Thursday, October 15, 2009


Remodeling--it's fun, exciting, expensive, and educational! We tell people all the time about the cartoon, that I carry in my daytimer AND have taped to our refrigerator--but mostly just burned into our brains--that shows Satan standing at the "doors" to the underworld. There are two choices for the poor bum waiting on the brink. One portal reads, "Burn for all eternity" and the other says, "Live in your home while you're remodeling". Satan quips, "Pretty much a toss-up, isn't it?!"

Yep. Well, I think so. As Handyman tore into the dining room wall after church, the rest of us shielded our plates from debris and I threw newspaper at #1 to tape over the heat vents in the floor--(which lead directly to our $10 million geothermal heat pump!)

#1, being a seasoned remodeling baby, went right at it, taping protection down. When it comes to heat, we women are pretty possessive and protective. We'll take every micro jule (or BTU or whatever) we can get.

I was proud of my little women. Nobody batted an eye as Daddy started yanking off planks of drywall while we ate. In fact, #1 got into it. It was a stress-reliever for her. What did surprise me (silly me), was that #3 didn't know much about how much we've done to the house that she lives in. She thought it had looked like this since we moved in!! Yikes!

Obviously, babies do not pay close attention to fiber-cement siding, custom window trim and the quality of interior doors. She did not realize that the nook used to be an outdoor deck and that the big spot of particle-board subfloor in her bedroom is where #1's closet was. She didn't know that her bedroom originally had one ridiculously small window AND a set of patio doors!

Fortunately, Handyman did insist that I make a remodeling scrapbook of this monstrosity we call home. During #3's short life, Daddy has been busy building the barn, the fence and now the treehouse, and she's seen very little work on our actual abode--a fact not lost on Handyman. I whipped out the scrapbook and showed her how the house looked when we first looked at it. In a word--ick.

I told her how we didn't move in for a month, while Daddy ripped up the original 1971 shag carpet, with the original 1971 cat pee stains. How he even ripped up the subflooring in our bedroom and we moved in with no carpet on the replacement subfloor.

I told her how that first winter, we only had the shower in the bathroom off the kitchen-the one with NO heat vent--to use. And how we took her sisters to Grandma's once a week for a bath. I showed her the pictures of the front doors, with the hideous blue siding and solid metal doors, that were the first thing to feel the crowbar when we came.

I think she was a little impressed. She quickly grew accustomed to the big orange extension cord trailing through the rooms and adapted well to the sawzall running while she played downstairs.

As I have seen time and time again, Handyman is much more organized in his processes (THANK GOD!), than I would be. I woulda cut the hole in the wall at 1pm, just to experience the thrill of light coming in, (and heat being sucked out!) But not my guy--he spent most of the day measuring and marking. Then he had to move some wiring around. Then he moved the insulation and built the header and framework, AND installed it, without touching the siding on the outside.

Then, I just happened to find a text from Hayfield Owner, from 3 days previous, asking if Handyman had gotten the window put in? And I just happened to text back that window installation was actually in progress at that very moment, if he was bored. Fortunately, Hayfield Owner was bored and he and his kids rode their bikes over, and stayed for dinner, PTL.

I'm sure if Handyman had continued on with me as the assistant, there would be a lop-sided hole in the wall, with garbage bags taped over it, while he had to go to "paying work" for four days. The window would be leaning up against the wall, with doodling on it and laundry stacked on top of it.

Handyman was able to move forward more quickly with knowledgeable, capable help and they ended up even saving the siding, to make a quick restoration of the outside. The new window went into place at about 8pm, rather than the predicted midnight. And boy was I glad there was someone besides me to stand on the scaffolding and heave it into place!

It was a little less than exciting since it was dark outside when it went in, but I think it got the remodeling bug going again in Handyman. Not that the treehouse is actually finished. There's that whole railing for the bouncy bridge, and railing for the porch side with the 14' drop. But, hey! They're kids! It's exciting for them, right?!

