Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hectic week before Gulf Coast vacation:

We're home from our vacation, driving the last 30 miles through a terrible cluster of thunder and lighting and white-out rain, with the occasional tornado.  We had a little impromptu stop just north of Coffeeville to climb into a culvert running under Route 7 to wait out the sirens and the worst of the warnings on the radar.

However, to keep the timeline here in a somewhat reasonable structure, this entry will cover the week before we headed south for the three day weekend.

Floors in the sunroom:  As I spent another day pulling nails and scraping tiles and glue off a floor that some short-sighted )(*^$% from a previous generation selfishly slapped down with no regard for those who would come after, I had a number of thoughts on these folks.

At some point our ancestors stopped working to make the world a better place for us, i.e. building for quality and duration, guarding and care-taking wealth, investing in our educations and health rather than looking to these as easy places to make a profit. 

Fine.  Fair enough that everyone makes their own way in the world, and while a leg up would be nice, it's no one's due.

The next phase of this selfishness, actively creating a negative starting point for your decendants, has pissed me off since I was six and learned about the national debt.  (Ask my father, one of his favorite stories to tell about me.)

I have spent hundreds of hours, literally, removing layers of particle board, linoleum, glue, and pulling nails out of wood floors to get back to what was a solid wood floor ready to be refinished and serve as the beautiful surface the original builders intended.  

Most of those hours were between 11 pm and 2 am, after working a day in the office and squeezing in some family time in the evening.

It's not hard to think of those who will follow you in 10, 20, or 100 years, and do them a kindness by considering your impact on them.  Yes, floors may be a small thing, but apparently the environment and national spending habits are too big.

At the point of this picture, all the toxic crap has been removed from the sunroom floor, because I can't stand to leave it there for someone else to have to deal with.

The fashionista was not allowed to help with this step, but she came to visit.

This is the floor covering I picked for now.  It is a new linoleum product, 3/16" thick, and heavy enough to hold itself flat.  It does not get glued down, and if we change our mind in the future, we can just roll it up.

Three reasons for this floor choice: first the radiant heat has been installed under the floor, so nailing something new down would risk puncturing one of those water lines, 2) the laundry will be in this room, and having a water proof floor here makes sense, and 3) half of this room was at one point a porch, and the floors are not made of a material that can be refinished to a desirable floor.

This is how it looks cut in and with the base boards installed.  The room has turned into a nice space.

There will be wall mounted shelving around the laundry area, and we're still discussing what uses the rest of the space will have.   Windowsills are made out of cedar I stole from the siding project.

While the excavator was here working on the pond, I had them come up to the hillside behind the workshop and dig a hole for the storm shelter.  Nights like tonight make it clear that we need a comfortable, but subterranean and strong, place to sit these nights out.  

Still pondering the design, but it will be six feet underground, with the last foot or two covered in a mound.  This alleyway will lead to an inward-opening door, (so fallen debris can;t trap you behind a stuck door, not sure why many of the prefab units don't take that into consideration,) and being right behind the shop we'll have power, and when that fails, a small battery bank, enough to keep the kids in movies and reading light.  Alexe though bunk beds might be a good idea.  As long as the drainage system is done right, it should be dry enough to allow for a more comfortable approach.

There was an evening of dinner and conversation with friends, and at some point after eating the feast we were treated to, we managed to get these same friends to watch over the animals while we were away.  That favor included an afternoon of chasing pigs.  They're really excellent friends.

Salad by Alexe, corn and bread by the BTC, the grilled chicken, tenderloin, and bacon wrapped asparagus and scallions by Jackie and Casey. 

Annaliese helping with the final skim coating of the upstairs bedroom and bathroom.  A lot happens in the mornings, and with Caspian still in school, Annaliese is getting lots of solo lessons.

Interspersed with various games and play time.  She is a master at pulling the cat's in the cradle heart strings.  I've recommended this board game before, Mysterytown, in our collection thanks to a.Caitlin, it's fun and engaging for the 3/5/32 crowd.

At some point there will be pictures of the refinished floors and painted upstairs.  Suffice to say that we wrapped up the pre-vacation list, and hit the road.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Annaliese's pre-k graduation etc.

Sitting outside our motel door, looking out over the Gulf somewhere East of Biloxi, having our newly-traditional family vacation at the beach.  I want to post lovely pictures of the kids walking the beach in the late evening light, but to keep this diary chronological I have to catch us up on the last couple weeks.

