First Winter

So we were able to move into our bare bones apartment above the barn the first week in February. Once again, the builder and his crew as promised helped move everything back and up the stairs.

Our source of heat and AC was a central air and heat pump system that ended up providing air and heat in the entire barn so the horses were in a climate controlled area too. I am not sure they really know how lucky they have it but they do know when its hot they want to come into the barn.

They also have a wash stall area in the barn with hot and cold water so they get nice warm baths as well year round. I remember when we told the builder we needed a wash area and hot and cold water he could not understand why anyone would wash their horse inside with anything but cold water and further why wash them at all. I think to this day he believed we are crazy.

Well we were in the barn for one week when our area including the only two towns within a 30 minute drive were hit with an ice storm. I am from Florida, never even heard of an ice storm. Was I prepared, absolutely not. Although to my neighbors dismay I did think it was beautiful.

The power went out almost immediately and did not return for any length of time for almost two weeks for some folks. Power out for us meant no water because we have a well, no heat, because we have electric heat and since the well was not pumping no water for the horses either.

So luckily we have a pond we can get water for the horses from the pond right. Ever walked on ice. You cannot stay upright and when you do fall, your on the ground before you even knew you fell. I know that sounds funny but your butt doesnt think so about the 10th fall landing on it.

But we were fairly lucky, our power came on then off in just enough time for the waterers to fill, flush the toilets and sometimes even take a shower. It also stayed on long enough during those intervals we didnt lose much food wise. With no power in the town nearby there was no gas and it was a while before you could even drive. It hit our area pretty hard but I till say it was pretty.

Completion of Barn

We lived in that cozy house until we were able to move into the apartment upstairs. If you remember we hadn’t really been able to see it because there was no staircase installed yet and the builder had told us it would be bare bones.

So we knew we had to buy the cabinets for the kitchen and bathroom and we knew we would have to build the shelving in the closets. He was supplying the interior walls, flooring, electrical outlet, sconce wall lighting and a shower.

When we were finally able to get upstairs we also realized that bare bones did not mean paint on the fiberboard walls. They were left just as fiberboard walls no mud, no paint. I’m not sure if you have ever tried to paint this kind of wall. But it is filled with bumps and cracks. The seams where the boards were matched up left gaps and cracks and every screw hole was a hole. So what I’m saying is there are a lot of imperfections to cover with paint in this type of wall.

Speaking of paint, this little 3 room apartment took several 5 gallon buckets of paint to cover. I’m not sure to this day if we had 3 or 4 coats of paint on those walls before you couldn’t see wood through the paint. What you could see was every tiny imperfection. The paint just changed the color of the walls but you could see every fiber, joint, screw hole, etc.

The next fight was the ceiling. We were told we would have a closed foam ceiling for the best insulation against the metal roof as we had no attic or air space between the roof and our living space.

When the men came to install the closed foam we realized they were blowing it in by hand and letting it dry as it landed. There was no smoothing the surface so it would be level, smooth or even a consistent thickness. It was the ugliest mess for a ceiling I had ever seen.

And so the argument began once again, this was not a livable living space ceiling. Finally it was decided that they would install the left over metal sheeting from the exterior barn walls over the foam creating a metal ceiling. This solution didn’t turn out to badly with the exception they ran out halfway into the bathroom. We had to fashion a drop ceiling on the other half to cover the foam mess.

My idea of sconce wall lighting was very different than the builders. My thought was a glass fixture that mounted on the wall was open at the top similar to a oval or half circle. Something modern made for a homes interior. His idea it turned out was the jelly jar lights you install outside your front door. Oh well at least we had lights.

But the last fight, when we got the final bill to pay, was the toilet. I understand bare bones is no frills but a toilet in my book is an essential part of a living space. We can end this blog with the knowledge that I did not pay for that toilet.

Moving to a real home

When Ken return to Missouri a few days later with a full moving van, we confronted the builder. He had missed his completion date by two months, we were freezing, and we had a van full of furnishing and no place to put them.

He suggested we move to a shabby, Bates motel type establishment, in the area. Obviously this was not the best solution, with no place for our furnishings and with three dogs. Not to mention I was never going to move in there.

