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Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Already?

It is, tomorrow. And, I'm looking forward to storing away the 2012 Day Timer I bought to keep track of our home building project. Back to an electronic calendar, with a hopeful assumption that 2013 will be, at least, a less complicated year.

Looking back, it was really a mixed year of some big changes. Building our house really too a full year, from signing a development contract to getting the grading fixed - and were not there yet. It's pleasing and comfortable, warm and cozy. Still more decorating to do (I'll be playing with a new mat cutter today, preparing to frame some woodcuts Karen purchased on ebay). And, perhaps, this week the excavator will bring in a load of fill dirt to dump in a sink hole that developed atop our septic tank and is serving as a conduit for rain and snow melt into our crawlspace. For the past few months, out builder has been pumping and drying out the crawlspace (but the tree frog down there is still alive and croaking).

During the construction, I had been worried about being able to climb up our 10-12% half-mile driveway following snow and the formation of ice, but the combination of snow tires on both our vehicles and a plow blade on my ATV has taken that worry off my platter of concerns.

May was tough, with the loss of three cats to a rapacious coyote down at the old house. Blue was old, and given the roaming life he'd led, I was surprised he lived to about 15; Tigger was annoying little cat, who sprayed everything that didn't move;


Ricky, the big orange tabby, was my favorite cat. Only the year before he disappeared, he'd discovered the joy of hunting, and, given the fact that a previous owner had removed his claws, he'd become pretty good. I'm sure he died doing what he discovered he loved.

I brought Pepper home a few weeks later. He's a loving, manipulative dog, something of a clown, but usually quiet in the house. He's made walks more enjoyable and made our mud room even more of a necessity.

We were relatively healthy this year. I had only one trip to the hospital, but it was just catch and release for dehydration - careless lack of water intake at a burn pile. Karen's got some joint aches and pains, but that's the trade-off for aging. I turned 62 in October and received my first Social Security check in December. Could I have waited? Sure. Would I be alive at 65? Who knows. Speculation aside, SS more than pays for our new mortgage.

Both our mothers are still floating in that twilight between cognitive life and physical death. Karen's mom has been in assisted living with dementia for nearly five years; my mother with the same condition for four and-a-half. Thank heaven for Medicare and Medicaid.

Finally, the re-election of President Obama was a vote for fiscal and social sanity (a concept better left unspoken here in northern Idaho) and a reprieve from Mitt Romney as our commander/social conscience/consoler/inspirer-in-chief.

Here's looking to a stellar 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Oh, Yes, It's Winter

Autumn's been a time for rain, more rain, and lots more rain. With a sinkhole over our septic tank, the rain built up into a kiddie pool and leached into the crawlspace under our house. Another four inches. Mike Tinsley, from Stratford Building Corp., came out, ripped out the Visquine tarp covering the crawlspace dirt, pumped out most of the water and brought in a series of increasingly powerful heaters to dry up the rest - well, most of it. In the meantime, we had rain gutters installed around the house, draining rain and snow melt onto our gravel driveway and into a drainage ditch behind the house and running down the hill. The builder's excavator will be dumping some fill into the sinkhole this week, and Mike will tamp it down with a Johnny Jumper Compactor (kind of like a jackhammer with a steel plate on the bottom). Eventually, we'll get this settled out. But, today's big story is snow.

We got about four inches overnight, and it's snowing again as I write this.

After a quick breakfast, I fired up the ATV and plowed our driveway down to the county road, stopping at the old garage to pick up Pete's old bedding to dump in the trash can before pickup. Pete's been living the house with us for the past month or so, and is very comfortable - even though he and the cats hiss at each other, and Pepper does his best to gobble up Pete's food.

Pepper's First Snowshoeing
Plowing on the way back up, I ran into our neighbor, Theresa, who walks her Australian Shepard and Mastiff on our place. They'd just come down in the snow, and she was still glowing from her first snowmobile ride last weekend or the week before. Dave, her beau, had bought her a snowmobile. "He must like me," she said, smiling broadly. Yeah, I think so.

When I got back, I put Pepper on a lead, strapped on my snowshoes, and headed down to the spring to put the SD card back into our trail camera. Who knows, maybe we'll get more shots of our neighbors' Tamworth hog.

