Cream crackered

So yesterday we got window number five in. That end of the building is also partially wrapped, which is nice:

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It’s slightly irritating that the gas meter (which is as near to the front of the house as they’d allow) lands up right under the window. Partly because it’s an ugly thing right under the window, and partly because we’d like to have the enclosing fence in front of the meter, but obviously PSE would be unthrilled by that. So we need to work that out. We’d also like the fence there because it would mean we could put our rainwater capture tank just behind the fence, right at the front of the house, where it’s essentially invisible from the house. Buuuuut, no. So that also needs a plan alteration. It has also come to my attention that I’ll need a socket for the pump for the rain water capture system… which I’d not considered or planned for.

Poot.

Anyhow.

The window is in, the side is partially wrapped, all of these are good things.

Today I took a day ‘off’ and worked on the garden. Part of this is because of the dear. Oh, no, I mean deer. As in “Oh, deer”.

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We’d heard a hint that deer don’t like fishing line strung across at knee-ish height because they feel it but can’t see it. The theory went that they can’t see the thing and so won’t attempt to jump it.

Apparently, however, they’ll step over the damn thing and eat the plant.

Or all the plants.

Our fruit bush planting took a deer related munching, so today I made up a temporary fruit cage, and I have plans to make a fully fledged fruit cage, but that requires more time and energy than I have today. Also, more chicken wire than I bought. And a discussion with Kathryn about how big to make it.

I expect I caused much entertainment to anyone watching as I danced around with the bloody chickenwire as I unrolled it, and it re-rolled itself. And much cursing and pulling at it was had. And I attempted to semi-flatten it out and install it over my head and it would collapse or tangle itself up.

I suppose, if I design it right, I could make the fruitcage disassembleable and sectional.

Hrm.

Anyhow, I also threw together a second raised bed (because I may have had a seed/bean buying incident).

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We just need to steal more soil to fill it. I’m thinking I might start digging the trench that’ll carry the rainwater back from the front of the house (it follows the line of the old soakaway pipe from the back of the house), so I can steal that good quality(ish) soil for the bed. I can also dig some more of the trench around the front of the house. That might work :-/

All the soil that’s left from the pit is really lousy clay with stones. I put some in there to hold down the card, but it’s not really what we want for the veg bed.

I also, having changed the faulty relay on the mower yesterday, put it to work. Sorta.

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See, while the relay definitely seems to have been faulty – and replacing it does make the mower ‘work’, the ancient AGM battery in it is… uh, possibly somewhere after it’s last legs.

The motor does spin, and if you have short enough grass and walk very slowly around the garden, occasionally tilting the mower up so it can spin back up to speed when it’s encountered some long grass, it does cut. I imagine it was quite nice to use when it was new, because it’s super quiet.

It is, however, not terribly effective. I mean, it’s more effective than our cylinder mower. Well, it’s less effort for an equivalent level of effective.

I’m trying a few cycles of discharge and recharging to see if that helps, but I suspect it needs a new battery in addition to needing the new (and installed) relay. Which is irritating because Neuton do sell batteries – but they’re $100 apiece. Which I’d not really mind too much if I knew the mower worked. But I’m not absolutely convinced that the battery is going to be the last of its failings. It could probably also do with the blade sharpening…

So I’m not sure what we’ll do about that…

Less productive…

So yesterday I had a small plan for the morning – errand, B&Q Home Depot, fix lawn mower, maybe attach one of the exterior sockets.

What happened instead was:

Collect tyre (takes a while, the woman didn’t twig that the tyre stood on the rack was a package for several minutes, looked very confused when it said it was in the collection place until I said – “It is a tyre, so it should be pretty big…”).

Home Depot – meander round for hours trying to work out how best to manage the exterior sockets and the conduit that’s possibly required. I’m still unclear if it is required, but it only cost a few dollars and means I only have to install the sockets once. If I do it right. Stare at pipe for our rain-water capture system. Buy some… Get back to the house, unload, laugh like an idiot* because I realized that yes, I bought enough pipe to do the run from the (theoretical) storage tank to the (theoretical) pump but… I didn’t buy anything to connect those lengths of pipe together. Get back in the car, drive the 20 minutes back to home depot to buy those bits, a couple of other options for conduit (wrong choice), more drainage pipe (I realized that I should hook up the gutter at the front if we want to save enough to flush toilets too.

