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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.

Taking a deep breath

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

There have been almost no occasions on which I have felt emotionally overwhelmed during this building process. In fact, all the times I can think of were during the frustrating design phase, not construction. As you might guess, though, today was a tough one for me. It didn’t help that the wind has been blowing non-stop at unbelievable speeds, which tends to make everyone crazy.

This week has been one of milestones. Now that we are almost into April and we are so close to the finish, I have decided that it is time to get a bit assertive about pushing through the interim steps to getting the occupancy permit. And while in the business side of my life I am very assertive (some might phrase it differently), I am not really much that way in my personal life. It’s neither comfortable, nor natural for me.

This week, the priority interim steps have mostly been plumbing-related. We did have a guy out for a few hours (over a few days) to help us finish up, which has been inordinately helpful. And today we finished the rough plumbing (though not without a few bumps in the road).


Bob, our fabulous plumbing helper, soldering copper pipe

Plumbing going into the tankless water heater

Plumbing going into the tankless water heater

We also got the last of the holes cut through the roof, including the big one for the fireplace. Ugh. This was hard for me to watch, but it came out great.


We also got a new vanity (one thing we decided not to build ourselves) and unpacked it out today to check where the piping will go.


We’ll tile the counter on top to match the shower, and I’m thinking of a bright Talavera sink, maybe like this one. Tile…yes, that’s another thing still on the list. But at least it’s not something that has to be done for the next inspection. And we did get glass block for the wall last weekend. It’s really beautiful.

Also today we ordered drywall. That’s cause for celebration in and of itself.

Spring shower

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Today, we poured the sub-floor for our shower.

First, we spent a couple hours chiseling out the floor around the drain (both done previous to us). This is the end result with the drain base in place.


Then we put down a large, thick vinyl shower pan liner. The top part of the drain fits in place over that, attaching to the drain underneath.



Then came mixing the cement. By this time, we’re getting to be old hands at this. Here I am shoveling the cement into the pan. Brad did the troweling.



Part of the troweling process was lots of checking of the levels to ensure that there was slope to the drain in all directions so water would drain.



Next will come the tile, still unpurchased as of yet, though I do know what I’m looking for now. (A few trips to tile stores have freaked me out, but I am going to try again this week.)

We are also wrapping up the plumbing. We have water to the house now and have found a local plumber to lend a hand for a day next week to finish things up. We will also be installing the pressure pump and the tankless water heater, both of which arrived last week. Also on the agenda for next week is getting the propane tank installed and the propane lines inside plumbed.

All of which is leading up to our inspections for electrical, plumbing, and mechanicals, which is the second to the last inspection.

Great end to the week

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Earlier in the week, I framed the shower and put in copper piping, while Brad worked on getting water run into the house.


Brad and I worked on plumbing Friday, putting in a new pipe to take water from the water tank over the top of the container and into the battery house, where the pressure pump will be. It was the first time we cut through a roof, which is something that has been making me nervous, but it went well.



Then, we had a picnic lunch under the cool of one our oak trees (yes, it’s finally getting warm!), before heading over to the farm for Friday harvest.


Friday is harvest day at the farm, something I hadn’t experienced yet. (Brad went without me last week while I was traveling.) The basic drill is that we get there after lunch and start harvesting, which entails cutting things like lettuce, greens, and herbs and digging up potatoes and other root vegetables. Then everything gets put in plastic bins and taken in to be washed, which is a big production in and of itself. Then everything goes into plastic bags and gets labeled for sale at the Saturday farm stand.

So far the marketing efforts we’ve been doing for the farm seem to be going well. This week we made a new sign for the farm stand, as well as continuing to work on the web site, email blasts, etc. The word is definitely getting out.


I helped paint the cold box for the farm stand, which is a large trailer-mounted box that all the veggies are kept in. I also had a new experience of gathering eggs. Fortunately, I had two little kids to help show me what to do! At one point, one of the chickens flew up and landed on my upper back, causing me to shriek in surprise. The six-year-old girl assured me that had never happened before. We later joked that the chickens could probably smell my fear. :) I also helped label and alphabetize many jars of herbs, teas, and supplements that we’re selling. Happy work for someone as compulsively organized as me.

The evening ended with a great meal of salad and pizza with lots of fresh veggies and yummy cheese that Jerry made. He is quite the cook and appreciates good food, much like we do.