Archive for the ‘Cabin’ Category

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am growing old. By the CDC’s measure tonight, I am elderly and should stay home, which I have been doing. For the most part.
I have 3 rooms in my house and with only one of them — the bathroom — is there rarely any question why I walked in.

I am forgetful, to say the least.

Because I live alone in the woods in the middle of nowhere, there’s no delivery service outside of FedEx, UPS and the Postal Service for me. So I go into town every few days to buy perishables because, well, they perish if not consumed in a day or two.
Ice is one of those. I know. I can make my own. But for $2, I can buy a bag that fills a quarter of my freezer. So I buy it. Twice a week.
Tonight, I picked up some Diet Dr. Pepper, and some low-carb snacks to go along with the healthy food I bought yesterday. And a bag of ice, which I put on the floor of my car behind the driver’s seat. The rest of the groceries got loaded in the back of the SUV since I have no trunk. 
When I got home, I had to pee really bad, so I started to race into the one room where I never forget why I’m there, but saw a tree and remembered I live in the woods. Yay, me. Yay, tree. Crisis averted.
Afterwards I grabbed the groceries and went inside. I put them away, stripped down to my drawers (because I live alone in the woods in the middle of nowhere) and started watching TV. NCIS: New Orleans had a double feature tonight, so I settled into my recliner to watch.

About halfway through the first episode, I got up to get something to drink, opened the freezer to get some ice and … Ice. Shit. It’s been in the car for an hour.

I grabbed my keys from the bedroom, slipped on some shoes and ran out to the car thinking along the way that I was smart to buy rubber mats when I bought the RAV4. But it’s 40 degrees outside and the ice hadn’t started to melt. Another crisis averted.

The rest of the evening has been uneventful. Until now. Shit. Where did I put the car keys?

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Free water, kinda

I use rain water for my water source on the ridge, a decision made easier by a well driller who pointed out three drilling sites and noted that if we didn’t find water here, we’ll drill there and if that one is dry, too, we’ll drill over there.

I spent 10 years of my life drilling oil and gas wells when I was in my 20, so I know a thing or two about subsurface nomenclature and expenses associated with casing a well.

He looked puzzled when I asked him who would pay for the dry holes. So instead, I called RainHarvest Systems out of Cummins, Ga., and ordered a 3,000 gallon rainfall catchment system with all of the bells and whistles. That included two 1,500 gallon tanks. But it turned out I only had room for one tank in the old cellar, so my neighbor was kind enough to buy the extra tank from me. He uses it for his horses.

My water system before I covered it with an aluminum carport.The filters are under the tarp at left.

The pump they sent was OK, but when water levels were low, the pump lost its prime, which required two people to get primed again. That is a problem since I live alone, so I had my plumber install a submersible pump I bought at Lowe’s, which I learned this past winter, will suck the tank dry and still not lose its prime. But that’s for another blog post.

So while the water is free, I have about $4,000 invested in my water system. It has worked great so far, but I noticed that over time, the water pressure was getting weaker. My able assistant Mr. Google told me that’s a sign of the filters needing to be changed.

Did I mention the filters? There’s three of them, a 20 micron, 5 micro and charcoal filter, placed in a series. Three replacement filters cost $130.

My plumber left out a cutoff valve between the pressure tank and the filters, so in order to change the filters, I had to cut power to the pump and drain the pressure tank.

The filter covers at the car wash, getting a bath with Clorox and warm water

I don’t know why, but I thought that was going to be a pain in the neck to do, so I put it off as long as I could. I ordered the new filters back in December. And the box they came in has been a nice side table by the front door for all these months.

With the first big cold front of the season moving through this week, I decided I needed to do it now, so I took a day off from work to get it done.

It turns out that it was pretty simple to do. And the next time will be simpler because I’m going to add a cut off valve right before the water intake on the filters. I’ll wait until spring to do that, though.

You really should change filters every year. I waited 18 months. Those things were nasty.

My filter kit came with transparent covers because I wanted to be able to see when they needed changing. Big mistake. I put the water system in the old cellar, just below and on the side of my house. My plan was to cover the shelter, but cash grew tight and I couldn’t put a roof over it.

So for nine months, the water system was exposed to the sun. I covered it with a tarp, thinking that would keep it from getting direct sun.

