Sunday, August 29, 2010

2+2+2=Balanced Home

At this point in my life, my house contains my brother and me (2), Little Cat and Zooey (2), and Quickie and Spirit (2). We are a perfectly balanced home! Today was Spirit's first day here, and I must say that both horses have handled it with aplomb. Quickie has been moved to the back pasture, where he has a large run-in stall and a nice-sized pasture of tall grasses. He is gradually being introduced to Spirit under close supervision, as their first meeting involved Quickie cantering circles around Spirit, which finally culminated in a few light kicks from Spirit (don't worry, Quickie is fine!). By the time I had introduced them 5 or 6 times, they were able to graze peacefully about 20 feet apart. Nonetheless, they are being pastured separately until I can be confident that no serious violence will ensue. Here's one of their meetings:

Obviously it is hard to focus on house work when there is so much excitement going on in the backyard. However, I have maintained some semblance of focus. This weekend I replaced all the trim in the kitchen (except two sections which were not cut right to begin with), did a little fix on the dining room floor, and started cutting the trim (this was MUCH harder than anticipated and appears to take a mind much more poised to do insta-geometry than mine). Little by little, this house will get finished! My mom's friend will be repairing the bathroom door, which will become a window for safety reasons, and I'm going to keep chugging on the kitchen and trim. Here's to a fun and productive week!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Making room for Spirit: Barn clean up!

My project over the last few days has been getting the barn and pasture ready for a new member of the family: Spirit! He is a beautiful 7-year old thoroughbred who was neglected. He will now have a loving home, and I've been working on making it safe and functional for him. He is a very sweet horse and a lovely personality. He is also low on the pecking order among horses, meaning that my mini stallion might have an opportunity to retain "top horse"! It'll be interesting to see if ultimately it is about the size of the horse or the size of the horse's ego! It reminds me of my efforts (typically successful) in intimidating my nearly 6 foot tall boyfriend as a 5 foot 2 woman...

Anyway, here are some pictures showing the barn's transition to a nice place for Spirit.I have a one-acre pasture in the front of the house, and a one acre pasture in the back. The second pasture needs some additional fencing, so my dad and I put up a temporary fence until my great-uncle comes on Saturday to give me an estimate. It came out pretty well for a $5.50 price tag! I am duly impressed with myself. Speaking of which, this very blog has been gaining much-anticipated notoriety. For those few of you who are lucky enough to have been on the ground floor, congratulations. Everyone else: welcome!
The barn was full of old wood, posts, GIANT spiders (literally, a brown recluse was dangling from the rafters), and leftover fencing.

As you can see, there are plenty of places for a variety of disgusting bugs, moles, ground hogs, and mice to hide in there. No more!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kitchen Floor: Before and After!

The kitchen floor is finally done! I will ignore the fact that it is two days later than I thought and that there are occasional little errors here and there. It is gorgeous!! I think it really changes the overall feel of the house and it definitely makes it cleaner. Those vinyl floors that were there were disgusting. I even found little puffs of dog hair jammed behind hind the baseboard trim...

Here is the before/after for the kitchen floor...

Plus a few extras of the new floor...

Here's a before and after for the living room! (its only somewhat "after", as there is more work to be done of course).

Here's what I found outside my door in a recent surprise...

And who I am always happy to see outside my door...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Six Rules of Home Repair

Sometimes, despite best intentions, you will fail.

This is what I've been telling myself today and I am largely believing it. Although I truly awoke this morning expecting to have a completed floor by nightfall, this did not occur. In fact, the flooring itself is not even in my house yet! There seems to be a sort of unexpected delay at the hardware store. So instead of working all day, I ended up napping and going to dinner. I guess some days you get a break unexpectedly.

