Catching up… again

Today I’m playing a little catch up. Again. Neither of us has touched this blog since May. I can’t believe it’s been that long! I’m not even going to try to get us caught up to current today, but I’ll get us a bit closer.

Before I get started, I’m going to answer this burning question that I’m sure is racing through your mind right now: No, we have not been able to move into our house yet. We celebrated the one year anniversary of buying our forever home on September 24, by drinking some lovely Prosecco at the rental house. Sigh.

Anyway, let’s talk about a couple things that have happened.

Windows

Back in November last year we ordered some windows for our house. I don’t know if you’ll recall, but the front windows in the living and dining rooms were a mess, all scratched up, one of two panes missing, wouldn’t open, or all three. These are the view windows across the front of the house, looking out across the balcony and to the stunning view beyond. We went all out for these four. We also ordered windows for my office, the kitchen, and the breakfast nook. Two of these projects, my some-day office and the breakfast nook, have to be postponed. We could certainly store all these windows for some unknown period of time. As it turns out, we were able to use the windows I’d ordered for my office downstairs. I’ll get more into that in a bit.

On window install day, I got to our house pretty much exactly when the window guys did. In fact, I followed them up the driveway. It was slow going. Their truck did not like the combined weight of the trailer with all the windows in it and our hill. We all made it, however. Right away they set up a spot on the driveway to work, and started unloading glass.

They started with the hardest-to-install windows first: the living and dining rooms. Naturally we begin by removing the old glass and frames.


Then put the new windows in. Ooh, they’re so very pretty! And they actually open. What a concept.





In their “spare” time, they also replaced the little window in the TV room. I’d originally ordered this little square window for the kitchen, to replace a fixed window over what will eventually be the coffee bar. However, we discovered that the square window wouldn’t fit, and ordered a window of the correct size for the kitchen. That left this square one to go somewhere else. Luckily, there are two other square windows of exactly the same size, one upstairs in the living room overlooking the barn, and one downstairs in the TV room. We are planning on eventually replacing the little window in the living room with a door to lead out to a deck we haven’t built yet. That means that the only place left for this one is the TV room. Okay. The TV room it is! I’m so very glad I had the forethought to match the size of this new window to those a couple of existing windows.

Silly girl

They replaced the living room, dining room, and TV room windows on Friday. They returned on Monday to finish up. On Monday this old thing that looked horrible was scratched all up, and was difficult to open…

was replaced by a new beauty that is the opposite in every regard.

The windows I ordered for my office were, once again, the same size as a number of windows that are already in the house. For symmetry. I don’t know about you, but having a bunch of windows leaning against walls and in the way seems like a recipe for disaster. Instead of saving these three windows for my some-day office, we used them to replace horrible original windows downstairs across the front of the house. Ta da!

The windows after the glass was removed
The new windows

We do still have one large window, and one sliding glass door that we have to store somewhere out of the way, but that’s only two windows, which is much better than storing a total of six of the things. Whew.

Driveway to the barn

We had originally planned on pretty much ignoring the driveway shooting off to the barn for some time. We were talking to the gravel guys about the gravel we’d need for under the propane tank (this is a different story, and not one I’m going into today). He couldn’t help but notice the disaster of our barn driveway. He happened to mention (cough) that having gravel work done costs less if you have multiple jobs done at one time; instead of doing one this year, and another next year, it’s far cheaper to do them all this year. We had the guy bid for just the gravel under the propane tank, and also to patch the scar in asphalt left from repairing the line to the septic tank from the house, and graveling that secondary driveway. In the end, we did the obvious thing, and saved ourselves some cash by spending more now, and getting all three projects done at one time. This is how it looked earlier in the day before the work started.


Inside the now empty carport

The day before all this work was to happen Dave and Grant, our guest from SoCal, moved everything out of the carport to behind the barn where it wouldn’t be in the way. I cannot tell you how glad I am that Grant was here at that time. Not only did he love to help do this, as well as a bunch of other things, but we had so much fun while he was here. Bonus: Grant got to see the gravel work done. The two of them took a bunch of videos on Gravel Day, but the editing that was supposed to happen to them hasn’t yet, so those videos are not included here. Not yet. Hopefully one day they will be.

