Each Step Moves Us Forward

The balancing act continues, dear readers. Each week we balance caring for my dad, the typical house/home stuff, tending to the acre of land we are now responsible for, and tackling the projects that will move forward our renovation projects.

Now That Was Dumb

This past Wednesday I returned home from a cleaning to see that roof supplies were being delivered to Cottage West. However, they were placing everything on the ground of the front yard.

I went up and asked what was going on and the guy said, “Well, the roofer was worried because you had pulled the brick walls off that if we put the material on the roof the house might collapse.”

“Um, those bricks are a facade, the frame is intact.”

The guy shrugged.

“So when is the roofer coming?”

He shrugged again, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

I went inside and called Champion, who we are contracting with for the roof, siding and windows – because I was quite concerned. No matter what neighborhood you live in, delivering construction material without any kind of security in place is not a good idea. And certainly not in our area! I explained to the folks at Champion that I was not going to be held responsible for the theft and that they needed to get someone out here pronto to secure the supplies.

No one ever showed up.

My husband made sure to put the small stuff inside the house, but the tar paper and roofing materials were far too heavy. That night, it appears someone tried to move the tar paper and couldn’t, but the next night? They made sure to take every last bit of tar paper and shingles. The only thing left was a piece of plastic that wrapped around the tar paper!

Everyone over at Champion is rather embarrassed and they promised we would not be held responsible for the loss.

Still, I really was ticked. I don’t want the house becoming a target for additional thefts!

A few hundred neatly stacked bricks behind Cottage East – and only a couple thousand to go!

Just 120 Bricks a Day

Just in case you haven’t already guessed, I’m a goal-oriented person. And while the massive piles of bricks surrounding Cottage East are rather overwhelming, I have come up with a plan that works for me.

On Saturday, I grabbed our wheelbarrow and slid it up to the bricks on the east side of the cottage, as close as I could. I only took the whole bricks, of which there are plenty. I can move about 24 bricks at a time. Keep in mind, these are older bricks, which weight a sight more than new bricks do. Modern bricks weigh in at three pounds, but old bricks are heavier and weigh around five pounds.

So many bricks to go!

This adds up believe me!

I try and move five loads of 24 bricks each, for a total of 120 bricks. If I try to move more than that, I end up being very, very sorry in the hours and day that follow.

So far, I’ve managed to move five loads on Saturday and five on Sunday.

All of the broken brick gets shoved to the sides and I just keep moving the wheelbarrow in – I’ve managed to clear about six feet of the pile on the east side so far!

And then there is the east side of the house. I worked on this today and cleared about four feet in.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all of the broken brick, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

This week I plan on moving 120 bricks per day, for at least Monday through Thursday. I think I can get at least half, possibly 2/3 of the brick on the west side of the house moved and stacked that way.

Now that it is nice and clear, it is time for me to plant Althea and mint. I’ve already started with the Althea.

Tree Stumps, Begone!

When we first took possession of Cottage West, we had a bunch of trees growing along the east wall of it. They bent over the roof and were damaging the already “past its prime” roof.

The side of Cottage West in July 2014

We cut them down, but it was one of the first times Dave had used a chainsaw, and the brush was thick, so it seems that some of it grew back.

With the chainsaw, hand snips and lopper we managed to clear the wall.

Althea, also known as Rose of Sharon. It grows easily and self-propagates whether you want it to or not!

I want to plant the entire length with Althea (also known as Rose of Sharon) and mint, I think it will make it far easier to manage if we just have to mow right up to the mint. The Althea will grow in thick and self-propagate, so in a few years, it should be a solid wall of flowering green bushes growing up to about 8-10 feet in height. Mix that with lovely mint at its feet and we will have quite the groundcover in a few years.

It occurred to me as I was planting some of the altheas starts that once the mint takes hold, two awesome things will happen.

This spot under the Cottage West front porch needs a nice screen of Althea and mint.

