A Bird in the Basement is Worth a Turtle

Who knows what the little bird who flew into an open basement window wanted to tell us. He was panicked by the experience and kept flying toward the light fixture thinking it was the daylight and his path to freedom. Meanwhile, Katie was demonstrating her remarkable high jump skills, leaping at least six feet into the air in her attempt to catch him, while humpty-dumpty Loki’s attempt at the same feat landed him back onto the floor with a thud after attaining a record-breaking height of precisely three inches.

The cats were peremptorily banned from the basement for the night, and the next morning the little bird had flown.

Other animals in the neighborhood have come to pay us a visit. My children’s father had a grandmother named Myrtle (“Mamaw” to the family) who was quite elderly when I knew her. She walked very slowly, bent over with osteoporosis, but never appeared anywhere without bringing a sweet potato pie, complete with two or three marshmallows atop, the whole effect of which was as if the Sta-Puft marshmallow man had drowned in orange quicksand with only the tips of his slightly melted fingers showing as he struggled to free himself.

So when Beowulf and Brian reported that a turtle had arrived in front of the house, given my memory of Mamaw and my irresistible urge to name everything, she was promptly christened Myrtle, the Turtle. I saw no evidence of sweet potato pie, however.

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Myrtle was inordinately sociable for a turtle, so Brian did not get a photo of her totally inside her shell. If he had, I imagine it would have looked very much as if a helmeted WWII Marine had, like the Sta-Puft man, been sunk into the ground with only the top of his head showing. (I’m assuming there were Marines in WWII. I did not really pay attention to the drone who taught my college history class).  Eventually she had completed her inspection and headed back from whence she had come.

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Work on the house progresses quite slowly and in a fashion not visible unless one were to notice the new wires that are creeping in to form outlets and light switches, and copper pipes slithering like rigid snakes to their new endpoints for the dishwasher, refrigerator and sink.

We did manage to put our former dining room rug down in front of the fireplace and to situate real furniture around it, if only for the weekend, and pretend that the house was not in chaos.  Spencer, our giant huggable young cat, who is inexplicably afraid of everything, deigned then to grace us with his presence, stretching out on the hearth after having toppled Beowulf’s fierce and furry teddy bear.  I suppose he was hoping that he was the tawny color of  a lion in the wild and would blend in with the stones.

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Our drywall contractor, Keith is a consummate artist in his craft. He loves his work, and our walls reflect it. He had been working very carefully and conscientiously on the walls just outside the fireplace stones. He feathered many layers out, precisely outlining each stone like a sculptor. The work was so intense that the effort caused his dormant psoriatic arthritis to flare up, and he was unable to work for the next three days. This happens, he says, about twice a year and he is forced to take pills that finally give him relief after about 5 days. He was fearful that we would fire him because of this. Do people really fire excellent workers because they are temporarily disabled? We are jealously guarding our super wall guy; we’d never fire him for that. But this is the sword of Damocles hovering over every aging tradesman– the body begins to fail and the source of income is endangered.

Meanwhile we anticipate the arrival of George the piano tomorrow, the arrival of our final POD Friday, and the arrival of the kitchen tile within the next three days. Also, the structural engineer will be here on Monday to inspect and advise what repairs need to be made so that we do not have to worry about total collapse of the house once we put  the final Jenga block in place.

Until then we are enjoying glorious sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s with an occasional thunderstorm to alleviate boredom. No regrets here!

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n Steps Forward, n++ Steps Back

This bird was outside behind the car yesterday. It is a white broadbreasted turkey hen. They are supposed to be very good to eat, but I had to wonder if she was a little lost, there being no turkey support group in sight. Maybe she was sent to scope things out.

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It is a universally acknowledged truth that a renovation project, like a software project, will take much longer to complete than anyone estimates. Imagine me explaining Agile methodologies to our two contractors, one of which was happy to get a schedule, and the other who was not.

But before I explain what has impacted our work, let me give you some good news. First, here are more photos of the office, trying to capture the color. It is a robin’s egg blue, called Watery by our hyphenated pal, Sherwin-Williams.

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It’s apparently a very relaxing color.

