Monday, February 24, 2014

Beetlejuice, Chickens, and Mud

Following staycation, we haven't had a ton of time to do any work until this weekend.  Another huge snowstorm came through, and Ghon had to work 9 days straight.

The number of mice and voles we've caught have gone down. We've only had one catch in the last week. Woo-hoo!

The garden has been started. Rather than purchase a gazillion plants, or try planting the seeds directly into the ground, Ghon's trying the peat pot method. The first two trays planted were cauliflower and broccoli, 72 of each.  He's also using the Virginia Cooperative Extension planting guide. The guide helps farmers identify the time frame for starting plants and planting them, to improve plant survival and optimal harvest.

This past Friday, Ghon started some work at the farmhouse while I finished a half day of work. Once I hit my forty hours, I headed to the farm. The plan had been to grab lunch then head to storage to start cleaning it out.

But that wasn't quite what happened.

First stop, Five Guys for burgers. It has probaby been over a year since I'd had a burger there. While we had lunch, I used the back of one of their take-out flyers to create our shopping list. Once we were done, we headed over to Home Depot to get a battery for the screw gun.

Not only did we hit Home Depot, we had to go to Lowes too. Hard to believe that stores do not sell exactly the same things.

Something happened in Lowes that I never expected.

I did geometry in real life.  Seriously.

We needed to buy the lumber that becomes the stringer for the staircase. We weren't sure what length we needed, so I started to consult a few websites on building staircases, when I remembered how to find the hypotenuse of a triangle.

a2+b2=c2 (yes, those twos mean squared)

I flipped over our shopping list and sketched the triangle, formula, then asked Ghon for the numbers.

I did whip out the phone calculator and figured out that I did have a scientific calculator, needed to find the square root of 23,616, which would define the length of our stringer.

I felt smart, but mostly amazed. I found a use for upper level math.

We made the rounds in the store to gather what we needed. There has been a time when I really hated walking around any home improvement store, unless it was the paint counter. That's the only section I cared about. But now, I'm am looking at everything. Tools amaze me. I am still a little timid about using them, but I like looking at them. I love my new tool bag and am always looking for something new to toss in it.

We found a small clearance section in Tool World, and Ghon grabbed a heavy duty utility knife, that folds, has a case and extra blades for $4. I found an screwdriver that has four different tips and has a tiny flashlight at the end. It came home with me for the cool price of $2.

After gathering everything we needed, and only 1-2 things we didn't, we headed out to load up the truck.

Fourteen foot boards in a six foot truck bed. That's how we roll!

On the way back, we made a quick stop at St. John's Lutheran Church, which is about, oh, a minute or less from the house and where the kids and I have been going. There is a small cemetery there, and we knew that the Confederate soldier that lived in the farmhouse, George Crabill, was buried there. We found the tombstone, as I'd long promised Jonathan I'd show him, took a quick walk around then left.

Finally, we headed back to the house to unload. We only had about 30 minutes to do any work before pick-up time for the kids.  After dinner, Ghon headed back to the house. Mission: Stairwell. He was going to work late into the night in attempt to get it done.

Round 'bout midnight, after the kids were sleeping, I took Ghon a big mug of coffee. I intended to stay about an hour. I'd printed some basic plans on how to build the stringer for the staircase so I could get the appropriate measurements and gasp, do more math to determine how many stairs we would need, and the appropriate tread and rise for each stair.

Just in case you want to build a staircase, here's the diagram.

When I arrived, Ghon had cut out the foundation for the stairwell and took the first pass at insulating and critter proofing the room.

The black paper on the wall is roofing paper. Hardware cloth lines the bottom and creates a lip on the floor. There is a gap between the wall and floor that exposes the root cellar below and allows potential critters access in. Not anymore!

Look - our garden is already sprouting!

After a quick show and tell of what was done, I got roped into some work. Here, hold this, find this, do this. Honestly, I was tired and wanted him to come home as well, so I figured if I helped, things might go a little faster. Especially after we both got hurt, him worse than me.

After inserting the header for the staircase, it held it's place by a snug fit, no nails. Snug fit wiggled lose, and nailed Ghon right in the thigh.

