Provisional positivity

So, the US election is… closer to over? Obviously the dumb as two rocks white supremacist orange super-spreader is still trying to contest the election. “But we cheated! Everywhere! We can’t have lost!”

No, you slimy barrel of rotting eels, people just really hate you that much that even though you cheated, even though you fucked up the post, even though you made it near impossible for BIPOC to get their votes in, they did it any-fucking-way.

You lost, now fuck off.

Anyhow. There’s a measure of relief which I felt the moment that the race was called in Pennsylvania. I know there’s still endless fuckery going to go on, and Trump will scorch and salt the Earth on the way out of office; I imagine he’s hoping that someone will grant him some kind of immunity from his crimes (although I’m not sure he really understands that what he’s done is criminal). But until him, the vampiric homophobe and his cadre of awful people are out of office and Biden/Harris are in place and actually governing I don’t think the snakes are leaving my stomach, and my shoulders will probably continue to occupy space up next to my ears.

I also am very much holding my breath on whether we’ll get progressives and the lefter-wing of the centerist dems pushing for some kind of actual consequences for the white supremacist autocrat administration; or whether we’ll get old-white-guy “that was very bad, don’t do it again” nonsense which will lead to white supremacy getting a tighter grip on the US than it already had.

At any rate, we’re currently working on the assumption that Biden/Harris actually do get to take office, and so we’re starting to plan out our next few years, and not fleeing the country. Which is nice.

And yes, we had (and have) stuff packed to leave.

Yes, it’s been fucking scary.

Yes, I seriously had been preparing for civil war. Or to need to run.

I didn’t think it was a given, but it was definitely a serious possibility. Still is, I guess. Although I think some of the less rabid Nazis Trump supporters have accepted that he’s lost.

Anyhow, so, like I say, we’re starting to shift back to working on the house in a more… reasonable way. I’m still working on tiling the floor in the main space. I’m hoping to get it finished this week (although I’m being a little slow today because I did an extra shift this week, yesterday, and so I’m a wee bit tired).

Because the house is so unsquare, Kathryn and I spent a lot of time futzing around with masking tape, measuring tape and tiles trying to get a compromise alignment where the tiles didn’t end up vastly off square on any wall and where they should have, theoretically, met up pretty well by the front door.

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Theory turned out to be true, and all that hard work has ended up with us having to space out to loose about 12-15mm across the run of tiles that goes across the front door (which is about 3m). The joint spacing is bigger – but not so huge or dramatic as to scream “SOMETHING IS WRONG”.

I’m still working my way round though; we’ve got all the tile down in the kitchen except for a bit under the fridge; we’ve got the dining room done and both hallways (although there’s a bit of grouting to do); but the join between the office and the hallway is still missing a few and there’s the sections into all the cupboards and the laundry to do. There’s also the section under the sofa. So still a fair bit, but I feel I’ve broken the back of this job, which is nice.

Kathryn’s been sealing it while I’ve been at work these past few days, and it’s looking pretty f’ing good, imho. Given the unevenness underlying it all; and the unsquareness of the house, I’m pretty proud of how the main space looks.

I’ve also done that joyous maintenance task of replacing the sump pump under the house.

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A job that I would categorise as ‘loathesome’. While it’s much cleaner and seems not to be rat infested now; which is a marked improvement, grovelling around in the cold and having showers of glassfibre drop on your head while trying to replace a half-assed pump (held up by string) with a markedly less half-assed pump (although I grant, standing it on the rusty piece of scrap metal that the old pump had underneath it is somewhat half-assed) is not my idea of fun.

I’m also now paranoid that it’s not doing anything, but without going back under there I’m not easily able to tell. Thing is the new pump is more powerful and much quieter, so it probably pumps out the water in a more effective way, and probably does so quietly. I know it does turn on, because I gave it a couple of seconds of test, but there wasn’t any water under there when I installed it.

So… I guess at some point I’ll need to look.

Thing is – the modifications we made (having the water actually flow away from the house) do seem to have largely resolved the crawlspace swimming pool issue, at least for the time being, so it’s much harder to say whether it will work when needed.

Ah well.

Anyway, I should get on with…. tiling.

When the tiling is done and we have our main living space back I shall be scaling back to a less ‘OH GOD THE COUNTRY IS ENDING WE NEED TO LEAVE’ level of work, and actually try doing some fun things.

If I can remember what they are.

Grout, crawlspace and stuff.

So cognitive dissonance continues apace. Oh, look, there’s some horrific thing that’s happened. Ah, we need more yogurt. Rinse, repeat.

I keep trying to plan around what things that I want to do. Or more accurately, I have these thoughts about things I want to do. “Oh, I’d like to set up the garage so I can work in there on some of the non-house projects”. And then I remind myself that in 20 days we might need to flee the fucking country.

That there’s a non-zero possibility of roaming white supremacist / terrorist militias roaming the f’kin streets and shooting people that they decide shouldn’t be in the country. That there’s a non-zero possibility that we’ll need to peel the queer pride sticker off the back of the car and drive north with nothing but our (brand new, shiny) disaster kit in the car and pray that Canada lets us in.