All my rest time had me thinking about what I've learned so far in my housing quest, which I think can be boiled down to a few simple ideas:

1. Don't give up.
2. Set goals and be prepared to re-set them day after day.
3. Don't go to Lowe's if you can avoid it. If you must go, obtain a 10% off coupon to make it tolerable.
4. On that note, be assertive at the hardware store. No matter what they say, they will ignore women.
5. Learn to appreciate the beauty of your own best work (in my case this means accepting my inability to make accurate measurements and lack of precision with a saw).
6. We are all more capable than we realize. Who knew that a girl with my (0) interest in home improvement would pull inch-long staples out of softwood stairs til all hours of the night? Give yourself room to surprise yourself.

Well I've imparted enough wisdom (!) for one day...hopefully the floor comes tomorrow. Oh! And I nearly forgot to mention the best news: the check came today!!! Thank you Mr. President and your minions at the treasury for sending me a cool 7500 today!

Planning a home budget

Monday was a busy day! I am proud of my level of productivity. Following are a slew of pictures which summarize the day (prepping the kitchen floor for new flooring. yay!), but first a financial note: I am tottering dangerously on the $3000 mark for overall house repairs. Obama has graciously given me $7500, but I have always planned to set aside a little over half (about 4000-4500) for emergencies (i.e., I was scared silly that I'll stop being able to pay the mortgage and will need a cushion). So basically, I am encroaching upon my self-imposed financial limit, and there are yet things to do! Two windows need to be replaced/repaired and the kitchen walls have not been started yet. Most frighteningly, I received a letter yesterday saying that if I didn't fix the 2nd floor balcony, which is railing-less, I will be dropped from the policy! I was momentarily panic-stricken, but came to my senses and decided to act instead of panicking (a good decision much of the time). All that to say this: the open shelves plan for the kitchen is looking expensive (500+) and no longer fits in the budget (recall: I bought an expensive oven and new kitchen floor unexpectedly). Here is a pic. The previous plan was to fix the tongue-and-groove flooring which covers the walls, but that stuff is expensive. Any suggestions on less-expensive ways to fix the walls/add shelves are welcome!

And here are the much-anticipated pictures of the day's work! By the end of today (Tuesday), it will be a wonderful new floor (hopefully!).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Week Seven, Day Four

I'm back from the convention! I had a great time and learned a lot. I also couldn't help but think about all the things that I want to do for the house! I have from today until next Sunday (so about 9 days) to work very consistently on the house before school resumes. Today I stained the baseboards for the dining room, as well as the room connectors that make a smooth segue between different types of floors. I became aware of the extent to which oak stains better than pine. Lesson learned! I also did considerable cleaning of the kitchen and bathroom. I began "cleaning" the grout in the bathroom by using a colored grout pen to re-whiten it. It died after only encircling a few tiles' worth of a grout! Useless! I was forced to cover the difference with a small rug. I also purchased more tongue and groove flooring (160 plus 25 for underlayment). I will be putting it in the kitchen on Tuesday!

Quickie and I took a walk for exercise and to remind him of his ground manners (he did very well). He became incredibly excited when he caught wind (literally) of some horses that live down the street and in fact nearly refused to return home. His whinnying and prancing lasted several minutes thereafter (fortunately he has a very very short memory). I am trying to decide if this is evidence for or against getting another horse...

Well since I only have small things to show progress on, I will post a picture of Little Cat instead (he is comfortable with the potential for notoriety in my posting his photo on here).
Look how he's grown from his first day at the new house to now!

Little Cat has an unusual disease called dirty nose syndrome. There is no known cure.

Finally: Congratulations are in order. Practically everyone I associate with, including ME, will be graduating on Saturday. This will be me soon! (Actual image: my brother's graduation last year!)

Nice and fuzzy. Just like it will look like from 100 rows back.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Week Six: GONE!

Well I will not be able to accomplish ANYTHING in week six, and for once I have a legitimate excuse: I will be in San Francisco at a conference! So when I fall off the face the earth this week, don't think its because I have lost my will to live...or even my will to work. In fact, quite the opposite: I will be soldiering on in the fight against size discrimination (but that is a topic for another blog). Until then, I will be dreaming up new ways to improve the house and refocusing on the budget. There is nothing like some time away to draw to the forefront all the money that has thus far been spent!

