in the woods: forts, ticks, and pancakes

Two days ago, I went up to the property to drop off lunches for my husband and older son. My son had been spending his days banging around the property with his friend (the friend’s father was working on my parents’ house). I had four kids in the car with me, two of which weren’t mine. They were all thrilled to go up to The Property. Visiting the campsite (fire! Grandmommy’s snacks!) and running around in the undergrowth is Kid Heaven.

My youngest son had spent the night tenting with my parents. He was all excited about his adventures (and seeing me again, of course). Apparently, some wild animal invaded the camp and smashed the jar of peanut butter. My son slept through the intrusion but still managed to be pretty excited about it nonetheless.

I took lots of pictures of the house.

Certain people want to see it (will these do?), and since my parents don’t own a camera (it’s against their religion) (I’m kidding!), I consider it my daughterly duty to document up the wazoo.

(Or is it whazoo? Wahzoo?)

The roofers were there. Putting down metal roof is a hot business. They told my husband that it’s about 15 degrees hotter on the roof than on the ground. During the heat wave, it must’ve been brutal! However, I think that if they were at all Martha Stewart about their steamy sitcheeyation, they could’ve multi-tasked and baked granola and dried strawberries while they were frying their brains out.

My husband was working on the roof, too. When I leaned out the window to take a picture of him, he danced a jig for me.

I don’t like to watch him work on roofs. I know he does it all the time, but still, I’d just rather not know exactly how high up he is. Though now I can see why he complains of his calves hurting after a day on a roof. Bending my ankles at that angle for hours would probably make me cry.

My daughter found a tick on herself and took it to my father The Biology Teacher to identify.

Ever since people in our neck of the woods have been breaking out in Lyme’s classic bull’s-eye rash, we are all a little on edge about ticks these days. I’ve made all the kids look at pictures, and I’ve lectured them about the symptoms and told them they must inform an adult the very second they see anything unusual.

(So, after my lecture. what did my older daughter do? She went to her room and drew a bull’s-eye on her leg and then came downstairs and said, “You mean like this, Mom?” She almost got me.)

(As I’m typing this, my youngest is tossing about on the floor with a fever. Perhaps I ought to inspect his burning-up little body?)

(One of the symptoms of Lyme’s—only 50 percent of infected people get the classic rash—is an altered mood. Which cracks me up because altered moods are the norm for my family. In other words, if we get Lyme Disease but no bull’s-eye rash, and we’re left with just An Altered Mood as our only identifying symptom, we’re screwed.)

But anyway, my daughter took the tick to my dad and he declared it a normal one and handed her the hammer.

She smashed it into oblivion and that was that. Our at-home extermination method of choice is Burning at the Toothpick. If this sounds cruel to you, it’s not. The little buggers are hard to kill and death by fire is quick and immediate.

Here is the sun-filled upstairs. Look at that enormous window! 

The kids think the ladder is fun. I think it’s too slippy-sliddy. 

By the time I had finished photographing the house from every angle imaginable, I realized that I still hadn’t seen my older son and his friend. They were building a fort down in the woods, I was informed.

As I struck off into the woods, I noticed that I was hearing the buzz of power tools from both behind and ahead of me. The boys were building a fort with power tools?

And then I turned a corner and there was the beginnings of a fort rising up out of the forest floor.

I was impressed.

I was also concerned that it wasn’t braced adequately and said so.

“I don’t think it’s adequately braced,” I said.

“We’re adding more bracing,” they assured me.

“Has Papa seen it?” I said. “I think he ought to see it. He can give you some

“No, he hasn’t seen it and I don’t want him to,” my son said. “It’s fun to see if we can do it by ourselves.”

Despite the whirring blades and machetes, the boys seemed to have all their fingers and toes intact (though the friend did hammer one of his phalanges while I was visiting), so I bid them adieu and headed back to the house.

On the way I spotted my son’s tent in the underbrush. Did he leave home and not tell me?

Back at the campsite, I had to break up the card-playing festivities in order to get everyone loaded up in the van again.

Oh, and by the way, this is the water bucket: 

Do you like their campsite decor?


The next morning, we went over to the property first thing. My mother had invited us all over for pancakes in the woods.

Since my husband has been telling me about her incredible pancakes—he’s been the recipient of her fireside cooking on more than one occasion—I wasn’t about the turn down the invitation.

The pancakes were delicious, buttery and crispy around the edges and tender-fluffy in the middle.

I ate a whole one and it filled me right up.

This same time, years previous: soft and chewy breadsticks, roasted cherry vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate


  • Nelson Mcglaughlin

    Pancakes in the woods? That sounds cool. But I think you all deserve a delicious breakfast after the hard work that you did. And it looks like you and the fam had done a lot of work on the house. How is it now? Are you done with everything? By the way, good move on the metal roof. Metal roofs provide lots of advantages for homeowners, such as durability and low-maintenance. It can also help you save on electric and utility bill as this sheet metal system coated with highly reflective surfaces and designed insulation and ventilation provide considerable cost savings for heating and cooling.

    • Vernie Herr

      Spot on, Nelson! Metal roofs have lots of benefits for homeowners. If I may add, metal roofs can also withstand harsh weather conditions and extreme temperatures. And the good part is, you can choose from a variety of colors and design to suit your home. Modern metal roofs can even be manufactured to resemble wood shake, slates or shingles.

  • Any Doorway

    How amazing to see the house drawings come to life! Looks like so much fun, from here in my living room, now that the heat wave has broken! I could do without the rubber snake, though.

  • elizabeth

    I would love to know the recipe for your Mom's incredible looking pancakes and are they hard to turn over in one piece in that skillet? I will have to try it, I usually use an electric griddle.

  • KTdid

    Red roof, leather couch, new stove, whatever; that painstakingly designed house going up so fast…I am j.e.a.l.o.u.s.!
    (Please have your mama call me when she's not busy whipping up pancakes)

  • mavis

    @Dr. Perfection…

    Is that all you have to say? Paint the roof red? I was hoping for something a little more.

    But if we get to weigh in and make decor requests… I highly recommend purchasing/finding/bartering/swindling a brown leather couch. I hear they are all the rage.

  • You Can Call Me Jane

    The house is perfect. I love the size and the style and that big window and everything else. I can't wait to see more pictures as time goes on:-).

  • mavis

    #1 – Best remark – "left with just An Altered Mood as our only identifying symptom, we’re screwed."

    #2 What happened to your parents old house?

    #3 Will your mom be getting a new stove for this new house?

    #4 Tell your mom the pancakes look delicious!

    • sk

      Mavis honey. My new stove is in our old house. I love it (the stove). I love to come home to our regular house where we still live, which now seems lavishly luxurious, but the camping is dandy–having family around and watching Mr. H. sling around his tools.

      (Thanks for asking.)

  • Suburban Correspondent

    You ARE aware that you have to worry about the Lone Star ticks, also, aren't you? Very big in the Charlottesville area…

    • Jennifer Jo

      Just last night one of my friends told me that she had that meat allergy tick bite thing! And of course I thought of you.

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