Look at those muscles! Oh, and the large 6x6 that came crashing down and hit Ghon on the thigh.
Ghon's leg immediately swelled and turned shades of red and purple. Fortunately, we had some ice and a few grocery bags at the house, so I fashioned an ice pack for him and used duct tape to secure it to his leg.

No, not a squid attacking his leg, but a Home Depot bag.

To put the two posts in for the stairwell and reintroduce center load bearing support for the room, we had to jack the center of the room up again. During the first attempt, the post slipped of the jack and popped me in the knee. Now, my left knee has two purple spots, one from a fall on the ice, and now this.

If this wasn't enough, stuff started getting weird.

Ghon was hammering away, music blaring when he stopped, looked at me and said, "Did you hear that?"

I didn't hear a thing.

Ghon swears he heard, clear as can be (and he's hard of hearing!) "Hey, What are you doing?" in a male voice with a southern accent.  As he told me what he heard, his arms shot up in goosebumps. Twice. I told Ghon he better answer, and he called out "fixing your house!" I followed with "our house!"

Those of you that have been following our story for a while will recall, we have suspected some paranormal activity in the house. No concrete evidence of, but just figured since so many people died in the house and due to it's age, if there is such a thing as a ghost/spirit - good chance we could have one. A few people have suspected activity as well.

Shortly after, I mentioned that I was getting hungry. We ate dinner at 630, and here it was about 1:30 in the morning. It was time for a snack - or breakfast! I went to the kitchen to grab a string cheese stick. On the way out of the kitchen, I swore I heard something, turned to look, but nothing seemed out of place. I shrugged it off to a potential mouse, and headed back to the living room.

Ghon and I started talking about fried chicken. I can't remember why, but I think it started as we talked about his schedule for later in the week and making dinner. I only recall that I said something about chicken, complaining that I was still hungry, and when I asked how Ghon planned to make chicken, he answered "Fried of course, is there any other way?"

Within ten minutes, I started smelling something. Not quite a burning smell, but cooking - kinda like grease. It hit Ghon a minute later. I start freaking out, wondering what could be on fire. There shouldn't be anything in the root cellar. I ran to the kitchen, despite already having the propane off so the stove doesn't work - and there's nothing, including no smell. Back to the living room, and the smell is still there. Ghon suggested dust on the work lights, but the smell wasn't right. We both thought it smelled like...well, fried chicken.

Seriously. Seriously? First Ghon has someone talking to him, then we both smell food cooking? This is why I've never been in the house past 10pm. I'm freaked out. I don't like to go in by myself in the dark. There, I said it, I am thirty something years old and won't go in the house in the dark alone. I've been told about the witching hour, and I haven't been in the house during that time until Friday night.

We smell the grease/cooking smell for maybe 5-10 minutes, then it's suddenly gone. Not a trace of it. It's closer to 2:30 now, we are still working away, and there's a knock at the door. I stop, look at Ghon and asked if he heard it - when it happens again, this time with a voice, asking if we were home.

It was Tim. He works a mid/late shift and was on his way home from work. When he saw the lights on, he stopped by. I almost lost it. Almost.

By 3am, I was toast. I knew Ghon was tired. I knew by the time we finished chatting, got home, changed and in bed, it would be 4am. The kids would be up anytime between 6-8am, and I knew that 2-4 hours of sleep would not be enough for the next day's work.  Finally, we headed home.

I don't think it helped that Ghon said "Beetlejuice" three times while creating the base and supports.

According to Ghon, our friend Clint was a little amazed at Ghon's hammering skills. We had established during the staycation that I was far from talented in this department. If you combine genetics (Ghon's grandfather was a skilled carpenter - and home builder) as well as 20 years as a mechanic working his upper body, and OK, a bit of high school woodshop/cabinet making, it's no wonder Ghon can drive a nail like he can. Both Ghon and Cindy remind me of something their Grandpa Vikingstad used to say: Any carpenter can drive a straight nail. A good carpenter can drive a crooked nail.  Grandpa would be proud, Ghon can drive a crooked nail.

I had high hopes of getting up early despite three hours of sleep, to take Jonathan to his Taekwondo class. Ghon had high hopes of starting some work at the house while we were at TKD. The kids slept until 8:30, so we slept until 8:30. No class, no work at the house.

