The world outside the house.

Well, it’s more a whinge about adulting. Two whinges. At least.

So it’s tax time in the US. Let me share with you, for a moment, how that makes me feel.

Picard subtitled Fuuuuuuuuck (Thanks to sweartrek)

Now in the UK, I could set aside an afternoon, and almost invariably just run through the nice colourful form with helpful guidance on it and with my minimal understanding of tax law get to the end*. Once I stopped running a business, after a while, the nice tax people wrote to me and said “please stop doing tax forms, we’ll sort it all out”. Or words to that effect.

So I’d get a nice single page statement every year, and sometimes there’d be a rebate, and sometimes there wasn’t. Every so often I’d have to remind them that I’m a nurse, and so please give me the allowance for the cost of shoes and socks and nursing registration.

It was, it turns out, a golden period in my life.

Because now I get the US tax forms which are a nightmare crafted from the finest evil.

Now I get to navigate ‘guidance’ that looks like this:

Yes, that really is meant to be helpful. It’s doubly helpful because it turns out when we bought our land we didn’t get the relevant variant of 1099 (because all the forms here have random numbers assigned by using the particular shade of grey defined by a random hair on a dog walking past the office at 3:17 on the previous Tuesday was), but instead some sort of tax summary, which doesn’t appear to have the numbers we require.

Well, it might do, but the tax forms here reference the box number on the 1099 (which, may I remind you, we don’t have); and the form we do have doesn’t have box numbers on.

Fuck.

So after 3 hours of pain and torment largely like this:

(Janet from The Good Place wailing awkardly)

We have given in and decided to go and get a tax preparer to do our tax return. Which is fucking dumb. It’s not like we have a hugely complex tax liability going on. We have jobs in which we’ve paid tax. We sold a single piece of land. That’s it. That’s all we need to report.

And it really rubs in how much the gov’t here has been coopted by corporations. Because tax preparation doesn’t have to be this complex – but lobbyists from tax-prep companies have deliberately made it utterly opaque so they can keep profiting. And it adds to a general feeling of being unvalued as a member of society.

It also makes me utterly miserable, because this year we were reasonably prepared. We didn’t have the forms out for the land sale (honestly, I’d forgotten that we’d need to report it – since it’s reported to the IRS anyway, I really feel they ought to do the donkey work of working out taxes). But unlike most previous years where we’ve scrabbled around flinging paperwork trying to find all the relevant bits like tornado hitting a library, this year we were relatively on it.

And I must admit, this year more than any other I resent paying taxes. I deeply resent paying to commit genocide. I resent paying to piss money away on Trump playing golf. I resent money going to build a giant fucking lawn ornament. I resent subsidising the destruction of the environment.

And I know, you don’t get to choose how your tax money is spent. Plenty of republicans resented paying for other people’s children to be educated, and for people to be lifted out of abject poverty, and for the attempts to ameliorate the harm of grinding inequalities in society. And the UK has committed plenty of evil acts with my tax money. We’ve sold weapons to horrendous regimes, waged wars with impunity. I don’t get to hop up on my high horse and lecture anyone about behaving like a decent country.

But it’s never been so clearly laid out to me before. And that makes me feel even shittier about spending over $100 to get someone to prepare our taxes, so we can pay more taxes (because we know that’s coming), to make sure that trump can continue to wipe his arse on unicorn fur and traumatise vulnerable kids.

*sigh*.

—-

In other, much less extremely awful news, we’re trying to buy a car. I say trying, because you wouldn’t think it would be that hard. But we want an EV (obvs), specifically, we’d really like a Kia Niro EV. But since they’re not out yet, and the Trumpian is trying to remove the $7500 federal tax credit for EVs, because the world isn’t ending quickly enough for him, we’re trying to rush through this process.

Worse, because Hyundai and Kia appear to have either massively underestimated how many cars they would sell in Europe, or not cared enough to buy enough batteries, both the cars we want are in ridiculously (laughably) short supply (now in Europe and from the get-go in the US).

