Monday, August 19, 2019

Bagged Another

Earlier this year I related the story of how a ground squirrel caused me to finally sell my first car I ever bought. This is the rest of that story. When I came back, I soon realized that the ground squirrel was still around and was digging holes up next to my foundation again. I set up a lawn chair a convenient distance away and waited. I think it was several days later when one evening he happened to come out and I took a shot at him and missed. The following day he came out and I was able to get him. Now I had seen two of them at points so I knew there was another so I left the body of the first out to hopefully serve as a warning.

It was probably a week later when I came out to paint underneath our deck on the back side of the house and found a massive pile of dirt up against the siding with a hole right next to the foundation. No bueno. I tamped the dirt back into the hole and got things cleaned up and then set up a hunting blind from the downstairs sliding patio doors. Later that afternoon I got the sucker. My problems were solved

until recently

when I came outside the day our gutters were being installed and found a massive pile of dirt and a hole next to the foundation, right where our water problem that flooded out my office originated. Definitely no bueno. I packed in the dirt, added a layer of nearby leftover clay from the construction project, tamped everything really good and put back a thick layer of river rock which we use as landscaping in that area. I went hunting for the culprit but the gutter guys showed up and I thought it impolite to be walking around with a gun, even if it was a single shot pellet gun.

A week went by and I only saw it once as it scampered into the wood pile for our fireplace but even after spending several hours there waiting, I never saw the scoundrel again until this morning. I had just come in from painting and was walking toward our master bathroom to wash my hands when I saw the ground squirrel sitting underneath our deck planter. Fortunately he didn't see me due to the sun and reflections in the window so I snuck back out of the bedroom and retrieved my pellet gun from the garage.

As I was loading it and pumping air into it, I thought I should run around the backside of the house and sneak up the stairs to the deck effectively trapping it. I did and sure enough, it was still sitting under the planter frozen. Using the handy deck railing as a brace, I quickly dispatched him and disposed of him in the woods.

I hate killing animals and never do so unnecessarily. But when they cause damage to my house, I have to draw the line. I have two acres of land they are free to roam and procreate in safety but I draw the line at digging holes next to my foundation. I have lived here seven  years now and have only killed one before this year. This year it has been three. Shortly it will be their hibernation season and I can relax for awhile but I'm hoping it is another good many years before I have to get the pellet gun out again.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Holding It Together

As you read this post, I'm hopefully driving back from Maine where I went to see my father along the Appalachian trail. He is within a couple hundred miles of finishing and I had hoped to see him much sooner (and much closer to us) but with the way our lives were this summer, it was the best we could do.

But that is in the future. Now as I write this, we are fresh back from the Urban Jungle where we met our kitchen designer to review the plan and hopefully get our cabinets on order. She wanted to hold off on the order until  the electrician put in a few light switches to make sure things had enough room but I didn't want to wait anymore. I just wanted to get the darn things on order to that in six weeks, they will be here. So I made a judgement call and went with it. When the electrician gets here, I will inform him of how much space he does have and he can adjust his switches accordingly.

Scarily, our kitchen designer had a stroke since the last time we saw her in her office. It was a brain bleed that she says only affected her balance but it really did a number on her memory as well. I'm glad she is back to work and improving but dang, I just want to get those cabinets on order so that we aren't dependent on her anymore. So after going through all the details in a very chaotic way, I'm planning on following through this coming week before we leave out east to make sure they did get ordered and then I can relax a bit.

Due to layout, we did end up with one cabinet that is six inches wide that can't be helped. She showed us several cabinets of similar size in the showroom that were turned into spice racks but for reasons unclear to me, she said that wasn't an option for us. I never figured out why and after awhile of trying to decipher what she was telling us, I finally told her just to leave it as is and I will design the spice rack part. I'm not sure what we will end up with but it isn't all that important compared to having no kitchen. So I took some photos of one of the other and designed my own that will mount on two drawer slides.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Down In the Gutter

So five days after the contractor texted me if I wanted to quote leaf guard gutters and I spoke with his secretary about them being included in the price, this happened. Five days ago the secretary had said she would speak to the contractor and get right back to me. I'm still waiting for that return phone call.

I was down in my office when I heard a sound that sounded just like one might imagine when a gutter falls off the house and hits the ground. I went up to investigate and sure enough, that was indeed what had made the sound. In fact, just as I was walking out the garage door, our only entrance for the moment, another gutter hit the ground less than five feet away reminding me that my house is a construction project and I need to be more aware of my surroundings before blithely walking out of it.

Anyway, I proceeded to chat up the gutter crew which consisted of the owner of the business and a helper. They indeed were installing larger six inch gutters with leaf guard and the larger style downspouts as I had asked the contractor to quote so I'm guessing the contractor agreed that it had been included in the contract price. That or he will be sending me a bill soon. I let the guys do their thing and by the end of the day, we had new seamless gutters which I hopefully won't need to clean anytime soon. As an added bonus, they even got caps to marry the downspouts to our round underground gutter piping so that ground squirrels won't be using them as a shortcut as I have seen them do a time or two.

So now we wait for the electrical, plumbing and HVAC people to do their thing. Since I'm planning on a cross country road trip out east to see my dad on the Appalachian Trail a week from now, I need to get that coordinated with the contractor so I can get my two cents in before they just do what they "think" we want. Later this afternoon, we head up to the urban jungle for the final approval of our kitchen cabinets. I suspect we may work some sushi into the outing while we are there. I love a good sushi fix.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Heartburn on day 51

The construction crew came this past Friday and removed the last of the drywall in the kitchen to make way for the electrical, plumbing and HVAC people to do their thing. I assumed that meant soon but here five days later, I'm not sure anymore. The crew lead did show up briefly this morning to pick up all their pieces of wood strewn across our front lawn and stack them inside. According to him the electrician is supposed to be here yet this week and they were just clearing the way for the gutter guy who was supposed to be here "anytime". This latter one is the cause of my heartburn.