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The great room has been primed and is wearing its first coat of paint (SW Colonnade Gray). I love the way it looks with the stone fireplace. We are holding off on painting the rest of the trim so that we can decide exactly what we want to do– replace all the windows? paint the trim? Replace the trim?
The second coat is being applied today.

firstCoatGreatRoom

We drove over to Brevard on Monday to select kitchen tile. There is a wonderful builder’s supply place there called Jennings. After looking through every last type of tile and stone they had, we selected this one, shown here with a piece of wood having the same general coloring as our cabinets.

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We think it will go well also with our countertops, which are Caesarstone in the color Himalayan Moon:

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We were pleased that the tile is ceramic (easy to clean) and not too expensive, since we needed 500 square feet of it for the kitchen, dining, laundry and hall areas.

Meanwhile, John has been continuing the electrical work on the kitchen and there came a point in time at which he had to cut into the ceiling in the basement to find wires and plumbing and route them to their new positions. Unfortunately, when he opened a hole he was showered with what appears to be the worldly possessions and apocolyptic-anticipatory larder of a very wealthy squirrel, not to mention the liberal sprinkling of that which emits from the body of squirrels on a regular basis.

John was not wearing a mask.

John went home for the day to recover.

Brian went to the basement and pulled out a huge box full of all kinds of delightful squirrel treasures– “200 pounds” of acorns, a part of a dog leash, many granola bar wrappers, large pieces of wood and bark, pieces of insulation cleverly used to keep squirrels warm, and so forth.

(updated 6/14 to add photo– it is right and just that all except the insulation went into a box that once contained a toilet.)

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Since we had patched all rodent entrances to the house last summer, we don’t think this squirrel has been here in a while, but he and his ancestors may have inhabited the palace for many many years. It brings to mind Grey Gardens and the raccoons that lived in the upstairs. For those not familiar with Grey Gardens, here is an excerpt about it from Wikipedia:

Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (1895–1977), known as “Big Edie”, and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale (1917–2002), known as “Little Edie”, were the aunt and the first cousin, respectively, of former US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The two women lived together at the Grey Gardens estate for decades with limited funds in increasing squalor and isolation.

The house was designed in 1897 by Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe and purchased in 1923 by “Big Edie” and her husband Phelan Beale. After Phelan left his wife, “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” lived there for more than 50 years. The house was called Grey Gardens because of the color of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist.[6]

Throughout the fall of 1971 and into 1972, their living conditions—their house was infested by fleas, inhabited by numerous cats and raccoons, deprived of running water, and filled with garbage and decay—were exposed as the result of an article in the National Enquirer and a cover story in New York Magazine[7] after a series of inspections (which the Beales called “raids”) by the Suffolk County Health Department. With the Beale women facing eviction and the razing of their house, in the summer of 1972 Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill provided the necessary funds to stabilize and repair the dilapidated house so that it would meet village codes.

Albert and David Maysles became interested in their story and received permission to film a documentary about the women, which was released in 1976 to wide critical acclaim. Their direct cinema technique left the women to tell their own stories.

I think we are far from the plight of Little Edie and Big Edie, but they are a sobering lesson in what can happen.

We are considering that we may have to remove the ceiling from every single room in the basement and clean out everything so as not to have a biohazard on our hands. Since we recently paid good money to have the ceilings relieved of their popcorn and nicely textured, this is hard to bear. Not to mention that a certain weaver would really like to set up a loom or ten and this will be prevented for a while.

Also, my PC is very ill and decided it must rebuild all of its RAID partitions, which takes approximately 14 hours and still counting.

But the view is wonderful.

The Bugs of Bebbanburg

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Mountain Laurel blooming all over the Bebbanburg property in May

It has been proven that even though I quit my job, I can’t get away from two things: bugs and mice. Now, would I rather be assigned a software bug and spend days trying to find root cause so that I can fix it (often with one line of code) or would I prefer that, like now, my cat scratches had been mostly replaced with bug bites– mosquitoes and gnats and chiggers and the like? It’s hard to say.

But the question of whether I would prefer pushing a wireless mouse all day or cleaning up the gift that the cats left me– which was subsequently stepped on by the drywall finisher and whose internal organs were not living up to the first part of their name (To quote a line that someone else quoted to me from some book I’ve never read and thus cannot make attribution)– is more easily answered. Give me a healthy live computer mouse any day.

mousemouse

Whenever I go outside, mostly for Beowulf’s benefit, I find more things to admire. Yesterday I found a daylily blooming beside the driveway, with many more to follow. In turn, I myself am admired– by all the bugs from the next county over.