Ultimately, I found an older home to rent short-term for less than the hotels daily rate in Koshkonong about 5 minutes away. We, and the we included the contractor and 2 employees, moved into the house on Christmas eve. And as we were moving it started snowing. The snow was beautiful to see having come from Florida, but it was very cold.

But the best part was that we spent Christmas eve, snowing in a nice warm building. It had a shower you could fit in, a washer and dryer, dishwasher, large refrigerator and a real  stove. Best of all we had our furniture we could lay down on the couch or sit in a recliner and relax. Oh and the king size bed with a pillow top mattress.

All these thing we take for granted every day. But when you live in a tiny horse trailer, with its tiny stove, shower and bed (wet bed) and no dishwasher or oven, when you have them again it’s like heaven on earth. And so our first Christmas in Missouri was comfortable and restful. And it snowed all night and we didn’t worry or care just enjoyed the sight.


Winter Arrives

So with the promise we would be able to move in December, Ken left for Florida to move the remainder of our furnishings and boxes.

The next night we here in Missouri experienced our first freeze. What does that mean in an aluminum trailer. Well lets just say it was a disaster and I got to face it all alone. The entire trailer froze up. No water, sewer line froze to the lagoon, and we were literally freezing the heating system couldn’t handle the cold.

I knew that the construction people had a propane heater blower type thing upstairs they used while working. So I made my way up the ladder and hauled it down. I put some boards around the bottom of the trailer to block wind and figured out how to get the propane blower working trying to warm the pipes so we could get water back. But all I could think about was if I was going to set the  trailer on fire. But I couldn’t think of any other way to defrost the undecarraige.

I’d run it a little while, turn it off being afraid it was getting to hot. Then turn it on again. All I could imagine was setting our only place to live on fire and what was I going to do to get the water on again.

Then remember the lagoon I told you about in the beginning of the blog. Well the sewer lines, plastic accordion style pipes connect the trailer sewage to the lagoon but they lay outside in the open, so naturally they froze too. So we have no bathroom toilet now eiher.

The only way I could think to resolve this issue is to disconnect the pipes and empty the sewage tank by hand filling buckets then dumping them into the lagoon. I have to tell you, as I am emptying that tank into those, all I could think of was just a few short months ago, I wore business suits, expensive shoes, drove nice cars, and now here I am freezing to death pumping excrement into buckets and dumping it into a hole in the ground all the while expecting the trailer to blow up.

Well the good news is I did get it to defrost enough to get water from two faucets and quickly return the heater it to where I found it. I felt a little bettter we were not going to explode and as long as                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I kept water running in the two faucets I should have water.

Luckily the next day everything defrosted and I made sure to keep water running all the time during the cold weather. I was from Florida I didn’t know thats what your suppose to do. But it’s a lesson I won’t ever forget.

Time to get ugly

I would say it was about end of November we finally got the horses in but the garage doors were not ready so we put tarps up in the openings and ran a propane heaters inside the barn to keep it relatively warm.

About this time the weather had turned really cold at night usually 40’s. We asked if the contractor would have us in the upstairs apartment by December. While they were working on it they used a lift up to the second floor . No stair case was installed yet so we could not see what progress was being made upstairs. The contractor confidently stated oh yes he would be done within he next few weeks.

So we made arraignments for Ken to return to Florida with a moving uhaul second week in December to move the remainder of  our things from the house which was all the furniture and a good deal more.

Now when you build a new building on vacant land you obtain a construction loan for the cost of the contracted construction. The bank then gives it to you to disperse as the contractor gives you invoices for work or supplies completed. One morning early the contractor knock on the trailer door. Up to this point he had submitted invoices for 90% of the entire loan, however from what we could see 90% of the work was not done. We refused him another draw. Needless to say things got really ugly. We had suspected that he was using our money to complete the work on another house he was trying to complete . He threatened to put a mechanics lien on the property, cease work and put a lock on the door.

This is middle November and very cold, we were already sleeping on a wet mattress and running out of money. We agreed to give him one more draw and no more until the work was completed. Additionally he agreed if he could not move us in two weeks time he would pay for rent at a motel or house and move our belongings, Ken was about to pickup in the rental. Reluctantly the agreement was made and the hostility started.

Before this heated disagreement, if Ken and I were trying to move something heavy and need tools we did not have he would loan or help us. After this conversation his workers were told not to assist us with anything at all. And that just what they did.

