Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You Will Need to Raise the House Two Inches -- jcarolek

The old farmhouse project has been an interesting one so far.  I can assure you, everything costs at least double what I think it should cost, and every tradesman I have perform some work for me, leaves me with more work to do.  There is a law of the universe in there somewhere, but the precise wording of that law eludes me just now.  Suffice to say, it is akin to Murphy's Law -- if it can go wrong, so it shall.

I have hired all kinds of folks to help me get to a point where I can live in the apartment over the garage and work on the old farmhouse in my leisure.  I have tried to "go local" helping sustain the local economy.  So far I have had:

1. about a dozen loads of "road dirt" and gravel delivered to the property in an attempt to create driveable roads on the property -- good guy, friendly, personable... had to pull his dump truck out of the mud twice, forgot to raise his trailer jack stand when he was leaving, after using his tractor to create my roads, and dug a nice deep groove down the center of my approximately 500 foot long driveway....oh well, what's one more rut?

2. gutters installed on the old farmhouse and the modern garage to help divert the water away from the foundations and route it out to what will, one day, be the pond....nice enough guy, clearly NOT a long-term gutter installation guy, despite his truck advertising that promotes his talents...put the ends on backwards, and had one corner, a very critical corner of the guttering, that leaked badly....came back twice to repair it without luck...and told me, "Judy, you will need to raise the house two inches to get the gutter corner to not leak..."  Yes, yes, of course I thought he was kidding... he was not...he was quite serious!  Well, I might well be raising the house to repair the failing floor joists, but I seriously doubt I will be raising the house to correct a gutter installation.....

3. a water softening system installed -- got a pretty good deal on Craigslist, and the guy installed it while I was at church one Sunday...bartered with him, getting a discount on the system and installation in return for selling him the swingset that was on the property....when I got to the site to see the work he'd done, it was pretty good...OK, one of the pipe connections leaked, but other than that, AND the fact that he took the old water softener without asking (I had him return it to me) AND the fact that he left my poor wet yard with two MORE gigantic, ugly ditches from where HIS truck sank trying to get the swingset out....well, maybe NOT such a good deal on Craigslist, after all....

4. an office trailer I bought for my eBay operation from a guy on Craigslist, moved to the property ....got a decent deal, my new neighbors offered to move it to my property, and the seller promised to have everything in working order so it could be towed...again, I was at church when the actual move occurred...and the seller had NOT fixed the trailer jack stand so it could be adjusted...so, it was more work for the guys moving it, AND yet another thing to fix....not high priority, so it will settle to the bottom of the to-do list...

5. a new pressure tank installed -- mine gave out about two weeks after I started living here...the plumber was very good and reasonably priced and did clean up after himself...but he took the head from my old water softener...he DID ask later, if it was OK that he took it, but really... what is with these people?

6. hughesnet high speed satellite service moved from my old house to this property....installer declared the dish already mounted on the chimney here would not work... needed to install a new pole....OK...$125 for a $20 pole...seriously... AND he ran the cable right across one of my open tranches I had dug for water diversion...now I get to either creatively go under the cable, or find a way to lengthen the cable... UGH... job cost me twice what was quoted, the guy put the pole in a different location from what I authorized....

7. carport installed next to the garage....12 X 31 lean-to style....after waiting more than six weeks from the date of ordering, last Tuesday was my big installation day...three industrious men arrived and I showed them where I wanted it...they asked if they could start the front, about 20 inches forward from where I had marked, and I deferred to their expertise....I left for my 3-hour meeting with my divorce attorney and returned to find a lovely carport....with one of the legs positioned DIRECTLY in the middle of the walk-through door to the garage...UMMMMM.....I really could not believe my eyes, but it was so, and the three industrious men were long gone.... I wrote a letter of complaint to Carolina Carports, including photos of the clever installation, and today, having received no response from the company, pulled up the 2 1/2 foot pegs and had a friend with a winch move the whole building back 20 inches...

And...just BECAUSE mine is a Murphy's Law kind of life, Friday, at the P/L hearing for my divorce, the judge would not hear any "fault" arguments (that has to wait for the "equitable distribution hearing")...and did NOT look at the sheet I was required to complete that specified all of my monthly income and bills...all he cared about was my salary, John's salary, mortgage payments and car payments... and with that, he ruled that I have to pay John, the man who NEVER would work during our marriage, $2200 per month in spousal support, retroactive to February 15, 2010...and maintain his health insurance for him at my expense....UMMMM...where exactly am I supposed to come up with this money, I wonder??? Well, OK, I suppose I will be able to write more blog entries from a jail cell when they incarcerate me for non-payment of "spousal support."  GEEZ!