Trying to tread a line between sensible precautions and paranoia is incredibly challenging. Even knowing where that line is, that’s proving harder and harder with each passing day.

So I keep thinking – I’ll set up the workspace in the garage. Hell, I’ve even moved the tablesaw around to the side and put up another shelf for wood (well, really it’s a shelf for ‘stuff’, but currently it’s holding up wood); I’ve tried to work out where the hell the micrometer is (still no idea) so I can work out which specific part I need to replace the flange in the diff; but at the same time I’m hesitant to do stuff that has a longer timeline than a couple of weeks.

I can tell how stressed I am because I’ve managed to bite my lip 3 times in the last 3 weeks – each time leading to a hole that takes a while to repair itself. The constant stress is just fucking with me now.

Anyhow. Iiiin other news. I have now grouted the kitchen tiles. They still need a final clean and polish, but they’re looking pretty tidy:

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Which is the first job, after washing up today. A quick clean off of those tiles.

The outside is also more-or-less painted. I need to cut the last few bits and go get some more paint, which is probably a job I should do today. Buut, the front and south sides are completely painted. There’s about 4′ towards the north east corner of the north side that’s not done yet; and similarly there’s about 8′ of the east side where we’re missing a few trim pieces (because I hadn’t done the trim bit around the door…which I’ve now done). I need to get those cut and up, but the weather’s been pretty… wet of late.

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Unfortunately, in maintenance VS repair jobs – the sump pump under the house (this is a afaik a USian thing, I never had one in the UK. It’s to pump out water that pools under the house*) has died. It’s just tripping the breaker when it tries to turn on. This may be related to when we had the membrane under the house replaced and they kncoked crud into the low point in which it sits, and it ran dry continuously for days before overheating.

So I need to wait for a dry block of a couple of days, grovel under the house and replace it. Because I’m not a f’kin scum landlord, unlike the one that’s under there now which is held in place with string, ours will actually have to be fixed in place and will have non-flexible pipe running into a drain.

Which is tedious, but if I’m going to replace it I’d like to do it properly.

In the hopes that we get to stay to enjoy it.

*I think all the houses we had in the UK were built high enough up that you didn’t need to pump water out from under them….

Except my mum’s which had a solid concrete floor.

Brain issues

With the impending potential for either an overt fascist dictatorship to be in power in the US, or the democrats who will continue to be the centre-possibly-slightly-left and need SO MUCH PUSHING to get decent things done* alternative (but who many republicans seem to think are the reincarnation of a combo of Stalin, Lenin and Castro), I have to say my brain is reaching its capacity for existential angst.

And with it has come a resurgence of interest in some of my old hobbies. I think because I want something can have control over, and something that I can do with a tangible outcome. So little feels under any kind of control right now; and there is a degree of (very privileged, I admit) mental frustration at the fact that we’ve worked so very f’king hard on this house for 3 years, and it’s finally getting near to completion and we might have to leave.

As in, if that nectarine nazi is “re-elected” (for very small values of “re-elected”, given that he lost the popular vote last time and the republican party are doing everything possible to suppress votes stack the deck in favour of their amoral candidate this time) we will be leaving. How rapidly depends on how quickly things degenerate. And where we go to is still up in the air. Brexit has screwed the pooch on us moving where we’d like to go, unless by some miracle we can leave and be in Portugal by the end of December. And given we won’t know the outcome of the election for a while and it’s in the middle of November, that seems an unlikely course of events.

But the house is not done.

And it’s all internal pressure; it’s all in my head; but I feel like I have to keep pushing and pushing to try and get the whole house finished. Never mind how tired and fed up of working on it I am. Never mind that it’s unrealistic and impossible to imagine it being done by the end of the year, let alone by November 11th. Never mind that we took all of 20 minutes for ourselves yesterday, for our mental health (to watch Woke – which is excellent, btw). I’m still trying to take one day a week not to work on the house or be at work, but I am starting to feel the unyeilding pressure of events making me think I need to just work.

Which ironically leads me to find myself hunting for things I can fix… Which is made slightly more difficult by the fact that I don’t have a workbench, the actual time to invest in these projects, and a bunch of the stuff that would be useful is in storage. And also by the fact that a lot of the things I might need have to be shipped. So then I end up with an incomplete project waiting for bits to arrive which doesn’t fulfill my modern zero-wait-time zero-patience need for entertainment (see: bench multimeter (waiting batteries and holders), bench power supply (waiting switch), Dyson fan (waiting various components)); which leads to stupidity like buying a first generation, broken CD-player:

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I have wanted a CD player for a while. We rarely buy CDs but occasionally we do, and I still have this vision of actually having the vinyl and the CDs in some sort of nice organisation, rather than still in boxes.

But anyhow; I’ve not wanted to spend on something I wasn’t that excited by. I mean, CD-players are kinda blah overall. Functional but not super interesting. But then I saw the first generation, motorized, vertical loading CD players and… well. I remember my dad getting a ridiculously expensive Marantz CD player back in about 1987 and it was insanely cool. But it wasn’t vertical-slot loading. But this thing is from 1983! It is ridiculous.

