Things the Previous Owners Left Us - Creepy Shed Edition

In the spirit of All Hollow's Eve:

On the back edge of our land, 
Sits a small shed. 
A large gust of wind or a tap of a hand
Would level it down to a pile of rubble on top of the land

Looking at it from the outside
Shows a slight slant to the right
On the inside
Are things worth trying to hide

From vines and bugs on the wall 
To a rusty half piece of scissors
Even a calculator rounds out the haul
Stepping in one hears the boards squall

We hope for a storm to push it down
To save the pain of a zoning application
Which makes the both of us frown
Oh, how we love/hate this town!


Currently Listening to "Green Tambourine" by Lemon Pipers

Oh Smack, a Fence: Fence Stage Four

Remember way back when? Back when we wanted to build a fence but couldn't because the sheriff (who's also a zoning board member) dropped off a zoning application on our doorstep? Well, Jessie drew up some very detailed plans, which I biked down to the Town Hall (yes, that's the main Town hall entrance) and paid $40 to get a zoning certificate, finally allowing us to build a freaking fence. Only took three months for us to get this far.

Then, Jessie told me her dad and grandparents were coming down. I got home from work one day, and found this.
Hmm. That wasn't there before. Apparently they drove down in the morning and Doug and Larry started throwing up some boards...until they ran out of boards. It's so close, it's palpable.

Well, what else could we work on? Let's start with the holes in the roof. Yeah, that's probably a good thing to do before winter sets in. The eves on this house were "constructed" after the original house was put up. At least, I hope so. Typically, decking boards (4x8 sheets of OSB (oriented strand board (cheaper, pressed form of plywood))) are extended across the exterior walls to the outside edge of the eves. Instead, the geniuses who did this took some 6" wide tongue-and-groove boards and nailed them onto the exterior wall, cantilevered out...with no other support. In case not all the people reading this are engineers, let me just say that this is beyond stupid. Thus, our eves sag like crazy. It looks, and is, in every sense of the word, {awesome}>[span style="font:sarcasm;"].

For now though, the main issue is that there are four patches of shingles suspiciously missing from different sections of the eves that allowed a lot of water and other crap in. This kind of repair is something that I lovingly refer to as a "band-aid on a broken leg." It works for now to keep our house dry and seal up the attic, but doesn't address any of our structural issues, which will ultimately lead the roof falling off, more or less. For the record, tar paper does not equal shingles.

That phrase doesn't really convey our appreciation for the assistance in getting this done, because this will stave off heat-loss and water damage for a few years for the cost of a bundle of shingles until we can just redo the whole roof properly. This is a good thing, for our sanity and our wallets. Check out how awesome it looks all patched up, as demonstrated by these before and after pictures.

I would like to say that I actually came home and helped, or built the fence in any capacity, but not this time...Doug and Larry knocked this out and quickly at that. For that night though, everyone went to sleep, Doug on the couch, Larry and Dorothy in half of one room (post on that room is in the works)...then Larry and Doug woke up at some ridiculous hour, drove 20 minutes back into town, picked up the rest of the boards and hinge hardware we needed, then got to work making the gates to close up the perimeter. If you too would like to spend your vacations like this, leave a comment and we'll send you directions to our house. We'll provide the tools.

Before we knew it, we had a complete fence, including two gates to allow us easier entry and exit from the car parking area and the front garden, which has already come in very handy. Yeah pup, this fence is for you...to be trapped in forever! I wish we could trust him to just hang out in the yard and not bolt every time he sees a squirrel...but I'll settle for him having zero vertical, thus rendering him physically incapable of clearing a 30-36" fence. And it's completely 100% done forever! I mean, almost...

