Monday, December 29, 2008

A cross to bear

Actually, two crosses. Notice the pole in the following picture? It is one of two that used to support my clothesline. Notice how it is leaning?

Well, the high winds early Sunday morning did this.

And this morning I did the same thing to its twin. I had to laugh while dragging them to the street, imagining how it looked to the neighbors. I'm not sure the garbage guys will take them (the crosses, not the neighbors), but maybe someone in need of a homemade crucifix or two will happen by.

Not much else has happened this past week house and garden-wise, except for the freakin' weather. Seed catalogs have started arriving, so it's time to figure out just what I am going to do with that mess of a backyard.

P.S. Over xmas, my son and I watched Mr. Squirrel trying to climb the shepherd's hook to get at the bird feeders. The pole was icy enough that the squirrel kept sliding back down. Even though I had my camera in my hand, the batteries chose that moment to expire. Otherwise, we would be watching a cute YouTube video right now. The pole became climbable again, so I greased it with petroleum jelly today. Maybe I will get a second chance to play Wild Kingdom cinematographer.

P.P.S. The gas leak is scheduled to be fixed next week. Yay!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Who needs television?

A "free" day can hang on some like a burden, but not me. On the one hand, it's an opportunity to do nothing, and I'm always up for that. On the other, why waste it? My free day included a project, a chore, and an emergency.

First the project.

The original plans for the new room included a spot for the litter box, but I did not want it out in the open. Enter the "cat washroom" from Plow and Hearth. It arrived the other day, but some (all) assembly was required.

It was well packaged and the instructions seemed straightforward. Step 1 was easy.

Step 2 could have used a bit more exposition or a better illustration, because at Step 3 I realized I had already goofed. Then it was smooth sailing until Step 7.

Notice something missing? The door was supposed to be attached in Step 6.

In situ. Not sure why a cat needs a towel rack - shoot, they don't even need toilet paper because what else is a tongue for? - but what the hey.

None of the litter boxes from my current collection will fit inside, so I have not introduced Fern to her new potty spot. But I was hoping to feed her on top of the thing. Currently, she will eat only out of the dog's bowl, which creates some logistical problems. So far, she is not thrilled with my idea, plus is cranky from being hungry. In a battle of wills with a cat, the cat usually wins, but I'm going to give it a few more days.

Now, the chore.

One of our addition's residents clears our streets, so when I saw him go by, a wave of slush curling up from his plow, I realized the time to shovel the driveway was now. Fortunately, the aforementioned neighbor opened up the end of my driveway for me, after expressing amazement (for the third year in a row) that I don't yet have a snow blower. My next door neighbor wandered over, shovel in hand, to ask me if I could catsit for them. Then he felt obligated to help me. (This neighbor owes me about 99 favors already.) Still, I made me some muscles by the time I was done.

That picture makes my driveway look longer than the 50 feet it actually is.

Yesterday's post included a photo of my ornamental grasses encased in ice. I was amazed that the one near the porch was still upright. Well, I bumped its supporting structure while shoveling yesterday and it fell into a heap.

Last, the emergency.

Around 8:30 last night, I let the dog out. She has a habit of peeing on the patio, so I followed her out to chase her into the yard proper. While waiting for her to do her business, I heard this small beep...beep...beep. It was coming from the gas meter. Huh.

My first inclination was to ignore it. After all, if I had not gone outside, I would not have heard it at all. (Am I the Queen of Denial or what?) Then I Googled "gas meter beeping" but that was not very helpful. So I went back out and listened. Yep, still there. I stuck my head down closer to the meter and SMELLED GAS!

Even I know this is an emergency, so I went back in and called the gas company. Help was on the way.

Thirty minutes later, help was still on the way. This is when having a hobby comes in very handy, as I was knitting furiously and nervously while watching out the window. Maybe I wouldn't have been so nervous if I hadn't seen the following photo in Friday morning's Journal Gazette.

Yep, broken gas line. Knowing that not only does a gas line run to my house, but gas mains also run along the utility easements on both the west and north sides of my property did not help.

Finally a very nice, personable, good humored (and good looking!) fellow showed up, the kind of guy that generates confidence in his abilities and his expertise. He too heard the beep (I'm not crazy!) and determined that there was a leak (still not crazy!) and it was before the gas meter, so I was not paying to pollute the atmosphere (what good luck!) He tightened down a joint, which helped, but said the meter and its external plumbing would need replacing. My case was a "grade 2" emergency; in other words, not a must-fix-now emergency but a should-fix-soon emergency. He assured me I was safe, I could use my gas appliances, etc. and they would try to fix it Saturday.

