Today was.

We were definitely going for some kind of adulting / granola lesbian award.

– Home made pancakes for breakfast (spelt…)
– Already cleaned the house this weekend…
– Hardware store for implements of destruction
– Farmer’s market (just after opening) for our shopping
– Coffee at a local coffee place
– Home for lunch (rather than our usual disorganised “oh, we’ll get it at the farmer’s market”…because we were so early)
– Out to the land and filled in one of the perc holes by hand (most of the way, turns out neither of us is as fit as we remember being)
– Spent a couple of hours pruning and trimming the route that we want the mini excavator to come in though to dig the new perc holes.

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…it may not look like much, but it was hard work and it is where we’re hoping our drive way will run… and I’m torn between “oh my god, we’ve cut down so many tiny bushy things” and “yay! progress!”

– Then we sat in our Electric SUV, drinking herbal tea, eating home made spelt/citrus loaf and eating nuts and dates… before driving home.

Uh. So yay for us, but also I suspect we can’t get that much more granola. If only we had a Ford Ranger EV, then we’d be totally there.

Prolonged Wailing

So remember how last week I said we would be getting perc holes dug? Remember the proto-enthusiasm?

Yeah.

’bout that.

No.

See, we called on Monday – agreed a rough time with our groundworks contractor – and then called the septic guy – and arranged a time. Then Kathryn called back our groundworks contractor – and couldn’t reach him. She tried 3 more times up to yesterday leaving messages each time. I tried this lunchtime – still couldn’t reach him.

Given that we were meant to be there tomorrow afternoon we finally gave in and rang our septic guy and said “we think we need to cancel, we can’t reach Chris”.

Our septic guy messages our groundworks guy and…gets an answer a few minutes later. Apparently he’s out of town now because ‘we didn’t confirm the time’.

Seriously?

So I think we now need a new groundworks contractor. Which is upsetting because we liked Chris. And he didn’t talk to us like we are idiots. Right at this point I feel more like going and renting a damn digger and doing it ourselves. I know that’s foolish, it would take far too long and wouldn’t be nearly the standard someone skilled would do. But it’s really, really frustrating.

So I’m feeling really demoralized. I realize this is just overflow stress because yesterday was my last day as an Emergency Nurse – which is what I’ve been for the past 9 years. And it feels weird to not be one, and to be technically unemployed* – and I’m having that whole existential angst thing related to my soul probably having made it about as far as Newport**, and me being here.

It’s not so much homesickness, it’s more trying to understand who I am when so many of the supports of the constituent parts of who I am have gone or are far away. If I wasn’t so set in being me, it’d be a great opportunity to reinvent myself.

* well, super-technically, I’m unemployed from Thursday – I’m just not working today or tomorrow.
** Arcturuan mega-camel speeds.

So next week (house updates start here, we hope)

So when we got our septic design done, we failed to communicate sufficiently well that the giant, old, big leaf maple tree was one of the trees that we were absolutely committed to saving. Since then we’ve moved house and got new jobs, and furnished our new apartment and so on. This has meant our house has been on hold. Given that we can’t put it up this year, that’d taken the pressure off anyway…

But now? Now we want to get moving again which is always tricky. Getting momentum going for something as big as a house project is challenging.

With that in mind, next week we are hopefully* going out to cut a little pathway so that we can move the septic. The first step in getting our house built. We also really need to go out and fill back in the original perc holes.

The original plan** called for the septic to essentially lie into the roots of the maple tree:

original_layout

The new plan:

modified_layout

See the beautiful modifications. Actually, this was done as a very quick sketch to explain to our septic guy what we want to do. He is, shall we say, ‘reluctant’ to be drawn on whether there will be any problems doing this, although we’re unsure why there would be, or why the soil 50 ft to the east of the current perc holes would be dramatically worse than the soil in the place they dug the first lot. And we both are of the opinion that there’s a lot of land we’re currently planning to leave ‘as is’ and just maintain, all of which we could consider for septic sites…

Anyhow, this time we’re going to be there in person so we can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We’ve also marked out roughly the route of the drive (which we’ve kinda-sorta-sketched on the map). We’re also hoping to put the septic near the drive so it can be emptied, when that time comes.

Once the septic and well are in… we can actually start moving forward. Septic, well, power, foundations… then we get to design the building. The yay.

