Friday, February 22, 2013

Move On Cottage - One Step Forward, One Step Back

When we laid out the house foundation we knew we would have to remove one tree so that the house could be maneuvered into place. BestLoved Hubby spent two hours cleaning and tuning up his chainsaw and headed out to the property to chop down the offending tree. We also considered a couple more trees might be candidates for removal.  Easy, yeah? BLHubby came back home within twenty minutes.  Wow, quick huh? No. The offending tree was MUCH bigger on closer inspection. Hubbs is six foot eight with gorilla arms and he could barely reach around it. The others we were considering removing were much bigger. On reflection (and fear for his life), he decided this was a job for the experts.  A job that we hadn't budgeted for. What might it cost?  BLHubbs just contracted for some tree limb removal and clean-up at his work.  Limb removal on 15 trees cost $3600. Complete removal of bigger trees would cost a lot more. But, he's not an international purchasing agent for nothing.  One of his suppliers is a sawmill and they recommended their best log contractor.  When we met with him he pointed out that most of the hardwood trees on our site were old and diseased or lightning struck.  On a closer look, there was one big one that you could see through!

Peek-a-boo tree! A good wind storm or ice storm and all our work renovating the cottage would be smashed. BLHubby's sawmill friends also coached him in what the business side of getting the trees removed should be. The tree contractor told us the trees were not worth anything except to sell for pulp. (Just what the sawmill said they would.) BLHubby then asked them if they would remove the trees and take the logs for free. They agreed. This was the desired result. The log contractor would get a couple of loads of logs worth about $1000 and we would get the trees safely removed without blocking the road, smashing the storage building or killing anyone. The only "catch" is that the tops and smaller branches as well as the stumps will be our problem.  Here it is, trees removed

Most of the lot covered with a tangle of tree limbs - some of them huge. But, no damage to the shed, foundation, road, or any people (that we know of). Those trees you see are not on our lot. We are about to put some sweat into sweat equity. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Three Little Pigs Edition Seven and How Not to Shoot

I've had another Three Little Pigs play set ready to list in the Etsy shop.  I still struggle with photos. You would think that I would know by now what works, and what doesn't.

I was in a hurry (it was getting late in the day) and didn't pull the photos up on the computer right away. I've listed it with the three best photos I got, but. . I'll be retaking the pictures when we finally get some sun.
This set is a bit brighter in color. The stick house is a lighter brown, but my favorite part of this set is that each little pig has the same portrait of their piggy mom.
 If you have to leave home, at least take family pictures with you.

Friday, February 15, 2013

New Arrivals

I've got a new baby! Not a human baby and not even a puppy. (BL Baby Boy became a puppy Dad). Look! Aren't they cute?
These are baby elephant bookends. Now in the shop.
I got the idea to do these when someone wanted one elephant bookend and one pig, because their nursery was pink and gray. I got to thinking that the size and scale of these were so different, wouldn't it be great to have an elephant more like the bunnies and the pigs.  I love my elephant bookends but they weren't really supposed to be bookends. They're the elephants for the Noah's Arks. What other animals would be great?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

More Can-Do Cottage - We Get Concrete

 The day after we got our trenches dug we poured concrete in them. Not without a little drama.

A big yellow cement truck arrived promptly at 12:30 pm.
And promptly got stuck in the mud.
Really stuck! Of all the routes to the house site he took the one with a soft spot.  We  now had a load of cement, starting to set up - in the truck - not in our trenches. We're responsible to get the cement to the proper place. The truck's delivery chute was at least 20 feet from where it needed to be.  The workers didn't even have a wheelbarrow.  The truck cannot be pulled out of the mud until it's unloaded. Fortunately, The BestLoved Hubby has a bit of experience expediting job sites. We could have called someone but the heavens opened and we were gifted with a cement fairy.
   Our neighbor, an elderly gentleman by the name of Billy Bob (really, his name), has spent a lifetime as a heavy equipment contractor. He built the roads that run by our home. He had just pulled up to his driveway with the lovely tractor/front loader shown above. He and the Best Loved Hubs struck a deal.
Billy Bod drove the loader to the truck, his scoop was loaded up with concrete and he drove it to the trench and neatly dumped it in.
While unloading the first truck, one scoop at a time, the 2nd truck arrived and back up to the trenches, NO PROBLEM! The 3rd truck in the background is a "rescue" truck send by the concrete company. It's loaded with 10 yards of rock to give it some "heft" to pull out the stuck truck.
Truck number two unloads, easy peasy, just as planned.
Once unloaded, truck three hooks a huge fabric covered chain to truck one. And pulls.
Truck one stays stuck. They think they can hook the stuck truck from the back and try pulling it out that direction:
It's a little hard to see the big chain, but they tried. Yellow truck number one still stuck. The contractor had not estimated quite enough concrete, so a FOURTH truck (2nd yellow one) came and delivered it's load. We have our footings. We also have a huge yellow truck stuck in the front yard. Best Loved Hubby starts to talk about decorating it with Christmas lights. The concrete company had a smart foreman that had the last truck bring another big huge chain. Apparently, sticking trucks in the mud is pretty common.

