probably only 30 miles from the ranch, if that.  
They'd had snow out there, which on the plains makes it very easy to see just about everything.
With snow on the prairies, if its not something white, it stands out, often dramatically.
I have always enjoyed this drive. And since Malcolm was behind the wheel, I spent the time enjoying the scenery and playing with the camera.

Bear Butte on the horizon
I love the sky in this one

one of my favorites, for obvious reasons
 Around mid-morning, we reached Rapid City. We had to stop at Kenworth and buy a part. Then we played at the mall. Malcolm went to Cabelas. We had some good food from a favorite restaurant. And then in the evening, we went to the movies. We hadn't been to the theatre to see a movie in at least 8 years. We watched Skyfall, and had a great time.

When we left the theater, it was 4 degrees and the wind was blowing. The girls didn't much appreciate being taken out of their warm truck to potty. But afterwards, we made it up to them by letting them snuggle in the bed with us for a while to warm up. And then we tucked them into their bed and we all got a long, much needed rest.

Sunday, it was still bitter cold. We drove south into Nebraska and on into Colorado. We stopped in Sterling and met up with another married trucking couple we know from Iowa. We hadn't seen them in probably a year, though we stay in touch. Our paths just never seem to cross lately. So we enjoyed a good long dinner with them and a long night of conversation. And then the next morning we delivered in Akron, Co, reloaded in Otis, and headed east across Kansas and beyond for a Tuesday morning delivery in central Indiana.

That was last Monday. We had a good strong week, the first after several slow ones. In fact, we drove through the night every night until Thursday, when we made the mistake of parking.

But that's another story.

December 14, 2012

Catching Up

Since our visit to the house at Thanksgiving, time has been dragging. Freight this year has slacked off significantly, or at least it seems to have. Probably a person would think that it was the holidays causing it, but really, we've kept moving through the holidays in years past. And talking to other drivers, we're hearing the same complaints. Slow freight, low rates, and boggled up loads.
Overall, it's working out alright, but we've hit a slump here and there that left us bored and cranky. We had a couple of loads rejected too and that's always frustrating because it wastes our time, even though we still get paid for hauling the stuff.
And we had a couple days, both Monday's actually, where a decent load couldn't be found and we wound up sitting all day twiddling our thumbs. Something we're not used to doing.
With all that, my motivation for blogging was down. You'd think with all that spare time I'd have been on it. Something to entertain myself with! But given the blah mood it brought on, and the fact that I've had my nose glued to my Kindle during every spare moment lately, as I've stumbled across some really good books, the blogging got neglected.
So it's time to play catch up.
Two weekends ago, we headed north out of Phoenix, spent the night at Las Vegas, and the next day drove up US93 through eastern Nevada.
There's a lot of vacant land out there. US 93 goes up through the Great Basin National Park. We take a short cut and go off 93 for a bit in order to stay going straight north instead of swerving east. So we miss the park itself, but the scenery on the rest of 93 is still admirable. I think the most striking things about the region are...
...the almost absolute emptiness. We passed through about 4 "towns" in about 300 miles.
And also the patterns in the mountain sides are quite interesting. With a lack of trees and really much any kind of vegetation, you can admire the geology of the area from your car window. There was a lot of activity here eons ago. You can tell the ground was busy moving around.
fascinated by that black stripe of rock running through the mountain

its hard to tell what was going on here. Earthquakes? Floods? Those swirling lines of rock could keep you guessing for quite a while.

We delivered northeast of Boise Idaho on Monday morning (Dec. 3) and then sat all day long waiting to see what would come up. And the answer was nothing. Finally, Monday evening, we got directions to head to Caldwell, ID (near Boise) to load apples in the morning.
So Tuesday morning we loaded up apples...
...and headed to an unexpected location. The times in the past that we've hauled apples, they either went to Petaluma, CA or to Wisconsin. But these apples went to a town near Grand Junction, CO.  There was, to my great surprise, several wineries, vinyards, orchards, and this little juice making company where we delivered. I never would have thought the arid climate in western Colorado could have supported fruit, but apparently it does.
From there, we bounced down to Monte Vista, where we were a couple weeks earlier, and loaded canola.
Back to Idaho, near Rexburg, for a Thursday morning delivery and then we went down to southern Idaho and loaded fertilizer.
Interesting frustration occurred in Colorado. Out of the blue, I got wrapped up in a massive allergy battle. Violent sneezing, itchy watery eyes, sniffles......in Colorado....in December! I was very aggravated, as the winter is supposed to be my time of allergy liberation. What was up with that? The allergies followed me all they way to Idaho and persisted in annoying me throughout the day on Thursday.
winter skies near Soda Springs, ID