I soon discovered that snowshoeing poles are a hindrance while walking a dog on a lead. The hand upon which the lead is looped can hold a pole, but really can't use it. The off-hand is useful, but the best pole is - Pepper, the wonder dog. And, since the snowshoes provide great stability, poles really aren't necessary. Pepper's a puller, and as we walked to our topmost meadow, it occurred to me that, even though he's only about 50 lbs., Pepper would make a terrific sled dog; except that his hind leg feathers accumulate a lot of snow, which ices over.

Pepper Resting Before Hill Climb

Snowy Feathers

Upper Meadow

On the way back to the house, we passed an apple tree, the fruit of which is hanging on for dear life, as if it hoped autumn would continue a while longer. No chance. Winter is here.

Stubborn Apples

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Does $4,000 Buy You?

An insulin pump that lasts less than two years.

Two years ago this January, I went on an insulin pump to manage my Type I diabetes. I had three choices: Animas, Medtronic, and OmniPod. After doing considerable research on the Internet, and after talking with my diabetes counselor, I chose the Animas One-Touch Ping. It had been working pretty well since then with attentive parts management - changing the battery every month; changing the battery cover and cartridge cap every six months.

But, recently, the pump display had started to dim from bright yellow to dim orange. I jacked up the contrast, without effect. And, in the past couple of days, I'd had trouble keeping my blood sugar anywhere near my upper target. Monday, when I was in Coeur d'Alene for other purposes, I stopped by my endocrinology center and talked with my counselor. The pump, she said, had to be replaced as there was no way to replace the display light. Yesterday morning, I called Animas and they said they'd send out a replacement pump right away. They did.

This afternoon, UPS delivered the new pump (signature required) and, within a half hour, my counselor had walked me through the pump setup. I changed my infusion set, took my sugar (reasonably low after ingesting no carbohydrates today), and ate some of the roast leg of lamb, potatoes, carrots and onions I'd made today. I gave myself a compensatory dose of insulin via the new pump. Two hours later, my blood glucose level was right where it should be.

So, kudos to my counselor for her guidance and to Animas for their prompt response. But you'd think that for $4,000 (paid by insurance, fortunately) you'd get a bit closer to the end of the four-year warranty period.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A New Houseguest

Back when my mother-in-law, Jean, was still living on this property, she was adopted by a pair of black cats, brothers, that came down from a mobile home south and east of our place. One was as sweet as could be; the other was just as nasty. They lived in the woodpile behind the garage until, one snowy day, the sweet brother disappeared. Probably into a coyote. The nasty cat stayed. We called him Black Pete.

He was a shaggy mess, hissing and growling whenever we came near. Getting him into a cat carrier to take him to the vet required leather gloves. Eventually, we got him into the old garage with Jean's cat Tigger, who had taken to spraying in the house. Tigger also sprayed in the garage until May, when he was taken by a coyote. So, Pete had the garage to himself. We'd let him out during the day and close him in at night so the coyotes wouldn't get him. His one endearing quality was as a greeter. Whenever we walked up into the hills from the old house, Pete would meet us on the road and escort us home.

Things changed when we got Pepper after the great cat massacre (when a coyote took three of our cats in the space of a week). Pepper ran Pete up a apple tree; Pete stayed up in that tree through two days of rain. When he finally came down, he was a different cat. Quiet, handleable, eager for human contact, but still very skittish around Pepper. He stayed in the garage, and we fed him every day, putting him back into the garage at night. Recently, we brought him into the old house at night, where it would be warmer. He'd meet us each morning in the kitchen for breakfast. On nice days, we'd let him out to get some sunshine.

Today, we brought Pete up to the house. Popping him into the cat carrier was no problem; no hissing, no growling. I brought up his bed and his food, and we let him out into my office. Karen spent part of the day in there with him while doing some work on her laptop. He spent part of that time on the window sill behind my desk, looking out upon the fog that settled into the valley. Periodically, one of our long-time house cats would stop outside the closed office door and sniff Pete's scent.

After supper, I went up to spend some time with Pete. When I entered the room, he was sitting on my desk eating supper. I sat in my Morris chair, which has broad arms. Pete crossed the desk and sat on the nearer chair arm, letting me scratch him about the head. He started purring, then lowered himself into my lap, rubbing his chin against my face and touching his nose to mine. Eventually, he settled down and would have dropped off to sleep had I not decided to come back downstairs. I gently lifted him off my lap and set him back on the desk.