Then when Kathryn arrived and we went to start work she realized that we were lacking something else. I can’t remember what, so I ended up making a third trip. By the end of that I was feeling pretty grumpy with myself. Which made me grumpy. I know I shouldn’t be, I’m trying to work on letting the days when we don’t get as much as I’d like done wash over me and be gone, but I didn’t really feel like I’d made a huge number of things for me to do yesterday…

…But still, we managed to get two layers of house wrap on, which is a good thing.

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It means today we need to cut the window opening, add one more layer of house wrap and pop the window in, then we should be able to move on to doing the front windows. Which are, to be fair, some of the most difficult ones. They’re longer, heavier and require much more rebuilding (the bedroom) or working around the old header and framing (the office).

On which note, since I have washing up to do, and a shower to have, I should get on.

*Causing the guy doing roof work across the street to stare at me in alarm

Well, that was hot.

Not in the sense of hawt, obviously.

Just fucking hot.

So despite a predicted high of 28°C we’d made the plan to try and get the south window in yesterday. Allowing a good chunk of day for us to do it, we planned to arrive early to try and avoid the worst of the sun, and then spend the day getting the window in – which meant cutting the hole, wrapping that side of the building, flashing, putting the window in, then fixing it in.

Being a Sunday and not wanting to be deeply obnoxious, we didn’t want to get there really early.

So, off we went – and realized that the sun hits that side of the house full on well before 9. Probably before 8.

So, uh, that didn’t work.

But we carried on regardless – having to take breaks to hide in the shade every few minutes because it’s f’ckin hot cutting and hammering in the sun.

So just as a reminder…

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and now:

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It’s getting there.

But yesterday was slow. Damn slow. It was so hot it took us nearly 8 hours to put in the window and wrap that side, most of which was us sitting in the shade going ‘fuck, it’s hot’.

I was not built for this kind of weather.

Anyhow, we’re going to start wrapping the North side today, so off I jolly well trot.

Solidity arrives, and the garden continues

Work has more or less continued apace. Wednesday was less productive than I might have hoped because of a pointless waste of my life dealing with the American healthcare ‘system’. It seems that between my pharmacy and my insurance company the wires have become crossed, and the pharmacy thinks my meds are no longer covered, or possibly I’m no longer covered. Lord know which. It’s tedious in the extreme. Thankfully the meds are cheap anyhow. But it means I’ll get to waste time on the phone on Monday working out what is going on. Yay.

But no, remind me again how the NHS is a wasteful government bureaucracy.

*sigh*

Mind you, it wasn’t all Costco’s fault. I was slow getting going, then went to the house to measure the protrusion of the windows from the siding with the intention of getting a bit of Z flashing that’d allow us to match the window protrusion on the French door trim (when we make the trim for them). Then I went to B&Q home depot where I realized that since my next stop was Costco, I couldn’t buy the 10′ long bit of flashing (which is the length it comes in), because it’d mean leaving the window open in the car and the flashing sticking out. Then Costco took a while… And when I got to the house I was a bit… well, vague.

I kinda pootled around for a bit staring at the wiring. Trying to work out the best way to run it. Considering options and considering that we need some boards to run the cables along, if I want to make it nice. And then that I need to know where we’re framing the ceiling.

And after pondering it for a while I realized I need to check with my wife before I do that, and that I’d rather that the windows were in and not in the area where I’ll be wielding hammers.

So I decided to wait.

Then I meandered around the house a bit before realizing I could probably put up the crossbracing on the 13′ walls. Which I did… yay :)

And it is astonishing the change. Even at this point the interior walls had a flimsiness running down the length of the house. I kinda assumed it would be that way until we put the drywall on, but adding the (Fine Homebuilding recommended) crossbracing has transformed things. The interior walls – and the bathroom – now feel solid in every direction. Which is good, because the drilling fairy needs to come along and throw in the lighting cables. To do that we need to frame up the last bits of the walls above the hall ceilings and above the laundry room – because that’s where some of the cables will run.

Anyhow, so Kathryn arrived in the afternoon and we got the third (and final) window into the back wall.