As in dealers are talking about getting one, or maybe two. And Hyundai will apparently not be shipping the cars to non Zero Emission Mandate states, of which we are one. And where they are shipping the cars, also seem to mainly be shipping the higher profit mid-and-high end of the range cars, not the cheap and chipper version of the cars that we want.

All of which ends with ‘we may have to go to California to get the damn car’, which is ridiculous.

We might end up getting a Bolt if we can’t get this organised by the end of the month. Bird in the hand being worth several theoretical birds that may or may not be in bushes. But it really doesn’t meet our camping needs very well, and I’d like the faster charging, better range and base-spec-safety-features of the Kona or Niro than the Bolt. Also – black interior will probably not suffer as much as the black/white Bolt interior.

But hey. Beggars / choosers.

*I did give myself a migraine when I was running a business trying to do taxes with my business partner who’d thrown away a bunch of receipts. Long story.

The appliance hunt begins

Saturday turned into a long and fairly tedious, but useful exploration of what is available locally. We started off hunting for what I call ‘graded’ appliances, which is called “scratch and dent” here. First up, and the most surprising thing for me is just how expensive large appliances are here.

I get that fridges, which here tend to be much, much larger and have double doors and ice-cube-makers and water dispensers, and tell you your fortune, and perform predictive analytics on your stock holdings, they I understand (slightly) the greater expensive. But ovens. Ovens are crazily expensive.

And finding a ‘nice’ oven that’s used is almost impossible. Part of that is undoubtably the greater distance between locations. In the UK, if you want to buy a used, or a graded appliance and have it shipped, it’s cheap. The distance it has to go isn’t far, so it’s worth flogging this stuff online. And even if you don’t want to ship your used oven, then buying one a few cities away and hopping in your car and grabbing it is perfectly acceptable.

Kate!
548 miles, a boiler, an oven a cooktop…and I think some other bits and pieces.

Here, that’s not nearly so doable. The oven we wanted is in NYC. Hardly a ‘just pop and grab it’ affair.

But the base-price is also something that screws you here. I guess this comes down to Europe’s generally more design focused culture. We’ve probably all caught it from the Danes, but there’s something in Europe about having beautifully designed functional appliances which just isn’t the case here. There’s an argument to be made about function over form, but the problem is I’m a European to my core.

Lefty, liberal, and very design focused. And my beloved also has a similarly strong design ethos.

So when we looked around the local stores, we did find a few appliances that were ‘fine’. There was an oven that was perfectly adequate and while it was painfully expensive ($1500 for an oven that in the UK you’d pay maybe $500), it was just dull and somewhat ugly. At least to my eyes.

But we dutifully treked around the stores. There was, obviously, the Miele and Bosch sections of the stores that had things that were nice, but far out of our price range. There were a couple of fridges that have a nice, simple design and are small enough for our tiny kitchen, and one place had the one we’re now thinking about as a Scratch and Dent.

We were talking about Haier for the fridge, but the one that fits our needs size wise felt really cheap – and the plastic was just too thin to be something that’ll last in use.

The advantage of this, though, was to really drill into us that it doesn’t matter how much we think an oven should cost (also skewed by the fact that I got an oven for free, then paid 99p for the second one, I think); nor that our Smeg range in the UK cost us under £800; we are just going to have to suck up the cost.

(I did seriously think about the fact that I could order a Neff Slide and Hide from the UK and have it shipped here for less than the cost we’d pay for an oven here).

Still. We sat down and did our due dilligence and came up with a Samsung oven that is available that we didn’t feel was butt ugly, and once we’d factored in Scratch and Dent would come to around the same price as the locally available ones. It also had some nice features that we could at least get excited about.

It has steam bake, which is cool. We thought it had the ‘split oven into two different heat zones’ option, but it turns out that’s the model above. Which I’m slightly disappointed about.

It’s not a slide and hide though. *grumble*.

We also bought a used Miele dishwasher. It’s apparently a lightly used one from a hotel suite, so I’m hoping that it’ll be good.

