Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How many bugs have made themselves a home in our attic?

I wish I could even come close to calculating. Let's just say there are a lot. We've got wasps, ladybugs (the smelly kind), bottle flies, and who knows what else up there. The scary thing is that the wasps (and all the others, but the wasps seem to be the most aggressive) have been making their way into the house. Not cool.

Last night I went into the attic armed with a respirator, head-to-toe skin coverage, and two cans of super-strength wasp/hornet killer. The instructions said to have one point of light--located away from me since any stinging types would be attracted to the light--and to spray from a distance of at least 7-10 feet from the nest. So here I am, in dim (at best) light, spraying nests. Imagine my horror when I suddenly hear loud angry buzzing coming right toward me. Ack! I sat very, very still on my board-across-joist perch, and hoped they would in fact go toward the light (pun intended). No luck. Some did, but a few landed ON ME. And they were not happy, not happy at all. It totally freaked me out. I wiggled back through our cubbyhole and down into the bathroom and proceeded to have a major case of the willies.

The worst part about all of this is that I have to go back up in two days to scrape down and dispose of the nests so they don't come back and set up housekeeping again. I'm sure that'll be great. Just great.

The attic is going to be a project in itself. We need to get up there with a whisk broom and dustpan and clear out all the dust, spiderwebs, old nests--bird, bug, and otherwise, nut hulls left by trespassing squirrels, and all that other stuff. Then we need to insulate it; only problem is we don't know how we'll get insulation into the attic. The cubbyhole is 22 inches wide and about 16 inches deep. Just enough for a human . . . probably not enough for a human and/or a large roll or pack of insulation. Looks like putting in attic stairs might jump over some things on the priority list.

If you don't hear from me soon, it's because I lost my mind upon trip #2 into the attic to vanquish all things stingy and mean. I may be in a corner somewhere, curled into the fetal position and weeping ever so quietly.

Wish me luck.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Now for your viewing pleasure--pictures of the $200 temporary kitchen makeover!


After (more like during--but it's after we managed to hang all the shelves...). Note all the glorious counter space we now have! And look at how much space we still have on those shelves!! Not for long, I'm sure, so I'm basking in that extra space now.

Also note the very full glass of wine sitting on said counter. That was a very welcome addition to dinner last night.

I also promised comedy in my last post, regarding leveling the main hang track. You may not be able to see it in the pictures, but our kitchen really, truly, seriously slopes to the west/northwest. When we were leveling our hang track it became scarily apparent. I view this as semi comical, just because we knew it sloped but had NO idea how much until we put up something that is actually level according to "the bubble." Wow.

Our $200 temporary kitchen makeover

Success! After searching fruitlessly at IKEA and a few other places for something--anything--that we could use in our kitchen, we finally found something in Lowe's. You know those ClosetMaid shelving systems? Well, we are the proud new owners of a ClosetMaid kitchen! It actually turned out very well. We're happy with the way it looks, you can't beat the price, and our storage space quintupled (maybe more) in the space of an afternoon. Yeah, us!!

Kitchen makeover day wasn't without its problems, however. The first was finding a stud. It's true that studfinders sometimes have trouble with plaster walls...so we began at a corner and figured on measuring out from there. Logical, right? Sure, except that our studs were a little different. V literally drilled 2, maybe 3, dozen pilot holes before we found a single stud. Each time he drilled I'd say a little prayer to St. Anthony (patron saint of lost causes) and hope for the best. But no. Each time I'd hear this gritty little "zzzzzmnpphhh" as the drill went through the plaster and lath into the air behind. Argh! There was also the fear of nicking either A) an electrical line or B) pipes, since our plumbing wall runs behind our kitchen wall. Thankfully, neither of those scenarios played out. Eventually he hit paydirt, and we began to measure in earnest.

First, we made ourselves a level line (which had comical results later--you'll see). Then we drilled our pilots so as to hang the main track for the shelving system. So far, so good. Never mind that we wore down one entire drill battery just trying to find our first stud! Once we had the main track hanging, it was pretty much a piece of cake. We hung vertical supports, then put brackets up, and popped our shelves into place.

It might not get us onto any big-time restoration/renovation shows, but again--this is a HUGE improvement for us. Where once we were like lost lambs, searching for a dinner plate or perhaps (dare I ask it?) a coffee cup, now we are confident kitchen-goers with homes for those things! Huge, I tell you!

I'm having a little technical difficulty posting the pictures at the moment, but I promise to put some up soon. It's so exciting!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Monsoon season brings with it the discovery of a leak!

We have been having some serious rain lately. By serious, I mean that it has rained basically nonstop for the past 4 days. Bleah.

One thing that all this rain has allowed us to discover is that we have a small flashing problem with our vent stack. Late the other night, when it was raining really hard, we heard this slight "thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk" sound. A little investigation led us to the stairway, where the sound was louder, particularly in an area where the ceiling appears to be a bit stained. Sure enough, it was damp! Off I went into the attic for a closer looky-loo. It was raining the last time I went up, but apparently not hard enough for the leak to manifest itself. This time was a different story.

Way back when, I posted that we'd discovered a small leak in the roof. Now I know exactly where it's from and what's necessary to fix it. Yay!

Closets at last!

Well, our trip to IKEA was only partially fruitful. We did come home with two small armoires that will become our instant closets. We had, as I think I mentioned, been using those rolling clothes racks--until they became health and safety liabilities. One decided to end its sad, overloaded life in the middle of the night one night. Talk about waking up to some freakiness!

At least I can say that we have successfully eliminated the rolling racks from our bedroom. Hip hip hooray!