Which brings me to issuing a blanket THANK YOU to all the people who cannot spend the day making couch dents while the weather goes to hell. Initially, I was grateful not to be a paper deliverer or a truck driver, completely forgetting about the medical professionals and public safety personnel and utility workers who keep us safe in not very safe conditions. Time to stop whining about my job, where I work in a nice, clean, warm, friendly environment.

P.S. In between all this fun, I did view some wildlife in my own backyard. Mr. Squirrel had to abandon the Telephone Wire Highway and snaked through the back roads of the privat hedge instead. It was still rough going. And while I was idly watching the usual juncos, sparrows, house finches, etc. a huge HAWK flew into the the yard and perched in a shrub. His prospective meals flew off as soon as he showed up, and soon he left as well. Wish I had been less stunned and more reflexive in a photography sort of way. He was a beauty.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

For once, Chicken Little was right: the sky is falling. Or something is falling out of the sky. Rain? Snow? Freezing rain? Slush? Hard to tell when you can't see out the windows.

Power at home (despite the flickering of the lights) but no power at the office - the perfect storm! I planned to glue my butt to the couch all day, but the poor birds had a problem: icicle bars on the feeders prevented access.

Even goodies from the wild were locked away.

So I ventured out, thinking maybe the crap in the driveway was movable. Not yet, so I checked out the damage around mi casa.

The Japanese maple is not liking its first winter in situ.

Obligatory artsy fartsy shot of ice encased asplenifolia branches against a gray sky.

Ornamental grasses sagging. Notice neighbors vehicles in the background. My garage may be full of crap, but at least I can park my car in it, thank god.

My temperature-indicating rhododendron will not be unfurling their leaves until it warms up enough to melt their icy coat.

Even the chicken wire is a thing of beauty.

The lights keep dimming, so I am going to post this while I can. Besides, there is a butt dent in the couch with my name on it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Joys of Homeownership

I would be the first to say that the joys of home ownership are greatly exaggerated. There is always something in need of attention, and if there isn't, I worry about what might need attention next. Sometimes I even have disaster dreams, where the house is on fire and/or the roof is caving in and/or the crawl space is flooded and/or a tornado is right outside the door.

But most tasks are mundane. Last Thursday it was carpet cleaning. After months of bootie-clad subcontractors trying not to track stuff throughout the house, I decided it was time to call the carpet cleaners. My timing was a little off, though. I try to wait until after the ground freezes to minimize the amount of fresh dirt the dog brings in. I thought I was in the clear until I woke up this morning to rain. The straw is helping but not quite enough.

I'm still putting the house back together after Thursday's upheaval, and am about 95% there. I rearranged a few things as well, relocating the love seat and rabbit cage to the room formerly used for dining, moving the dining room furniture to the family room to see if I can convince myself that next year I can combine the kitchen and family room into one big hearth room.

Other mundane tasks involve plumbing. The sink in my bathroom periodically plugs up. Recently, I resorted to pouring Drano down the drain a few times, but it didn't help much. Plunger time. A plumber once showed me the trick of plunging up; instead of trying to force the clog down through the plumbing, you use the plunger to suck up (so to speak). I tried this the other day and was rewarded with what looked like a black turd, presumably made of congealed Noxema and hair. I grabbed that sucker before it could slide back down the drain and now that drain drains beautifully.

The toilets are an ongoing battle. Mine in the so-called master bath occasionally won't flush, but I have learned over the years that if I just let it rest for a while, whatever is making it recalcitrant melts enough that the toilet will flush again without resorting to the plunger. And then there is the flapper and chain thing. A while back, the flapper and its attached chain became unattached, a situation I resolved with a safety pin. But I didn't shorten the chain enough and the extra would get caught under the flapper, which resulted in the toilet running unless I jiggled the handle. Everytime I flushed the toilet, I would think, I should fix that. Well, the other day, the safety pin rusted through. I replaced it with another, and in the process inadvertently shortened the chain. Voila! No more handle jiggling required.

I'll leave you with one more handy household repair hint, also involving plumbing. If a pipe springs a leak, it can be sealed with plastic electrician's tape. Just wrap it around the leaky area. This is not only cheap and effective, it may be indefinite. I'll let you know if the trap under the kitchen sink ever resumes leaking.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Wednesday morning the cat sounded like she was suffering from an asthma attack. I peeked into the dining room to see what was up. There she sat, on "her" chair by the window, wheezing over a wild rabbit who was daintily cleaning up spilt safflower seed on the other side of the pane. Poor Fern!

Since it was getting no action other than from rabbits, I moved the window feeder to the other side of the house where all the other bird feeders are, to see if anyone (anyone? anyone?) is brave enough to check it out. So far, still no takers.

The birds are not even too interested in all the straw I spread around the backyard Tuesday night. It was typical Indiana gray complete with drizzle, which was turning my churned up backyard into a mud pit. Betsy seems genetically incapable of avoiding mud, so in desperation I paid premium price for two bales of straw. I think I need two more, but at least now the meter readers and I can traverse the yard without turning our footwear into concrete boots.