Also broken.

Obvs.

Aaaaand, of course, to fix it, I will undoubtably need stuff that comes from abroad. The belt (I’ve preordered that because it almost certainly needs replacing) is coming from Germany, and the companies that offer pre-made up kits of capacitors? Also in Germany.

Also, irritatingly, I’ve realised that unless it’s the R-variant (later, slightly extended dynamic range, the photo doesn’t show enough of the back to be sure); the service manual appears to only be available for free in German. Mein Deutche er nicht ser gut. I mean, I had (have?) a full and complete photocopy of the German MZ ETZ’s technical manual. Butttttt it had lots of pictures.

So we’ll see.

Hopefully I can fix it :)

Anyway. Today I need to get on with cutting bits of wood. So I’m going to go do that, and wait for something to arrive in the hopes that I might be able to fix something. It probably won’t really make me feel better, but like the bits of time when I’m scooping up poo from the chickens, it stops me thinking about the hideous human rights abuses, and the social progress being undone by people who think that the only people who should get to do anything are cis-het-white-men. And stops me worrying for a few minutes here and there about having to leave the home we worked so hard on before we get to enjoy it.

* to paraphrase the thing I saw a while ago, imagine sitting down in a restaurant and the wait staff arrive and say “Well, you can have this pile of mixed ground glass and shit, or a somewhat dull sandwich”

Since the smoke is gone (for the moment)

Well, the wildfires certainly changed things for a while here. The air outside was, essentially, toxic; so that was nice. One of these things that really bring home the fact that climate change, combined with a couple of centuries of not engaging in controlled burning of the forests (unlike the people who lived in these bits of the US before the colonizers who managed the forests carefully with controlled burns) have led to disastrous fires. And thanks to weather patterns we got a good dose of smoke.

That did put somewhat of a crimp in the plans to do the outside of the house, but I must admit I’ve not been deeply productive this week. Or, as I keep reminding myself and others when they say they haven’t done something:

I’ve not been that productive the last few days of this pandemic.

Yesterday was pretty good – but today – I have to give myself some credit for trying and I also have to remind myself that sometimes things take time but you don’t make notable progress. Which is largely how today’s been. So in the task management list, yesterday I spent some time outside and finished the front and the lower section of the south side of the house; the back of the house is also done except around the back door…

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This just leaves the North end (for which we need to have another day of planing wood, the two gables, and around the back door). I also laser cut both the house number and the backplates for the two lights that go over the corridors.

All this trim (and the panels underneath) need another coat of paint, but then finally the outside will actually be done.

Last week we also got all the tiles up in the kitchen – they need grouting still, which was going to be today’s activity, but instead I got sucked into a couple of other jobs…

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This has (thankfully) fixed the paranoia about splashing stuff on the kitchen walls. It will also fix the paranoia about water running down the back of the cupboard by the sink, which was a terrifying possibility.

And yesterday, we finally moved from having to hold the dishwasher open with a brick to holding it open with… the proper panel being attached to the front. This turned into a muuuuuch bigger job than I expected. I’d assumed that I’d just throw the mounting plate onto the door front and we would at that point have a hidden dishwasher, but the combination of the dishwasher being positioned very high (to clear the drain pipe behind it – which has to be in a stupid place because of the way the floor foundations were poured compared to the walls), and the positioning of the front door panel meant that the panel fouled the dishwasher’s power connection cover panel as it opened.

After several hours of beating it – and my head – with a hammer, I came up with the alternate option of cutting a different, replacement cover panel and attaching that (we won’t talk about how). My panel doesn’t screw into the same places their one did… which has the advantage that the door gains 2mm, which means that it now clears everything as it opens.

So anyhow, today was spent dealing with the roost in the coop – the droppings board was positioned such that it wasn’t quiiiite catching the majority of droppings. This was slightly annoying.

The quick and easy solution (which is what I did) was to pull it off, extend it slightly, change the angle, and put it back on. And the chickens don’t seem to mind.

I also tweaked the run slightly. There was a patch where the wire mesh rodent barrier that runs under the entire run stuck up – just outside the door – and despite being pinned to the run, the chickens had managed to drop enough crap between it and the run to force it out. Then, we worried they might catch their little toes on it as they tried to forage when we let them out.

They kept hopping around it, which made us nervous. So I grabbed an offcut of the house trim and put that across, sandwiching the mesh between layers of wood.

The morning’s also been slightly slowed by the fact that — despite our best efforts, one of the chickens appears to have roundworm. Ironically, the list of “what you should do to treat roundworm” is essentially everything we do. Apparently, we should just monitor the situation and see if there’s any sign of any of them losing weight. But despite our planned deep bedding method, we’ve gone back to scooping the poo every morning (and sometimes midway through the day).

I think it’s Astrid, although both her and Mymble seem to have a greater proportion of liquid faeces than I’d like. They’re still eating, though, and seem happy. And per the reference book at the urban farm place (1) it’s very common and (2) you shouldn’t treat it with worming medicine unless they become unwell.