  1. Ants will avoid invading the house – they detest the smell of mint (as do cockroaches and mice)
  2. The mint could actually act as an early alarm system if anyone were to be walking around outside. The smell of crushed mint can be smelled up to 100 feet away. Back in Belton, Dave mowed mint over 100 feet away from where I was standing, pulling weeds. I was convinced I was somehow standing on mint because it was SO strong!

My very healthy horseradish plant

I keep adding plants and pulling weeds. Eventually it will look better!

Move a Plant Here, Move a Plant There

As the rain fell lightly on Sunday, I took advantage of the moist ground and dug in deep, moving plants from other sections of the yard and trying to work with plant heights to create a more organized garden in the front of Cottage East.

My painted rose is blooming.

Huh, who am I kidding – tall plants, short plants, I just want to fill it with plants!

I also weeded Cottage West and gently pulled about 15 Althea plants out of the ground and relocated them now that the east wall of Cottage West is clear of trees.

Yes, I weighed over 220 and yes, I’m currently working on the “less than 210” goal. Slow but steady wins the race!

Pains and Pounds

I’ve mentioned that I’ve had a ton of body pain in the past few months. Specifically, my lower back muscles and also my right foot has been showing signs of plantar fasciitis.

One of the huge “Here’s your sign” moments from my dad coming to live with me was the reminder that I am pre-diabetic and overweight. Two huge strikes against me.

And eight months after flying to Panama to pick him up, I am reminded daily of a couple big life lessons:

  1. Take care of your body because you only get one – no replacement parts exist
  2. Prepare for the future financially – it is unrealistic to expect your children to care for you when you are old, suffering from dementia, AND also happen to be destitute. Uh uh, that is NOT going to happen if I can help it. Besides, I’ve only got the one to depend on!

So very quickly, the goal of losing a lot of weight was pushed high on my list. I have never been a “dieter” in my life and I have also never been interested in any quick weight loss schemes. So I went about weight loss in this order:

  • Slow down – eat slower
  • Be aware of portions and eat a more balanced meal
  • Slowly decrease portions
  • Exercise as often as I can
  • Make reasonable goals for weight loss (i.e. Set a goal of losing five pounds, achieve that goal for a full 3-4 weeks, then make a new five pound weight goal.

Exercising was a doozy because as soon as my weight loss and exercise became a priority, my body rebelled with massive pain in my back, legs, knees and feet.

At this point I STILL can’t get on the treadmill, but things are improving with regular visits to a chiropractor, deep tissue massage and now my daily stretching exercises. In the past week my pain has gone down and overall in the past three months I have lost around nine pounds.

I still have a long way to go, but those nine pounds are hard-won, let me tell you!

A little spot in my “new” office.

Next Weekend – Moving a Ton of Brush?

I think that next weekend we will rent a truck again and move a ton of brush off the property and possibly one load of paint cans to the paint recycling place nearby.

We have at least 200 cans of paint that we inherited with our purchase of Cottage East in various places – the west side of the house, upstairs in the front room, and stacks and stacks in the basement.

But the brush – aiee! We have a HUGE stack in the backyard of Cottage East, a smaller stack at the end of the alley, and plenty of bigger pieces of wood that we are considering just cutting into smaller pieces and keeping for campfires.

I will probably spend some time this week, cutting down more treelings and adding them to the piles

Furniture is always moving around my house. I inherited the obsessive rearranging gene from my mother. My cool estate sale find – a manual typewriter – sits on a small table in the hall at the top of the stairs and is accompanied by an Eastlake needlepoint chair.

Each Step Moves Us Forward

I’ll admit it, at times it is overwhelming. There is so much to do!

To that end, I’ve suggested to my husband a few changes in how we handle projects.

I’m hoping that 2-3 evenings per week, we can work on little projects – moving stuff up, down or around – installing the security cameras we bought (that sure would have come in handy on Thursday night) or motion detector floodlights – finishing the wiring projects – et cetera.

Waiting until the weekend to tackle ALL OF THIS STUFF is rather overwhelming.

It’s hard. I know we need down time, but we also need to finish some of these projects. If we don’t, then the money is just flowing out, and NOT flowing in.

Luckily, we work together well. Never underestimate the value of hard work and a partner willing to work by your side towards a common goal!