In fact I didn't find relief until I climbed into the mountains of the Yellowstone area near the MT/ID state line. My allergies cleared up right about the time the tires started slipping and sliding around on icy roads. And by Yellowstone the freezing rain had turned to snow, and I was breathing clearly. I guess there was just enough dust and garbage in the air to make us allergy victims suffer. Clearly, it's a dry winter following a too dry summer.
Crossing into Montana was like flipping a switch. All of a sudden we found winter, and it's been following us around ever since. We were on snowy roads almost all the way to Billings, and past that, though it dried up, it was still bitterly cold.  By the time we got to North Dakota Friday morning with our fertilizer, it was 6 degrees and a heavy fog was just lifting, at least the fog that hadn't frozen to every surface available.
Frozen fog can be messy, but it sure is pretty!
Since the load of apples, things had run smoothly, but we hit another glitch in North Dakota. After unloading, we were going to take a load of flax to Ohio. But the trailer had to be washed out first which presented a huge problem.
First and foremost, the closest place to washout was 160 miles away, in the wrong direction, from our reload, which was only 20 miles away. And a bigger issue was that even if we could find a place to wash out, at 6 degrees, the trailer doesn't wash. It freezes. The broker asked if we could just sweep really really well, but they turned that request down. No washout, no load.
So we sat around in northern ND for most of the day, and finally towards evening we got a load of safflower from Fairview, MT and headed south towards Colorado. 600 miles and the whole weekend to get it done. So we took our time, played some, rested lots, and made the best of it.
I'lll tell you about the weekend in the next post.

November 28, 2012

A Tour of Our Home

This one's going to be long, but you don't want to miss it. If you've got time now, grab a cup of tea (or whatever strikes your fancy at the moment), sit back and enjoy. If your in a rush, come back later today when you have time for a lengthy visit!

 I was going to post pictures last week and give you a tour of our new home. However, with the holiday, I just didn't get to it. I'm sure you can all understand. But I've had several people asking me for pictures of the place, and I told them to be watching for the post. So I'd better follow through with the promise!

When we started house hunting, we had a short list of "must haves" for the new place.
We were determined to find exactly what we needed no matter how long it took. And we were prepared for it to take a L.O.N.G. time because we knew our needs were a little out of the ordinary.

We knew our new place needed:
- most importantly to have room for the truck to get in and out, as well as a place for Malcolm to keep his tools.
- some acreage (the more the sweeter) for our horses and farming hobbies.
-to be within a reasonable price range, something not too easy to come by if your wanting acreage too.
-to be close to our family in Chattanooga. Also not so easy to do if your wanting acreage as well.

We did a lot of internet hunting before we ever went to Chattanooga to look in person, and we found some pieces that interested us, but each one was going to need some tweaking, and nothing was going to be any closer to my parents than 45 miles. It's that hard to get acreage in the right price range that close to Chattanooga.

And then we got to Tennessee in September and took a week off to go look at the properties we were interested in , as well as some Dad had heard about, and each one got vetoed for various reasons. One was just too far from Mom and Dad. Another one was too much money for what it was. The next one, and the next one, and the next one you couldn't get the truck in without major ground moving/tree cutting work. And by Friday, we'd exhausted our list and our motivation. We had found a place we liked. It was going to be an exhausting awesome long term (3+ years) project to get it livable, but it came with 56 acres(!) and was only 25 miles from my parents. We had decided that was the place, because we like a project, we had a lot of fun renovating our little farmhouse in Georgia years ago, and, well, being as we live in the truck anyway, we could live in a camper or something until the house was ready, and shoot! 56 acres! Need I say more?
 We actually did put an offer in on that one, and thought we had it in the bag. The realtor had assured us it was ours. He just had to get the owners to sign on it. And he procrastinated by one day, just enough time for another offer to come in. We had a one day bidding war, and in the end the other people got it, and I hope they are happy with it. It will be a really neat place! I pray they aren't going to make it a neighborhood!

So on Saturday night, a day after exhausting our list of hopefuls and having just found out we'd lost the only one we were even slightly interested in, we weren't feeling too good about the whole situation, and we knew we needed to get back to work on Monday. But we were also feeling pressured to find something even though we had promised ourselves we weren't going to rush into anything and we were going to take our time and find the PERFECT place.

It's been said for ages that when God closes a door, he opens another one, and it is so true. We'd had our heart set on that 56 acre project. It would have been, eventually, beyond what we'd thought of possibly having, after a lot of time and money invested. And after that, it was hard to think of anything else even coming close to being as good. But God sees beyond what we see. He sees what's better!

