Friday, February 13, 2015

Cozy Llama Shed

Instead of building something out of straw, in November we built something to hold straw–well, hay mostly but also a few bales of straw for bedding. The primary purpose of this new construction is to provide shelter for our three llamas. In Logan we had such a structure, which they used on a regular basis whenever it rained or snowed, or if the wind was roaring out of the north. Here in Torrey, winter winds hail from the west, so the new building faces east. This one is at least one third better than their previous digs. I say that because, like the Logan version, it has two sections to protect the llamas, but it also has one wing to keep the hay dry and sweet under a roof. In addition, this building has a concrete floor, electricity for lights, a freeze-proof water spigot and a heated watering trough.

The floor of the llama shed is concrete, so the first step was to form the slab and put down gravel.

Tyler Torgerson's crew did the concrete work. Posts to support the roof were eventually placed on the exposed All Thread rods.

The surface of the slab has a rough texture. Our hope is that this will wear down the llamas' toe nails when they come inside to eat. This means we won't need to trim their nails when it's time to hit the trail.

Talk about the Ritz. Stegner (not pictured), Charlie and Arion don't acknowledge the improvements, but they certainly seem willing to enjoy them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


A quick Google search reveals many famous lasts—last call, last words, last meal. And, if you play games of trivia, you might encounter questions like, what was the last state to join the union? Hawaii. Or, what is the last Greek letter? Omega. Or even, what was the last act to perform at Woodstock? Jimi Hendrix.

We are not on any list of famous lasts, but one might ask, what was the last room to be finish? The answer would be the office bathroom. This sequence of completion was due to the fact that, during the interior plaster phase, we needed a bathroom with hot water, a toilet and a sink while we worked on the rest of the house. Even after we received a certificate of occupancy, that little bathroom was a functioning bathroom in every way, unless one counted the one bare straw and three lath walls.  So, last July, we took our last straw bale house step by removing the fixtures and plastering the walls. 

After applying the first two coats, we visited family for a week and then returned to continue work. Since a new plaster layer will not adhere to a dry surface, Scott used our garden sprayer to moisten the walls with water.

The plaster went on beautifully despite the restricted work space. Scott said he felt like had practiced enough on the rest of the house that he now knew how to do it.

Scott used Ultramarine Blue oxide pigment from The Earth Pigments Company in Cortaro, Arizona, to make the paint.

After six years of construction, we had lots of left over materials which we used in this project, plus a few things we bought specifically for it. The mirror was purchased four years earlier from a little antique shop in Scipio, Utah.

The sink (notice the hot and cold handles) came from Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Salt Lake. It cost a grand total of ten dollars.

The backsplash is left-over bamboo matting used earlier for the ceiling in the kitchen and sun room. The counter top is a piece of cement form used in the foundation of the house. The cement contractor didn't have any forms in the size necessary for our straw bale foundation, so we ended up with a huge stack of cement covered 5/8" plywood. We've used it for a number of things. This particular piece, after foundation work, sat under a pile of straw bales for three years. We just sanded it smooth, stained it with gel coat and applied 6 coats of Varathane.

We salvaged the cabinet door from a load of things our neighbor was sending to the dump. The cabinet itself is made from oak plywood left over from the bookcase we built in the living room.

The rest of the room is a typical bathroom, no need for details, but at last we can say we are done with the house. Now it's on to other projects, some of which involve more plaster and more straw!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

An End

As you might have noticed, we have been conspicuously absent from the blogosphere since our last post about Rusty. That is because, even though he did everything we asked him to do—two surgeries, physical therapy, new feeding regimes, medication—he didn’t make it.  It may seem strange to some folks, but we have had and continue to have a very difficult time getting beyond that.

If you are animal people, you know that you might, someday, have one non-human family member who is that special creature you’ll never see the likes of again. And that was Rusty.