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And She Danced…

This weekend was devoted first to neighborhood obligations – my husband is the president of the neighborhood association and was slinging hot dogs for the masses on Saturday.

Meanwhile, I was at a chiropractor doing my best to deal with the constant pain I have been in. My lower back has a cluster of muscles that is pretty much constantly spasming. Combine that with plantar fasciitis in my right foot and I feel pretty much useless at times.

The rest of the day was filled with the basic minutiae of living – laundry, chores, and more. And on Saturday we woke to rain and the low growl of thunder.

No brick moving for us.

Instead, we threw ourselves into more work inside our house. I now have my office in the smallest room in the house. This room was probably a nursery or sewing room at one time.

Dave had his office in it originally, but moved to the front bedroom, right next door. And while my office has always been located in the library, I decided it was time to devote just a few more square feet of space to exercise and health.

So now my old office is our new workout room. I can’t wait to get a smart tv and mount it on the wall. That or a projector, since I’ve got a laptop I can use while exercising at the treadmill.

Solar Eclipse

Yesterday, however, was very special. My husband had asked for the day off of work months ago. I wrote a note for Em’s school on Friday letting them know she would not be attending on Monday.

This feels very “Night of the Comet” for me (which I cannot tell you how many umpteen times I watched as a teen). Thankfully we escaped with our vision intact and did not become piles of red dust or find ourselves with cannabilistic tendencies. At least, not yet!

Instead, we all piled into the car and drove to Columbia – a place I was sure, after carefully checking the hourly projections for three different cities within range, would have the least cloud cover and the best show.

An “eclipse” rock we found at the park

We planted ourselves at Flat Branch Brewery, where just yards away was this lovely little park with a creek running through it. Emily played in the creek for over an hour before we headed back up and ate lunch while watching as the sun was slowly consumed by the moon.

Dad really seemed to like the trip. He was only annoying a handful of times, which might be a record for him.

As it neared totality, I took Em’s hand and we walked to the park, lay down on the damp grass and watched as the moon slid in front of the sun. A ring of yellow-white fire surrounded it and I could see a corona jet out from the right side of the moon, the sun fiercely declaring it would not tolerate being obscured for long.

Emily danced around me and then we both looked at each other and I said, “Come on, let’s go find Daddy!” We met him just steps away from the park because he had the same idea.

The creek at the nearby park. I love creeks. I remember taking Dee to one in San Jose when she was a few years younger than that.

It was a magical, mystical experience. Side by side, we hugged and watched as the sun reappeared.

Em loved the creek.

I have seen one other eclipse, 40 years ago, on the side of a highway in Oregon. I was seven and grumpy from a long car ride. We also didn’t have the super-cool glasses that we did Monday.

Yesterday was…perfect. I spent it with the people I love, who love me back, and it was a truly life-changing event.

It will stick in my memory for a very long time.

 

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Monumental Progress!

Look! No more bricks!

“It’s time we started worrying about demo’ing the brick wall on Cottage East,” I said to Dave yesterday. The task seemed monumental and, let’s face it, downright intimidating. We had to remove half of the west wall (the other half had already fallen off on its own) and then we had to somehow remove the buckling, yet solid brick on the east wall.

Piles of bricks to move

I was imagining us taking it brick by brick, on ladders, chisels in hand, and frankly, I was wondering how I would avoid being crushed by falling bricks.

This appears to be a second fireplace, right next to the first. If these walls could talk, they would tell me so many details!

Yesterday, when we took the refrigerator doors of the dumb fridge over to Cottage West and Dave put them back onto the fridge, I weeded the front yard of Cottage West. It looks better now. This mild summer with frequent rains has meant a crapload of weeds. Every time I turn around, our yard is overrun!

This used to be a side door off of the staircase going up to the second floor. I think it might have had a small porch and possibly some stairs. The window came off during the demo, so we need to board it up until the guys come out to replace it along with the roof and siding.

My pain levels are high, but I’ve been able to get plenty of weeding done in the past couple of days.

