Miss part one of this story? Read it here. Part two is here. Part three is here.
We drove onto the driveway, climbing up a bit of hill to the house. As we got out of the car, we looked down onto an acre of over-grown green things, brightly lit and sunny. I spied a perfect place for a garden. We walked inside the cottage and fell in love. Sure, it was small, but everything was laid out perfectly. There were plenty of things that needed updating, but for now, it was turnkey. Sunlight from a skylight flooded the kitchen, flowing into the living room. A delightful eating nook seemed to be waiting for our dining table. While there was only one bathroom, it was much larger than our current one, and we could already see how we could build out the master for a half bath sometime in the future. It had a spare room that would be perfect for my Charles and my office. Perfect was the word that kept popping into my mind.
We made an offer. We had to. It already felt like our place. The sellers, thank goodness, accepted.
After the inspection, a few problems were found. We went back slightly lower to cover some of the costs for repair. (I’ll go into those in greater detail as we work on/hire out the different areas.) The new price was also accepted. We were good to go.
After we were in contract, we were given a tour of the property. As we tramped through knee-high grasses, gazed at the raw wonder of the spring that would be ours, and located the property corners, Charles and I began to feel like we belonged to the land as much as it belonged to us. We were so grateful we had the opportunity to see and then to buy this house and land!
I played around with names for our new home as we waited to sign the final documents. There were a few ideas, but nothing seemed to fit until Periwinkle Cottage stumbled into my consciousness. It fit so well, and the word periwinkle has always been one of my favorites to say. It’s such a playful, happy word bouncing around your mouth as it gets spoken.
There’s also a tongue-in-cheek aspect. Periwinkle is an invasive species, and this property is packed with invasives. 71 years of different people planting what was trendy has left its mark. We’ll keep the cottage’s namesake, though cut it back to more manageable levels, but there are a lot of other species that need to be dealt with, too. While the inside needs some updating, there are going to be a lot of yard and garden posts in the blog’s future.
So here it is – our new home. We love it so much and can’t wait to share new house – and land – adventures here. Now we have to get Our Little House ready and on the market!
**Update** After living here for a few months, we've realized that the name, "Periwinkle Cottage" wasn't quite right. It's Foxen Cottage. :) Sometimes, you just have to live with something longer in order to really learn who/what it is.
First things first, as you can tell by these amazing (yeah right!) photos, we still haven't painted half of our house. Oh, the shame! All of that blue and brown in making me crazy. Plus, we still need to paint all of the eaves. We haven't figured out how we're going to do that yet, so... here we are.
Well, now that we've got that out of the way, we can talk about gutters! One of the sexiest of all house updates, to be sure. Long time readers may remember that we had Byers' Leaf Guard gutters installed on the deck side of the house three years ago. (Three years? How the heck did that happen?!!) We meant to schedule the other side last year, but never got around to it. It's hard to feel motivated when you know you're going to spend more than a grand on something that diverts water. We needed to have it done, though. When we actually get things like rain and snow, not like we have the last couple of years, but when we do, our awesome concrete side steps cause the water to splash back onto the side door. Then the door warps, and water gets under the subfloor... we know this tale well enough already.
I really do love the Byers people. (No, I didn't get paid to say that. I've never done a sponsored post, after all. It's my honest assessment.) Their staff is amazing, and while it costs more than your average gutter, they're guaranteed for life. That means that if you sell your house, the gutters are still guaranteed for the next owners, so it's actually a selling point. Imagine gutters being a selling point! They sent out a representative to do the estimate, and he figured it would be a little over $1700. While that may seem a bit steep, especially when you know our house is pretty small, when you factor in how much we've paid to fix dry rot over the years, it's really just a drop in the bucket. (Ha, ha!) Factor in that aforementioned guarantee that I'll never have to unclog a gutter, and it was an easy choice. We've never had any issue, but if the gutters do ever clog, they'll come and unclog them for free.
Three weeks later, (everyone's trying to prepare for the El Nino,) the installers arrived. They were friendly and super fast. They double checked the measurements, went to their cool truck that creates the gutter on site, hung it, and were finished in less than two hours. We still need to put some extenders on the downspouts to route the water away from the foundation, but it makes the house look slicker already. Now if we could just finish painting, Our Little House might be quite the belle of the ball! Anyone want to put money on how long it's going to take us to do that? No? That's probably smart.
Even though the El Nino isn't looking as promising as everyone in our drought-parched part of the world was hoping, we're ready for the winter. That should count for something, right?
After getting the platform nice and level and letting the paint dry, it was time to assemble our shed. We traveled down to The Home Depot in Auburn a few times, looking at the models. We even stopped and chatted with the local Tuff Shed folks. In the end, our choice came down to price and ease of assembly.