He had this little felt mouse that was much more than a mouthful. When Rusty wanted to play, he would carry that thing down the hallways, yowling through the felt until Scott or I would chase him down the stairs. (He trained us well.) There he would drop the toy and wait for us to toss it. At that point, Rusty would pounce into action, snag the mouse with his front claws and dig away at it with his back ones. Then he’d jump up and wait for the next toss and attack.

Other times it was the “stairs game.”  As one of us would head for the basement, Rusty would dive onto his side and plunge his head between two newel posts. Our expected response was to vigorously rub his head while he feigned ferocity by play-attacking our hand.

Each day when it was time for me to come home from work, Scott reported that Rusty (and the other cats) waited at the top of the stairs for me to arrive. When he heard the car pull into the driveway, he knew it was my car. How is it that cats can tell time and recognize a particular car’s sound?

On cold winter evenings, I wear a hot pink, velour robe, shaped much like a potato sack with a zipper in the front and with openings for my feet, hands and head. This construction keeps all of my body heat contained within the robe. We called it a “spud” and Rusty considered it his personal winter hot house…but only when I ensconced inside it. Wherever I was sitting, if I was wearing the spud, Rusty would climb on my lap, paw at the zipper until it opened, and then crawl inside, snuggling into the warmest spot, usually with his nose against my neck. We were both toasty warm, except for that little cool spot where his nose touched me.

He was a good sleeper. If a patch of sun appeared anywhere on the floor, that’s where you could find him. I’m sure I could compile a large tome of photos showing him sleeping in various places in the sun. He luxuriated in the light and the warmth.

Rusty had an amazing tail. It was the signal of his emotional state. Whenever he was excited, for whatever reason, his tail puffed up into that condition cats usually exhibit in fear or anger. In Rusty, it was just excitement—for the chase, the bug on the rug, the bird at the window, the food, the game, life…

We had Rusty for eighteen years. Every single night he slept in the crook of my left elbow. When it was time to get up in the morning, he stood over me and stared at my eyes until they opened. If I was a little slow in noticing, he gently placed his right foot on my cheek to let me know he was waiting. His face was the one I woke up to each day for all of those years, even before I saw Scott’s face. Now, every morning, there is an empty space on my left—instead of my Rusty boy.

Rusty almost 10  years after he joined the family

Rusty sitting on the counter top in our old kitchen

Rusty and the pink robe

Rusty and family waiting at the top of the stairs for Mary to come home.

Rusty sitting on top of Sten in one of the many cat beds

Rusty and Missy looking out the yurt window

Mr. Blue Eyes

Rusty sleeping in the yurt

Rusty standing by one of our favorite books, Puss 'n' Boots

Rusty sleeping in the sun

Rusty sleeping on the sleeping bag

Rusty in his cuddle cup one week before he died

Saturday, July 26, 2014

An Accident

Allow me to introduce my boyfriend, Rusty.  

He is a flame point Siamese we sprung from Kitty Prison seventeen years ago. At the time, he was one and half years old. The shelter labeled him an active cat, and, over the years, he has certainly been that and more. Now at age 18, his favorite activities are sleeping in the sun, sitting on the porch, looking out the window, sitting on my lap and spending time with his favorite humans, Scott and me.

Three weeks ago, he had an accident that required surgery to repair his pelvis.

The surgery went well and so has his recovery, but he is unable to walk or use the litter box without assistance. We’ve had several consultations with the surgeon and the trauma veterinarian who have been extremely helpful. Our next step is to meet with a physical therapist in Salt Lake next week. We’re hoping for some excellent and productive advice.

An Organized Garage

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Comparing first world countries to third world countries is a regular occurrence in the media. We read these articles and think we are lucky to live in a first world country. And, while there are many things to be thankful for due to the fact that we were lucky enough to be born in a first world country, we still complain. When it comes right down to it though, it seems like the majority of complaining we read or hear about falls into the category Scott and I refer to as first-world complaints. Those complaints include things like the price of gasoline, the power being out for an hour, how long one waits on the phone to reach a real person, the slow speed of the Internet. You get the idea.