Anyway… Dave went out to the house early, before Grant was fully mobile (he’s 18, so he sleeps a lot), so I took Grant over a tiny bit later. Turns out Grant and I arrived just in time to not be able to go up the driveway in the car. It was blocked by the big stuff getting staged down below. Grant gleefully walked the ¼ mile up the road, and I ran errands.

The heavy equipment arrives

Now we start clearing the driveway of pretty much everything.



This last driveway destruction picture shows them cutting a wider opening to this driveway. Dave’s intention was to make it wide enough that he could turn onto this secondary driveway when going between the house and barn. Well… turns out that my little car is the only one that can make this turn. We do have some extra gravel, though, and Dave hopes to use it at some point to widen this curve a little more.

Gravel delivery…




Spreading the gravel…

It still amazes me, after a lifetime of watching roadwork being done, how much can actually be accomplished in a single day. The finished driveway to the barn is a thing of beauty. Apparently, for now, you’re simply going to have to believe me. I don’t seem to have a photo of it all done! LOL Egads.

Beams

We’ve told so many people about the three beams in the kitchen that I don’t remember if we’ve written about it here or not. The ceiling over the living room, dining room (I almost typed “diving” room; wouldn’t that be fun!), and kitchen is vaulted. Like everything else, it’s covered with cedar, finished with big open beams that hide the seams. Gorgeous! It’s really lovely. The one thing about it, though, is that the way the house was built all of those beams start at the peak, and run to the outside walls… except for three of them in the kitchen. These final three beams, instead of being supported by the exterior studs, were held up by… egads. I can hardly say it. Well, here’s a picture. The three beams did not extend all the way to the exterior studs, but instead were supported by the soffit over the kitchen cupboards, which in turn was held up by the cupboards. Who thinks up these things? Why would you do this? Why was this considered to be a good idea? The mind reels.

Soffit and purlin
Closeup

We bought three 20-foot, kiln-dried beams. Dave cut a sample of the old stain off of one of the beams to be replaced. Grant and I took it over to Sherwin Williams, and had them match the color. They did an amazing job of it, too. I put several coats on all sides of all the beams before Beam Replacement Day. The contractor brought over a bit of portable scaffolding, took down the first beam, replaced it with the new one, and so on.




And ta da! They’re gorgeous. Don’t look too closely, as the old beams are all rough-cut timber, and the new ones are not, but other than that they look like they were always there. It’s so nice to not have to worry about one of them falling on my head.

Closing

There’s more, a lot more, but this is all I have for you today. The sun is coming around the corner of the house, and is now shining in the window, which means it’s time for me to quit my desk until tomorrow.

Catching up

It turns out that, what with one thing and another, we haven’t blogged for more than a month! We’re sorry. I’m here today to get us all caught up. I was originally going to create several short posts, each on a given subject, and release them on different days, but that seemed like too much work. I’ll do headings instead, so that you can skip something and go on to the next thing, if you’ve a mind to.

Coming back later (I’m about half done writing it) and reading this missive, I think that I should probably break it up to make for easier reading. I’m not going to, though. Hope to see you on the other end. Three cheers, if you make it through! LOL

The bears

After what felt like years, but wasn’t really, Dave finally found a source for the now elusive spar varnish, got some, got it to the house, and painted the bears with it. They’ve gotten two coats already. Now they’re waiting for more nice weather, so that they can get another coat or two.

One of the bears kept giggling, while Dave applied the varnish. He said it tickled.

The shelf paper

Though I desperately wanted to use up my 30-year-old shelf paper, it just wasn’t going to work out. Apparently, if you keep the stuff in a roll for 30 years without using it, the stuff complains. Not that I can blame it really. So I bought some new. I ordered it on Amazon, who has been getting way too much of our money, especially lately, but there you go. In the earlier days of the corona virus and everyone staying at home, contact paper was apparently deemed a necessity, and I got it in a couple of days. Meanwhile, the disinfectant wipes that I ordered on April 5 have been delayed even more. No biggie. There’s nothing else in this house that we can use to disinfect, well, anything, so that doesn’t matter at all, right? But I digress. Out with the 30-year-old shelf paper, and in with the new.