Spreading the straw brought back memories of my previous life, living in the country and gardening and raising chickens, and an even earlier life of horse wrangling at a summer camp. Bales of straw still break apart in "books" and it still looks like spun gold scattered across the ground. I wore overalls and actually carried tools in those funny little pockets on the legs; the pocket of my hooded sweatshirt collected bits of chaff. Wednesday morning when the dog went out, the straw was stiff with frost under her feet.

I have a habit of "borrowing" photos I find on blogs, to use as wallpaper. Right now my PC at work displays a sheep under an apple tree on a New England hillside. That sheep makes me ache a bit for the country life I left behind, and I wonder if I will ever go back. Thanks, Sheep Gal.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying my home improvements more and more. Sometimes it's the little things, like the carriage lights outside the patio door that illuminate part of the backyard at night. Sometimes it's how pleasing the colors that my daughter picked are. Sometimes it's the security of a new roof, the comfort of a new furnace, the enormity of everything I have done over the past few years to make my house my own.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Why We Invite People Over

I suppose there are some individuals who invite people over to their homes because they want to see their friends and family. And I do too. But it also gives me a kick in the arse to raise the housekeeping standards around here for at least a day or two. Housework is one of those things that gets noticed only if it doesn't get done.

Since my SO comes over a couple of times a week, I at least drag the vacuum around the house and check the status of the main bathroom on a regular basis. And laundry gets done. And sometimes that is about it.

I was commiserating with an old friend about the cleaning freak-out that was about to occur since a work friend was coming for coffee today. My old friend said what she does is make sure the kitchen and bathroom are spotless, pick up what she can, and, if there is time, vacuum.

My MO is to concentrate on the rooms that are in the least state of disarray, since it doesn't take much to get them in order, and leave the worst for last. The problem is I frequently run out of time and/or energy before I get to the worst. So the worst gets worse and worse until it looks the worstest.

The worst is my kitchen, but I decided to follow my old friend's lead and tackle that first. That took most of last night, but now I can find my breakfast bar, and the floor, while not clean enough to eat off, is looking good. This morning I took care of the lighter tasks, including cat box and rabbit cage. I even dusted!

I keep wondering why can't I simply spend about 20 minutes a day on housework? My house is small and I am the only two-legged living here. It seems 20 minutes a day would keep the place looking not just inhabitable but downright spring-cleaning clean. But I don't do that.

Another problem with having people over is the household quirks. Today's concern was the toilet in the main bathroom that sometimes does not refill after a flush. I checked to make sure the tank was full, then decided if my work friend used the bathroom, I would follow suit in a reasonable amount of time and make sure it refilled.

I baked banana bread and brewed coffee and my friend arrived and we had a nice visit, sitting in the new room and watching the birds. And now I have a nice clean house to enjoy, even if it looks like someone else lives here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Snow kidding

Today we received a bit of snow.

It was wet and sticky and is not going to last. Maybe this is a sign of things to come; I would like to have four inches a week, for cross country skiing purposes.

I put up another bird feeder.

My first attempt failed and the thing fell down, scattering safflower seed all over. I tried again, but so far no takers.

Friday, November 28, 2008


The sun was shining, so I spent most of the day in the new room, knitting and napping and birdwatching out of the wind. Among the usual feathered visitors was a goldfinch on the thistle sock. Hopefully, he will tell his buds that food is available.

Mr. Squirrel paid us a visit, too. I watched him cross the neighbor's yard via the telephone wire. He could not crawl under my chain link fence because that particular stretch was bunny proofed with chicken wire, so he climbed over. Then he shinnied up the shepherd's hook. He did not even bother to try the mesh feeder, presumably because he had tried it before and found it too confounding to his mooching powers. He sampled some cracked corn, but that wasn't what he wanted. For sunflower seeds he had to resort to ground feeding. Then off he went, back over the fence and presumably on his way to other bird feeders in the nabe.

I tried to take pix from inside, but my camera does not zoom enough. It almost makes me want a new camera or a lens or something. Almost.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Well, I'll Be

I did not think they could do it, but the heating guys actually made the new room TOO HOT. That's okay, I can always close a register or two. The rest of the house feels a little unbalanced temperature-wise, but that is okay too, because the heating guys are willing to come back and do some adjusting. I still have to call the flooring people about the flawed board, but right now I am just going to enjoy a long holiday weekend. Happy T-Day!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Parsley, (No) Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

I have colonnade apple trees growing in big pots on the patio. I read somewhere that thyme planted under fruit trees will help attract pollinators, so there is thyme growing there as well. Some of it still looks green, so I potted a bit of it. It looks even more pathetic than the chives and oregano, but we'll see how it does.