It is a fact that Henderson County, in which we live, is situated adjoining Transylvania County. The vampire mosquitoes who come from there are leg and arm men, fastidiously avoiding the neck and attacking exposed parts of legs, arms, hands and ankles instead. Supposing they even have a heart, it would be rather difficult to reliably drive a toothpick through it, so perhaps I will have to radically increase the amount of garlic in my granola and see if that works.

Speaking of granola, we have a kitchen!

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Ok then, we have the makings of a kitchen. The delivery guys made it to the right place with the right boxes this time, and had no problems getting up the hill. The appliances were put in a different room; these are all the boxes with little pieces that we get to put together and see if they fit!

In contrast, the PODS guy who delivered our fourth pod this morning was cursed once again by his truck which, even though it was not accosted by a downward traveling vehicle, would not make it past the point it was stopped the last time. It was the same driver, and he was made to hike up the drive and knock on the door so that we could extricate him once again. He said “This company is headquartered in Florida. They don’t even know what a hill is!”

I had intended to show you our office in this post, but there was a slight problem. My desk, which Brian took completely apart back in the rainy city, is missing its hardware. It is surely in one of the boxes scattered throughout the house and the garage, but which one? I’m thinking of posting a reward for its capture, alive or dead.

officeDeskSheila

And good news for future guests! John has just finished replacing the upstairs toilet, since the old one wasn’t quite working as expected.

guestToilet

Meanwhile, Keith is sanding the walls he has fixed in the great room, and they will be ready to prime and then paint on Monday.
sandingGreatRoom

And here is the kitchen door, all re-framed and installed, complete with deadbolt and lever knob.

kitchenDoor

Renovation Plans and Progress

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Beowulf, now 13 months old, at his new home

Until the day we closed on the sale, I had never actually seen Bebbanburg in person. For two months after we made our offer, I viewed it in my mind through the photos and descriptions provided by Brian and the various inspectors.

I have an iPad surgically attached to my right arm, and I found an app for it called Quick Plan 3D, for about $10, which is amazing for what it can do. I’ll be the first to admit it is not state of the art and could use some upgrading, but it gave me the ability to create a floor plan and rough measurements for the house, which I continually refined as I got more information.

On the day of closing, I entered Bebbanburg and was accosted at once by a smell vaguely reminiscent of the bottom of a dead pig’s foot. Musty, mildewy; decayed, abandoned. It was especially awful in the garage and basement, so bad I was sure it was the Black Death.  We knew then we were going to go through a whole lot of Kilz!

We spent time on the deck enjoying the view and getting acquainted with the surroundings. And we took better measurements, which I transferred to my Quick Plan drawing.  Here is the house plan for the main floor, generated from that app, followed by the 3D rendering:

MainFloorPlanOriginal

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What I kindly refer to as the Office/Workplace in the plan is that which we normally refer to as the Control Room.  In the 3D rendering you can see it plainly, and you can see that it eats up a lot of space that should belong to the great room.

Also, you can see there is no real dining space.  There’s the islandy sort of thing with a sink placed at an odd location, and there is a little bit of space in/around the kitchen, but no place to put a dining table and chairs and china hutch and sideboard so that you can invite the entire village over for Thanksgiving.

Let’s refresh our memory on what the kitchen and control room looked like in real life:

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Now let’s see what it looked like when I arrived earlier this month:

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A bit different, you might say.  This of course means I have no kitchen, so here is my solution.  (Note that this coffee maker, at the tender age of 15, has since given up the ghost.  RIP).

tempKitchen copy

I was hoping that the renovations to these two areas would be further along, but the original builders seemed to make a lot of stuff up as they went along, including using less than adequate support “beams” in a couple of key areas, which meant that John the contractor had to deal with that first.