Now, I've talked in detail about the most cost-efficient design for our particular fence needs, which does indeed have its good and bad points. Ultimately, all that you need to ask is: Does the fence design work? In a word: Hilariously. Observe, in stunning 720p HD:


Currently listening to "Gunman" by Them Crooked Vultures


Breakfast Nook - Before and Mid-After

We made some changes to our kitchen to try to make it feel a little more like home and, hopefully, a little cozier.  Since moving in, every night has been a chaotic frenzy of "what are we having for dinner?", "did you go to the store?", "we need to make food for the bees", "our furnace pilot is out and we can't where we are supposed to light it in the dark"...you get the point.  We have yet to either sand down the bead board or paint it a certain color (you can see that we sanded part of it down in the second picture). 


And After...(minus the bead board work)

All of these paintings are things I have done or family has done.  On the very left is the painting my sister made for us for our wedding.  She knew our colors would be earthy, so she made something to fit our style.  Besides hers, this is my favorite of the paintings on this shelf, taken at the Farmer's Market:


Currently Listening to "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by JET


Wait, It's October?

It was my plan all along. Just when you were thinking, "is Tom even doing this stuff anymore? Where is he? I miss him..." I come storming back, a triumphant return to this blogmotron with my first post in over two months.


Straying from my typical long-winded, inanely detailed, chronicles of overexertion and inflated expectations, this is just a quick update on our continuing quest (NOTE: this is not true, this post is stupidly long andI won't be offended if you don't read it, really). Last Friday, I flew up to Michigan to meet Jessie to go to our awesome friends' wedding (it was awesomely awesome). Before I left, it was exactly 81 degrees inside our house (yay for no exterior wall insulation!). Skipping ahead to Monday night at 10pm, we arrived home to a house that was 63 degrees at the thermostat. Again, yay for 1923 building standards. How did summer disappear over a weekend?

At any rate, we switched the thermostat to heat, turned the temperature setting up to a balmy 66 degrees, and voila! Nothing, naturally. No noise, no fan, nothing. All we want is to not be frigid all night (mainly my lovely wife wants that), so into the dungeon we go, heading straight for the furnace.

We have a Trane XE60 gas furnace installed in the late '80s. It's not particularly complex (or clean), but it works...or so we think. No problem, should just need to spark up the pilot light. 5 minutes, tops.

Yeah. After 16 hours of driving (plus another 5 or so sleeping in the car) our mental capacity was quite diminished. Fail. Let's grab some blankets and hunker down for the night.

The next night I come home from work and set a task list to get done, starting with (1) fix the furnace. I walk down the stairs, ducking under the way-too-low floor joist, taking a few steps on the uneven concrete floor while noticing some small bits of pink insulation on the ground. Strange, but those are probably just from the HVAC flex pipe that got torn up by something of unknown origin, no big deal. Side note: this is not an efficient way to add a vent in your unconditioned basement.

Another step, then CRACK. My feet freeze. My head slowly angles down, my foot twists out of the way to uncover a half-eaten pecan. Funny, I thought the pecans fell off the trees outside, not onto the basement floor. Then...a squeak.

I sharply dart my eyes to the left, around the furnace to see my worst nightmare: a cute little squirrel. Only this time, he's pissed. "Oh, that's who tore up the insulation, awesome," I think to myself. Squirrelly McGee there was squeaking and hissing up a storm, so I grabbed the remains of the pecan and threw it at him. Brilliant! Now he's hiding behind the septic drain in line in the corner.

Apparently, I was blocking his exit, which I later found to be just above the pile of empty cardboard moving boxes near the ceiling in the hallway. Steve (that's the squirrel's name) came out and ran to safety when I went upstairs to get a some wooden skewers to help light the pilot. At some point I would have to stop that noise, so I wedged one of the aforementioned boxes over the hole leading to the underside of our porch. "There," I said, "Problem fixed forever." (Problem vs. Ingenious Solution shown below)

Finally, I can light the pilot. The front panel just slides down and off the furnace, revealing a bunch of wires, some pipes, and a big bulky valve with a knob on top. In order to light the pilot in this particular furnace, you need to have it powered on, turn the knob to where the "Pilot ->" part lines up with the marking on the front, press and hold down the knob, while sticking open flame into the opening below the valve. There will be a little poof from the gas built up in there igniting, then it should calm down.

