Sunday, January 31, 2010

This, that, and these other 571 things we did

This weekend was simply amazing. With the help of both kiddos and the the in-laws, we got a tremendous amount done, and I'm happy to say that my holy-crap-we-have-a-lot-to-do-list is down significantly. Here's the weekend recap:

Last Thursday and Friday, the hubby and I headed down to the house after work to get some wiring done in the kid's bathroom. We wired and hung two canister lights and two accent lights, all on one circuit. The canister lights are in place and functional, the accent lights will be added after we texture and paint. We installed a vet fan as well, over where the toilet will go.

Check it out: canister light over the tub (on the left), one in the middle of the room (on the right) and the new vent. It actually took two evenings to install and wire these suckers, and my poor hubby ended up doing quite a lot of crawling around in the attic, poor man.

We hung all the drywall in the bathroom, and I taped and floated the whole thing. While there is still at least one more round of floating to do, and maybe two because I'm not very good at it, we're getting there!

In preparation for hanging the drywall, we had to cap off the old galvanized water pipes that were sticking out of the wall. We couldn't get the old fittings off regardless of what size pipe wrench we used, so we ended up cutting the pipes and putting a PVC compression fitting on them, with a cap on the top. It's a kludge, but functional and the only way to go if you have no way to re-thread the pipe.

Drywall is all hung. Woo-hoo!

Cutting all these little holes in the drywall before hanging it is quite challenging and very time consuming. But for some reason, we managed to get it right the first time, so we must've done something right!

Stub-outs for the accent lights. There will be a mirror or a medicine cabinet between the two lights when this is all finished.

Not too bad, if I do say so myself. Just needs a bit of sanding after it drys, then it will be ready for texture and paint!

Drywall above the bathroom door (yeah, nothing more exciting than watching drywall mud dry, but then, what are you doing reading this blog and looking at these pictures???)

The kids and the in-laws painted my stepdaughter's room. Purple. All of it. And I mean, HOLY COW IT IS PURPLE. I may have to wear sunglasses just to go in there. Fortunately, it makes my stepdaughter very, very happy! Also fortunately, I don't have to live in there.

The hubby's dad working on the first coat of purple. A nice, light shade, don't you think?

The hubby's mom painting the closet.

The finished product, complete with polka-dots! Ye gods, that is PURPLE! I guess they call that shade "purple dragon" for a reason. But the kiddo LOVES it, and that's what's important!

My stepson's room also got partly painted. He chose a fairly innocuous off-white for most of it, but will do a blue accent wall, which has not yet been painted due to drywall repair on that wall.

Giant ball of tape that we peeled off after finishing painting.

We also started tiling the tub surround. This is painful and frustratingly slow, but we got the first layer done on two of the three sides. Yay!

Back wall of the tub, layer 1.

Side wall of the tub, layer 1.

We also did a gazillion other little things, including getting another round bale and make an area for it in the sacrifice paddock. It's just not working to feed square bales 3 times a day when the horses are in (we had rain the other day and the pasture is muddy), especially when the in-laws have to do it. So, a round bale. It will be a bunch of trial and experience, I think, until we figure out what works best for all the critters and is the least amount of work, but we'll get it... eventually.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Let's talk about the elephant in the house

So let's talk about The Big Question. You know, the one everyone keeps asking me and I have no answer to - but I would oh so very much like to know the answer to myself!

Usually I can see the question coming from a mile away. The conversation starts when a well-meaning friend or relative asks, "So, how's the house going?"

At which point I wax poetic on all the things we've accomplished in the last 24 hours, then whip out my iPhone for visual evidence of important things like my new panel box. (For those of you who work with me, sorry about those iPhone pictures. I know you're sick of them, but bear with me - we've only got another 2-3 years of this project to go.)

When I pause for breath in the midst of explaining how you mix mortar to put in tile, or how we spent two hours in Lowe's last night looking at appliances, the well-meaning friend, in a desperate attempt to get me to shut up, asks the logical follow-up question:

"So, when are you moving in?"

At which point I stare dumbly at them, mumble, "I don't really know," and stumble off to find another cup of chai.