I would post pictures of the window, the sent-from-above helper and the Handyman in his bathrobe cutting insulation, BUT, #1 fell with my digital camera and it hasn't been happy since. So all those pictures are on this archaic device called a film camera and I'll have to drive somewhere to get them "developed".

I will leave you with a picture of the upcoming, massive project, which requires the assistance of knowledgeable people called, structural engineers! But, you can also see from this shot, what the entire house looked like, aesthetically, in the beginning. Unfortunately, you cannot see that the window trim is rotted and falling off, and the windows have lost their seals, etc. And you cannot smell the smell that sent the realtor back to her car--(it wasn't that bad.)

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We interrupt this dry saga... announce there's remodeling goin' on! But then, I guess you could say that remodeling has never stopped going on here. Why, just last month, Handyman invited the Hayfield Owner over with his tractor--that has a backhoe on it. Handyman has tractor envy. Fortunately, Hayfield Owner is a generous soul, who lives nearby, and has a bucket on the front end. Even more fortunately, Hayfield Owner is a firefighter, which means when he's not saving folks from tall buildings (in our town that would be 3 stories), he's H-O-M-E-, just itching to do something fun!

And you know, to guys fun means dirt; So last month, they dug out the old oil tank next to our front door...Handyman says that Hayfield Owner is a "surgeon" with that bucket. And for that I am thankful, since he was up-close-and-personal with the foundation of our house! Those two men were like boys in a sandpile and of course, if you're gonna dig out an old oil tank, you'll have to hoist it somewhere--so one of them hoisted the durn thing and the other one backed his dump trailer UNDER the tank, and hauled it away and stimulated our economy.

The fun just never ends here...and then WHILE YOU'RE AT IT (the most expensive words in remodeling), you might as well rip out the front sidewalk that people have been complaining about for SEVEN years...

So, we don't have a sidewalk anymore. And before we put in a new sidewalk, that pine tree might as well come down. It was planted way too close to the house and has outlived its place. But we'll need another evergreen in that spot, and soon! And we certainly should bring down that unidentified, overgrown celery near the front door. And once that is gone, those solar panels from the 70's will be way in our face, so that'll have to be dealt with. And once we don't have those things to stare at anymore, it'll become very obvious that the chimney cap is in disrepair. And once we're up on that peak, we'll really want to replace that skylight on the backside...

But for now, let's just stop here and go put a window in the dining room. Nothing like tearing out drywall after church...

more pics to come!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hay Day!

The day came, bright and sunny. The tractor was already working its way around the field when I got the call from Field Owner. My excitement at finally seeing bales was "dampened" by the color of bales. It was a little sad to see what had been a glorious green field, packaged up into brown bales. The brown-ness was only on the top layer; as the hay was lifted into the baler, you could see green underneath. And I began to be more confident that the Hay Guy had done the right thing, letting it lay in place to dry.

Although Neighbor Rob was worried that it was still dampish...but his worries were for naught. Hay Guy's plan saved what could have been a complete debacle and earned my everlasting loyalty. (He later told the field owner that had I not called him all the time, he might have blown off the job altogether! Score one for tenacity.)

Neighbor Rob owns a couple of older hay wagons and we asked if we could hitch one onto the tractor/baler combo. Hay Guy didn't want to wait for us to get back with the wagon, but we assured him he could keep going.

At this point, Handyman was about 15 miles away putting in a window with my dad. I was feeling overly conscientious about having men putting up my hay, who had no vested interest in it, i.e. the gracious Field Owner who owns not one horse. He had already given me the field, for free. It was hay he could have made money on, but gave it to me as a thanks for driving his "punkins" to Awana last year. No big deal to me, at all.

And now there he was, putting up hay for the first time ever, while I'm burning up the cel phone to Handyman saying, "Are you comin?! Are you done yet?!" Now Handyman is not one to be budged, especially when a job is coming to its rightful completion. So we continued on.

I had offered some of the hay to another neighbor across the street from me, since they had graciously hauled Reno home two summers ago, for free. Reno, the free 24 year-old horse, had refused to get into the first trailer I "borrowed" and I had called them, on the verge of desperation, since they had a stock-type trailer, thinking he might consider that bigger. I was right. And I wanted to pay them back in some way.

