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So it turns out there is an amount of time after which Thurston county start billing for their time. It states on the application that there is a process for billing, but as with every other part of the process it’s incredibly opaque. There is no indication as to what is include or excluded in their billable process.

Apparently (we have worked out from the bill) they allow 2 hours of time for a site planning application. Working back from this we think we know what application type they’ve grouped us under, which we don’t understand because it doesn’t relate to the fee we paid, but from that we can apparently get 2 hours of resource stewardship time. After that they bill over $180/hr – for, it seems, any activity. Breathing may be included.

At no point did they tell us that we’d run out of ‘included’ time. We discovered this last night when our landlord brought over the mail. In it was bill for hundreds of ‘billable’ dollars, that we had no idea they were charging us. Most of this is answering e-mails with questions attempting to work out what the hell they want from us, one e-mail alone is over $90. This is insanity.

Not least because they’ve asked for things it turned out they didn’t need – so, in fact, they’re billing us for doing stuff that’s wrong. That said, the woman who is in charge of our application is under the impression that if she understands what she wrote, everyone should get her interpretation of the words. So she would no doubt claim that when it said in a letter we needed to submit this thing, but ten subsections later there was the word “but” in parentheses, it is clear to everyone that the thing it looked like she was requesting (which incidentally costs $thousands) was only required in a specific set of circumstances.

The whole process is a nightmare. It’s enough of a nightmare that it makes me miss British planning departments who are arcane and crazy restrictive, but at least have the basic fucking decency to tell you up front that they are, and post the incredible, crazy, restrictive stuff where you can see it.

The end result of this is we’ve been billed hundreds of dollars – and may get more bills, because we don’t know which bits they’re going to bill for because they won’t fucking tell us.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So today we got an answer, of sorts, from the county.

They can’t give us a timeline. They disagree with our wetland biologist’s assessment of the water that was on our site on the day that we visited.

And clearly any complaints we send are passed directly to the person we’re complaining about, because when we ask questions in our complaints, the answers come from the person we’re complaining about. So that feels highly professional.

As it stands we have 2, maybe 3 weeks before we won’t be able to build this year, with no sign of a permit, and in fact an increasing feeling that we’ve bought a lemon, and lost about $80,000 on land that’s not worth shit. And that makes me feel like I’ve let my dad down, because the majority of that money came from inheritance when my dad died. And I feel like I’ve squandered it.

Tonight also brought the bonus realisation that if we can’t build this year, we may not be able to do it at all. At least, not in the foreseeable future.

Which is all fucking depressing.

So really, fuck them.

So that was my day.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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…get some kind of answer from the county saying that our permit is approved in approximately the next 3 weeks, it is highly likely we’ll have to delay our house build for an entire year.

This is extremely distressing and frustrating and expensive. It will probably cost us in the region of $6000 dollars to do that, assuming our rent doesn’t change, and also ignoring the fact we’re hoping that our house will be cheaper to heat.

Also, instead of the rent going on repaying a mortgage, it’s going on paying someone else. I like I landlord, and the place we live is nice, but I’d rather have the money be paying for the wood that builds our house than paying someone else for stuff.

So that’s not….fun.

Still, I suppose it would take the stress off in some way. Feh.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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This is unadulterated whinging.
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Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So, as I’m sure you’re all dying to know how our Bokashi odyssey is progressing. Given the state of the world, our ability to compost left over veg trimmings and off food is clearly something of vital importance.

So, one of the things with Bokashi is that the veg left overs need to be chopped up. There are devices like this:

Hand-cranked-veg-chopper

Which you can use to chop up the veg – but I* didn’t want to fork out the extra for one of them so at the moment we’re manually chopping up all the veg off-cuts. Normally our recipes have a fair bit of veg in – this about 2/3rd of the off-cuts from one of our larger dishes…

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As you might imagine this adds some time to our preparation. However, although the little compost bin – the countertop one we use to hold veg so we have sufficient to “make a layer” does smell sometimes (with the lid off, it’s fine with the lid on – it has a charcoal filter :) ) – the other bin so far is fine. When you take the lid off it smells a bit fermenty, but with the lid on nary a thing. And the fermenty smell isn’t bad. I wouldn’t want the entire house to smell of it, but it’s fine for a few minutes while we chuck the veg in and squidge it down.

These are the Bokashi bins:

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We have two, because you seal one up to ferment for two weeks or so, once it’s full. We’ve about 2/3rds filled one of them – in about a week and a half. So it should work okay for us…

Addressing the state of the world issue – I’m feeling more and more pressing need to do every-single-thing we can to reduce our impact. We’ve realised that we can compost the paper towel we use (I have tedious allergies, still, so finding something to do with all those tissues is handy), composting has reduced our ‘landfill’ waste by about half. And I’m continuing my quest to work out a way to substitute our insight for a fully electric vehicle.