And then we sat down, poked at the internet, and settled (we think) on a fridge. All of this is definitely positive. And it’s quite exciting. And we settled on a finish for our cabinets, so we’ve e-mailed beechtree woodworks to say “yes, we’d like a kitchen from you”. Kathryn did her magic and found us a custom kitchen for very little more expense than an Ikea one, because she just has a sense for finding these things.

And it’s quite exciting. The drywall (you knew it’d come back to this) is proceeding. Not exactly apace, but reasonably quickly.

We actually have a finished room (walls wise, anyway):

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The sheet around the top of the door was an absolute nightmare, and took us 3 goes to get right. The unsquareness of the wall combined with the pitch of the ceiling made for a really difficult shape – and then we put the screws in at the wrong height so they didn’t line up with the shims and cracked the edge of the board.

All in all, not a raging success. So we ended up stopping that day, taking it down on Sunday and redoing it. It’s now better. Not fabulous, but better.

And we have now made a start on the not-spine spine wall.

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In a day we can get around 4 boards up, which is a marked uptick on the 2 boards on the ceiling. Thankfully, once the top row is up things get a bit less complex, but cutting the boards to match our uneven ceiling is a challenge that involves a lot of shaving some off, lifting it into position, then taking it back down again, shaving some more off… repeated ad infinitum.

There’s quite a lot of shimming to do up at the north end of the house to correct for our dreadful framing, so that’s the plan for this afternoon. This morning I’m off to go and collect a door. Our front door.

Which will be a nice step forward. Getting the front of our house closer to finished is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while, which has been waiting on us ordering the door. Now that’s done and it’s ready, we need to paint it and install it, complete the wrap around the porch, and then I can begin the infinite fun of putting up thin strips of cedar again. But this time they’re really small and fiddly!

Yay! ;)

What’s that about a rod for our own back? Sounds lovely.

Just for a change, more plasterboard.

Yeah, yeah. I know. First it was endless whinging about us drywalling the ceiling, now it’s a Lord of the Rings trilogy length treatise on the nature of drywalling walls. But it’s actually kind of exciting for us. While you could imagine the spaces when it was framed, and more so as the insulation went in (more of that still to go in, btw), the drywall going up makes actual walls.

Non-see-through walls.

And the transformation is rapid.

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Ta-da!

Which is handy, because I was in a bit of a mizzog mood this morning, having woken up with a headache. This is not hugely uncommon when I’m a little (or more than a little) stressed, because if I wake up in the ~couple of hours before I’m due to get up, then go back to sleep, I’ll almost invariably get a headache. It’s okay if I wake up enough to remember to drink a load of water, but if I just roll over, curse the fact I’m awake, and go back to sleep it’s a fairly reliable headache inducer.

No, I don’t know why. It might be entirely psychosomatic, but it also tends not to really respond to pain killers.

Sometimes it’ll go away, sometimes it’ll just drift to a background thing, but sometimes it’ll just last out the day. And as lunch rolled around it was still a cracker, and was making me feel less than thrilled. I’d spent the morning poking at the shimming in the office (so that when Kathryn’s free tomorrow we can do the big wall and the corridor wall). There’s still some to do where you need to be a bit higher up, but for the most part that’s ready.

Then I poked at the dining room wall framing in the same way.

And as I broke for lunch I contemplated that I might not want to carry on, and might want to come back to the apartment, dim the lights, and feel sorry for myself. But I needled myself enough with thoughts of “if every time you have a headache, or feel tired, you stop, this will never get done”. And eventually prodded myself enough to conclude that I would try and get this one board up.

It’s not a particularly easy board, and there was a hilarious (this may be a new use of the word hilarious you’re not aware of) moment when I’d finally got the board up and it was resting on the board below it, where I realised that I’d left the screwdriver (and the screws) just about a meter away from me. Juuuust out of reach.

Of course, if I let go of the board it slowly cambered away from the wall. And I had nothing to hold it there with. Oh, and it’s excitingly near our french doors, that was fun too.

