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.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Even More Fence

Scott returned yesterday from his most recent trip to Torrey. He spent four hard days at work on, you guessed it, fencing.

The first project was to design and build a gate that would provide access to the llamas.

To construct this gate, Scott ripped 2" X 4" rails in half with the table saw making them 1" X 4" rails. He then built two frames for the gate and sandwiched woven wire between the frames.  Adding the diagonal piece provided strength and support for the whole affair. There will eventually be three of these gates.

Next he strung the smooth wire on the cedar posts around the orchard and put two galvanized gates in place.

For part of the year, our neighbor keeps her horses in our big pasture. Horses can be pushy creatures. In the past, they've had more than one opportunity to spend a little up-close and personal time with us. A little too up-close for our tastes, thus the need for a fence that is a little more assertive than the electric fence that previously separated (or not) them from us.

 Here it is, ready to greet them after the hay has been cut this summer.

And our newest tree ... a honey locust whose blooms will eventually perfume our summer evenings.

More Fence

Our together trip to Torrey brought big changes to the landscaping.

The first thing we completed was the installation of the remainder of the treated posts that would be visible around the house as well as stretching the rest of the woven fence.

Looking back at Scott's proof-of-concept photo from his previous trip, we decided two rails, one at the top and one at the bottom of the wire would be sufficient to prevent the llamas from chewing on the shrubbery. Removing the middle rail would minimize obstructions to our views.

This is the west side of the house, the side from which the prevailing wind blows. Torrey is in Wayne County. Some folks (us included) often refer to it as Wind County because the wind does blow – and it is strong and frequent. We planted these Big Tuna Mugo Pines to create a wind break. In a few years, they should be between eight and twelve feet tall, a good separation between us and the blast.

We needed to build another fence to screen the propane tank from view. One day, while driving through the avenues in Salt Lake,  I passed a yard surrounded by a beautiful bamboo fence. Since we already were attracted to the material, and because it was so lovely, we decided that would be a perfect screen for our propane tank.

The tank...

screened from view...

and from the porch.

A third fence, on the north side of the house but out of view, will divide the orchard from the rest of the yard. This fence does not need to be beautiful because we won't see it, but it does, once again, need to keep the llamas in their place.

Cedar posts with smooth wire (not yet strung) are just the thing.

During this trip, we had just enough time to hang a bit of decoration outside Scott's office door...

before the snow storm hit.

This was probably more snow than Torrey received during the entire winter. Then it was time to head back to Logan.


When you have livestock, you need good fences. And when your neighbors have livestock as well, you need really good fences.

We have llamas, three burly guys who haul camera and camping gear into the wilderness backcountry for us. Stegner, Arion and Charlie work hard for part of the year but basically eat and loll about when they are off duty. Llamas aren't pushy fellows when it comes to fences, but, because they do enjoy nibbling on landscape plants, we need a fence to separate their space from ours.

After considering many possibilities and weighting the costs of each, we decided the best option for us would be a fence made from treated posts and woven wire. Since our household is arriving in Torrey soon, and llamas and cats are part of "we," the fence needed to already be in place on moving day.

In late April, knowing we would both return in early May to continue the project, Scott ordered and received fence-building materials and began.

The first thing to arrive was an auger for Orangejello, our tractor. I'm sure we could have dug post holes by hand, or hired a young, strong and spry person to dig them for us, but I've learned from Scott that you can never have too many tools, and the convinced me that the auger was a new tool we absolutely needed. (He was right.)

Scott placed posts on the south side of the house.

He stretched enough woven wire to make sure the concept would work...

put three rails in place, took a photo to document the concept and returned home to Logan, looking forward to our return in two weeks to continue working together.

One More Coat

We've been told that we would know when the earthen floor had enough linseed oil. Now we know the truth of it because, during our April visit, the floor seemed dull and dry. Scott suggested that we apply one more coat of oil  just before we returned to Logan.

To that end, we removed most of the furniture from the main living room, folded the rug up around the table and went to work.

To keep oil from splashing on the walls, Scott applied it around the perimeter of the room using a small brush.

He used a paint roller on a long handle for the rest of the room.

This should be the last coat it will need for a while.

When the oil dries, the floor will not be this shiny, but it will have the vibrancy it lacked.

A Small Project

Finally, our three-year turned  five-year plan is drawing to a close. Scott and I often find ourselves looking around our house of straw, wondering how it all happened. Did we really undertake the building of a home, under our own direction? And can it be possible that a moving van will arrive at our Logan house on June 4, load up the belongings we haven't yet moved and whisk everything away to meet us in Torrey? Indeed, the answer is yes, but there are still many things to be completed.

One of those things is the small bathroom in Scott’s office. We had to leave it unfinished (straw and lath walls – just a toilet and a sink) until the end because we needed the plumbing while we were completing the rest of the house. It was the only room that could provide hot water and heated restroom facilities during construction. Now, as moving time draws near, we are reminded of our large project as we repeat it on a much smaller scale in this one room.

It's comforting to begin work in this space, knowing that, this time, we actually know how it should be done.

First I make the straw wall as vertical and flat as possible by removing bulges in the bales.

There is a large hole in one bale, which Scott fills with cob - a thick mixture of clay and straw.

Scott applies slip by hand.

When we plastered the rest of the house, we used a stucco sprayer powered by a compressor. Due to the small size of this bathroom, hand application seemed more appropriate and not very time consuming. Plus, it was much less messy than the sprayer. We were happy with this option since the house is essentially done, and we didn't want to cover our finished walls and floors with new plaster.

Still, we covered the posts and knee braces with painter's tape and plastic to keep mud off of the wood.

Scott applied the scratch coat next, filling in holes in the straw and covering the bamboo poles as he went.

This is the section of wall you see above, but now the large hole is gone and the bamboo is covered.

Using a metal comb (which we call a plaster scratcher), Scott scarifies the finished surface of this first coat of plaster.

This texture, or key, makes it possible for the next coat of plaster to stick to the scratch coat.

 We put finishing touches on the lath around the water pipe and the drain access...

and attach diamond lath to the wall for the pocket door.

The major work of this room is finished. It seems a little strange to say that the "only" things left are applying final plaster coats, painting the walls, covering ceiling with bamboo matting, building a sink cabinet and, finally, reinstalling the sink and toilet. We estimate it will take a week to ten days from this first plaster to the installation of fixtures. A small project indeed.