Monday, August 1, 2016

We have a barn!

Wow! It's been a bumpy journey, but we learned a lot and wound up with an awesome barn! From a contractor who did not get around to working for us to a big box home improvement store (referred to hereafter as Store M) that failed us on multiple levels, there were some big obstacles... but success! After we picked another contractor, Grand Garages and Pole Buildings, the project went full warp speed.

Jim and I both took a day off to attend the barn building kickoff party, and it kicked off with a bang. It went from us working out there by ourselves to 15 or so people descending upon property at once. When the builders arrived, I was surprised and very pleased to see a group of Amish men exit the van. It was then that I felt as if we had received the blessing jackpot. Anyone who tries to follow the teachings of Jesus is my brother or sister in Christ.

"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23-24

There were plenty of things that did not go smoothly with Store M:
1. You need 24 special order poles for our pole barn kit you purchased? Okay, we will ship all but 3 of them, and you will need to wait a another week. (Our awesome builders solved that problem for us, and we were not delayed a week.) This was not the only item they miscounted.

2. You need that delivered? Sorry, our delivery truck broke down, and we can't figure out how to get it out there where you need it. Jim and I spent 3 evenings after work picking up our items on his trailer which was a bit scary for the heavy stuff.  That said, we did it. Wonder if they ever got that truck fixed after a week of missing deliveries.

3. You need the trusses earlier? Sorry, the manufacturer said they cannot do that.  Jim had called the manufacturer after Store M said they would check, and the manufacturer confirmed that COULD do it. Store M basically did not contact the manufacturer. Good thing Jim did.

4. You want 2 of your 3 garage doors cancelled? Sorry, special order, we cannot do that. Oh wait, we did it.  In fact, we cancelled all 3 of them.  Too bad you actually wanted one of them.

5. You want to leave with those items you purchased and have a receipt to prove it? Sorry, our system is showing they aren't even out back. We cannot let you leave.  This is where I told them they either needed to let us out of the gate or get a manager. They let us out.

Despite the hassle, or perhaps because of it, it was extra sweet when that barn was complete. Store M could not dampen the joy we both felt when we saw that barn. It is a work of art! Did I mention how awesome the the builders were?  God is good, ALL the time.

"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope..." Romans 5:3-4

Of course, this post is much better with pictures....

The beginning...
Building up...
Stick soldiers (aka the poles)...
Concrete slab!
Double Wow!
Work of art :-)
The inside.

It was an amazing week!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Happy Spring! Here comes June...

Jim and I celebrated our one year anniversary in May. I was really looking forward to the one year anniversary for many reasons. Initially it was a huge change when we combined households, and if I told you it was easy, I would be lying. I spent my entire adult life as a single person, and a change as large as getting married and becoming a stepmom isn't something to be taken lightly. I knew it would take some time for the household of 4 to adjust to all the changes, and I assumed at the 1 year mark we would all be well on our way. To me the one year mark symbolized that we had successfully negotiated a lot of those changes. Success!
As a side note to any new stepfamily, I highly recommend the book Smart Stepfamily by Ron Deal. People who have children but are not in a blended family are in a very different boat than those blending families, and those people will give you advice based on a completely different knowledge set. Having friends that are in similar situations to yours (thanks, Mary!) can be a real lifesaver as well. 

For our 1 year anniversary, we once again returned to the Tye Die 50K. Gina, the race director, had given us free entry into the race this year as a wedding present last year. How could we turn that down? Thanks, Gina!
Tie Dye 50K 2016
Luckily there were no sprained ankles this year. We also had plans to spend a weekend in Hocking Hills, and we had a great weekend. It is by far one of the most beautiful places in Ohio.
Old Man's Cave at Hocking Hills
Jim looking at some water falls

One of the many benefits of being married is having a bug killer on call. Of course, those who know me know I am not really scared of bugs. Those who know Jim well know he can be a bit of a goofball. Since spring has sprung, the bugs have taken to flying around the home security cameras which sends a lot of bug spam emails. I was traveling for work last week, and asked Jim to take care of a few of those bugs so the emails would stop. This was his response...