 We'll probably keep him in the office for a couple of weeks to acclimate him to the house, then slowly reintroduce him to the other two cats and Pepper the Wonder Dog. In time, we hope to have a happy family of six.


Friday, November 9, 2012

First Snow

First snow of the year, more than a dusting, less than a storm that started last night, continuing this morning. Pepper went for his first walk in the snow up here, strolling down the driveway to the old house to pick up the newspaper and feed Pete, the black cat who now lives in the old house, rather than in the old garage. Pepper seemed to enjoy himself, rooting around in the snow with his nose, pausing to watch a small covey of quail rise up from the upper meadow and at deer standing under apple trees hoping for a late autumn buffet. There was a light breeze from the east, and the scent of wood smoke in the air.

Pete was happy to stay indoors, but I worry about his becoming bored. So, while he was eating breakfast, I made him a large silver ball out of aluminum foil - not so large as to intimidate him, not so small that it would get lost under the range. Some day I'd like to bring him up to the new house, but both of our older cats and Pepper really don't like him.

This is just the first snow, and nothing much to be concerned about. I've already mounted dedicated snow tires on my car and Karen's truck, and today I brought up Yak Trax so I don't fall on my butt when snow turns to ice. Later today, I'll bring up the snowshoes. Some day soon, I'll be using them on our walks.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dressed for Safety

It's hunting season here in the Inland Northwest, and the frequency of gunshots has been increasing, particularly toward the top of our property, where our fenceline adjoins fallow land. Pepper's a roaming dog, enjoying nothing more than a multi-hour romp on our place, even after an hour walk on the lead. Following a neighbor's suggestion, I bought Pepper a blaze-orange safety vest at Cabela's. While the orange clashes with his markings, I still think he looks pretty good.

After a 20-minute ride to set up and adjust to my new indoor (garage) bike trainer, I took Pepper on a walk to our eastern fence line and back home again. Near the fence line, beneath a pine tree, I found this mud-daubed nest. Perhaps it's time to start collecting some of the natural bits and pieces on our land.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Since starting this blog, I've avoided politics. I will in the future, probably, but today's the right time to think about politics during my past four decades.

I was too young to vote in the 1968 election, but it was my first immersion into politics (other than passing out literature in my mid-teens for New Jersey Democrats Frank Thompson and Pete Williams, both later swept up in the ABSCAM scandal and helping Sam Alito win our student government presidency - bad move if one believes in the butterfly effect). I was one of the legion of college students canvassing New Brunswick and environs for the right to vote for 18-year-olds. We won.

1972 found me in the newsroom of the Burlington County Times, eating pizza and waiting for the results of the Nixon-McGovern race. Nixon won, and the rest of us lost. In January, I spent a very cold day on the National Mall in Washington photographing protests against Nixon for my paper. I still have shots of the "mythical creature for peace" and the middle-aged woman screaming at some young protesters.

Two years later, I was in Richmond, Virginia, for four years in the capital of the Confederacy. I remember nothing about Governor Mills Godwin or for whom I voted for any office. Except for Carter in 1976, to some extent influenced by a co-worker from Georgia (as the joke went, every state has two senators, except Georgia, which has Nunn). I think, perhaps, I was gobsmacked by the prospect of rampant Republicanism for the first time - even though I had voted for Republican Sen. Clifford Case while living in Jersey.

1980, my sixth year of working for the Army, the year I met my wife. The year Reagan won. I was living in Maryland, enjoying being back in Democratic country. Carter, of course, got creamed. But I voted for the two successful senators, splitting my ballot for Paul Sarbanes and Charles Mathias, one of the then-standout moderate Republicans.  Four years later, I again voted for Sarbanes and Mathias and again lost in the presidential race. In my last Maryland election, 1988, I helped bring in Barbara Mikulski and, again, lost in the presidential contest, backing the Duke against Poppy Bush.