There are heating guys crawling around under the house as I type. They came out in force, including one of the bigwigs, so I am feeling mollified and somewhat optimistic that something they do will at least improve the temps in the new room. I don't expect perfection, but it would be nice if it stayed above 60 out there.

Yesterday I did a bit of yard work and discovered that yoga muscles are not the same as raking muscles.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

They Like Me! They Really Like Me!

Yesterday I stopped at the pet food store and came out not only with dog and rabbit vittles but also bird seed and several new feeders. Usually, I try to wait until xmas to feed the birds, but baby, it's cold outside!

The old thistle feeder kept losing its perches, so I decided to try one of these socks.

And I put the oil sunflower seeds in the mesh feeder on the left, to see if it discourages squirrel raids.

The feeder on the right has cracked corn. I also hung some suet blocks near the bluebird house that housed no bluebirds this summer.

This morning my SO and I were reading the Sunday paper in the new room when, lo and behold, we had birds! Not only a pair of cardinals and a couple of sparrows and some juncos, but bluebirds! They were checking out the bluebird house. I think bluebirds migrate south in the winter, so I'm guessing these were either looking for temporary shelter or were planning ahead for next year.

Later I also saw Mr. Squirrel checking out the new buffet. I plan to grease the poles with Vaseline, to discourage him and his buddies.

So, one of my goals for the new room has been realized: wildlife viewing.

The temps at night have been down in the teens, so I was surprised to find some of my herbs were still green. A few days ago, I dug up this two-foot-tall rosemary.

It's too tall for my plant shelves, so it is gracing the coffee table in the new room.

Yesterday, since I was outside anyway, I dug up a clump of chives and a bit of Hot and Spicy oregano.

They aren't in very good shape, but I am hoping they will come around. They fit on the plant shelves.

So, another of my goals for the new room is being achieved: winter herbs.

The heat, though, is still an ongoing problem. Friday I called the heating contractor that installed my furnace and AC. After describing the whole situation to them, they did not think the dampers would help (or hurt), but they recommended a separate convection heater for the new room.

While looking up their phone number, I saw an ad in the Yellow Pages for a company that (among other things) installs radiant heat. The idea of warm floors really appeals to me. I talked them into giving me a ballpark estimate over the phone: $1600 to $1800. Hmmm. And I would still need to cool the room. I asked them about "mini-splits," small heat pumps for room additions, but that is even more expensive.

In the meantime, I fired up this baby:

If I am out there in the morning or on a cloudy day, I can add a little heat. On a sunny afternoon, like I am anticipating today, the room should be comfy without it.

The sub-contractor is installing the dampers Monday afternoon. I will let them give it a try, but I don't have my hopes up.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Muddy Season

My backyard is still a mess from the construction. I can't wait for the ground to freeze so I don't have to resort to this every time I let the dog out:

The easiest way to clean her feet when mud is embedded in her claws and between her toes is to hoist her into the kitchen sink. Naturally, she hates it.

The continuing saga of the new room:

My SO crawled under the house and scooted through the crawl space on his back and satisfied my curiosity about what is under the new room. It is dry and properly insulated and not icy cold, so now I feel the room is not being cooled from below. I have seen the insulation in the walls and attic myself. It must be all those windows; they are supposed to be energy efficient (low E, whatever that means), but they are still glass.

The plan to increase the fan speed on the furnace is not going to happen because it turns out that the fan speeds are set at the factory and cannot be changed after installation. And the room is comfortable when the furnace is on high, so the furnace capacity must be okay. The heating company still wants to put dampers in the ducts, but I fail to see how this will help unless they are thermostatically controlled. I'm going to call them tomorrow and give them the opportunity to convince me.

I have closed the register in the dining room, where the thermostat is, to see if that helps. Then I may reverse the direction of the ceiling fan in the new room and run it on low. And then I will get some window treatments soon. And an area rug. And I can move a space heater out there. I'm thinking that, like the floor, the temperature in that room is just going to be one of those things that didn't turn out quite like I had hoped. Too bad.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Check Is NOT in the Mail

Warning: This is a long story that repeats some previously blogged info, so feel free to jump ship right now!

Last year I replaced my furnace and AC with a two-stage Carrier system (including humidifier) that I absolutely love. My house is so comfortable now, winter and summer, that I cannot believe the difference. But I had some problems with the contractor on that job. During new room construction, I complained about the furnace contractor to the heating guy, and K said that his company services Carrier systems. I said, You do? That is good to know. He said, Oh, yeah, a furnace is a furnace.

To heat/cool the new room, the heating guy ran a new duct from the furnace to the new room and installed four registers under the windows. Four seemed like overkill, but K pointed out that if the room was too hot in winter or too cold in summer, registers could be closed, whereas the opposite would not be correctable. Made sense to me.