Thankfully, the step-stool acted as a hook so I could drag it towards me (note to self, plan better), rather than as I thought I’d have to, me taking it down again. Which would have made me quite sad. Because they’re quite heavy.

At some point in the process the headache got bored and wandered off, which made me happier. And the other thing that made me happier is that more and more, it’s starting to feel like a house.

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Like a place we might actually live some day.

It’s deceptive, because the floor is not in, and that is a non-trivial job involving a lot of labour. Because labour is cheaper (theoretically at least) than expensive poured floors. And the floor also requires quite a lot of planning to get the pipes in… despite us notionally having paid for a pipe plan. Nor is the boiler in, or any of the plumbing fittings…

But it’s definitely more house like. And that is very positive.

Aaand there’s more potentially positive.

We’ve been talking to a custom kitchen builder, and it was looking like we might have to settle for less than we’d hoped, despite the tinyness of our kitchen. Just trying to hit that sweet spot of “this costs us money that the house isn’t really worth” and “but we want it to be decent quality that will last” and “we want something we like” was tricky – but it turns out that they have some cabinets that were…made for someone…in error? Or from a material they don’t like? It’s unclear exactly, but they happen to be some of what we wanted, which they’re willing to sell us at a discount and then make up the rest of the kitchen.

So we’ll go check that out tomorrow.

We’re still waiting on the quote for the garage. Finally got the quote back for a surveyor to map our site – which is insanely expensive, but we don’t want the garage or the fence sitting in the wrong place… That is a ‘feh’ situation. Apparently they can’t just come out and mark the corners, they also have to draw a map and submit stuff to the county. Since this is the first company that’s actually come back with a quote, I’m inclined to end up accepting it.

There is one nice thing about drywall

The transformation is quick:

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There are now two complete walls in the office. They’re not perfect, but they’re up, and they look pretty cool.

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Just two more walls, and then we can move onto the main bedroom.

Today, however, I took advantage of the sun and finally – after a year of it just sitting – got rid of the scrap metal. We still have some remnants of the carport in the form of the roof panels. I’m hoping we can salvage the best bits of them to be our shed roof.

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Other than that, our garden is more gardeny. Although this bit will actually be garagey, if everything works out. I asked for a detailed quote from the mid-point quote (mid-point between “tuff-shed” and a proper garage builder).

This does mean we’ll have to get rid of the trusses, hopefully we can find them a home. If not, then I’ll have to break out the reciprocating saw and we can turn them into firewood.

In other news, I’ve been endeavouring to run on my days off. I’d stopped because it is f’kin freezing (often literally), and therefore icy. This morning it was looking just evilly cold, so I stuck on my leggings and a teeshirt and a a hoodie-zip-top thing, and did a short run*. This reminded me that my lungs don’t like the cold. There was some suggestion that it is asthma a while ago, but my peak flow remains unchanged, and an inhaler has no effect. So essentially I just attempt to cough my lungs out when I get sufficiently cold and work hard.

Which is what happened today.

I’m not sure how much of the persistent cough since this morning is the cold, and how much is the endless fibreglass dust that occupies our house. I mean, I wear a mask a lot of the time, but still.

Ah well.

Tomorrow it’s back to the drywall mines, as I’ll attempt to do some more bits and make our house look more housey :)

*All my runs are short.

And just for a change, plasterboard.

Yeah, yeah. I know you’re all heartily sick of Kate’s Adventures in Plasterboardland. But it’s quite exciting to me to see an exterior wall in a real room (not one of our titchy bathrooms / laundry rooms) sporting drywall.

This is not one of those days when Kathryn’s able to come work on the house, so this was just me and the giant sheets of drywall and the deeply joyful torment of the ages.

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Please also note the beautiful rotozipped socket boxes. For once I didn’t maul the drywall in the process.

I actually put up 3 sheets, there’s one in the hall (which didn’t go so well, I think I was really a bit too tired for doing it).