Here’s the plan for the renovation that I came up with, incorporating Brian’s input, on Quick Plan– note that I harbor deep loathing for posts, but in order to provide the structural support necessary to keep the house from falling down (always a good thing) I had to accept the fact that there will be two posts in the great room.

mainFloorRenoPlanreno3DEastreno3dNorth

After a couple of weeks of work, the kitchen lighting cans have been installed and the electrical circuits are being wired or rewired.

kitchenCans

We removed the sliding door in the former kitchen to replace it with a single door with a full glass pane.  Despite the fact that we carefully specified that it was to open out (onto the screened porch) and to the left, they sent us one that opens in and to the right.  Rather than enjoy the hassle of returning it and finding the correct model, we are going to build a new frame for this one.

badDoor

We ordered our kitchen cabinets and appliances from IKEA when they had their 20% off kitchen sale earlier this year.  The order consists of 93 boxes!  They were scheduled to deliver these on Wednesday, two days ago.  The driver (not an IKEA employee, but with a delivery company they contract out to), drove right past Hendersonville and nearly to South Carolina before calling.  Then he and his company said they couldn’t deliver because his time had been used up, so they would have to try again in 2 weeks.  He also said he only had 3 boxes.

Well, this was unacceptable.  First of all, it was supposed to be 93 boxes, and secondly, it was poor customer service.  Brian called his secret contact at the Charlotte IKEA and she resolved the matter by requesting that the company deliver next Wednesday, not 2 weeks later, and reminded them that there were 2 orders– 3 of the boxes were on one and 90 on the other.  (Don’t ask me why).

It’s a good thing we found this in the pod that day!

coffeeBoxInPod

Next time I’ll show you the nearly complete office.

Remember that I was pulling staples in the boys’ room last post?  I returned to that and happened to glance out the window, to find that the magnolia tree (which we learned marks the location of the septic tank!) was beginning to bloom.

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Rescues of all kinds

As you may recall, my worst fear when it comes to Bebbanburg is that one vehicle will be going down the drive while another one is driving up.  I mentioned this fear to our main contractor the other day and he said, “aw, it wouldn’t be a problem; there are two places for folks to turn out.”

Hmm, I thought to myself.  We’ll see.

And so we did see,  sooner rather than later.  Yesterday I had gone to Hendersonville to hang out at the Wool Room for an hour or so.  It was mid to late afternoon, and we were expecting another pod from the PODs system that we used to move our goods.  He was to bring us the full pod and take away the one we had just emptied.

As I was driving up the drive, I noticed a tire mark in the mud beside the drive and a downed tree branch.  Well that was odd.

As soon as I got into the house, Brian said “you just missed the drama!”
“What happened?”
“What is your worst fear?”

“Ah!  Two vehicles on the drive going in opposite directions toward each other.”  His nod confirmed this.  I turned to our main contractor, not being able to resist the “I told you so”.

As it happened, the PODs driver, whose truck is quite large, was driving up the drive at the same time that our second contractor was leaving the house.  The PODs driver stopped, and once he had stopped he could not get going again due to the slope and his heavy load. (I can sympathize; I’ve tried getting the A4 with its manual transmission up the hill and failed without Brian’s help).

At the same time,  contractor was unwilling to back up because the clutch was going out on his truck and he didn’t trust it not to fail.  He insisted that PODs driver back up, but PODs driver was unwilling, and insisted contractor back up.  This went on for a little while until PODs driver called Brian to explain the situation.

Like the valiant knight on his white stallion Dodge Ram 3500 with Cummins diesel engine, he first pulled contractor’s truck back up the hill and then returned to pull the enormous PODs truck.  It should have been a commercial for Cummins, both contractors commented independently.

The happy PODs driver!

podsRescue

(I’m still waiting for any suggestions to prevent this situation from occurring again!).


Meanwhile, I’ve spent hours up in the boys’ room pulling carpet pad staples out of the plywood subfloor and prying up tack strips.   For this I have been using a Wonder Bar, which despite what it sounds like, is not a tasty cookie.  At first I found it difficult, and I said “fudge” so many times I started craving chocolate.  But I’ve now developed a technique and somewhat of a rhythm.

When Miss Sheila was an older lady,
Sitting on her creaky knees
Well Miss Sheila was a crazy staple-pulling ma’am
Saying staples gonna be the death of me, lawd, lawd, lawd
Staples gonna be the death of me.

The tack strips were nailed down with two different kinds of nails at different points.  One kind is easy to pull, the other requires great perseverance.  But when they come out, they are indeed as dead as a floornail can be.