We drug ourselves out of bed, grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out. We made a brief stop at the house to fuel the fireplace, then headed to our storage unit. We've had our unit for almost three years, and it's past time to review and purge. We spent close to five hours condensing down between two units. We were able to throw away a good bit of stuff, bring some back to the farmhouse, reorganize and pack some items into plastic bins for transfer later to the attic.

Fortunately, after all off the cold weather we've had, it was a beautiful day in the upper 50s. The kids were able to run in the unit, and we had three cars blocking off space so they could run around outside. Once we finished, it was off to the farm to work. Jonathan was a bit disappointed, he thought it was home time. The Beetlejuice staircase needed some tweaking, so we sent the kids upstairs out of harms way, and re-squared the base and pillars. Once that was set, we headed back outside for some work. I resecured the fencing on the chicken run while Ghon started to clean out the coop.

The other big objective for the weekend was to move the young chicks out of the house and into the coop. However, they are still to young to mingle with the big chickens. Ghon planned to construct a small pen within the coop for the chicks. He cut a few 1x3s, repurposed from the room we tore out upstairs and got to work. The yard was extremely wet in spots from all the snow melt and rain. Ghon and I made two drips out to our compost with a trash can filled with coop shavings and chicken poop. It's a long walk, made harder from the mud. Some spots in the yard still have standing water. Where there was mud, my feet would sink about an inch easily. My jeans were soaked and mud coated halfway up my calf.

We got most of the shavings out of the coop, but Ghon still had one more can to empty when it got dark. The kids were exhausted, hungry and getting cranky, so I ended up taking them home close to 7pm, and Ghon worked until close to midnight again.  He finished a few things up in the coop then worked inside. He was able to build one section to start framing in the wall. First comes framing, then comes drywall, then comes paint and living space!!

Sunday morning, back up at 7:30. After breakfast, Ghon headed to the farm to finish up the chicken pen while the kids and I went to Sunday School. Today was a very rare Sunday, in that Ghon didn't open the store, but is working an overnight shift. He was able to finish the chicken pen then meet us, and Pop, at the church for worship. The church is close to the farm and up on a hill. When it was close to time to start, I came out to see if Ghon had arrived. I could just barely see the chicken coop through the trees, then movement and a flicker of the sunlight on the truck bumper. I showed Jonathan the coop. As quickly as he could spot it, we could hear Ghon's truck coming up the road, then into the parking lot.

After worship, we hit up the firehouse for their monthly pancake breakfast. I hadn't seen the signs for the breakfast, which is why I'd cooked at home. We never miss a Sunday, so we opted for pancake lunch! Lunch complete, it was back to the farm for Ghon, then home for the kids and I to change before heading back as well. Ghon and the kids poured fresh pine shavings through the coop and in the chicks' new pen. After filling the space with fresh food and water, it was time to move the chicks.

The chicks were divided into three tubs. The lid was only on for transporting purposes.
The kids took charge of moving the chickens into their new home.
Jonathan the chicken charmer

The moving crew.

Moving the chicks.

Genevieve only moved 5-6 chickens. She spent more time holding them. She looks so much like her Daddy here.

If you like the sound of little'll enjoy this video of the kids moving the birds. Except for Genevieve. This is when she captured the chicken in the picture above, and notes how quiet it now is.
Happy in their new home.

All secure in their new home!

After the chickens were secure in their new residence, we took a walk through the swamp. We broke out the large tape measure, and walked sections of the yard making rough measurements for a future fence line. Squishing in the mud and helping - this, the kids were into.
Daddy and Genevieve walking along the power line...

...while Jonathan held the end of the measure.
Then it was time to switch spots.
Outrunning the reeling in of the tape measure became the sport of the afternoon for the kids. On Saturday, I gave Jonathan a notebook I found in storage. He's been carrying it around all weekend, drawing and writing notes in it whenever he can. My favorite was Saturday afternoon, when he wrote "I love you so much I will explode" all by himself with a ton of hearts and a portrait of me.

Once we measure a good section of the property, we headed home. Jonathan watched Superman (1978) while Ghon took a short nap to prep for his overnight. Genevieve fell asleep watching the movie. As for me, I started the blog post, did laundry, and made dinner. Where's my real chicken dinner when I need it?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

February Staycation

One of the things Ghon and I have lacked in a long time is a vacation.

