Red Fox

Saw my first red fox on the land the other day. The boys were home so we all got to watch “him” run across the front yard and up the nature trail in the south meadow.

From ferrets to foxes, I think we’ve seen almost all of the major mammals native to this part of Ohio. No black bears yet…




The house is nice, but what I love most about our homestead is the land. The animals and plants. The chance of discovery every day. Whilst hiding easter eggs on Sunday I came across my most incredible discovery yet: an antler from one of our deer. It wasn’t from the giant buck that lives around our land, rather it was from the medium sized buck. Still an eight point buck though, so not shabby at all.

The antler was laying clear as day on the pond dike. I’ve been casually looking for shed antlers since we first moved in several years ago. I left it on the ground so the boys could discover the antler as they looked for eggs. I felt it would be a pretty cool thing to find if you’re a little kid.

We picked it up and it’s sitting on the front porch, a nice adornment to greet guests.

I kinda want to find the other one, but it could be anywhere. They don’t necessarily drop at the same time or place. And high on my list would be finding a shed from the giant buck – that would be awesome. Something to look forward to. Maybe I need to get into the thickets and meadows…

A really great discovery, that kicked spring off in the right way.



I Hate Grout

I absolutely hate it.

I’ve done all sorts of projects around the house since we first broke ground five years ago. I’ve crawled under the floor in a claustrophobic tomb to swish insulation around. I’ve crawled under the porch basically eating spider webs, basically spreading caulk on my hands instead of where it was supposed to go. I tiled a 900 square foot basement. The last task being what I thought was the worst.

Well now grouting has taken the crown.

The title of this post says ‘I Hate Grout’ and I bet you’re thinking “Surely Chris, you don’t hate ‘grout’ you just hate grouting.” Well you know what? Grouting sucks so bad I do hate grout. I hate grout, I hate grouting. I hate buying it, mixing it, cleaning it, looking at it. I hate reading about it, hearing about it, thinking about it. I hate it.

Grout is stupid. There.

To go with our distressed wood looking porcelain tile I selected a mocha colored grout. It comes in ten pound bags, in powder form. The bag has some nice iconography on the back to show you how to grout. I’d never grouted before, and I appreciated not having to read through lines of mind numbing instructions.



Supply-wise I gathered two buckets and a special grout sponge I picked up at the store. It’s ridiculous that they say add 46-54oz water for 10 lbs. of grout. I figured out that 46oz. is around 1/3 of a gallon of water, which is a stupid fraction when measuring water. I was going to make a half batch but inadvertently started making a whole bag’s worth. Then the texture was seemingly off. In fact because they give you no indication as to what the texture is supposed to be, rather relying on random ounce quantities, I didn’t even know if the grout was the right consistency. It wasn’t until the second bag that I figured out grout is supposed to be the consistency of peanut butter. Thank you internet.

I wet the tile with my sponge and applied the grout with a borrowed float. Well I had no idea what in the hell I was doing. The grout was dry then it got soupy when it mixed with the water atop the tiles. I spread it everywhere including on the baseboards. Frantically squishing it into the cracks between the tiles. My back an knees already in pain.

Then I took the float and scraped off the excess grout, but there’s still grout everywhere as the tiles are uneven, and have a texture to them. It’s looks nothing like how the shows on cable make it look. Then you’re supposed to wait 15 minutes and use the sponge to wipe off the excess grout, two times.

Meanwhile all the grout in the bucket is going from peanut butter to concrete with each passing section completed. Eventually I’m scooping crumbly grout onto the floor and reconstituting it in puddles of water on the tile.

Two bags were supposed to do the entire 900 square foot basement. I burned trough one back halfway through my office. By then my knees were on fire so I went to the garage to get one of those gardening pad thingies to kneel upon. Filled with rage I looked upon my seemingly ruined tile job – unlike mortar grout sticks to the surface of  porcelain tile. Well on my way to throwing $3,000 worth of tile down the drain – tile now covered in a mocha coating.