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The back is now almost ready to have the rainscreen cladding put on (just need that flashing across the top of the back door) – we have an open question with the local planners about the grading of lumber for the cladding. I’m hoping “shop grade” / “ungraded” is sufficient. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be, given that it’s just ornamental. But then I often fail to see why some things are checked and other things aren’t.

I still don’t really see why they have such interest in my plumbing. I get wiring more (although I’m not fond of having it assessed). But plumbing? Seriously, if it drains into the drain it’s doing a damn sight better than it was before.

Anyhow, this weekend we’re hoping to do at least one of the side windows, then it’s just the front windows… and then cladding the entire building, finishing the wiring rough in*, putting up all the drywall, plastering, doing all the trim…installing a kitchen…painting, tiling the entire floor, oh – installing the heating system…

In other news, we’ve been sucked into gardening. The raised bed was just the start; we’ve cut in a second bed at the back (with aronia – which it turns out produces berries you can substitute for sloes in sloe gin), some Eastern European raspberries (groundcover, apparently), elderberries, a type of ornamental wheat that looked very pretty…

We’ve also planted the plants in our herb garden and then had the audacity to start creating a herby/culinary border which is where things got interesting (in the bad way). Part way through planting the rosemary as we tried to dig over the soil we found what we think is a barrel. It’s so rusty and holed that I don’t think there’s going to be anything noxious in it. But we want to know if it is a source of noxious things, because currently our bay tree is planted there, so is our rosemary (although further back now) and that means digging more.

And it may mean renting a digger.

Feh.

* I realised I’d forgotten to install any network cable. And I want network cable. I’m not sure where the cable will come in, but I do like to hide the media server out of the way and for optimum performance that means having a decent wired network. So I forked out the money today for some Cat6 cable (I know, I could have got Cat5e, but the last Cat5e I got was terrible).

More electrics, more wood

So, having posted about trying to hodge it with the wrong tools yesterday; today I decided to suck it up and buy a new 90° drill. Not a good quality one, obviously*. I grabbed a Ryobi One tool. Largely because I picked up the Ryobi One impact driver for putting in the bolts that attach the Simpson anchors** to the walls.

I’m glad I got it, although it’s clearly cheap and not going to last a terribly long time. But it does mean, I think for the first time ever, we have a power tool with a battery pack where you can buy the tools and the pack off the shelf. Our Makita drill has an ancient version of the 18v pack (not compatible with the newer ones – it’s several generations behind). The Ridgid stuff is similarly archaic – no packs off the shelf, no new compatible tools.

It’s weird to be able to go into a store and just buy stuff that works with it. Kind of nice, too. I actually picked up a strimmer today (because the grass was getting beyond out of hand – and needed to be cut back from the house (it’s done now)). It came with another battery and charger – so we now have 3 batteries, two chargers and 3 tools that take the same battery. Yay!

Anyhow, the 90° drill is only a baby one and also makes the hot smell and stalls a fair bit trying to cut through the studs. But it is way easier. And less prone to trying to break my wrist, or smack me in the face. Hopefully it’ll survive through the entire wiring experience.

So, with that in hand I ran the rough in for the kitchen. I’m still using up the last of the salvaged wiring, but it’s getting to the point where I’ll need to switch to the new and painfully expensive stuff. I’m still stunned by how expensive materials here. Anyhow. Basically, the far end of the house (longer runs) will be all new cable. Apart from the odd short segment running between outlets. Oh, and I realised that I was a fool, and about to make a dumb mistake. I’d thought about putting each of the two kitchen lights on the two (required) circuits for the kitchen. Of course, that doesn’t work if you want them to be switched on the same switch, which we do. Thankfully I twigged that before I’d run any wire. It was one of those “oh, I could do this” moments, when I should stick with the plan. Stick with the plan Kate, there’s a reason you made it.

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I also spent a chunk of time today digging through our wood pile to find short bits to make into the diagonal reinforcing bits to go in our 13ft (4m) walls, and then cutting them to length.

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They will actually sit about half way up the wall – adding some much needed strength to the flexy 13′ lengths of 2×4 – but to avoid them getting confused for anything else I’ve tucked them in the wall and will hopefully get them nailed in on Saturday.