Yup. When the world sends lemons, paper with zebra stripes is lemonade! Just like the bears in the backyard, whenever I open a drawer or a cupboard that has been papered, I laugh. In the one photo you can see the new paper in a drawer, next to one of the blue sinks (really? blue?), while in the other photo you can see the flooring below the papered shelves. Anyone remember that exact flooring from my parents’ house? Yes, I grew up with this one, and can’t wait to get rid of it… again. Though wait I shall. Clashes beautifully with the zebras, doesn’t it? 🙂

The lower garage

The lower garage has been used as one of the staging areas. We originally shoved all the rolled up carpet that we tore from the floors, the paneling from the walls, and everything else we could think of into this garage. We’ve spent a good deal of time in there pulling nails out of everything from paneling to planks, sometimes making a bigger mess before we were through. Then suddenly—well, maybe not suddenly—the garage was empty!



It’s amazing how much we’re using the pickup now compared to…well, any time in the last 20+ years that we’ve had it!

The stairs

I think that from the very first time we saw this house we wondered why the staircase was enclosed on the one side. I mean, the garage is on one side of the stairs, so it’s obvious why that wall is there. It’s the other side. It was a short-ish hallway that was all dark and narrow and closed in. Like this, except this side of the wall was paneled, too:

You see what a dismal thing it was? But now? Now it is glorious! Well, now it’s awesome. It won’t be glorious until we have our flooring put on the stairs. In the meantime, this is how it looks from the entry, or looking down.

You won’t be able to see under the stairs when we’re done, but the wall used to start at the base of the stairs, and went all the way up to the floor of the story above. I’m getting all tangled. Hope you understand. It’s just so nice that it’s all open now. Hooray!

The hi-lift jack

Dave has pretty much always wanted to have a hi-lift jack. He never got one before, though, because he didn’t actually have a need for one. Now he does. He’s used it to great effect in the backyard, pulling out those old posts, the clothesline, all sorts of stuff.
 

The backyard is still a disaster, but nowhere near as bad of a disaster as before we started attacking it. The three rhododendrons back here have been freed from ivy and blackberries, so has the big old maple tree, and the garden where nothing grows any more (except blackberries and ivy). Now it looks like it has potential, where before it was just a big, old mess. Click on the photo below to see it better.

This part—see below—is “the garden.” It was almost completely covered with a mess of blackberries and ivy that was probably six or seven feet high. Most of the pathway was completely covered over. There was just a narrow bit along one edge where you could walk. You certainly couldn’t make it all the way to the tree! Now Dave’s there, holding up the tree, not in fear for his life or limb or anything else. Super cool.

The kitchen

We went over to the house the other day. I think it was on Saturday. We’d been collecting up a bunch of stuff for the house in the living room and entry where we’ve been living. Ansel was starting to get a bit weirded out, and we all thought it would be good for us to take those things over to our house where they might do some good. We filled up the truck, and headed over. A few minutes after we got there the truck was empty, and we were wandering around the house. Then we had lunch.

The next thing I knew I was putting zebra stripes on more shelves, and Dave started attacking the dishwasher. We had someone in line who wanted to take it off our hands. We knew it’d be a whole lot easier for someone to haul it away if it was already outside. That took some doing. The plumbing was all wonky, and instead of being plugged in the thing was wired into the wall (who does that?). Once that was done, managed to get the eating counter off of the back of the cupboard that had had the cook top in it.

Then he started wondering how the top counter top was attached to the cabinet. Dave can often be found pondering with a hammer in one hand.

The next thing I knew he’d gotten the thing off.

And then he got the cupboard up off the floor, and moved it over.

About this time the refrigerator got moved into the living room. Doesn’t everyone have a fridge in the living room? It’s so handy!

Then the cupboard that used to have the cook top in it also got moved into the living room. Dave asked if I could help manhandle it. I tried to budge one little corner. It laughed. I said no. We left for the day.

These next photos are some that Dave took yesterday, when I was at home buying more things for the new house. When he arrived the floor where the dishwasher had been was all wet. Now it’s leaking into a bucket. There’s another bucket installed where the “laundry room” sink used to be, too. He took that out yesterday, too.

Dave somehow managed to get that cupboard into the living room. It’s no wonder the man comes home with sore muscles so often!

The kitchen sink is out now, too. And all the lower cupboards. And the paneling on the walls. The only things really left are those two upper cupboards that are holding up the faux beams. Don’t get me started.