This had a side banister so rotted it lifted off of the brick and cement in one easy motion. Well, it needed to be replaced anyway!

The front raised bed at Cottage East, along with the side strip which had been filled with crabgrass. I still need to do about 1/3 of it.

I pulled at least half, if not 2/3 of the weeds on this side bed.

Either this weekend or the next, we have a small army of kids and adults coming in to move and stack brick. Once that is done, the house will be ready for the roof/windows/siding installation.

The newly weeded raised bed in front of Cottage East

We are about two to three weeks out from it and I can’t wait!

This little house is going to look awesome when it has brand-new siding, roof and windows.

That’s a lot of bricks!

I won’t hold my breath on the codes violations dropping off anytime soon. The violation for “inappropriate storage” was on the books for a year, (it was three large pieces of styrofoam that occupied a porch for three days before the porch was torn down and rebuilt).

As we worked away, we could hear our neighbors talking. The wife just kept on and on. Finally, we heard her husband say something to the extent of, “They are working on the property, they have the bricks down, what more do you expect from them?”

The west side of Cottage East

We just shook our heads and soldiered on. Some folks don’t have much of a life. I feel sorry for her. She seems like a fish out of water around here.

We can only do so much. Our bodies, mine especially, are failing us. We work our wage-earning jobs during the week and then try to fit in time around my dad and the kiddo in the evenings. And on the weekends we go until our backs scream for mercy and our knees say nasty, nasty things.

I’ve spent good money on custom insoles, foot braces, and more for my plantar fasciitis and out of whack back. Despite this, after a few hours of work, I am in so much pain I can barely walk.

So it is plenty frustrating. I want to get so much done!

And I know, I KNOW it will all happen.

We have had some hard hits this year, but we have also had a couple of solid boons. And by next spring we will finally have paid off the fixes to Cottage West and can start putting some serious money towards the other repairs needed to finish both the Airstream and the two Cottages.

Eventually, all of the little pieces and plans will unite into one solid plan, and the three properties will start producing income and our yard will look fantastic.

I’ve never been afraid of hard work. I’m just going to keep plugging away every weekend until we make it all happen, one piece at a time.

And one piece of upbeat news to share. After we managed to demo BOTH walls before noon – my friend and neighbor Michelle came by to whisk me away on a shopping trip. We checked out the Super Flea (not impressive) and then she took me to Weird Stuff over in the West Bottoms. I had never been and was so happy I went because I found that fountain I wanted for the brick wall in the backyard of the Cottage East!

Just $50 – instead of $199 or more brand new. We will mount it with a solar powered pump when we are closer to finishing the project. It will look awesome!

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Welcome to the Jungle

As I drove down to 12th Street today, I passed a familiar face, the codes inspection guy for our area. He was busy photographing a vacant house that keeps getting broken into. And I was both happy to see him and dreading where he would end up next.

After all, I had seen this on Parcel Viewer…

Summary: Property Violations
Description: Citizen is calling to report high grass and weeds at this location. It’s getting a little out of control and would like someone out to cut it.

Parcel Viewer allows you to look up any address in Kansas City, find out the owner, find tax information (how much an owner pays and when they paid it last) and more. It’s also where you can find a list of any codes violations – high grass, issues with property/building maintenance, etc.

And that property violation had shown up on 7/25.

In a few days I will receive that in writing from the city. And I plan to do the only logical thing – IGNORE IT.

Because here’s the deal. My husband works full time, Monday through Friday. I work two part-time jobs – cleaning houses, and caretaking for my dad. I also homeschool my kiddo (the new school year starts tomorrow!) and try to handle most of the interior runnings of the house (financials, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping).

My husband is exhausted after a long day of work and I’m pretty done in too. So that leaves the weekend for us to get a buttload of work done AND the mowing as well.

I looked at the finances and, right now, there is no way we can afford to hire it out. Next spring, though? After we have paid off several repairs on Cottage West we are nearly done paying for? I’ve already got it set in the budget. Until then, rain or shine, tall grass and weeds, holiday weekends or not – our priorities have to be project based, NOT the lawn.

