Thanksgiving In Tennessee

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Moving into our renovated farm house wasn’t exactly like a scene from one of those hone-renovation shows on HGTV … you know, where the homeowners go away for awhile, return to a perfectly-renovated home with everything in place, then weep for joy.

Our renovations are almost but not quite finished.  Rather than pay another month’s rent on the apartment, we went ahead with the move.  Consequently, my HGTV moment was more like this:

“How come there aren’t any faceplates on the outlets?”

“They’re doing that next week.”

“They’re not done with these baseboards, are they?  I see a lot of splatters from the walls.”

“They’re coming back to do another coat next week.”

“Uh … didn’t we used to own some nice big rugs?”

“They’re in the garage.  We can’t put them on the hardwood floors for 10 more days.”

“So the movers have to come back and move all the heavy furniture again?”

“That’s right.”

“You know, I don’t want to criticize your furniture arrangements, but–”

“We have to keep all the furniture three feet from the walls until the painters and the electrician are done.”

Take it from me:  if you ever feel you’re blessed with an abundance of space, move all your furniture three feet from the walls.  It’s amazing how quickly it all converges in the middle of the room.

We didn’t have a working kitchen until Sunday.  We knew that would be the case, so you can imagine how happy Chareva was when one of my co-workers at BMI invited us to his place for Thanksgiving dinner.  When I called home to pass along his invitation, the conversation went something like this:

“Hi, Honey.  Would you be interested in spending Thanksgiving with—“


Despite having to step around stacks of unpacked boxes to navigate a room, we’ve already enjoyed some out-in-the-boondocks moments.  Wednesday night we saw two deer running across our front pasture.  As we left for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, we drove past five wild turkeys hanging around our loooong driveway.

Jim, the aforementioned co-worker who hosted Thanksgiving, is a big man with a big laugh, a big heart and a big family – six kids.  (No, he’s not Catholic or Mormon.  He told me people ask him that all the time.)  He’s also surrounded by his extended family.  Together they all own 25 acres of hilly countryside north of Nashville, with everyone living just down the road from everyone else.

With so many relatives (plus several friends) in the house, Thanksgiving dinner was served in three different rooms.  The food was terrific, and since it was a holiday, I didn’t concern myself with carb counts or which foods would qualify as paleo.  I skipped dessert, but only because I was full and a slice of pie didn’t appeal to me.

The girls didn’t skip dessert.  None of the kids did.  Perhaps because he’s raised so many of them, Jim had wisely planned ahead with a full lineup of activities to keep the sugared-up kids busy after dinner.

For starters, they got to walk a horse around the barnyard and then ride it.

Later, the kids all participated in a shooting contest with a BB gun.  As you can see, Alana developed her own technique for drawing a bead on a target.

Sara turned out to be a natural dead-eye, placing second in the contest despite never holding a gun before.  If I take up hunting someday, I may have to bring her with me.  I’ll spot, she can shoot.

After the shooting contest, all the kids, three dogs, and three adults set off for an hour-long hike and scavenger hunt in the forest behind Jim’s house.  The kids took along their lists and dutifully checked off the items they found as they tromped up and down the hills, jumped over logs, climbed rocks, swung from branches, and waded in a stream (despite instructions from the adults to stop wading in the stream).

As we were hiking up the last hill to return to the house, Alana announced, “This is the best Thanksgiving ever!”  I didn’t ask how many Thanksgivings she actually remembers.  I remember quite a few, and I have to say, running around a forest in the hills of Tennessee on a cool, sunny day certainly felt like a fitting way to spend Thanksgiving.  Over the river and through the trees kind of stuff.

When we said our goodbyes and left for home, Alana fell asleep in the car almost immediately.  She continued sleeping for another 12 hours.  I guess the best Thanksgiving ever can wear a person out.

I spent the rest of the weekend engaged in manual labor.  As I mentioned when we first bought the farm, we got a great deal because the elderly widow who lived here for decades had let pretty much everything go.  The wooden floors and stairs, for example, all looked like this:

The good news is that the wood has been refinished.

The bad news is that sanding and refinishing all that wood left a layer of sawdust on nearly every surface in the house.  The sawdust was still there when we moved in last week.  So Chareva and I spent all Friday and Saturday removing it.  After we moved some furniture around (at least three feet from the walls, of course), I vacuumed all the walls, doors and baseboards, and she followed behind me with a damp rag.

It finally occurred to me to snap a picture of a wall that was partly vacuumed.  You can see how thick the sawdust was.