Graham, Caspian's sometimes-bet-friend, turned four, and had a super hero themed birthday party.

Later that afternoon, we hosted another house concert in my office, this time with Mike June...

and Jon Dee Graham.  MJ is from Jersey and has a springsteen sound, JDG is from Texas, has been inducted into the Austin music hall of fame three times, deservedly.

After the Crappie Fest Cliff and I were inspired to try our hand at fishing again.  Cliff took me out to a secret spot, and I caught three small bass, no crappie.  

Cliff seemed to have traded luck with me, and went the whole morning without a bite.  Cliff is one of my favorite people.  spending a morning in the lovely MS backwoods chattering about the world and not thinking about renovations or the daily usual was a much needed treat. 

Cleaning fish, and getting six very small fillets for dinner.

The house.  As mentioned earlier, this side of the house was largely destroyed by termites at some point in the last forty years.  I replaced all the trouble spots with new tongue and groove boards, and sheathed it in house-wrap.

Then, the cedar siding could continue.

We like how this is turning out.

Annaliese graduated from the pre-k program she's been attending at the local Baptist church.  It's been a great social time for her, spending each morning with all her friends, but the academic side has been lax.  She was so far ahead when she started the program she didn't encounter anything new outside of bible verses and stories.  No harm or foul, her schooltime learning is highly supplemented at home, but we're thinking Caspian will stay at his learning center for his last year before starting kindergarten.  

Annaliese with her best friend Chloe.

Their graduation ceremony was a long program put on by the kids, where they each stepped forward to a mic and recited a factoid.  Annaliese's was about the number of books in the bible, (66), with 39 in the old testament and 27 in the new.  She was nervous through the whole presentation, (notice the arms folded across her chest, they stayed that way the whole time,) and was the last to step up to the mic, where she nailed it.

Caspian was not in an audience mood, and we barely contained him in the pew.

Alexe put fresh roses in Annaliese's hair and in her dress.  They were both very proud of how pretty the outfit for the night turned out.

So this is our little girl, five years old, and headed to kindergarden in the fall.  

There isn;t going to be time to put up the permanent fencing this summer, and the pigs 1) needed a new spot to roam after turning their entire pen into a mud bog, and 2) won't be with us much longer, so their last few weeks deserve to be nice.  After reading piles of advice, I went with some mobile electric poultry fencing, which is easy to handle, comes with built in fence posts, and when attached to a fence charge sized for 20 miles of fencing, does a great job at keeping the pigs in.  The first day there were half a dozen squeals as they learned the fence, but since then, it's been great.  The fence is 160 ft long, and a paddock created by that length is perfect for about a week, at which time the earth is completely churned, and with ten minutes of time, I can move it over to the next spot.

Alexe's grandfather passed a couple weeks ago, and Alexe flew to Virginia for the funeral.  She took Caspian, both because he is his great grandfather's namesake, (middle name Pierce, John Pierce's only male descendent,) and because it was Caspian's turn for a solo plane trip with Alexe.

That left me with my little girl for a Friday to Sunday burst of home renovations / father/daughter adventuring.

I made a list, which did wonders for clearing my head and making thee house feel, for the first time in a while, like it's close to being done, and we started first thing Friday morning, after Alexe and Caspian left for the airport.

Urethane for the upstairs window sills and the bathroom sink counter.  The sills are the same barn oak used for the kitchen window sills, and the bathroom sink counter is 2 inch thick heart pine, also from an old barn.

We then stripped the wallpaper from the last plaster wall in the sun room.  There's an aggravating order of operations here. The floors in the upstairs and the living rooms need to be refinished, and that means we need a place to move all the furniture into.  It also means all the painting needs to be done, to avoid overspray or drips form getting on the refinished floors.  Which means the sun room has to be done first.  

Then of course you can't stay in a house when half of the floors are wet with noxious urethane, and as luck would have it, a week from this picture we would be heading to the beach for the vacation we're on right now.  So the timeline meant the sun room needed to be finished, the upstairs walls needed to be final-skim coated and painted, up and downstairs floors sanded, upstairs floors stained, and both floors urethane-ed twice, timed perfectly with our departure time on Saturday afternoon after Alexe's shift.

There were several late nights, and packing and getting two coats of urethane down on a saturday morning with two kids jumping off the walls and Alexe working the cooking shift wasn't then best, but deadlines were hit, and when we get home we will have dry floors, and be able to start moving in, officially.

That's getting ahead of ourselves.

