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Diary #639

On Sunday Jae’s patron came over to work on the stable for a few hours, and we got the roof mostly finished and minimally protected from the rain predicted for later in the week.  He really can’t get up on the roof, which means me again; every damned time I think I’m done with rooves for a while, I find myself having to get up on another one.  And since I can’t easily do a shingle roof alone, and I would like this finished before the seasonal rain starts again in earnest (probably within two weeks), I’ve asked him to once again hire a young man who has helped us on the project before (but wasn’t available this past weekend).  I think two of us could probably knock it out in an afternoon; the roof pitch isn’t as steep as that of the cottages, so we can work without safety harnesses, and that speeds things up a good bit.  Fingers crossed for that, but one way or another the whole project should be finished before the end of October.

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Diary #638

I’ve become quite fond of our outside cat, Rocky. He was barely more than a kitten when he showed up at Sunset soon after our move was finished in late summer of ’17, and Grace and Chekhov started feeding him, and he’s grown into a healthy, affectionate adult.  The only outside cats I’ve ever had were a few strays which sojourned for a while and then were gone, but Rocky has been around for five years and clearly considers Sunset his territory.  I often see him patrolling around outside or napping in the atrium or outside the front door, and I’ve seen him chase off a black-and-white stray whose territory is south of Sunset.  But it’s as a mouser that he really earns his keep; once a week on average I open the back door in the morning to find he’s left me tribute on the mat, sometimes sans tête, and last week I went out to the new bathroom to work on the shower and found a very dead rat about 1/3 of Rocky’s body mass.  Since these little presents are one of the ways cats express love I’m always careful to praise him and pat his head whenever I find one, however revolting its condition, then I pick it up with a paper towel and toss it into the woods north of the house.  But since it would be appallingly bad taste to publish a picture of one of these little morning surprises even if I had ever taken one (which, as you can probably guess, I have not), here’s a shot of him standing guard atop Chehov’s cottage instead; I’m sure you’ll agree it’s much more appealing.

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Annex 82

This area, at the northwest corner of the atrium, will soon be a new, larger bathroom; the existing bathroom is on the other side of that window, which will make running the plumbing a lot easier.  The masking tape on the floor marks out the various features:  the big rectangle against the wall is the shower, the smaller rectangle near the window is the toilet area, and the small rectangle opposite the shower will be a vanity.  There’s also an outer wall with a door (for toilet privacy), and the area between it and the cottage (not visible in this shot) will be a vestibule.  The shower won’t have a curtain; one will enter from the area marked by a gap in the tape, and the shower hardware will be at the end by that steel upright.  Don’t worry if you can’t envision any of it yet; the project is already underway, and you’ll see a lot more detail next time.  But if you click on the picture and enlarge it, you can see a little bit of detail right now:  the site of the drain is marked by four visible screws and a couple of black lines around the middle, and though you probably can’t make them out there are five long lines of screws where the heavy beams are attached so as to stiffen the floor to support the concrete which will form the floor and walls of the enclosure.

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Diary #637

Once the days get back to a bearable length and the evenings start to grow cool, my brain starts returning to its normal, non-agitated state pretty quickly.  This isn’t to say that I am completely free of anxiety; given my nature and the fact that we live in an imperfect world full of troubles and problems, I doubt I’ll ever be completely free of that at any time before I cross the river.  But I’m no longer in the agitated state of apparently-causeless anxiety which is my lot from at least the beginning of May until the end of August.  I’ve slept better for the past week than I have since spring, and the cooler weather makes it much easier to relax once the sun goes down at something at least resembling a sensible hour.  It’s still going to be a few more weeks before I’m fully centered again, but even movement in that direction is a blessed relief.  And given that the rainy season is now only about a month off, I’m really looking forward to being able to stay dry when going to the shop or cottages, no matter how heavily it comes down.

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Annex 81

Of all construction tasks, I hate painting the most.  It’s messy, it’s expensive, I’m not good at it, and it takes a lot more patience that I have to do it properly.  I even hate it more than I hate working on rooves, which is saying something because, as you know if you’ve been following this saga, I really hate working on rooves.  So you can probably imagine that painting rooves is just about the peak of odious tasks for me.  But the steel rafters and purlins had to be protected from rust, and nobody thought of painting the damned things before they were used for construction, so that meant painting them in place.  After thinking about it for a while I decided to use spray paint for most of the job; though it’s more expensive in the long run, it was easier to do from the tops of ladders, especially for the steel over the hot tub where there’s no easy way to place a ladder.  The spray paint was also quicker and allowed me to get some hard-to-reach parts from a short distance away; since most of the area will be decorated with hanging fabric, the paint job didn’t need to be more than a primary coat to protect the steel and reduce the color contrast.  The only exception is the bathroom area (to the right of the picture), so I had to use regular paint in that part (and it’ll require another coat later); there are also a few parts that will be painted a copper color because they’ll remain visible (such as the post and crossbar at the center of this shot).  It took 12 cans of spray paint to do the area shown here plus most of the apex beam; another 6 cans took care of most of the east end.  There’s still a little to do, about 3 more cans I think, but I’m putting it off until next week or so, because did I tell you I hate painting?  Even with a protective mask I manage to inhale the stuff, and I got so much overspray around my eyes Grace said I looked like a photographic negative of a panda.  I had to scrub my skin red to get it all off, and I was still finding little spots in strange places, including some I know were covered by clothes, for over a week.