See you soon!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week Six, Day One

Today was a successful day! Having once again struck an excellent balance between schoolwork and housework (with a lovely addition of sloth), I was able to cross almost everything off my antique Italian-baker chalkboard!

I rewarded myself with lots of visits to the cookie jar and a copious amount of saltines (I am reminded of why I don't stock the cookie and cracker jars. Even as I write this, my computer keys are slowly jamming with cracker crumbs). So I did quite a lot of schoolwork, "regular" housework like cleaning and washing dishes, than went to Lowe's in the evening. We got the baseboard picked out (simple shoe molding in stainable poplar), bought some stain, a glue/caulking gun for me (fun!), some finishing nails, and an entrance sloping jam-thing for the door (bad description--I can't remember what he called it). Tomorrow I will be putting the bathroom trim back up, which should draw the bathroom work to a close, except for whitening the grout with a white grout pen. The whole first floor is really looking great, and I am seriously thinking that a housewarming could be on the horizon.

Financially speaking, I am still doing reasonably well. I have spent about $2400 on the house so far. In terms of more expensive projects, I have the kitchen walls to fix, shelves to put up, and two windows to replace. These are things that I definitely need to do. On my wish list is to get a back deck, redo the kitchen floor, fix the upstairs bathroom, finish the fence in the back pasture, redecorate my office....and on and on! Of these, I do think I may lay the same floor as in the sun room and dining room in the would add flow, plus look SO much more beautiful and country than the yucky white vinyl. Still, I am finally getting to the things that are more "polishing" than "frantic repairs". This is a relief.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Week Five, Weekend

Well, I have been a student first and a homeowner last all week, but finally this weekend I settled into some real housework. It was actually one of the most fun house days I've had in a while! Having started the hardest part of the dining room floor on Saturday with my dad (using the jigsaw to cut out the vents), I set to work on finishing the floor Sunday afternoon (the morning, incidentally, was full of cleaning and watching Quickie, my horse, gallop around the yard as my friend's dog chased him...!). I was initially pretty frustrated with the floor, because something about the room or the boards or something was making the boards not fit together well. Basically as soon as I would get one end tucked into the groove, the other end would pop right out. After playing that game for about 10 minutes with one small section, I was very relieved when help arrived in the form of an attractive young suitor--the best kind of helper, really. Anyway, the two of us got the job done rather well,with the except of two small places where the boards didn't fit together well. Rome wasn't built in a day, but what they don't tell you is that it also wasn't built by perfectionists. So I was quite happy just to have all the boards laid. Here are is how the floor turned out:
That is my cat, Zooey, in the foreground. I am looking forward to getting the shoe molding up tomorrow to complete the room. I hope that I am able to figure out how to install it by then!

In addition to laying the floor, we also got a lot done in my recent quest for a pasture buddy for Quickie. He is a miniature stallion, which makes it harder to find a friend for him. I was thinking about getting a goat for him to hang out with, but then I became enticed with the idea of getting a riding horse. As vegans say, this would allow me to grab two berries with the same hand, as Quickie would get a friend, and I would get to have a horse to ride. So we went to visit a horse named Sophie who is a rescue horse at a nearby farm animal sanctuary. Here is Sophie:

She is beautiful! I was able to rider her at her foster family's home. She rides without a bit, which means she is well trained and very calm. I really enjoyed riding her. There is more info about Sophie and other horses that I'm considering at Happy Trails. I also met up with some old friends quite serendipitously when I was buying hay through Craigslist. It turned out that the person who I emailed for hay was actually a couple who I used to ride with! It was great luck that we met up again, and I look forward to possibly riding with them in the future.

I also wanted to add a quick picture of all the work that my dad has done to make my barn, pasture, and yard beautiful for my horse (s!). Check out the before and after:

And last but not least, here is a picture of Quickie enjoying his new home: