Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Annaliese guest writing, no joke. Daddy is tired, so i am sitting in his lap taking dictation.

caspian too!

Adorable as that is, having those two typing as I spell words takes foooreeeeever.

It's been busy here.  Hot, then cold, almost always raining, a bit of freezing rain, hot again, and we seem to be flat out, on something store or renovation or tenant or whatever related.

It's hard to keep track of where the time goes, and digging through the sparse pictures from the past couple weeks with Annaliese on my lap and Alexe and Caspian happily beading away in bed next to us, it;s nice to see things are progressing.

It also reminds me of things, since picture taking has been lax in the wet, gloomy, and often chilly periods.

Annaliese is still a fashionista.

French doors continue to be added to walls. (Two more to go in the future study/sun room.)

Alexe continues to work hard at the store, often taking off in the wee early hours of the morning, and I do what it takes to squeeze a few extra minutes in bed, often in the form of movie and photo shoots that don't involve me getting up.

The kids, though the fight all the time, are best friends and playmates.  On a break in the weather I took them back to the blue house to do some cleanup and mow the yard, (12 month lease signed with a cool young couple moving up from Birmingham, by the by,) and they played in their old stomping grounds for a couple hours while I was busy.  This shot, and the next, were taken from across the yard when I paused on the riding mower to fish out my phone and capture the moment.

Doors to the closet under the stairs int he kitchen.  Made from some of those 17" wide boards from the barn tear-down.

Arch to the upstairs close to finished.  Amazing what a cut-off bit on a router will do for a quick arch cut-out.

The kids amusing each other on our bed on a drizzly afternoon while I put sheetrock up around them.

Closet building.  The clothes situation, a bit in luggage, a whole bunch in tupperware totes, and piles in corners, was driving me bats.  The kids both have dressers and closets in their rooms, but Alexe and I have been a disordered mess in our construction zone of a bedroom and bathroom.

We each get our own side!

Random shot of Pricilla, hanging out at the top of a chimney.  The other two chimney's are active, this one has been walled up downstairs, we'll be freeing it up when we open up the sunroom.

The hanging rods are not in place here, and the doors, I'm thinking barn plank doors on sliding barn door brackets, will come.  We spent almost all afternoon on Easter washing and folding laundry, and the house has felt clean-ish and organized-ish for the first time.

On Saturday the kids and I took a trip up to Memphis to pick up some parts for the tractor, a new to us bush hog, and we were supposed to pick up our bathtub, a clawfoot tub, one of the long six footers, freshly refinished.  The refinish man begged for an extension, and because we were en route when he did it, he'll be driving it here tomorrow so we don't have to repeat the trip.

It poured the whole drive, letting up a little when we had to get out and load the bush hog, (turned out to be a six footer instead of a five, a bit heavy for my tractor, we'll see how it turns out.  An older bush hog, made when they still used heavy gauge steel, a steal at $200, another $80 in parts to put together a driveshaft, replace a u-joint, and pack the gearbox with grease, trick an old guy told me to avoiding replacing a costly lower seal, and we're back in bush-hogging business, just in time.)

We took a lunch break in the mess of southern Memphis at a fast food place so we could have milkshakes.  The kids were chatty and in high spirits the whole trip, and we somehow made it home without them closing their eyes for a second. 

The rainy Saturday then turned into a backyard crawfish boil with friends, something Alexe called and told us about 15 minutes before we made it back to town.  We dropped the trailer with bush hog off at the house, grabbed some cold beverages for us and snacks for the kids, and headed over for hot crawfish, horse shoes and squealing kiddoes.

The kids are watching one of the "survivors" try to escape.

Alexe was working the kitchen shift at the store, and called for a ride to come join the party after she had a little trouble with her van.  We left this to deal with after the party, and scooted her back to the heaps of mud bugs and cold beverages after her long day.

We managed to clean up and make it to church on Easter Sunday.  Somehow Alexe let use go without a family sit-down picture this year, something she usually tries to capture on the few occasions when we collectively dress up, so here are a couple I snapped of the kids at church.   Someone decided the kids shouldn't have their arts and crafts time during the sermon this Sunday, so our quiet sitting side by side holding hands and not having to do anything for an hour that we know and love turned into an hour of wrestling with two veritable bags full of puppies, in the worst setting possible.

Followed by a lovely family walk in the squishy avenues running through the neighboring forest.

Yesterday I decided to tackle the rear axle seal on the tractor.  I bought it with a bad leak on the right rear tire, knowing it needed to be fixed.  The dealership priced the job at $800+, so I ordered the $30 seal, looked over the parts diagrams, and dove in.

It was frustrating as hell.  First, to get the axle out, you need to take half the back of the tractor off.  Lots of very tight, very large bolts later, you find that there are two levers, pressed onto steel shafts, and pinned in place with roll pins, that must be removed before the tractor will come apart.  Those roll pins, (exactly what it sounds like, hard steel rolled into a pin shape, and driven into a hole, so that the steel is actively compressed as it goes in.  The only way to get these things out is with lots of hard pounding,) were right up against the cast transmission body, with nowhere to get even a small hammer swing in.

When the sun set I was stuck, with everything broken down, and those pins not moving.  

After everyone went to bed I went out to the shop and machined a three foot long punch that would reach through the mess of hydraulic lines and snake in next to the transmission, and was able to get a good whack on the end of it.  Working in the dark, with a head lamp, each pin took almost 20 minutes of pounding to get completely free.

With the pins out the levers didn't just slide off those shafts, oh no.  They happened to be pressed on, and it took a whole bunch of pounding and torch heat to break them free.  With those off, the axle housing fell off the back of the tractor, onto the wooden platform I had waiting for it, and I went to bed.

And woke up to this.  Pull a snap ring off the end of the axle, it slides out, replace the seal, and reassemble.  That step took all of 5 minutes.  Then off course it was re-assemble time, and holy crap, it took just as long to get those levers back onto those rods.  No idea why they are machined to such a tight tolerance, they are simply pivot points, and the roll pins, (replaced with snap locks, there's no reason to put those roll pins back in there,) act as a lock between the pivot piece and the shaft.

Anyway, the tractor's back up and running, parked int he driveway in one piece, and a day and a half later, I "saved" about $700, after hydraulic flui, the seal, and a new set of impact sockets.

Meanwhile, Alexe and Annaliese added a little color to Annaliese's bedroom.  

And this afternoon, with the tractor back in one piece and the store doing well, Alexe and I left our worries behind, popped the kids in the station wagon, and went to see how our collection of old houses in the surrounding countryside, each properties that at one time we tried to buy and were refused, are doing.  Any one of these could have been where we ended up and poured our energies over the past six years, but though empty, all are not on the market because the many inheritors cannot agree on what to do with their ancestor's homes.  Nuts how common this is around here, and how many beautiful houses are rotting down because of it.

Alexe popped out to take a picture of one of the country churches.  The kids snoozed in the back.  When we came home, a couple hours later, Alexe had chattered her heart out, the kids maintained their groggy state through dinner and almost all the way to bed, and I had time for a bath, to try to get the last of the hydraulic fluid off me.

The new roof is sitting in the driveway, (another project I thought I would just pay to have done, but after looking over the quotes for $20k+, I spent the $3,300 on materials,) and will likely be the next project, unless it rains tomorrow.  Plenty of boring finish work to do inside if it does.


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