We chose the Rubbermaid Big Max. Not only was it affordable, it had good online reviews. Plus, my mom has had a Rubbermaid shed for quite a few years, and it's still holding up nicely. It has a window in the back and two in the door, so it gets light during the day, which is nice. It's not a lot, but you can see in there. Since the shed is 7X7 feet, this project, just like the platform, is a two person job.
The shed came in a large box that wedged perfectly between the wheel wells of our pickup. Each piece was clearly marked, and the instructions were pretty easy to follow. The whole thing went together like a gigantic puzzle. We followed the instructions exactly, but I'd recommend not screwing in the door hinges until everything else is complete. I had to do some hinge adjustment after the fact to get the doors to close, and that could have been avoided if we had saved them for the last step.
The only really difficult part of the whole process was the roof. I had to use every bit of upper body strength I possess to fold that peak down and hold it while Charles fastened it down. All in all, the whole project took around six hours to complete, so it was a good Saturday project.
We're really happy with how everything turned out. We have a ton of room for our tools, the door locks for added security, and the color even coordinates with the house. We still need to secure it to the platform so it won't have a chance of blowing down in a strong storm, but we're almost ready to fill this baby with equipment and turn Charles' office back into... an office. How's that for a few days' work?
We'll choose square -- a perfect square to be exact. I've mentioned probably close to a hundred times (maybe more?) that the only level land on our property is where the house and leach field for the septic system sit. Everything else is sloped, which is great for our view. No McMansion will ever steal our sweeping vista of the hills and Tahoe peaks beyond, but it sure makes for a challenge when it comes to usable space.
And usable space is desperately needed. We don't have a garage, so as our DIY skills -- and the needs of maintaining the house -- have grown, so has our tool collection. Our motley assortment has been living in my Charles' office. I don't think it's been a usable space for well over a year now, and something needed to be done. We finally committed to buying a shed, but where would we put it?
The very end of our driveway has a more level area than most of our property, so we chose there. As you can see, it's not really that level, but it was workable. We began by placing four cement blocks at each corner, measured out to be just wider than our shed. We dug until the land was mostly level, added sand, compacted it (and then a snow storm helped settle them even more), and checked for level with each block. Once they were perfectly adjusted, pressure treated 4X4 posts were added, and cut to the lengths required for the platform to be level. You can ascertain what's straight by using 2X4s. Use your level to see where everything is even, mark that, and get to cutting. As I go through this step-by-step, the word "level" is going to show up quite often. That's what needed for this sort of project, and your tools, squares and levels, will be essential to each part of the build.
Then it was time for our perfect square. At this point, the level no longer left our reach. Pressure treated 2X4s were cut to reach around the 4X4 posts, making a square. As each 2X4 was attached to the post, we made sure it was level. Then came the art of making the base a true square. Measuring on the diagonal, from corner to corner, we adjusted each cement block ever so slightly until the diagonal of one set of corners was exactly the same as the other set of corners. This step took about an hour, as it was adjust, check for level, adjust, check for level, and over and over again until it was perfect.
We decided to build a mini deck as our platform support. We've had a heck of a lot of practice with deck supports the last few years, so why not? Plus, we wanted something that would be as solid as possible. We don't want all of our tools someday rolling down the hill. We added more cement blocks, following the same leveling procedure we used for the four corners, until we ended up with nine supports.
We then cut more pressure treated 2X4s to fit the inside expanse of our square, screwed them in place, and got the hangers ready. I would squeeze each hanger so it fit snugly around each 2X4, holding it in place while Charles fastened it to the frame with deck screws. We repeated this step 11 more times and had ourselves a square mini deck.
The hard parts done, we were on to building the platform, which was a piece of plywood cut to the outside dimensions of the supports. Then everything was primed and painted. We flipped the plywood over so it was primed and painted on both sides for more weather resistance. The next step involves putting a shed on top of this, so weather exposure to the top of the plywood will be minimal, but it's still good to be thorough. That's a lesson we've had to learn the hard way a few times, and we want this shed to last for the long haul.
All in all, the platform build took most of the weekend, with lunch and water breaks and finishing a little early on Sunday in order to watch Game of Thrones. The weather was beautiful, and it was a pleasant way to spend a weekend -- especially when we factored in the excitement of finally attaining our dream of a shed.
When I was an itty bitty thing, California went through a terrible drought. Since I was so little, my memories are few and mostly involve not being allowed to play in the sprinkler when it was hot outside, but it made a major impression on me. My formative years were during a time of water scarcity, and I have striven to never take it for granted.
