Thursday, January 26, 2017

Delivering a wedding present.

I was preparing to be away from home for 2 weeks, and not looking forward to that much time away from my family.  I might have stayed up late with the kids doing a puzzle on my last night home.

But bright and early the next morning, with the truck packed with an apartment-in-a-box, I started rolling towards DC.

Which turned out to be a mistake.  My desire to bring as many materials as possible to avoid being delayed during the project with having to source supplies maaaay have resulted in an overloaded truck.  So after driving all day, some time after 11 pm on a Saturday night, somewhere in Virginia a little over 100 miles short of my destination, one of the rear wheel bearings disintegrated.  If the grinding didn't alert me, the gear oil pouring into the brake drum and turning into bright white smoke did.  It was 12 degrees out. I limped her to the nearest exit, slept poorly in the only available motel, and early the next morning suited up and went looking for help. 

None of the shops were open on a Sunday morning, but in the diner I met some lovely folks, got to talking, and a friendly gentleman spent the next two hours driving me around the town and county looking for a mechanic who was willing to help out.  We didn't find one, but my latest incarnation of my guardian angel ferried me to the parts store to pick up what I needed to make the repairs myself, and I called AAA to bring me into DC.

Where I arrived, behind my mental schedule, with a bit of a side project to work into the timeline.

Eliza and Charlie are newlyweds, and new home owners. Having rental income, especially when you;re starting out, is a wonderful thing, so as they launch their life together, I thought it would be nice to give them a leg up.  Their new house had an unfinished basement.  The theory was, with a well thought out plan, and a sense of urgency, they could have a rentable apartment, and I could be headed back to my family, in under 2 weeks.

Well.  There was a little scope creep on the project, with lots of prep work for the upstairs required before a basement ceiling could be installed.  Think rewiring and a bit of copper plumbing.

Interior walls were put up for the bathroom, and the closet/pantry/ room where the furnace and hot water heater live.

The original game plan was to replace the garage door on the right with a permanent wall and turn the space into a bedroom.  The wall on the left also ended up needing to be replaced.

Too quickly we ran out of materials and needed to run to a lumber yard with the truck. Which had not moved since it came off the town truck.  There are no garages in the Gerogetown area for obvious reasons, so unless I wanted to move the truck again to some distant garage and hope for the best, the repair was up to me.  Naively I had not packed any mechanical tools.  Or a hydraulic shop press to fit pressed on bearings.  But with the tools I was able to scrounge from the nooks and crannies of the truck, and with a little creative use of the cold outdoor temperatures and the kitchen stove, after 4 hours the truck was back in one piece, with a new bearing and brakes, and tentatively ready to go back to work.

Which was good, because there was lots to do.

The walls came down, a concrete footing was poured on the right to prevent water issues in the garage area, and new walls went up. 

I added an exterior outlet and water spigot, because.

A little more scope creep, the interior wall on the left: turns out there was no interior wall before, just some paneling hanging on the back of the neighbor's wall.  That wasn't going to work, so a new one had to go up.

The newlyweds, painting the kitchen ceiling.

Once the upstairs wiring had all been reworked into the floor joists, the plumbing similarly bumped up where necessary, the recessed lighting installed, and the hvac coolant lines and power run, the ceiling was as flat as it was going to get, and ready for a new surface.  I may have bullied Eliza into 1x6 paneling, but I did it for the right reasons.  Sheetrock on basement ceilings never looks good for long.

Charlie stuck with me, doing the dusty, obnoxious work.  I don't imagine I was that much fun to work with, being on a tight deadline, working days that started at 12 hours and just got longer as we went along, and generally having tunnel vision.  Hopefully the homemade beef jerky I brought made up for the poor working environment.

A little more scope creep.  With a tenant moving in downstairs, the newlyweds, (at some point I'm not going to be able to say that anymore,) needed a laundry facility upstairs.  Water, drainage, and electrical hookups required.  And schlepping the old washer around the block and upstairs, since it was too big to come up the stairs.

However, by 3 pm on the intended final day, I was packing up my bedroom and getting ready to head home, with a nearly completed apartment, minus all the paint. The kitchen.  Counters made from 100+ year old Mississippi oak and heart pine.  Shelves made from the same oak.  (Light fixtures were delayed in arriving, nothing I could do about it.  ahem.)

Hallway facing in, bathroom on the left, bedroom on the right.


So many chases on the ceiling in here.  And we had to get a little funky with the angle of the tub, and still the wall bumps out around it to make for a code-compliant hallway.  Paneling behind the tub to avoid sheetrock deteriorating from shower proximity.  The drains for all these new things, kitchen, bathroom, and the upstairs washer/dryer, were a little tricky, but I think we got it to a point where it will all work and be easy to maintain.

Utility closet / pantry.  Rod installed for a canvas curtain to section off the furnace.

Living / dining room.  HVAC installed to the left, cabinet around the circuit panel, the radiator pipes could not be moved, but most everything else was tidied up and tucked into the ceiling.  Outlets everywhere, because I don't like extension cords.

Charlie and Eliza are painting right now, and I can't wait to see how this looks with a fresh whitewash.  I believe they are going to leave the wood ceiling unpainted. Washer/dryer hookup installed in the closet behind Charlie.