So we’re just reduced to paranoidly watching them.

Today’s other activity was attempting to fix the Dyson fan that I got as “broken”.

It appears to have multiple faults – which I’m thinking probably all stemmed from one fault – that is that there’s a design flaw where the cable can rub on the bearing used to turn the fan body. In our case, the rubbing eventually wore the insulation away allowing a short. Now I’m not sure of the order of events, but so far, we’ve got a capacitor that’s completely missing (presumed vapourised); two blown fuses and the insulation failure.

I’ve replaced the capacitor – which taught me that if I do build the OpenInverter I’ll be needing a magnifying lamp, because that was…a challenge, and it’s freaking untidy.

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Annoyingly, the voltage regulator I bought is the wrong package, so if I do end up using it I’ll need to knock up a bunch of flyleads. But hey.

More annoyingly, I somehow forgot to check the fuses on it when I was looking at it last time – and so had to order fuses today. I also have a bunch of diodes that I’ve grabbed in-case any of the ones on the board have died. All the ones I checked today appeared to be behaving though.

So, I didn’t get very far with that.

I also took the opportunity to order the switch for my bench power supply. I accidentally trod on the switch (it reeked of cigarette smoke, despite my best efforts to clean it, so it was sat wrapped on the floor of the storage unit). Replacing it isn’t hard, but it’s annoying because it worked fine until I snapped it.

So lots of bitty bits, nothing actually finished, but various important things achieved.

Oh, and I got bitten, twice, by a spider while harvesting tomatoes a few days ago. It hurts. I am unimpressed.

Queen of the Highway

So, having put a tow-hitch on Raven, the time came to test it out because despite this rather… unfortunate note:

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It turned out that when I called, the person who placed our order was in fact able to find it. Which mean that…. our doors were ready. So we rented a trailer and I flew down to Portland for a socially distant collection. I have to say Raven handled the whole trailer experience very well.

We then got down to the delightful job of oiling the doors – with our smelly despite being low VOC, 100% plant based, biodegradable oil. The doors looked pretty spiffy outside:

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And even more spiffy when we put them on their runners inside:

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There’s still a lot of trim work to do, obviously. The doors currently have a block of two bits of trim to make up for the fact that the trim at the left side is missing and so is the trim at the right. But our bathroom for the first time in 3 years has a door. Still no window, but a door.

The second bathroom is actually closed off from the main bedroom, and our laundry room is shut! It’s fascinating to me how different the house feels (again), with these additions. The bathroom being a room – not a space only separated by walls but with big openings in – well… it’s much cozier. The door at the end of the main room is the most impactful though, for me. It – interestingly – both manages to make the end of the room feel much more solid – and sort of shortens the room, but at the same time makes it (somewhat deceptively) feel like there’s a proper room the other side (rather than, as there actually is, just a laundry cupboard).

As I’ve wittered about at length, I find it a perpetually intriguing thing how small changes to our space have really big impacts (for me, at least), on the way the space feels.

One think I’m really looking forward to (hopefully this week) is the impact that the teal/green tiles will have when we put them up as the back splash for the kitchen counters.

In exterior news; the south end now has the mid-wall trim piece covering the join between the roof truss covering panels and the wall panels. We have, today, planed a whole bunch of strips which we’ll have to cut down to make the trim for the south wall – then paint and put up. That same process has worked pretty well on other faces, so we’ve managed to get the front of the house more-or-less done:

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Today has actually been a crazily busy day. We did our market shopping (currently, with COVID-19 we’re going every other week, with only one of us going in, and grabbing fairly much fruit and a few other bits and bobs). Trying to support local business while at the same time avoiding making others sick with potential work-related-plague, or alternatively making us sick and carrying it from wherever we’ve caught it to my — or Kathryn’s — work makes for a kind of difficult balance.

Anyhow, we then hung all three doors when we got home, then planed wood, and then harvested an insane amount of food. I can’t express how lucky we are, how privileged we are to have both the time and money to grow our own food. It’s been really exciting this year – and at times overwhelming – to see our garden (into which we have put a lot of both compost and effort) being incredibly productive.

And while it’s quite a time-suck (because we don’t just need to do at least some maintenance, a lot of watering, and try and keep on top of the insects; we also have to do something with all the food we’ve grown) – it has led to us eating incredibly well this year.

This year we’ve actually had enough Tomatoes that we can both eat and prep them. So tonight, while it’s getting terrifingly late, we are waiting for the toms to cool down having been cut up:

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…and roasted with garlic and herbs so we can make a roasted tomato sauce.

From our own, home grown tomatoes (grown from seeds we saved).

It’s, to coin a phrase, fuckin’ A.

And now… I must away to deal with roasted tomatoes.

I’m not sure

It has been a while since I’ve updated, I guess. Not ages, but a while. We’ve been plodding onwards with the many jobs big and small which need to be completed. We planed a bunch of trim panels for the board and batten around the outside, cut them to length and Kathryn primed and painted them. Then we cut more we have been working through painting them.