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Diary #636

The weather this year was very weird. First the winter weather lasted five months, all the way through May, then spring went by all too quickly before we went into an unusually-hot, unusually-dry summer.  Of course, since I live near a rain forest, “unusually dry” for us is still nothing like a drought.  However, it played hob with our fruit; as of this writing the few apples I’m seeing on the trees are still quite green, and I haven’t seen any plums at all.  The blackberries were the only exception; they fruited well, though most of the berries were too small to use.  Still, I easily got a basketfull, and on Sunday I made a blackberry pie.  The same day I also noticed that the vines in the lane bore much more heavily and with much larger, nicer fruit, so I picked a bunch more yesterday.  I’m not sure I’ll have enough for jam, but if I don’t I can still make blackberry muffins or another pie, and have the leftovers for dessert with cream and sugar.

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Annex 80

Two weeks ago I showed you the area around the hot tub, looking north; this is the same area, looking south.  Since the other picture was taken, I installed this door and built the frame around it, then built the false wall to the right.  The door was one of the room doors for the second guest cottage; Jae felt they take up too much room, so we stored them in the garage until I found a use for them.  If you’ve been following for the past few months, you’ve seen me use a lot of leftovers from the cottage kits; those grooved boards above the door are defective roof boards they used as spacers during shipping, and since they’re tongue-and-groove they work well for applications like this.  That door will remain open during the warm months, while the shutters are off.  But during the cold months, the strip curtain just won’t be enough to keep the weather out.  Behind the door, you can see the hinged framework which covers the breaker boxes; Jae will soon be decorating the false wall and that swinging panel, which will hide and protect the boxes until we need to reach them.  We’re now officially done with Phase 5 of the project; there are a few cleanup details I’ll show you over the next few weeks, but nothing structural.  And as of a week ago today, we’ve started working on the new bathroom; you’ll see pictures soon!

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Diary #635

Last Tuesday morning I went down to the kitchen to pour myself another cup of tea, and when I looked out the kitchen window, this was what I saw.  I ran back upstairs, grabbed my phone, then took this through the sliding glass door in my living room; I didn’t dare open the door because it could’ve frightened them.  They grazed for about ten minutes or so, then decided to head out my front gate and down the lane.  Being close to nature is one of the things I like best about living in the country; there’s something beautiful and wholesome about wild animals of all kinds coming up near the house like this, and I always give them space to do whatever it was they came to do.  A few years ago we even had a mama bear and her two cubs come onto the north lawn in search of fallen apples; Grace called he dog in to keep him from enraging mama by barking at her cubs, and after they ate what they wanted they left as peaceably as they had come.  Lots of people like to flap their gums about living in harmony with Nature, but I feel very blessed to have found the opportunity to actually do it.

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Bathhouse 79

What was once the wellhouse has now become the utility room.  If you look at the older pictures of this project, you can see it sitting there like the little outbuilding it once was, in the midst of the posts; then in later pictures it looks like a miniature companion to the guest cottages.  But once the atrium roof was in place I could remove the shabby, deteriorating roof of the structure, and with the addition of these wooden steps and cupboard-style doors it has become a utility room rather than a wellhouse.  I say “utility room” because it doesn’t just house the well and its tank, filters, etc; the breaker boxes for the cottages and hot tub are also in there, as is the wifi repeater, and it provides a convenient storage spot for things like the cat litter cleaning screen and the pump used to empty the hot tub.  Furthermore, it’ll soon be the only easy way into the basement under the deck (where the water, power, and internet cables all run); I designed the steps so that the two bottom ones form a single assembly that can be pulled out so I can crawl under.  Later, the top of this utility room will be a bar, neatly hiding the purely-functional space beneath.  And best of all, unless it gets much colder than we’ve ever seen here before, we shouldn’t need that heater to protect the pipes any more; everything is contained within the house, so the only pipe that could freeze is the hydrant coming up from the ground in front of the chicken coop, and we can just let that one trickle when necessary.

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Diary #634

We had a guest at Sunset last week, a friend from Australia.  And when he asked me what he could bring, I half-jokingly suggested a large jar of Vegemite (since we can only get small jars here in the States).  I say “half-jokingly” because, though I certainly would like a larger jar than usual, I wasn’t really expecting him to actually do it.  But he did, all right, and in fact trumped my joke by bringing me this (as he called it) “meme-sized” container; I left the butter dish in the picture to give y’all a sense of scale, since I doubt many people outside of Australia have ever seen one this large.  Honestly, I doubt many people inside of Australia have seen one this large; it seems unlikely most families can go through almost a kilogram of Vegemite in an amount of time that would make an institutional-size container worthwhile.  I’m certainly going to try, though, because I love the stuff.  A lot of people think I’m a picky eater because I despise green, leafy vegetables, but outside of those I actually have a pretty broad palate and will try just about anything at least once (unless its smell stops me).  And a few things I’ve tried on my travels have become favorites, among them Vegemite, Stornoway black pudding and St. Louis gooey butter cake (which I am realizing I could probably make at home).  It’s true that I was a picky eater as a child, but that was mostly because so many things made me sick I preferred to err on the side of caution.  Then as I got older I resolved to keep trying things so as to broaden my tastes, and didn’t stop with what most Americans consider palatable.  But despite enjoying lots of things a lot of Americans won’t even try (such as haggis), I still can’t get near any of the brassicas without feeling nauseous.

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