Well, but today was another day...I got the opportunity to work myself ragged to afford to maintain John's lifestyle, while I try to make livable the old farmhouse....so I can MAYBE sell the other house....so I can lessen my financial burden....while John sits on his butt, doing nothing, as he has for more than 10 years now...claiming, "I cannot leave my comfort zone" as his latest excuse for not being able to work...

I dunno, maybe it's just me, but this is one wacko world....tradesmen that charge thousands for work that is pathetically performed, attorney's who want to settle so badly, they allow crazy awards to deadbeat leaches, and deadbeat leaches who SERIOUSLY act as if they are OWED something because they managed to be abusive, drunks who refused to contribute to the acquisition of the assets they now CLAIM as 50% theirs, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, who stipulates that "the award of spousal support is not to punish the spouse paying the support, but to lessen the financial impact of divorce on the spouse with the lower salary.".....UMMMMM... well, OK, but Really, isn't this sort of like the guy who wants me to raise the house to fix his poorly installed gutters?

But, I am sure, one day I will look back on all of this and have a good laugh....

Nevertheless, I am enjoying the old farmhouse and the couple of goats that are WAY more trouble than I am sure they are worth!

Monday, April 12, 2010

No Kidding -- jcarolek

I decided to get some kids to help with the yard work.  I looked on-line, on Craigslist to see who was selling some and found several.  Only one was truly local, so I contacted her to get the details.  That was Friday.

On Saturday we worked on building small enclosures for the kids to hang out in, you know, to get out of the rain and such.  As seems to be the norm, nightfall interrupted our progress, and the remainder of the construction had to be put off.

Today, was the day we were to meet the kids for the first time.  We arrived early afternoon and I was impressed with the set-up.  The parents were on-site and mingled with the kids.  Everyone looked happy and healthy.  The folks selling the kids were very nice and we spent more than an hour there, learning about the basics of raising kids.  When we left, it was with the assurance they would help us any way they can... all we need do is call.

Back at the farmhouse, excited to see the kids frolicking about, I hooked leads around trees and hooked each kid's collar to the lead.  The male screamed indignantly at this collar on his neck and the constraint of the lead, and he wasn't crazy about the fact his mother wasn't there, either!  He bucked and squawked and cried in his loud voice.

Next was his sister. Smaller than her brother, but every bit as indignant, the female fought the collar and lead, but with more success than her brother.  In less than a minute, she had escaped her collar and bolted from the "safe ground" where I had determined they should start their familiarization with their new home.  Horrified, I grabbed some of the feed and headed over to try to coax her back.  My friend suggested we just leave the two alone, and go about our business.  His thought was the two would stick together, even though one was completely free to run off.

As it turned out, my friend was right (of course) and as we built a temporary fence to corral them for the night, they stuck together, enthusiastically munching the undergrowth of the woods...doing the work for which I had purchased them.  An hour or so later, the fence was up and we led the male inside.  As anticipated, the female took only about two minutes to run into the open "gate" to be with her brother.  And with that, we had them both corralled.

Tonight is their first night in the new place and we'll see how they do.  When I left them, they were getting comfortable on the straw.  Their temporary shelters are there, in case it should rain, but when I pulled out, they were sleeping under the tree on the straw.

And so begins the adventure.... the farm has its first two farm animals....
And even though I spent 20 years raising children, I'm only now entering the brave new world of raising kids..... no kidding.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A New Gate and Some Old Floors -- jcarolek

The past few weeks have been busy. The old farmhouse, charming as she is, or at least, as she will be after a lot of work, is still a very old structure, sitting on some very wet ground.  It is clear to me that her former inhabitants did not experience the record-breaking rainfalls we have experienced in these past few months.  What with all of the snow and rain, the tasks we had to undertake prior to even getting to the house renovation, included many, many truckloads of road dirt and gravel, installing rain gutters on the main structure and the detached garage, emergency septic system repairs, and over 500 feet of trenching, dug with shovels, to divert the excessive water away from the structures and the overwhelmed septic system.

Now, understand, all of this work had to be performed after my regular job working hours.  Suffice to say, digging trenches in the dark, working on septic tanks and drain fields in the dark, became the norm.  Add to this schedule, the hours and hours of time spent in the divorce process, and I can honestly say, I was burning the candle at at least three ends!

