April, 2010

...now browsing by month


Blood, sweat, and yes, even tears

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Last Thursday, we were feeling pretty good about things. We had gotten through a week and a half of hard work, with much help from my dad, to get through everything that we’d been told we needed for our conditional occupancy certificate — and that’s what we needed for a significant tax break that runs out on April 30. The completed work included getting all the dry wall hung and getting a sink and toilet operational. We called for the inspection on Friday, figuring we’d still have a week if any small changes were needed.

So, Friday comes and goes. No inspector comes. We call. They don’t know anything about it. The inspection is rescheduled for Monday. That should still be fine. We have a relatively restful weekend and even take a day off on Sat. to take Dad up to the monument.

Monday comes. The inspector arrives this time, does the inspection, and gets out his camera and starts taking pictures of everything. This can’t be good. He says that dry wall and a sink and toilet are not the requirements for an occupancy certificate. (In fact, he doesn’t even look at the sink or toilet.)  No amount of explanation or cajoling has an effect on him. Instead, he leaves us with a failed inspection and a vague list of many, many things that need to be done including putting up the ceiling and having everything basically finished including a kitchen, counters and all. Deflated, we ask for a specific list to evaluate whether this is even possible. He says someone will call us later. They do and again say that the house needs to be basically finished “except for cosmetic things” like trim. They say it in a way that makes it clear they think there is no way to do this in 5 days.

We spend an hour expressing anti-government sentiment, asking each other questions like how can they require things like that you must have a stove and counter-tops. What if you only eat raw food? What if you barbecue all your food? Of course, it doesn’t matter.

In thinking about if this is possible (we had already decided previously that if they were going to make us put up the ceiling, we’d be unable to do it in time….but there was really a lot of money on the table with this), I called to check on our stove. We knew it had been in Tucson for a week or so, and they were having problems getting it to Portal. When I called, they said that, in fact, they could not deliver it to Portal. They claimed that no trucking line would deliver here. Really?!?!? We get deliveries here all the time. No matter, if we wanted our stove, we were going to have to go get it.

I was already committed to some work at a school on Tues., so Brad took the day to go to Tucson to get our stove, kitchen cabinets, and various other things that we thought we needed to get the job done. We decided to try it.

Wed. and Thurs. were long 18 hour days with lots of hard work and some other challenges thrown in. On Wed. the wind started to come up. And I mean it really blew. We heard from someone who has lived here a long time that it was the hardest gales they’d seen in 20 years. A large tree where we are living (not our property) was uprooted, and at our house, 16 foot boards were blowing around like paper.

Fortunately, most of our work was inside, except for carrying lots of lumber inside. We did set up the chop saw in the house though. At one point in the evening, I went out and something blew into my eye, causing me about 24 hours of excruciating pain. All better now though. We also had some kind of mosquito infestation. As usual, I was the target of choice, and every square inch of my body is covered with bites right now.

Still, we pressed on, though I wondered several times if this was the best course of action. On Thursday, we called for another inspection. (I called to confirm in the afternoon and again, they had no record of our call. Sheesh.) By about 1am this morning, we had the whole ceiling up, the light fixtures all operational, and the kitchen plumbing mostly done. Of course, there was one more part we still needed, so we got up at 6am to head over to Animas for the needed part. That should still have given us time before the inspector arrived (which could be anything between 9:30 or so and 4).

One of the things that we’d been told we needed was outside lighting. I know there are lighting restrictions here, but vaguely remembered that dim bulbs were ok. I meant to check the details but somehow forgot. Big mistake. On Friday morning at about 7, I checked the Internet and found that the county requires completely shielded lighting on all lights within 25 feet of the house (and you can’t not have lights — basically, they require lighting that doesn’t really produce any light.)

We decide that a last-minute trip to Douglas was needed, since we knew they were going to check this. I drive at maniacal speeds and then find out that no one in Douglas (including WalMart … that’s how desperate I am) has this kind of light. (After all, who would want a light that doesn’t really make light? On the other hand, it is a county-wide ordinance, albeit apparently one that no one follows. I even checked all the lights around the house where we are living, thinking I could scavenge. No luck.) I call Brad. He has a brilliant idea: Buy coffee cans and we’ll cut them to shield the light fixtures we have.  I do so and then race back.

When I arrive back at the house, coffee cans in hand, at about 10am, Brad walks down the driveway to meet me.

“The inspector has been here and left and gave us final approval.”

What? FINAL??? We weren’t even asking for that; we just wanted the occupancy permit.

I am in shock. Brad is so tired he can barely be happy about it.