Okay, so you want to see what we did to the master suite?

I knew I wanted a fairly light blue, so I sampled three Sherwin-Williams colors– Tradewind, North Star and I forget (sorry).  We let them dry and chose the middle one, North Star, which has a slight perwinkle cast to it but looks different depending on the time of day.  Sometimes it shifts to a pretty aqua, and other times looks more deeply blue.

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We helped our contractor John, who you see mudding the wall down near the floor while Brian flashed us a smile from the ladder.  At this point, John had already removed the popcorn ceiling and fixed the problem areas.  From here on out, it was repairing drywall, priming, painting and replacing baseboards.

mbrNorthDuringBrianJohn

Later we had a flooring contractor lay red oak that was similar in grade and stain as the great room.

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Without further ado, let’s look at the result.

In the hallway entry, the doors are not on all the closets because they were being painted (white).

The main bedroom has gone from depressing to light and airy.  Trim and beam was painted Alabaster (SW).  We are using old kitchen cabinets as night stands until ours arrive.

We chose to paint the cabinets that held sinks rather than replace them right now, but they will eventually be replaced. We painted them “Garrett Gray” (SW).  Here is a closer view of the vanity.  The mirror needs to be moved up a bit.

And finally, the bathroom, which I’m really happy with. The color is Constant Coral (SW) and is not shown well with this lighting but is perfect. I love looking into the bathroom from the bedroom and seeing the restful coral.

So that’s it! It still needs more work– we have all the outlet and switch covers plus new plugs, but they have not been installed yet. The trim needs another coat of paint, and the other closet doors need to be installed.

We left the tiny old shower as it was, but plan to replace it after the rest of the house is finished. We also kept the same windows even though they need to be replaced, because we didn’t want to decide on windows for the whole house right now.

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After

Pre-Purchase Drama, and The Master Bedroom Suite

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Azaleas blooming in April at Bebbanburg

All of you readers, I am sure, have figured out by now that we actually did buy this place. But before we did we went through a few dramatic discoveries.  It would be overwhelming to list them all at once, so I’ll talk about one section at a time, starting with the master bedroom suite.

In North Carolina when buying real estate, there is a “due diligence” period that the potential buyer can use to discover any existing problems that might affect the price or purchase.  We used that period to have a number of inspections done.  The main inspection report was 112 pages long, a very thorough and thoughtful collection of observations and suggestions.

We also had septic inspection, water analysis tests, heat pump, roof and pest inspections. We cannot say that we did not understand what we were getting into!

About two weeks before we were to close on the house, a hose in the downstairs refrigerator sprung a leak.  It was about that time that we had the heat pumps inspected, so that inspector happened to go into the basement for some purpose.  He called Brian.

“Are you aware that there are 2 inches of water in the basement?”, he asked.

The seller’s agent was informed, and soon the professionals were there, sucking up water and placing large fans to get the moisture out.  But it was too late to stop the drywall from wicking the water up like wall-shaped sponges, so the bottom 3 or 4 feet of most of the drywall in the basement was cut out.  All the trim was ripped off, and our halfway decent looking basement was stripped of its skivvies and stood embarrassed and naked in the aftermath.

This, along with the other inspection results, did allow us to get the selling price reduced by several thousand dollars, but the work we have to do to make it right again is significant.

We closed on the house in July of 2016, and started laying our plans.

We concluded we should focus first on getting the master bedroom and bathroom into a condition we could be happy with, so that we had a place to sleep and shower when we visited.  And so in August we asked our new friend and contractor, John, to start.  We’ll see how it all turned out in the next post.  Meanwhile, here’s the background:

The Project

The former owners seem to have had a thing for desks.  Lots of desks.  Built-in desks.  Desks in the “control room”, desks in the girls’ and boys’ rooms, a desk in the kitchen.  So it should come as no surprise to hear that the master bedroom also had a desk.  No, that’s wrong.  The master bedroom had two desks.  Maybe even three.

