Archive for June, 2007

Climbing the stairway to…

June 30, 2007

Our second floor! We went out visit our house today, and saw that we’ve now got part of an actual stairway. The stairs were a bit of a splurge for us, and we ran several hundred dollars over budget, because we wanted the treads, newels and railings to be maple. The risers and balusters are pine, so they will be painted white, but the maple portions will be stained a natural maple color:

One of my favorite parts of the house is the large, screened back porch, with two – count ’em, two! – ceiling fans. Today, upon arrival at our house, we saw that the back porch had been screened in. This was a surprise to me, since our builder Woody hadn’t mentioned it in our conversations that week:

The hole in the backyard is all filled up, and we found the cause of this sitting in our front yard:

Actually, while we were at the house, Woody came out and told us that he was working on a Saturday, because the site guy was going to be back out that day, and Woody needed to meet with him. We were surprised to find Woody working on the weekend, but it was a lucky chance that brought him there, since he helped us solve the riddle of our wheelbarrow. We’d bought a wheelbarrow from Home Depot, but there were no accompanying directions. Before Woody arrived, we’d put the entire thing together, except that there was one extra piece that we couldn’t make fit. Woody very kindly bent the metal for us, so that it would fit exactly where it should. Crappily made Chinese wheelbarrow!

We got the barrow, though, so that we could haul the last of our compost pile into our compost bin. We’d been composting in the silt fence area for the erstwhile gopher tortoises, but now that we have the bin, we needed to move this pile into the bin so that our landscaper, who is coming this week, can remove the silt fence and mow that area. Our compost is coming along nicely and is moist, rich, dark brown, and, generally, everything that a compost should be.

Another surprise was that we got the handles for our interior doors:

The exterior door has the temporary knob on it still, and when I asked Woody why, he said that it was because he didn’t want any of the sub-contractors to have the keys to our actual lock. Very smart!

Our LG microwave/hood has also been installed:

We purchased this at Appliance Direct, new in box, for about $15 less than it would have cost us to buy it new from other stores at which we’d shopped. Not one of our better bargains, but every little bit helps!

Some of our light fixtures were put up last week, and I don’t think I’d posted pictures of those. Here is our front porch light:

It came with regular bulbs, and we just haven’t bought the candelabra base CFL’s yet. We do have the energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs up in all of our interior light fixtures, as well as in the lights outside our garage:

And, finally, we saw something pretty cool today. On our way to have lunch at the Country House Restaurant in Lake Wales, we spotted a mama & papa sandhill crane with their baby, on the side of a busy highway. The baby looked too young to fly, because he was still really downy, so I can only assume that they are raising him in the parking lot of a shopping center! I wish them luck in their endeavour, and hope they manage to keep that baby safe:

What is next for us, you ask? The electrician is coming on Monday to finish the electrical work, so that we can get an inspection this coming week and have the electricity turned on. Once this is done, the flooring can be finalized – halleluia! This will probably happen not this coming week, but the one after. The painters are coming this week to paint and stain the stairs, and, once the lot grading is complete, the landscaper will come and do his thing. Then the driveway will be poured next week, though I would think that the driveway should be poured before the landscaper lays the sod? The propane guy has to be sweet-talked into coming and hooking up our range, and the cabinet people need to install our potato & onion baskets. After that, we are pretty much done! Woody is going to have someone come in to give the place a thorough cleaning, since there are about 10 million dead lovebugs inside the house, and he’s hoping to have it ready by the end of July. We’re keeping all 20 of our fingers (are we aliens?) and all 20 of our toes crossed that this is the case, since it would be really nice to have a bit of summer time to settle in before school starts for me in mid-August.

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Fire, fire!

June 26, 2007

There is a 100 acre brush fire just about a mile or so from our apartment, as the crow flies.  Because of it, the air quality was awful earlier this week.  Monday morning, it was so smoky around our apartment that it looked like a thick fog, and we were choking and coughing just walking our dog in the morning!

My husband says it started Friday night, and we first noticed it on Saturday morning when driving out to view the house. We could see it behind a subdivision off of 27 (not our subdivision, thankfully):

So my husband thought it would be a fun idea (!) to drive out and see if we could find the source of the fire.   He thought it was a controlled burn, and so we drove up Avalon and turned down some side road.  We got right out to where the fire was, though, and there was a fire truck in the road, so I, being a pudding-heart, turned the car around and drove away.  But not before my husband got a few photos:

Ah, the joys of living in Florida.  Cough, cough.

