Saturday, May 30, 2009

A "Good" Day

Yesterday was a good day, in a very surprising way. I went to a funeral, and dealt with a rattlesnake. That doesn't sound very fun, does it? But it was very fulfilling.

The funeral was for one of the cornerstones of my mom's church community, Edna Mattie. The Matties were retired from the Air Force, had had a second career teaching school, and had come to Tollhouse in 1978. They were older, had 6 grown children, and were at that point "fully retired". She and her husband were fantastic role models when my family moved to Tollhouse in 1981, and she really was a great mentor for my mom, who initially struggled with the rural life here. Although there was sadness at the funeral, just thinking about and hearing about this woman's life was so inspirational--one of those things that really makes you think about how to be a better person. The six kids and their families shared their memories, and were so obviously full of love, it ended up being very positive.

Later in the afternoon, I went to my sister Gail's house. The kids were just about to head outside, when Gail stopped them. She heard a noise that she thought might be a rattlesnake. We got the kids and dogs back in the house, and went to check it out. Sure enough, under a bush was a coiled up rattling snake! Gail was intent on killing it, but the only thing we had were a rusty shotgun (not a good choice), a hoe, and a shovel. Gail took the shovel and made a couple practice hacks at some sticks. Yes, she could hack some sticks in two, but she had to stand about two feet away...not good! At this point, I felt we should NOT go after the snake, but Gail was not to be deterred...there was a snake on her turf where her kids play. She happened to find a long, heavy metal post under the bushes, picked it up, and started to beat the snake. Argh! She pinned it down, then was trying to whack it with the hoe with the other hand. OK...finally time for me to get involved. I took the hoe and nailed the snake with it as hard and quickly as I could. Multiple times. I believe there were some primal grunts involved...the two of us sounded like the cast of "Clan of the Cave Bear", if you ever saw that not-so-wonderful movie. We hacked the head off, put it in a jar since it can still bite after death, and let the kids examine the body as it continued to move, which was fascinating for them. So, all in all, a successful, if somewhat risky, elimination of a rattler. Even my sister, who has been up here for many years, has never killed a rattler with a hoe before.

And during this time, Mark was framing the floor. Pictures to come on the next post.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Foundation and Power

Wednesday was a tremendous day—the foundation walls were poured! No pictures, since I was running the camcorder and could only handle one extra appendage at a time. As when we poured the footings, there was a flurry of activity, but even more intense this time. I think we were all a little nervous with the Styrofoam walls…would they REALLY hold all that weight, or would they crack and pour concrete all over our home site? Mark Alvis, the vendor for the Logix blocks, actually attended the pour, along with a representative from the local green building chapter, and they videotaped the process for reference material! Kind of cool to have that kind of interest in the work we are doing. They are also interested because we are installing a ground source heat pump, which is expensive up front, but super efficient, so everything after the first 7 years is money saved over traditional heating and cooling systems. They’ll be back when that system is installed.

So the foundation is done. Lumber arrives next Tuesday, and we start to build the first floor after that! The summer heat is really starting to kick in with quite a few days in the upper 90s, so we are trying to figure out ways to deal with it. The folks’ swimming pool is VERY handy! Just with a solar blanket, it is up to 83 degrees already. In just two weeks since we began dipping into the pool, the girls are making amazing progress in swimming. They will be little minnows by the end of this summer! We bought a little wading pool for the site, but have no way to fill it at the moment. That will soon change. This week we also had PG&E put up our power pole, and we will have power up at the site. As soon as we can make a temporary connection routing power to the well…voila! This week also brings the installation of our fire suppression tank, a 2500 gallon water tank that will sit off our driveway. I’m trying to think of how to make it look charming and farmhouse-y, maybe like a little barn. No? Grain silo?

And lastly, next Monday is our 18th wedding anniversary. Our wedding actually took place out on the back 40, not far from our home site. Just one more reason this place is so special to us. Time to break out the old pictures! Here we are 18 years ago.

And here we are last November at my 20th USAFA reunion...

It kind of looks like Mark has shrunk over the years, but no...I just had massive heels on so my borrowed dress wouldn't drag on the ground!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Grown-up Legos

The insulated concrete forms are set up! These things are SO COOL. They are styrofoam (very light), and snap together in layers literally like Legos. The end product is supposed to have an insulative value of R30. I've decided building a house is like making the most killer fort in the world. No wonder Mark loves this. That's him on the left in the hat, of course, and the guy on the right is my cousin Donald, who just came up for a few days to help out...on his vacation!

We get an inspection on Monday, and should pour the walls by Wednesday.