Suppose you needed two desks in the master bedroom, where would you put them?  I’ll bet you didn’t say “in place of nightstands on either side of the bed”, did you?  Yet indeed, that is where they were.  And that bulletin board over the west desk?  It was glued to the wall.  No way was that sucker going to move, by god!

mbrNorth2DesksBefore

Now, those of you who were in diapers or unborn in the early ’80s may not know that at that time, this heavy oak furniture was all the rage.  However, the architecture of this home is considered mid-century modern, and the two do not complement each other.  Besides, it’s butt ugly.

Beyond that, I could not imagine what a couple would do in their bedroom at their desks that would require them to be right at the bedside?  Maybe I don’t want to know.

In addition to the two desks, there was a built-in vanity, which looked an awful lot like a built-in desk, but with a sink and those oh-so-glamorous dressing room lights that were also de rigueur at the time, with the heavy oak-trimmed medicine cabinets.

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Looking from the west to the east you can see that the bedroom ceiling is vaulted to a nice height.  And though you may scorn the ceiling fans, I am here to tell you they are wonderful– maybe not in looks, but in function.

Don’t miss the window box underneath the window on the north wall closest to the bathroom.  It is (you guessed it) built in.  Also, it (as were all the drawers )was full of mouse droppings and the lid literally fell apart when opened.mbrEastBefore

This photo is of the west wall and the alcove that sits between it and the walk-in closet.  It is about 8 x 8 feet and provides space for a sitting area, presumably.

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The entry to the master suite shows the two bifold-door closets on the right and the entrance to the large walk-in closet to the left.

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The Problems

So, what did we find unacceptable about this glorious master suite?

  • There was no flooring, and staples remained in the plywood from where carpet existed at one time (the same carpet was there from 1982 to 2016– 34 years. ew.)
  • The ceiling had suffered water damage and had bulged and mildewed in some places.
  • The oak desks and cabinetry  had not been maintained in any way.  The finish was dilapidated and they were filthy.
  • The mirrors were losing their silvering around the edges.
  • The plumbing simply didn’t work
  • The tub did not drain

Here are the pertinent items from the inspection report:

inspectionInteriorsinspectionMbrWindowsmbrInspectionCeiling

What did we simply not like about it?

  • The dark narrow trim was depressing
  • The dark beam across the ceiling felt oppressive
  • The oak towel bars and cabinetry were out of date and unappealing.  Besides, whose bright idea was it to make things of wood that would have wet washcloths hung on them?
  • The shower is tiny.
  • The wall colors was a yellowy white that sucked the soul right out of you.

Stay tuned for the next post to see what we have done so far…

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Dogwoods in bloom on Bebbanburg Drive

 

How I got 4 Cats to Bebbanburg

It has been a few days since my last post– a few days where suddenly our plans changed and instead of Brian and I caravaning across the country with all of our pets,  he and Beowulf stayed behind to put the final touches on our house in Seattle and I took the 4 cats and drove to Bebbanburg alone.

Loki and Katie Snuggling

Loki and Katie take a nap together.

It was quite an experience.  And by that I mean I hope never to have to repeat it.

My plan was to put a large wire dog crate in the SUV and zip-tie a smaller but still roomy plastic crate to it, end opening to end opening, to provide an annex of sorts.  I had two smaller crates located separately.  This is the plan we put into place.   The side opening of the wire crate faced the right rear passenger door, so that I could open the door and get access to the cats.  We zip-tied a plastic container of water to the edges of the crates so that they would not be knocked over.

In the large crate I placed a small litter box with a disposable litter pan inside.  It was all just about done when I realized that the door for the side opening of the crate could not be used because it is one that lifts up and back onto the crate.  No room to do that!  So I MacGyvered a cover using an over the door hook set onto which I put the unused door to the second-largest crate.  There was a 3-inch opening above the hooks that was not covered, and I decided that was ok.

I would come to regret that decision.

Off I went on Wednesday afternoon, driving to Spokane as the experimental and initial part of the trip.  I had given all the cats a dose of gabapentin that the vet had prescribed to keep them calm.  But for the first hour and a half, Stonewall wailed from one of the smallest crates.  I finally reached the rest stop at Ellensburg and put him into the large crate.  Off we go.

Next, Katie started complaining from the other small crate.  Fine.  Found another rest stop, added Katie to the large crate– now all cats are in the large crate with the annex.  Back on the road, within a few minutes Stonewall escaped from the crate, followed soon by Spencer.  As I had predicted would happen should a cat be loose in the car, they both got under my feet.  Luckily they did not interfere with my braking or accelerating.

