Sunday, July 01, 2012

House Update July 2012

I haven't posted much lately largely because I've been tired out from remodeling.  (Dh just told me to write, "My husband has the summer off, so no one got a vacation."  It's true.  Last-minute Pell Grant "reforms" killed over 2/3rds of the summer school classes and left him little to do but carpentry.)  It's been over 105F for two weeks now, so we're doing a lot of the outdoor prep work between 9pm and midnight.  Here's what we've finished since the last house update in January.


The electrical outlets have been refurbished.  The facings of the upper cabinets are complete except for the decorative bit and the tricky bit.  The paint's been retouched.  The vent hood is installed, so now we can fry food for the first time in almost 2 years.  The drawer slides are here and hopefully we can get on to making the drawers soon.  I need a safe place to store my candy thermometer so I can make homemade yogurt. It's too hot for anything but a cold breakfast, cornflakes get old fast, and it's even too hot for homemade baked goods first thing in the morning.

(Have you seen what yogurt costs in the stores?  Yeah.)


My husband has taken great delight in turning the gloomy former mancave into a sunny playroom.  ("Mancaves are for pathetic losers who can't do anything.")  We finished priming the walls and painted the ceiling.  Extra outlets were added.  The pantry floor is in place right over what was apparently once the garage shed, and the framing has begun.  The built-in cabinets are framed, floored, and have their sub-counters on.  We saved the doors and drawers from the former kitchen lower cabinets, scrubbed them out good, and we'll recycle them here.  Still, the cost of the lumber to finish the room was the biggest expense after the mortgage this month.

I'm slightly annoyed by the work, as I use the den to exercise in and all the commotion has thrown my schedule off.  The 12yo is extremely annoyed that we haven't made the den a priority since we're going to wait until it's finished to buy a new TV (our first since 1995, and our first flat screen) and set up the Wii we got last Christmas.  I pointed out that the delay has given us time to round up extra games, remotes, nunchucks, and a charger, but that only placates her so much.

We haven't been able to buy anything else for the new house or to bring anything large down from the old house, except for a bookcase full of baby and children's books that is now in the girls' room.  They were happy to become reacquainted with old favorites and to introduce them to the 3yo.

The sheds

Much of the outdoor work has been spent finishing one shed and refinishing another.  One shed was left unfinished over a decade ago.  The material to build it was piled behind it and left to weather outdoors for at least 12 years.  Only one wall was completely finished; it held a warped but intact set of 1950's knotted pine upper kitchen cabinets taken from a neighbor's house during their remodeling.   We finished the outer facing, the wiring, the insulation, and the inner facing.

The other shed looked like it had been set up at one time for children's crafts, probably during the house's "day care" era.  It had since been turned into a storage building for at least one other damaged set of upper kitchen cabinets (and possibly part of another set), some lower cabinets, and a huge pile of interior finishing remnants at least 12-15 years old that don't match anything we've seen in the house.   We've cleaned and sorted it out,  The damaged sheetrock was chopped up for Predator bandages flat casting molds. The walls are being prepped so we can install the upper cabinets and return it to it's former function.  If necessary we can run pipes out to it and turn it  into a cabin, should we find ourselves needing to house extra adults in a few years.  We've also scraped the carpet off the ceiling (a 70s fad) and painted it.

The gardens

Last  year's site for the vegetable patch turned out to be a bog, so we're trying a dryer place this year.  Of course that means we're having a drought.  Still, the site has been a good one.  We're just growing enough to eat fresh this year.  We don't have time to can anything.

The flower beds are doing good.  The 11yo likes to birdwatch, so I've pitched the flowers towards butterflies, hummingbirds, and birds, with a lot of red and pinky-purple wildflowers all arranged in drifts according to height, just like they would be found in Nature, provided Nature had the aesthetics of a school photographer.  It's produced a bumper crop of butterflies and dragonflies, and one tiny hummingbird.  The bird feeders we cleaned up and set out, and the bluebird houses the girls made, have also brought us bluebirds and cardinals to watch.

One odd bit came from a cheap bag of "daffodils" we planted out last fall that turned out  to be giant ornamental alliums instead, a much more expensive plant that I never had any fondness for.  (I love to look at alliums while thinking how good they'll taste on my plate.)  Still, we've got them and the butterflies like them, so I'll find a place for them in the back row this fall.

The azaleas are on Year 2 of a 3-year plan to prune them into shape.  They can only be pruned by 1/3 at a time, and they started out as monsters threatening to eat the house.  This year I've got them down to the right height, but they're still spread out everywhere.  I've also started pruning the rest of the shrubs this year.

The floirbunda rose we planted last year did well, so this year it was joined by 15 David Austens:  Harlow Carrs, Braithwaites, a Sharifa Ousma, and a Scentimental.  The Scenitmental and one of the Carrs died, but the rest are doing fine.

We also planted a pear tree and a Japanese persimmon this year.  The persimmon had been sitting in it's pot for two years when we bought it, and had naturally acquired a "bonsai look".  It's doing fine and has even set fruit.

The herb garden has long since outgrown it's spot by the kitchen door and spread out in all directions.   Depending on how you count them, I've now got between 30 and 60 different varieties, including 9 different mints, 6 or 7 different thymes, and IDK how many different dianthus and bee balm.  The regular lemon balm I planted last year is now "golden leaf" lemon balm, which doesn't seem to take the sun as well unfortunately.

While pineapple sage loves my yard, regular sage doesn't.  I've planted three different varieties so far, and two have already died.  Grey-leaved plants don't take to the South, so I'm currently trying a gold variegated sage to see if that will do better.  I wish someone would make a green or golden leaved lavender that would do well down here.

Everything else is doing well, by which I currently mean "hanging in there in spite of the heat".


The people who had this house before us knew a lot about wiring and about heating/cooling installations, but not so much about plumbing.  One problem took out the entire front half of the house (including the laundry and kitchen).  The plumber took one look at it and disappeared for three weeks.  After three weeks of doing dishes and laundry in the bathtub I called him up and fussed at him because I'd had to cancel a talk I was supposed to give at (the UU) church.  He came out to fix them the next morning.  No service provider can afford to be bad-mouthed at church.

Immediately after that the bathroom sink stopped up, and while trying to fix it we found that the house had extra pipes for nonexistent rooms that had never been properly capped -- when it started raining inside the house.

In between those two mishaps the stove element blew, and in the process took out the rest of the wiring in the stove.  (Remind me why we need a computer in a simple appliance.)  After a week of trying to fix it we realized that the cost of all the new parts we needed exceeded the cost of a new stove, and replaced it.

The good news is that it looks like we're about to get a break in the weather.  The forecast is saying that we'll have a big storm next week which will knock the highs down to 95F, which is currently the temperature at midnight.  It's due to arrive on Thursday, the same day the lumber gets here.

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