* While our groundworks guy gave us the suggested day, he’s not yet confirmed that we’re booked in with him for the time we said.
** We’re actually building a 2 bed house, but putting in a 3 bed septic

God damn

So, our PERC holes had to be dug on a day when we weren’t available to be there. That’s because we were running to meet the ‘if we want to build this autumn’ deadline — which we found out a few days ago is actually unachievable.

It turns out that even had we got all of our ducks in a row (which they are pretty much) then we couldn’t have hit it because the permit approval process for the septic is way longer than we were told by our septic designer. Of course, just before we found this out we had a great chat with the house permitting guy who told us that he ended up reviewing it – his current timeframe would mean we’d be able to make our build-date targets (based on the septic designer’s estimate of times). Of course we were super excited – then we find out that the permit process is at least double what our designer said… and sadness.

So, anyway, to get back (at least vaguely) to the point. We find out it’s not doable and are then out on the plot with our to-be-arbourist planning where our house will be and find that the oldest, largest tree in the entire 5.5 acres is the one they’ve decided to stick the septic right in the middle of the root system for.

This would, unsurprisingly, kill a beautiful tree.

Seriously, we talked about needing to protect the place with our guy-the-excavator – who dug the holes for our septic guy, and I expect that conversation happened with the designer too, although I wasn’t there. But Kathryn and I always rave about this beautiful tree.

So we go out with our arbourist who is first up horrified at the potential damage done already, then we realise that the system is pegged out right in the root system – and the alternate is also in the root system of the same tree.

Seriously?

Gaaaah.

So now we’re faced with nearly $700 of costs for relocating it because we took our eye off the ball and thought that people might actually give a shit about their environment. When we talked about it before hand the septic guy was all “oh, we’ll look at the site and dig some test holes and pick the best location”. All the holes are within about 40′ of this one poor tree.

Let me remind you again, 5.5 acres.

Oh lord. This is not something we need.

In other news, we’re off to look at some lettings to see if we can find a short term, uncarpeted 6 month lease so that we can do our building planning through the winter and put it up in the spring.

Also: The cake I’m baking erupted in the oven. Cue hideous burning smell. Also, in the 35 minute cooking time it’s come out like jelly. I’ve no idea why – it’s staying in there longer, but seriously? And also yesterday’s trip to the dentist turned out to be the first of 2 (on top of the original 2) – as my tooth had rotted out enough that removing the filling left me with a crown, instead of a filling, and he still is wondering whether I need a root canal. Yay.

Today has been less positive than hoped

We spent some time talking to the strawbale architect consultant about building today, and the price for the timber frame alone is prohibitive, and startling given the costs we’d seen for kit-built-post-and-beam houses.

Some of the cost assumptions we can tweak, because we’re happy to do things like using used components as long as they meet current requirements. Both houses we’ve had had salvage bathroom components, and electrical I’ve discovered that Habitat for Humanity have big plastic boxes filled with sockets and light switches, some of which are clearly nearly new.

Also, our requirements for the kitchen are ‘it has a sink, stove and fridge’, we can “finish” it later. Indeed, the entire house, our finishing requirements are that the walls are plastered, and the electrics are in.

Anyhow, at the moment we’ve gone from excited to ‘trying to figure out some way to make this happen at all’.

Of course we did.

So, we went to look at property yesterday. 5 viewings, scattered across the Oly area. There was the first plot that was wet and surprisingly noisy, the second plot that was wet and had a home that needed pulling down and you’d have to build right on the road, the fourth plot which has utilities in the road and a channel prepped to bring in the utility cables and is in a nice area with a pretty view (clearly the sensible choice), the fifth plot which has river frontage and a cute (possibly salvagable) 100 year old cabin on the lot…and an easy level building area.

So which one are we both desperately resisting being excited by?

The third one. The impossible to access one, which currently has no access road, on the top of a ridge, with basalt rock underneath. It has a well that’s roughly 150’* vertically down from the potential home site, which is currently covered in a semi-demolished-rotten-unpermitted cabin. The only building on site is an 8×12′ ‘cabin’ which currently has no floor. We’re unclear if the well is even permitted and might be within a wetland protection boundary. Half of the land is unbuildable due to power lines, but that’s fine, because the other half is where we’d want to be.

The only teensy problem is getting there. Oh, and owning an EV? We’re going to have put in some kind of emergency charging point at the bottom of the hill, because the 150′ steep climb at the end is probably not ideal if it’s nearly flat.