Katie in the Sink

Katie in the sink at the Seattle house, her morning routine.

It was a while before I could stop again, so for the next several miles it was like being inside a box while giant beings poked holes in you and shifted you around from time to time.  There was not a part of my body that wasn’t pierced by claws to some degree.

I’d be driving along and suddenly my seat would go forward or lay back when one of the cats decided to play with the seat controls.  Once, one of them decided to open a window.  I was just about to give myself  a dose of gabapentin when I spotted an exit I could use.

Spencer Slouching

Spencer hanging out on the back of the chair.

This tomfoolery continued until I got to Spokane.  I cracked the windows a bit and left them in the car by themselves while I escaped to my room.

The next morning, after locating escaped cats and returning them to the crate,  I dug out the large grate that we had put in the car in case I needed it, and made it work flawlessly to keep the cats in.  Of course, the cats wouldn’t eat or drink, and even though they used the litter box very very occasionally, they also thought it was fine to use it as a bed.  Poor Katie had dipped her tail into the water, then into the litter and as a result had a sort of cast on part of her tail.

Perhaps I have conveyed a bit of the nightmare I endured?  I drove from Spokane to Rapid City, South Dakota and the next day drove to Columbia Missouri.  I smelled like cats and looked like a bag lady. I am almost sure I saw a pinched nose and slightly curled lip on the clerk as he checked me into the hotel that night.

The third day, 2700 miles from the beginning, I made it all the way to Bebbanburg.  I found my bottle of vodka, toasted the sunset with  a Poor Man’s Martini (vodka over ice), and thanked the gods this trip was over.

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Setting the Scene

Though I said I would show photos that Brian took of the main floor in May of 2016, I’m inspired instead to describe the background of Bebbanburg.

The house sits at an altitude of 2700 feet (similar to the height of Snoqualmie Pass, for those who can relate to that point of interest) but only half the altitude of Denver.  The following two views from Google maps should help you get a sense of its relationship to its surroundings.

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You may have thought to yourself, “that looks like a steep road up to the house!”, and you would be correct.  That road is our private drive.  There is a security gate at the bottom, and the drive is one lane, a third of a mile long and much of it is at a 20% grade.  That means of course that for every 100 feet you drive, you go up 20 feet.  In other words, yes — it’s steep!.  We have been trying to think of a way to be sure that folks at the top wishing to drive down and folks at the bottom wishing to drive up can be assured that there is nobody coming the opposite direction.  Because cell phone reception at the bottom is flaky, we haven’t come up with a good way.  Suggestions welcome!

To contrast the current day with 1983, here is an aerial photo taken right after the home was built.

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We’ve already mentioned that the original composition roof had been replaced with metal, but the astute among you will have noticed that the front half of the roof is blue, and the back half is green!  Only the avian, the aviators and any guests in the girl’s room would notice, however, because it is impossible to see the green half from the ground.

Speaking of avian, the whole area has been posted as a wildlife sanctuary.  Our friend and contractor, John, verified its qualification for this status by mounting a game camera.  He captured a large black bear, a wild turkey and some coyotes (and advised me that having sheep or goats would be a great idea– for about one day!). Hover over each photo for the caption.

Though I am getting ahead of myself,  I will tell you another wildlife story. One day one of the sons was visiting his elderly mother and found her on the deck with several raccoons she had live-trapped.  She was painting them blue.

“What are you doing?!”, he asked.  She replied, “I’m going to take them over to Pinnacle Peak and let them out.  I’m painting them so I’ll recognize them if they return.”

We’ll be on the lookout for blue raccoons!

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Will there be Blues in the Night?

The original upper floor…

In the last post I promised to show you the photos Brian took when he first went to see the house. They describe the condition and rooms of the house much more accurately than the listing did.

The family that built and lived in this house from 1983 had four children living with them at the time– two girls and two boys. So we refer to the two bedrooms upstairs as the “girl’s room” and the “boy’s room” (forgive the grammatical error). The idea of having sinks in the bedrooms was a good one, I think– imagine four children vying over one bathroom! (It’s easy for me to imagine, actually, because I grew up in a house with four children and only one bathroom for the entire family).