So that Saturday evening, when Malcolm called me into Mom's living room to look at a house Dad had found on CraigsList, I wasn't feeling much like looking. But I was also trying to keep my spirits up and trying to lift Malcolm's too, so I went to look.

How we missed it in all our internet searching I don't know. It was listed on all our websites we'd been using to look and had been on the market for almost a year! It was within our price range. It was, from all appearances on the computer screen, practically perfect in every way. It was, honestly, a little too good to be true, and made one wonder...."what's the catch?"

And so on Sunday, after lunch, we set out to do a drive by, just to see if this place really existed.

And on Monday, after taking a look at the inside of the house and walking the property, we put an offer in on it.

And on Tuesday we had a contract for a closing in October.

We moved in a few weeks ago. I still pinch myself nearly every morning to make sure I didn't dream this all up.

I didn't.

It sits nestled into a secluded valley only 20 miles from my parents house. It feels like you drive quite a ways out into the country. It is so quiet and peaceful and yet just 10 minutes from every convenience you could dream of.

Down a two lane highway that meanders along the banks of Chickamauga Lake and the Tennessee River...
...you turn onto a tree shaded one lane road...
...and arrive at Redbud Farm.
picture taken in September when we were viewing the property

The house was built in 1915. We know very little of it's history, but I'm making it one of my projects to find out. One of the benefits of my home town is that, as large as it's gotten, it's still one of those places where you always know someone who knows someone, and it turns out my cousin used to work with the guy whose grandparents farmed this land and lived in this house. So I have a contact already!
We're thinking of calling it Redbud farm because of this tree that grows next to the house.
None of us have ever, EVER, seen a redbed get this big! It has to be ancient, by redbud standards. I almost wonder if it's as old as the house. You should have seen it with leaves in September! Amazing! And I can't WAIT till spring when it's covered in those dark pink blossoms that redbuds are famous for! Can you picture it in your mind? Don't worry! You'll get to see pictures!
There are redbud sprouts coming up all over the place, and I remarked to Mom, as she and I were walking around the yards and noting which shrubs and plants were there, that "well at least we know the place will grow redbuds." to which she replied, "Redbud Farm!" And the name stuck.
There are a number of barns and outbuildings. A creek babbles it's way through part of the front of the property. Year round water for the horses and whatever other animals join us in the years to come. An answer to prayer because now my dad doesn't have to go over there during our absence to water our critters for us! And behind the house and buildings, there is a gently rising hill that is covered in thick green grass, that in September was taller than Malcolm's head because no one had cut it this year! There are at least 5 walnut trees, and in the back yard this massive pecan tree. I'm in love!
There are 10 acres in all, and though that's small by some western standards, in Tennessee that's enough for us to be a farm, and so we are! Very happily! Those ten acres are holding a passel of dreams and possibilities for us. So many dreams that are going to come true on that ground!
I'll give you a tour of the barns and property in another post, but for this time, I promised those folks a look inside the house, and so lets get to it.
I just have to say, I am still, even after a month and a half of happy home ownership, absolutely amazed that in the past 97 years no one ruined this house! Someone (or multiple someones), bless their souls and love them, loved this house and maintained it enough to so that it didn't fall into disrepair beyond saving. And then a few years ago, another angel of a someone bought it and renovated it. RENOVATED! not remodeled! The first time I stepped through the front door, I thought I could have walked into one of those historical home tours. Praise God for people who love history and old farm houses!
the front living room as you enter from the front door
It's been updated beatifully. The walls may not have originally been sheet rocked, but now that they are, the paint colors that were chosen are complimentary to the age of the house. Care was taken in selection of light fixtures (I still want to know where they got them because I love their choices, and I've never seen anything like some of them!), and the original floors are still in place.
this one's kind of dark, but gives a feel for how large the room actually is, something I find odd in a house this old. The rooms are huge, relatively speaking!
There was love and care in that renovation project. Care to make updates that didn't clash with the ambiance, and care to preserve what could be preserved. One of the original fireplaces and mantels, now equipped with gas logs.
From the front living room, you can head down the hallway that passes through the center of the house...

...or you can turn to your right and enter the other front room. We're still debating what this room's original purpose was. We're leaning towards office or parlor. But now it serves as the guest bedroom.
And no sheet rock here. Original tongue-in-groove pine board walls, floor and ceiling! Makes for a dark room, but a lovely one. And some brightly colored quilts and rugs will snap the gloom right out of the room.
This room has two doorways. One goes out to the front living room, where we just left, and the other goes into the other living room. Guess we'll call it the den.
note not one, but TWO closets flanking each side of the doorway. Another unusual feature for a house of this period.
The other living room, or den, is where most of my library has landed. It's also where your most likely to find the girls, if they aren't shadowing you.
"Why is that you ask?" says Carlie Jean.
 "Do we really need to explain?" says Paris.
Because this room houses the second fire place in the house, now equipped with a very effect wood burning stove. Plus it's just got that cozy cabin feel to it with the woodwork. Plus, (and this is the biggy!) it's the only carpeted room, and the girls LOVE carpet!