It’s spring

While all of this has been happening in and around the house spring has sprung. Everything is soooo green! Except for the flowers, of course. We now know that our rhododendrons are in an assortment of colors—a little thing that makes me dance with joy. There are two reds, two pinks, and a purple. They’re all glorious. Here’s one of the red ones:

The apple trees (two) bloomed their little hearts out.

Here’s one for scale. Dave’s 6’2″ tall, and looks like a tiny little guy in front of the barn… and the trees that soar behind it.

For those of you who are interested, there are more flower photos here.

I’ll leave you with a view shot, as a reward for making it all the way to the end.

Hello bears!

If you’ve been keeping up with us, we had a couple of cedar trees removed two weeks ago. One was in the way of peaking the garage roof (I still haven’t gotten over this: who puts a flat roof on a garage in Washington? LOL), while the other was in the way of the addition we’re going to build for my office. The second tree was actually four trees growing so close together that their trunks grew together, and they were smack dab in the middle of the backyard, where they could be seen from any window at the back of the house. Because of their placement at the base of the hill, the guys who cut them down couldn’t get the stump grinder in there, so we were left with this: an ugly stump with four tops on it.

I’ve been groaning about the loss of the cedar trees, and Dave’s been quite unhappy with the thought of having to live with that big old stump for the rest of his days. That’s when his gears started turning. You see, there’s this guy who carves things with chainsaws over in Rainier, Oregon. We drive by his place every couple of weeks or so. His name is Robert, and he has a website called Knot Just a Bear. We were out running errands on Wednesday, and were going to be going by his shop anyway, so we stopped and talked to him about our stump. We didn’t commit to anything at the moment, but we were even more interested when we left than when we got there. I called him on Friday, and we ended up all at our house together Saturday afternoon.

Robert roughed out the bears, then he gave them a bit more detail, and then some more, and a little more, then they got black noses and paws, and they got little beady glass eyes, and they’re absolutely fabulous. Here’s a bit of the progression.

Dave’s put together a movie from all the video we took.

Bears begin to emerge from the stump.

Robert is hard at work.

And we continue…

A little fine touch-up with the smallest chainsaw. Now they get fur. Look how he’s laughing! I think it sort of tickles.

Now to darken up some bits. Robert said that the wood was better to carve fresh, but since it’s fresh burning didn’t work to darken the bits. He had to resort to black stain.

Now the eyes go in. Ouch! Oh! Oh, wait. I can see now. Sweet!

And here’s the finished bear family. As usual, there’s one bear looking off in a totally different direction. We have been directed to coat them with spar varnish to protect them. We’ll do that soon, and report back.

If you want to see all 76 photos we took on carving day, please feel free to view them in the bear gallery.

Bye Bye Cedars ☹️

When we bought this place, there were two great big cedar trees in the back yard.

Unfortunately, one of them was right next to, and seriously overhanging the garage, which would have prevented putting a peaked roof on the garage.

The other one would have posed a problem for Laura’s office.

So, they both had to come out. We hate taking trees out. (Laura claims to having a genetic aversion to removing trees. It always makes her cry. Unless they’re alder trees.) We’ll plant some new trees somewhere else in the future.

Here is a little of the removal action:

And here are the after shots:

Laura adds:
It started out being a cool, foggy morning.

And by the end of the day the guys had a splendid blue sky. Dave reported that once the fog dissolved the guy up in the tree would periodically stop what he was doing to check out the view. Bald eagles celebrated the day, too.

We Have Internet!

Yee Haw! 😀

As of yesterday afternoon, we finally have Internet access at the new house.

Many thanks to the Comcast tech that did the install. He did a very neat install exactly the way I asked him to.

Now I can listen to ad-free music 🎼 when I’m working 🔨 out there.

One More Step Towards Internet Connectivity

A huge concern when we were looking at this house was its utter lack of Internet connectivity. There is no cable to the house and the telephone company can’t provide DSL because the wires to the house are (probably) 45 years old.

Yikes! No Internet is a deal killer for us. We can’t work without high-speed Internet and we stream the vast majority of what we watch and listen to. Now what? Let’s look into getting cable installed.

Comcast, the local cable monopoly, does have cable on the poles on the street. In fact, there is a pole right next to the driveway. Great. Let’s talk to Comcast and see what it will take to get cable installed up to the house. $38k+ 😱 You have got to be kidding me!

