My house is haunted


I feel that nearly everything that could go wrong with house has gone wrong with this house. That's not exactly a valid statement, I can think of at least a dozen things that could have gone wrong with this house in addition to the things that have gone wrong with the house. Those dozen things don't lessen the frustration with the giant list of everything that has gone wrong with this house.

The house had termite damage so extensive the contractors didn't really understand why it was still standing. Everything was delayed in the reconstruction. The floors were uneven, the foundation had sunk in one corner. The beams over the beautiful large doors have sagged. The original duct work was in the slab foundation (did I mention the house had a slab foundation IN THE MIDWEST, which guarantees freaking cold floors in the winter, but delightfully cool floors in the humid summer), and had to be moved to the attic. The attic isn't insulated, so that winter snow? Doesn't stick to THIS roof. The pipes backed up my first night here. The shower curtains fell despite being tightened beyond my usual strength. The wood floors warped. There are sounds in the house that are terrifying alone at night.

The kicker in my mind is THE KITCHEN CABINET DOORS WARPED. I have seriously never heard about kitchen cabinet doors warping. Ever. Not even in my grandparent's farm house did the kitchen cabinet doors warp.

And, of course, there was the f'ing fireball in the face last November.

So, of course, we joke the house is haunted.

Diana had a sensitive friend visit her house, and asked the friend if she felt anything in Diana's house. The friend said no, she didn't feel anything. They came over to my house and unprompted, the friend commented, "Now here, I feel something."

Always something.

The last of the big fixes were done today. The sliding glass doors were replaced.

The last thing.

The drafts are gone. The flue closes. The doors lock without a two by four in the door.

At this point, I want to make peace with the ghost of the house.

Or at least have a talisman that stops the craziness with this house.


Since my plastic spoons seem unable to scoop out the chocolate chip batter from the tub, I went to the local Goodwill and, for the first time in my life, bought something from the retail shop there. I bought a set of utensils and two mugs. The mugs match, and, once I scrubbed the heck out of them to remove all the black marks and coffee stains out of them, are exactly what I was looking for in mugs. I can now have someone over to the house, make tea for her, and have a mug to hand her.

Also, I have decided these are the talismans I was looking for.

I dub these mugs, the Skyline Talismans:

If I have a ghost, I can freakin' have a talisman that minimizes that ghost's effectiveness.


Not always greener.


That whole "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" thing?

Totally applies to a house remodel.

What the designers and architects and magazines and builders and showrooms don't tell you, however, is how things will look and work day to day.

Take stainless steel appliances, for example. Wow, they look great on the showroom floor. They look AMAZING in the pictures.

They look like ass with little kid and big kid and small adult and large adult handprints all over them. And those thing are a pain to keep polished sparkling clean, and who would want to keep them that clean anyway?

And that sink? That stainless steel, double sink with the deep bowl on one side? As far as sinks go, those are gorgeous. I love them. I want one in every house I own.

And you know what?

They are impossible to keep clean.

That deep bowl? Try washing a full sink full of dishes. Leaning over into the deep sink puts a strain on the lower back. Oh, boy, after a day of cooking, I'll be happy for the "I cook, you clean" rule for all the non-dishwasher pots and pans I might use.

Which is not to say, I don't totally love the stainless sink I have in the house. I totally do. It's lovely and beautiful and great given it's only me in the house so I have few dishes to wash. The water splotches and general non-perfect surfaces tell me I'm using the sink. It's being used for its purpose and, you know what, I *get* to use this lovely sink. I think that's awesome.

So, while the grass is greener where you water it, the stainless steel is perfect where you use it, even when it has smudges on it.

My first irrigation attempt


Well, today was the day.

The reason I was here in Arizona on this particular day, at this particular time.


My mom's irrigation started at 11:50 last night. I have to say I wasn't particularly excited to have to get up at 3:15 in the morning to handle my irrigation. I was hoping the excitement of a first time would make any horrible hours bearable.

Fortunately, my time slot was 5:35. Totally bearable, given that I'm still jetlagged and waking up before 6:00 am anyway.

Unfortunately, like every other time I set an alarm and am not completely used to my surroundings, I woke two hours early and drifted, checking my clock every 20 minutes or so.

Time to rise?


Time to rise?


Time to rise?


Time to rise?


Hate that.

At 5:15, I gave up, rose and dressed. Mom seemed a little surprised to see me, and went with the flow. Told me to head over, and don't forget the irrigation boots. Right.

The idea with the irrigation is that you set up gates, braces that act as mini dams, then open up the portals that send the water coming down the canal through the conduit into your yard. The yard is flooded with the irrigation water, eventually soaks into the ground, and you have happy, typically well-adapted, vegetation.

That's the idea, anyway.