Take it from me:  if you ever find yourself complaining that your house isn’t spacious enough, try vacuuming every square inch of it.  You’ll quickly realize just how big it is.

As we were clearing sawdust from Chareva’s office, two wild turkeys paid a visit to the back yard outside her office window.  I managed to grab the camera in time to snap a picture of one of them before they scampered off.

We’re still more packed than unpacked, the house needs more work, my office is crowded with furniture placed three feet from the walls, the rugs are in the garage waiting for the wood floors to fully set, and there are holes in the ceiling where vents for the heat are supposed to be.  Everything feels unsettled.

On the other hand, the girls had a terrific time running around the Tennessee countryside with Jim’s kids, the layer of sawdust is finally gone, the wood floors sparkle, and I’ve got deer and wild turkeys showing up on my land.

The best Thanksgiving ever?  I don’t know, but it’s definitely near the top of my list.


33 thoughts on “Thanksgiving In Tennessee

  1. Bevie

    Deer + wild turkey + a kid that can shoot accurately = even better Thanksgiving next year. I wanted a wild turkey for my table this year but the opportunity did not present itself.

    I’m not sure how Chareva would feel about cleaning a wild turkey, but if Sara wants to go hunting when she’s older, I won’t stop her.

  2. Marilyn

    Congratulations on navigating the murky waters of MOVING into a not-quite-finished-home during a holiday! Sounds like you and the family had a GREAT time!! BTW, that wild turkey looks kinda appetizing…. for Christmas, perhaps?? 🙂 XO – M

    Alana wanted to go outside and chase it down. Maybe next year.

  3. LCNana

    Well, we’re so glad you have surfaced and that all is kinda well…lots of work eh? It will be so great when you are all settled. Then you have your first Christmas in your new home to look forward to. Can I tell you, Tom, that you look really terrific in the pic of you vacuuming your walls? How slim you look! You are a real example of the low-carb/paleo lifestyle. Thanks for the pics of your lovely family.

    Thank you. I rarely check my weight (we don’t own a scale), but pants that used to fit are loose now.

  4. Jan

    It’s wonderful that you and yours had such a lovely Thanksgiving. But Tom – we watched Fat Head (for maybe the 10th time?) just a couple of nights ago, and my goodness! You look MUCH leaner now.

    Not bad for a fad diet.

    I believe I’ve dropped around 20 pounds of fat since then, maybe more depending on how muscle I’ve picked up.

    Ten times?

  5. Be

    And to think I was going to complain about having to put up Christmas decorations before the Thanksgiving weekend was over! Thanks for making me feel so much better!

    😉 Really, congratulations! What exciting times!

    It was a relief to go to work today and earn a living sitting down.

  6. Lori

    Your house is beautiful! My holiday was a little like yours. I finished painting my living room and foyer, so the house was torn up most of the weekend. My oven was broken, so I roasted my duck at my parents’ house on Saturday. A new stove is coming this week, along with some new curtains for the living room, but I’m afraid my floors are going to look like your before pictures indefinitely. In a 800 square foot house, there’s no place to move the furniture–unless I put everything in storage and go to a hotel.

    Love your friend’s idea to entertain the kids. I suffered through one too many holidays at my brother’s house where his wife’s relatives let their kids run around the house screaming. With my brother gone, you couldn’t pay me to go there.

    We were fortunate to have a sunny Thanksgiving so the kids could go nuts outside. It’s been raining nearly nonstop since then.

  7. Elenor

    Ten times? Ha! Total beginner. I’ve watched it 24 times I can count without actually counting — and have inflicte…. er… graciously shown it to folks more than 8 times! (Including a newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetic on a cruise! Yes I brought the disk, and our cabin had a DVD player.) (And yes, some have gone of to buy it and begin their own inflic… er… sharing.) In fact, two night ago, I watched Science for Smart People again. I had sent someone to the Ancestry vids at Vimeo to watch it — but then when I checked the URL, that version doesn’t have the slides… So I sent him instead to Hulu. (I think it was Hulu, maybe it was Netflix — I just got my brand-new-first-time-ever Roku box… and am all mixed up on channels and sources and stuff.)

    Your stuff is a useful inoculation to help keep on the straight-and-narrow. And I still laugh.

    The video from the Ancestral Health Symposium isn’t the best. Best place to watch Science For Smart People is on YouTube.

    Twenty-four times?! Double that, and you’ll approach the number of times I had to sit through it in post. I could hardly stand to watch it for a long time after that.

  8. Erica

    What a wonderful Thanksgiving your family had! I’ll bet the kids will be talking about it for years to come. The best one yet may be next year at your new home, with all the furniture in its right place, and everything cleaned up and finished.