Remember this equation. Sunlight + water = algae. Lots of it. Who knew that much algae could grow in a 5-inch cylinder?

So I put the nasty filters in one garbage bag and the covers in another. The old filters went to the convenience center. The covers went to the car wash where a good high pressure bath with healthy heaping of Clorox and they looked as good as new.

The drive to and from the car wash took longer than actually replacing the filters.

In January, I had a portable garage installed over my water system in the cellar. In the next few weeks, I’m going to enclose it so I can keep the pipes from freezing this winter like they did last winter.

So here I sit with clean filters and half a day off with nothing to do but wash clothes, surf the web and get ready for my trip to a tiny house jamboree in Newport, Tenn., tomorrow.

Did I mention that I like living on the ridge?


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Tank you

If it’s possible to love an appliance, I never really cared much for my washing machine.

The washer came with a dryer in a package deal that fit my budget at the time five years ago when I was focused on paying off my debt. But it didn’t do a good job of getting stains out of my shirts, so I put a thermometer to the water when it was on the Warm setting. 72 degrees.

The repair guy who came out the next day said that’s how they build them these days. It runs the cold water for a bit and then a short run with hot water.

Hot water at my apartment was too hot for my shirts and pants, and the heater was behind a locked door that I didn’t have a key that would allow me to adjust it, so there were times after I dribbled soy sauce or salad dressing on me, that some shirts had to be washed two or three times.

I opted for a tankless water heater in my house, but the cold water problem was even worse since there was a 20-second lag from the time the washer switched to hot and hot water arrived at the washer. I started looking for money in the budget for a better model, but the budget was tight.

Then one day, while looking at the red glow of the temperature readout on the tank, it hit me. I can adjust the temperature down to 98 degrees, which is what most consider warm water.

So now, when I wash my permanent press, I set the washer temp setting to Hot and the water tank to 98 and you never see the remnants of soy sauce or salad dressing on my shirts any more.

I like my cheap washer now.


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Bug out

Gnats love the ridge.

Gnats also love vinegar.

Fill a jar lid with vinegar, add a drop of dish-washing liquid and stir.

Ridge 19, Gnats 0.


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I had to take a personal day off from work today to manage several issues dealing with the house, especially the drainage problem between the house and the hill.

Yesterday started out with a call from AT&T telling me what I knew all along — my house is too far back in the woods to get Uverse internet.

What internet options are available there? I don’t know yet, because the customer service person who called doesn’t work with the DSL/phone line group and I didn’t have time for her to transfer me to another sales person when I’m up to my eyes wrasslin’ alligators at work.

Later in the day, I called to reschedule the appliance delivery yet again and discovered a secret policy at Home Depot. When buying the appliances in December, I was told I had up to 90 days to take delivery.

I was told that I could set up delivery but postpone it if the house wasn’t ready. But that I couldn’t set a delivery date and then change it to an earlier date. So the sales lady set it for the last Monday in January.

What I wasn’t told was that once you set up a delivery date, your delivery delay window shrinks to 30 days. So I have no choice but to take delivery by the last Monday in February. The flooring won’t be installed then, but the Home Depot  didn’t seem to care.

I told him to hold off on scheduling the delivery because I’d have to find a place to store them.

A little while later, my electrician told me there would be a problem getting the rain gutters installed and the HVAC system put in next week because rain from earlier in the week had ponded between the house and the hill and there was no way any one would be able to work there.

I was numb.

I thought I would be able to move into the house by Christmas. And when that didn’t happen, I said Mardi Gras. When that didn’t happen, I said St. Patrick’s day and now, I’m thinking, Easter if I’m lucky.

I took deep breaths. I checked my pulse. I was OK. No signs of a heart attack. Yet. I took a walk. I asked my boss if I could take a personal day to straighten things out and she said yes. I have the greatest boss.

Driving home Thursday evening, I called Lowe’s flooring department to see what the charge would be to move appliances. the flooring lady called the installers and it’s $35 per appliance. I’ll have 3 to move. $105. Cheaper than a storage unit and U haul truck. I paid the fee. Problem one solved.

I went online when I got back to the hotel and found rubber boots for $25 at a Walmart nearby. That was my first stop of the day this morning.