Mom and I had reviewed the theory yesterday. Today, I was over to set these things up. For my yard, I had two portals, one for each side of the yard. I would place a short gate behind the first portal, upstream, so that the first flow of water would go into the first portal, and the overflow would go down-canal and be stopped by the second, taller gate set before the second portal. The second gate should force the rest of the water into the yard, and I'd have my full allotment of water.

That was the plan, anyway.

What I didn't know is how the yard sloped, and this was the way I was supposed to irrigate this yard. I didn't know how much water to expect. I didn't know the nuances of irrigation.

Today ended up being a good day to learn.

I went over and talked briefly with Dale, who was finishing up the irrigation on the property backing the one I was about to set up. He encouraged me with the gate, just drop it there after the first portal. With the first, shorter gate set up, I opened the portal and in went the water.

Mom was over to help me out. With her help and Dale's help, we had the taller, second gate in place, with the portal open and drawing water. It seemed like we had everything all set up. I had a pile of items from Mom: my breakfast of nectarines and clif bars, loppers, tree saw, plastic bag for trash, water bottle, camera, phone; the water was coming in seemingly well. Yeah, I was set.

Mom went home to ready for her day, while I sat around, not quite sure what I was supposed to be doing. I checked a bit on the water, no much to do there. I used the loppers Mom had offered I bring over, trimming branches on a tree that needs to come out, mostly so that I could see where it was growing. I read for a while.

I was reading when Mom came back, an hour into the irrigation. "What is going on?" I was confused, but followed her out. Turns out, the second portal wasn't pouring water fast enough. I knew I had problems with the seal, and about a third of my water was heading down-canal, but I couldn't figure out how to stop it, and didn't have any towels to use as seals, so I had resigned myself to less water.

Mom said, no, I should be getting water to the front, pull the low barrier, and let the water flood the lower half of the yard. She gave me instructions, gave me a hug, and went off to work.

After she left, I wandered back to the canal, looked at the shorter gate, and pulled it up.

Not my best idea ever.

You know what happens when you blow a dam?


The water floods down the river, wiping out everything in front of it until the built up energy is spent.

As I pulled up the gate, I realized my error. I hustled after the head of my mini dam burst, I wondering if the second gate would hold.

It didn't.

As I watched, the second gate washed sideways, and all the water started hurtling down the canal.

Ever try to stop a flow of water mid-stream?

Yeah, something like that.

I couldn't get the taller gate unwedged from under the pallet used to cross the canal, so jammed the shorter gate into the water, letting the water push it into place. With the reduced flow, I pulled the taller gate out from under the pallet it had stopped against. I braced the taller gate with bricks floated down from the water surface. I then wandered along the canal to retrieve Dale's gate, and put that up in front of the other two gates. With three gates, maybe I'd stop enough water to flood the second half of the yard.


Maybe not.

After this disaster of a manuever happened, I wandered down the canal to talk to a neighbor who was putting in a gate and opening up her portals. Sure, have my water, I'm okay with it. Not like I'll be using the stuff gushing down anyway. What a disaster this was turning out to be.

We chatted for a short bit, with promises to discuss lawn-mowing-by-sheep at a later date, and I wandered back to the porch, wading through the rising water in the yard.

Another hour passed and the yard seemed good and filled. I walked over to the neighbors scheduled for water after me, and to the second, he dropped his gate and opened his portal. His gate was shiny with rubber seals along the edges. As he was dropping the gate in, I was thinking, "Wow, that'll seal well, I need to make or buy myself one of those."

Only to watch about the same amount of water leak around his gate as had leaked around the ones I dropped in.


We said our good-byes, and I went to close the portals. The water level had dropped to the point where I was unsure if water wasn't reversing back out of the yard, so was happy to shut them.

Elaine, the non-sheep neighbor, followed me back across the canal, watched me pull the bricks and gates, commented on the canal bridges I had. Another thing I need to replace: probably with wire shelving, the 2' by 6' braced ones, add feet and a rubber surface.

We waded through the water and stood on the back porch for a bit, before Elaine and I went inside to talk about the history of the house. As we were walking through the water, I heard a running water noise. It sounded louder than the canal water had before, which confused me.

Turns out, the yard is subtly sloped, and I had overflooded the second half of the yard. The berm on the west side broke, flooding my water into the west neighbor's yard. I noticed this as we were walking in the house, and commented on it. Elaine responded, "Oh, there's nothing you can do about it now," so we went in.

Elaine and I toured the house as she reminisced. She let me know aobut her blue period, why some of the rooms were so dark, who the owners all were (she and her husband, the nances, bernie), and how the house had changed (it hadn't). She and her husband had built the house, before building the one next door. He had tiled the house, she had decorated it. The tile was still there, and in fantastic shape, but very 70s, which was when the house was built. Her husband liked the dark, so the living room was womb-like. I prefer light, and would be inclined to put a skylight in the ceiling.