Now that the weather is turning wintry, the heat, or lack of it, in the new room is a problem. I bought a weather system thingy that includes a remote thermometer. The base unit is on the mantle in the family room, the remote is in the new room. When the furnace is running on high, the new room is nice and toasty. Otherwise, it is not unusual for the temperature at the thermostat in the dining room to be 70, while the family room temp is 67 and the new room temp is 62. The other morning, the new room temp was in the 50's. Not acceptable.

So I called the contractor and he called the heating company who called me. M, presumably the heating company owner, wanted to increase the low speed on my furnace. Won't that heat up the rest of my house faster and cause the furnace to turn off sooner? I asked. No, said M, because we will adjust the dampers in the ducts under the house, forcing more air to the new room. I said, Maybe I should just close some registers? No, M insisted, we can balance the system so you don't have to do that. OK.

I scheduled a time on Tuesday (yesterday) morning for the work to be done. I was told the heating guy would be there at 8:30 but he would call before arriving. Meanwhile, my boss scheduled a team meeting Tuesday morning at 10:00. In light of the recent job eliminations, it seemed imperative that I be at that meeting. If the heating guy comes at 8:30, he should be done by 9:30, and I can get to work by 10:00, I reasoned.

Monday I received a "certificate of completion" from the contractor's office. I confidently signed it and wrote out a check for the balance due on my new room, intending to mail them the next day.

Tuesday morning K called at 8:25. Yes, I said, I am ready for you. THIRTY MINUTES LATER he finally showed up. Will this take long? I asked, letting K in the front door. No, not too long, K answered. Because they told me you would be here by 8:30 and I need to leave for work soon. I tried not to sound whiny. They told me Tuesday AM, K responded. Hmmm.

So K went back to the furnace room. First, he could not figure out how to get the cover off the furnace, determined he needed tools, and made a trip out to his truck. Then his flashlight died, so I fetched one of mine. Then he couldn't figure out how to change the fan speed. The manuals are in an aluminum pocket on the wall by the furnace, so K started leafing through them. TEN MINUTES LATER he was still leafing through the manuals.

By now it was 9:20 and I was getting anxious about leaving for work, plus I was convinced this guy, the same one who said a furnace is a furnace, DID NOT HAVE A CLUE. I decided I did not want him screwing up my wonderful system and said, I gotta go to work, so we'll have to continue this some other time. I mentioned the dampers, and K said, I don't think you have dampers on your ducts. He should know since he has been under the house. As he was leaving, he suggested I try closing some of the other registers and run the fan all the time. WTF?!?

When I arrived home that evening, there was a message from the contractor, all chirpy and how did it go this morning and when can we get together for the final payment? I called him back and let him know exactly how it went and how unhappy I was and did he have a relationship with the company that installed the system because these people obviously DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING!!! Oh, and by the way, I have your check but you are not getting it yet. (But I was nicer than I sound here.) So he called the heating company who called while I was at yoga, leaving a message that they would come back Wednesday morning at 8:30 (HA!) to install dampers on my duct work.

I called back the heating company to let them know I would NOT be home Wednesday morning because I had morning meetings to attend. Of course, no one was there at 8:00pm, so I left a message, which obviously did not get relayed to K because he called me at work at 8:30, wondering when he could come by and install the dampers. Not this week, I have morning meetings everyday and evening commitments. So he said the office would have to contact me about scheduling for next week. It is almost noon and I still have not heard from them.

Meanwhile, it occurred to me that one reason the room, especially the floor, is so cold is the vents in the foundation that are supposed to open and close automatically. I do not have these on the rest of my house's foundation; they are a new addition to the building code, to help eliminate problems with mold. I checked them this morning and they are closed, but it seems that covering them with some insulation board would be a good idea. My SO has some he is going to bring over tonight. I also asked him to crawl under the house and survey just what I have there. I'm wondering if there is any insulation under the floor or around the heat ducts, etc. I'm also wondering if it is dry, because a final grading of the construction site was not included in my construction package (my bad), which makes me uncomfortable because the yard immediately surrounding the room does not slope away from the house.

Last night I was crying because I spent all that money on the new room, only to have something that is actually less usable that the Florida room I had demolished. The Florida room was like a 3.5 season room, with a cement floor and two heating vents. In the dead of winter, I added a space heater and it was quite inhabitable. In fact, the rabbit lived out there and the cat had her litter box out there, so I left the patio door open enough for her to come and go, without compromising the comfort in the rest of the house. Now, the chill from the new room seeps into the kitchen and spreads to the family room. It's very discouraging.

The room construction, which was supposed to be over in October, is turning into a continuing saga. Wah!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Yesterday the electrician came and installed the light kit for the ceiling fan. I even had light bulbs for it. I am no longer in the dark. (Sorry - couldn't resist!)