Yesterday we started putting them up and were able to do most of the back with the batch we’d got done (I didn’t cut some of the short bits until later – so they haven’t been fully painted, and there’s a funky bit around the back door which we had a bit of a discussion about how we’re going to do it yesterday and I think we’ve got a plan).

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As is often the case with big (and sometimes with small) changes, it’s fascinating how much it changes the feel of the house. It feels more cottagey and traditional – and although we were going for a modern take on board and batten siding:

What we actually seem to have created with our somewhat larger spacing is something a bit more like a modern take on mock-tudor. Our neighbours will, no doubt, be surprised by yet another transformation taking place.

We also now have the tiles to cover the main area floor. Having lived with the microcement for a while we’ve both concluded it just isn’t working out. I think if you’re a talented, experienced concrete worker you could probably get it better, but for us it’s just not smooth enough, and the colour seems to sit in the surface, so polishing it isn’t going to work. Which leads to – well, okay, we need to cover it – and that’s going to be either carpet, wood or tile. Tile actually improves the effectiveness of the heated floor rather than impeding it, and we like the look of natural tile – so we ordered a ton of slate tile which arrived last week and we lugged it from its pallet to storage.

It’s really disappointing to have to redo the floor, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and redo something. It’s also a pain because we didn’t leave space around the doors, so they can’t be tiled around. That is a whole different kettle of fish, which we have thoughts about how to tackle, but some of that is dependent on the thickness of the adhesive and tile combined.

At any rate, all the tile’s sat at the back of the house and we ordered our tile adhesive which is ready to collect today… so that’s another big project to get going on and get off the list. That’s reserved for days when it’s too hot to be outside for long stretches, or when it’s raining, although actually even though it’s been hot we’ve been managing to keep working through the day of late. It’s not been as hot as it was a couple of weeks back which has made it more manageable.

I also took it upon myself to chase our door company and… astonishingly, our doors have all arrived. From the discussion it sounds like they actually arrived a while back but the guy forgot to call us – or somehow the message got lost. Anyhow, we need to go down and collect them and then we can have actual doors. In our house. Which is quite exciting and also means we should be able to get on with installing trim around the pocket doors. That just leaves the cupboard, attic and bedroom doors to do. Heh.

The doors being ready does mean that this:

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Will come into its own as while we could put three doors on the roofrack, I think that would be pushing it for the 120 mile drive back from Portland. So instead we’ll push it by putting a trailer on our hitch for the first time ever.

All in all it’s slow but steady progress.

Sun, sand and glaciers

COVID-19 notwithstanding, we decided that a couple of days of us not working on the house, not working in the garden and perhaps not being in Olympia was a good idea. We’d debated going camping, but left it too late to book a site that was sufficiently socially distant for our tastes (our tastes essentially being that no-one else is within about a 10 mile radius of us).

When I’ve been at work the social distancing is mainly for their safety, since Kathryn’s not at work right now her contact with peeps is pretty minimal. But since I’ve been not-at-work for a couple of weeks, this was mainly for our and my patient’s safety – because I don’t want to ferry plague back from other people to my, potentially sick-but-not-necessarily-with-COVID, patients.

So, instead we packed up our car with a coolbox containing lunch, took our coffee and tea in insulated cups and headed firstly out to the coast – and then on our second day of holiday – to Mount Ranier.

Our very first attempt was Westhaven State Park which is a beach over by Westport. Being a bit of a mizzly day it wasn’t too busy until you got down to the bit of the beach which was where the surfers like to hang out. Even there we were able to maintain distance, but it was a bit busier than we liked. So we poked at the map and found Griffiths-Priday State Park. Not far from the very popular town of Ocean Shores, which has reportedly been fairly much fully booked up with people who aren’t as concerned about COVID as we are.

We decided to give it a go, and what an excellent decision that was. It’s much closer to a wild beach with a large expanse of dunes and we meandered around barely seeing anyone that wasn’t a bird. The mist rolled in and out, the waves running up on the sandy beach. It was wonderfully peaceful and a lovely wild space to be away from other people for a bit.

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Sitting there and listening to the sea, watching the birds, hearing the wind in the grass; it just reminds you how beautiful the world is. And letting the water roll over your feet, feeling the sand slipping out from beneath you and back into the water is just such a centring experience.

Dinner was fish and chips (no malt vinegar though; I clearly need to get a bottle to carry for such events) from a restaurant that handily was doing drive-through ordering then kerbside pickup.

Yesterday we decided to head to the mountains. By sheer coincidence it happened to be one of the National Park’s free days – so we loaded up again and headed to Mount Ranier. One primary discovery from yesterday; we’re both hideously unfit. While working on the house has, I’m fairly certain, improved both of us’s upper body strength, our general stamina for ‘walking up a big hill’ has not improved.

But, it being a popular national park you can cheat and drive a big chunk of the way up ;)

We’d actually selected what was supposed to be a lightly trafficed route, but the sunshine and the free day and the fact no-one can go anywhere thanks to COVID mean that it wasn’t that quiet (although, it may be that it’s quieter than other routes…?). It also turned out that the combination of ‘moderate’ difficulty combined with almost no shade at all was… not ideal on such a hot day.

