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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.