I called the contractor to let him know the light kit was done, discussed what I still owe him, then I asked him to talk to the heating guy because that room is COLD. The furnace has a two-speed fan, and when it is on high, the room is nice and toasty. But if the fan is on low, not only is the room cold, the cold seeps into the kitchen and family room. So it can be 70 in the dining room where the thermostat is, 67 in the family room, and 62 in the new room. That is a bit brisk. And it is only November; what will happen in January?

The heating guy called while I was on my way home and left a message on my answering machine (remember when answering machines were new? I used to hate them), suggesting he could fix the problem by increasing the low speed on the fan. I don't know much about HVAC, but it seems like that might warm up the new room some, but it would also warm up the rest of the house and the fan would go off. He will have to convince me because I really don't want him making the rest of my house uncomfortable.

I plan on adding window treatments of some sort (insulated Roman shades?) and an area rug (why do we put down wood or wood-like flooring only to cover it up?) and eventually foundation plantings and trees outside, someday when I have money again. And I could put a space heater out there, because the room needs to be comfortable only when occupied. In the meantime, we'll see what the heating guy can do.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fresh Parsley

One idea for my new room is to grow fresh herbs out there over the winter. There were some in the garden I planned to dig up, but I didn't get a round tuit, except for the parsley.

I'd like to include some basils as well, but I think I will start them from seed.

Friday I got the flooring bill straightened out. No word from the electrician about the light kit installation.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Walls Will Not Be Tumbling Down

Last night the electrician called. The outlets in the new room were supposed to be wired into a wall switch, but somehow that had not been communicated by the contractor. Silly me, I had assumed a work order or something had transpired between them. Now that everything else is done, putting those outlets on a wall switch is virtually impossible. He offered some alternatives, but none of them sounded like they were worth the effort.

Today I called the contractor, who apologized profusely over this lapse. He offered to pull down the drywall in order to make things right, but I said NO! To me, it is not that big a deal. If the electrician would come out and install the light kit for the ceiling fan, which is on a wall switch, that would be good enough.

This morning the weather stripping in the new patio door was fixed. Now all I need to do is call the flooring people about the bill and the flawed board. *sigh*

Monday, November 03, 2008

Feels Like September

The weather has turned downright balmy this week - highs in the 70's. But once the sun goes down, the air definitely chills.

Tonight I tackled the garage. During construction of the new room, half of the garage was full of displaced furniture and homeless canning equipment and refugee tools. The other half served as a workshop for carpenters, Spanish lacers, painters, and such. In the past month, I reclaimed enough of the garage to get my car in, but there was more to do.

I'm still not done, but at least the paint cans are in their place and the leftover insulation is here and the fireplace logs are over there. Some things even wound up in the trash. More stuff is up against the walls instead of in the middle of the floor, and some of the floor was swept clean by my new broom. A good start.

I called the contractor today to see what was happening regarding the final few things, but did not get a definitive answer. I still owe a third of the cost, so I'm sure my concerns will be addressed. Haven't called the flooring people yet. One thing at a time.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Still Outstanding

The new room still is not quite done. The building inspector needs the building permit, the electrician needs to correct one thing (outlets on wall switch) and finish another (light kit for ceiling fan), and I still haven't called the flooring people about that one flawed board.

There is another reason to call the flooring people. I received a bill from the them, but it was incorrect. I had Durastone tile leftover from my kitchen, and thinking I had enough, I said I would supply it for the laundry room. Well, I did not have enough, so the flooring people ordered extra. The bill, however, includes the expense of the subflooring and labor for installing the laundry room floor. My understanding is that was all part of the big package.

I don't spend much time in the new room yet. I'm too accustomed to the couch in my livingroom. Also, looking out on the backyard reminds me of all the outdoor stuff I should be taking care of now, before the weather turns. And then there is the old furniture and lack of area rugs and general echo-iness of the room. I need to make it more inhabitable.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I Vant To Be Alone

That sinus thing I have just won't go away. At least, that is my excuse for not working out in the yard today. That and I just did not feel like interfacing with any of my neighbors.

At work, I consider it part of my job to get along with my co-workers. Ditto at home. Even when my neighbors are being kind of inconsiderate or downright rude, I play dumb and pretend I still like them. I don't want to generate ill will because, gosh, someday I may need to use their phone or borrow their truck or ask them to snowblow my driveway.

But. Lately it has been hard. The McCain/Palin bumper stickers. The five dogs barking non-stop 10-11pm. The junk vehicles in driveways. The stump grinder at 8:30am on a Saturday morning. The dog shit in my front yard. The burning of yard waste. The loud motorcycles and car radios. The speeders. The lawn mowers and leaf blowers and chainsaws. Gah!