Back when we received the initial contract to review and sign, there were a couple things left off that I had previously mentioned and so I brought them up again. They were removal of the four eyebrows on the roof that were rotting away and install a new gutter system all the way around the house. Our old gutters were ancient K-style gutters with long nails that held it to the facia board... in theory. But as one expects over 50+ years, those nails don't hold so well. I have been going out several times every winter to repair them and keep them from falling clear to the ground. Sometimes this requires periodic trips inside to warm up my hands before going back out to finish the job. Also, we have a giant oak tree on one side of our house and a giant maple tree on the other. The maple trees clogs our gutters with maple seed pods and the oak tree leisurely looses its leaves all winter long which means frequent trips up to the roof on "nice" winter days to keep them clear for when spring rains come. So when reviewing our contract, I specified I wanted leaf guard gutters with larger downspouts and the contractor said he would quote it and add it to the contract.

We reviewed and signed that contract a month later.

This past Saturday I received a text from my contractor asking me is I want him to have the gutter guy "quote us for leaf guard gutters?"

I responded that I thought that had been included but yes, go ahead and quote it. I said the latter part because I didn't want anymore delays. A day later his secretary called me back and said the leaf guard part would be an extra $575 to do. I told her that we specifically had this conversation with the contractor when reviewing the contract and he told us at that time he would revise the quote for leaf guard gutters and larger downspouts. The overall price raised and gutters all around our house (though no mention of leaf guard) were added to the contract. She said that she would bring the subject up with him and get right back to me. Two days later I have no heard a word until the crew lead this morning told me that the gutter guy was arriving "anytime".

Unbeknownst to me, my wife recorded that conversation with the contractor about the leaf guard gutters and played it back to me so I know we are correct. But since she didn't ask permission beforehand, I hate to mention it in conversation. For me, it really isn't about the money. It just irks me that he promised quality gutters, raised our price significantly (also partly due to our cabinet company giving him an actual price after our cabinetry was designed and this being a lot higher than his estimate) and now asking for more money to make it happen. This isn't the first time either. The kitchen sink was also included into the contract price and after we picked it out where he told us, we were given a change order for almost $700 because it was more than he had estimated. We probably could have gotten the same sink elsewhere for less than the change order!

Fortunately we actually planned for this to happen money wise and we are financially able to pay for these changes. But it still gives me heartburn having to deal with these issues. I am not a confrontational sort of person. I'm hoping that perhaps he backed down about the gutters since he hasn't responded directly and indirectly the gutter person is arriving "anytime." But I know this isn't the end since we haven't yet been asked to pick out backsplash tile which was also included in the contract price. I'll have to stock up on Tums.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Side Project

I've said it before in the past but I love going to auctions. I love walking around looking at someone else's junk to see if there is something among it that I just have to have. Mostly it involves books or power tools and for my wife some sort of kitchen gadget. Still, we don't go to auctions very often because we don't like clutter in our house and so we only do it on the rare weekend when there is nothing going on and we are bored.

It has probably been four or five years ago when a local YMCA was having an architectural salvage auction to get rid of things like doors, trim, flooring, light fixtures, etc. to make way for it to be gutted and turned into the coffee house/church function hall that it is now. We went there the morning of the auction and looked around but we didn't see much that interested us as far as things we mostly buy at actions like books, power tools or kitchen gadgets. (I would have been surprised if they had been at a architectural salvage auction.)

After looking everything over, it is our custom to meet and see if there is anything we are interested in and to gauge if we are interested in it enough to potentially spend the rest of the day there waiting for that item to be put on the block. We both saw the above globe light, which had an identical twin, and fell in love with it. There were several pairs but all but one pair were missing parts or were broke in some way. We decided to stay at the auction and see what they might bring, perhaps bidding on them ourselves. We had no plans for them other than loving their beauty but that seemed like enough of a reason.

When they got to the table with all the globe lights, they sold them "each" which means you bid for the price you want to pay for one and if you win the bid, you can take as many as you want and then multiply the number of items by the bid price to arrive at your total. Since only two were essentially 100% complete, winning the first bid was crucial and as you can surmise, I won that bid. It has been so long ago, that I don't remember what I bid, but I'm leaning towards around $50 each. I took the two complete lights.

Flash forward to a month back and I remembered those globe sconce lights still sitting on a shelf in my garage accumulating dust and we both agreed they would be perfect for porch lighting. I dug them out and tried to take them apart but every single screw was seized which wasn't surprising since they are probably over 100 years old. After a couple hours, I gave up in frustration and started searching for someone whom I could pay to restore them. This turned out to be a nearly impossible task. I could find lots of people to paint or sandblast them, but nobody really wanted to take them apart or put them back together. So I gave it a second try, drilling out the screws and gradually over several days, I finally got both globe sconces torn apart.

I spent several more days wire brushing them by hand and with a power wire wheel, sucking air through a hepa mask because I was worried about lead paint, and finally got all the pieces ready to paint. I have been repairing some of my drill holes with JB Weld epoxy. (Drilling out steel screws from aluminum that is round in shape and really has no flat features to clamp onto is a harder task that I thought!) With all my extra holes filled and sanded flush again, I have spray painted them white since our house trim is all white. Reassembly went a lot better than disassembly and after cutting off the end of a cheapo extension cord, I verified that they work, something I wasn't sure of when I began this process.

I think they look nice.