We keep trying for some political engagement, but at times it’s insanely overwhelming. On top of which, work still demands nearly all the time that exists. So self care has become of significant importance… so well, yes, that’s where we are.

* This was my idea and it was meant to arrive around Christmas, as a sort of “I’ve got this for both of us” gift – but…it arrived late. To be fair, I ordered it very late.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

Today was.

Nov. 7th, 2016 03:35 am
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We were definitely going for some kind of adulting / granola lesbian award.

– Home made pancakes for breakfast (spelt…)
– Already cleaned the house this weekend…
– Hardware store for implements of destruction
– Farmer’s market (just after opening) for our shopping
– Coffee at a local coffee place
– Home for lunch (rather than our usual disorganised “oh, we’ll get it at the farmer’s market”…because we were so early)
– Out to the land and filled in one of the perc holes by hand (most of the way, turns out neither of us is as fit as we remember being)
– Spent a couple of hours pruning and trimming the route that we want the mini excavator to come in though to dig the new perc holes.

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…it may not look like much, but it was hard work and it is where we’re hoping our drive way will run… and I’m torn between “oh my god, we’ve cut down so many tiny bushy things” and “yay! progress!”

– Then we sat in our Electric SUV, drinking herbal tea, eating home made spelt/citrus loaf and eating nuts and dates… before driving home.

Uh. So yay for us, but also I suspect we can’t get that much more granola. If only we had a Ford Ranger EV, then we’d be totally there.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So remember how last week I said we would be getting perc holes dug? Remember the proto-enthusiasm?

Yeah.

’bout that.

No.

See, we called on Monday – agreed a rough time with our groundworks contractor – and then called the septic guy – and arranged a time. Then Kathryn called back our groundworks contractor – and couldn’t reach him. She tried 3 more times up to yesterday leaving messages each time. I tried this lunchtime – still couldn’t reach him.

Given that we were meant to be there tomorrow afternoon we finally gave in and rang our septic guy and said “we think we need to cancel, we can’t reach Chris”.

Our septic guy messages our groundworks guy and…gets an answer a few minutes later. Apparently he’s out of town now because ‘we didn’t confirm the time’.

Seriously?

So I think we now need a new groundworks contractor. Which is upsetting because we liked Chris. And he didn’t talk to us like we are idiots. Right at this point I feel more like going and renting a damn digger and doing it ourselves. I know that’s foolish, it would take far too long and wouldn’t be nearly the standard someone skilled would do. But it’s really, really frustrating.

So I’m feeling really demoralized. I realize this is just overflow stress because yesterday was my last day as an Emergency Nurse – which is what I’ve been for the past 9 years. And it feels weird to not be one, and to be technically unemployed* – and I’m having that whole existential angst thing related to my soul probably having made it about as far as Newport**, and me being here.

It’s not so much homesickness, it’s more trying to understand who I am when so many of the supports of the constituent parts of who I am have gone or are far away. If I wasn’t so set in being me, it’d be a great opportunity to reinvent myself.

* well, super-technically, I’m unemployed from Thursday – I’m just not working today or tomorrow.
** Arcturuan mega-camel speeds.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So when we got our septic design done, we failed to communicate sufficiently well that the giant, old, big leaf maple tree was one of the trees that we were absolutely committed to saving. Since then we’ve moved house and got new jobs, and furnished our new apartment and so on. This has meant our house has been on hold. Given that we can’t put it up this year, that’d taken the pressure off anyway…

But now? Now we want to get moving again which is always tricky. Getting momentum going for something as big as a house project is challenging.

With that in mind, next week we are hopefully* going out to cut a little pathway so that we can move the septic. The first step in getting our house built. We also really need to go out and fill back in the original perc holes.

The original plan** called for the septic to essentially lie into the roots of the maple tree:

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The new plan:

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See the beautiful modifications. Actually, this was done as a very quick sketch to explain to our septic guy what we want to do. He is, shall we say, ‘reluctant’ to be drawn on whether there will be any problems doing this, although we’re unsure why there would be, or why the soil 50 ft to the east of the current perc holes would be dramatically worse than the soil in the place they dug the first lot. And we both are of the opinion that there’s a lot of land we’re currently planning to leave ‘as is’ and just maintain, all of which we could consider for septic sites…

Anyhow, this time we’re going to be there in person so we can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We’ve also marked out roughly the route of the drive (which we’ve kinda-sorta-sketched on the map). We’re also hoping to put the septic near the drive so it can be emptied, when that time comes.

Once the septic and well are in… we can actually start moving forward. Septic, well, power, foundations… then we get to design the building. The yay.

* While our groundworks guy gave us the suggested day, he’s not yet confirmed that we’re booked in with him for the time we said.
** We’re actually building a 2 bed house, but putting in a 3 bed septic

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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Cut for unnecessary whinging.