 With a longer chain the truck loaded with rocks can get onto the road which gives it better traction.
The mud was defeated! Success! Trucks gone!
Just us and our footings. The concrete had to cure for at least 14 days before we can move the house on over them. The trucks, with the weight of the house will cross over parts of the footing so it has to be strong. 

How much? Concrete was $1607.98, re-bar $284.57, labor to dig the trenches and pour footings $1600 and last but the best money spent $70 to Billy Bob for his skip loader.  So far all spent, $9974. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Can Do Cottage, 2nd Installment

Since we got our Sanitary Certificate, we haven't been idle. For a move on house, you pour concrete footings, then move the house on over them, build a cement block foundation and then lower the house onto the foundation.  Oh, but first, we bought the house. We had verbally agreed to purchase the house. The owner/house  mover had checked out our lot and confirmed that it was possible to move the house on. (Not every lot is feasible.) Once we got our "go ahead" from the county we could then sign a contract.  We're paying $14,000 for the house, set on a foundation (which we will supply). For now we pay only $5000 deposit. The rest will be paid when the house is delivered and we hold the large amount of iron holding the house up hostage until the house is installed and leveled on it's foundation. If you're confused, follow along and you'll see.
The house mover, sent us a detailed "footprint" of the house. We had also measured it and drew it out on graph paper. This helps us to know the exact dimensions of the foundation.  Everyone met at the lot and the foundation contractors measured and strung line between posts (look close) so they had the exact position of the outline of the house and the interior piers that will hold up the interior.
They came the next day with this cute little Bobcat and dug neat straight trenches right where the foundation will go. In our climate (no frozen ground) 18 inches is deep enough for footings.
The trenches get filled with a crosshatch of steel re-bar. This keeps the concrete all together and strong.
They smoothed out the dug out dirt and called it a day. Next day, concrete!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bearing the Unbearable

It's been a full, full week. The Best Loved Family has been transplanted Arkansans for nearly 20 years. In all that time we've been members of the Benton Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We've come to love this group of people and in this congregation we've watched our children and our friend's children go from diapers to adulthood. Today we, and about eight hundred others buried our friends 22 year old daughter, Alesa. We are a lay church and her father serves us currently as our Bishop. She was a missionary for our church, assigned to the Oklahoma City Mission and she was "posted" to a small town in north west Oklahoma. In a sad accident, she was struck by a pickup truck last Friday night while walking her bike and died on site.

On Saturday, the word spread through the Ward. We were in Home Depot, buying kitchen cabinets when we heard. It seemed strange to be doing something so mundane. She was the same age as our youngest boy. In a weird fluke, they were the only ones in the Ward  the same age and were always in the same classes.  Her family had four girls and then finally a boy. We had three girls and three boys. We always joked that we wanted one of their girls for a daughter-in-law.  In truth, if we lived in a different society we would have sent the baba to their house to negotiate. We would have had to bring quite a few goats, and at least one cow as we wouldn't have been the only ones.  When our youngest son was about 9, only half in jest we said that it looked like our older sons weren't going for the older Smith sisters, so our baby boy would have to marry Alesa. "I don't want to marry Alesa" he said, "she hits me with her scriptures in Sunday School". I'm sure he deserved it.

We "Mormons" love our missionaries. There are 60,000 world wide. Many of our children serve 18 months or 2 years at their own expense and are assigned all over the world. We feed dinner to the ones that are assigned to our area and greet any we find wherever we go (and buy them dinner) just like they are our own kids, because in a real way, they could be. Even so, I was amazed by the outpouring and support from our entire 14 million church membership. Elder W. Craig Zwick, a General Authority of our church, was sent  from Church headquarters to preside and speak at the service. The accident has been front page on Church news and websites. For us, this was a big deal, but to our congregation Alesa was our own beautiful girl. Her parents and siblings our dear friends. In spite of great faith, our grief is great and her family's even greater.