I began calling Wyoming home in 1989, and voted there for the first time in 1990. Wyoming is a curious state, small enough to know the politicians personally, conservative enough to know that Democrats were eastern-moderate Republicans. I voted for the young guy from Arkansas for president, Gov. Mike Sullivan (D), whom I knew well and liked a lot, and Al Simpson (R), the brother of my immediate supervisor, Pete Simpson, and a stand-up guy in his own right. But, I just couldn't bring myself to vote for the late Craig Thomas, whom I also knew. Let's leave it there. I never did vote for him or his imbicilic successor, Barbara Cubin; for the first time in my life I registered Republican to try to eliminate her in the primary, but no such luck. I continued to vote for Big Al until his retirement in 1997, despite his shameful performance in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. All politics is local, especially when you know and personally like a candidate. I voted for Mike Sullivan for Senate, then watched him fly off to be Bill Clinton's ambassador to Ireland. Dave Freudenthal, the last governor for whom I voted in Wyoming turned out to be an ego-driven disappointment, but better than the personality-purged Jim Geringer.

In 2007, I moved briefly to Washington State. As the results from my first Inland Northwest election came in, I was lying in a hospital bed in Coeur d'Alene in the early stages of recovery from sepsis, the result of complications from exploratory surgery. Karen tells me I was on so much pain medication I kept asking her about the election returns. But, I do remember watching an Obama commercial pairing scenes of economic hardship in America to the music of Paul Simon's "American Tune." I was overcome by emotion - and pain medication - as Barack Obama was elected president. I felt validation for the first bumper sticker I'd ever affixed to my car, as well as for the mail-in ballot I'd sent in prior to my hospitalization.

During the next four years, Karen and I became habitues of MSNBC and network news, tracking the president's progress along with the nation's. Yes, we told ourselves, we were better off than we were in 2008. I was alive, though at the cost of outrageous medical insurance premiums. Now, living in Idaho, we, again, voted for President Obama, and again made a contribution to his campaign, and yesterday we watched election returns from our new home. We still felt better off than we were four years ago. And, today, we feel a sense of calm that eased the tension of the past year. Good luck, Barack. Goodbye, Mitt.

Karen waxes nostalgic for the Democratic hero of her youth - Frank Church. Idaho also produced Cecil Andrus, a pioneer in environmental protection. I fear we'll never see their like again in the Gem State.

Four years from now seems like a lifetime away..

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Trail camera - patterns

We're starting to see some patterns among the pictures captured by our trail camera. The night belongs to deer (eager for a return by the bear):

The daytime belongs to the turkeys,

and Pepper the Wonder Dog.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Extreme Closeup

I mentioned in my last post that we bought and positioned a trail camera to see if we could catch a photo of the bear that left the scat Pepper rolled in last week. On Saturday, we captured 24 pictures - of me setting up the camera. Yesterday, I moved the camera to where Karen said Pepper had rolled, down by a big baking apple tree. This morning, on my way down to the old house to feed Pete, the stray black cat who'd adopted us a couple of years ago, I pulled the SD card and brought it back to download the 89 images the camera had recorded.

Many were of Karen picking apples, but then, there were some night shots. A deer, literally caught in the lights. And, a bear, in extreme closeup. Too close for details, but that's a serious bear silhouette. I think we'll re-position the camera again today, moving it back some. Still, this was a nice 62nd birthday present.

Deer in the flash
Da bear

Today, Karen and I are going to an Ethiopian restaurant for lunch, and then to Trader Joe's in Spokane (there are rumors that one might be coming to Coeur d'Alene, but I don't think there's enough population in the Post Falls/CDA "metroplex." And, I'll continue my long-term music project.

I used to house my many CDs in an antique armoire in our living room. Now, Karen's using the armoire in her study, and I re-installed a CD player and receiver in the furniture for her.

My CDs are homeless. Rather than buy new media storage for the CDs, I decided to transfer them all to MP3. There's a 160 GB iPod on the way from, but I've started ripping them to my computer hard drive for transfer to the iPod. Later this week, I'll see about getting an iPod jack installed in my 1999 VW.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Too Much to Bear

Pepper's had a rough couple of days - even though he doesn't realize it.

Our orchard is in full production. During the past week, Karen and I have been picking domestic and wild plums, Italian prunes, and apples. We've eaten some, dehydrated some, and taken some to the Post Falls Food Bank. Even so, the deer and bear have taken their share. We've seen deer for years, and this morning had a herd of about a dozen on the edge of our lower meadow, some eating, some lying down digesting breakfast. We've only seen a bear once, a black cub that shinnied up a tree near some apple trees. This year, however, there's been more bear scat along with the deer droppings under the apple trees.