So they came with their old tractor and wagon and kids on the back. It made for quite a little traveling party as we all circled the field. Field Owner was meeting new neighbors and experiencing what he'd missed in his cushy-suburban youth. Handyman did show up in time to pitch-in, and #1 got to drive our SUV pulling a trailer around the field. The highlight of her summer. She took her responsibility very seriously. And I was too busy to shoot even one picture! So bummed. It was such a pleasant afternoon.

At the end, there was 297 bales. Not bad for a 2+ acre field. We are so fortunate to have another neighbor with an elevator, free for the borrowing. But first Handyman headed over to Neighbor Rob's to help throw 95 bales up into his loft. The elevator doesn't fit there, as he has a lower slope and lower loft floor, so it was hand tossing, just to keep the old pecs in shape.

Then we loaded the elevator out of the neighbor's loft, hauled it home, set it up and Neighbor Rob's wife, Chris, my dad and I were on the receiving end of 75 more bales. It's always rewarding to labor, and it's so much more fun with friends.

My mom had made a big pot of spaghetti for everyone, but we were all in and separated by the end of the evening. Field Owner ate with us, at 9pm, but it wasn't quite the party I had envisioned.

Second cutting, here we come. In the Hay Maven's world, it ain't over yet!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hay There!

And the rain came pouring down...on my freshly cut field of overgrown, stemmy, hay. The best laid plans of mavens came crashing down. The feed store owner, who I had clung to for reassurance through the rains of June, told me to just stop worrying about. There was nothing to be done.

And he didn't say this, but having been through the year that I've been through, I was able to keep in mind: 1) Worry is sin--it truly is. It is saying that your plans are better than God's and He'd better get things straightened out to please Me; and 2)There are way bigger fish to fry than a little field of hay. We paid $6/bale a couple winters ago and we made it, so all things considered, this was a hemorrhoid, not a crisis.

Being the complete hay ignoramus that I am/was, I called Hay Guy to ask about whether he was going to flip it over to dry it. (There are all kinds of pieces of mystery equipment with wheels going every which way that can flip the furrow of hay over 180 degrees and put it back down in place.) That seemed like what we should do, but Hay Guy said no, he wasn't going to touch it for a couple of days, that raking or flipping or spreading it back out or whatever would simply knock all the leaves off of it and he wanted to "leave" it sit and dry.

(Another lesson I learned this past year: It's okay to just accept your circumstance and do the best with what you are actually in control of--and not try to manipulate.) So, I watched and waited and drove by the field, watching the lovely hay turn a glorious shade of drab brown with whisks of gold--great for straw, painful for hay.

And then, there he was, a tractor out of the mist...since the field is around the corner from me, I never even see what direction the Guy rolls in from or how he gets there. He's there, he waves and has hay crumbs stuck all over him.

In the interim, I am trying to arrange how we are going to pick up all this stuff and what we're going to carry it on and where we are going to put it. You can leave the bales lay in the field overnight if you have to, but there is definitely a theft possibility (especially two years ago when hay was going for $25/bale in CA and FL). Also there's the dew factor, so the best plan is to get it picked up immediately.

I talked on the phone so much that week, my cel phone battery would get hot. It was ridiculous and all my calls were to men. The Hay Guy, Handyman, the Field Owner, Neighbor Rob. Bunch of men on speed dial--who wouldn't love it?!

I remembered when I was in 8th grade and we had moved to the boonies, so I could have a horse. I begged my mom to let me join the boys 4H club. Because girls were snotty and prissy and I didn't fit in. But boys, boys just want to goof around and they'll take ya. What you see is what you get. If they don't like you, you'll know it and you can move on.

But girls, girls are awash in false impressions and facades. You're never quite sure if you're standing on solid ground or about to have the rug yanked out from under you...all this to say, it was a little fun, I love to arrange things. I especially love to arrange things when things work out. All the convolutions are worth it, when the pieces come together.