I got to the house mid morning. I had a huge pond, but no crawfish. I broke out my shovels and rake and spent a half hour trying to make the water go where I wanted it to go behind the house.

One thing you learn growing up in the swamps of South Louisiana is that water will take the path of least resistance. But to get it to go behind the house involved either making it go uphill or cutting a deep ditch in red clay that’s peppered with rocks.

I asked the water where it wanted to go, and it wanted to go under the house. But the work I had done last week built a small berm around the house to keep water from going under it. So I did the coonass thing and cut a trenasse in the berm. (My electrician scratched his head when I used that word.)

I also texted a picture of the pond to my land guy. And he came by with his Bobcat when the water was about half drained. He reworked the area, cutting it deeper behind the house and eliminating high spots. It should work. We’ll know in the morning because rain is in the forecast for tonight.

While he was digging out the drain, I took a break and sat on the front steps.

A pair of hawks circled the valley, riding updrafts and enjoying a breezy February afternoon where the temperature reached 70.  They circled the valley as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Hovering briefly, then tucking a wing and diving earthward only to rise up higher on the next updraft.

I got lost watching them.

A little while later, after they’d moved out of sight, I got up from the steps. The electrician was working on a new meter that will give me 200 amp service. One of the nagging problems we’ve been dealing with is how do we get a trench dug deep enough in the rocky hill that sits between my house and the power pole.

“Could we just run the wire from the pole to the back of the house and then run conduit to the breaker box in the front of the house,” I asked.

His eyes lit up. “We’ll have to get an engineer to come out and look at it, but I think we can do that,” he said.

We’ll find out next week.

So after a tumultuous 36 hours, I feel like those hawks again. I can’t wait to get to know them better.




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Timing is everything

I haven’t posted this year because the year has been full of a flurry of activity and then long waits.

The house flunked the frame inspection for a variety of issues, ranging from the builder not using metal plates between wood and cinder blocks, to the wrong nail plate on a drain, to the porch rail being an inch and a half short for its distance off the ground.


The interior walls are installed and coated with polyurethane.

In all, that took three weeks to fix, and involved me taking a day off of work to change the nail plate because my plumber decided to quit returning my calls. (That’s another story.)

The porch still doesn’t meet codes. The builder wanted me to spend about $400 on trucking in dirt to raise the level of the land under the porch so that the porch is less than 30 inches from it and then the porch meets codes.

I agreed at first, but once I thought about it, I decided to just add a 2×4 to the top of the rail and small spindles between the big ones so that there’s no more than a 4-inch space. I don’t have children, but my nephews and nieces have children and I don’t want them getting between the spindles and hurting themselves when they visit. My plan costs $30.

So the interior walls are complete now. I thought the flooring would be a breeze. I want wood laminate and when I went to order it last week from a box store, I discovered it’s not a simple matter at all.

The sales person called me after I ordered a measurement and asked if there was electricity in the house.

Me: “There’s an extension cord from the power pole that the carpenter, plumber, electrician and mechanical contractor used without issue.”

Salesperson: “The installers won’t work without power actually in the house.”

Me: “Why the hell not? Everyone else has.”

Salesperson: “It’s their policy.”

Me: “Thanks. I’ll find another store where the installers are a little more hardy and don’t run the show. How do I get my deposit back?”

So the store refunded my money and I hightailed it to their competition during lunch. The guys there were great. They couldn’t see why working with an extension cord would be a problem. As one guy wrote up my order, another guy called the installer.

New sales guy: “Is your house heated?”

Me: “No. Is that a problem? If it is, I have a portable heater I’ve used with the extension cord. It can make the house comfortable for them.”

New sales guy after talking with installer: “The house needs to have a working HVAC before we can install wood laminate. It has to sit in the house for a couple of days to acclimate. It can’t acclimate without a working HVAC.”

Me: “Shit.”

I walked out of that store dazed, my mind running through hundreds of scenarios, most of which included me spending extra months living in a $400 a week hotel.

I have a contractor who is planning to work on the drainage between the house and the hill as soon as the weather clears. But the weather hasn’t really cleared since before Christmas and the forecast was for more rain this week.

That’s important because the power pole is on top of the hill and to get power to the house, we have to dig a trench and bury the wire in it.

We can’t dig the trench until the drainage work between the hill and the house is done. And I can’t install the kitchen cabinets and appliances until I have the floor installed.