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Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

God damn

Jun. 28th, 2016 09:52 pm
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So, our PERC holes had to be dug on a day when we weren’t available to be there. That’s because we were running to meet the ‘if we want to build this autumn’ deadline — which we found out a few days ago is actually unachievable.

It turns out that even had we got all of our ducks in a row (which they are pretty much) then we couldn’t have hit it because the permit approval process for the septic is way longer than we were told by our septic designer. Of course, just before we found this out we had a great chat with the house permitting guy who told us that he ended up reviewing it – his current timeframe would mean we’d be able to make our build-date targets (based on the septic designer’s estimate of times). Of course we were super excited – then we find out that the permit process is at least double what our designer said… and sadness.

So, anyway, to get back (at least vaguely) to the point. We find out it’s not doable and are then out on the plot with our to-be-arbourist planning where our house will be and find that the oldest, largest tree in the entire 5.5 acres is the one they’ve decided to stick the septic right in the middle of the root system for.

This would, unsurprisingly, kill a beautiful tree.

Seriously, we talked about needing to protect the place with our guy-the-excavator – who dug the holes for our septic guy, and I expect that conversation happened with the designer too, although I wasn’t there. But Kathryn and I always rave about this beautiful tree.

So we go out with our arbourist who is first up horrified at the potential damage done already, then we realise that the system is pegged out right in the root system – and the alternate is also in the root system of the same tree.

Seriously?

Gaaaah.

So now we’re faced with nearly $700 of costs for relocating it because we took our eye off the ball and thought that people might actually give a shit about their environment. When we talked about it before hand the septic guy was all “oh, we’ll look at the site and dig some test holes and pick the best location”. All the holes are within about 40′ of this one poor tree.

Let me remind you again, 5.5 acres.

Oh lord. This is not something we need.

In other news, we’re off to look at some lettings to see if we can find a short term, uncarpeted 6 month lease so that we can do our building planning through the winter and put it up in the spring.

Also: The cake I’m baking erupted in the oven. Cue hideous burning smell. Also, in the 35 minute cooking time it’s come out like jelly. I’ve no idea why – it’s staying in there longer, but seriously? And also yesterday’s trip to the dentist turned out to be the first of 2 (on top of the original 2) – as my tooth had rotted out enough that removing the filling left me with a crown, instead of a filling, and he still is wondering whether I need a root canal. Yay.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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We spent some time talking to the strawbale architect consultant about building today, and the price for the timber frame alone is prohibitive, and startling given the costs we’d seen for kit-built-post-and-beam houses.

Some of the cost assumptions we can tweak, because we’re happy to do things like using used components as long as they meet current requirements. Both houses we’ve had had salvage bathroom components, and electrical I’ve discovered that Habitat for Humanity have big plastic boxes filled with sockets and light switches, some of which are clearly nearly new.

Also, our requirements for the kitchen are ‘it has a sink, stove and fridge’, we can “finish” it later. Indeed, the entire house, our finishing requirements are that the walls are plastered, and the electrics are in.

Anyhow, at the moment we’ve gone from excited to ‘trying to figure out some way to make this happen at all’.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So, we went to look at property yesterday. 5 viewings, scattered across the Oly area. There was the first plot that was wet and surprisingly noisy, the second plot that was wet and had a home that needed pulling down and you’d have to build right on the road, the fourth plot which has utilities in the road and a channel prepped to bring in the utility cables and is in a nice area with a pretty view (clearly the sensible choice), the fifth plot which has river frontage and a cute (possibly salvagable) 100 year old cabin on the lot…and an easy level building area.

So which one are we both desperately resisting being excited by?

The third one. The impossible to access one, which currently has no access road, on the top of a ridge, with basalt rock underneath. It has a well that’s roughly 150’* vertically down from the potential home site, which is currently covered in a semi-demolished-rotten-unpermitted cabin. The only building on site is an 8×12′ ‘cabin’ which currently has no floor. We’re unclear if the well is even permitted and might be within a wetland protection boundary. Half of the land is unbuildable due to power lines, but that’s fine, because the other half is where we’d want to be.

The only teensy problem is getting there. Oh, and owning an EV? We’re going to have put in some kind of emergency charging point at the bottom of the hill, because the 150′ steep climb at the end is probably not ideal if it’s nearly flat.

Anyhow, masochistic tendencies aside, we’ve got two possible sites of interest, but it must be said the one we’re most excited about is improbably challenging.

ETA* It may be ~80′, actually. It’s tricky to decide exactly where it, and the contours for what we’re planning to build lie.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

Settle.

Mar. 11th, 2016 09:36 pm
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Life continues to be more or less the same as it ever was. I’ve been working, at least intermittently, and I’ve even been paid. That has been rather nice, although it’s led to a bit of a flurry of spending as I’ve taken a bunch of stuff off the ‘want list’ which included several things that I’d decided I wouldn’t buy until we got to the US.