On Thursday, Karen was picking fruit for the food bank, with Pepper for company. He's a digger - we've known that since we got him in May. We didn't know he also was a scat scooter. He came home with his chest and neck covered in bear scat. Maybe he thought the scent would protect him from coyotes. No, I'm being too generous. It was just a doggy thing to do.

I got him by the collar outside the garage and hosed him down with water from our hydrant, enduring his shake-down dry-off. Then the shampoo and another hosing, followed by a towel rub in the mud room. Fortunately, I don't have as sensitive a nose as does Karen, who insists he still smells like a bear den. Pepper's been something of a pariah in the house, but since he performed a valuable service for us yesterday (waking me up to tell me our cat, Geordie, was at the front door and wanted in), he's back in our good graces and enjoying the fireplace in the living room.

As for the bear, since we know for a fact that it shits in the woods, we bought a game camera at Cabela's yesterday and affixed it to a tree where two trails join down near the orchard. No images last night - other than shots of me setting up the camera - but we're looking forward to seeing some of the critters that dine in our orchard. If we get some, I'll post them.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Any Place I Lay My Head Is Home

In the four months that Pepper's been with us, he'd never paid any attention to the dog house in our backyard, which I'd gotten nearly five years ago for my mother-in-law's dog, Charley. He didn't much like it either. So, just before we moved up the new house, Karen snapped this photo of Pepper sleeping on top of the dog house. Rather Snoopyesque, no?

We've mostly moved into the new place, and have really been living here for about two weeks. Donovan, Karen's son, helped us move most of the heavy furniture, and Karen and I have been moving small stuff nearly every day. We'd planned a room in the new house for Donovan, but he's since decided that, when he needs some time for himself, he'll stay in the old house. So much for our plans to rent it out, but it's nice to have him nearby and to have the place occupied and cared for. I've made "his" room into my office, from which I'm writing this now. There are a few pictures on the walls, but many boxes of files on the floor, waiting for the new Mission-style file cabinet to arrive.

Today, Karen and I started to hang art on the downstairs walls, balancing size against color and general tone of the pieces. For instance, a pastel by Laramie, Wyo. artist Jeanie Schlump, which I received as a retirement present from the University of Wyoming, pairs nicely with a black and white photograph of the old homesteaders' barn on our place, a shot I took more than 30 years ago. And three woodcuts/linocuts, form an Arts & Crafts triptych above a Mission buffet in the dining room. I'm not sure we have enough wall space for everything.

We did the "gallery display" while waiting for our builders and their plumbing subcontractor. The builders' visit was planned - installing some final cabinet hardware, a new overflow drain in the master bathtub, and new doors in Karen's study (which had been delivered with serious scratches on the glass panes). But, the new doors were too wide and went back to be planed and re-stained; maybe next week or so. The plumber was an unexpected need. Yesterday afternoon, we ran out of hot water. After the builder's rep tested the hot water heater for voltage and resistance (and called the Ruud help line), he concluded that the upper heating element was out. In came the plumber, who pulled the element, which was not just fried; half of it was gone - melted clear away. This is what the element is supposed to look like. The top loop was completely gone.

Late this afternoon, the plumber replaced the resistor element, and we had hot water again. Baths and showers for everyone - and a couple of runs through the dishwasher.

We've gotten enough squared away that I think I'll finally be able to get out on my bike tomorrow after walking Pepper and feeding Pete, the black cat who lives in the old garage. I'll also spend some time taking photos of the exterior and interior of the new house. It's about time.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thank You, Betsy

In my last post, I recorded my astonishment at Kootnai County Community Development's decision to change our new house address from 4332 S. Stateline Rd. to 4338 when they issued the Certificate of Occupancy. Yesterday afternoon, I called the county employee whom I most trust, Planning Assistant Betsy Anderson and asked her if she could help me out. I'd worked with Betsy often about two years ago when our valley was fighting the proposed party barn just down the county road. When I needed some public records or information about the planning process, I called Betsy and always got the straight story.

This morning, Betsy called to tell me that the mapping office reversed itself and switched our house number back to 4332, and a new Certificate of Occupancy went out in the mail today. So, today, I registered our change of address with the U. S. Postal Service. When it becomes active in 10 days, I'll change our address for everything from to the Social Security Administration. Thanks, Betsy, you're the best.