We have a scripture:
"Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious Resurrection. And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them. " D&C 42:45, 46
There's been a lot of love, and weeping. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On the Worktable

My worktable looks a bit disjointed, but I feel like I'm getting some things done.
The table has spilled over to the dining table, too.
Sneak peak. These are new elephant bookends. Hope to get them posted in the next couple of days.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Before You Can Even Think About Building

Before you can even think of building (or in our case moving a house on to the property) there's a whole lot of "stuff" you have to do. We live in a rural county area of central Arkansas and compared to most communities we have few building codes and regulations. Some neighborhoods and developments have Codes, Covenants and Restrictions (CC&R's) that regulate building. We live in a development called Maple Creek Farms and some of our CC&R's prohibit a mobile home (regardless of size or type), prohibit pig farming :), require a house to be a single family residence and say that homes must be at least 1000 sq ft in size. I know of a development that requires you to build a brick home with a Mansard roof. The lot we bought for the Can Do Cottage in an unrestricted area. No CC&R's. Really the only regulations in this area are concerning sewage. What happens when we flush can effect the entire community's health and well being so the state and county have rules. You cannot move a house (or trailer or mobile home) onto a property nor can you get a water district to put in a meter and hook up water to your dwelling without a Sanitary Certificate from the county. What's that, and how do you get one?

A Sanitary Certificate is a permit with specific directions to install a septic tank and field. Our favorite septic tank installer and a civil engineer meet at the property to determine if and how a septic system can be installed. The septic tank installer came with a big fancy backhoe. (I'm sorry I didn't get his picture but he'll be back in a month or so.)  They have to know the size of the house. In our county, a house 1500 sq ft or less is in a different category, and takes a smaller system than a larger house. Fortunately, our project is going to be a little over 1100 sq ft. I think it's interesting that the size of the system is the size of the house, not how many bedrooms, bathrooms or people will be involved. When the BL daughter bought a home in New Hampshire the determining factor for septic size was number of bedrooms, so they looked at quite a few homes that had strange rooms that couldn't be called a bedroom because the septic system was rated for only 3 bedrooms and the 4th room was a "bonus" area. I know from sad experience that when you move into a house with 4 teenagers and a mountain of laundry when the former occupant was a single man the septic system knows the difference.

Holes were dug in several places and the engineer and installer worked together to determine where things would go. They spoke a foreign language. I could catch a few words and phrases like "gray layers" and "I wouldn't believe there was any clay", but mostly I had no idea what they were talking about. To my surprise, they needed to find a place to put not one, but TWO septic systems. The 2nd system is a back-up. The first is supposed to last at least 35 years (they told me it would last for 60 years in our soil) but should it quit working there has to be an alternate plan. There are more strict regulations the smaller the property. We are subdividing the lot we bought so we can put more than one house. The lot the Can Do Cottage will be on is going to be a bit over 0.6 acres. If we lived in back in So California this size lot would support a 3000 ft home, a large horse barn, a swimming pool, 3 horses and some goats! Here in Central Arkansas it's just a modest little yard.  Luckily, they were able to work out a plan on the lot size we wanted. This plan also tells us where the house has to sit. There are regulations on how far away the tanks, distribution boxes and outlets are from the house and the property lines.You can't have driveways or parking on the drain fields. Our lot is on a small hill and water (and what's in it) all flows downhill, so the drain fields will be in the front yard.  

Look close, flags show the whole layout
They marked everything with small flags. They filled in some of the holes but left several open for inspection by the county. The engineer submits a report and files a request with the county who sends an inspector out to double check and then, usually, grants you a permit to build a septic system. Two weeks later, we had our permit in hand.  

This project is now real.  What did it cost? The Civil Engineer's fee was $350. We paid the septic installer $150 to dig the test trenches and consult (this is low but he does it for this if you are going to use him to install the system, and we are). Then we needed to give the Engineer $30 for the County Fee.   We're at $530 + land. More to come. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Can Do Cottage

The Best Loved Household has been busy. Not only do I have a bunch of stuff on the work table but BL Hubby and I bought a house! Look, isn't she cute. 

Not so much? She will be. This little 2 bedroom 1 bath bungalow was on the campus of a church where it may at one time have been a minister's house. The church wanted to expand so it was moved and is now going to go on our property.  Before we could finalize the sale and get it moved, there is a whole lot of stuff that has to happen.
Why? We've saved a bit of our income regularly for the last 22 years and as we look at retirement (we still have some time) the money we've saved is making nothing sitting in our retirement account. We don't have the stomach for anything that will risk our principal any MIGHT make a little more. We have one rental/investment property that makes about 5% on investment (that's conservative) so we really want to put our retirement money into more rental units.  Last year we bought a piece of property and had located a house to move onto it, but, BL Hubs had some surgery and we waited. Now he found this little cutie and we're ready to get to it!  I'm going to keep track on the blog of everything we're doing. Check in next for all the hilarity.