So we abandoned the plan and instead went on the Moraine Trail, which it turned out was an excellent plan because there was almost no-one on the short out-and-back trail which takes you to the foot of the terrifyingly disappearing Nisqually Glacier. It’s stunningly beautiful up there, and the mountain kindly let us get a really good view before mist and clouds suddenly descended covering the peak.

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It’s funny, because it’s one of those highly deceptive trails which – being unmaintained and over in a valley, makes it feel like you’ve hiked out to the absolute middle of no-where, when in fact you’re just a half hour walk from one of the tarmac’d paths in the Paradise area of the park that’s incredibly heavily trafficed.

We meandered up the trail and gazed up a the much diminished but still amazing glacier, then down the hill to attempt to find a spot for our snack. Which… ended up with me shrieking, leaping up and dropping my snack (which we then picked up and packed out, because we’re not arseholes); thanks to an ant deciding to take a bite of my arm.

Thankfully it turned out not to be a truly vicious ant, nor a swarm or herd or whatever it is of ants. But Kathryn swiped off the other one after I’d managed to remove the one from my foot and the one that was attempting to go up my leg. After that we decided to maybe continue our walk…

…and after climbing back up to the main path we headed across to the Stevens Canyon Road for a brief peek, before heading down the mountain, stopping for a brief look at Narada falls (which incredibly wasn’t too busy). Then down the mountain for takeaway dinner (which we tookaway to the carpark outside the restaurant). Turns out there’s a Nepalese food restaurant (and also a Ukranian one, actually) not far from the park entrance, so we tried that… which was okay. Not amazing, but not bad for tourist trap munchies.

And then home.

And now we’re back to regularly scheduled house stuff :)

It seems counterintutive, but we were nearly sunk by the sink.

Sorry.

So we got the counter on. Getting the counter on wasn’t terrible. We had to maneuver the dishwasher in and out a few times because the level wasn’t set quite right; so it would have fouled the bottom of the counter. But after a few trips (and it’s on rollers), it was in and seems to be at the right height.

Then we had to play ‘what looks right’ to get the countertop on. Because the wall’s not straight; and so the cabinets don’t sit perfectly; nor does the cooker.

But eventually we reached a consensus between all the warring angles and we decided we were happy with the position.

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So then it was time to install the sink.

We got the template, positioned it carefully, drew around it, drilled some starter holes and set to with a multipurpose blade in the jigsaw. Did it go well? No, it f’kin did not.

The screws we’d put in to hold the metal to the wood – well, let’s just say they got in the way. Then the blade decided to go off for a wander at a jaunty angle. Then nothing we had would cut through the screws which were riiiight where we needed to go*

Finally, using a combination of the reciprocating demo-saw, a bunch of new jigsaw blades, and a fine agglomeration of swearing we got the hole cut. Then we test fitted the sink – placing some wood blocks to stop it being difficult to get out**, we dropped it in. It fit perfectly***.

We attached the clips (per the instructions), coated the edges with silicone sealant and popped the sink in the hole.

Whereupon it instantly became apparent that the clips now fouled the edge of the hole and would quite definitely not go in the hole. Eventually, after a rapid assessment of the deteriorating situation we realised that even were we to pop it out and cut the hole bigger – which would be a challenge to do as once the clips are on there’s approximately 2-3mm between ‘correct size to get the sink through’ and ‘oh, the sink has fallen through the hole’ because the clips almost, but not quite, protrude at the side of the sink**** – the clips were too short to actually clip the damn sink to our worksurface as they’re less than an inch and a half long, and our work surface is an inch and a half thick. Plus a the front and back 3/4″ for the top surface of the cabinet.

So after some rapid assessment we opted for yanking the clips off again, throwing in a bit more sealant and putting the sink in. It turned out that actually, the wood blocks we’d put which held the sink just out of the hole (making it easier for us to remove it after test fitting) had hidden another problem; the pieces of metal that hold the clips in actually fouled the hole too.

The supplied template is woefully wrong.

We bent them a bit and managed to shove the sink into the hole.

It looks nice now – and hopefully the amount of sealant there is enough to both seal it and hold the damn thing in.

Then came the discovery that the drains supplied with the sink have necks that are about 3cm longer than the old sink. Whiiiiiich, it turned out, is a problem because where the drain enters the wall was somewhat marginal height wise anyway. And it turns out, the easiest and best route ends up with the new drain pipe being in the way of the drain – a plan which obviously wasn’t going to work.

It took a lot of pondering, staring, holding up bits of pipe, and in the end some rather weird routing – but… eventually I landed on this:

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Which seems to work.

And so, at long last, we have a proper kitchen sink. The tap is actually attached and no longer spins at the slightest provocation. It no longer has to be twisted to allow you to have it on cold.

It’s quite nice.

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* Or so we thought.

** A mistake.

*** Spoiler alert: It didn’t.

**** WTF?!

The garden

So, one thing I’ve not talked about loads is the garden. We’ve worked bloody hard on transforming an unloved, uncared for patch of barely alive grass and dandelions into something that’s not only giving to us, but is adding to the biodiversity, and providing food for (some) wildlife. I mean, it would provide food for more wildlife, but we’d actually like to eat it ourselves, so we’re pretty keen to keep deer out.

