Gary's lifting the new wood-burning fireplace insert up to the second floor.

Gary’s lifting the new wood-burning fireplace insert up to the second floor.

With the urgency of a farmer’s spring, we are in the midst of a multi-faceted move to our fixer-upper cabin. The farm’s infrastructure is limited to a barn inhabited by our tractor and the two barn cats we acquired, partial perimeter fencing, and not much else. Nothing else, actually. But we’re working on it. As for the cabin, it needs a new kitchen, new flooring downstairs, insulation, new windows, new wood stoves, a carport and — well, let’s call those the priorities.

A "before we bought the place" shot of the kitchen; the cupboards are now history.

A “before we bought the place” shot of the kitchen; the cupboards are now history.

Our cabin has been a summer retreat, mainly, so the kitchen isn’t suited for much. It had one drawer, a few dark log cupboards encroaching on my headspace, an odoriferous refrigerator, and an old electric range that kept setting off the smoke detector until I forced myself to clean out all the black gunk. When we first saw Blue Moon Stead and knew its potential for us, I cried; these were tears not of joy, but of despair, knowing that while I might have enough money to buy the place, I might not have enough to get rid of that kitchen. Gary reassured me that we could pull it off, meaning that he has to do a good deal of the work. He started by pulling off the squirrel-eaten old cupboards, making room for one of the two new windows he’s planning to cut.  We’re ordering new cabinets and countertops, bookshelves for my many cookbooks, and looking for a new range. Our little log cabin will never be fancy, but it does deserve a functional and cheerful place to cook and eat.

The move itself has been going on for over a month now. It’s not nearly so stressful as trying to get everything down from Alaska in one go, but we’re spending way too much time driving I-5. We hope we’re on our last load; we’re camping more than living at beautiful Chimney Rock. Spring is lovely here, making it that much harder to leave: the yellow orioles have added their melody to the mix, a cacophony of frogs strikes up a serenade when the evenings are warmer, and wildflowers are budding. But once we complete this trip we’ll be all moved in, except for my stuff in storage in San Francisco and the last of Gary’s things from Alaska. All moved in, almost.

Meanwhile, the animal farm is coming into being. Someone in the neighborhood was giving away neutered barn cats; we took a pair of seven-month old kittens. I caught a glimpse of black fur as they huddled in their crate on the way to the barn, but haven’t seen them since. The only way we know they’re still there is by checking to see that some of their food is gone each day. We hope they’ll help out with mice and moles, and have the decency to stay away from our chickens when we get them.

Bess, who will turn 11 in May, and her 9-year-old sister Duchess will be joining us in April.

Bess, who will turn 11 in May, and her 9-year-old sister Duchess will be joining us in April.

Those who have known me the longest know I always wanted a pony for my birthday. I never did get one, but on my birthday this year Gary arranged to buy four ponies! Dales ponies Bess and Duchess, and a Norwegian Fjord draft team, Drader and Konal.  They’ll arrive in mid-April, so we’ll need to fence in their pasture by then.  Bess and Duchess can be ridden or driven; I have visions of riding or driving a little cart to our mailbox, which is on the road a mile and a half from our cabin.  Gary wants to use Drader and Konal to replace the tractor for some jobs, like pulling in wood. But they’ll need harnesses, so he’s back online shopping for those.

Meanwhile, I’ve been shopping for a high tunnel: an unheated greenhouse structure that will allow us to grow food year round. It might not be so urgent except that I chose as my first “cash crop” turmeric, which like ginger (which it greatly resembles) is accustomed to warmer climes. Turmeric is the main ingredient in curry, but I find I can use it almost any time I’m sautéing onions and garlic to add a warm and spicy flavor. Good thing, too, because I found ten pounds of the stuff sitting on my back porch waiting for me when we returned from our last trip to Chimney Rock. The turmeric was supposed to be delivered in late March, giving me time to set it up for pre-sprouting in the house, and to get the high tunnel set up and ready for it by the first of May. But it was shipped last week.  So I’ll be experimenting with turmeric in curries and slaws, as a tea, and maybe even pickling it while I wait for the replacement shipment that will serve as seed.

Another before-we-bought-it photo - this is the main entry downstairs.

Another before-we-bought-it photo – this is the main entry downstairs.

We’re at the pinnacle of that jumbled heap called moving. Most of our things are gone from Chimney Rock; most of them are sitting in outbuildings at Blue Moon Stead while we figure out where they’ll go. We’ve torn up most of the carpet downstairs — we think it was the original — and temporarily housed our bed in a nook just big enough for it, Ella’s bed, a dresser and a nightstand. Gary plans to acid-stain the cement pad rather than replacing the carpet, and there’s no point in moving much into the house until that’s done.

The kitchen will get much worse before it gets better. We have tons of books and no bookshelves. We should be getting our washing machine next week, but we’ll make do with a wooden drying rack inside and a clothesline outside. We’ll be putting up fences, trying to build our high tunnel from a kit, cutting new windows, replacing crumbling chinking, sanding and staining and making the place our own.

We’re gearing up, and before long Blue Moon Stead will be home to Gary, Ella, me, Drader, Konal, Bess, Duchess, and two cats who wish to remain anonymous.