And really, I can't be any more specific than that. We are working on this house every spare moment. We've had help from any friends or relatives that we could sucker into it (and a huge THANK YOU to all of you). We had a plan and a timeline when we started on this in November, but after the first weekend, we pretty much tossed the timeline out of the window. We simply do as much work as we can in the time we have available, or work until we run out of steam. Plus, there's the "things to do" list, and then there's the "things that have broken in the last 24 hours than need to be fixed now," and that list often gets in the way of the "things to do" list. So we just keep doing whatever needs doing right now, and hope that eventually the next thing on the list to do will be to actually move in.

So you're probably now curious about what needs to be done before we can move in. Well, here goes:
  • Both bathrooms are still ripped out to the studs. The kid's bath has tile, but no grout. We need to grout the floor, then we have to tile the tub surround and grout and seal it. In the meantime, we have to run the wiring for the bathroom(lights and GFCI outlet), then put up drywall, float, tape, texture, and paint. The beadboard has to go up, and the trim. The linen closet needs new doors or at least trim strip to update the doors. We have to install the toilet and pedestal sink, lights, and medicine cabinet/mirror. And eventually, we have to get the tub re-enameled, but that probably won't happen till after we move in.
  • Both kid's bedrooms need some taping and floating work before they can be painted. I'm hoping to take care of that this week so we can get the painting started and start moving stuff into their rooms at least.
  • The new bedroom still has to have some drywall cut and rehung, then tape, float, and texture, that part, then paint the whole room. We need to find another home for all the tools currently living in there, then we can reinstall the carpet in that room and start moving stuff in.
  • The hallway needs to be tiled and grouted. There's some taping and floating that needs to be done in the ceiling where our plumber put his foot through the drywall. And then of course, it will need to be painted.
  • The den/office has some taping and floating to do, followed by painting.
  • The laundry/utility room needs to have an electrical outlet/circuit run just for the chest freezer. The floor needs to be tiled and grouted. Then there's the standard drywall repair, taping/floating/texturing/painting. And maybe THEN we can put the water heater in!
  • The (formerly pink) hall bathroom needs to have the floor and shower (eek!) tiled and grouted. Then it's hang the drywall, tape/float/texture/paint, install toilet and vanity.
Could we do some of this now, move in, and then finish it up once we've moved in? Probably so, but there's something quite unappealing about living in a house that's in the middle of a remodel. Plus, it's WAY easier to do most of this stuff (especially painting) when there's no furniture in the room, so it makes sense to do as much of it as possible before move-in.

Of course, it may come down to we simply HAVE to get out of our current house in order to sell it - we'd like to get it on the market no later than March 1. That is a mere month away at this point, and I don't know that we'll make it.

We have talked about hiring some folks to get this done faster, but frankly we like what we're doing and it's fun (for now). We're also trying to spend our money where we have to, like on supplies, instead of on labor. And even in this economy, labor's not cheap - we were quoted $1800 to lay 350 square feet of tile. Yikes! I'd rather spend my $1800 (ok, plus a little) on a really sweet new refrigerator, like this one. But I digress into shiny appliance land.

So anyway, I have no idea when we are moving in. But when we do, we'll throw a big party and invite everyone so there will be no doubt that we have, in fact, finally moved in. And then you can start asking me when we'll be building the barn. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

What you do in your spare time when you're moving to a farmlet

In case you haven't noticed, we have quite a collection of critters. Three dogs, two horses (three if you count my retired eventer who lives at a retirement farm), 11 chickens, and a cat.

To this, my husband wants to add a few dairy goats. I'm game with this, but um, not just yet. We have to, like, move in and stuff first.

I know, details.

So here we are, at 10 at night, listening to goat sounds on the Internet. I kid you not (no pun intended). Because obviously we have nothing better to do with our spare time... like, oh, I don't know, pack so we can move in* or something.

Let me share in the wealth (Warning: this will scare the tar out of any pets you might have. Possibly your children too. And in our case, your spouse... that's me.)

And my personal favorite:
(All goat sounds courtesy of

On that note, I am going to bed. And so help me if my husband brings home any goats this weekend.

* Note: Packing does us almost no good as we have no place to put the stuff in the new house. Still haven't started painting yet, and of course we have no working bathrooms... but those details are for another post!

The family that demos together stays together

This post is a bit late, since we actually did the demo work last weekend, but I'm finally getting around to the pictures. Better late than never?