It’s one of those things that we seem to do that I’m unsure if it aids in selling – as this is definitely not our forever home we do think about that, but then very little we do is really targeted at selling. I mean, we have an awareness that one day we’d like to sell.

But gardening is something we both seem to be driven to do – and enjoy doing. And trying to improve the land we’re custodians of, and giving wild critters somewhere to be in our generally monoculture (grass) built environments. It’s selfish, too, because we want to grow food, and we want to enjoy pretty flowers, and I love watching the birds and insects fluttering around the place.

But it also has some grounding in trying to make the world a better place.

Anyhow, so back when we moved in the garden at the back was a scrubby patch of grass, three plum trees, a lilac bush (next to the house) and the umbrella tree.

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Oh, and there was a thicket of brambles right at the back. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a picture before we got our arborist to attack the trees which had clearly had absolutely no maintenance recently, and quite possible for their entire life; and also to hack back the brambles.

You can kinda see them in the background of this picture which was the only picture on the listing when we got the house.

Anyhow, we’ve worked on it lots. We’ve built raised beds, we’ve dug turf, we’ve lasagne mulched. Kathryn’s mom came and weeded and mulched our front garden and helped us make more beds…

And sometimes the transformation is quite striking.

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And it’s amazingly productive. I mean it’s a weird year weather wise (aren’t they all now, HT: Climate change). But we just pulled over 3kg of veg from our garden in one day’s harvest:

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And that’s not hugely unusual. Last week we had something like 30 courgettes. We’ve also had artichokes, broccoli, radish, raspberries, strawberries, peas, beans, a variety of herbs, our tomatoes are setting on the vine and our sweetcorn is growing inches every day; it’s got tassels and silks, so we should actually get corn (Kathryn’s been hand pollinating them). We’ve got Jerusalem Artichokes, cabbages, brussel sprouts, leeks, onions… oh and 2 plums (there may be more? We can only see two… between our three plum trees. I think the birds got them all).

It’s quite joyous watching it grow and delightful to actually get to eat some of it.

We might get some kiwi’s next year, and if we can keep the deer out we’ll get Aronia berries. We might also yet Jostaberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants….

Anyhow. It’s been hard work, but it’s very lovely now it’s in.

Chooks, Worktops and the floor

Somewhat disjointed progress, since we’ve been working on multiple unconnected things.

Let’s start with the floofy ones. We got some chickens after a couple of false starts – turns out a lot of people with chickens are terrible at contacting you. Also, for some reason, our wanting to buy chickens coincided with other people having a thoroughly miserable time. One person’s partner had multiple migraines, another person’s dog died…

We also had to put up the run (the coop build I’ve wittered about already, but we did paint it). A large amount of treated lumber, some swearing at hardware cloth (thank you Sarah!) and some of our spare chicken wire later and we have something that has very little relation to right angles or verticality, but does ‘follow the contours of the land‘* and also seemed appropriate for containing small dinosaurs.

In the end, after we managed to navigate the disasters we seemed to be causing in other people’s lives, and actually found someone really nice to sell us them, Pippi (Longstocking, obvs) and Mymble (as in Tove Jansson’s moomin books) came to join the fam’. Mymble is slightly suspect for being a boy and we’re not allowed roosters in the city, but they said they’d trade them out if they turn out to be a roo, Pippi seems fairly certain to be a girl.

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They’re both Swedish Flower Hens, which are a landrace** breed (they basically Darwin’d themselves into existence on Swedish farms). That, unsurprisingly, means they don’t have niceties like feather patterns or colouration that disinguishes which sex they are. You just have to look at them and go “well, you don’t look like you have a huge comb” and “your feet and legs aren’t too big” and pray that’s a girl chicken, not a boy. We’d actually hoped to get a third chook but wanted a different breed, and it turned out that they only had one other chicken of a similar age and they’re looking quite roostery.

Still, we’re going to check in on them in a few more days and hopefully that little birdling will not be looking more roostery; otherwise we might go looking somewhere else. We did look at one other person’s birds, but weren’t happy with the condition of their feet (fearing scaly leg mites***), so took a pass on them.

Pippi and Mymble seem to be settling in fine, they’re clearly geniuses of the bird world having worked out the water feeding nipples more or less independently (we showed one of them, once, right when we moved them) and the ladder into the coop with minimal intervention and just the one day of ‘using Kate as an adventure playground and roost, rather than going into the coop’.

Readers, please note: only my left shoulder is approved as a chicken roost by Pippi and Mymble; my right shoulder is terribly, terribly unsuitable.

Sadly? Fortunately?… No video exists of this experience which mainly had me giggling as it became rapidly apparent that I was not going to win on persuading them in to the coop by myself.

That was day 3 of ‘putting chickens to bed’. Day 4, they just went in, all on their own. Same on day 5. We just have to pootle out and shut the door.