I’d been holding that restraint for a couple of years. Adding in the last 3 months of me not buying pretty much anything (I bought a few books, and a few items for our business) and then say “look, you’ve been paid”. I snapped. Much of this is ‘fun’ stuff, but the other thing that’s sucked up funds is things like ‘UK to US’ plug adaptors (10 of ’em, on the way). I’d thought I’d replace the old UK plugs with US ones, but bare US plugs are actually ridiculously pricey, so instead I’ve just bought adaptors. From China. Also, bonus, I get to keep the fuses for added safety.

And BC – Edison Screw lamp adaptors. I was unaware that such things existed – so I’d bought one of the 85-250v LED BC lamps for one of the anglepoises (as a test), but having discovered these I can just go to the store and get what, in the US, are regular LED bulbs and throw those in. Hurrah! These adaptors were way cheaper than the special bulbs and had free postage. Since I’m not in a raring hurry to get the lamps working, that’s fine.

I also started setting up my ‘home lab’, as it were. Up until now I’ve scrounged stuff from the lovely John, but 4k miles is a little far to take things for testing, and it’s a little tricky to ask John if he’d like to pop over for an evening of tinkering with electronics. I’ve finally got it together and bought a (new) soldering iron / rework gun combo. I wasn’t going to get a rework gun, I mean, me and surface mount are not close friends. But with our business plans, I may want to put together some kind of board with surface mount components, in which case a rework gun will become handy – and it was a few dollars extra to get that functionality. Second hand kit that’s also winging its way to me is a ‘scope that weighs approximately the same as the house (50Mhz Tektronix 453*).

Die perfekte Welle

I doubt mine will look 1/10th as nice when it arrives. Indeed, I know some of the plastic knobules from the switches are missing (the selector knobs are all there). I’m hoping (really hoping) that one day my 3D printer will arrive and I can print myself some new ones. If not, I’ve got some sugru in the toolbox.

I thought about getting something a bit fancier that would be better for digital hardware (perhaps the 150Mhz 454), but if I decide I need that later I can either sell off the Tektronix 453 and get something ‘more modern’, or just suck up the expense if I’ve got attached to the 453. I’ve also got an HP 6200B bench power supply on its way too. John has infested my mind with his HP / Tektronix lovin’, which meant that other, cheaper options got ditched on the way to this selection, but I think they should be handy. And the 453 seems to be considered to be a pretty good scope – which it’s within the realms of my knowledge to repair and keep going.

Whilst the scope is slightly frivolous at the moment, and is partly a ‘I have little to do at home’ thing some of the kit will be handy straight away. The bench supply will be handy getting the car alarm configured… since it wants to charge a bit before it works, and you need to send it various text messages to get it configured. That bench supply will also be doing duty building up the circuit for the first kit we’re planning for our business.

Most of this kit is pretty tatty, but should be enough to get me ‘up and running’. At least, once I’ve given it a really, really good clean it should be.

This splurge of spending does mean that I’m now rather over excited when I see UPS and USPS vans, which tediously never seem to actually stop here…

Still. I don’t think I can buy much else for the rest of the month (except for needs – like maintaining my poor Minor, that’s had hundreds of miles added some weeks). At any rate, I shall try to exercise restraint. I’ve put a bit into my savings this month and then I’m hoping to put some of the funds we extracted back into the house-savings too.

At any rate, the rain paused yesterday for long enough for me to go and throw silicone sealant around the minor with reckless abandon.

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Water’s been dripping in through that wiper spindle’s hole for a while. In an attempt to prevent it totally destroying the glove box liner, and the radio underneath, and then the floor below that, I whipped off the nut cleaned up the seals and put them back with a thin layer of windscreen silicone on them. I note that this has been done before, with what appears to be gasket sealant. That might have been me… but it didn’t work that time. Here’s hoping this time it does work. Overnight it’s rained and there wasn’t any water that I could feel, so fingers crossed I might get some relief from that.

I also attacked the boot (trunk) – using sealant around the holes where the “MORRIS 1000” badge is mounted. This morning the boot (trunk) was actually bone dry, which I think is a first, and made me quite happy.

I also commenced trying to understand how to fit the alarm – and realised that actually, it’d probably make more sense for it to be on our family contract for it’s SMS messaging, rather than me stick it on the Net10 sim I’ve got kicking around. Well, maybe. We need to go and see if we can beg a cellspot for the house as it is slightly ridiculous that you have to go outside to make calls a lot of the time and while we’re there I’ll see if I can add it on at a low rate. Otherwise I’ll see which provider is cheapest for a pure voice/SMS option. It doesn’t need data of any sort, so it’s a big silly getting it a voice/data contract. I also realised that the alarm wants an SD card for some of its more handy features, and it makes sense to fit that before I put the alarm in the car.