Actually, I like my neighborhood most of the time. We have large lots and most homes are kept up and most pay their association dues and most mind their own business and/or give each other the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes I really, really, really wish I still lived in the country, so I could step outside my backdoor and not say "Hi!"

Those arborvitae can't grow fast enough.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Litter Box Dilemma

Once upon a time, I kept the cat's litter box in the laundry room, in front of the dryer. This blocked a door I never used and also caused some swearing when I occasionally dropped a sock into the litter, but in general it worked okay.

Somewhere along the way, the cat box moved to the Florida room. This was better because the door I never used was no longer blocked, I stopped dropping laundry into the litter, and the mess was confined to a room that was a glorified mud room.

Now the Florida room is gone. During construction, I moved the cat box to the main bathroom. This is okay except when I have visitors or when the dog is looking for a snack. I contemplated moving the box into the bottom of the linen closet but this would mean either leaving the door to the linen closet open all the time or cutting a cat door in the linen closet door, something I was not all that enthusiastic about.

Then I saw this in the Plow and Hearth catalog:

Believe it or not, this "cat washroom" would fit in the laundry room, in the corner between the kitchen door and the new room doorway. The only bad thing about this location is stray litter may get tracked into the kitchen and/or new room. But it is a possibility.

Plow and Hearth also has some Dirt Trapper rugs I am interested in. And then there are the insulated curtains. I have them in my livingroom and bedrooms, and will now probably add them to the patio door and the new room.

An aside on cat litter: A while ago I switched from a clay-based clumping litter to Swheat Scoop. It doesn't clump quite as well, but my cat has stopped urping. I am probably jinxing myself by writing this, but seriously, she went from being The Urpomatic to being a non-urping feline. She gets an almost-daily dose of Petromalt, too, which probably helps, but still. No urping. Really. My SO tried Swheat Scoop in his cat's self-cleaning litter box, but it didn't work well, so bear that in mind.

An aside on the room: I was wrong about the building inspections being done, because there was one more final inspection. I'm not even sure what it was for, but whatever it was, it is done. I think the only things that remain are some electrical things (the outlets are supposed to be tied to a switch on the wall and the light kit for the ceiling fan needs to be installed) and a floor thing (there is one plank that looks flawed). I still don't like the feel of the wood laminate when I walk on it barefoot, but if I am wearing shoes, it is tolerable.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's Not Final Until It Is Final

I don't know much about the inspection process when it comes to new construction. This year I learned a few things, including the fact there is something called a final inspection. The electrical inspector came and did a final inspection, and I assumed that was that. But today there was a notice on my front door from the heating inspector, as he has to do a final inspection as well. I'm guessing the framing inspector does not have to do a final inspection because, well, the framing is all covered up now.

Red is my favorite color...

... but it is not the only color of autumn. There is the bronze of the oat grass...

... and the yellow of these wildflowers (I'm too lazy to look them up)...

... and the purple of the Vibernum prunifolium...

... aka Blackhaw Viberunum.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Triple Teamed

The room is done, but I wanted to whine one more time about the floor, so the contractor came by last Thursday and he brought reinforcements: his interior person and the flooring lady. I had already talked to the people who installed flooring in the rest of the house and they did not think there was anything unusual in what I described - it is a floating floor after all - so I guess I will just have to get used to it.

There are still some little things that need attention, like the weather stripping in the patio door and a missing hinge pin and this and that. And yesterday I noticed that one of the floor boards looks partially unfinished. *sigh* I am going to ask my son-in-law to do a final inspection since he is a fixer-upper and his eyes are younger than mine. Then I will have to just let it go.

All in all, the whole project went relatively smoothly, BUT. My house is nothing special, just a run-of-the-mill small ranch, but it is built very well, everything solid and true. I'm not convinced that the overall quality of the new room is up to the standard set by the original builder. When I was house hunting and contemplating building or buying a new-new house, I was struck by the low quality of new construction. I just hope that my new room does not age faster than the rest of the house.

This past weekend, I started to reclaim my house. Most of the inside stuff is put back together and the garage is clear enough that I can park the car inside again. Unfortunately, a review of my finances indicate I will have to stick with the old, ugly, does-not-match-the-decor furniture for now.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


If I had pumpkins, there would have been a little frost on them this morning. Not a hard frost - no tomato plants were harmed - but definitely a bit of rime here and there.

Today I invested in some floor tools, a dust mop (at least, that is what we used to call them) for the wood laminate floor that I am beginning to hate (it feels like I am walking on paneling) and a broom because two out of the three brooms I own have disappeared, having either hitched a ride on a visiting panel truck or become buried under all the crap in the garage.