And now I can’t have the floor installed until the HVAC is up and running and that’s being held hostage by the weather which is holding up the drainage work.


I called the first salesperson back.

I told her that from what I understand, it’s not so much an electricity issue as it is an HVAC issue. I asked if we could get the house measured and the flooring ordered so we have it ready to go while we work on getting the HVAC running.

She agreed and I had to pay the deposit again, since she refunded it to me earlier in the day. The installer called me on Thursday and asked which room I wanted to have the flooring installed.

Me: “The whole house. If it has a floor in it, I want wood laminate on top of it.”

Installer: “We don’t install wood laminate in bathrooms.”

Me: “I’m living in a hotel that has wood laminate in the bathroom. If they can do it we can do it, humor me.”

The conversation ended and life went on.

Today I was looking at lavatories and kitchen cabinets at the same store when the flooring salesperson called to tell me the quote was ready.

Me: “I’m in the store. I’ll be right there.”

It turns out my house is a little bigger than I thought. But the bathroom issue came up again.

Salesperson: “We won’t install wood laminate in bathrooms.”

Me: “Why the hell not? If my hotel has it, I don’t think there’s a problem.”

Salesperson: “It’s our policy and the manufacturer’s policy. If its installed in the bathroom, it voids your entire warranty.”

Me: “Why in the hell is that?”

We went back and forth and finally it became apparent — wood laminate isn’t waterproof. I could buy that much better than “just because.”

So in the end, I ordered a vinyl laminate for the bathroom, which is waterproof, but stuck with wood laminate for the rest of the house. They’re not a perfect match, but close enough. My bathroom is 6 x 7 and I have three rugs for the floor there, so it’s not like you’ll see a lot of the floor.

I paid for the flooring and they’ll be delivered to the house in two weeks.

Two weeks. Shit.

So here I sit in my extended stay hotel room (which I did not budget for in the first place) and the WiFi is finally working for the first time this week.

The landscaping is set to start Monday, but there’s snow and rain in the forecast for Monday.

I’m buying light fixtures and working on doing as much as can be done without finished floors.

Hopefully the HVAC is running on the 23rd, when the flooring is delivered. It has to sit in the house for a couple of days before it can be installed. Installation will just take a day,whenever that day comes.

So I’m looking at the early part of March now, when I had originally hoped to be in the house by Christmas. We can get the bathroom fixtures and kitchen cabinets done fairly quickly but the appliances can only be delivered on a Monday and I fear the flooring won’t be done in time for them to be delivered this month.

I still have to get the water system up and running too, but that’s for another day.

My goal now is to have a cold beer on my code-compliant porch on St. Patrick’s Day.

Time will tell.

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Taking it easy

Home sweet home in a month or so

This was my first stress-free day in months.

Decisions are coming at me a mile a minute from every direction since even before the house was delivered, so I took today off, and drove to Hartsville, Tenn.

The  Tennessee Lodge of Research held its quarterly meeting at Hartsville Lodge #113, a lodge that was founded about a year after my lodge, Charlotte #97.

I got there early and stumbled upon the town’s Christmas parade, which ran at a leisurely pace through town about a half block from the lodge building. Great little parade with local clubs, politicians, Santa and lots of folks on horseback waving and smiling.

It was also Dickens Days in town, so there were folks in 19th Century garb milling about the crowd as well. No one asked me what kind of thingamabob I was planning to use for a whatchamacallit in the house.

The meeting was nice, too. The lunch superb — fried chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes with pecan pie and cake for dessert.

We heard a talk on the Masonic connections to Boy Scouts and I had my application for membership in the Tennessee Lodge of Research approved.

I met lots of Masonic brothers today, some of whom don’t live far from the Ridge, and all who are interested in history and Masonry like me.

The drive back to Nashville was quiet.

I stopped at the storage place to pay my first month’s rent and get things squared away before the big move at the end of the month.

It turns out that I can use  my own padlock, so I used the lock that was on the gate, which simplifies things, since it uses the same key as the other locks on the Ridge.

All in all it was a simple day, serving as a reminder that when all of these decisions are made and executed, a simpler life awaits me on the Ridge.

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That’s the word my credit union and two banks used to describe my request for a mortgage on my new home.