MLK weekend, one entire side of my husband's family came to visit. Being the good hosts we are, we immediately put them to work. What can I say, we did warn them!

One of the many tasks for the weekend was to tear down the brick columns on either side of the driveway in front of the house. They made the entrance to the drive quite narrow, about 10 feet. We knew there would be no way for the in-laws to get their 35 foot RV in that small space, and we were even worried about getting our 2 horse trailer in! So, they had to go.

Enter the crew with the sledgehammers and pickaxes. I'm not naming any names here to protect the identities of the innocent (and guilty) parties... but you know who you are, and THANK YOU for all your help!

The destruction begins!

Wielding the Sledgehammer of Doom.

The baby sledgehammer worked well too...

Triumph! The wall has fallen!

Carting off the rubble.

Stacking the whole bricks for future use/repairs.

Pappy wields the angle grinder to remove one of the gate support posts. (Mwahahahaha... POWER TOOLS!)

Hard at work removing the dirt.

Nearly done, just clearing out the dirt and last of the rubble.

The cleanup crew makes yet another trip to the dump.

Nooo! Don't throw away Fuzzypony!

With the posts down, we managed to get both the RV and the horse trailer in, more or less no problem! So again, thanks to everyone who made this possible! And um, next time you come to visit us? We'll try to have the house more together so you don't have to work quite as hard.

...on second thought, maybe we'll save a demo project for y'all! ;)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Move-in day: Sunday

Today, we moved the chickens and Anie down to the house.

We are now referring to our Volkswagen Jetta as "the farm Jetta," since we managed to move 11 chickens and one Great Pyrenees, along with assorted other stuff, in it. Pretty impressive, but boy does it need vacuuming now!

Yesterday after moving the horses in, we spent the rest of the day building the chicken coop and doing other various assorted chores. We ended up converting the back end of the shed into the coop; the front end is the feed/tack/storage room.

View of the coop from the feed room part of the shed. (The corner of the chop saw indicates we were still working on it when I took this picture. )

Nuggets have been moved in to the corner of the coop.

Hens sunbathing in the feed room part of the coop. I kept trying to chase them out but they weren't having it.

Cutting a hole in the door for the chickens.

The nesting boxes. We're hoping that better nesting options means more eggs.

Here's what the view looks like from the back corner of the coop, looking into the feed room. We hadn't installed the door yet.

We had one very intrepid chicken - we kept finding her waaay far away from the other girls. I think her name may be Indiana Chicken Jones.

Anie did great with the horses and the chickens. After checking out the new place, she found a spot in the shade of the guest house to snooze and keep and eye on things. We had a couple of folks walk by with their dogs, and the first time Anie ran over and barked at them a few times. After that, she made sure to watch everyone, but didn't make a fuss over it.

Sean's mom poses with Anie and her poodle, Teddy. It's like Me and Mini-me!

Even guardian dogs need a break sometime!

Sean's parents are staying on the property in their RV and caring for everyone, which is very, very kind of them.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that there are horses in our back field?

Really handsome (but slightly fuzzy) horses... :)

That are apparently itchy! (Saga is scratching behind his ear with this hind hoof.)

Move-in day: Saturday

On Saturday, January 23, we move the horses to the property.

All in all it was a fairly uneventful move. While Fuzzypony and I went to pick up the four-foots, the husband and the father-in-law did a few last-minute tasks to get ready.

They filled up the water trough in the sacrifice paddock.

And hung the gate, properly (with bolts!) this time. (Horse blanket are the blob in the picture.)

We arrived with the boys around 10 a.m., and they promptly dove into the grass.

Red did sample to round bale to see if it was edible. He gave it two hooves up, but decided that the grass was more exciting.

After we dropped off the horses, we headed to the feed store. A neighbor recommended J & B Feed and Hay, which is about 15 minutes from the house. While their Web site is nothing to write home about, the store itself is great. Nice hay, very reasonable prices, and very, very helpful folks. I got two round bales and they are going to keep the other one for me until next week, when I can get back to pick it up.

The new feed room is in the shed. We got 300 lbs of grain for Saga since he gets 3x as much as Red does. Here are the spare bags stacked on a pallet.

And our neatly-stacked feed bins. One for Saga, one for Red, one for Anie, and one for the chickens. We decided to put everything as close as possible to where the actual feeding would take place. So far (after three feedings) it seems to be working well!

