Basement

Fall 2015 at The Manor

 Maude, one of our remaining chickens who *mostly* has the good sense to stay away from the dogs.

Maude, one of our remaining chickens who *mostly* has the good sense to stay away from the dogs.

When I last left you, dear reader, the basement was flooded, Bill was out of town, and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I'm happy to report that Bill is back and the basement is dry. The nervous breakdown seems to have stepped back a pace, but is ready to launch at the slightest provocation.

What's going on with the basement?

I'm so glad you asked. After pumping 800 gallons of water outside, the basement continued to flood for the rest of the weekend. A specialist came out to examine the problem and told us that because our house has a double-brick foundation, we can't do exterior waterproofing and instead need to consider digging up the concrete to put in gutters and pipes along the interior walls of the basement, which will then divert water into a (new) sump pump. Cha-ching.

Oh, and our insurance doesn't cover water damage from flooding, so we had to pay for the emergency help out of pocket. We don't have flood insurance. Remind me again how my husband's job is convincing communities to require flood insurance for just such occasions...

What's going on with the chickens?

Well, we're now down to 10 chickens. You'll recall that Doris (our firstborn!) turned out to be a rooster and was re-homed over the summer. A couple of weeks ago, the chickens started venturing over the fence from their safe and secure stable area into our backyard. Where our dogs roam. With a taste for chicken.

Sadly, one of them wasn't quick enough to make it back over the fence, and was killed by the dogs. In a matter of second, the air was full of feathers (seriously, it was like a feather pillow exploded) and the chicken was dead on the ground with a broken neck. No spurting blood (thank goodness) but it was pretty disturbing to have to pick it up off the ground and get it disposed of in the three minutes before the kids arrived home from school. 

At least the chickens have mostly decided to stay on their side of the fence. We're planning to clip their flight feathers this weekend so help minimize their explorations. Stay tuned for that horror story soon.

 There doesn't seem to be much mourning for dead "Brown Chicken #6". It's business as usual in The Manor stables.

There doesn't seem to be much mourning for dead "Brown Chicken #6". It's business as usual in The Manor stables.

Fighting "The Man"

The new grass seed is coming in nicely, and the stable is looking less desperate. This comes at a good time, since it turns out that our city is doing a comprehensive review of the zoning ordinances and is proposing that a property lot under 5 acres be limited to four chickens and no animals over 50 lbs. That means that our very spacious "almost 2 acre" property would be over the limit on chickens and would not be allowed to have goats.

Heresy! Here is a photo of approximately 1/8 of our property. Does this photo look overcrowded with livestock? I think not.

 This is a tiny portion of our backyard -- does it look like we have too many chickens? Absolutely not.

This is a tiny portion of our backyard -- does it look like we have too many chickens? Absolutely not.

And here is a photo of another angle of our backyard -- this is separate from the stable area where the chickens roam, and there is another 2/3 of the backyard not pictured. Does it look like the goats are being mistreated with lack of space? Or that our neighbors mind living next to these pets?

 I think you can probably tell from their little pot bellies that these goats have plenty of land upon which to gorge themselves.  

I think you can probably tell from their little pot bellies that these goats have plenty of land upon which to gorge themselves.  

All of this is to say that Bill and I are moving into high gear. We're in the process of figuring out the best way to advocate for more reasonable zoning rules regarding chickens and livestock. Bill's in communication with the local extension agent and I'm going to be reaching out to members of the City Council and the planning department. Wish us luck!

Flooded Basement Woes

Hurricane Joaquin is rapidly approaching and I am braced for the worst. While all the homes in our little downtown community have leaky basements, the recent 4 days of heavy rain have already flooded our basement once.

Here's how I found it yesterday around noon...

By the early afternoon it was much, much worse, with a solid 3 inches of standing water in the boiler room and a half inch (up to 2 inches) in the entire rest of the basement. (Except for the bathroom, which is apparently built on "high ground.")