I’ve also cut some of the bits for attaching the ceiling drywall (plasterboard). I’m also optimistically trying to look at plasterboard lifts.

And this weekend we’re thinking about putting windows in. Again, the plan was to do that earlier in the week, but instead it rained and I threw myself off a step. But this weekend looks to be dry and so do the Monday and Tuesday following. So that’ll keep us busy…

* The number of times I’ve broken my rules about buying good quality tools is growing. I’ve still more-or-less stuck to buying good quality drill bits / blades, because they can make a shitty tool into an adequate one.
** These are U shaped bits of metal that hold the house to the foundation – designed for earthquake resistance.

‘the fuck?

I am beginning to consider the possibility that Washington is not, in fact, made of the normal stuff that land is made of. Instead it appears to be a well disguised pile of ants and pine needles.

#ants in our new house #ants in our apartment #pine needles everywhere #what the fuck

Other spaces

I’ve always been other. When I was a kid I was pretty much the only Asian kid in my class (I can’t find a school photo to check, but I’m pretty sure). And at any rate, I was much in the minority. Being in the minority pretty much always means being othered in some way, whether or not it’s intentional. I didn’t really understand at the time. I always thought of myself (as a small kid) as English. Then as I grew up I claimed other things.

My Welsh and Sri-Lankan heritage. My European upbringing. My queer identity.

All of it makes you part of a group (although the Sri-Lankan/Welsh combo is definitely not a huge group, at least, as far as I know). Finding our place in those groups is amazing. Having been other for so long, when I first started meeting LGBTQIA+ people, it was breathtaking.

Here were my people.

Well, some of them. But I do – and have always remained apart. There’s always an other. I don’t know that it bothers me as such – but as I’ve grown older and more aware, I’ve become more aware of it. It is something that at some points makes me proud and vocal, and at some points is frustrating and isolating.

Anyhow, when I first considered living abroad, emmigrating to another place, I took myself away from friends and family. Possibly the best decision I’ve ever made in my life – I most likely met Kathryn because of that decision.

But it wasn’t until Kathryn and I started to really talk about moving to the US that she raised the spectre of not being of a place. Although I’d lived all over the UK (well, all over the South and the Midlands) I’d always been from the UK. When people asked that ever irritating question “Where are you really from”? By which I don’t mean the honest, genuine, where are you from. I mean the racist undertones, you’re brown and clearly not from here, and you can’t possibly be from the West, foreigner version; the one that follows the first “Where are you from?”…

It was always (and irritatingly, I’m sure) answered with Watford, then Wales.

And it was a definitive – I’m from this place. I’m from this land. And I feel at home here. Why don’t you fuck-right-off.

But now, now I don’t know where I’m from.

I mean, I know. I know logically and technically.

I know what the facts of that are.

I was born in a Britain that, for me, always felt part of Europe.

I listen to music sung in French, or German, or Welsh (or in Cornish) or Scottish, (or even in English ;) ) and I feel at home. I even listen to music in Norwegian and it reminds me of home.

I listen to Sri Lankan music my mum played as a kid, and I have a deep connection there, and so Indian Classical and Bollywood music, while it’s not quite ‘mine’ it’s close. It is a kindred spirit.

I know that when I’m in Europe I feel something – some connection to place. But I’m also not of that place anymore.

And I’m not of this place either.

I made that decision to cut my roots. To sever them. To rip my feet out from the soil in which I’d grown, and transplant myself thousands of miles.

When we plant a pot-bound plant, my mum taught me to gently release some of the roots so that the plants send the new little root tendrils out into the surrounding soil. Without it, the roots will continue to grow inside that root ball, they’ll eventually push out all the soil from that space, and it’ll become one lump of root that can’t get nutrients from anywhere.

Do too much, though, and you’ll damage the roots and maybe make the plant unhappy. Maybe even kill the poor thing. There’s a sweet spot. A point where the roots can make their way into new soil, but the soil that came in the pot will hold it over until then.

I’m not sure if I hit that sweet spot with me. And I’m not sure I’m compatible with the soil here. But I’m fairly convinced whatever happens I’m not really compatible with the soil back ‘home’. I’ve changed – and been changed – by my time here. And while I find the debate here about guns, the environment, race, social support incredibly toxic. I find much of the same at ‘home’. Which means…

… well, I’m not sure what it means.