The Girls turn 5

The girls turned 5 on the 6th of May. Their day started with some experimental wear of their new swim gear from Grandma Barbara and Grandpa Marty. Their actual clothing was a gift from Grandma Fran and Grandpa Dick--so it is fair to say that they were fully outfitted for the day by their grandparents!

Posted by Picasa

As usual on a Wednesday, we went to storytime at the Auberry Library with Miss Anne and Miss Lori.

After storytime, we shared cupcakes with the other storytime groupies. The girls had decorated the cupcakes themselves, so they were fully encrusted with goodies.

The girls also assisted in the decoration of their own cakes. This was very interesting, because I was really tied to the pictures we had found on the internet, and wanted the cakes to be just like the pictures. The girls had other ideas. And it honestly took me a bit of time to LET GO and say "Hey, if that's the way you want it, that's how we'll do it!" Here are the beautiful results!

We also had a treasure hunt, which started with the discovery of brand new kittens in the garage! The highlight of the hunt were the remote control trucks--the ONLY item requested by my unconventional little girls for their birthday. And they were thrilled to receive them.

The girls are convinced they are visibly bigger on this day and afterward. I have to sadly agree. Goodbye to friendly 4, hello to frenetic 5!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Concrete Tuesday

With the perimeter wall dug, and all the rebar set in, and wooden frames set up to shape the tops and sides of the walls, we were ready for the wet stuff.

Matt showed up with his wife, Stefanie, and two other folks. Then the concrete guys showed up with the truck. The level of activity was amazing!

Of course, no concrete is complete without the imprint of little hands:

This is what it looked like at the end of the day...we were tired and thrilled.

Next step, get the insulated concrete forms and build up the walls for the next concrete pour.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day...Rodeo?

Maybe not words that you would normally put together...unless you were from Sierra High School. Then you would recognize it as a MAJOR social event. Today Sierra conducted its 60th annual Mother's Day Rodeo, and we were proud attendees.

Events included barrel racing, poles, cow riding, hide race (one kid on a horse drags another on a cow hide), and chute dogging (which the girls confused with "dog shooting", and were NOT interested in observing). We ALL loved it. When I was a high schooler, I though it was a crazy way to spend Mothers' Day, although I did so several times. Now...I'm into it!! Unfortunately, we missed the goat tying event to run off to our next excitement of the day--club basketball.

We attended a local basketball tournament in which my nieces were playing. Here are my BEST pictures of them in action. First Casey (#32,dark jersey, 8th grade), then Megan (#25, 7th grade, taking the penalty shot). Obviously, I am not quite comfortable with the settings on my camera, but I'm working on it! Actually downloaded the owners' manual so that I could read the instructions (5 years late...)

Here's my sister Gail with my girls. As I've moved back, many people have either thought I WAS Gail (who seems to be generally loved), or picked up on the resemblance before I said a word. That is the easy thing about moving onto old family turf. I'm sure the bad stuff will surface later :-) The guy in the upper left is Gail's husband Scott. This doesn't show his generally happy self, but again...I'm working on the photo skills, which apparently include timing.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

An earth-shattering (ground-breaking) day

I mentioned the rocky areas that we found with the trencher. Mark couldn't stand it...he HAD to conquer it. So he rented another beloved man-toy: a jackhammer. And he cleared out that trench lickety split. He started looking around for other things to pound to smithereens, but had to settle for just clearing the trench.

The next day, the 30th of April, was our red letter GROUND BREAKING (not counting the trenching). Matt Saar, our "dirt work" guy, brought his Bobcat and within a day, had scraped out the footprint of the house, and begun prepping it for the footings. We are using Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs), which are interlocking blocks that have foam insulation on their sides, creating an inner and outer insulating surface. It is part of our goal to have an energy efficient home. We found that one of the concepts for improving efficiency is to have a conditioned (heated and cooled) crawlspace, versus a slab. You run all your ducting in this crawlspace, and this ends up being more energy efficient than running insulated lines through your attic, or other unconditioned space. Aside from saving the world from global warming and reducing our carbon footprint blah blah blah, I like the idea because the floors won't be cold!

Here is Mark, showing how high the floor will be above the ground at one corner of the house. It will be about 5 feet above grade at one back corner, and at grade on the other back corner. We'll have to do some additional grading to slope the ground away from the house on that high end.

And of course, all this moving dirt around creates one more playground for Mae and Abigail (see them heading off in the corner of this picture).

They were SO dirty that evening, I gave them the hose to play with before I'd even bring them in to the bathroom. They are in HOG HEAVEN. I'd show you a picture, but the dirt combined with Abigail's runny nose was not very photogenic. I know this because I took the picture and made the assessment AFTER I looked at it. Another proud parenting moment.