We will probably tackle mowing this next weekend…maybe. But that will be AFTER we move the Airstream and AFTER we get a plan in motion for:

  • Installing two sliding gates on the privacy fence
  • Figuring out when we will be demo’ing the sides of the Cottage East in order for the roof, side windows and siding to be installed

When it comes down to it, I’m NOT trading or delaying my financial future and retirement plans in order to soothe some neighbor’s irritable bowels over how our grass looks. And I could give a good goddamn whether or not they think our yard looks like a jungle.

We don’t live in Overland Park, Kansas. We don’t belong to an HOA. And our neighborhood and community have far bigger problems to deal with than a yard that goes unmowed for a week or two.

I’m going to focus on the pressing projects, because frankly, whatever neighbor is complaining, they are not the one who is going to be worried about my retirement, I am. And while I’m going to do my best to keep up on the yard work, I know my priorities are where they should be.

So, neighbor, the dear sweet neighbor who has nothing better to do than call codes about our grass?

Welcome to the jungle. Don’t let that cheetah bite you on the ass.

8/1/2017 Update. I heard back from codes. I had sent an email asking what in the world he was talking about when he listed on the codes violations OBJECT OBSTRUCTING THE SIDEWALK”

He wrote back, and sent pictures. Here is what he said:

“Thanks for your response and inquiry.

Can you please trim (photos attached) away from the sidewalk and the street in front of your home?

I realize most of your vegetation is allowable plant life. However, there still needs to be a clear path.

Also, my research after inspection shows you are the new owner of 3231?

Thanks for keeping the lot mowed. But we both know you have some serious brick work on the west side, window repairs, etc…

Warning Letters are on the way. Keep me informed of your plans so I can help you along the way.”

This is where we both park and I can guarantee you, the mint that is growing over the edge of the curb is not obstructing our comings and goings.

Damn you, mojito mint, you have escaped the confines of your planter!

[sigh]

Folks, I can only do so much. We both work full-time, I’ve just started homeschooling the kiddo for 5th grade, and the weekend’s work is already lined up. It includes spreading gravel, moving and situating the Airstream, finishing the privacy fence in back of our property, and making a plan for demo’ing the crumbling brick walls on Cottage East.

I sent him back an email letting him know that I’d get around to mowing the lawn in a week or two.

Maybe.

There is only so much time, energy and money in my little world. And I’m allocating it the best that I can.

This means that my yard is not going to look perfect. Not this fall. In the spring, after the last of the payments are made on the new roof, windows, and front porch of Cottage West, there will be enough in the budget for a lawn mowing service. But right now? Nope.

I feel like a dog chasing my tail. What needs to happen now? Who do we try to keep happy? The neighbors? The city? Ourselves?

Timing is everything, I guess. Opportunities rolled in, and I’m not sorry I took advantage of them. But that also means that at this moment, conflicting priorities are on the rise. In the end, I’ll make the best decision I can for ME and MINE. I will make a decision that means that someone is going to be unhappy.

You can’t please everyone. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to kill myself trying.

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Yet Another Step Closer

The universe has a way of working itself out. I had a cleaning this morning and my body is still recovering from the weekend’s work. My client rescheduled to Wednesday and I couldn’t be more relieved.

A day to recover is kind of perfect right now.

This weekend included a new freezerless refrigerator delivery and plenty of yard work and fence building. Check it out…

The Ultimate in Refrigeration

A friend of mine put this idea in my head. She bought a Frigidaire, refrigerator only recently and I was quite envious. Her model is actually one that can either be a refrigerator or freezer, depending on the setting. Mine is simply a freezerless refrigerator.

Next year I hope to find an upright freezer. For now, the chest freezer we have will do, but I definitely need to organize it better!

I will scout for some more bins to hold different items so things aren’t so cluttered. I like have a bin for cheeses/deli, for meats, vegetables and breads. Then I can open the fridge, grab a bin out and find what I need.

Nebraska Furniture Mart delivered it on Saturday and took away the magic fridge. POS magic fridge!

Now we just need to move the dumb refrigerator to Cottage West where it will wait for the rest of the renovations before being put into use.