Yep folks, married life. Not quite like the movies... which is a good thing. While being married has a lot of good times and some difficult ones, getting a driveway installed apparently can be very difficult. Jim has been hard at work trying to get the plans into place for barn materials delivery, but the driveway, or lack thereof, has been causing him much stress. This is how Jim looks when he gets a driveway...

That's one very happy man! 

I am not completely sure what the next year will hold, but I am hoping the next blog post include the building of a barn. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

After a brief rain delay, we have more progress

After deciding on a contractor and getting on his schedule, we thought that progress would be swift.  The driveway was roughed in, a half acre was cleared with grass planted, and the shed was nearing completion.  The barn material had been purchased and was waiting for us at Menards. DP&L was contacted for electricity installation and we were on their schedule. Unfortunately, that driveway would have to be in a more finished condition for any heavy trucks to be able to deliver anything. All we had to do was wait for a couple of dry days for the top layer of soil to be removed. Then it rained for a month solid....

The day before Cassie and I took a weekend getaway to Hocking Hills, we were told that the driveway had been started. We were very excited to see it on the way to Logan, but we had to see it in a downpour of rain! Still, it was nice to see something done.

In the meantime, I had a chance to get some more of the land cleared with the big mower pulled behind the old Ford. Clearing weeds and a chunk of cedar trees made the place look completely different. We had joked that we were glad the previous owner didn't mow any of the land, as it would have made the property look a lot more desirable. We found several scenic spots where a little landscaping would make a tremendous difference.

I remember thinking that I could build the 10' x 20' storage shed during my spring break. As it turns out it was a huge undertaking which is just now, nearly 2 months later, just starting to see an end. The last of the roof panels just went up, and now I'm wondering how the roof cap will go on.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Jim has been busy getting permits and quotes for tasks on the property as well as moving equipment and material to the site. We finally have a culvert! That is exciting since it means it doesn't feel as if the car will turn on its side when we drive in. Our general rule is that we get 3 quotes before picking a company to do any work which saves money but adds time. The quotes ranged from $1000 to $2400 so it was very worth the time.

One thing I have learned is that your property really isn't. Want to put in a culvert? Get permission. Want to build a barn? Get permission. Want to build a shed? Get permission. I've visited countries where the shed we are building is the equivalent of a family's home. The homes those families live in would not even be allowed here. It is a very strange thing. We were told that we aren't allowed to live in the barn. Oh darn. 

The shed we are building has been a huge learning experience. It takes a long time! In between getting permissions, work, school, running, traveling to the Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico, traveling to Germany etc., fitting in the time has been difficult. Still, Jim managed to make some progress with clearing the area and getting material to the site. That required getting the trailer and tractor and transporting it from an hour and a half away. He's a hard working man!

He also happens to have a tremendous amount of physical strength. It is amazing to me how easily he lifts things that I could not fathom being able to pick up. Along with site prep, he also put together the building plan and list of materials. He initially dug the holes and put in a straw man plan for the shed, and yesterday we spent some time (with the help of his parents) getting everything square and in place. As Jack said, it was a real teamwork experience! 

We have a large list of things to do which makes my head hurt. The immediate items to complete are finishing the shed, picking a contractor to install the barn, and doing something about our tick problem. In the meantime, I have to visit the chiropractor as my back is not a fan of all the heavy lifting we did yesterday. I'll bet I won't forget my back support belt next time. Ouch! 

Jack and Glo heading down the "driveway"

Monday, February 22, 2016

Two Bears in the Woods

Wow! It's been a tough few weeks. The flu went around the house and is still hanging on for dear life. I am happy to report it is on its way out the door. In the middle of the flu chaos, we added a new member to the Clouse clan - Kody! Kody is short for Kodiak. Puppies are adorable, but they are also a lot of work. Luckily Kody seems to be getting the idea, but he still has a lot to learn.