Given that it’s a cheap Chinese system the manual is somewhat challenging to understand at times. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to require too many features the Minor doesn’t have (indeed, it looks like it should actually be able to track the fuel level of the Minor, which is pretty nifty, though why I’d want to is unclear).

I thought about fitting it this morning; indeed that was my ‘plan’ for the day. But I am distrustful of the weather, and although it said “0% chance of rain” the forecast started to get a bit sketchy around lunchtime, and it looks like rain every day after now for a while, so getting part-way through is undesirable. I succumbed to my rain-fear and went for a walk instead.

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Which was probably a good plan as it’s been hacking with rain for the last hour and half, and I’d’ve probably still been out there dangling upside-down. I think when I have all the relevant bits, I’ll be a bit more enthused about getting it done.

In other news, I headed out yesterday to see if I could find a stick blender. We’ve wanted one for a long time, and before I got paid I kept seeing them at goodwill and value village. Of course, now I’ve actually been paid, they’ve vaporised. Goodwill does make me miss the cleanliness of most British charity shops. I’m sure there’s awesome stuff in there, but the electronics sections always make me feel rather like I need to wash my hands thoroughly on leaving. Anyhow, what I did find was ‘Goodwill Outlet’, which is a fearsome place. Unsorted, sad old things piled into plastic waist high bins… It’s the kind of place I feel the need to have a companion, because rifling through the stuff in there by yourself, it feels kinda weird. I suspect that there probably are stick blenders lying prone at the bottom of those bins, but I didn’t quite have the guts to pull so much stuff out.

And then we come to the elephant in the absent room. The house.

We’re off looking at properties this weekend. Five of ’em. One with a building, one with a ‘building’ (it’s a house of “poor quality” built in 1901), and 3 bits of land that are just land. I continue to feel the disappointment from the permit-disaster-wetland-hideousness, but hopefully one of these will speak to our souls. One of them, funnily enough, enormously close to where Kathryn’s mom used to live, and would give us effectively the same view. Which is weird. Although the land-with-buildings-on may be better for us, in terms of both location and usefulness. Still, we’ll see what happens.

* Handily, this is old enough that the entire manual is available here

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

Today was.

Feb. 21st, 2016 03:03 am
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We spent today touring the local area to look at property. Our indecision on where we’re going to live long term continues, but the area we’re living in at the moment (Olympia) has much to recommend it. So we spent the day meandering and seeing what we could see that fit into our price range and how close we can get to the trifecta of location, price and features. Mind you, our trifecta is somewhat different to other peoples.

Olympia certainly offers us the most that we’ve seen in terms of what we can afford. Amusingly, someone suggested to me that we should look at Steamboat Island (google maps). Which is a place Kathryn visited for semi-work reasons recently. We saw some gorgeous property out there, then ran into a chap who’s selling his own 1.6 acre plot (of which a big chunk you can’t build on for many reasons). An English chap, funnily enough.

We took his card and I got over excited about the potential of this land. It does have quite a few significant challenges, and is sloping in a way that means we have to consider whether it would or could be prone to landslides. Which means much discussion with a civil engineer and, I suspect, super-complex groundworks. Which may price it out of our budget.

There’s another property, though, which we are trying to arrange looking at, that’s near to the over-exciting one and which (assuming it doesn’t consist entirely of marsh, which seems to a common thing around here) would be much easier. It’s more expensive, but offers more of the things we want, but takes away the ocean view we’d actually get from the first one.

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It is literally the only time we’ve looked at a lot with ocean view and said ‘hey, we could afford that’. Whether we actually can afford it is another question, because we’d need some kind of mortgage to be able to build on it and it’s not big enough that we could sell off a chunk of the land to finance anything. Nor could we build what’s called an ‘additional dwelling unit’ to rent out, which we’d though about doing. So it’s tricky.

Anyhow, then we went and looked at in-town properties. It’s kind of hard to get deeply excited about a city-lot with a quite nice or flipable house, when what you really want is a nice bit of land away from all the peoples. But there were some possibilities in areas that are not horrendous that fit into our price bracket.

So yes, it was pretty positive.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So, another couple of afternoons of work in the garden. Well, part of an afternoon, I’ve made a little more progress. I spent most of Wednesday afternoon burning stuff. We had vast piles of cut-back brambles and cut-back and pulled lyme tree chunks which we could have put in the car and taken to the tip, but it’d’ve taken several trips and got the car full of both bugs and dirt.


Instead it all went through the incinerator in an afternoon filled with incineration. The garden looked much better because of it, and it meant that I could get back to the strip of rocks/gravel that is meant to live between the garage and the grass and pull out all the ‘nice’ bits of stone (quarried from Bristol in the 18th Ct, and taken out of an old wall that was being pulled down). I’d hoped I’d have enough ‘nice’ stone to dress the whole top edge of it:


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Sadly I’ve now run out. That said I’m not 100% convinced I like the final look. I’m wondering if gravel would be better. Also I’m a bit short on hardcore to go underneath it, ‘cos I’ll probably want to retrieve some of the bricks I’ve got at the end that I’ve not done yet to use as path edging. On the plus side I did get to meet 3 cute little froggies who are living in there. Which does kinda incline me to keep the rock effect, I like them having somewhere to live.