Last night, Karen and I moved a few pieces of furniture into the house, and tonight Donovan and I moved in some of the heavy pieces we'd stashed in the new garage - some that we hadn't seen out of our storage unit in five years - and it all fits right where we thought it would. I will say, hauling my Stickley desk up to the second floor was a chore, and I still dread getting our oak headboard up the stairs - but, it's on the agenda for Saturday.

Tonight, we had our first meal in the new house - baked chicken, cinnamon roast potatoes, and sliced tomatoes. Some observations on the new kitchen: finally, clear, cold delicious well water, without the need for PUR filters; tons of cabinet and drawer storage; good spatial relationships among the refrigerator, sink, and cooktop; the KitchenAid wall oven cooks well, but has a relatively long preheat time; the KitchenAid cooktop works really well, and I love the downdraft vent; it is GREAT to have a dishwasher again, and Bosch makes it really quiet.

Pepper had a great time. He explored the house site - again, had a nice nap on the dining room carpet, and got some chicken skin to supplement his supper. Neither of the cats has been up yet, but we figure they'll spend a lot of time on the balcony.

I'll take him with me tomorrow to change our address with the tax office, moving the homeowner's exemption from the old house to the new one; registering the water rights for our well; and making a COSTCO run. Then, back to the move.

The day got away from me, but I'll be posting new photos soon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

One More Issue to Address...

...and it's the address. No kidding.

Since we got a construction address from Kootenai County Building & Planning in summer 2011, our new home was to be located at 4332 S. Stateline Rd. That's what it is in all of our construction loan/mortgage documents; that's the address I ordered on our Arts & Crafts house numbers. Good thing I didn't change our address with the U.S. Postal Service, because when our contractor came back from the county with our certificate of occupancy (Yay!), Kootenai County Community Development (formerly Building & Planning), read 4338 S. Stateline Rd. Apparently the mapping office decided that our new house was sufficiently far from our old house - even though it's on our own land, but an adjacent parcel - that "2" would be too close, but "8" would be just right. I put in a call to a woman I trust in the department, and she's going to try to convince the mappers to change the address back to 4332. Conservatives often say that local governments are more responsive and efficient. Right.

But, whatever the address, we soon will live in a house owned by Global Credit Union, paying a monthly mortgage beginning in November for the first time in five years. Still, I feel a great relief, having lived this building process for about a year, with constant interaction with the builder and his subcontractors since early July; purchasing this and returning that; pumping water out of our foundation; selecting colors for siding and granite and marble countertops; ordering and installing appliances; ordering and laying wood flooring and working with a neighbor on installing ceramic tile; designing a hidden-wire audio/video system; cutting trees for Internet line-of-sight service; clearing the site of hawthorn bushes and trees; having a road built, electricity run, a well dug, and a septic system planned. And, going over construction designs, over, and over again.

Now comes the moving, slowly, a half-mile up our driveway; getting the cats used to the new house (Pepper has been going up with us every day for weeks; he loves napping on the balcony); buying snow tires to allow us to drive up to the new house and chains for the tires on my ATV, which I'll use for plowing the long, long driveway.

But, tonight, I'll sleep well. Tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow I'll be posting pictures of the new place.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Three Days of Weird

I need pie. Apple pie. But the apples on our place aren't ripe yet, so I picked up some at Albertsons today - Granny Smiths, Fujis and Braeburns. It's cooling on the kitchen counter now, so it's time to blog about the last three days of weird.

Water in the hole!
On Wednesday, our well digger came up and installed the pump and set up the control box. About a half hour later, he called me from his cell phone to ask if I had a garden hose. I drove it up on my ATV and found out why he needed the hose; the hydrant was clearing 60 gallons a minute - right into the well plumbing/wiring trench, under the foundation, and into the crawlspace. Yesterday, after being chewed out by our builder, he came up and set an exhaust fan in the crawlspace. But, there's still water, and a layer of mud on the membrane covering the crawlspace floor. That's going to be replaced.

The grit that entered the water system plugged up the kitchen faucet, but the plumber was able to dislodge it. The laundry tub was another story. Water just wasn't getting through, even though water was entering the input. Finally, the plumber took apart the inlet tubes and found a small rubber plug that the manufacturer, for reasons unknown, installed in the tubing. The plug comes out; the water flows. That's fixed.