It is definite progress though.

That’s a lot of plasterboard

So after discovering, yesterday, that BOB would not be doing threshold delivery on the drywall we steeled ourselves for an entertaining afternoon.

The day started somewhat stressfully as immediately I finished my yoga and exercises, and put on my clothes for clearing the house I got a phone call from the delivery driver asking if he could he come an hour early… to which the answer was clearly “no” as I had several important things to do before I could get there, but also, since I paid for delivery in a time slot, I’d really rather it was actually in that time slot.

Anyhow, I still sprinted over to the house after grabbing a premade sandwich and a snack, because I knew that despite the lack of threshold delivery, we still needed somewhere to put it and I knew that could take a while. Lots of cleaning up and clearing the space.

Anyhow, shortly after I arrived, so did the plasterboard:

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Ah, an enormous heavy stack of plasterboard outside. Yay.

So the rest of the morning was spent clearing the entire lounge for the 46 sheets of plasterboard that had joined us and that were sat outside basking in the winter sun.

It’s really nice, actually, to see the space again. I forget how big our lounge/kitchen/dining area is.

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I mean, it’s not actually big, because our house isn’t actually very big. But when you’re spending all your time carefully skirting around the stuff then it’s easy to forget that the room is actually a reasonable size.

Then I spent the remainder of the afternoon until Kathryn arrived attempting to shim our framing so our walls end up reasonably flat and so the drywall doesn’t crack completely.

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Mmm, I’m sure the drywall won’t mind moving in 1/4 inch, then back out again.

The framing on our house is shoddy. We learned doing it, so ours is a bit variable, but frankly, it’s a damn sight better than the shite the original builders did. There’re plenty of spots that are more than 1/4″ out of true. And there are now an inordinate number of cardboard shims bonded to the wall to try and fix that.

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Half the bloody house is made of cardboard now. To be fair, some of ours are pretty ropey, but often on ours it’s just one that’s not in line. On theirs it’s in-and-out like the hokey-bloody-cokey. The other thing that’s a significant pain in the bottom is that where our ceiling truss bolts go through, they also stick out a bit if they’re in a spot where the builders couldn’t get to very well.

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So they need shimming too, so the drywall doesn’t just crack over it.

Feh.

Still, it gave me something to do until Kathryn arrived. Then it was time to do this:

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Which explains why it’s now time for bed.

‘Tis Done

Hooooooo Raaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy!

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Our ceiling is finished*, which is fortunate because our wall drywall comes tomorrow. Which will be a joy – moving 46 pieces of drywall from outside to inside because curiously, BOB say they can’t do threshold delivery on drywall. Which is what they did last time. Odd.

*Well, apart from some of the attic areas. But that can be done later.

Small successes

It took pretty much all afternoon, and was pretty tedious with the first version of the board not fitting (again, unsquareness abounds), and requiring quite a lot of tweaking on the second board (which also didn’t fit as well as some of the others we’ve done)…

But. At the end of today our second skylight was drywalled in.

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We have the bedroom ceiling to do (and a some attic stuff which we’re not considering as part of the main ceiling job, but would be nice to get done). Then that’s it for ceilings.

So today we ordered our wall drywall. Which is scheduled for delivery…

Yay.

We did it

So, that piece of board that made our life a misery, that we took up to the ceiling and had to take back down when we realised it wouldn’t fit. That revealed in all its ugly glory just how bad our early framing error had been?

That one?

Yeah, today we made that right. Well, okay, we made it look right. Ish.

The first step was a lot of measuring. A lot of measuring. Then we spent a lot of time debating how to hide the terrible error. The fact was we needed to lose about 2.5 cm in width across a just over 1m span. With a not insignificant amount of fiddling, we came up with losing about 0.75 cm from the narrow board at the top, and the rest off the sloped board which, combined with the pitch of the ceiling we hoped would make it all but disappear into a perspective effect.

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Because we’re running out of board, and for the sake of our sanity, we cut it into two sections. Which we popped up last time.