Da Bear
The Honey Bear isn't exactly sure about what to think. She was very down after our pup, Charlie dog, lost his fight with cancer. She seems to be doing better, but Kody can be completely annoying at times. He also tends to get a lot of attention because 1. he's a puppy and 2. he can get himself into a mess. He also thinks it is fun to crawl, bite, and jump onto Honey. He especially loves to try to bite her legs, just like she used to do to Charlie. Watching Honey's personality morphing from a youngin' into responsible head dog has been nothing short of amazing.  Watching the rest of us trying to get it figured out and working smoothly would be comical if we weren't smack dab in the middle of it all. Trying to convince a 9 week old pup that he needs to go poop doesn't work as well as you might hope. I am sooooo thankful it is an unusually warm February! Kody will be starting doggy kindergarten soon. Hey, I need all the help I can get.

Dog Daddy Jim

Monday, February 8, 2016

Running is for Lovers

Valentine's Day 2015 @ -9°F.
Yes, Jim is wearing shorts.
I have a general rule when it comes to running in cold weather. If it is below 14°F, I don't run outside. Well, except when I do. This time last year, Jim asked if I'd join him at Can't Stop Running for the Running is for Lovers 5K. When I agreed, I had no idea how cold it would be. It was Valentine's Day, and it was with Jim. It could have been 30 below, and I probably would have gone. After all, we had already run through icy water and snow for 30+ miles together at Tecumseh. Before Tecumseh, I had vowed after entirely too many miserable runs that I wouldn't do a mud run again.  Mud. Ice. Water. Whatever. Jim was going and so was I. At least this run wouldn't have the mud, ice, and water.

I met Jim and Madison at the running store, and Madison was the only one of the three of us who had enough sense to enjoy the festivities and pass on the freeze fest. It wasn't 30 below. It was 9 below. I had never run in a temp that low before, and I haven't since. The runners headed into the darkness.

Within the first half a mile, I like to say that Jim fell for me. It turns out there was some ice, and he managed to find it. He was back on his feet just as quickly as he had gone down, and we continued on. I could feel the muscles in my face going numb because of the cold and the wind. Right before the turn around point, Jim asked if I'd marry him.

You know on TV how a guy asks a gal to marry him, and she starts crying? My eyes were watering alright because that cold wind wasn't giving them a choice. We discovered a brutally cold wind coming off of the river on the return trip. I have never been so cold during a run in my entire life.

After spending some time with the other runners in the store, it was time to depart. Madison had given me a Creeper for Valentine's Day (think Minecraft) which I happen to think is geeky adorable. I headed out with a pretty potted flower Jim had given me. Unfortunately those 2 minutes in the cold were a flower death sentence. You know it is cold when it takes such a short amount of time for a plant to give up the ghost. I put the poor thing under the car heater on the trip home, but it just wasn't enough to save it.

It wasn't until later that it really dawned on me that Jim and I had gotten engaged on February 14th, Valentine's Day! It seems Jim just might be a romantic at heart. Love you, sweets!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Trailblazing for a driveway

Today we went to our new property for the first time as the proper owners of it. We brought a Ryobi chainsaw and hedge trimmer so we could cut back on the brush and small trees which covered the path we wanted to clear for the driveway. The very first thing I did upon arrival was almost get the truck stuck in the ditch in front. After switching to 4-wheel drive and a few tense moments later, we were free. 

I was pleasantly surprised at the power of the Ryobi 14" chainsaw, as it is battery powered so I wasn't expecting much. It also lasted a good hour of felling small cedar trees and other nasty vine-like wild trees which cover the entire 6 acres. Cassie cut a walking path to the further reaches of the property, about 300 feet from the road where we plan on erecting the barn. 

We figure the first phase of the project will involve clearing a path for the driveway and deciding where we will eventually install utilities. Once the driveway is put in, we can plot out electric, septic (leach bed), and cistern. Pre-purchase inspections told us that we should have no problem with a low-cost septic system but digging a well would be unlikely, probably due to the limestone bed underneath the soil. These utilities should be large enough to supply a barn with shower/bathroom and someday a 3-bedroom cabin. But today, we were happy with removing 50 or so cedar trees, cutting some paths, and plotting out possible barn locations by placing "stars" on Google Maps.