The kitchen was another story. IKEA just didn't have anything that fit into our plan, which was to have A) flexibility, B) strength, C) minimal damage to walls, and D) functionality. Were we silly to think we could find all four? Apparently so. The wall storage we liked best did not allow for the possibilities that our studs wouldn't be exactly 16 inches on center. The wall storage that was the most flexible was nowhere near strong enough, plus it wasn't functional. The wall storage that was the strongest had no flexibility at all, and truth be told, it wasn't very functional for what we needed. Back to the drawing board.

But YIPPEE we have closets! Sort of.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to IKEA we go!

V and I are making a trip to IKEA tomorrow to pick up some house stuff, mainly for the kitchen and bedrooms. I know what you're thinking: "GASP.....why on earth are they putting IKEA anything in that house?"

What it boils down to is that IKEA will allow us to do a temporary kitchen makeover with very little money. That's important! And a few shelves, hooks, and/or racks can make a big difference. A hanging spice rack, for instance. Frees up almost a square foot of counter space (of which we have a total of approximately 6 square feet, if that). A dish rack where we can put some of our everyday dishes and glasses. That'll free up space in our hutch so we can put our good china together. Convenience itself!!

Plus, we're going to pick up a couple of inexpensive armoires. Our closet situation is dire...until last night we were using those rolling metal racks from Target. But that is apparently not going to be a workable long-term solution because they're breaking right and left on us. One wobbles scarily whenever you move it or put something on it or take something off. Since those are the three things one is most likely to do with a rolling wardrobe rack, you might be able to see how it's not ideal for us. :) So, we figure we'll get a couple largish armoires and put them in the bedroom (thank goodness for nice LARGE bedrooms) to use as temporary closets. If they work out, they might just become permanent closets. Who knows? Maybe I'll end up doing some sort of decorative treatment on them so they look less IKEA and more, I don't know, country chic.

I'm really looking forward to the trip, and I'm especially looking forward to helping ourselves out a little with some storage solutions! We sure need it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Must've been something it ate? :)

Our septic system seems to be all better, all on its own. All of a sudden, the toilet started throwing down the water like she used to, and the tub started draining nice and quickly again.

We'd rather not go through this again, so we're calling out the septic guy who takes care of our neighbor's property. They say he does a great job. With any luck, he'll be able to tell us a little bit about our system. Like its capacity, how old it is, what condition its in. You know, the little stuff.

I can't believe it--two posts in one day! Wowsa!


Guess what a certain someone is getting for her birthday? HENS! And a henhouse!! Yes, you read that correctly. I'm getting some much-longed-for hens, along with a little coop and yard. Here's how the conversation went:

V: So, when you talked about having some chickens, were you really, truly serious about that? Or was that kind of a joke? You were kidding, right?

Me: Uhhhh, no. I'm totally serious. I'd hop off the grid right now if I thought we could do it. Why?

V: Well, you know your birthday's coming up . . . I thought maybe (taking extremely slow, deep breath) I could get a coop set up for you, and you could get some chickens. (Expels deep breath in a long sigh. Sadness? Resignation? Who knows? All I heard was "get some chickens"!!!!!)

Me (literally clapping hands and jumping up and down): Wheeeeeeee! Let's look on the Murray McMurray hatchery website right this very minute to see what varieties we want!!

V: (another heavy sigh) OK.

So, once we have the coop set up, we're going to have a couple of each of these: Buff Orpingtons, Silver-laced Wyandottes, Ameracaunas, Light Brahmas, and Crested Polish. I'm practically giddy. No, I'm absolutely giddy. Chickens! One step close to self-sufficiency, baby!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bring on the power outage!

OK, not really, honest. But our generator is here. We ordered it through the same electrician who rewired the house, and again they gave us very good (if a little slow this time 'round) service. Not only did they deliver it, they tested it, showed us a few tricks of the trade to keep it running and well maintained, and didn't charge us a dime for the human aspect of the whole deal. Granted, we paid them quite a little bit of cashola to rewire the house, so maybe throwing in a little free labor isn't so hard for them to swallow. Still, it's a nice show of good will.

The generator's great, if a little LOUD. It sounds like a small tractor. But it's got enough juice to power up almost half of our house, including our well pump, fridge, furnace/AC, several ceiling lights on each level, and a few outlets on each level.

Hopefully we'll never have to use it, but if the time comes for a nice long power outage, we'll be ready! And--bonus--it's got outlets on it, so even though we don't have electricity in our garage, we can run power tools to our little hearts' content and not have to do it close to the house. Joy!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Spring is in the air!

Can it seriously be February 20 since I last posted. Uh oh, I'd better get back into the swing of things. Not a whole lot new on the house front. Our generator is supposed to be in soon, so we'll be prepared in case of a lengthy power outage. Other than that it's been a little quiet.

Our spring project list just keeps on a growing....
  • rebuild chimney from attic up
  • replace a few slates here and there in the roof
  • scrape, prime, and paint the gutters and downspouts
  • scrape, prime, and paint window/door sills and frames
  • install new, true divided light 6-over-6 wooden windows (what we have now are baaaaad aluminum replacements from the '60s) and storms...this is likely to be a multiyear project as we won't be able to afford them all at once...maybe one or two at a time if we're lucky and win the lottery
  • pull off the steel siding, one wall at a time, and scrape, prime, and paint the clapboard underneath
  • start patching plaster
  • fix the questionable joist under the kitchen
  • repoint the foundation in spots
  • pull up carpet
  • pull down wallpaper
  • gather items that will be going to auction
  • add on a bathroom/laundry room combination

I'm a little freaked out just looking at the list, but if we do it bit by bit we'll be OK. I hope.