Despite taking the week off together, we still lack a vacation. Enter...the staycation.

We had a laundry list of items on our to do list. Finish the living room floor, start framing the room, and load the truck for our "in town" day Wednesday, which included a run to the scrap yard.

Monday, Day One:

On the first day of staycation, we drove through a snow storm to Pittsburgh, PA. He had a noon appointment for round two, the completion, of his back tattoo by Hannah Aitchison. As we got closer to Pittsburgh, Ghon shot off an email to let her know that despite the weather, he was on the way.

Enter bummer number one of the week. Hannah didn't have his appointment in the book, and had another appointment at noon. Fortunately, she agreed to put in a long day, and was able to work Ghon in after her first appointment. I had plans to meet at work colleague for lunch, so Ghon joined us. After, we wandered through Lowes, picked up a few things we needed for Tuesday, then headed off to the tattoo shop. Ghon got started about the time we should have been leaving. We didn't get home until 1:30 in the morning.

Tuesday, Day Two:
Since we didn't get home until so late, rather, so early in the morning, we slept in a little bit. Jonathan was amazing, waking up, getting dressed and made his bed before coming in to tell us good morning. I found out he even went downstairs and said Good Morning to Pop before seeing us!

Up, showered, breakfast, kids dropped off at daycare and we were off to the farm.

First thing we did, was light our first fire in the fireplace.

Ignition! Our first fire!

Watching the burn!

Next, we disposed of some deer meat that had gone bad. Ghon took it over to the trash pit, since there is a good dirt backstop. The idea was to have a little target practice on any critters that might come back to lunch on it. As we drove back to the house, we found many tracks along the way.


A gator!

Freaking raccoons!

Seriously, there were raccoon tracks all over the place. The raccoon left tracks completly circuling the small yard coop. Ha! No bird for you!

Once we made the decision to return the living room to it's original size by returning the old bathroom shower area to the room, we knew we would have a an issue with the wood flooring. The wood flooring was removed to create the bathroom. We made the hearth a little larger than it had been, but before that, it had been filled in with smaller, non-matching wood. Although the floor came apart relatively easy, the boards were numbered to make it easier to reinstall.

It's been anything but easy. Knowing that we would have to buy some flooring that likely wouldn't match well, I suggested to Ghon that we check out the attic floor. The floor boards were roughly the same size (if my memory recalled correctly), and still old. They would be original from the house. And, the attic isn't completely floored already - what would a few sheets of plywood or a non-perfect matching floor matter in the attic?

Up to the attic we went, carrying a small floor board from the living room. And they were a match. The floor boards in the attic had a little warp to them, but they were the right depth. Light, crowbar and hammer in hand, we popped out a few boards and sent them downstairs via the hole in the ceiling/closet/stairway.

The attic boards, while very similar in depth and width to those in the living room, they were not tongue and groove. These boards were ship lap. Ghon was trying to piece them into one of the existing boards, and complained of a missing lip. I looked closer, and found that they were all "missing" the lip - and that it was actually a different floor type. Ghon was concerned about continuity, but I, somewhat surprisingly, welcomed the differences. We still plan to sand the floors, so it will take out some of the differences.

We spent a good part of the day Tuesday cleaning 150 years of dirt from the boards, playing with layouts and trying to decide how to piece it together.  At one point, we thought we might make some progress, then we heard a noise. Down to the root cellar, and Ghon found another flood. This time, about three feet deep. Ghon hooked up the pump and was able to pull some water out, but the hose kept collapsing. We took a trip into town to buy materials needed to implement an idea in Ghon's head. Rather than sending hose down into the cellar, Ghon made a line out of PVC, connected it to the pump and let it go for a bit before heading home.

Another day, another flood.

In the end, we hadn't done anything with the attic boards, and just laid a potential flooring order.

End of the day - another test layout.

While trying the layouts, I found some artwork that Jonathan left behind. Another great marker for whoever might have the house down the road.

Some people, a house, and signed, Jonathan Eckley.