At this point, Annaliese was being very helpful, insisting on participating in everything I did.

However, we had fun plans too, and we jetted to Oxford for a movie.  IronMan 3.  Fun, worth the $14 for a matinee, and Annaliese had a blast with her own popcorn bin, and her second ever movie theater experience.  (The first one was as a family in Vermont when we took the kids to see Brave last summer.  Oddly, they were terrible in that one, scared out of their wits, but Annaliese loved Iron Man, and chattered about the fire-breathing monsters without a hint of fear.)


We stopped at Deedee's local junk shop on the way home, and the grumpy little girl didn't get to buy anything.

Dinner, relatively healthy.

And an evening trip to the track for running...

She did almost half a mile of short sprints to show me how fast she is and challenge me to see if I could beat her.

And flower crown making.

It was a great Friday. When we got home, past her bedtime, this little one called a family meeting on the couch, and we methodically went through all her pictures from her year in the pre-k program.  Eventually she was bathed, jammied, and made it into bed.

The rest of the weekend involved leisurely breakfasts, projects balanced with play time, (measure-cut-instal a piece of trim, pillow fight, measure-cut-install, board game, etc.) and a pond project that I'll cover in a dedicated post.

Oh, and lots of snack breaks.

Oh, and another birthday party.  This was Liam turning six, his mother getting her PhD, and her father getting a book deal party.  Annaliese busted the pinata with two left handed swings of the bat. 

This is a picture a friend of ours took during soccer season, and I love it.  

Annaliese liked helping on alost all the projects, painting most of all, cleaning up the least.

She deigned to sit on the tractor while I cleaned out the workshop of scrap wood for the burn pile...

And while I picked up the yard and porches she made sculptures with clay from the pond excavation. This is a snow man. 

A flower.

And with lots of flower and salt, and all the pepper, she made me this lovely meal.

As a last hurrah, with the sun room trimmed and painted, (two coats of primer and two coats of self priming paint, old wood love to bleed through latex,) we cleaned and raked to make the finished sides of the house look good for Alexe, who came home late on Mother's day with Caspian.

That doesn't catch us up, there's still the busy week before we left for vacation, but phew, I'm going back to vacationing now.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Free range pigs...

The last day of a rainy weekend, the kids are chattering in the tub as it fills to rinse off the surplus maple syrup from their second breakfast, and there are two parties ahead of us this afternoon.

Let's catch this diary up, in no particular order...

Alexe found the couch she has always wanted on craigslist, well made, full of down, a gentle curve to the back, deep and long and big enough for the whole family to pile into for family movie night, so we piled into the truck and headed up to Memphis to pick it up. 

We stopped at the Apple store to pick up a charger for the laptops, Alexe has broken two of them now, and wandered through the other shops in the strip mall, Anthropologie-type places, and felt very out of touch with the lifestyle those places represent.  Not simply the things they sell, but the culture that works all week, then spends their free time actively looking for stuff to spend their money on, rinse-repeat.

We stopped at a park and walked around the little lake, then let the kids burn off some energy at the playground.  One of the cool ones with a squishy rubber floor.


We saw an interesting brick building set way back from the road, turned up the drive to explore, and found it was a horse barn built by a man with funds and a passion for horses 60+ years ago. Beautiful arch.

We stopped at a famous Memphis burger joint, and had a very good root beer, and a disappointing burger.  The meat was good, a higher quality than a basic chain, but the buns were cold and un-toasted, which felt not like a culinary choice, but laziness.  We may be a bit snobbish about buns.

The house is getting there.  If I had to set a goal, I would say 5 more weeks until we're done.  There's been a set-back, I think I have a picture to demonstrate, but if it stops raining at some point, I should be able to stay inside that timeline.

The wall separating the living room from the side of the house that used to be the kitchen is now a half wall.  The kitchen has been entirely removed, and the kitchen/dining room that was on the other side of the wall has been opened into a single room.

This wall has been updated.

French doors to replace the windows on the far left, those windows shifted to the center of the wall to replace the single door, and the windows on the right that used to be above the kitchen sink have also been replaced with french doors.

I haven't taken many other pictures, but the room has been entirely re-wired, with the second circuit panel of the house having to be moved in from the porch where it was originally installed in the laundry room.

The walls have been insulated, and half of the room that was sheet-rock has been replaced with tongue and groove pine 1" boards.  Half of the ceiling has also been replaced with the same. (The dining room part of this room used to be a porch, and when it was closed in they used sheetrock instead of the solid wood the original walls of the house were built with.)