This will go in Cottage West and live a nice long life

The new fence along with the opening for the driveway to the west. We ran into the foundation of an old driveway and garage which made it impossible to dig holes for the 4x4s, so we figured here was as good a place for a driveway. It may have a curved shape in the end, who knows?! Obviously, we will need to cut down this vegetation.

The Fence, the Fence!

All of the panels (with the exception of the 3-4 needed behind Cottage West) are now in. We have two wide openings that will be sliding gate areas for the planned driveways.

We will finish the gates in a similar pattern, the privacy pickets over metal frames on wheels and add locks. And of course, we will also continue the fence panels to include the back of Cottage West.

The panels, and possibly the gates, will have to wait until the brick walls on Cottage East have been deconstructed. They are next on our “screaming priorities” list.

Dave has worked very hard on this fence, as have I, and we love how it looks. It will provide the privacy we need and give the guests who stay in the Airstream a sense of isolation that can be rather lacking in the city.

One lone section before the yard behind the Cottage West devolves into a jungle of Japanese hops. We will close this section off…hopefully by late fall.

Eventually, we will install a four-foot high picket fence across the entire front of the property, but that is a challenge for next year (or the year after).

Brush Piles Begone! Well…Moved, That Is…

While Dave dealt with a particularly brick-filled hole and setting in a 4×4, I got to work on the multiple brush piles. We had two big ones, one in the middle of the future RV pad and one at the end of the alley, interfering with a full range of maneuvering that we would need when moving in gravel and the RV.

We also had three smaller piles. One near the old woodpile, and the other two in the RV pad area that had been potential mushroom growing plots. They had to go as well, unfortunately, since they were in the way.

Most of the brush was combined into a massive pile of brush in the backyard of Cottage East, over eight feet tall, at least ten feet wide and about six feet deep.

Our little KCFD-compliant firepit. I miss our gartantuan one. Now THAT was a FIREPIT!!

A Little Bit of Fire

I also started a small fire in our firepit to clear out the decayed and broken pallets and some of the small brush pieces that were too small to stack. Over the next seven hours, the flames ate up plenty of discarded wood pieces, and small brush. I even burned some of those dreadful Japanese hop vines.

Who knows, I might add a few more today if the coals are still active.

We took it from here and put it…

Cherry Tree Relocated

We had a sweet cherry tree that was right in the way of where the RV would sit. We went back and forth on it and finally decided it needed to go.

So we dug it up, trying desperately to not break too many of the roots. I bought this tree from Fedco Trees and they have provided us with some excellent fruiting trees over the years so I really hoped it would survive the move.

HERE!

It is now planted in our “crop garden” area, which was not planted at all this year.

It has the loose, sandy fill soil in it. A dream to dig in, believe me. After battling the thick clay soil for years, I felt rather spoiled.

Fingers crossed it survives.

A view of the future home of the Airstream. You can see the east driveway opening in the back there. Gravel should be laid down hopefully this Thursday afternoon.

Just Two More Steps

We are left with just two more steps, one before and one after.

I’ve asked Dave to schedule a gravel delivery on Thursday afternoon. We’ve calculated that we need a whopping 15 tons of gravel for the driveway and the RV bed area. Once that is in place, we are ready to move the Airstream and then it will be a push to get the sliding (and locking) gates in place.

This still leaves our front yard open, but the tall fence in the back will be a deterrent. We have another 3-4 panels to install in the back of Cottage West, but at this point, the scritchy scratchy Japanese hops dominates that backyard. Anyone who really wants to walk through it will have a heck of a time and won’t leave without a rash.

So, spread gravel, finish gates and fence.

I can’t wait to pick up the Airstream on Saturday!

One Last Thing, How Could I Forget?!

If all of the hard work involved in fence building, tree moving and more wasn’t enough – Dave spent about three hours putting together our new platform bed to go with our new king size mattress.

We still have to install the drawers, and eventually the original mattress (seen under the new mattress) will go to live in Cottage East’s front bedroom.

I also need to find two matching lamps for the top, and a couple of organizing solutions for the headboard storage, but it’s looking good!

