June 16, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] The Saga Continues

Trixie the dog has been away for 5 or 6 days and we miss her. She has provided many laughs, as well as 3 rescued guinea keets. When the keets would manage to escape their fenced-in area, they would screech loudly as they tried to figure out how to get back in. If I would approach one to try to help, sometimes they would run off into the woods. If Trixie was nearby (which was almost always) she would pursue the bird and eventually either hold it down or gently bring it back to near where I would be standing.
Speaking of guinea keets, only 4 remain in our control. We started raising 21 of them in a large Rubbermaid bin, but when they outgrew that we had to set them up in a fenced enclosure within the garden confines. Many of them either squeezed their way through the fencing or they flew over the top. I also know that the predatory birds were thinning the flock, as well. One morning I heard the keets squawking, and saw a large hawk flying low over the garden. I ran down to chase it off, and found one keet in distress. The hawk had made a grab for this keet, but didn't get it good enough. The keet had claw marks on his head, but seemed to be alright. He is one of the four that remain.

Our "rough-in" electrical inspection was rejected because of a couple minor issues:
1. There is an outdoor recepticle wire that was supposed to be on a circuit that is separate from any indoor circuits.
2. Power run into the guest bath was supposed to be on its own circuit, but it was sharing a circuit with two dining room outlets.

Unfortunately, the inspector only works in this county on Wednesdays and Fridays, so we will have to wait 5 days for re-inspection. Once we are approved we can move forward with these projects:

insulation - walls
Kenny McAfee is a local contractor who does both insulation and heating/air conditioning. He has offered to let me help with the insulation of the walls for a reduced price. He is a really energetic character and I look forward to working with him.

The plumber who was recommended will be available to start on Monday, June 22. He is currently in Montana plumbing on a mission with his church. We have to acquire a tub and ADA-compliant sink before he starts.

We are waiting for an estimate from a guy who hired JoAnna to serve breakfast to a group of drywall delivery drivers as a way to thank them for their good work. I'd like to save some money by doing the walls myself, but there's no way I would attempt the ceiling work.

electric - finish
The electrician will return to install fixtures once the drywall is finished. I am hoping the siding is done at that time so the outside light fixtures can be finished then.

insulation - attic
Kenny McAfee will probably be back to blow cellulose fibers up into the attic space.

The full installation of a heat pump system will have to wait until we have more money. Until then, we will use window units for AC and propane for heat if it gets cold before we can afford the big system. Regardless, a woodstove will be installed before we reach the coldest months.

siding and soffit
The price quote I got from the building contractor was higher than we can afford, so I'll be attempting this work on my own. I plan to hire the builder for a few hours to try to learn the best way to do the work.

June is the first month in 15 years that no monthly rent payment was required. For 15 years we have been doing this, but no more. If I had bought a house when I was 12, the 30-year mortgage would be paid off now. But I didn't. I built forts back then. I am typing this from my most recent fort. It has been a rewarding challenge thus far, but easier than I thought it would be. I didn't expect to depend on outside contractors so much, but when it was time to add the roof trusses, it had to be. I'll learn as much as I can from these guys, and examine their techniques and such so when the time comes to build a cottage or other building, my work may only require a review by the pros.

The greenhouse roof plastic finally gave way under the weight of the recent rainwater. The plastic was never intended to be permanent, and the roof was poorly designed, too. Not enough slope. I'll add some height to the ridge with another 2x8 for next season, or maybe we'll use hard plastic corrugated sheets instead. The greenhouse did its job this year, so I guess it wasn't so bad.

We have been staying in our "house" for two weeks now, and we are both greatly looking forward to the upcoming improvements. What we have is like a shell of a house. Without soffits or ceilings, any type of flying or crawling creature could join us on the inside without too much trouble. This was not desired, so I cut 44 pieces from scrap foam insulation and jammed them into the openings. So far, only a couple needed to be reset in place after stormy weather or a careless bird. I think the incidents of bugs have been reduced, too.

Speaking of bugs, the ticks have been relentless. A local commented that they are especially bad this year, so there's hope for next year. I also heard that they usually subside after July, so let's hope again. Next year we'll start with 80 guinea keets. They eat ticks.