We bought some beautiful rectangular, undermount sinks and drains by Decolav for the bathrooms. Bad choice. Apparently, the Decolav drains don't quite fit snugly in the Decolav sinks. One was pulled and replaced by a traditional pull-up drain; the other was secured by judicious use of silicone sealant. Fixed? Maybe.
Laundry chute - way cool

Three plug, four hole
Last weekend, Karen and I moved in the clothes dryer. This week, we've been running through clean clothes and were looking forward to doing laundry this weekend after finish carpenter completed the laundry chute from the master bedroom closet to the laundry room. Not going to happen. Seems our eight-year-old Whirlpool Duet dryer is out of date.

It has a three-prong plug; the current outlet code calls for a four-prong plug. The outlet will be switched out to a three-prong.

Today, the fireplace subcontractor converted the natural-gas fireplace to propane (which had been planned for months) and hooked it to the propane tank. "So," I asked, "where's the switch?" Appropriate question. Apparently, there are two ways to turn on the fireplace: 1) a wall switch - not installed by either the builder or the subcontractor, or 2) a remote control. We're taking option 2, for, how much? Well, we'll find out Monday.

And last, but not least, the builder ran two stair-landing lights from the same switch, a move the builder's rep called "Stupid." Yes, it was, and we get to pay for the fix - the electrician adding a second wall switch so the dome light and a spotlight for our antique carousel horse each has its own control. Not happy with this one. But, I will say, the builder's reps have been putting in a lot of time and effort supplementing the subcontractor work. We'll see how this works out.

But, there's been a lot of good stuff going on. The electric work has been done and approved by state inspectors, as has the plumbing. The mechanical inspection is Monday. Nearly all the house has been painted and looks great. All the kitchen appliances have been installed, though the refrigerator door handles still need to go up. The fireplace is installed, but still needs to a tile border and, perhaps, a mantle. The kitchen cabinet hardware is mostly up (had to order five more drawer pulls from Home Depot). The floors are done, but this weekend I'll be installing stair tread covers and stair nosing. The porch and balcony decking goes up tomorrow and Monday. And on Monday the septic backfill and grading will be done.

Kitchen coming together - fireplace in upper right
Kitchen hardware detail
What the house looks like this evening

In theory, the final inspection will be done on Monday, the house completed on Wednesday, and closing on the 19th. No more weird, I hope.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Country Living = Work

It's been a dry summer after a very wet spring, including two days of torrential rain. Cable Creek, which runs through the western edge of our property, flowed hard and fast, swollen by the rains and snowmelt from the surrounding hills. Debris - blowdowns, deadfall, railroad ties, and silt jammed shattered the small dam Karen's father had built into the creek, and then jammed up the southern end of our small culvert. Water flowed across our front lawn, over the driveway, and then drained back into the creek on the other side of the large culvert.

During late August, I walked the creek in GORE-TEX-lined boots cleaning out the debris. I pulled out a trailer-load of yard trash, some of which I had to cut free with a chainsaw (don't try this at home, kids, and if you do, clean it out right away). I also took in a mini-sledge hammer and brick splitter to break up some of the concrete from the old dam.

Now, it's reasonably clear and ready for next spring.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seven Days

The house site was a sea of pickup trucks today as the big push to finish the home project began, with seven days to go until final inspection; closing date is Sept. 19.

Sinking the well pump

This has been a big day for infrastructure, with a lot accomplished, but a few problems to be solved. The pump went down the well hole, followed by about 200 feet of pipe and wire, and hooked to a control panel on the north side of the house. But, we need to have some grading done around the well and house tomorrow; when Tim (from United Drilling) opened the hydrant to flush the well, the water flowed back toward the house and there's about two inches of water in the crawlspace. The well's now flushing down the opposite hillside through a garden hose.

Installing the cooktop downdraft vent
Erco Mechanical installed the heat pump (anyone familiar with Tempstar?) and the downdraft vent for the cooktop.

During the weekend, Karen and I moved in the clothes dryer, and my friend Dave and I moved in the washing machine.

Scott and Mike from Stratford moved in the refrigerator today. As God is my witness, I'm never moving appliances again! Well, that's not quite true. Tom, the finish carpenter, is still working on the laundry chute from the master bedroom closet to the laundry room, so I might have to muscle the washer and dryer around a bit one's he's done.

Tom's also working on details such as caulking baseboards, staining and installing stairway trim, screwing in doorstops, and adjusting doors for true. Last I saw him, he was trying to adjust the master bathroom pocket door, which isn't hanging right.