Paint and floors and that room will be done.

Caspian taking his Skuut off-roading.

We've been making a point of doing non-work things.  Alexe and I have agreed that we will stop working at 6 pm, and not talk about the store or the renovations after that.  We are sometimes successful, and it's made our evenings very pleasant this past week.

Annaliese is sitting on some of the house siding.  Cedar, 15/16ths thick, (1" off the mill, then run through a planer on one side.)  

We had a date night!  The chamber of commerce banquet, with the after-party at Snookie and MaryLou's house.  We've been to the after party for the past six years, this was the first time we went to the banquet.  I was snoozing as Alexe got ready; I had been stripping the siding off the house all day, a single-day project because I had to get the old siding off and disposed off before anyone noticed and tried to stop me.  (Yes, I had a very good respirator on all day.)

I found maaaany self-portraits on my phone of Alexe looking beautiful.  We had lots of fun, particularly hearing the very Baptist and anti-beer mayor present the latest new business to come to Water Valley, a microbrewery. Fourth in the state.

I took a day off some time in the last ten days, and the kids and I played, all day long.  There was lots of whacking golf balls into the back field and forest, then marching around and hunting for them.  We set up a t-ball field and whacked baseballs for a while.  Caspian figured out worms can be found under most logs, and we made many trips to the chicken pen to feed them his catch.  He had those chickens hopping up to take them from his fingers.  

We curled up in bed and caught up on Doctor Who. 

When Alexe came home we headed to the back valley to try to light one of the brush piles for a marshmallow roast.  The fire didn't take, everything has been perpetually soaked, but it turned into an exploration of where the stream that comes out of the pond leads.

Caspian found that red cooler way out in the woods and carried it all the way home.

Alexe had missed the morning's activities, but we caught her up.

Waiting for one of their eight daily meals.  

More self portraits, seems to be the thing to do with my phone when I'm not looking.

I've been all excited about putting the new siding on the house. It's going to be one of the most momentous updates, taking the white house and putting a new natural coat on it.

The process was supposed to involve stripping off the old siding, a mix of asbestos and other composite shingles, putting up a layer of house wrap, and installing the new siding.

It couldn't be that easy.  After taking off the old siding I found this side of the house was destroyed by termites at some point in the past.  The insects are long gone, but the wood on this wall is the consistency of tissue paper. I'm going to have to re-plank this wall, and a big section of another on the front of the house.  Harumph.

Since it's always raining, that re-sheathing of the house has to wait anyway, so I went onto the porch and put some siding up, just to make myself feel better.  

At some point the laundry room was removed, and all the remaining columns were replaced with cypress posts.

It sure is pretty.

The house is going to look great.

Crappie Fest.  Caspian at the library's book-sale table.

We got to the park an hour before the kid's games started, and they were impossible for that hour.  Annaliese had several pre-emptive melt-downs about non-existent jumpy-castles and her friends not being there yet.

When the other kids appeared, and they all ran into each other's arms, (literally,) things got a little easier.  It was a beautiful day, and though the festival happened in my peripheral vision as I tried to keep the kids out of the street and away from other hazards, it seemed to go well. 

Alexe was able to sneak out of the store for two short visits.

It started to sprinkle just as the later afternoon weigh-in was wrapping up.  (I think the winning best 7 fish were just over 9 lbs total, not especially impressive, considering the amazing boats and tech the 40+ fishing teams rolled into town with.)  Bigest fish was just under 2 lbs, not even close to the 5+ pound world record.

The family trundled home, and everyone took a nap while I went for an impromptu walk/hike in the rain looking for four absent pigs.  You would think it would be easier to follow the trail of four destructive pigs, but I walked all over the property looking for them, and never found them.  They were back at the house when I got back, and the pups and I spent some time coaxing the last three back into the pen.  One of the boys had climbed back in on his own and was happily eating as much of the food in the trough as he could before the others figured out how to join him.

We're going to have a pig roast very soon.

A warm bath later, the family curled up on in our pajamas with popcorn and watched the latest Indiana Jones flick.  And remembered how disappointed we were with Spielburg and Lucas for their poor writing and directing.  It was embarrassing how bad it was, but we still had fun watching it with the kids and answering all their questions about aliens.

This afternoon we have a birthday party for Caspian's best friend at 2, and at 4 Jon Dee Graham is playing a concert in my office.  I'm told he's the best that Austin has to offer...