Bedroom, aka the original garage.  New wiring, lights, ceiling, hvac, chases, door, etc.

And 12 days after arriving I hopped in the truck and started rolling south.  The first few blocks between their house and the Key Bridge took an hour, but by 5 pm on Thursday the 19th of January I was headed home at a decent clip, not listening to the radio or thinking about what was happening behind me in DC.

I imagine Charlie and Eliza were a bit relieved to have the lunatic gone. No longer having to come down to the basement at 1 in the morning to remind me that there are neighbors on the other side of the walls, or wonder why the upstairs power isn't working right now because I'm unraveling a rat's nest of old wires and sorting them into four new properly loaded circuits.

Throughout my life I have had a guardian angel that has taken many forms, given me many legs up, and pulled me out of many fires.  Happy to be able to do a little something for these two.

Between Christmas and heading to D.C.

The chickens roam all over the place, and often when I walk into my shop I spook a few out, and others take to the rafters.  After experiencing a truly horrible smell in there, I asked Alexe to join me for an egg hunt.  We found over 50.  

Getting close to planting season in the hoop house, I went down to turn the soil over.

And disk it out.  Only to be reminded by Alexe that the soil would really benefit from some extra nutrition, and would I mind...

30 trips back and forth with the tractor, and we had most of the barn yard down in the hoop house.

With the barn yard mixed in, and new fencing running down the exterior sides to keep the horned animals from tearing up the plastic walls, Alexe decided it was adequately prepared for her.

We took off to Columbus to visit Claire, (and her parents.) We spent a few days exploring their neighborhood, visiting the library...

Going out to a lantern festival...

These two have been friends since their days together on the Vanderbilt rugby team. 

These three get along very well.  Only the smallest of third-wheel friction, which is a miracle considering the age ranges.

He loves them.

And sometimes, when they run off in a book store, he finds a book to keep him company until they come back.

Claire does an amazing job balancing the affection of our two smitten kiddoes.

We went to the movies, in a theater with recliners.  The luxuries afforded to densely populated areas, where the cost is spread around a giant customer base, are fun to visit.  The lines... a pleasant reminder of the trade off for those luxuries.

Our final evening, we were treated to a magic show / circus, where cameras were strictly forbidden by the performers.

Home again, Caspian returned to a project he had started during the pond-steps project.  He loves to cut down trees with my hatchet; this is the largest one he has ever taken on.

We had a father-son date, where I cashed in my Christmas present at Turnages, a $5 gift certificate courtesy of Caspian.

Slightly tricky on his part, giving away a milkshake to me and himself.

When you can't find Caspian, pause and listen.  If you hear rhythmic whacking he's out working on his tree; if you don;t he's curled up somewhere devouring a book.

Our little girl, on the other hand, is full of vim and vigor, and ready to turn 9.

She had an early birthday party with friends, including bowling and a pizza party.

Followed on the real day by a family party at home.  She requested sloppy joes for dinner, and her mama raced home from work to make that happen.  Alexe takes birthdays very seriously, and insists on making whatever dinner the birthday person requests, as well as whatever cake.  Possibly she does this to lead by example, but the result is some pretty great birthdays.

The go to choice for our family, Cora's chocolate buttermilk cake.

And our little girl was suddenly 9.  Early the next morning I was rolling towards DC.

Christmas '16

Christmas Eve, Alexe is at work until 2:30, the kids and I get cracking on cookies.We've been doing this for years now.

Each year the kids are able to do more, and the day gets more enjoyable.  This year we even made the gingerbread dough several days earlier to give it time to cure in the fridge, AND bought a goat cookie cutter.  You know, for all our neighbors who have seen more of our goats than any of us would have liked this past year.

They're holding the food coloring, reserved for the sugar cookies, and one of their favorite parts of the process.

The kids juggled between cutting out cookies, licking bowls, rolling snickerdoodle dough balls in cinnamon sugar, and decorating the cookie bags.

Someone takes her decorating very seriously.

Just in time for Alexe's arrival home, the piles of cookies were cooled, the cookie bags were decorated, and all that was left was to get dressed for church, fill the bags, and head out to deliver them.

We may have overestimated the cookie needs this year.  We gave out more than any previous year, and it didn't seem to make a dent in our mountain of cookies.  None of us minded.

Getting ready for church.  Caspian was so fond of his jackie-bond-esque wedding outfit he opted to wear it again. 

Cookie deliveries.  Our list of stops keeps growing, and this year we let the kids do all the door bell ringing.  This was our first year stopping at our neighbor the mayor's house.  Given how many times he's called me about a herd of goats being on his lawn, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Church, hanging stockings, some singing, and to bed.  Where we opened our eyes early the next morning as our cherubs hopped into our bed with their stockings. 


Presents were opened.

Lord of the Rings movies were watched. We do love our traditions.

Trips to the kitchen were made to get more milk and cookies.

Then we suited up for the family hike.  Another annual mainstay.

A hike, with plenty of cookie-related rests on the way.  I think Alexe insisted on some fruit at one of these snack stops.

Alexe loves this dog.

Eventually we made it back to the house, where after feeding the animals we settled in for an evening of more of the same.  

I love our Christmases.