Notice the ubiquitous popcorn ceilings throughout the house, a common practice in the ’80s. The problem is, you sweep the ceiling to get a cobweb off and half the popcorn comes with it.

So here are the photos of the upper floor. Remember that, should you be a guest in our home in the future, these will be the guest rooms. I’ll bet you’d like for us to make them a bit more habitable!

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Garage Attic

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More Garage Attic

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West side of Garage Attic, showing part of the storage space that does not have braces.

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Insulation.

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Storage part of attic over garage

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Clerestory windows above the balcony

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Truly hideous balcony light

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Balcony looking to north

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Balcony looking to south

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Girl’s room window to west

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Girl’s room window to north

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Girl’s room walk-in closet

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Girl’s room vanity

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Girl’s room desk

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Girl’s room

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Girl’s room ceiling

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Balcony built-in shelves and bathroom entrance

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upper bathroom

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Upper bathroom missing drawer

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Upper bathroom

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The Tiger Room! storage closet

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Boy’s room walk-in closet

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Boy’s room

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Boy’s room window to south

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Yuck

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Boy’s room window to east

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attic access in boy’s room

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Boy’s room vanity/desk area

Next time I’ll post photos of the main floor.

The Listing: Smoke and Mirrors

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Let’s back up and take a look at some of the photos that were with the Zillow listing of Bebbanburg back in May of last year.  In retrospect, I am amazed that such good photos could have been taken at all!

First, we have the photo that stole my heart (after the view)– the great room.  Just look at all the light pouring in from windows, higher windows and skylights.  The field stone fireplace is 10 feet wide and makes a dramatic statement.  The ceilings on the west wall are 12 feet, and the vault goes up to about 22 feet.

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Looking east from the great room, there is a kitchen tucked back into the corner of the house.  You can see the second floor balcony jutting out over a … uh… wait a minute– what in the world is that room supposed to be?  It looks like a nurses station or the window you check in at your doctor’s office.  Or that place in lunatic asylums where they hand out the drugs.  Brian has always referred to it as the “control room”.  He hated it from the start and immediately laid his plans to eliminate it.  More on that in a future post.

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Another thing that charmed me is the sizeable screened-in porch off the kitchen area. I could picture spinning on my walking wheel there, or knitting on a summer’s night away from mosquitoes and flies.

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The room below was the only other one pictured with hardwood flooring. We couldn’t figure out what it was for, and we certainly could not figure out why that weird bench thing was there. We were very surprised when we eventually discovered the reason.

 

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But when we started to see the photos of the master bedroom I wasn’t so sure. The carpet had been removed and the floors had not been replaced. There were two built-in desks that seemed to be placed as nightstands. Also, the old narrow dark trim was not especially pleasing. Still, it looked as if it had potential. The master bedroom, like the great room, has vaulted ceilings with a skylight and a view to the north.

 

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The master bath didn’t look too bad, though the vintage ’80s wooden towel bars screamed “burn me”!  (who ever thought that putting wet towels on wood was a good idea?). And who wouldn’t want a giant jetted tub made of fake marble?

 

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At the basement level, we were intrigued to find another full kitchen with a huge island. Here there was still carpeting. We’ll find out what happened to that later.

 

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There was a dearth of photos of the rest of the basement, and we were left to wonder what was in it. One photo was of the upstairs level. This shows the balcony overlooking the great room. Not very informative, I would say.

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The photo of the outside rear struck me as not conveying a sense of the “modern” structure of the home, but definitely indicated the size.

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And finally, they included a photo of the home when it was first built. We were told that it was “featured” in a magazine. I had visions of a glossy “Homes of North Carolina” magazine with a headline article highlighting the architect and showing the home throughout. When we eventually saw the “feature” it was an advertisement for the builder and said nothing about the home. Still, it is interesting to see the changes from composite to metal roof, and the growth of the forest around it.

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The real estate posting photos tell a story of a home with a view that needs some floors, much like a photo of a glamorous actress in a gorgeous gown but missing her shoes. The photos that Brian took when he went to see the house in person show the same actress with no makeup wearing a 30 year old t-shirt full of holes looking desperately into the camera asking for help. We’ll see those in the next post.

Meanwhile, another view:

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