Wednesday, Day Three:
Tuesday night gave us more snow. Wednesday, school was cancelled, Jonathan's morning dentist appointment rescheduled, so we had an odd start to the morning. After getting to the house, I tended to the baby chicks while Ghon checked on the flood. Only about 18 inches of water was standing when we left Tuesday, all of which was gone! Somewhere, a drain actually exists in the cellar, as there was a small stream running out of the cellar. This flood seemed to come from a burst pipe, that is behind a wall, but leads to the outside hose. Good to know that there is an existing system in place for small water 'leaks', and that it is only when there is a larger issue that it can't keep up.

We still had a few floor joists to lay on the left side of the room, so we managed to get that done first. A little chainsaw action and a lot of sawdust on me, and we had a perfect fit.

A little chainsaw action complete covered me!

That's me, digging 150 year old dirt out of the boards. Even with a mask, I still had dirt up my nose!

After staring at the floor for a while, Ghon and I ended up making a run into town. His cordless drill wasn't working, the battery chargers were all acting up, and we knew that some of the attic boards were going to need to be screwed into place, not nailed, to try to remove some of the bow. Off to Home Depot we went. However, I was determined that we would knock out two birds with this trip, and scratch something off the to-do list. We loaded up on some items for donations, and removed more clutter from the house. Yeah!!

Back home, armed with a new drill, plastic, staples, and flooring nails, we got to work.

Boards back off for another layout attempt.

End of the day and the boards are in place.

Time to wrap up the day. Jonathan had an amazing dental appointment. This was the first time he was able to sit through an appointment - a full cleaning and x-rays. He even came away with no cavities!

Thursday, Day Four:
The days are now a blur. No more floods. Just more board cleaning and testing layouts. Seriously, nearly all day was spent playing puzzles. We nailed a few boards into place finally.

Clean a board, measure the space, cut, tap into place, nail, repeat. All day. We made it about 1/3 of the way across the floor.

While Ghon did a little work on the floor, I covered every window on the first floor with plastic. We'd been running the fireplace the entire time, but the house wasn't heating up. We hoped that in addition to sealing up the windows, once the floor was in place, the house would warm up some.

Friday, Day Five:
Before we could make any huge progress on the floor, we had to remove the plumbing that was still in place from the sink and shower in the bathroom. Ghon started working on the plumbing removal cutting pipes and doing some soldering. At one point, I played firefighter, pulling a section of drywall out to prevent any fires as he tried heating the pipes. Ghon was able to get one pipe cut and soldered, but not the second. Only a small amount of water leaked while the pipes repressured...

Playing with a propane torch - tyring to create a makeshift cap.

We had waffled way too much on a plan for including a proper vapor barrier in the floor. Friday was commitment day, and we had to head into town, again, to get roofing paper to create a barrior. Ghon crawled under the beams to install the paper under the supports where we had already laid the floor. From then on, we laid it on the top, floor boards placed directly on top of it. You could definitely feel a difference.

Friday ended by laying all of the paper and cutting more floor boards to length. And of course, cleaning the remaining boards. Our friends Clint and Jess were on their own week long staycation, and joined us for dinner Friday night at our house. It's been a crock pot dinner week!

That night, Ghon had a little case of tennis elbow. My hand was sore from using the chisel to clean the boards - for a short period, I couldn't even grip anything!

Saturday, Day Six
What a long day.

Jonathan couldn't wait to get to the farm to work. He made us promise the night before that he could go to the farm with Ghon while it was still dark. So about 6 in the morning, I got Jonathan up and started getting him into his layers. A quick breakfast and the boys were off to the farm. Genevieve and I had breakfast, got our layers on, packed up some items for lunch then headed to the farm to pick up Jonathan for Taekwondo.

Saturday, we had help. And it showed.

Jess was kind enough to lend us Clint, and my BFF Missy, came up with her husband Kevin and daughter Rylee.

When I came back with the kids, Clint and Ghon were starting to make progress on the floor. Kevin became our plumber, and finished the soldering job. Huge help - we now had toilets back on both levels! I quickly disconnected an outlet from wire removed elsewhere from the room, and Kevin played electrician, and connected the outlet for the insert. Now we could plug it in directly and not use an extension cord.

They did a lot of staring at the floor. But a lot of work too.

Much staring at the boards - and kids helping clean the boards.
The kids tried to help, but they also did a great job keeping themselves amused.