We also cut the board ready for the pitched ceiling.

There was a lot more measuring involved. And a fair bit of concern about the fact that, well, there was a fairly big difference between one end of the board and the other.

But this afternoon (we were adulting this morning… the kind of non-house-building-adulting that gets in the way of building a house) we lugged the board up onto the lift. We spent some fun time trying to get it aligned so it balanced reasonably (it didn’t, it wasn’t bad while vertical, but as soon as we tipped it horizontally it went waaaay out of balance). And then we put it up.

And down a bit.

And up.

And down a bit.

And up…

And we started fixing it.

Then we realised it was just catching at the end where our smoke alarm lives (which we’d put down to fouling on the box before we cut the hole out but it turned out it was juuuust catching the wall). So then we took some screws out.

Then we dropped it a bit again.

Then there was a long period of shaving small amounts off the end. Really we could probably have been more vigorous and chopped a bit more off, but paranoia has been the order of the day for this board. Then we very cautiously ‘rotozipped’ the hole out for the smoke alarm power supply…

Then, with a mixture of trepidation and joy we gradually added in the last few screws… and lo:

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Our ceiling goes up one side of the house….and back down. Isn’t technology fabulous.
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Sometimes our ceiling is quite high.

Incredibly pleasingly, unless you’re really looking for it, the many defects in angle and straightness and length are pretty much invisible. And once the whole lot is slathered in a layer of skim plaster it should be even harder to spot. There’s some shimming to go on along the wall studs (but not as much as on our front door, which was allegedly built by actual builders):

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This satisfactory ending to the day means that we have just the two boards on the second skylight (one side and the not-quite-horizontal piece), and the second bedroom ceiling to do before we can move on to the walls. Which means (drumroll please) we can order the drywall for the walls!

So, with that in mind, I’ve been being the insulation fairy again:

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Which, like the new ceiling adds interesting new views of the house. We’ve also started to talk more about how we’re going to achieve the sliding door panels, and how we’re going to do some of the finish pieces… It’s quite exciting :)

Well, I’m glad I did some yoga.

I’m not good at it, but I enjoy yoga. It works fairly well for me, for setting me into a better frame of mind to face the day. I have, on and off, for years, been doing bits of Yoga with Adriene which I find not too woo-ey, and she offers many variations for those of us who are… shall we say, less flexible. And I’m glad that I did some today, because it was one of those days just filled with a myriad of minor irritations.

I got over to the house and realised I’d forgotten my rain jacket. I realised this because it promptly started raining. Since my plan for the day was to try and reduce the enormous pile of bits of our poor tree that came off during the storm down to something more manageable, then run it to the tip, this was somewhat of an irritation.

Instead I spent some time putting up insulation – which was a productive experience, and means less of the itchy to handle later. It also means that for the first time, you can see our bedroom-door-wall. Which is interesting.

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Anyhow, the rain stopped, so out I went and gradually reduced our pile of wood down to some faintly useful burnable bits (which will sit and season, slowly)… It took quite a while but eventually it was whittled (or sawn) down to wood that should work fairly well in a stove, and many many twiggy bits.

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So I called up my father in law and arranged to go borrow their truck. At which point I realised I’d not brought the keys. Never mind, I thought, I’ll grab lunch – and money to pay our arbourist who’s going to come and trim the rest of the broken bits off the tree…. and I can grab the keys at the same time.

So I pootled off, stopped to get lunch and realised I’d brought a random dirty cup with me, not the clean cup for coffee I’d planned. Still they rinsed it out… but the lid was a bit suspect for just rinsing.

And then I popped and got the keys, collected the garage opener, and drove back to my father-in-law’s house, where I discovered battery was flat on truck. Feh.

So I pootled back to the house via BOB and removed some of the waste from inside to outside. Which felt good. Paid the arborist who’s made our tree look less like a storm battered pile of spinters (and who kindly agreed to take away the rest of the twiglet pile), and then headed home. Not the most productive day, but still more positive than it could have been…