It was a nice tour.

When she left, I wandered back to the porch, and started gathering my things to head back to Mom's. The water noise bothered me, however, so I put the irrigation boots back on and wandered over to the hole.

"Nothing to be done? Meh," I thought, and walked back over to the house to pick up a brick I had seen. One big swing of the brick, followed by a couple minutes of moving dirt and packing it, and the leak from my yard to the neighbor's yard was temporarily patched. The yard will receive more irrigation in two weeks' time, so I'll need to fix the berm better for that flooding. For now, the brick is sufficient.

I gathered the rest of my items, wandered out the garage door, and chatted briefly with Dale and Kristina, who had stopped by to see if I had managed to flood to the front of the house. He commented the west berm is always weak, so it seems to be a known issue.

At one point during the whole thing, some time between the gate disaster and the berm repair, I texted Mom, "I very clearly have no idea what I am doing." She responded with "You're doing great!! An adventure!"

An adventure, indeed!

Hand update, day 5


Whelp, fifth day after I opened up my hand, and it seems to have healed over by at least a layer of skin. I'm a little weirded out by this, as I'd rather it heals from the inside out than the outside in, but, well, not bleeding is a good place to be.

We have grapes!


Let there be light!


Chris Holley, Lyndsay's little brother is helping me out around the house for a couple weeks now. His first day was a little disastrous, when he spilled nearly all of the ceiling paint on the garage floor, then spent the next two hours cleaning up the mess. And inauspicious beginning, to say the list.

He's been doing okay since, completing a few tasks that have been on my list for just the longest time.

For example, the butterfly bush, the annoying thing that kept growing and growing and growing, is now gone.

Turning around, the bush that became a tree was removed, too.

Other work is getting done, which is great. Having the extra sunlight is even better.

Leave well enough alone


I really need to learn to leave well enough alone sometimes. I really do.

When we first moved into the house, there was an ugly faux-brass light fixture thingy in the dining area.

I took it down about six months later, disliking the way it looked, and intending to put a lighted fan up soon after to help with the summer heat. Fans are great when you don't like air conditioners.

Well, I didn't find a fan I liked for another 2 years. By the time I did find one, however, I realized that I couldn't actually hang it up because the junction box didn't seem likely to be able to support the weight of the fan, much less the motion of it. Couple that realization with the realization we should have the house rewired, and the light fixture stayed two wires hanging from the ceiling.

Fast forward another few years to a roommate, and the wires are still there. Said roomie, Heather, comments on them every once in a while, wondering when we're going to fix the problem.

Oh, that? Yeah, I guess we should, eh?

Recently, we've been inspired by Andy's handyman work around his house. So, inspired, that we let him install our Smith-provided thermostat. Yay, us!

Really, though, he's inspired us (that, and practicing on the Indiana house), so we decided to install a temporary light since we weren't comfortable with the fan going up yet. So, we bought a light fixture, brought it home, opened it up, and went to install it.

To discover the light junction box is actually 1" too narrow for the fixture. Somehow, we managed a super-small, half-size light box for our dining area light. Great. Just great.

Andy offered to replace it, but wondered how the installed one was currently attached. Let's find out, I said, and brought out a hammer to pull out the nails and a screw driver to remove the screws. Was I really afraid the box wouldn't support the fan? I shouldn't have been. I could hang from that junction box without fear of falling, it was in there so well.

Well, was. It's not now.

Yeah, that's MUCH better than the two wires sticking out. MUCH.

Plumbing disaster early this month


Earlier this month, Kris said the horrific words, "I think the dishwasher is broken." I looked into the dishwasher to see four inches of stagnant water, and thought, well, crap. I told him not to worry, though, I'd fix it. He looked at me, and shook his head, in a "I wonder how long this is going to take." sort of way.

Nearly a week and a dozen sinks worth of dishes washed later, I pulled the bucket and a screwdriver from the garage and went to work under the sink.

I have no idea what convinced me that 1. I knew what the problem was, or 2. I could fix it, but ignorance breeds confidence and, within minutes, the plumbing was disconnected under the sink. One quick, flashlight-aided look later, and I knew we weren't spending hundreds of dollars on a new dishwasher.

Turns out, when I made my most dee-lish-shush mushroom barley soup for Thanksgiving, and had dumped the old, spoiled barley down the drain (before I realized how stupid such a move would be, and threw it into the compost pile instead), I had inadvertantly clogged the incoming dishwasher line. It was packed full of barley, about eight inches worth of barley packing.

A plumber's snake, a chopstick, fifteen minutes and only one dishwasher water explosion later, and we had clear plumbing again.

Plumber Kitt to rescue. I'm liking this hands-on approach to fixing house problems.