Back on moving day, we had a grand ol' adventure. I had spent the night in Murfreesboro with the full 26 foot truck and Render. In the morning, i returned our cable modem and headed home to Prospect. All was going well until I passed the last gas station and then remembered to check the gas gauge on the truck. Empty. But those gauges always give you some leeway, right? So I made it to our place, but had to pass our driveway to turn around for the eastbound approach. There is a sharp left at the start of our driveway, so it's best to swing in from the west. It is also quite steep at the start of the drive, so I approached with some speed to get up the slope. My biggest concern was managing to get the back wheels to not run off the pavement as I made the turn in, but I actually handled that part well. It was the overhang behind the truck wheels that got me. The back bumper and hitch scraped and dug into the pavement to the point where the back tires were nearly off the ground.

No traction to move forward or back. I was stuck. And blocking half of the road. We tried jamming rocks and wood under the drive tires, but to no avail. I started releasing air from the front driver's side tire which lessened the pinch of the back end to just the trailer hitch being on the road surface.

The U-Haul emergency road service phone guy told me that it wasn't an emergency, but he did find the number of a towing company for me. Luckily, a kind neighbor was passing by and offered to head home and return with his tractor. When he did return, we hooked some chain between us and he popped the truck loose in a jiffy.

Then he drove off before I could thank him. We had a busy day after that, unloading the truck - load by load - onto my car trailer, then hauling it uphill to the house. Later, the unloading was a shorter distance as the first stuff on the truck was destined for the shed which is just 20 steps from the road.

Posted By Kelly to Mockingbird Acres at 6/16/2009 01:52:00 PM

June 15, 2009

[Mockingbird Acres] Moby Dick reference makes me seem literate!

We got up early (again) and put more stuff in the ground (again) Other things have had a higher priority, and I find myself putting in 'seedlings' that already have lots of flower buds. Some even have blossoms! I'm trying to learn what the things are by looking at the leaves and the stems, getting to know the plants more intimately than just reading their nametags, but today, what i thought was cucumber, was actually okra.

One of the spots where we were digging resulted in a loud CLANG when Kelly struck it with this huge digging spike. The spike weighs about 25 lbs and is about 6 ft of solid iron. Kelly named Ishmael because it looks like a big harpoon. He used Ishmael to find the edge of the thing, then employed it as a lever, wedging it under the rock. A few grunts and groans later, he unearthed - literally - a huge, flat rock that was probably 6" thick, 18'' wide and 2.5 feet long. we didn't know what to do with it so we placed it in one of the paths. As he was wresting it from the ground, I said, "I bet nobody from your old job would picture you doing this!" With all the climbing and carrying and hammering and shoveling, and all the other heavy lifting that comes with building a house, Kelly's kinda ripped!

After a few hours, it started raining. First just a sprinkle, then a decent downpour with lightning and thunder. We went in for breakfast, and then Kelly took a nap while i picked over a few boxes to see if anything could be consolidated. Then i had to do some office-work for the two jobs i'm doing this week. It's weird to sit down at the computer and not be able to check e-mail!

We still haven't made our 'big purchase' at lowe's, but we'll have to do it soon... we need to get the lights so they can be installed, and we need the bathtub so the plumber can put it in. We allotted space for an extra-long tub, and Kelly seems to be considering upgrading the bathtub to one with whirlpool jets. A guy at the local kitchen & bath fixtures store showed us the difference between a traditional jacuzzi-jet type tub, and one with whirlpool style jets, and the difference was night and day.

We also have to figure out what to do with all our stuff that's scattered all over here while the drywall goes in. Kelly mentioned he might rent a uhaul truck for 3 days and park it up here, just for the waterproof storage ability. He's encouraging me to go on a "Drywall Vacation" since -- in his words -- there's no reason that both of us have to suffer. The major stipulation is have to take Noodles with me, so I can't fly anywhere, but I can drive up to 8 hours. Where should I go? If we were still in L.A. I'd choose Las Vegas - only 5 hrs away and plenty of cheap places that would not only accept pets but would also have kitchenette units.

When the "Drywall Vacation" can start, tho, depends on a lot of factors. The first one being that the electrician we hired made a couple bonehead mistakes and we didn't pass the inspection. One of the mistakes was that there were too many wires being run to one switchbox, and the other is that it's against code to have an outdoor outlet and an indoor outlet run to the same breaker. For someone who made such a big deal of the almighty "CODE" and how many outlets had to be on a wall and whatnot, that one seems like a no-brainer, so i'm especially disappointed with that.