I made an emergency call to our neighbor, who also happens to be a contractor, and he had a guy come out and pump over 500 gallons of water out that afternoon and evening -- but he was barely getting ahead of the incoming water, which was seeping in along the entire west side of the house.

The culprit: heavy rains and saturated land

The photos below are a big foggy, because of the rain and also because we were at 100% humidity and the camera lens kept fogging up. Let's not talk about its effect on my hair.

You'll notice that the dog had to get involved. At this point I was at the end of my rope and may have screamed obscenities at her (which she happily ignored), but I trust the worst of it was drowned out by the rain.

Today things look much better...

The water mostly drained away over night, and the crew came this morning to do the final clean up. We've turned the washer/dryer back on and they seem to be none the worse for wear after sitting in 3 inches of water for hours. We haven't turned back on any of the TV electronics, whose cords were all partially submerged, since I'm paranoid about electrocuting myself and want to give everything another couple of days to dry out. The floor, however, is ruined. The concrete paint and stain is peeling everywhere, leaving a gluey substance that I'm sure will be toxic for the pets. 

Of course, insurance covers NOTHING.

Apparently, water damage like this requires flood insurance, which we do not have. Pro tip: homeowners insurance generally WILL cover water damage from a broken window or a busted washing machine water line. So... you know... break that window the next time the basement floods. (Kidding! Sort of.)

The hurricane is coming, and they are predicting 3-6 inches in a "predecessor rain event" before it arrives properly over the weekend. We are almost certain to have a repeat experience of yesterday's mess, if not worse. My professional plan is to put a baby gate up to the basement stairs and ignore it all until Bill gets back home at the end of next week.

Did I mention that Bill is traveling for work so I'm on my own?

Yeah. It's not awesome to be handling this on my own. Fortunately I have a friend who is helping me do some hurricane preparedness, including try to track down some sandbags from the City to use in the basement if major flooding is expected. I love her.

Instead of ending with doom and gloom, let's go out on a high note.

Here is a photo of our cute new kitten. Not drowned by exploring the basement drainage holes. Yet.

Upgrade

We got a new washer and dryer last week. It's weird to be at a point in my life where I can get so excited about appliances. But I am, and I'm going to embrace it. 

 This washer/dryer combo is the Bently of appliances. Or at least a very nice Lexus. 

This washer/dryer combo is the Bently of appliances. Or at least a very nice Lexus. 

Bill and I briefly toyed with the idea of sprucing up the laundry room (which is straight out of a horror movie) but ran out of time, money, and inspiration by the time the appliances were delivered. 

I did manage to sell the old washer and dryer on Craigslist today, so that's one task complete at least.  

Now, as Bill reminds me, I just need to sell the random extra dryer in the storage room. My work is never done. 

Mustard Yellow FTW

When we last visited the basement, dear reader, I was embarrassed to show you the TV area. It was straight out of a frat house, with cords everywhere.

We stalled on this project for a couple of months, because we couldn't decide if we wanted to do built-in bookshelves surrounding the TV (like we did at our old house) or if we wanted to get a TV console to sit underneath the TV. 

There was also a small argument about getting a bigger TV, which I lost.

Two weeks ago I was up north in the "big city" and took the opportunity to go to IKEA. There I found the solution to our basement woes. And while it came in several muted options (gray, black, white) this time I went bold.

This console neatly captures all of our cords and seems to be an even better place for our wifi router. Plus, it looks nice.

This weekend, while we finished our top-to-bottom cleaning of the house (since our cleaning company quit a couple of weeks ago) I also took the opportunity to move the furniture around a bit. The extra seat from the couch is now catty-corner (seen above) and the kids art table is in the other corner. 

And just for good measure, here are more photos of the basement. 

You'll notice that there is now a big empty area where the art table used to be. I think that eventually we'll put a bigger game table there. But for now it gives me a nice work space to refinish some old pieces of furniture.

