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.
I suffer from asthma. I also suffer from allergies. While my favorite season may be spring, with its fresh breezes and bursting flowers, I’m not spring’s favorite human. The cedars and grasses combine with my asthma and make for some narrow air ways.
I’m naturally sedentary. I’d rather curl up with a good book and lose myself in other dimensions than hang out in a gym. In fact, I hate gyms – the way they smell, the way other people look at me, the giant drains in the middle of the shower stall floor, the whole nine yards. But I love the outdoors. I love to hike, to ramble under the trees, along the shore, or under the wide-open desert sky. I’m inspired by the wind’s caress, the sunlight filtered through clouds, and green. I revel in how I feel after a long trek, and I’m even fonder of the buzzing glow that fills me after a run. Unlike the gym, I don’t care that people see me in exercise outfits, that my belly – though shrinking – is still round. I don’t care what other people are thinking because while I’m running, that’s what I care about. It’s the most Zen I get outside of meditation, and sometimes meditation can’t even attain the quiet mind that comes from pounding feet on the hard-packed dirt.
With my favorite season, my running is suffering. I’m running narrow, gasping for air more than usual, especially since I’ve started allergy shots. As the potency of those weekly shots increase, I’m finding a corresponding decrease in my stamina.
This is where I’d usually give up, scream, “F it!” in my mind, and stare at the glowing TV screen until I grew numb. I’m not doing that this go-around. Instead, I have goals in place to keep me going. I have a Fitbit Flex – I named it Marty – that tracks my steps and keeps me motivated. (Thank you, Wil Wheaton, for inspiring me to get one.) It’s so satisfying when I receive that little buzz around my wrist when I achieve 10,000 steps for the day! I feel like I can’t stop until I get that, so even on non-running days (the days I receive my shots), I’m still getting my steps in. Plus a group of my friends and I are going to participate in the Color Run in August, so I can’t slack off now. I need to be ready for that Fun Run. I’m seeing an asthma and allergy doctor, so I’m finally on the right medication for my asthma. Even during the yearly pollen assault, at least I can actually still breathe, and if I remember my Albuterol before I hit the trail, I don’t even run narrow.
The most important part – I enjoy my exercise. It doesn’t matter how you get out and move as long as you do it. For me, it’s going outside and walking or hiking or running. I WANT to keep it up because I love it. I’ll still curl up with a good book, probably all of the time really, but I won’t let that keep me from the outside. No more sitting on the couch, turning into a side of fries!
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!
The first snow is always so celebrated. It's so beautiful. It welcomes winter, and gives us the excuse to snuggle next to a warm fire. Later on, when we've shoveled tons of heavy, Sierra Cement, things generally change. But for now, let's enjoy.
Really, some of the people who live up in these parts are the problem. Because of their lazy, thoughtless behavior, they're creating problem bears. In essence, they're bear murderers, as problem animals get put down.
How did this all start? It's easy to blame the influx of L.A. and Bay Area retirees who have never had to deal with wildlife before and have moved into the woods, but I think it's more a combination of ignorance and a lack of personal responsibility. The issue itself? It's garbage, literally. People put their garbage out the night before, attracting bears (and raccoons). The easy meals come each week, keeping bears in our woodland neighborhoods.
A couple of years ago, a family put their garbage out before leaving on vacation. There was a snow storm that same night, so the garbage trucks couldn't get up our hill to collect. The trash sat out all week long, as none of us knew they were gone. A bear would come, knock down the trash can, and go through it. A conscientious neighbor, not wanting wildlife at his own doorstep, would sweep up the detritus and put it back in the can, expecting the neighbor to stow it away in his garage. Being away, that didn't happen. Instead, the bear broke into their house opened up the refrigerator and cupboards, smashed containers, ate at its leisure, and for good measure, tore apart the couch -- probably because it contained crumbs.
That silly bear also opened our car doors one night. Nothing was damaged, but it definitely gave us a start when we found the car open to the elements in the pre-dawn light. Being a tad more savvy, we don't leave food in the car, and since then, we lock and alarm our cars when we park down our driveway.
We've had a few close encounters other than the car, bears coming up onto the deck, finding them gazing into the house -- one even tried to open the front door -- but we do things properly, taking our garbage and/or recycling out the morning of pick up, not feeding the birds, having motion sensors on our outside lights, etc.
Luckily, black bears are a lot more laid back than their grizzly cousins. The only grizzly left in California is the one that adorns our state flag, but what do we do about a large group of people willfully ignoring the proper steps to keep the bears uninterested? This is the bears' natural home. We're the interlopers. I've spoken to my immediate neighbors, and they adjusted their habits right away, but there are many more who continue to misbehave. Probably the most irksome part is that many of them won't clean up their garbage after the bears have rooted through their cans. Instead, they just leave it sitting on the ground where it was dragged. The local paper runs stories on being bear aware each year. It's not like anyone's keeping it a secret. We all strive to communicate the proper ways to behave around bears, but what do you do when people won't admit they're creating a problem? In a couple more years, if this behavior continues, we'll have as big a bear problem as Tahoe. What is the solution, do you think?