The fact that we have never had a garage is certainly included in the category of first-world complaints. But, now that we are here in Torrey, we have a garage. My most recent first-world complaint has been that the garage is piled so high with our possessions (another first-world circumstance), there is no room for our car and truck (yet another first-world situation).

Having admitted to fully participating in first-world excesses, we still needed to organize our space in order to make it possible to store, and later find, all of our things and, at the same time, have room to park our vehicles.

Once we found a place for everything in the house, we moved on to the task of organizing the garage. This involved filling the control joints in the concrete floor with caulk and sealing the floor in order to keep fluids commonly found in garages from staining the floor. (First-world complaint)

We began by taking everything out of the garage. This was mostly tools used in house construction. Then we cleaned the floor, caulked the joints and sealed the floor with linseed oil. Next we grouped our things into categories of use – project space, bicycling, llamas, hiking, canoeing, etc. Finally, we put everything in its place.

Ten days later, the process was complete. Scott said we would know where everything was for about two hours and then it would be lost to our memory. Here we are, two weeks later, and we still can find what we’re looking for.

Two vehicles in the garage
With plenty of space all around
Skiing, canoeing and camping gear
Plaster equipment
Construction supplies
Garden tools
Scott organizing his shop table

Apologies for complaining...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Moving - Day Two

The next morning, June 5th, we loaded the car and truck with things we wanted to move ourselves and off we drove, arriving in Torrey six hours later.

We introduced the llamas to their newly-fenced pasture, released the cats to explore their new digs, stashed the fresh food in the fridge and took a short walk in the neighborhood before it got dark.

According to the original plan, Alpha Moving would arrive on the 7th with our belongings. However early on the morning of the 6th, they called asking if they could deliver that afternoon rather than the next day since they were ahead of schedule. Scott and I agreed and quickly got to work preparing for their arrival.
By late afternoon, we were, once again, surrounded by boxes of belongings and furniture, distributed throughout the house and on the porch. The work of finding a place for everything began.

The first step of organizing the kitchen / living room, included staining the new pantry our friend Mel, owner of Baker’s Cabinets, had built for us. Months earlier, while searching for just the right thing, I came across an antique armoire in a consignment store in Logan. It was beautiful, but it also had characteristics inherent in some antiques: the doors wouldn’t close and the shelves could not accommodate the items we needed to store inside. I asked Mel to look at the antique and create something that would fit our needs.

The new pantry awaiting a finish coat.

Details Mel added to match, as closely as possible, the antique armoire at the consignment shop.
It holds food…
coats, a broom and cat food.
 Exactly what we wanted!

Moving - Day One

For over a year, the sister of a friend had been interested in buying our Logan house. When we announced the sale price in January, we reached an agreement that was satisfactory to all parties and set a closing date of May 27. On that day, we met the buyers at the title office and signed the requisite documents, which ended our almost forty years of residence in Cache Valley.

Prior to May 27th, and in the ensuing week, Scott and I spent all of our time sifting through the accumulation of those decades determining which things would go to directly into the garbage, which would be given to the local thrift stores and which would move with us to Torrey. As the various piles grew, Scott suggested it might be easier to rent a dumpster, toss everything in and make a fresh start with nothing. That may have been true, but we’re not known to do anything simply, so, the piles grew into mountains and everything was eventually labeled and positioned to go to a new location.

After distributing thrift store donations among various Logan charities, we were more than ready when Alpha Moving arrived with their huge semi-truck on June 4. Despite our attempts to winnow our belongings down to a manageable mass, I couldn’t believe we still had enough stuff to completely fill almost one fourth of the entire semi. The fellows who loaded our things, reassured me that we really didn’t have all that much when compared to others they had moved, but it was still hard to accept the fact that we were still pack rats.

Our belongings completely filled this section.
 That afternoon, the semi drove away, leaving Scott, the cats, our fish and me to spend one last night in our Logan house.