(Which brings up an interesting aspect of my experience with contractors: if your ladder is handy (or your bucket or your broom or your tape measure), they will use your tools rather than exert the effort it would take to fetch their own from their truck. And fans. Fans are needed for drying things like drywall mud, so you had better have some.)

I also looked at some furniture in World Market. I like the sectional sofa and matching arm chair on display. I liked them even more after I put a couple of pieces of my old furniture into the new room and found them quite retching.

In case you can't tell, I am a little crabby tonight. The muscles in my left hip are in a knot and that knot won't let go in spite of my usual ministrations. It didn't keep me from mowing today, because walking is not painful. Neither is sitting. It is the transition from sitting to standing that kills. It is hell getting old.

Friday, October 03, 2008

There Is Always Something

Wednesday the floor was finished, today the trim was added, BUT. Now the painter has to return again, to fill in nail holes and stain the trim around the attic access.

My questions are 1) when is he coming? and 2) can I go ahead and start moving furniture?

The floor feels more stable, but I'm not completely sold on wood laminate yet. The problem is as soon as someone says the magic words "low maintenance" I say "YES!"

The temperature has dropped to pleasant autumnal levels, and we even received a little overnight rain. I have a few pink daffodil bulbs to plant, but otherwise most yardwork falls into the category of Fall Cleanup.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Complaint Department, Please

The wood laminate flooring in the new room is about three-quarters laid. This past weekend, I found myself using the room as a short cut from the patio to the garage, and could feel the flooring give beneath my feet. Hmmm. I know the contractor specified that an underlayment be used to prevent just such a thing. Today I called and was reassured that the underlayment is there and that, once the floor is complete, that springy-ness will go away. I hope. The good news is the floor should be complete on Wednesday.

Second complaint was actually from my neighbor. Apparently, when the drywaller finished repairing the ceiling in my garage, he disposed of the leftover plaster in the storm drain. That is probably illegal, but worse, he removed the storm drain cover to do it and did not replace it. This addition does not have sidewalks, and I could just see someone taking an after-dark walk, stepping off the street to avoid a car, and falling into that hole. Yikes! The neighbor kindly replaced the cover (those suckers are heavy!) and I complained to the contractor about that as well.

No workers showed up this past weekend - a first! - and I enjoyed a couple of hours futzing around in the backyard. One of my personal failings this year was letting too many weeds go to seed, so I took a couple of plastic trash bags and filled them with seed heads. I also dug up the parsley plants, and have plans to dig up the basils, oregano, and some chives, for fresh herbs this winter. They should love that sunny new room.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Better But Not Best

After several people commented on the poor quality of the paint job in my new room, I called the contractor to complain. They suggested we tack sticky notes where the walls needed to be touched up.

I called them back and suggested that the painter just add another coat, which he did today.

These photos are not proof, but the color looks much richer now. I think he got in a hurry last Monday because the electricians were hot on his heels. There are still some major flaws, though, which I will point out to the contractor on final inspection. In my mind, new walls should be darn near perfect.

I still haven't posted pictures of the attic ladder and access. That is a long story, so I will save it for later.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not Quite Yet

I was really, really, really hoping that today would be the final day of Project Renovation, but alas, it was not to be. Someone (moi?) provided the wrong dimensions of the new room, so the flooring guys came up short. More laminate was ordered, and once it comes in, the remaining work should take about an hour.

Considering where we started with this project (replacing an 18' x 12' Florida room) to where the journey took us (24' x 24' addition) to where we finally landed (18' x 15' room), it is not surprising that some dimensions were miscommunicated. If this is the worst mishap, I will be happy.

Someday, when I have recovered from this project, I would like to move the washer and dryer to the other end of the house, and maybe put a half-bath where they are now. Or a freezer/pantry. Or a big closet.

Somebody stop me!

I'm liking the option of light in the backyard. These two fixtures illuminate the patio; there is a two-bulb flood light on the corner of the new room as well.

Red is the color of autumn. Red leaves on the burning bush...

... and red berries on the chokeberry.

Never mind that it is still in the 80's this week.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Weak Link

Progress on the new room has been steady, until the painters did not arrive last week as expected. Not on Wednesday (truck trouble), not on Thursday (sick), and on Friday, only one showed, to paint the trim.

Fortunately, they arrived bright and early today, and finished up just ahead of the electricians.

The new room is "oatmeal" while the laundry is "khaki" and the trim is "architectural off-white".

My daughter picked the colors and they look great. Even the painter was surprised impressed.

I splurged a bit on the ceiling fan (light kit yet to come)...

... and cheaped out on the laundry ceiling light fixture.

So far, so good!

What's left? The drywall/paint crew need to fix the drywall around the attic entrance and paint the outside of the French doors, the floor is scheduled to be installed Wednesday, and then the heating guy needs to appear with some registers. Oh, and I guess I will need to pay for all this.