(I'm still working on our vacation photos. Stay tuned!)
I'm about to leave for a lovely vacation. (So no post next week.) Said vacation will involve a lot of driving, mostly accomplished by my Charles. As the title suggests, I'm not really into driving. I've actually posted about it in the past. There are two things that make driving bearable to me -- in the right mood, even enjoyable -- a spot-on soundtrack and my Fiat.
I love my little Fiat 500. It's a 2012 and spent its first year as a rental car. Claret, that's what I call it, treats me well, is fuel efficient, and fits into parking spaces like a dream. It's also the perfect size for the Cornish-inspired roads of Grass Valley and Nevada City.
As far as my current playlist, this combination makes me happy. As someone who has experienced a lot of anxiety when getting behind the wheel for quite a long time, happy feelings and driving are quite a gift. In iPod album order:
"Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele"
Eels "Beautiful Freak"
Tom Waits "Big Time"
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "The Boatman's Call"
The Magnetic Fields "The Charm of the Highway Strip"
The Magnetic Fields "Distortion"
"Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog" Soundtrack
They Might Be Giants "The Else"
The Magnetic Fields "Get Lost"
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "Henry's Dream"
The Magnetic Fields "Holiday"
Eels "Hombre Lobo"
The Magnetic Fields "The House of Tomorrow"
Future Bible Heroes "I'm Lonely (And I Love It)
Soul Coughing "Irresistible Bliss"
They Might Be Giants "Join Us"
"The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" Soundtrack
The Magnetic Fields "Love at the Bottom of the Sea"
They Might Be Giants "Nanobots"
8in8 "Nighty Night"
The Shins "Oh, Inverted World"
Tom Waits "Rain Dogs"
The Magnetic Fields "Realism"
Portishead "Roseland, NYC Live"
"The Royal Tenenbaums" Soundtrack
Peter Gabriel "Scratch My Back"
William Shatner "Seeking Major Tom"
Tom Waits "Small Change"
Flaming Lips "The Soft Bulletin"
Devo "Something For Everyone" (My absolute favorite driving music. Though it makes it EASY to drive fast.)
Sea of Bees "Songs for the Ravens"
Talking Heads "Stop Making Sense"
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra "Theatre is Evil"
X "Under the Big Black Sun"
The 6ths "Wasps' Nest"
The Magnetic Fields "The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees"
Eels "Wonderful, Glorious"
Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"
The Magnetic Fields "69 Love Songs"
Sometimes you don't blog because instead of doing house projects, you attend blending trials. Other times, it's because you come home, open the curtains, and say, "Charles, there is a HUGE woodpecker right outside the window." And then the former wildlife major walks over, gets super excited, and says, "That's a pileated woodpecker. I've never seen one so close! They're usually so wary of people. What is it doing here?" Then you both enthusiastically gaze at a giant woodpecker doing its thing for the next hour and are reminded of how awesome it is to live in the woods.
Living in Nevada County can be difficult at times. It's the oldest county in California. Seriously -- I'm the youngest person at every event my Charles and I go to. I still have a couple of years left in my thirties. I don't want to be discussing my sciatica. Plus, I desperately miss the ocean -- that wild and cold ocean of the North Coast, and it's not a college town. I miss that too. Oh for the days of overhearing others' existential crises over breakfast! All of which to say that, come autumn and the glorious display of colors, living in Nevada County becomes lovely -- glorious even. For a month's time, all of that angst is forgotten in an amazing wash of colors.
The sun gifts us with the first light of day.
As it climbs higher in the sky, I will experience a slight ache in my back, an amazing sense of satisfaction, and a very minor buzzing in my head – the ache from harvesting grapes grown in the traditional, Italian way (tight rows and low-hanging fruit), the satisfaction from working as hard and as quickly as possible among the vines, and the buzz from the amazing champagne brunch that is our payment for a job well done.
For the past three seasons, my Charles and I have helped in Montoliva’s harvest of its estate-grown Sangiovese grapes. Each year, it’s gotten easier. In part, this is because we’re getting a bit better, but more of the success has come from nicer weather.
The harvest in 2010 was on Halloween. It was cold and stormy. It had rained the night before, so even though I was wearing a sweater underneath my raincoat, I was drenched and shivering within five minutes. 2011 was warmer and more pleasant, though there had been some moisture, so we dealt with a small amount of rot. Plus, I forgot to bring our gloves, so my Charles and I both managed to nick ourselves with our clippers. 2012 was hot and dry. The bunches were big and beautiful and dusty – no moisture, and therefore no rot, to be found.
This year’s crew was also outstanding. For the first time, the entire estate was harvested on the same day, and not only that, it was harvested in a few hours. Everyone kicked some major ass and took some major names. My Charles and I were home by noon, feeling good, though tired, and cheered by a beautiful, warm morning spent out amongst the vines.
2012 is going to be an amazing year for California wines.
A blog about writing, art, projects, or whatever else tickles my fancy.