If you're like me, you will have completed this step, then let the knob up, and the flame will go out. Do it again, only this time, HOLD THE KNOB DOWN. The flame will go out every time until the temperature sensor heats up. This sensor is what tells the valve it's ok to let out more gas, because if it's not hot, then there's no pilot, which means gas would just start filling up the entire furnace, then the whole room, then the house goes kerplooey. So I do it again, letting up when I think it's fine, and it goes out again. Third time's a charm, as this time I hold it open for a good 30 seconds. Behold: fire.
At this point you can rotate the knob back to the "ON ->" position, which will let gas out to the burners if the system is on, and you'll have heat. After heating up for a little bit, the fan kicks on and starts blowing hot air to the all the vents (and to the "new vent" in the basement). All fixed, right?

Wrong. Anyone else sick of this crap? Ugh. Well after about 15 seconds, the fan stops. 15 seconds later, the fan kicks back on. Off, then on, then off... Man this is annoying. Check the thermostat: mode = heat, temperature setting = 66, current temperature = 63, fan = auto. No problem there. Go back to the furnace and poke around some more. That's when I see this fancy little gizmo.
Note the warning that says "Don't turn the dial, you have to hold the dial while moving the tiny pins, idiot." Having never actually messed with this in a furnace before, I was trying to make sure I knew how it worked before I kerplooey-ed the house, so I watched it. The burners turn on and start heating up, so the dial starts turning clockwise until the middle pin is at the mark in the bottom middle, which triggers the fan to turn on. Then, the fan blowing cold air past the heating element cools it down, so the dial turns back counter-clockwise until the left pin meets the mark, where the fan clicks off. Rinse, repeat.

The point of this temperature control is just that, so that if the burners aren't getting enough gas or getting hot enough, the fans won't keep pushing air out that's not actually warm. However, this dial was set so the air temperature had to be at least 100 degrees, which is too high, so I move the lower limit pin down to about 80-ish degrees and see what happens. The furnace reaches a stable temperature in the 80 to 100 degree range, so now the fan stays on until the thermostat the house has reached the desired temperature.

Hey wait a second, it's working. Nice. That only took 10 times as long as it should have (that's half as long as the usual 20 times). Oh, also this happened...

..but I'll save that story for another time.

- Tom
Currently listening to Fantasy Focus Football on ESPN Radio Podcenter ('tis the season)


Jessie Goes on Vacation...Tom Comes Along

So for the last month, I have really only gotten the chance to spend about 5 days at home.  During that time, there was virtually zero time to do anything except for cook, clean, do laundry and get ready for my next bout of vacationeering.  Sounds more intense than it really is.

To keep you up to date on why I have not been able to post (since I haven't done much), here are some pictures to explain:

After a week at my parent's house in Michigan helping with harvesting honey and doing bee-related things, Kalamazoo, MI was the next stop.  Western Michigan University was where I spent 4.5 years of my life going to school and I had not been back there since I graduated.  It turned out to be Homecoming Weekend, so I picked Tom up from the airport the night before and we ran the annual Campus Classic 5k.   Like my sweet getup? 

After Kalamazoo, our next stop was Chicago for a wedding of some dear friends of ours - Tom grew up with the bride.  They had an incredibly fancy dinner and paired every single course (I think there were between 5 and 7) up with a different wine.  Oye.  Delicious, but I ended up taking a nap in his best friend's room on the couch upstairs.  Too much fun for me. 

Before we left Chicago, the 1893 World Fair site was a MUST SEE for me.  Yes, I'm a history nerd.  That is no surprise to me, though it may be the first time I'm sharing it with the rest of the world.  Tom was so amazingly patient while I drove around looking for the 2 remaining buildings from 1893 and taking hundreds of pictures of each.  Daniel Burnham, the head architect for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, put so much thought and intricate detail into every building and exhibition hall.  One of the most beautiful is still standing, though it has been through some restoration.  Currently the Museum of Science and Industry, the building was once home to the Fine Arts Exhibition Hall for the Fair.  All the perfectly symmetrical craftsmanship was impressive. 