So the electrician has to come in and make the adjustments, and then HE has to buy another permit for re-inspection, and then we have to wait another week before the inspector will come out again. Until we pass the rough-in inspection, we can't do the wall insulation, or plumbing, or drywall, and then the roof insulation, and THEN the electrician comes back to finalize his work, and then the inspector has to come another time.

Kelly's found professionals to do all those other things, gratefully. He wanted to do more himself, but he admitted that he just doesn't have the experience to do it right the first time. Luckily he can be nearby and watch, and a couple of them have made it clear that they wouldn't mind him actively helping and learning.

I've still been making all our food in this makeshift little kitchen, using only electricity indoors. (We haven't fired up the grill in a while, but I probably will later tonight) We have a toaster oven, a microwave, and an electric 'burner'. It's working out okay. I baked a couple dozen cookies to give to Tom Merritt, the guy who brought his big red farm tractor to our driveway, pulled the uhaul out of the rut in the road, and saved the day. I used an electric skillet to make pancakes the other day, which was a nice break from monotonous mornings of cold cereal. Kelly attached the tankless hot-water heater to the wall today, but our propane tank doesn't arrive until tomorrow, so i've been heating water for washing dishes (and showers!) in a 60-cup electric coffeemaker. I also have a rice cooker, a deep fryer, a waffle iron, and even a george foreman grill... none of which have been recruited for active duty. Now that we have reliable electricity, i haven't been using those butane stoves. They were awesome to heat up food when we were eating lunch in the shed, but the fuel is costly and hard to come by, so if we can avoid using them, we will.

It's weird being hyper-attentive to cash these days. I mean, we always were -- which is how we were able to save up to move out here and buy land. We haven't had the guaranteed promise of Kelly' weekly paycheck since September of last year. We're still using our savings and have taken a relatively small loan from Kelly's parents, but within 6 weeks, this house will be finished! Best of all, the land it's on is paid for. No rent. No mortgage. Just utilities, cellphones, groceries, dog- and chicken-food, and an amazingly low annual property tax assessment. Things are looking good.

A bunch of miscellaneous things about the fauna of Mockingbird Acres:
-- we're down to four keets. Despite our best efforts, they rest have either escaped or been attacked. It's sad, but as i've said before, they're not the smartest birds. Not by a long shot.
-- our chickens love watermelon seeds, and then they will peck at the rinds (after we've finished) until nothing's left but the hard green shell. They also love the cracked-corn and wheat berries we bought for them. The maker called it 'scratch' but we call it 'crack'. The most fun i have all day is when I put some in a can and rattle it and call out "CRAAAAAAACK!" and all ten chickens come running full-speed-ahead from wherever they were and look at me expectantly. running chickens are gut-bustingly funny.
-- We are surrounded by critters here! So far we've seen a box turtle, a HUGE snapping turtle the size of a dinner-plate (OMG that thing was FAST and SCARY when it went in for a snap at you! Kelly rescued it from the goat farmer's barking dogs and took it way back past our property line) salamanders, squirrels, and SO MANY kinds of birds of every shape, color and size. We've seen at least two groundhogs, but no other large pests since the possum.
-- there are catfish - and maybe some other kind of fish - in our pond. I couldn't believe it when i saw it but there they were, dozens of them, sunning just below the surface.
-- we have all kinds of frogs, including a big baritone bullfrog whose voice carries forever, and a few toads, too.
-- there are hummingbirds!!! I was really going to miss the hummingbirds that came to our feeders in Glendale, and I'm so thrilled to be able to enjoy them again.
-- butterflies are abundant here, too. Like the birds, all sizes and colors. They're everwhere, all the time. It's like an animated Disney movie: there's a certain kind that seem extra 'friendly' and will come right up and land on you! Sadly, they don't seem to realize that they have two too many legs for me to be okay with them near me and I still freak out.
-- Trixie hasn't been seen for days. I really miss her. I hope that someone just decided that she was as awesome as we thought she was (She never even chased the chickens!) and decided to keep her in their house, but in the back of my mind i fear for the worst. Come back, Trixie!

Kelly's writing his own post, too... so you'll get a double dose, and hopefully not too many repeats.

Today I learned: did you know that you can spend as much as $1600 on a bathtub faucet? That's more than twice what i spent on the whirlpool tub!

Posted By JoAnna to Mockingbird Acres at 6/14/2009 03:14:00 PM

June 07, 2009


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