    The house looks wonderful, and so much better than before the renovations were begun. Tell Chareva I said “Good job!”

    I admit, when I saw the turkey, I thought, hmmm, Christmas dinner!

    Chareva has been acting as the stand-in general contractor, and she’s done a terrific job. I never could have pulled this off without her.

  9. Jana

    It sounds like a dream to get to live in the country. I live in California near Sacramento so there are more than a few people here. We just moved from a big city to a more quiet city with half the population. While nice, I still miss the country and the space and wish I had more than .13 acres to call home. We just renovated a Fannie Mae Foreclosure. We’ll never do that again. What a pain to get the money to renovate (it’s Fannie Mae we don’t want to deal with, not the manual labor). It looks amazing now and this was like yours, no pride of ownership, security systems galore, PA systems throughout, and dog/mold smell (very gag worthy). I feel you on the clean up after the construction work. I’m still not done vacuuming up little bits of carpet or getting the 15 years grime off the windows.

    Whenever I’m tempted to complain about all the renovations required, I remind myself that if the elderly widow had actually taken care of the place, it would have cost $100,000 more.

  10. Wolverine

    Nothing like country living. You’ll never go back. That turkey is lucky you ran and got a camera to shoot with. I might have been tempted to go for the shotgun. Best wishes getting settled in.

    I don’t own a shotgun yet, but it’ll be a necessity once we have farm animals to protect.

  11. Firebird

    I have to say, again, how much I love that soothing shade of green. Combined with my love of hardwood floors, the place looks gorgeous.

    Thank you.

  12. Patricia

    Beautiful girls, beautiful floors and awesome big screen TV! Seeing that picture of you with the vac, I have to laugh each time I read some anti-low carb vegetarian troll criticize you because you’re SO OBESE! If having all that lean muscle makes you obese (as opposed to the wasted, emaciated vegetarian body), bring it on!

    Love you, Tom. You’re one lucky man.

    I’ve seen a few websites and Facebook posts where vegan goofballs grabbed pictures of me BEFORE I went on the low-carb diet and posted them up as proof the low-carb diet doesn’t work.

  13. cTo

    What an amazing thanksgiving! If that was my family, the “activity” for the day after dinner would have been watching tv. (Oh, wait, no, that IS my family. :/) Thats such a wonderful, engaging, outdoorsy adventure for all the kids 🙂

    I thought Jim’s after-dinner lineup of activities was brilliant. The kids all had a blast.

  14. Janknitz

    Deer are beautiful until they eat your carefully tended garden, and turkeys poop all over your walkways.

    But it’s all still wonderful. Live long and prosper there!

    We’ll put a fence around the garden. As for the poop, it goes with the territory. I’ll try to think of it as natural fertilizer.

  15. KathyJo

    Ha! We have five kids. We started getting asked if we were Catholic with the third. We also get asked if we’ve figured out what’s causing it, because apparently, that passes for humor among some people. 🙂 The next time someone asks, I swear I’m saying, “Wild monkey sex,” just to see the look on his face.

    I don’t think I’ve quite made it to 10 viewings of FatHead, but I’m definitely past 5.

    Congrats on the move! Lord willing, we’ll be leaving the People’s Republic of Illinois and going home to Texas (and 10 acres) before the end of the year.

    We briefly considered returning to Illinois when we decided to leave California. Glad we didn’t. I love it here, and our state isn’t bankrupt.

  16. Junebug

    Vacuuming the walls. That’s a new one. Maybe the picture for next year’s Christmas cards.

    Glad you all had such a wonderfull Thanksgiving. Sometimes I think we get so concerned with everything being ‘perfect’ we forget that having fun with those we love is the most important thing.

    Seeing the girls enjoy themselves so thoroughly always lifts my spirits.

  17. Underground

    Very nice. The house is looking good.

    Yep, the deer and sometimes rabbits can do a number on your garden. It’s not too early to be picking a spot, preparing mulch to work in and such.

    And of course it IS deer season right now. Bacon wrapped, grilled venison tenderloin is just about my favorite food of all time.

    I don’t yet own the weapon to take down a deer or the deep freezer to store the venison, but maybe next year.

  18. Becky

    I’m so happy that you are finally in your lovely house. I hope you have a guest room because after we’ve seen you talk about how great your new setup is, I’d bet that a bunch of us are going to want to visit 🙂 And you definitely look like you’re in fantastic shape, thanks to bacon, steak and eggs. It’s like I say when I’m eating steak, mashed potatoes with bacon, asparagus and sauteed mushrooms all drowning in butter post-workout: It’s a rough job but someone has to do it! I can’t tell you how often I’ve watched Fathead. It’s a very motivating tool for someone who wants to avoid eating an entire pan of brownies for dinner, an entertaining film and as some others have mentioned, a great movie for those of us who want to kidna–er gently suggest their friends and relatives come over for movie night.
    Have a fabulous holiday season!