Yesterday I did a bit more work on the path – creeping us forward another 4 or so feet. I also spent some time hoe-ing a bed and then threw cardboard and mulch material over it; which has proven to be an adequate, if not ideal technique for keeping weeds at bay.


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And here’s a moment of what we’re going for:


Path

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Given the weather I think I should probably get on with more serious stuff, like the fact that a chunk of render’s fallen off our outbuilding, that the paint’s flaking off the wall underneath where we had the boiler removed (so there’s no render on that bit) and there’s a bit of wood trim that’s gone rotten.


Something for me to look forward to, anyhow.




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So this weekend has been a proper weekend with relaxing and doing gardening and enjoying the world. As I was chatting to my neighbour I was discussing the fact that we’re approaching the next period of time when I actually have to do some maintenance on the house, which’ll be not nearly so much fun.


But for the moment, I’ve been out there gardening and starting to prep the garden for autumn and winter.


The vertical garden we just let do its own thing. Every so often we throw more soil and compost in the top because we didn’t know how to build it when we made it, and now have various problems with the soil leaking out. Apart from that we periodically chuck new plants into it to see what does well, usually by a process of the previous plant dying. Thyme and the big leafy plant who’s name is totally escaping me but is delicious and lemony Sorrel. with fish, incidentally.


Anyhow, that’s being pleasingly enthusiastic at the moment:



Even our tomatoes seem to have survived our holiday absence and although they could benefit from a bit of a feeding up, they’re looking pretty good. Sadly, the ones that have done really well are the big cooking tomatoes which are fine for making sauce out of, but are way too mealy to make a decent sandwich or salad tomato.



I have, however, dug over the lower raised bed (in the process discovering (cutting through) three previously hidden potatoes). Into it have gone a few left-over cabbage and cauliflower plants. And many slug pellets. This bed was going to have a greenhouse in part of it, with the intention that it’d be shaded by the neighbour’s massive hedge and tree. But the new neighbour’s had the entire garden completely cleared; leaving this now completely exposed.



So we may have to rethink that plan.


The carrot & celeriac bed has gone wild; we need to pull some more carrots and see if we’ve managed to produce any edible celeriac (it’s got a while longer to grow before we need to pull it, anyhow). The poppys are still soldiering on too.


Hopefully this week I’ll get the path up that far, and we can start to get in there a bit.



And finally, the upper pea-bed has been converted to a cabbage and cauliflower bed; the pea-supports have been carefully de-erected and the bed dug over, and in with some fresh plants.



I have to admit we cheated on the plants; they’re bought as we didn’t get around to planting them in time. But we were at the store and thought ‘hey, what the hell’. We’ve got a bunch of green manure to go in, and lots of mulch to go over the top of the bed that’s three-quarters dug down by the monkey-puzzle.


It is all coming together. We may, just may, actually put the garden to bed properly this year. Although that’s big words with not a lot of faith behind them.




Quirks

Jul. 13th, 2014 01:14 pm
pyoor_excuse: (Default)

There are some bits of our house that I adore; not perhaps because of any particularly valid reason, but because they just make me inexplicably happy.

The porch is fairly understandable. The light (on a sunny day, unlike today) streams in through the stained glass and illuminates the hall in a rainbow of colours:

It’s obviously popular, because I think all but one or two of the houses on our street that originally had it still have the doors. You can sort of see the red that we’re going for there, incidentally. It’s much deeper and richer when it’s got all the coats on it – and it goes really quite well with the deep red in the stained glass.

But there’s also odd little corners; little spaces, which I really really like:

Untitled

I’m not sure what it is about this little uptick of picture rail, but I think it’s really rather lovely.

Whilst I’m decorating occasionally I take a few moments to appreciate these little bits of the house.

In other news I’ve also been spending a little time in the garden, doing some work on the path. It’s crept forwards, or more, backwards, a few more feet.

I’ve still got a little pile of bricks, but need to attack them with a hammer and chisel to get the mortar off which means I can actually continue path building. I’ve got to enclose a bit more of the deck and put the sort-of sill in where the doors will go under the deck, then we can also gravel that bit, which should make the upper end of the garden feel a bit more finished. I’m suspecting we need another bag of gravel, however, which is a bit sad. Despite that I’ve started roughing out the next section down the hill…

Although I need to chop up the chunk of timber and decide where we’re switching from gravelled path to recycled pallet wood decking. I’m trying to get on with the garden a bit, despite the fact it’s hot, because otherwise we’ll head into another winter with it unfinished, which’ll make me a sad bunny.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

pyoor_excuse: (Default)

If I weren’t still slightly tediously coldy (and coughy, and going to work tomorrow) then I’d be a lot more angsty about the fact that today has mostly been spent with me doing stuff all.