Anyhow, masochistic tendencies aside, we’ve got two possible sites of interest, but it must be said the one we’re most excited about is improbably challenging.

ETA* It may be ~80′, actually. It’s tricky to decide exactly where it, and the contours for what we’re planning to build lie.

Settle.

Life continues to be more or less the same as it ever was. I’ve been working, at least intermittently, and I’ve even been paid. That has been rather nice, although it’s led to a bit of a flurry of spending as I’ve taken a bunch of stuff off the ‘want list’ which included several things that I’d decided I wouldn’t buy until we got to the US.

I’d been holding that restraint for a couple of years. Adding in the last 3 months of me not buying pretty much anything (I bought a few books, and a few items for our business) and then say “look, you’ve been paid”. I snapped. Much of this is ‘fun’ stuff, but the other thing that’s sucked up funds is things like ‘UK to US’ plug adaptors (10 of ’em, on the way). I’d thought I’d replace the old UK plugs with US ones, but bare US plugs are actually ridiculously pricey, so instead I’ve just bought adaptors. From China. Also, bonus, I get to keep the fuses for added safety.

And BC – Edison Screw lamp adaptors. I was unaware that such things existed – so I’d bought one of the 85-250v LED BC lamps for one of the anglepoises (as a test), but having discovered these I can just go to the store and get what, in the US, are regular LED bulbs and throw those in. Hurrah! These adaptors were way cheaper than the special bulbs and had free postage. Since I’m not in a raring hurry to get the lamps working, that’s fine.

I also started setting up my ‘home lab’, as it were. Up until now I’ve scrounged stuff from the lovely John, but 4k miles is a little far to take things for testing, and it’s a little tricky to ask John if he’d like to pop over for an evening of tinkering with electronics. I’ve finally got it together and bought a (new) soldering iron / rework gun combo. I wasn’t going to get a rework gun, I mean, me and surface mount are not close friends. But with our business plans, I may want to put together some kind of board with surface mount components, in which case a rework gun will become handy – and it was a few dollars extra to get that functionality. Second hand kit that’s also winging its way to me is a ‘scope that weighs approximately the same as the house (50Mhz Tektronix 453*).

Die perfekte Welle

I doubt mine will look 1/10th as nice when it arrives. Indeed, I know some of the plastic knobules from the switches are missing (the selector knobs are all there). I’m hoping (really hoping) that one day my 3D printer will arrive and I can print myself some new ones. If not, I’ve got some sugru in the toolbox.

I thought about getting something a bit fancier that would be better for digital hardware (perhaps the 150Mhz 454), but if I decide I need that later I can either sell off the Tektronix 453 and get something ‘more modern’, or just suck up the expense if I’ve got attached to the 453. I’ve also got an HP 6200B bench power supply on its way too. John has infested my mind with his HP / Tektronix lovin’, which meant that other, cheaper options got ditched on the way to this selection, but I think they should be handy. And the 453 seems to be considered to be a pretty good scope – which it’s within the realms of my knowledge to repair and keep going.

Whilst the scope is slightly frivolous at the moment, and is partly a ‘I have little to do at home’ thing some of the kit will be handy straight away. The bench supply will be handy getting the car alarm configured… since it wants to charge a bit before it works, and you need to send it various text messages to get it configured. That bench supply will also be doing duty building up the circuit for the first kit we’re planning for our business.

Most of this kit is pretty tatty, but should be enough to get me ‘up and running’. At least, once I’ve given it a really, really good clean it should be.

This splurge of spending does mean that I’m now rather over excited when I see UPS and USPS vans, which tediously never seem to actually stop here…

Still. I don’t think I can buy much else for the rest of the month (except for needs – like maintaining my poor Minor, that’s had hundreds of miles added some weeks). At any rate, I shall try to exercise restraint. I’ve put a bit into my savings this month and then I’m hoping to put some of the funds we extracted back into the house-savings too.

At any rate, the rain paused yesterday for long enough for me to go and throw silicone sealant around the minor with reckless abandon.