April 1 was my first court date.  I was attempting to have my husband's attorney removed on the grounds that by representing my husband, having previously represented me in my first divorce, as well as in several real estate transactions, and in dealings regarding my current home, this attorney was operating under a clear conflict of interest.  As it turned out, there was only one witness in the motion to dismiss hearing (me) and both my current attorney and this attorney whom I had employed variously over a 12 year, questioned me. The judge asked me some questions and then asked both counsel to join him in chambers.  When he returned, he did what I knew he'd do, the minute he entered the court that day.  He declined to remove this attorney as my husband's counsel.

While this might sound a little odd to the casual observer, I mean, no fewer than three qualified attorneys had provided me opinions that this attorney SHOULD have declined to accept the case, what is not as obvious is the local, small town, good old boy environment.  What I do know is there was no court reporter in the room, nor any mechanical recording being performed.  Though I was sworn in and was testifying under oath, there is no transcript of either my words or those of the attorneys or the judge......  I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this whole process that results in a judge's decision, without any official record of what was said...under oath, or otherwise.  At any rate, I will be appealing etc........

In early March, my husband had called begging me to work out a settlement agreement with him, which, again, I spent MANY hours trying to do.  In the end, and even though the settlement agreement was EXACTLY what he'd said he wanted, he did not follow through...in fact, 10 days after he called, requesting the settlement, he abruptly stopped his correspondence.  I suppose his greed simply overtook him and he is certain he will be awarded better terms by the courts.  We'll just have to wait and see.  Nevertheless, I did NOT appreciate the additional waste of time this little exercise afforded me.

Still, I kept working toward getting into my old farmhouse, and kept my eye on the  treasures being offered up on Craigslist -- treasures that would be useful at the old farmhouse. Last Saturday included a trip to a nearby town where my friend and I secured some tools from one such Craigslist seller. We hit it off with this seller, Hank, and made plans to get together again this past Saturday to play some music and share a pizza.

Before I knew it, we were in Holy Week and choir practice and church services took over.  Still, Saturday we made the time to enjoy a beautiful afternoon of music and shared meal with Hank and his wife at their home.  The weather was finally delightful, the rain taking a well-earned vacation for a few days.

We left Hank's and headed to the old farmhouse to drop off our latest Craigslist "finds".  My new neighbor was in his yard as we drove up and he and his wife invited us to eat some supper with them.  I still had a little time before I had to leave for Easter Vigil service, so, though not hungry, we accepted the invitation and shared a second meal in a single day with new friends.  Technically, we did not get a lot of work done on Saturday, but the day of rest was very welcome.

Easter Day dawned another beauty and, after the morning service, it was yet another trip to another Craigslist "find."  This time, the seller had some hinges that could be used in some of the old farmhouse projects.  When he was selling us the hinges, the seller, Charlie, asked, "If you don't mind my asking, what are you going to do with all of these hinges."  We explained about the old farmhouse I had recently purchased and which my friend is helping me renovate, and Charlie got real excited.  He told us the story of the old farmhouse in which he'd been raised, the farm owned by his grandparents, and on which is now a huge mall.  He described his sadness at the old farmhouse being torn down and told us of his father's determination to keep and reuse everything that was able to be salvaged.  Charlie then produced a box full of beautiful, century old door handles with porcelain knobs, and locks from the doors in that old farmhouse.  This little box of treasures he GAVE to me to use in the renovation.

Back at the my old farmhouse that Easter afternoon, we installed the gate I'd purchased nearly a month ago, but which had sat patiently awaiting installation -- taking its turn behind all of the "water related tasks."  And after the gate installation, it was on to the task that had us intrigued from the very beginning.  The tearing up of the sagging floor of the old farmhouse.  The task is not an easy one.  Others have performed "updating" over the years, and their updating, though presumably intended to improve the home, actually only succeeded in covering up some problems that should have been addressed.  We intend to address them.

The filthy carpet and underlying padding were removed first, exposing OSB board, likely installed in the 1980's or 1990's.  Under the OSB was another layer of carpet, this a VERY colorful pattern of reds and oranges and probably from the late 70's or early 80's.  Below this layer of colorful carpet we found the original floorboards.....in VERY bad repair, showing damage from both water and termites/insects.  Of course we already knew we'd find the damaged floor joists, and that is why we decided to expose the beams and joists by removing all of the first story flooring..... We managed to pull up 2 1/2 sections out of a total of 14 sections in the living room.... The going was much slower than speculated, and I think it will be VERY likely I will STILL be writing about this floor repair a month from now...

At the end of the day, as I crawled into bed and reflected on my Easter, I decided it was a good one indeed.  No, it did not include the traditional Easter dinner at Dad's with the rest of the family.  But the morale boost of FINALLY being able to install the gate, and start the floor removal in the old farmhouse, was long overdue.  The meals and music shared Saturday helped make my Easter weekend a truly lovely one.