From there, it was onto Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the 1982 World Fair.  First, though, there were a few great things we saw along the way.  Actually, there were about a thousand of them in the middle of rural Indiana.  Few times have I seen something so breathtakingly beautiful.  They spanned for miles and miles. 

After traveling for days on a tight budget (aka sleeping at rest areas), I found a simple way to make my hair look pretty awesome and clean with some twisting and a few bobby pins.  Yes, I was proud of myself. 

Knoxville, TN - Home of University of Tennessee
They have an excellent Masters of Anthropology program there (the first place to be granted the right to have a "Body Farm" for research purposes - now called the "Forensics Anthropological Research Center"), which is an enormous asset to the Forensics Anthropology side of their department.  So you now know about my addiction to century-old history, but you can add a morbid fascination with forensics to that list.  To keep the privacy of the students, those who donated their bodies and to protect from gawkers, the facility has a wooden fence around it complete with barbed wire around the top.  Two feet out from that fence is a chain link fence with razor wire at the top.  It's a pretty safe bet to say that nobody will be breaking into that facility with any ease.  Anyway, they keep the location of the farm relatively secret, but from reading all I could about the place and Bill Bass' books (one of the founders of the site), my keen investigative skills found it.  No, there will be no pictures found here.  While I wanted to brag about being able to find it, I didn't want to potentially disrespect those who are being studied there. 

Go Vols!  How perfect would it be to go to social work at a school where the mascot is a volunteer?

 Another World Fair Site.  

Paris brought the Eiffel Tower, Chicago brought the Ferris Wheel.  Knoxville's contribution was the Sun Sphere.  Not nearly as impressive, but still pretty cool.  To quote a friend, "2 World Fair sites in 2 Days?  There's gotta be a foursquare badge for that".   

From Knoxville, we continued straight across I-40 to the heart of the mountains of NC.  Whenever I go somewhere new, I like to take a picture of my feet on the ground where I am.  Weird, I know, but I also love the purple shoes I got back from my mom when I went home (apparently anything left in my closet was free game).  This wasn't EXACTLY a new place, but we had not been here since his cousins were remodeling it to get it ready to open up the restaurant.  If you are ever in Asheville, you should check out the Village Wayside.  It is set in an old train station, which gives it a modern retro feel.  With a motto like, "Slightly Dysfunctional People Pleasers", how can you go wrong?  Recommendation: Polly's Wayside Layer Cake.  Yes, she is the owner.  Yes, she bakes the desserts herself.  Awesome, right?

On the plane ride from Raleigh to Portland.  It may have been RDU to ATL, ATL to SLC or SLC to PDX.  Can't quite remember.  10 hours of traveling not including the 3 hour time change is so fun.

At least Delta is dedicated October to raising money for Breast Cancer Awareness.  As a result, they get to wear adorable pink clothing throughout the month.  I love it.  Here are some mildly unwilling photo participants...at least they smiled.

Now I'm in Portland, OR once again (since leaving mid-June after I graduated) to present at the annual Council on Social Work Education conference.  Co-presenting with a doctoral student and a professor emeritus, our paper is titled, "Using Community-Based Projects to Teach Sustainability Theory: An Advanced HBSE (Human Behavior in the Social Environment) Course".  I'm sharing this because, although it does not relate at all to house renovating, etc, it does impact my future livelihood.  Ultimately, I want to go into research and academia, so this could be a great opportunity for me.  Keep your fingers crossed that this may lead to a job...which leads to an income...which leads to more money to work on the house.

In addition, Tom has been working on a post or two recently and while I'm gone, I'm REALLY (you hear me pleading here Tom?) hoping he'll be able to provide some updates on all things house-related. 


Currently Listening to "Nothin' but a Good Time" by Poison