No Home/ No Barn

It is now mid to late October and unlike Florida were the temperatures are just beginning to see a cooler 70 degrees we are in the 60’s during the day and 40-50’s at night. Progression on the barn at this point was steel pillars and a concrete aisle. No roof or side walls.

If you remember the closing on the Florida house had fallen through and remained for sale. The money taken from my 401K has been invested in the barn and equipment we had to buy just to get by. And we had to figure out where we were going to live.

We had always thought we would add some type of apartment in the barn so that when we were no longer able to do the work ourselves it would help pay for a person to stay on the farm and work for his or her rent. Well considering the situation we now realized we were going to have to build that apartment as cheaply as we could and the only place to put it was going to be storage space above the barn.

Remember that we came from Florida and  had an aluminum horse trailer. Put those two facts together it also meant we had no insulation in the trailer. So each night the gooseneck part of the trailer where we slept was carpeted and then a mattress on top of that carpet. When we dropped into the low 50’s and below the gooseneck floor on the outside got very cold, the heat on the inside created condensation. What did all this mean in simple terms. Every morning we woke to a wet carpet and mattress. Every day we had to drag the mattress out to dry in the sun and run fans or floor heaters on the carpet to try to dry it out in time to sleep again the next night.

Ken and I began to work on the barn ourselves now because time was running out on our ability to continue to stay in the trailer. Just so you don’t think we were lounging and enjoy the country air, while the barn was being built we were mowing putting in fencing and an outside arena. The promise from the contractor to get at least the horses in by October out of the weather had already passed so it wasn’t rocket science to realize we better get working on the barn.

In the meantime the contractor agreed to build a barebones apartment upstairs. Notice the emphasis on barebones. We’ll get back to that a little later, for an additional $5,000. Plus at this point paying two mortgages it was clear retirement had ended for both of us so  we began substitute teaching on a part-time basis as need. First neither of us had ever taught before and second we lived 20 minutes from the school. It was very rare that you got a call in advance that you would be teaching the next day. Calls for teachers started about 6:30 to 7:00 each morning. Classes began at 8:15. So in order to get to school in time you showered and dressed for school in case you got a call and if not back in work clothes.

So the construction crew began to put the roof on we started to build the stalls from the clay floor up. Most every nights we were still working after the sunset with construction spot lights to try to get at least the stalls in before winter.


What daylight brings

We spent about 6 hours in the dark blowing about before daylight. Six hours that I can assure you I did not sleep a wink. When I opened the trailer door to see what damage we sustained, at daylight, I found the dog kennel gone. No longer sitting across from the trailer and no dog either. I located the kennel made of chain link which was twisted  and mangled about a foot ball field distance away from the trailer. Thankfully there was no dog mangled inside.

I beginning walking about calling for this beautiful English Setter named Cindy. After several minutes Cindy came crawling out from under the trailer where she was smart enough to seek shelter. Now hunters believe hunting dogs should never come into the house because it domesticates them into family dogs and will ruin them.

Personally at this point I had no kennel anymore and she had been through enough so I picked her wet clay filled self and tried to get her into the trailer. But I guess someone told her she would be ruined as a hunter if she came in too, because she stuck both front legs out across the door frame blocking our ability to get through the door.

After a brief struggle of folding her legs in I got her in. Cleaning her up was a totally different story. First you cant fit a real person in a horse trailer shower and they want to fit. Trying put a dog into one. We had to go back out, find the least muddy place and hose her down, dry off and fight our way back into the place she was suppose to be the trailer.

Once I was sure Cindy wasn’t hurt and contained, I tentatively looked at the back of the trailer. We had slide backwards but not more than a foot so we were not imminently in danger of sliding down the hill. Six hours of worrying about it but we were still on solid ground.

The horses that were used to stalls in bad weather, were out in the pastures but thankfully also unharmed. So with the exception no electricity or sleep we were all unharmed. Mercifully only the awning on the trailer got a little beaten up, but in the big picture we were very lucky.


No more Hurricanes, maybe..

So I last left you digging, or trying to through the Missouri rock. When we first arrived our house in Florida was sold. My husband took a week off from work to get me situated on the property with the horses to continue to oversee the construction while he went back home to close on our house and move.