The auto electrician was meant to appear at 10, but instead didn’t appear until 1145; so I did a lot of waiting-unproductively; then (and this is my good deed for the day) filed all the paperwork that I’ve not filed for err, months, and also the stuff that we dug up when we were clearing the office (INCOMING GUESTS! PANIC! EVERYTHING MUST BE FINISHED!*). Then I just dawdled around the house doing odds and sods, wrote a teeny tiny bit (maybe 100 words, with some edits elsewhere, I still don’t hate it which remains unusual and is strangely pleasing, at some point I’ll have to show it to someone to see if it’s awful) and intermittently pottered out to see what the auto electrician was up to.

I’m not entirely sure that the towbar electrics are still working; I’ll have to check that at some point, and one of the sidelights is apparently still wired very oddly (it’s really unclear what in heaven’s name they were attempting to do with the wiring; some stuff seems to just run the length of the car for no apparent reason, duplicating stuff in the loom that appears to be working**). Weirdly, in the middle of all his fixing, the interior light started working, so yay for that.

Anyhow, once that was done and he’d flagged that the oil pressure switch wasn’t working, I nipped out, got that, installed it, and we now have what appears at the moment to be a functioning car.

I am still waiting on the shiny exhaust, but for the moment I’ve got the emergency exhaust repair kit and some tools in the boot, and enough spare wire in there to go to Mars.

All I can do is go for journeys and see.

Oh, and I found a place that’ll service and check the calibration on the speedo, but the car has to have a non-GPS based speedo so I’ll probably do that at a point when I’m certain I won’t need the car for a bit. Having checked; 20 appears to be at 20 ish, so that’s fine for most of Bristol. It may just be that it needs a service.

I’ve also blocked out potentially an entire week for agency work which should help with getting the EV conversion going…

* I will fail at this, but don’t honestly really expect to achieve it, it’s just a ‘wouldn’t it be nice if they turned up and the house was actually finished’.
** Maybe rather than running the loom to work out what wires came out where, they just decided to run new ones?

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

pyoor_excuse: (Default)

So, I’m off on an ALS (Advanced Life Support) course in June. In my usual efficient, non-prevaricatory way I’ve left doing the online portion of the course…a while. I’d vaguely noted that it said that the learning management system would be offline for maintenance for a couple of days but hadn’t really taken much notice of when, exactly. Until today. When my plan for the day which went:

- Paint
- Dink on the net
- Go out for nice lunch
- Return and do ALS precourse
- Drink tea, eat biscuits
- End

Fell over somewhat.

I managed the painting; another coat of lovely red paint on the lovely trim. I’m now all the way around the upstairs door frames, which means after one more coat on that frame all that’s left is the trim that I can only prep and paint when Kathryn’s home (because it involves being ‘quite high up’ on a ladder at a slightly dubious angle) and the trim next to the stairs. I’ve even painted the loft-entrance.

Oh, and patching up the paint on the wall which, as usual, does not seem to have stuck as well as I’d like despite the endless attempts to persuade it to (with plaster-prepping pre-paint stuff, dilute coats, and sensible long drying times). I’m never quite sure how other people get paint to stick to plaster (or if they really do), because while the vast majority of it seems to end up pretty well attached, if I ever put masking tape on paint (which it says you can) it always ends up pulling stuff off. Anyhow. Despite the low-tack masking tape, there were a couple of small areas where the paint’s been pulled off the wall. Some of that is fillered areas, and some of it is just that it hasn’t stuck at all to the plaster. I’ve got some paint from the batch that I kept ready for such an emergency, so I’ll clean the wall up, probably filler it to get it close to the level of the multiple coats of paint and re-prep it and then repaint those little bits.

The red really adds definition to the upstairs. Or at least, Kathryn and I think it does. Everyone else might hate it. But we really like it.

Then I set to on the Sepsis cards for work. I’d thought I was happy with the design, but looking at them today I just wasn’t. So I spent some more time modifying the layout before sending them off to the printer. I tweaked it so I could abuse business cards into being the sepsis cards. You can all tell me how much you hate them, but I’m quite pleased with them – in so far as they at least look different to some of the other cards we get at work:

Sepsis front Unbranded

Sepsis back

It’s still not really to the standard I’d like, and the font isn’t quite what I was after, but given I’m not paid to do this, this is my own time, and my own money, then… well. They get what I pay for. The blue is meant to sort of tie it in to the NHS blue, without explicitly stating that. :)

Anyhow, then I sent them off to be printed. All pray, I did online proofing, rather than taking it to the local Staples, because Staples didn’t seem to want to share their online pricing for printing full-colour double sided business cards. I may get back 100 awful, hideous, unreadable cards. But they looked fine in the preview.