Well, after numerous conversations with a couple of Comcast reps, we got the Comcast charge down to under $5k providing we install the conduit from the street up to the house. Okay. Let’s see what that’s going to take. To make a long story short, a lot more than we wanted to spend but a lot less than Comcast wanted if they put the conduit in. Since we plan on staying in this house permanently, amortizing the cost out over the long term, as it were, it’s worth it.

So, off we go!

(Laura adds: We were initially going to hire a trenching outfit to trench the entire route, but things… happened. In the end, I’m glad they did, as if the original guy had done the trenching, we would have had to buy lengths of conduit at the store, and glue them together, then have the trencher return to fill in the trench. Time consuming. In the winter. In Washington. Wet. Cold. Sounds awful, right? We thought so, too. Especially Dave, who’s the one who would have done most all of the work. In the rain and cold. And it probably would have taken weeks to complete.)

The company we hired to install the conduit has some pretty awesome machines.

The first bores underground, is steerable (up, down, left, right), and pulls the conduit back through the hole when it is retracted.

Look at that. Two conduits right under the driveway with no ditch or damage to the driveway. 🙂

The other is called a plow. It has a spool of conduit and a huge plow blade-shaped head through which the conduit is fed. The head is lowered into the ground and vibrates very fast. The result is that a narrow, two-foot deep cut is made in the ground, the conduit is placed within it, the ground falls back over the conduit, and then it’s all tamped back down. Minimal mess. Minimal damage to the landscape. Very cool. (Laura adds: And amazingly fast. All that, a quarter mile, took only 2.5 days!)

The spool of conduit
The blade
The conduit coming out of the blade
Installing the conduit right next to the driveway

So we now have ¼-mile of 2-inch conduit running from the road up to next to the electric company’s transformer box and another 30 feet, or so, of 1-inch conduit running from there to the house.

Comcast has installed their cable in the conduit and installed “pedestals” along the way for their equipment and possible future customers on the adjoining lots.They are supposed to connect to the main cable on the pole today (Friday, 1/17/2020) and test it all next Monday.

Assuming all is good, we’ll then schedule installation to the house. 👍🏻

We Have a Functional Septic System!

We knew there were issues with the septic system when we bought the house, the big thing being that the line from the tank to the drain field had to be replaced. Knowing that, we allocated money in our budget for that operation based on a local expert’s estimate.

Unfortunately, none of us thought about the line from the house to the tank and about a third of it also had to be replaced adding a bit more cost we hadn’t planned on. Drat! All in all, though, the vendors who did the work did a great job of keeping the costs down in addition to doing great work.

From the House to the Tank

The problematic pipe from the house to the tank was of a type called Orangeburg (Wikipedia). Orangeburg was made of layers of wood pulp and pitch pressed together. So, essentially, a tube made of rolled up tar paper. Yeah. That’s a great idea. Well, actually not so much.

Over time the pipe is slowly crushed by the earth around it to the point where little or nothing can pass through any more. Ours had gotten to that point.

Oddly enough, the other two thirds of the pipe from the house is iron and in fine shape. You really have to wonder why they didn’t use iron all the way to the tank.

So they had to tear up our beautiful driveway and dig a trench to replace the Orangeburg. Bummer.

Driveway before
Before
Cutting the asphalt
Cutting the asphalt

Driveway afterward
After

From the Tank to the Drain Field

The line from the tank to the drain field was made of corrugated plastic pipe which had also slowly been crushed over the years.

The plan was to replace this with high-density polyethylene pipe using a pipe-bursting machine (Wikipedia). Basically, you feed a very thick cable (7/8″?), through the old pipe and then pull the new pipe through, shattering the old pipe in the process. This is really great since you only have to dig a couple of holes for the entry and exit instead of trenching. Or so goes the theory.

In this case we ran into a problem. It turns out that pipe bursting doesn’t work so well with corrugated pipe. Instead of bursting, it just condenses like an accordion. You can see it in a video further along in the post.

In the end they had to dig a trench for part of that replacement too. Not a big deal, though, since it’s just out in the field.

The pipe-bursting process is pretty interesting.

This is the head that attaches to the new pipe and the cable. That’s 4-inch pipe on the left.