    We took the biggest bedroom in the house and designated it as my office (one half) and the guest bedroom (the other half). We didn’t want to use it as our bedroom because then the girls would be downstairs and we’d be upstairs, which means they’d be climbing stairs in the middle of the night to find us. I often wake up with at least one of the girls tucked between me and Chareva.

  19. cancerclasses

    Back in ’90 moved in with a woman that had whole house hardwood floors and only had the grocery store type dust mop with the little round head. So I went to a janitorial supply house & bought a 3 foot wide commercial type dust mop & extra head, sprayed the mop with Endust or something similar & could dust mop the whole house in just a few minutes. She said it was among the best & nicest things I ever did for her, still has & uses it, has never found anything better & has never had to buy anything else.

    Whatever gets the job done.

  20. Susan

    Hi Tom

    Whatever you do, don’t feed the turkeys! Unless, of course, you want a large flock that needs to be relocated in just a couple of years. That would be quite a bit of natural fertilizer, however. LOL. My sister made the mistake of feeding ‘ just a couple’ of turkeys, along with everything else that had wings, and in just six months she had over 40 of the little darlings — sitting on their car, fences, porch, etc.

    Congrats on getting moved in.


    Sounds like a good way to load up the freezer with free-range turkeys.

  21. hausfrau

    Yu need turkeys. Tom turkeys make excellent party favors. A few years ago we raised 12 turkeys, nine of which were toms. The toms do the equivalent of stuffing their bra by swallowing air. It makes their crops swell up like a whoopie cushion. So this is how you burp a turkey: you sneek up behind a puffed up tom in full display and grab him around the chest, squish his chest up and inward like a mild heimlich move, enjoy the resonating belch that can be heard across the barnyard. Mr Tom turkey will then panic to gulp down more air lest the ladies see him flat chested. My hubby and I had our wedding rehearsal dinner at our home and that was the after dinner entertainment for our guests.

    LOL. Sounds like hours of quality entertainment.

  22. Richard Tamesis, M.D.

    Just make sure you teach your girls how to handle the BB guns properly. We get a lot of eye injuries from people horsing around with BB guns here in Southern California. BTW, you look even thinner than in your videos in that picture of you vacuuming.

    I gave the girls a little speech about the dangers of BB guns before the shooting contest.

  23. Richard B.

    Congrats Tom on the wonderful success of your paleo diet! My wife and I are eagerly awaiting to start it together (after the holidays of course) and are going off of your movie/website for our primary source of advice. We are both in our late 30’s and are approaching that age where our doctor evaluates us for heart disease and such. Hopefully he doesn’t prescribe up statins at our next check up :O

    I’m also glad to see that you kicked your fentanyl addiction. I myself was caught up in a car accident and bed bound for almost 6 months. Painkillers were a tough vice to resist.

    All the best,

    Thank you … fentanyl? I’ve never used it.

  24. Richard B.

    My apologies, Tom. That’s what I read on your Wikipedia article (which I stumbled upon after looking up Fat-Head, which I stumbled upon after catching your movie on Netflix).

    All the best,

    I guess I should correct that someday. I don’t bother checking Wikipedia, but I suspect whoever wrote that entry isn’t much of a fan.

  25. Charles A. Johnson

    Love the farm. My wife and I have been planning such a move for about 4 years and are getting close to being to make the transition. Chickens are one animal we want to raise and we’ve found a great site for the preservation of rare breeds (amazing that the more you eat of an animal the better the chances of a breed’s success). The site is: American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC):

    FYI, your movie and site has made a huge difference to us both. We’ve each lost in the neighborhood of 50 pounds. But most importantly, my wife has been able to go off of her diabetes meds. We can’t thank you enough.

    Hearing that makes my day.

  26. Laura Dolson

    I’m so glad the move is working out so well for you, and to see your family having so much fun together! Have a wonderful holiday season! Laura

    Thank you, Laura. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

  27. Rebecca Latham

    Hi, Tom! Just catching up with your blog, and I’m so happy to hear that you are in the new house on the new land. Please allow me to add in my jealousy to everyone else’s.

    I drive through Nashville on my way to Florida each February. I’m just saying.


    Then I’m just saying come by for a visit.


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