My grout was the right consistency for approximately zero minutes throughout the process.


About six rows done and a few rows “drying”. Grouting sucks.


I worked three rows at a time. After sponging twice like the bag said, there’s still a ton grout on the floor. Dried on the floor.


Cat inspected. Not cat approved whatsoever.

I employed my spousal unit to help me with the tail end of the first bag and the second bag of grout. It’s easier to have another person work behind the front line, sponging away the excess grout. The kids even got into the mix, wielding wet towels in attempt to clean off the first tiles for the third time.

The second batch was peanut buttery in texture, but even it too started to harden before I was completely done with the room. With half a bucket of grout left, I completed the room and tossed the rest of the grout. I don’t remember how much the stuff costs…$25-$40 a bag? Regardless I couldn’t give a flying f*ck that my yield wasn’t that great. Just so angry at the whole process.

Having a second person definitely helps. And I think the grout should be a lot soupier. Maybe cover the entire floor and then have the second person walk across all the dried grout and start taking it off of the areas where we started. Having knee pads would help a ton too. Probably mixing less at a time would be good too.


Office floor after cleaning a bit more.

Twenty-four hours later I went in and cleaned the haze off the floor with a solution of white vinegar and water, 50/50 each. There was a ton of haze left on the front half of the room where I didn’t sponge as well. My body was killing me by time I was done “cleaning” the floor. A day later a slight haze was still on the floor so I wet swiffered it. No way could I get on hands and knees for another day.

It looks okay today. I don’t really see any major haze. If anything the distressed board look hides any haze.

There are spots that are completely missing grout, that I just didn’t do the first time by mistake. When I’m mentally prepared to grout again, probably in a decade or two, I’ll go back and fill in those spots.

As for the rest of the basement, I’m going to save up my pennies and hopefully pay someone else to grout that. There’s a slight chance I’ll do it myself, but in no way do I possess the fortitude to complete the job myself anytime soon.

I hate grouting.

Winter Into Spring

Winter has finally given way to spring, at least according to the calendar. And not a moment too soon if you ask me. Having survived the grey days and long nights of a typical, albeit mild, Ohio winter, I am ready for spring like you couldn’t believe.

I feel like the flora and fauna is a little jazzed too that the days are getting longer. Songbirds have already started scoping out nesting sites, and determining who gets which spot. We should have a full house…er, porch by the looks of it outside my office window.

Work (job #1) for me has been overwhelming, leaving little time to paint in my studio (job #3) or take walks outside. I still did manage to get out the other day, during a warm late winter day and was pleasantly surprised to see leaf buds on the peach trees. The chokeberries actually had small leaves starting to form, and there is a multitude of thorny wild bushes with leaves on the already. Not enough to cast an emerald fog along the driveway yet, but soon enough.

Out of spite, we did get a blanket of snow to greet us on the first morning of spring, but I won’t let that bring me down.

The bees are flying, and soon their hive will be shed of its insulation blanket and top.

Lastly of note, our friend Dave dropped off several bottles of the the maple syrup he made from the sap he collected this winter. Some of the maple trees he tapped were on our happy friendly land. So we’ve got our first maple syrup. Self sustenance is definitely a viable option out here in my opinion. It’s pretty neat being out here.

Oh, one other thing…of course I had to stop by Tractor Supply and brood over the baby chickens, wishing I could bring some home with me. There was a little black one with white spots that jumped up, as if to say “hi, I’m Cluck, take me home“. I could have, but I have no where to put them (you have to buy them by the half dozen). I do have that pile of leftover wood by the driveway, I just need to figure out what I’m doing. Part of me says just buy a coop, the other part says I need to design and build my own. Meanwhile all I can do is look at all their fuzzy little happiness and wait.  Technically the wife wants guinea fowl to eat the ticks, and we’d have to special order those. Regardless, any new mouths to feed would need a shelter that we don’t have yet. I do like the idea of have some domestic animals running around outside, just need to find the time, energy and money to make it happen. The eggs though…honey, syrup, eggs…