Once again, California is experiencing crippling drought. In fact, this is the driest it has ever been on record. Having grown up in the arid West, I have many water-conserving habits and try to incorporate more all the time. Some of the things on this list may be a little controversial, but hey, being a Northern Californian, I’m used to controversy. I still remember the last water wars and how they threatened to tear our state in two.
1. Let your lawn die. California is a Mediterranean and/or desert climate. While there are a few micro-climates where lawns can live naturally, for the majority of California, it requires way too much water to have one of those lush, green rectangles. Instead, look into drought tolerant and native plants and landscaping fit for a dry environment. Of course, if you have HOA requirements, this can be a no-go, but if you can, go for something that doesn’t require watering.
2. Turn off the water when it’s not being actively used. What do I mean by that? Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, shaving, etc.
3. Fix any leaks right away. One leaky faucet can waste 1,000 gallons of water a year.
4. Only do laundry when you have a full load. Because of this rule, I’ve had delicates languishing in the hamper for quite some time, but eventually, I’ll have enough to justify a cycle in the washer.
5. Invest in high efficiency appliances. We’re almost there. We have a high efficiency washing machine (and dryer). While our dishwasher is somewhat new, we’re planning on investing in something even more efficient this year. Something to keep in mind – dishwashers typically use less water than washing by hand.
6. Use low flow attachments – faucets, shower heads, etc. I’ve been using a shower head that I turn to drip when I’m not actively rinsing since I moved out on my own. (So um, just under two decades now.) It saves a considerable amount of water. Since we’re experiencing a water hardship, I’m now going to go a step further and turn off the shower completely while I lather up and soap, shave my legs, etc. Keep your shower to under five minutes, and you’ll save up to 1,000 gallons a month!
7. Collect the water that you use to rinse veggies, that is running while you wait for the tap to warm up, etc. and use it to water your houseplants.
8. If your county/city codes allow it, have a plumber reroute your greywater to trees and outdoor plants instead of it going into the sewer, and collect the rain water from your gutters for use in the yard.
9. Install a water-saving toilet. If that’s out of reach, install a dual-flush system in your current toilet until you can upgrade. Young House Love has an awesome tutorial on how to switch out the old handle for a dual-flush system.
10. Use a drip irrigation system for your garden. Fresh veggies are good. Losing water to evaporation… not so much.
Only 2 percent of the world’s water is fresh water. It’s a very precious resource. While you may not be able to implement everything on this list, every little bit helps so much. More resources are available at bewatersmart.info, wateruseitwisely.com, and epa.gov/oaintrnt/water.
If there’s one thing long-time readers have discovered, it’s that my goals for the year always end up taking way longer than I’m hoping. Each year around this time, I list my “resolutions.” Many of the items on this list are repeat stars, since there always seem to be issues that present themselves that have to be addressed NOW. In other words, this yearly to-do has become as much of a reflection on what was accomplished (or not accomplished) in the previous year (or years) as it is a list of goals.
So (deep breath) here’s the list for 2014, including many repeats from preceding resolutions – think 2013, 2012, 2011…
1. Replace the carpeting in the house.
Still hasn't happened. I’m hoping we go with engineered hardwood.
2. Paint the outside of the house.
In progress – two sides down, two to go.
3. Fix and/or replace the deck.
In progress. Everything is done except the deck boards!
4. Build a railing for our concrete steps.
We’ve got a post hole digger and posts. We just need to do it.
5. Finally build a pergola over the front door (and maybe a second one for the deck).
I downloaded some plans, so hopefully this year.
6. Finish the bathroom (sink vanity, flooring, medicine cabinet, toilet).
This is much higher on the list now, thanks in part to Disco Stu and California’s drought. We need to be saving as much water as possible!
7. Replace the kitchen countertops, change faucet, add backsplash.
Man I hope we get to this in 2014.
8. Install one more base cabinet to add much needed storage and countertop space.
We purchased a base cabinet from Ikea, but we still need to add a countertop to it. We’re planning on giving it a counter at the same time we do the rest of the kitchen. We hope to install butcher block and stain it the same color as our cabinets, something like the bottom photo in this post.
9. Re-fence Bodie's yard.
A bear broke into his yard a few weeks ago. The scary part is, we think the bear was trying to get our dog. It's been so dry this winter, food is becoming scarce. We fixed the damage the bear caused, but we really want to reinforce the fencing and string a line of electric wire across the top. That way, it couldn't hurt Bodie, but it would deter a bear from tearing down the fencing. This is a top priority, obviously, because of Bodie's safety.
For all intents and purposes, 2013 was a pretty brutal year. I went through a very bad bout of depression, as did my Charles. According to the parts of the blogosphere in which I hang, this was pretty typical for most of us. I feel it, in my gut, even down to my toes, that 2014 is going to be an excellent year.