It means when we were in Paris, and for a fleeting few days it felt like somewhere I could grow, it made me want to be there. And while I adore(d) the Lake District, it only feels like somewhere I could hide. And while I’m pretty crap and doing stuff about the state of the world, I find myself inexorably drawn to follow it.

And realistically, France has a strong nationalist bent. I know that the right wing parties are rising in prominence and power throughout Europe just like the right wing are here. So perhaps it would prove as toxic as it is everywhere in the West at the present. And it doesn’t really matter, it’s not like we’re in any position to emigrate anywhere else at this point, or in the near future.

But it leaves me in a constant state of considering places we could be, to see if that would be a place that I might call home.

Well, bother

Productiveness (A+ adulting) today:

Washed the enormous quantities of pollen from both our (running) cars.

Finally fixed the driver’s side floor mat down in the Rav (replacing the missing floor mat retaining clip hole reinforcer and the actual missing clip).

Paid bills.

Sorted post that arrived while we were on holiday.

Started to make an exciting list of activities for me to do tomorrow (transfer money, pay *more bills*, book Rav in for brake pad change).

In less productive news – I tried to set up my keyboard (the nice shiny tenkeyless one) – and realized the keycap set I got is missing the 1.75 or 1.5ish size keys I need for the layout I was intending. Not sure how I missed this (I think I largely missed it because it’s $50 for the missing fricking keys). Of course, I got the T0mbr3y SA Carbon keycap set which means I now need to either wait for it to hit production again or get a non-matching key for the missing shift key (and non-matching keys for the ALT/CTRL keys, too).

Oh, and there’s one other one – I think page-up where the key angle is wrong, so that also needs a different key.

Which is irritating.

I mean, it’s lovely – it feels super nice, but now I need to work out what I should do in the mean time. Not that I have a computer to use it with.

Though I’ve just looked at another keycap set and I’m wondering if I can tweak mine to work. Hrm. Ponderence.

Anyhow, now I need to go do some filing. Then reading and washing up. Yes.

Home again, home again, tra la la.

We had a nice holiday in Europe.

End.

More? That’s a bit challenging. First up there’s the mechanical aspects of the holiday. We flew over to London (on Norwegian Air, would recommend), f’cked up and got a tube, then had to change tubes at least once to get to St Pancras (turns out there’s a Thameslink service direct from Gatwick, doh!), then got to the Eurostar terminal. We troddled across to Paris.

And we then, a few days later got back on the Eurostar (bonus upgrade because we were cancelled and rebooked – business class!), got back to London, Tube’d it to our hire car place and drove to the Lake District. Then we drove down to Bristol. Then to Cornwall. Then back to London and flew home.

Then there’s the pretty.

I’m not going to make you sit through 200 photos. But here’s a link to them.

It was wonderful to get back to Europe, see some of our friends, spend some time with my mum and her partner. Sadly, thanks to the SNCF strike we missed seeing my sister, which is a real shame. We’ll have not seen her / fam for about 2 years by the time we get back over there. Maybe.

There are some things though that stick with me – and which made me very thoughtful while we were over there. The first of which is how profoundly I miss Europe. I can’t really explain why. Some of it is the built environment, certainly. I understand that there is history here going back as far as there is in Europe. And there are, I am aware, marks on the environment left by the civilisations that historically lived in these places, before Europeans popped over for a bit of fun genocide.

I understand that, but the transformative nature of the culture in the various places I’ve been in Europe and the casual nature of ‘oh, this is 400 years old and in the street’. I miss that.

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And I miss the built environment. Which is part and parcel of the same thing, I suppose. I miss the way that you’re enveloped by buildings, they wrap you and cocoon you in a way that nothing I’ve seen (on the west coast at least, nor from my memory of Toronto, which is my only East Coast North American city) does. The narrow streets were built for people, not for cars. And while the traffic was tedious in the moments we were driving, the cities are walkable in a way that I’d forgotten about. In Paris we travelled on the Metro and à pied, and I never missed our car.