Starting to look like a real far... barnlike object, horses, fencing... yeah, we're going to love living here!

It was a good, good day. It finally feels like this place is coming together!

What engineers talk about over beer

I'm sitting in my living room blogging, and my husband is chatting with a friend of ours from the SCA who happens to be an engineer.

The hubby is describing our new electrical system and mentioned the handy voltage detector pen that we have. Basically you move the thing near a wire, and if it glows red and beeps, the wire is live. This is super-handy when you have no idea whether the wire you just uncovered in the wall you're ripping out is in fact connected to anything - it's nice to know if it's live before you grab it.

So as we're talking about this handy volt detector gadget, our engineering friend looks puzzled and says, "Cool, but how does it work?"

"You're not closing a circuit, so what's making it work?"

Of course he's right - you just move the detector near the wire and it beeps and glows. There's no circuit, especially if you're wearing thick-soled rubber shoes. So... I do what any intelligent person does in this day and age - I look it up on Google. And here's the description I found, available at

'The "circuit" that is being created to light up the LED is not between the 120 AC voltage and ground. It is a circuit going through a looped wire and then through the LED. What does a looped wire do? When you change the magnetic flux through a looped wire, you create a current in the wire. And where does the magnetic field come from? From the wire, carrying a current, which changes direction sixty times a second. That is a measurable change in the current, which causes a measurable change in the magnetic field coming from the AC wire, which causes a measurable change in the magnetic flux through the looped wire, which induces a current through the loop, which causes the LED to glow.

This induced current would be nowhere near enough to cause an incandescent or fluorescent bulb to glow. However, you don't need a lot of current to light up an LED. Thus, you can safely detect AC in a wire, without having to short the wire to ground.'

Well, that's it for your physics lesson for tonight. And now you know what engineers talk about over beer. :)

Oh and if you don't have one of those voltage detector pens? You need one.


Now, before we got this house, I did not consider myself a connoisseur of exciting things like... electrical panel boxes. Conduit. 200 amp service. Neatly wired junction boxes. Labels on stuff in the panel box. 50 and 30 amp outlets. Whether or not you need a GFCI outlet or an arc-fault breaker. You get the picture.

But now... now, not only do I find beauty in nice electrical work, I also look at other people's electrical panels to see how they are wired. "Wow, look at how neatly that conduit has been run," I said to the hubby the other day while we were driving past an impressive setup on 35th street. On one hand I suppose it's kinda ridiculous, but on the other hand, I now have a much, much better appreciation of a master electrician's handy work.

Let me 'splain.

Look at my beeeutiful new 200 amp meter and can (top). Under which lies the panel with the cutoff switch to the house, with space for the cutoff to the (as yet nonexistent) barn and the guest house.

At the bottom, we had a 50 amp, 30 amp, and 110 plug installed. The 50 amp and 30 amp are for RV plugins (we have a truck camper and the NC in-laws have a very large RV that needs a 50 amp), and the 110 is for plugging in anything else that might need to be plugged in.

Check out that pretty green sticker. That says "City of Austin INSPECTED." We're actually legal now!

New pole on the roof gets us the 15 feet of overhead clearance that we're supposed to have. Woohoo!

The shiny new panel box for the house. We had to put it outside because you need 3 feet of clearance in front of any panel box to meet code, and we didn't have that inside the utility room.

And look! Everything is sooo neatly labeled and everything! There's even plenty of room to expand when we put on the addition.

It's just to the left of where the meter, can, and one sub-panel used to be (you can see it on the left of the picture). We'll have a mason come out and brick this in.

Remember this mess? Three panel boxes on the inside wall?

Now it looks like this. Obviously I have to replace the drywall and all, but it's so neat!

Junction box (neatly labeled, you can see it in the picture above) on the inside wall.

Here are the old panel boxes that got pulled out.

And remember the leaning posts of Pisa? Notice the fantastic electrical line that it's "supporting". We took both the overhead wire and the two backmost telephone poles out. (I didn't take a picture of the finished product, but here's the before picture.)

So, we have 200 amp electric! Now, you too can come over and admire my beeeutiful panel boxes, conduit, and other stuff! Just don't look at the inside of the house, OK?