From this room, you have three options other than the way we came in. You can go left into the hallway, right into the laundry room and then exit the house, or...
... straight ahead and into the kitchen.
Nooks and crannies abound, which I love! I wasn't digging the black and white linoleum, but it's growing on me quickly. The light fixture in the kitchen is awesome and unique, as is the one in the breakfast nook...
....which sits at one end of the kitchen and looks out onto that lovely redbud tree, and now several of my bird feeders.
I have only one complaint about this kitchen, but it's nothing that can't be fixed. And so it's my "think on it" project and it involves the lack of counter space, and this wall.
I'm wondering about getting an antique stove. But the more practical solution would be to get some kind of table of counter. We'll see what happens. In the mean time this wall looks really bland and barren, all except for that awesome built in cupboard. It's one of two and I just adore them! I've always loved built ins!
The other door leaving the kitchen leads into that central hallway you saw from the front room, but now your at the back of the house. Right outside the kitchen door is a doorway to underneath the stairs, and the most awesome storage space ever! If I lack counter space in the kitchen, the house has made it up to me by providing abounding storage space, which is something Malcolm and I have never ever had! It's awesome!
And heading back down the hall towards the front of the house, brings you to the two other bed rooms. We think perhaps it was originally one large room. Or maybe it was two rooms. Hard to tell. We're calling it the master suite because they are smallish, and so we're using them both as our bedroom.
Enters the third and final fireplace of the house, complete with original mantel. This one is non-functioning. We're toying with the idea of putting in gas logs.  Functioning or not, the colors are lovely!
Note the little cupboard above the mantel. It has two shelves in it and is about 6 inches deep. Interesting.
In fact, there are two more similar cupboards in the den, one on each side of the door, and so high on the wall you have to have a ladder of chair to climb on. They are deeper and one contains an old straw hat and a newspaper scrap from 1920. They are clearly original to the house, and also very mystifying. Never really seen anything like them before.
And back out in the hallway, is the stairs to the attic.

A little over 800 square feet of fairly easily finishable living space but right now completely awesome storage!
previous owners stuff. Not ours. It's much more cluttered now as we stacked boxes here and have been unpacking from that point. Made the rest of the house much more livable!

There are dormer windows on three sides, and even if we finished it, we'd still have TONS of storage! Each dormer has attic space on the sides that have been closed in to create 4 massive closets, one in each corner. I'm thinking what an awesome space this will be for Malcolm and me! We want to lay some carpet and bring up our wood pellet stove. He has set up his gun reloading stuff in one corner. I can just see my sewing space in one of those dormer window alcoves, and a  table for working puzzles under another window, a comfy sofa and chair for relaxing...just loads of possibilities. And the girls can lay by the stove while Malcolm works on his guns and I quilt. It will be so cozy!
There are so many different little features, small details, that add so much charm to this house, right down to the doorknobs.
And no matter which window you look out, there is a lovely a view that gives the feeling of being secluded and very far out in the country....
out the back (the pool is probably going by by in the spring. Anyone in the market for one?

the master bedroom windows look out onto the screened in porch and across into the soybean fields of the farm that borders us on two sides
out the front windows and from my porch swing I can enjoy the views of a wooded forest

from the other side of the house I can the barns and look down to the creek there at the far end of that small pasture
....even though we have neighbors. No one is right on our doorstep. No where near that! We can only actually see one of the houses clearly and it is still set back down the road a ways from our house. We've met our three closest neighbors, and another neighbor that lives down the road. All amazingly nice, helpful, and generous people. We feel so blessed and fortunate. One always wonders and worries abit about having good neighbors (or nightmare neighbors) when moving to a new place! It just adds to the "too good to be true" question that seems to linger about the place in my mind.
The porch wraps around three sides of the house. I've dreamed of, and longed for an old farmhouse for years and years and years. And if I ever expected that dream to come true, I thought surely it would be dilapidated and in need of lots of work. So to get handed one that is so old, and already "fixed" and landscaped beautifully, and nearly perfect in every sense of the word, at least nearly perfect according to the standards of those years I've spent dreaming....well I can't help but wonder if I'm still dreaming.
But then we ended up going  past the house for Thanksgiving weekend, and I walked in the door and all our stuff was there in that dream house, and our horses were there to greet us, and our mail had been delivered to that address. So I guess it really is a real place! And I really do live there!