A giant hole in our yard

June 23, 2007

Yes, there is a giant hole in our backyard. Here it is:

“Oh, no!” you exclaim. “Just when things were going so well!” Not to fear; this giant hole is actually a necessary part of the circle of life. It enables us to get through the day. We can use now use the bathroom in our house – or we could if we had toilets. This, my friends, is part of acquiring a septic tank.

I was lucky enough to catch the tank before it was inspected and, thus, buried:

And here is our unburied drain field:

Here, in contrast, is the drain field once it’s been inspected and buried:

The giant hole is still there, just waiting to be filled. The reason for the hole is that the septic tank people needed to build up the land, before they could get the septic tank inspected. In order to build it up, they took dirt from right in front of our back porch. Now that the inspection is finished, Woody can bring in fill dirt to – you guessed it – fill the hole.

And now, a brief rant on our propane company of choice. The one fly in our ointment, throughout this process, has been the proprane company we had the misfortune to choose. They were scheduled to come the week before last, but, without calling Woody or giving him any indication why, they just didn’t show up. So he rescheduled them for Wednesday of this past week, June 20. Part of the crew showed up: the part the brought in our hot water heater. The part that was supposed to bury the tank, however, called in sick. So we will try again, this coming week, to coax them out to our lot.

The tank is yet another thorn in our sides.

It is not a good tank. It is a bottom of the line tank. We told the propane man, repeatedly, that we’d like to pay more to upgrade to a better insulated tank. This would save energy, which is our goal. It is not, however, his goal. The more energy we save, the less money we give him for propane. So he went ahead and installed the bottom-of-the-line tank. We will foil him by wrapping it in a tank blanket. But we’re still disgruntled.

And, finally, the third problem, which, again, we must attribute to the propane company. We told him that we were having an electric dryer. He decided to go ahead and put a propane drop in for our dryer. What can it hurt? Maybe it will help for resale value. Good point, EXCEPT – the electric guy, on seeing that we’re having a gas dryer, then doesn’t install the necessary wiring for our electric dryer. Result: our electric dryer is delivered, and there is no plug. Woody now has to rip out drywall to put in the correct wiring. Thank you, propane man.

Here is a picture of our washer & dryer:

It’s not a good picture, because we couldn’t really get in front of them, but you get the idea. They’re both good, and very energy efficient. We are happy with everything but the propane man.

Our range was delivered today, and, since it’s a dual fuel range, we will need the propane man to hook this up with a special liquid propane kit. Dare we trust him to do this? Will we, in the words of the Flying Hawaiian, David Kala’iki Ali’i when confronted with propene, say to ourselves, “I thank God everyday … that I didn’t get exploded.”

We also now have a bar; the rest of the Silestone has been put in:

The beadboard is going in, in our downstairs bath. This will be painted white when the painters return:

Next week, Woody will return and work on getting our stairs in. The maple has arrived, and is chilling in the garage right now. Unless he thinks up another excuse, the propane guy will return and bury our propane tank. And, once the range is hooked up, we can get the electric inspection and get temporary electric turned on, our first step to getting the bamboo floors installed.

A note about living in Florida: you see a lot of sad things. I saw a gopher tortoise get exploded on the road this week, when a dump truck just tore right through him. Very sad. It always stinks to see an endangered species, or, indeed, any species at all, die a nasty road death. Today, while we were driving from our house to the recycling center (we recycle all the cardboard, cans, bottles, etc. from the construction site), we saw another sad road death:

He was nowhere near a pond or lake, so I’m not sure why he was out where he was killed.

But then we came home to our apartment, and the waterfowl were frolicking in our pond, and that was nice:

It’s looking more like a house

June 16, 2007

It has actual cabinets, countertops, vanities, and even 2 HVAC systems. The electrician came this week and hung up the foyer chandelier:

And the Windward III ceiling fans for our great room:

The Custom Cabinet Factory had come back and installed the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, so now our kitchen looks like an actual kitchen!

We really like our sink, which is one, large, rectangular black granite composite sink. It comes with a cutting board and bowl, which was a nice bonus. The Silestone countertops are very dusty, but you can get the general idea:

Similar transformations had been taking place in the master bathroom. The vanity top here is granite, Crystal Green, bought in-stock from Lowes.

As we near the time when our electricity will be turned on and will (hopefully) pass inspection, we now have our two HVAC units installed:

They are very, very tiny, compared to the big space left for them to fill. Because it’s an ICF home, our HVAC units only need to be about 1/2 the size of those required for a house of regular, stick-frame or concrete block construction. You may or may not be able to tell from the picture, but this is yet another example of Woody’s attention to detail. He thought the HVAC closet looked ugly, so he outfitted it with molding. There’s so much extra room in here that we’re thinking that, if we ever need more space, we will just put some shelves on the blank wall to the left in the photo.