I did miss a lift (it was a sixth floor walk-up). But Paris is a city I’d actually like to live in. Curiously, London did not impart that feeling (it never has, I’ve thought it would be technically interesting to live there, but never had a huge desire to do so). I’d never really thought of Paris as a place to live before, but during this visit it felt like a place I/we could be. Which is novel. Perhaps it’s a childhood thing – but then I spent a lot more time in London as a kid. Paris is different in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.

And the Lake District. Were it not for the many factors that practically prevent it, and for the casual ongoing destruction of the NHS and the appalling treatment of migrants, and Brexit (and, and, and), the Lake District would be home. Just being there is a balm for my psyche in a way I really can’t explain. I guess it’s related to spending so many holidays in the Lakes, and the fact that while much of school was miserable and painful, holidays on the mountains were places of total escape. When I was finally contemplating coming out to friends – I went with a friend to the Lake District for a (astonishingly wet*) weekend. We spent the weekend walking, and while I didn’t come out to her there and then, it was the thing that got the ball rolling.

I also miss universal healthcare. We watched some of Hospital, a BBC series that’s following staff in an NHS hospital (Queen’s Medical Centre). While it was painful to watch – in that I remember that kind of stress, that kind of near despair, the highs of saving a life tempered by the incredible challenges of working in a system that’s being strangled by a government that wants it to fail – it also reminded me that you don’t get a bill at the end. That this ridiculous f’kin ‘system’ in the US is cruel and heartless. That the people of the US have chosen to implement non-universal healthcare in a way that’s damaging to the individual, and which has a lack of empathy for those in pain and who are sick continues to astonish me. Because most of the people here seem warm and generous.

But I can’t imagine… just simply cannot imagine having a sick family member here. The thought of having to worry not only about the life of a loved one, but also about whether you’ll be bankrupt and/or homeless at the end of it? It’s profoundly ethically wrong.

That I’m a part of that makes me deeply uncomfortable.

But that’s where we are right now.

And then there’s food.

I am not sure whether it’s the extra exercise, or the lack of preservatives, or the amount of processing, (or less stress, or a combination of all three (probably)) but I can eat food way more comfortably in Europe. More so in France than in England. Which would tie in with my previous experience that food lasted less long on the continent than it did in the UK – probably due to the use of different / fewer preservatives**.

But I could merrily drink milk-based coffee drinks (oh, lord, I miss the flat white. I tried getting one made here and it was hideous, and I’ve never had the nerve to try again. Apparently you can actually get them at Starbucks here, but I’m not a huge fan of Starbucks anyhow). Over here, I quite often get a bit uncomfortable after a couple of coffees. Not enough to stop me drinking them, but enough that I’m a bit wary.

But particularly wheat – which here sometimes bothers me and makes me bloated – not so in Europe. We ate super rich food in Paris and both of us seemed not to have the digestive issues we’ve both had in the US.

Some of that is undoubtably the reduced stress (having arrived back I woke up at 5 (jet-lag) which was then followed by a tedious hour of my brain hashing things out about our house). But some of it is, I suspect, down to the food.

Which leads me to an uncertainty about the future. It’s not like we can do anything about it right now. We have a house that’s in bits, land that we need to sell, and we want to adopt. But it puts many things to think about in my little brain.

All in all, though, it was a nice holiday.

* We slept in the car having cooked dinner in the tent – mainly because the tent was at risk of blowing away.

** I still am utterly freaked out by how long food lasts here. Stuff that I think should be rotting and thrown away is fine. It’s very, very disturbing.

We wait

Today I spent some time atop a ladder (steadied by my beloved) waving an enormous long pole with a hosepipe hooked on the end of it. Eventually I managed to land the hosepipe in one of our plumbing vents.

So then I called today to try and schedule a plumbing appointment. Unfortunately our inspector was away from his desk.

….

Hopefully things won’t go disastrously wrong tomorrow and hopefully he’ll be able to fit us in.

We also tweaked our design – we now have a built-in seat for shoe on-and-off-ment*. And we have a cupboard in which to hang coats. It’s hideously unsquare largely because it’s attached to our porch framing, which the original builders put up while blindfolded and drunk**. But we *think* we can cover it with shims in the framing of the final trim pieces.

We’ve also decided how we’ll frame up the other cupboard.

And tomorrow I’m back to drilling holes.

* We are both overly excited about this.
** I presume.