At least that was what was suppose to happen. Have I mentioned that things don’t usually come easily for me and my timing is usually guaranteed to be off. What actually happened was my husband went back to Florida quit his job and on the day he was to close on the house, he learned that the housing market was about to crash. The bank at closing told the buyers they had to come up with 20,000 more to close.

Now as I said, timing is not my strong suit, had I realized that the market was crashing I would have dropped the price 20,000 and got it closed but hind sight as they say is 20/20 and that is not what I did.

Meanwhile back a the ranch we were having loads of fun without my husband. I had just moved from Florida. A state where I was born and raised. A state that has hurricanes on a fairly regular basis, many of which I worked through. So now I’m in Missouri no hurricanes here right. Wrong or at least partially wrong.

Picture my living situation at the time. My 3 horse living quarter trailer (aluminum) is parked on top of the highest portion of the land. In addition to rocks I forgot to mention the ground is red clay. Red Clay that when it gets wet is slippery and sticks to your feet like concrete. I also have no barn or buildings so the only lights are those in the trailer. I am living on 60 acres of land that when it gets dark it gets black. You can’t see your hand in front of your face dark.

This alone might be scary enough for a women alone but I was in seems hurricanes like me, so much they follow me. One was heading up the gulf coast straight at us. Of course it was downgraded to a tropical storm by then but the winds were 60 plus miles an hour. I also had a hunting dog in a kennel outside that had never been in a house let alone a tiny living quarter trailer.

The tropical storm hit in the middle of the night, lost power almost immediately and I can see nothing outside. And now for the best part, I can feel the trailer sliding in the slick clay but again there’s a storm roaring outside I can’t see the dog or if the trailer is going down hill. So we hunkered down the 2 dachshunds and I and prayed for all we were worth that we would survive the night.






A Farm with no equipment

When we first settled on moving to Missouri it was because the land was in expensive, taxes were much less than Florida, and in a charming way Missouri was like living back in the 1980’s, less crime, friendly people, no traffic. But there was big thing we missed in our research, the rocks. Don’t get me wrong I’ve seen rocks. But in this part of Missouri what looks like a small rock buried in the dirt turns into a 3 foot boulder. If you pick up rocks to keep the horses feet from getting sore, they duplicate and triplicate over night.

I guarantee there will be more rocks the next day and you quickly learn not to try and dig them up because if you do you now have a boulder. Now this might not seem all that big a problem until you begin putting in fences for paddocks with a post hole digger.

That worked not at all so next we rented something called a dingo. A motorized contraption with an auger. You walk behind it, park it in behind where your digging and its suppose to used powerful hydraulics and this auger to bore a hole in the ground like magic. Magic never happened because of all our rocks it took a week to bore 30 fence posts, which is the same number it takes to get across the front of the property.The added plus to this magic is sometimes the rocks are too big in your straight fence line so as a result we have the waviest crooked pretty white vinyl fence you’ve ever seen.

Doing things the hard way

So my husband and I found property in Missouri. Vacant land, no buildings, electric or water. Sold our house in Florida, or so we thought. And moved our three horses with us to the new land.

We can hired a contract to start the well, install electric so we could live in te horse trailer and begin  construction of the barn. We expected to move in September about labor day. The contractor promised to have the barn up before winter or by the end of October.

We had also found a contractor for a prefab home to begin as soon as the house closed in Florida.

And the adventure began…..

There was a well and electricity when we pulled in but nothing else. Neither had been turned on upon our arrival on Sunday on a holiday weekend. Can I just say at this point it should have been a clue to me that things were not going to be easy at all I had dreamed of relaxing watching the building go up, watch the horses in my own backyard, read, plan, decorating ideas and consulting with the contract on a few issues. Dream is exactly what I had been doing because there was a lot of work ahead and my husband and I would be doing it.

Ever hear of a lagoon? Not like the blue lagoon something of beauty. I mean a sewage waste lagoon. This is where the dirty water (showers. dish washing) and the bathroom runoff went coming out of the trailer. Amazingly a lagoon is a common way to dispose of this waste and in fact many folks never install a septic system in this part of the country. The lagoon was the first of our hardships in the winter months to come but more on that story later.

For equipment we had a riding lawn mower, horse trailer, storage trailer, post hole diggers and the usual tools anyone has on hand. Upon our arrival our 60 acres had grass waist-high and so the adventure and hardships began that September 2008.