Late Summer Goings On

The big news around The Manor is that our cleaning company quit doing residential houses, so for the last couple of weeks we've been figuring out just how messy things can get before someone (me) loses their mind. I've been doing sporadic vacuuming and we generally keep the kitchen pretty tidy, but it was getting pretty bad. So today, everyone chipped in to clean the second floor -- it took hours and hours and I think that we decided that we need to find another solution, stat. 

#firstworldproblems, yo.

We've been doing a few smaller things over the last couple of weeks, in between an anniversary weekend at the lake for Bill and me, the first week of school for the kids, Bill's birthday, and a return of hot summer temperatures. I was feeling a little disheartened about our lack of progress, but looking at what we've accomplished over the last month, I feel quite impressed with our collective efforts.

#1. New pillows for the basement.

After a Facebook poll to decide which color scheme to use, the blues won out and I made three pillows for the new basement couch. 

 Option #1 - the blues.

Option #1 - the blues.

 Option #2 - the oranges.

Option #2 - the oranges.

 And the blues have it!

And the blues have it!

#2 - New quilt for the basement (or the hammock)

I had started this quilt last winter, using the last chevron scraps left over from a couple of baby blankets. When we realized we were going to move, the quilt-in-progress got put away and I only pulled it out a couple of weeks ago when I realized it matched the color scheme in the basement. So far, it's been a hit with grown-ups and kids alike.

 The quilt in progress -- every time I have to stitch the layers together, I promise myself to outsource the next one...

The quilt in progress -- every time I have to stitch the layers together, I promise myself to outsource the next one...

 While there was limited chevron left over, there was plenty of orange left over.

While there was limited chevron left over, there was plenty of orange left over.

 The back mixes three coordinating fabrics.

The back mixes three coordinating fabrics.

#3 - Faux taxidermy!

I love faux taxidermy, and so when I saw a sale on Joss & Main I jumped on it. The first piece was a white elephant, which now resides in our living room. I wish it was a little bigger, but it does make me happy every time I walk in the room. (We also have a white rhino and a white lion on the adjacent walls, but I haven't gotten a photo yet -- the sunlight makes an early morning photo the best option and I'm not particularly keen on getting up early.)

#4 - Fruit Fly Massacre

Because we still haven't turned on the air conditioning, any fruit in the kitchen is particularly susceptible to fruit flies. And last week was the first time that things have gotten really out of control. Once again, Pinterest came to the rescue and offered a solution that worked brilliantly: a shallow dish of apple cider vinegar with a couple drops of dish soap. Within 12 hours, they were drowned and I was a much happier person.

#5 - A second damaged delivery

We ordered a narrow chest of drawers for the master bedroom from Joss & Main about six weeks ago. The first one was delivered about three weeks ago, and I was very very sad that it was damaged. We contacted the company and they agreed to send a second cabinet at no cost. Fast forward to last week when the second package arrived. And whomp-whomp -- guess what?

Grr. At this point, we're going to just cancel the entire order. I'm not going to wait for a third order.

#6 - New Furniture

And the big one -- over the Labor Day weekend we got three new pieces of furniture. The first one is a refinished sewing machine table. It's pretty cute, but needs a bit of work. The other two pieces date to 1910-1920 -- a matching dresser and vanity. They are beautiful, with dovetail joints, hand-worked flourishes, and a bit of a musty odor. It was a bit of a hike to get them -- an hour's drive into the back woods of southern Virginia, then navigating an old house (really, really old with wood plank floors and unfinished ceilings and holes in the walls) packed with boxes and furniture and pets. But in the end it was totally worth it. 

 It was a miracle that both pieces got into the car. It was tight, but it finally worked!

It was a miracle that both pieces got into the car. It was tight, but it finally worked!

Right now, the furniture is sitting in the unused parlor/library room. Bill has done a little research about how to best clean and polish both pieces. But it's definitely a task for another day -- preferably a day with cooler weather. 

Tomorrow we're celebrating Labor Day by cleaning the main floor. Who-hoo!