While the guys worked downstairs, Missy and I worked upstairs. We moved all furniture and items from the attic that we wanted to keep into the center room so we could pull up the plywood still on the floor in that room. We packaged up some boxes to return to the attic, some for trash, and another small pile for donations. All that we have left to disposition now are records.

So much more attic stuff out of the way!

Rylee couldn't wait to destroy things, so her and Jonathan helped Missy and I pull the plywood. They both did a great job. I took these shots as we started, then made everyone wear a face mask to protect from all the dirt. We worked together to start prying the boards from the floor, then the kids pulled the popped nails. When we were done, we had one board left. The closet was built on top of the board, and we weren't ready to demo the closet.

Rylee and Jonathan did a great job helping us out!

We still have baby chicks in the house. In addition to movies and tablets, the kids all took frequent breaks by playing with the chicks.

Jonathan and his chicks.

Lots of work being done here!

Missy, Rylee, Tim, Kevin and Ghon - working hard!

At the end of the day, the kids and I posed for a few pictures from the top of the soon to be stairwell, with Ghon downstairs.

The kids kept looking down the hole, making me nervous. So we took a few pics to make everyone happy.

There are two boards to still lay on the floor. The last board will be placed when we are ready to build the wall for the bathroom. The floor took a little extra time, even with all the help, as it turned out the left side needed a slight shim. The guys repurposed old plywood to shim the floor boards. The forms and joists were all level, but the attic boards that we used were just slightly off in depth, and required a shim.

Here it is! The floor, finally in place! The left side long boards are from the attic. In the upper right corner, we pieced in an attic board to fill in where we were missing proper lengths and boards.

The newly laid old floor looks great. Now we just have to re-clean all the cuts that were tossed to the other side of the room.

I'd cleaned this side of the room earlier in the week. It became a scrapyard.

Tim helped Ghon drive the final few nails in on the main floor.

And after everyone was gone, Ghon, with a little help from Genevieve, drove in the nails in the far corner that was pieced together with attic boards.

The kids were so excited to have a floor back, we had a little dance party. A slow dance or two with me and Jonathan, Ghon with Genevieve, and a few fast songs too.

Seeing me take so many pictures, the kids wanted to take their own. Jonathan had promised the day before to take lots of pictures.

Time to step back, admire the work, and reflect on the progress.

Sunday, Day Seven
The final day of my time off. Ghon had to return to work. We both woke up incredibly sore. Everything ached. My knees have been so sore from resting on my knees to measure length, clean boards, and a fall on the ice earlier in the week. After church, Jonathan had a playdate with a friend, while Genevieve and I tackled the weekly grocery shopping. We stopped by the house to take care of the chicks as a light snow started to fall.

More time off?
Ghon's scheduled days off this week were Monday and Tuesday. He was back at the farm doing some additional cleanup projects. We'd never made a scrapyard run, so he spent some time gathering additional metal for when we do make the run. He was able to find a metal bucket to use for ash from the fireplace, and also found a flexible flyer. I can't wait to use that in a decoration next winter! He also cleaned up the remaining mess in the living room. Whew.

But wait, there's more!
Wile we were working last week, I spotted a mouse. Then we spotted something that might not be a mouse. During one of our trips in town, we picked up some additional mouse traps. Since we set the first traps, we've had nine captures. Most we believe are regular old mice, but two, Ghon thinks could be voles. We have a ton of what we've called mole trails outside, so perhaps they are voles. I've already been stomping on all the trails, but the ground has been pretty frozen lately, and too hard to trampt on the trails.

With the floor finally done, with exception of two boards, we can now start framing in the living room, adding in the staircase, and running electricity. We've been playing with some ideas on the addition/rebuild of the mudroom. It would be ideal to get this rebuild done before we move in, but it may not happen. If attempted, be on the look out for more begging for a weekend of help for an old fashioned 'barn' raising...

We also made a final decision during one of our trips to the Lowes and Home Depot on how our kitchen cabinets will be designed. We plan to keep the cabinets, give them an uplift with paint, and Ghon will make new doors. I'm kind of excited to get the kitchen going.

One of the things we'd wanted to do during the week was sand the floors. I knew it didn't make any sense to get the sander until the floors were all set. Hopefully sometime in the next month or so, I can take another day off and sand all day and night...