Downstairs bathroom -
with antique copper mirror

Scott's been doing a lot of cleanup and installing cabinet and drawer hardware, while overseeing the subcontractors on site.

Laundry chute being cut in.

Tomorrow, the exterior painting starts, our Internet service is installed, and the excavator comes back to fix his septic line installation; the drainfield lines are buried too deep, and will need to be adjusted, with additional inspections.

This weekend, I'm installing engineered hardwood on the stair treads and landings; final finish carpentry, cleanup, and bank inspection next week. Then, issuance of the certificate of occupancy - and we start moving in.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tax Holiday

This morning, as I took Pepper for his first walk of the day, I heard from across our southern fence line the cry of a red-tailed hawk, and, turning, saw it lift off from a Ponderosa pine on our neighbors' property. It soared across our lower meadow, cried again, and was soon joined by another hawk that had flown down the hill from the east. Together, they circled and climbed on the warm day's thermals, soundlessly, until they disappeared from view.

But that's not what I'd intended to write about today. Friday was Karen's and my 32nd wedding anniversary. No gifts this year, unless you count the new house going up. We did run some errands in Coeur d'Alene and have lunch after my semi-annual visit to the nephrologist (kidney function is fine, thank you, sclerosis in remission for four years now). Then it was off to Otis Orchards, Wash., to empty out our storage unit.

When we moved from Laramie, Wyo., to the Inland Northwest five years ago, we rented two storage units: one for the furniture and other belongings that wouldn't fit into our apartment (and then old family homestead), one for the cartons of books that we'd acquired during many years of library sales in Denver and Golden, Colorado and at yard, garage, and library sales in Wyoming. As we sold down the books through eBay, we moved our furniture to vacant space in the larger storage unit and vacated the smaller one. Now, five years later, the books are nearly all sold - just a few cartons we've moved into the garage at the old house, awaiting the final move.

Last week, Karen and I moved out everything but these two large pieces of furniture, which Donovan and I hauled away in our trailer after he finished work Friday, the last day of our August lease.

What is truly mind-boggling, is that the annual cost of renting that large storage unit cost about the same as our property tax on 66 acres of land, with the old house included. While the taxes will climb some with the new house, September 1st did mark the beginning of something of a tax holiday.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bird Dog

Today, for the first time since we adopted him, Pepper acted like a bird dog - what he was bred to be. On our morning walk, after going up to the house site to close all the windows in case the excavator comes to backfill utility trenches, we walked through the upper meadow toward the homesteaders' old hay barn. A large covey of quail was roosting in the elderberry tree that had, through the years, grown up through the roofless barn. A few quail flew off toward our northern fenceline, and Pepper got birdy - head and ears up, back legs braced, muscles tensed, twitching tail. I let him off the lead and he rushed the covey. They flew, and if I'd had a side-by-side loaded with birdshot, I could have filled my limit in one volley. After he came back, I put the lead on again, and we walked through the field by the side of the driveway and the lower meadow back to the house. He's now taking his morning nap, probably dreaming of quail.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Inspector Pepper

The excavator arrived early, with a load of aqua sewer pipe in the bed of his pickup. A few hours later, he rolled back down our driveway and out for the day. This afternoon, Karen and I went up on our ATV to see what he'd accomplished. We were accompanied by Pepper, the Wonder Dog.

A champion digger in his own right, Pepper took time from his busy schedule to inspect the laying of the pipe for the septic system and the power conduit (right down the middle of the photo). Right after this photo was taken, Pepper jumped down into the trench, sniffed around for a while, and gave the work two ears up, the Brittany seal of approval. Perhaps tomorrow or Monday, the dozer will come in to bury the pipe and we can get our front "yard" back. We'll also be ready for Kootenai Electric Cooperative to hook up our power, for United Drilling to install our well pump and water connections, and propane line and tank.

The finish carpenter also was in today, finishing the installation of first-floor baseboard, pulling the clamps off the kitchen island corbels, and cutting and emplacing some of the second-story baseboard.

Tomorrow, in the morning, I'll scrape stray grout off the rough stair treads in preparation for laying wood and stair nose pieces. In the afternoon, Karen and I will be down in the creek, running at a trickle now, and haul out all the tree limbs and other debris that washed down with the spring floods. Hello chainsaw.