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Water’s been dripping in through that wiper spindle’s hole for a while. In an attempt to prevent it totally destroying the glove box liner, and the radio underneath, and then the floor below that, I whipped off the nut cleaned up the seals and put them back with a thin layer of windscreen silicone on them. I note that this has been done before, with what appears to be gasket sealant. That might have been me… but it didn’t work that time. Here’s hoping this time it does work. Overnight it’s rained and there wasn’t any water that I could feel, so fingers crossed I might get some relief from that.

I also attacked the boot (trunk) – using sealant around the holes where the “MORRIS 1000” badge is mounted. This morning the boot (trunk) was actually bone dry, which I think is a first, and made me quite happy.

I also commenced trying to understand how to fit the alarm – and realised that actually, it’d probably make more sense for it to be on our family contract for it’s SMS messaging, rather than me stick it on the Net10 sim I’ve got kicking around. Well, maybe. We need to go and see if we can beg a cellspot for the house as it is slightly ridiculous that you have to go outside to make calls a lot of the time and while we’re there I’ll see if I can add it on at a low rate. Otherwise I’ll see which provider is cheapest for a pure voice/SMS option. It doesn’t need data of any sort, so it’s a big silly getting it a voice/data contract. I also realised that the alarm wants an SD card for some of its more handy features, and it makes sense to fit that before I put the alarm in the car.

Given that it’s a cheap Chinese system the manual is somewhat challenging to understand at times. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to require too many features the Minor doesn’t have (indeed, it looks like it should actually be able to track the fuel level of the Minor, which is pretty nifty, though why I’d want to is unclear).

I thought about fitting it this morning; indeed that was my ‘plan’ for the day. But I am distrustful of the weather, and although it said “0% chance of rain” the forecast started to get a bit sketchy around lunchtime, and it looks like rain every day after now for a while, so getting part-way through is undesirable. I succumbed to my rain-fear and went for a walk instead.

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Which was probably a good plan as it’s been hacking with rain for the last hour and half, and I’d’ve probably still been out there dangling upside-down. I think when I have all the relevant bits, I’ll be a bit more enthused about getting it done.

In other news, I headed out yesterday to see if I could find a stick blender. We’ve wanted one for a long time, and before I got paid I kept seeing them at goodwill and value village. Of course, now I’ve actually been paid, they’ve vaporised. Goodwill does make me miss the cleanliness of most British charity shops. I’m sure there’s awesome stuff in there, but the electronics sections always make me feel rather like I need to wash my hands thoroughly on leaving. Anyhow, what I did find was ‘Goodwill Outlet’, which is a fearsome place. Unsorted, sad old things piled into plastic waist high bins… It’s the kind of place I feel the need to have a companion, because rifling through the stuff in there by yourself, it feels kinda weird. I suspect that there probably are stick blenders lying prone at the bottom of those bins, but I didn’t quite have the guts to pull so much stuff out.

And then we come to the elephant in the absent room. The house.

We’re off looking at properties this weekend. Five of ’em. One with a building, one with a ‘building’ (it’s a house of “poor quality” built in 1901), and 3 bits of land that are just land. I continue to feel the disappointment from the permit-disaster-wetland-hideousness, but hopefully one of these will speak to our souls. One of them, funnily enough, enormously close to where Kathryn’s mom used to live, and would give us effectively the same view. Which is weird. Although the land-with-buildings-on may be better for us, in terms of both location and usefulness. Still, we’ll see what happens.

* Handily, this is old enough that the entire manual is available here

Today was.

We spent today touring the local area to look at property. Our indecision on where we’re going to live long term continues, but the area we’re living in at the moment (Olympia) has much to recommend it. So we spent the day meandering and seeing what we could see that fit into our price range and how close we can get to the trifecta of location, price and features. Mind you, our trifecta is somewhat different to other peoples.

Olympia certainly offers us the most that we’ve seen in terms of what we can afford. Amusingly, someone suggested to me that we should look at Steamboat Island (google maps). Which is a place Kathryn visited for semi-work reasons recently. We saw some gorgeous property out there, then ran into a chap who’s selling his own 1.6 acre plot (of which a big chunk you can’t build on for many reasons). An English chap, funnily enough.

We took his card and I got over excited about the potential of this land. It does have quite a few significant challenges, and is sloping in a way that means we have to consider whether it would or could be prone to landslides. Which means much discussion with a civil engineer and, I suspect, super-complex groundworks. Which may price it out of our budget.