They were talking about the house, not me. (But that word has been used to describe me before.)

The issue they have is that I have to pay for my house before the builder delivers the shell. Once delivered, I will have the electrical wires run and the plumbing installed, then the builder will come out and finish the interior, except for the flooring, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom fixtures, which I’ll either do myself or have someone skilled to do them for me.

Unconventional. They like to give money for completed structures. Mine’s not finished at the time the money is due.

Unconventional. They appraise the value of a home by looking at sales of comparable homes in the area. There are none.

“We don’t have anything that can help you,” two loan officers told me.

“Not a problem,” I said to no one in particular.

While heavy debt can be a burden, good credit can cover a multitude of sins.

Because I have paid off the heavy debt load I had four years ago when the divorce was final, my credit rating is in the highest bracket right now. I have no outstanding credit card balances and get offers for new credit cards and signature loans in the mail all the time.

So I got a signature loan this week to pay for my house through one of the loan offers I got in the mail.

It’s a 5-year loan, but I’ll pay it off in less than four. In a month or two, my FICO score will drop a little, but not enough to cause concern. Come January 1, I won’t have rent to pay and my loan note is 20 percent lower than I pay for rent right now.

The loan is an unsecured loan, which means it’s not tied to the house. So when I pay the builder and the house is delivered, it’s mine. No liens attached. I can sell it any time I want to. (I don’t want to.) I have 100 percent equity in it.

It’s just like my land, which belongs to me. I have the deed although I still have 3 years left to pay for the signature loan I took out to buy it.

Unconventional? That works for me.

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Getting there

I ordered my cabin last week, which means the shell should get delivered by the end of October, so the real work begins in earnest.

I cut the grass finally, so the next step is to stake out where the house will go. Weather and stomach issues have delayed that part, but I hope to do it after work in the coming week and pull the septic permit as soon as possible.

I met with the loan officer on Saturday and there are a few possibilities, which will all get resolved in the next week or two.

Once the septic tank is installed, I can have the foundation installed. Once the shell is delivered, I will get the electrical and plumbing work done, then the builder will come out and insulate and finish the interior walls and ceiling while I get the rain gutters and cistern installed and the water system up and running.

After that comes the laminated wood flooring, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, light fixtures, shower, toilet and appliances (stove, refrigerator and dishwasher.) Yes, a dishwasher. They use less water than if I did the dishes by hand.

If everything works out (which it usually does) I’ll be in my new home before Christmas.

Estimated cost, less than $65,000, including the land.

Here’s a peek at what the inside of the cabin will look like.

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I haven’t blogged much because there hasn’t been much to blog about.

I picked a cabin style I like, worked out financing with my credit union, found a contractor to handle the foundation, found a supplier for my cistern and its components, and moved the land cost off my credit cards before interest kicked in.

While that’s a lot of activity, it’s mostly phone calls, emails and texts.

The biggest issue I am facing right now is getting the grass cut so ticks and chiggers aren’t a problem.

I’m not doing so well with that.

I didn’t winterize my lawn mower and ended up putting bad gas in it last week. The short version is it won’t start. The longer version is that no matter what I do, it won’t start.

Since I only paid $120 for the lawn mower new, I can’t see me spending money at a repair shop. I cut half the yard with my weed eater last week. I couldn’t grasp an object the day after. So this afternoon, in a feat of genius, I bought a Fiskar reel mower.

I blogged about wanting a Fiskar a few years ago. It’s a beautiful machine, well built and stout as all get out. But I didn’t find out until I got it back to The Ridge and all put together that it won’t cut anything that’s taller than 6 inches.

Fiskars reel mower

Fiskars reel mower

The grass and weeds in my yard are much higher than six inches right now.

The Fiskar made a dent in the grass. You can see where I pushed it in the really thick area. But tomorrow, I’ll stop at Harbor Freight on my way back and pick up a corded weed eater and something to hold the trigger down while I get the grass low enough to use my new Fiskar.

The old lawn mower? I’ll pick up a spark plug kit at Harbor Fright, too, and clean the plug to see if that will make a difference.

But I probably won’t do that for a few weeks while I concentrate on getting the grass down to a manageable height. I’ve basically spent the last month or so up there watching the grass grow.

Did I mention that The Ridge is just east of Dull?

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