While this year was pretty darn rough, there were also a myriad of good things and progress in our little house, and lots of things were a-cookin' in my brain pan.
2013 marked our fourth year of home ownership. My, how much we've learned in that time! Wherever our next house resides, we won't be nearly as intimidated with a bit of DIY. In fact, as long as it has good bones, I think we'll be good to go.
We finally finished the repairs, both on the inside and the outside of the house, due to the original leaky sliding glass doors that became one of the banes of our existence.
In fact, we finally got all of the dry rot dealt with on the outside of the house, and everything is now sealed up, and the rain (if we had any. 2013 was also a very, very dry year.) will no longer have a chance to puddle and snuggle with the house's siding.
My horizons were also broadened when it came to plumbing. Our tub surround, whom I've dubbed Disco Stu, and I still have some things to say to each other. Will Stu get to stay? Find out in 2014.
Not everything was about repairs. I rearranged and updated the look of our bedroom this year, and even after living with it for a few months, I'm still amazed at how much more cozy it is -- and how much more lush it feels.
I did some minor crafts, just to keep things interesting, and realized how much that bright blue color that I chose for the door, and more, makes me smile.
I even made sure to get a good dose of vitamin D and participated in a Pinterest Challenge this spring. The path I made is holding up beautifully, and I've planted some green, crawling leafy things around it that will probably fill-in in about ten years.
While I didn't make a lot of art this year, I did acquire a bit more, especially in the black velvet painting collection. Charles and I even got to host the artist at our house this fall, when Chris came through town on business.
Though I'll never be too keen on driving, I did get an awesome vehicle this year. It's zippy and I love it, and I listen to tons of music during my commute to work. I continue to tweak my play list, and it continues to bring a smile to my face.
2013 also involved a lot of soul searching for me. I realized how much the ocean is a part of who I am and made sure to seek it out a few times this year. And while currently, I only get to visit, I realized it's home, both because of the Pacific's proximity and because of the folks who live there.
Charles and I also got to take a two week vacation, something we hadn't done in quite a few years, and it was wonderful and filled with beauty.
While it may have been difficult, there was still a lot of joy and wonder to be found this year. Our neighborhood may have its unique challenges, but it's a pretty place to live.
So long 2013! We're all really glad you're done, but there were still a lot of lovely things you gave us. Thank you for the gifts, old year. Now bring on 2014!
We've come to the time of the year when we try to weatherize, as much as possible, the outside of the house to get ready for the impending snow.
This year, that meant a great deal of painting, as the new siding needed to be covered as well as the trim around the windows. (Spy that Frog Tape around the window?) I also painted our potting shelf in the same merry blue as the door. While I had varnished the piece a couple of years ago, snow had been rather harsh to it. Hopefully now it will survive many more winters to come.
Next up, we'll be screwing the deck back down and covering the chairs and benches. We're still experiencing a major dry spell, but the snow always comes, and this year, we'll be ready!
On the novel writing front, things haven't been going so well. I haven't been very well, actually. I've been sick for the first two weeks of the month, one flu following right after the first, so I haven't been in any condition to write. My brain's only been focused on lots of fluids and bed rest. My NaNoWriMo dreams may be doomed for 2013. My book is started, but I'm not even close to the 25,000 words I should be to by this point. -sigh- Well, there's always next year.
It was a much longer saga than we were expecting, but our final piece of siding was hung yesterday.
What the home inspectors thought would be an easy fix back when we were buying the house ended up being a major project, spanning three years. I typed in "siding" into my blog search bar and was amazed at just how many times I've mentioned it.
Part of the reason it took so long was finances. Each board costs around $75. Then there's the timing -- it had to be done when the weather was good and on a weekend, since hanging each piece requires two people. They're heavy, four feet by nine feet of back-straining, shift a quarter-of-an-inch-to make-it-level-now-back-this-way-just-a-tiny-bit plywood. (As a now-you-know, most t1-11 siding is 4X8, but our house was built with 4X9, so that's what we used for replacement. Knowing is half the battle, after all.) Then there's life. Between extra needs at work and family illness, our weekends were often filled with other important requirements.
As I braced the final board and my Charles secured it to the house, I began to feel rather giddy.
"We did it! The final board is up. Aren't you stoked?" I cried.
"Yes. I'm happy it's up." said Charles, a tired smile spreading across his face.
And then we both breathed gigantic sighs of relief, and also probably, exhaustion. The sun sank behind the hills as my Charles finished driving in the last of the screws, and the evil dry rot, at least on this side of the house, was no more.
A blog about writing, art, projects, or whatever else tickles my fancy.