The other main job we’ve been working on is the kitchen worktops. Having decided that “thousands of dollars” was a ridiculous amount to pay for kitchen worktops, but also that having built one side that was 3m long, and therefore realising we were unlikely to get leftovers from someone else’s project that would do the job either — we’d been hunting for a solution that would come in more at a price point we were willing to pay.

Eventually we settled on zinc worktops (which should patina up nicely). First we asked someone about making them – and they gave us just as ridiculous a quote as everyone else for every other material. And none of these quotes included installation, so far as I could tell. So we decided to try and do it ourselves.

So we ordered a roll of zinc. Well, three, actually. Two for the counters, one for the cooker backsplash. We also ordered a large quantity of 3/4″ plywood – two layers of which (glued and screwed together) would make roughly a standard thickness counter. Well, the gluing didn’t go quite as well as hoped – I’d opted for construction adhesive initially because then – I’d hoped – we could use it for both jobs (not the ideal glue I’ll admit, but kind of an average for both).

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Unfortunately, the smaller of the two didn’t bond together well – so we ended up throwing a gallon of wood glue into split between the two boards and then clamping them together a second time – which needed a whole ‘nother day to dry. That mean that we didn’t get to start with the easier, shorter worktop for wrapping the zinc, because it was still drying.

Instead the first glue and fold we did was on the long worktop.

So the gluing – we definitely don’t have enough weight or big enough clamps (can’t reach the actual board from the edge with the overlap required to cover the sides and the underside). That is definitely the case. Also, we worked out after we did it the way we should have got the metal sheet positioned, because it didn’t land where we wanted it to, not at all. Also, we should have done this the other way up – using the offcuts from the plywood to support the metal sheet, then dumping the heavy wood onto the metal. That way, the wood would have added it’s weight to the piled on piece of stuff making the contact adhesive stick. Instead, it was just our pressure and then piling paint tins, blocks, bricks, bits of random wood. The gluing worked…ish, and the positioning should work, but it’s not… generous.

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Also, folding it is a thousand nightmares. We don’t have a nice jig, nor fancy metal folding machinery, just a rubber mallet and our arms. The first fold – the one on the back that we don’t care about – is not great. Partly because it took a couple of attempts to settle on ‘just beat the sh*t out of it with a rubber mallet’ as the “best” technique. I’d tried applying gentle force with a bit of wood running back and forth along the length of it (nope). I’d tried hitting it with a hammer using a bit of wood as a protector (works, but dents it a lot). I’d tried swearing at it vigorously (not effective, but therapeutic). But both of us whaling on it – taking turns – with the rubber mallet and working outwards from the centre? That seems to work.

I mean, it’s not a nice pin sharp corner with smooth verticals.

That is definitely not what it is.

But it’s looking okay.

Unfortunately, even with our temporary shade (Kathryn’s cunning plan of stringing the tarp between the house and the garage), the gap at the side of the house is very warm and catches sun all morning. In the afternoon it’s just hot there, though, but well shaded. Hopefully we can get the big one done tomorrow (today it’s going to be way too hot for sure at 31°C); and get the smaller one glued. I’m also wondering if we can use some of the offcuts we have around to make the backing board to wrap the zinc around for behind the cooker (because I forgot to order that when I bought the big sheets for the counter).

So that’s slow, but definite progress.

We still haven’t chosen handles for the kitchen cupboards.

Which leads us to the floor. The floor is a constant source of concern. The microcement topping we used didn’t come out smooth – now how much of this is applicator error, and how much is not is a question we’re going to have to resolve when we do the bathroom. But it came out with a suedey texture which is actually really nice to look at, and feels pretty good… but it holds dirt really well. Add to that, that without surface sealing (which we were told wasn’t necessary in light duty areas) you can only lightly clean it with water. Add a cleaning compound or rub at it, and the colour changes, permanently. We have a nice streak by the back door where a slug found its way in that demonstrates that quite well.

So thaaaaat’s not going to work long (or even medium) term. It’s becoming increasingly problematic, so we think (maybe) we’re going to try and polish it and then seal it. Which is quietly terrifying.

The theory being that if we fuck it up we’d have to do something else with it anyway. That may end up being tiling the bloody thing with slate (because the colour we went for is effectively slate, and looks really nice), getting someone else to pour a resin floor (lazy, easy), or painting it (meh)… Either way, it’s a pain in the arse.

So at some point we’re going to have to do a test patch, probably in the cupboard somewhere. Then it’ll be renting a floor sander and wishing that we’d done this before we moved in (but we didn’t know… and really, didn’t have time).

Meh.

The main big project over the next few weeks however, is the trim. Which I keep saying but we’re not getting to, but is actually true. I’m off work for a couple of weeks and apart from us going to spend a little time walking out in the wilds, we’re mainly going to be putting a concerted effort into getting the outside of the house finished. So… err, hopefully that will be a big job done :)

*Definitely not an excuse for “we just threw it on the ground”.

**I have learned more about chickens than I ever knew in the past few weeks. Mainly from Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow, but also from rando blog posts on t’internet.

*** It’s amazing what you can learn.