Bullet head
The head that bursts the old pipe

The 20-foot sections of pipe are literally welded together. The two ends are clamped into a gadget that keeps them perfectly aligned. A special tool is then used to even up the ends so that they mate exactly. Finally, a heating iron is clamped between them until the ends begin to melt and finally, the iron is removed and the ends are clamped together until the joint cools. Voila! a single piece of pipe.

Pipe joint
Welding the sections of pipe
Welded sections of pipe
Welded sections

Here you can see the front of the new pipe being pulled through an intermediate hole that was required because of the length of the run. You can also see some of the compressed corrugated pipe.

So, seven weeks from closing to having a septic system we can actually use.

I had no idea how satisfying it could be to flush a toilet 😉

Say Goodbye to the Giant Satellite Dish

I took advantage of the nice weather last Thursday to take down the 12-foot satellite dish on the upper garage roof.

Still in one piece
How it began the day

There was no realistic way to just remove it, especially by myself, so I disassembled it and took it down piece by piece.

Its construction was pretty straightforward. Nineteen supports bolted to a central hub bolted in turn to the support tripod. The 19 supports result in 18 metal mesh panels that create the semi-hemispherical shape of the dish.

Each panel was mounted to the supports with about a gazillion small, self-drilling, self-tapping screws. Most of them were rusty and not particularly willing to disengage. I used an impact driver to remove them and in the process destroyed a total of three sockets.

Removing the panels
Removing the panels
About half way
About half way

After a certain point I started removing the supports as well. These were mounted to the central hub with 9/16-inch bolts, most of which were pretty rusty. You can also see some of the mesh panels in the foreground.

Almost all of them
Almost all of them

The last two supports were a bit more difficult to remove. In addition to the two large bolts mounting them to the central hub, they were “captured” by some of the support hardware. That meant that I had to remove some very large, very rusty bolts.

The last two mounts
The last two supports

I left the tripod because it is mounted to the garage roof and removing it would result in leaks into the garage. It can wait until we’re ready to pitch that roof.

Just the tripod left
Just the tripod left

Here is some of the hardware that held the thing together.

Dish hardware

The drive in

I meant to share this earlier, but only finally got around to figuring out how to get this file off of my phone today. This is our new driveway. The lower part, the part closest to the road, belongs to someone else. We have an easement. The upper part of the driveway is ours. The video is just over one minute in length. Oh, by the way, the road isn’t exactly smooth. Also, I took the video with my iPhone while Dave was driving the truck, so it’s, er, a bit bumpy.

Roses

Dave’s been super busy inside the house dismantling things. While he’s been doing that, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home paying bills, balancing checking accounts, sending and receiving house-related email… all sorts of things, but mostly those seemingly endless tasks that are never.quite.done.

The weather has been delightful (cool and sunny), and so I took my clippers and a large bucket over to our house, and attacked the roses. When we first saw the house, the rose hedge was still blooming cheerfully. The leaves were bright and shiny with no sign of either pests or mildew, but it was in serious need of deadheading.

That was in late August. The roses have continued to bloom all this time (in fact, they’re still blooming, and they’re still covered with new buds), so I’m sure you can imagine how many rose hips have been growing where the delicate blooms once were. Yeah.

I filled up my bucket with dead blooms and rose hips four times that first day. I also nipped quite a few long suckers out of the way. I didn’t bother trying to cut those up just to fit them into my bucket, instead carrying their long selves down to the burn pile more-or-less intact.

Saturday I was at it again. I filled my large yellow bucket four more times, and carried countless long suckers down to that burn pile. I also found this little guy. I don’t know if he’s a carrot-nosed ghost masquerading as a snowman, or a spooky snowman. Either way, he has taken up residence on the mantel with the other odd bits that we’ve been finding while working on our house.

Instead of leaving you with a photo of how awesome the rose hedge looks now, because I forgot to take a picture of it, I’ll leave you with a view of our pond. It’s rained quite a bit since August, and so it has actual water in it now. Part way through my pruning campaign I decided to take a little walk through part of our yard. Here I’m standing on the west side of the pond, looking back toward the house. That colorful tree over on the right is our baby willow. There are tons of weeds in the pond as well as around it, but the task of sorting that all out will have to wait.