I went out to the house yesterday and finished up the vinyl flooring in the under-the-stairs closet. I also assembled our newest acquisition: a compost bin. Huzzah! Here is a photo that Andy took of me doing some preliminary composting. I was dumping in a bag of veggie scraps from our kitchen that I’d brought over to compost.

Today, we went to Appliance Direct and purchased two scratch-and-dent appliances: an LG Washer and an LG Dryer. The LG Washer is model number WM2496HWM, which normally retails for approximately $1100. We got it for $454.49, because it was slightly, very slightly scratched on the front. The front scratch isn’t really noticeable, and is probably as much as we’d do to it in the first week! There isn’t a dent on it, and it comes with the full manufacturer’s warranty of 1 year. We bought the store’s 4-year warranty for an additional $100. The best part is that it is extremely energy efficient and uses only 167 kwH/year.

The LG Dryer is a DLE3777W, which retails for $750-850 at big box stores. We got it for $381.41! Same deal as the washer: slightly scratched, no dents = $400 savings. This is a great deal, and we were very happy about it.

Next: A few things have arrived at our house. The maple stairs are there now, as are the wraps for the front and back porch pillars. We are still waiting for the range to be delivered, before we can get the electricity turned on, so that’s holding us up a bit. Right now, we’re in negotiations with the landscaping guy to ensure that we get something as close to what we want as possible. It is really coming together now; I can’t believe how much it looks like a house!

Let there be lights!

June 10, 2007

Our house now has lights, fans, cabinet boxes, and a garage door. We go to New York for the weekend, and look what happens!

Our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc., is now on vacation visiting his son at the Air Force base in Texas, so things have slowed up until he returns from his visit this week.

I actually got a sneak preview of the house before my husband did, since he had to work all this week. One of the benefits (maybe?) of being a teacher is that we get laid off each June. Sure, we get a nice, long unpaid leave of absence, but in what other profession do you hear society grousing that they get the privilege of being laid off so frequently? Ah, the joys of an unsteady income! Seriously, though, I do enjoy the summers, but that is only due to the fact that I am fortunate enough to have a spouse who does, indeed, have a constant paycheck.

To get back to my point, though, when I was out at the house by myself, I encountered a fox in distress. (S)he was painfully thin, rheumy-eyed, and was staggering around alongside the road. At first, I thought the fox was just hunting something, since its head was down, and it appeared to be giving all its attention to the ground:

When I got out of the car to take pictures, though, I realized that it was either hurt or sick. My first thought was to try to bring it to the vet, so I got out the towel I carry for just this purpose in the car. My legendary towel has also been used to wrap up the likes of a possum with a head injury I found in Charlotte, so I was hoping to put it to use on that day. However, as I approached the fox, the possibility that it could have rabies came through my mind. Could I guarantee that, even through the thick towel, the fox would not be able to bite me? No, I could not. (I often have such conversations with myself on a lonely summer’s day). Having approached the fox, I then began to back away, but he’d caught the interesting smell of my towel. He walked toward me, sniffing the towel. I held very still while he gave it a sniff, visions of attack squirrels dancing through my head, but the fox lost interest and walked away. Berating myself for my cowardice, I nonetheless decided to retreat and live another day rabies-free.

And now, enough digressions – I will get right to the good stuff. Here is the exterior of our house, avec garage door:

And now, for your viewing enjoyment, I will proceed to attach photos of our lighting choices. First is the kitchen, a good place to begin, since the majority of our lives revolves around food. Here is a photo of the cabinet boxes for our kitchen island:

And here is the fluorescent light in the kitchen:

Here is a photo of our kitchen pendants and the matching dining room chandelier in the background. These are all from Home Depot:

One of my favorite parts of the house is our big back porch, that will be screened in:

We got the same fan and lighting fixtures for our guest bedroom and for the library. First, the guest bedroom:

And the library:

We purchased the same vanity fixture for the downstairs bath and the upstairs bath:

Here are the sconces for our master bedroom:

And here is the fan for the master bedroom. This is the Hampton Bay Covington model fan from Home Depot; it was very energy efficient, and we thought it would go well with the furniture for this room.

Next steps: the cleaners will continue clearing out our lot; Woody’s assistant will finish up our library shelves; the electrician will install the great room fan and foyer chandelier; finally, we will get temporary electric, so that the HVAC system can be installed and the house can begin acclimatizing for the bamboo floors.