I’d like to say that it’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, but the plain and simple truth is that the inspection process is completely random, and we got lucky. I’ll take luck any day though.

wood plank ceiling

(tile counter to come)

We have functional plumbing!

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

We’ve been waiting a long time for this!

This is our beautiful new sink. (The plywood part will be tiled over in cobalt blue to match the shower.)



Brad did such a fantastic job on this! And having Dad here to help has been great. We have all the drywall taped and sanded (first pass); a couple more passes to go, but we’re feeling great about the progress this week.

Drywall is all up

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

…and we’re on to taping. This is a lot of work but it’s looking great.



Brad has done most of the cutting.

dry wall

And I’ve done most of the screwing down.

And Dad has been hugely helpful….not only with the drywall but also staining (and moving around) all the wood decking.

Dry walling is not for wimps

Friday, April 16th, 2010

We are now in an all-out race to get the house to a place where it’s livable. We have almost all the dry wall up and should finish this weekend. (Taping still to come.)

Man is dry walling hard work. I am so tired that I can barely type. We are working long days, and the work is very physical. It reminds me of doing the roof — exhausting and lots of it, but also very satisfying.

dry wall

In other news, we got our wood decking for the ceiling and started staining it. There have been a few hiccups with this, but it’s moving along and should look great.

Also, we have another visitor this week, my dad. It’s great to have him here. I feel a little bad about not having much time to show him the sights here, but it’s just how life is right now. And we are very grateful to have his help with things.


Reflections on place

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

It is a rare occasion when Brad is sleeping and I am not, but one that happens more often when we are not together. (I am not quite the “perfect sleeper” on the road that I am at home.)

I have been traveling this week, and after several weeks of not getting on a plane, it has been more of a jarring transition than usual. The more I am at home, building, and focused on our little world, the more I centered I feel.

Still, being away from home gives me a different perspective and a chance to reflect.

A couple years ago, I had a memorable conversation with someone about trying to eliminate the “noise” in life, living in the now, and finding one’s deeper spiritual self. At the time, I was searching for a place (identifying critical criteria, thinking about the pros and cons of a major change in lifestyle, contemplating what I really wanted out of life…lots and lots of columnar lists), thinking that if I could this perfect place, it would facilitate some shift in consciousness for me. This person assured me that what I was looking for would not come with a place but only within myself.

Somehow, though, place has become  a very important part of this segment of my life journey (just as it was with Africa). I feel this acutely when I am somewhere else, like here in a bustling city with all of its distractions. They quickly edge in on my own sense of self.

I don’t think that place has everything to do with where I am as a person right now, but so much of it is tied to place. My relation to things like work, other people, creative endeavours,  politics, the global environment, etc. all seem tied to place.

I feel very fortunate to have found  a place that works for me (and especially thankfully for Brad too) and what I want out of life right now.

Try, try again

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Today we passed our big inspection — electrical, plumbing, gas, and mechanical (venting). This was after not passing (some might say failing) it the first time on Fri. The things we had to fix were amazingly trivial and arbitrary. I am becoming convinced that the inspection process is a bit ridiculous, but we are playing along and happy to be through this huge step. The next time we have an inspection, it will be for an occupancy permit. Hurray.

We had a big day of work today on many fronts. I began work on our interior doors, which will be wood like the battery house door. Brad worked on the pressure pump, and we got to see it running for the first time. Pretty cool. (Pictures and video to come.)

Mid-day, I got Mr. Brad’s Wild Ride atop a huge stack of styrofoam sheeting in the back of the truck. Gale force winds made transporting this difficult, but it is now finally in storage, freeing up much needed space in the house.

We also got a delivery of sheetrock today. (For those of you who don’t know, sheetrock is the large pieces of drywall that go on the walls. This is exciting because it is a step that is close to the finish. Just paint, cabinets, and stuff like that after that.)

The pallets were taken off a truck with a forklift and put outside the house. Later in the day, Brad and I moved all of it into the house by hand. We estimated that it was over 6,000 pounds of sheetrock. I figure that was the equivalent of a good 24 Hour Fitness workout. I think we’ll sleep tonight despite the wind.

And we just got 3 boxes of FINISH nails… I love that word!

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

After many visits to many stores, we ordered tile today! Hurray! It is beautiful. I’ll post pictures when it comes in.

Brad has also ordered me the most lovely range for our little mini-kitchenette. I am excited about this, especially since we will likely be living with it for a year or so until the “real” kitchen is done.

Drywall should be here Monday. Tomorrow, I’m starting on more doors, this time for the inside of the house.