There’s another property, though, which we are trying to arrange looking at, that’s near to the over-exciting one and which (assuming it doesn’t consist entirely of marsh, which seems to a common thing around here) would be much easier. It’s more expensive, but offers more of the things we want, but takes away the ocean view we’d actually get from the first one.

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It is literally the only time we’ve looked at a lot with ocean view and said ‘hey, we could afford that’. Whether we actually can afford it is another question, because we’d need some kind of mortgage to be able to build on it and it’s not big enough that we could sell off a chunk of the land to finance anything. Nor could we build what’s called an ‘additional dwelling unit’ to rent out, which we’d though about doing. So it’s tricky.

Anyhow, then we went and looked at in-town properties. It’s kind of hard to get deeply excited about a city-lot with a quite nice or flipable house, when what you really want is a nice bit of land away from all the peoples. But there were some possibilities in areas that are not horrendous that fit into our price bracket.

So yes, it was pretty positive.

Oh hey, it’s 2016

How did that happen then?

So, I think I missed my year in review thing for 2014, and I’ve felt a bit sad about that. But hey. Instead of worrying about it more, here is my 2015 in review, since 2016 has arrived.

A few days ago we were sat with our friends seeing in the New Year and talking about how hard 2015 was. Everyone I know seems to have had a tough 2015. It certainly felt that way from my personal perspective.

They were commenting that they sent their application in to move to the US in January. Having checked, we started dinking with the paperwork in January… And getting the house actually ready for sale. I spent most of the actual year just decorating. Decorating and finishing The List. It’s weird to think that the last year has largely been spent just in stasis. What is weird though is that actually? actually? Actually… we sent our application in in May. Those first 5 months of faffing and getting all of our ducks in some kind of row-based-organisation may have made the process feel painfully long, but they paid off. Because we’ve arrived and many things have aligned.

Although I’ll grant, I still have no job.

So whilst it feels like 2015 was really, really stressful stasis, most of that stress (as is so often the case with me) was self inflicted. Some of it was shite like the NCLEX exam which it turned out was not quite the disaster predicted. And whilst I’ve been looking at posts for something other than decorating, I’m finding that that part of my perception is right, I did mainly spend the year decorating. We did do some fun stuff though. Beyond the decorating, I did manage to cram in some more fun tasks – like building the greenshed. I also spent an inordinate amount of time on my 1920s/30’s bike that is currently traversing the ocean.

Some of the highlights of the year were in London. We spent a lot of time, relatively, visiting various museums in London. We hit up a fabulous Daphne Oram exhibit at the Science Museum, and also saw an utterly amazing Cosmonaut exhibition. And we saw a phenominal exhibition at the V&A called The Fabric of India (which I don’t seem to have written about weirdly).

We also had one of the most stunning holidays we’ve been on, dragging the Prius thousands of miles through Norway – a place which I’d wanted to visit for a very, very long time. Especially since I’ve a friend over there and had wanted to see her in her natural stomping grounds. And understand why she said it was so incredible. We didn’t quite make it all the way up to see her, but I do understand now. It’s just stunning.

What has been less fun and continues to be a bit of a pain is that my laptop broke… It still spontaneously reboots and now the battery (its second in its 8 year life) is dead. I’m trying to decide what the future holds for it. I’m loathe to replace something that, broadly speaking, does most of what I need. But a retina/infinity/ultrahighres display is really tempting. Of course, at the moment, not having a job means that ‘plugging it in all the time’ is pretty much the answer.

I did have some tech successes though. The media server was upgraded and although for a while it became a pain in the ass, it eventually got sorted and turned into a nice piece of kit. When it arrives in the US it’ll need a new power-supply though, as the current one is only 240 volt. Grr. The RiscPC has been repaired – with much help from John. Sadly the original mainboard is beyond salvage having been doused liberally in battery gunk.

Also with help from John, the Squeezebox2 was resurrected, adding more exciting kit to our Logitech Squeezebox collection. Much loved and completely unsupported now…

And of course… Rebecca returned to the road. Again. Briefly. She’s now in a shipping container crossing the ocean. Or something like that… hopefully she’ll be here soon, along with the rest of our stuff. At least, that which fitted in the container.

And all of that leads us into 2016, where we’re considering building a house, starting a business, and are currently planning to move somewhere neither of us have ever lived before. Which’ll be an exciting first for us.

And I’m starting this year in my trademark soothing fashion. With a driver’s exam. Woot.