Anyhow, that done, I did my dinking on the net. Bought myself a network cable and socket tester (and it came with a free crimping tool, which is handy as I’m thinking of extending the cabled network down to the garage*). Anyhow, the excitement of that is I might be able to isolate what’s wrong with the kitchen network point and then I can fix it if I’ve wired it wrong in some way or get a new socket depending. I’m thinking it’s probably a socket because it’s definitely worked at least a bit before. Either that, or something’s eaten the cable, which would make me sad.

Anyhow, that done I set to on the next problem which was going out for a nice lunch. Easy. Headed over to Hart’s Bakery…only it was rammed. There were no seats at the tables, so I ended up grabbing it and coming home which made me a little sad. I was looking forward to getting some nice coffee and chilling out in a space other than the house.

Still, when I got home I still enjoyed the delicious bread, and then attempted to log on to the learning management system. And there it was. LMS unavailable until the 29th. ‘Bother’, I think is the word I was looking for.

On the plus side, after some vacillating about how to spend my newly available afternoon, I headed out to the garden and moved the rest of the soil from the front garden to the back. Distressingly, the new pseudo raised bed astonishingly still requires more soil. I suspected as much, that I might have built a bed that required more soil than we have, but the fact we’ve put around 700 kilos of soil into the back garden (plus about 800kilos of gravel) and we’re still short is a little scary. I keep thinking that the amount of compost, manure, gravel, sand and plain old soil we’ve put in, and the fact that the excavated soil from the garage also went in should really have raised the garden up several feet. But it hasn’t.

Anyhow, the soil moved, but distressingly inadequately filling the bed meant that I couldn’t do what I’d planned to do, which was put the veg / plants out that’re sat on the windowsill waiting for a new home. We shall have to pick up some more soil to complete the bed :(

That having slightly failed I set to on another project, which is a mixture of creating a new bed further down the garden, and stripping the last remnants of the lawn off – and moving them to the tiny bit of garden that will hopefully become lawn. It’s right down by the garage and we’ll probably turn it into more of a meadowy affair, but at the moment it’s a mixture of cat-shit and weeds. Oh, and it turns out, potatoes. I yanked a mixture of potatoes and weeds out. Buried the cat-shit a bit, and then started skimming off the grass from the soon-to-be-bed and putting onto the soon-to-be-lawn. Uneven and lumpy though it is, it is a fairly effective (and cheap) solution (although we’ll have to put lots of raked topsoil and grass/wild meadow seed on to it to make it level enough). But it does make that patch look better, and it did so pretty rapidly. Still lots more to do there, though.

But whilst I was doing it I slightly surprised myself by stumbling on what was perhaps once the edge of a border. It’s a little hard to tell; there’s just a line of bricks running across the garden – edge up – so I’m assuming it’s not a wall – although I’ll need to dig them out anyhow so I will soon find out. It’s quite near to the area of random, inexplicable concrete that was dug up when we started on the garden. I have no idea if it relates to that in some way, or was simply the edging of perhaps a war-time veg bed. It was sufficiently far under the mud that the grass looked quite happy, and I’d no idea that the bricks were there until I hit them.

So anyway, that was pretty positive. Then it started raining, so I’ve taken shelter inside again….

* Which leads to the exciting debate: Do I do it properly with armoured direct-bury cable, or do I find some spare old hose-pipe and run the cheap, nasty, horrid (alleged) cat5 cable I’ve got inside that. I’m largely inclined toward the latter, considering I’ve got bloody miles of the craptastic cable, and I’m not going to take it to the US, nor am I willing to inflict it on anyone else because I’m highly unconvinced of it’s actual twisted-pair-ness.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

pyoor_excuse: (Default)

*More sleep deprived posting*

So, I seem to have finally found a way through the incredible inertia which seemed to be preventing me from actually painting the wood trim upstairs. Well, prepping and painting it.

The main problem was that it seemed like an insurmountably large job. If you’ve ever looked at a 1930′s house, a fairly trad one (not a modernist beastie) there’s more wood in them than you can shake a stick at. Entire forests of carefully turned, shaped and profiled pine cover joints, door frames, skirting and panelwork. It’s fairly fearsome how much trim there is.

In fact, every time I contemplated the job, or starting it, I felt that sort of sinking ‘how many years is it going to take me to sand that whole thing’.

But now, now I’ve come up with a plan. I’m doing it a bit at a time. I make a blendable end at the end of each section but have now made it to the second door frame. Sadly there was a bit of a run in my paint on the previous section (gah) and a bit of a run that I didn’t manage to sand smooth enough in the old paint – so I sanded that this afternoon and then redid that section.

It’s not the ideal way to go about it, but I’m just pleased to be making progress again. And I really like the red upstairs; it adds some definition to what was otherwise a slightly bland space. I love our paint choices but they only really work when the contrasting colours are added :)

Untitled

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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