We ended up clearing a path for the driveway about 200 feet long and 12 feet wide. The first 100 feet or so were a challenge because of denser growth, but the next 100 feet were mostly clear except for an occasional tree. We plotted some points about 300 to 400 feet back where the trees started getting dense again. The Northerly portion of the tract has a higher elevation, so this is the probable location of the barn and cabin. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Seaside and the 50K that wasn't

While Jim and I really enjoy the woods, we are never opposed to spending time at the beach during an Ohio winter. If I could live in Florida in January and February, and Ohio the rest of the year, I would. Months ago we had signed up for the Clearwater Distance Classic 50K in Clearwater, Florida, in January. We spent time in Florida in 2015 on Jim's birthday, and it was so much fun we decided to do something similar this year.

When it was time to head south, I was more than ready. I also had big, big plans for a very short trip.

The first of my big plans consisted of getting a tour from Dr. Charles Levy, Chief of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service at the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System. Sounds important, right? Well, he is a pretty big deal. He is also extremely nice. I was more excited than I can possibly explain to get a tour of the virtual reality system he is developing to help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This topic also happens to be the focus of my PhD dissertation so I was beyond excited! Our plans also consisted of hanging out with Mary, my long time bestie from West Point days of yore. There aren't many awesome people you get to call a friend for 20 years, and we find adventure wherever we go.  Another of our big plans was to visit Jim's Aunt Sally and Uncle Paul in Orlando. While we had seen them a few years ago at a Clouse reunion, Jim had not been to Orlando to visit them in over 20 years. Jim even added in a lunch with Bill Rodgers! Somewhere in there we planned to run a 50K as well. Not bad for a 4 day trip, eh?

I've found that one of the best things in life is spending time around good people and discussing interesting topics with those folks who also share your interests. It really is exhilarating, and I had plenty of time to do that this trip. From talking about life, the universe and everything with Jim and Mary to virtual environments with Dr. Levy, Shiva, and David and then to talking about running with Bill Rodgers and then onto General Longstreet, the founding fathers, and Jesus with Paul and Sally, it was one of the best weekends ever.  The beach was an added bonus.
Jim found a new friend!
Mary and I hanging with the turtle.

On the beach!

We had some GREAT food here!
Lunch with Bill Rodgers
The 50K did not exactly turn out as planned. It was delayed an hour due to a large line of storms, but we were happy to get an extra hour of sleep.  Unfortunately when we arrived at the start, we heard rumors that the marathon and ultra were downgraded due to the threat of bad weather. Since we never heard anything official, we did not really know until the half marathon turn around point. The rumors were true, and we were routed back to the Start / Finish area. Less than 100 miles away, 2 souls had lost their lives due to a tornado. The winds were crazy and kept changing direction while we ran. They went something like this:

8:18am 22mph, gusts 26 mph
8:30am 31 mph, gusts 36mph
8:48am 33 mph, gusts 40mph
9:00am 33mph, gusts 38 mph
9:36am 36mph, gusts 43mph

The conditions were rough, and it would have been an extremely difficult 50K.
Flying in the Storm
Holding my hat since it wouldn't stay on my head
Since our race was cut short, we were able to have brunch at Lenny's with Mary and two of her friends from the area. I also got a chance to try duck bacon for the first time ever. It was delish! After a great brunch, Jim and I headed to Orlando to see Paul and Sally.

We had a great dinner and great time catching up with them. Jim's family has some of the nicest people you will ever meet. These two are sharp cookies, and they took great care of us on our last night in Florida. Wish we could have stayed longer!

While our race didn't turn out as planned, the rest of the trip was amazing. Times like these help me to realize how great my life is and how many wonderful people you can find in the world.  I can't wait until Jim's next birthday!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Land Ho!

Jim keeps threatening to write a blog post... one of these days :-). This week was a big week for the Clouse clan. After months and months, the purchaser finally closed on Jim's house. After 6+ months, it seemed as though it might be a pipe dream, but lo and behold it happened! We celebrated with a 7 mile run and dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, sans cheesecake. If you know me, you know I quit cake and the like 4 years ago. Yay, me!  Poor Jim turned down the cheesecake as well but seemed happy enough with a second loaf of honey wheat brown bread.

While we were waiting for Jim's place to sell, we spent a lot of time searching online and driving around to find a spot that had everything we wanted at a price that wasn't crazy. After many miles and one false start, today we closed on 6 acres in an area where we were really hoping to find some land. So, the adventure begins!