My granddaughter (she’s Em’s cat) Sugar looking out over the yard

I think we have finally found a bed that works and I couldn’t be happier. Plus now I have extra storage!

Well, once the drawers are installed I will.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print, folks. Talk to you soon!

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Progress…Forward March!

Despite our descent into the dog days of summer, we are making progress on our plans for the yard and properties. Each weekend is full of work, sweat, and more sweat. Take a look…

We installed the last of the 4x4s and added cross-supports for the pickets on Saturday and early Sunday.

Building That Fence

With the Airstream that we purchased last week needing to be moved as soon as possible (after August 4th the PODS container will be out of the way and the former owners want it gone the next day), we realized that we needed to get as much of the privacy fence up as possible.

In the foreground is the dog fence, in the background the west edge of the fence. There will be a wide driveway paved with gravel for now, and concrete later on.

Originally we had intended to build an inexpensive fence, just 4x4s joined with 2x4s and metal cattle fencing. This was nixed in exchange for a nice, solid privacy fence. We want visitors to feel comfortable, isolated despite being in the city, and have a feeling of privacy. And nothing says that better than a tall wood fence.

On Saturday evening, after Dave had labored to finish cementing in the last of the 4×4’s we had a nasty storm. Over 60,000 people were out of power, but we were not one of them. Luckily, the Airstream was not in its future spot. A large limb from the mulberry tree would have given it a nasty dent and even a broken window!

It took us a few minutes to clean up the mess on Sunday morning before we resumed our work.

The east corner of the new fence in the background. We decided that it would be nice to put a fence between the two properties. The gravel will not cover those 5-8 feet where the fence juts out. A nice patch of greenery on the east side of the driveway will make it look even nicer. I plan to add hostas along with iris and daylilies to the strip of green.

And did I mention that the heat index was 112 degrees on Sunday? We just dripped and dripped and DRIPPED. We both guzzled the water, but for my husband it really took its toll. The next day he was dizzy and headachy, a sure sign that he was low on electrolytes and probably dehydrated.

A close up of the new fence.

We will be building a sliding gate across the opening to the driveway. This will probably be a chain link gate covered with the tall fence pickets and, if I can find it, a keypad lock. We are still working on those details.

I was quite proud of my work on this section of the fence. We still have a way to go, but good work takes time, right?!

The space between the dog fence (in the foreground of most of the pictures) and the new fence is around 20-25 feet. The Airstream will sit parallel between the two fences and have a deck on one side.

I’ve been busy finding cool vintage/retro tin signs to mount on the inside of the fence. I’m excited to glam it all out in true 50s fashion!

Bistro Table and Chairs

Happy days for me, I scored a particularly cool find the other day at a yard sale. Just $15!

This little bistro table and two chairs are looking worn right now, but there is a paint job in their future.

What do you think? Forest green? Black? A royal blue, perhaps?

I thought of putting them on the deck outside of the RV, but these really make me think of English cottage, so they will probably go into the Cottage East.

What do you think?

Measurements – Roof, Windows, Siding!!!!

Champion came by today and we walked through Cottage East getting measurements for nine windows (just the windows on the east and west sides) along with talking about the details for the roof and siding.

Now that the Catch 22 has been resolved, we have a green light to:

  • Pull off the brick (right after we finish building the privacy fence)
  • Have the roof, side windows and siding all installed
  • Run electrical to Cottage East so we can install a burglar alarm and keep it monitored and secure

The Catch 22, by the way, was a real pain in the patoot. Champion wouldn’t install the siding until we removed the bricks. The electrician wouldn’t install the electrical until the siding was in place. And there was a LIVE WIRE running into the house that threatened to electrocute anyone foolish enough to brush against it while demo’ing the brick walls, plus a tree limb that was right next to the electric pole off the alley that needed to be cut down.

My hero! This guy was so nice. Technically he didn’t have to do this, but he kindly offered and I was so appreciative!

I was lucky enough to find a really nice KCP&L worker to agree to cut the limb and also cut the power, thus allowing us to move forward on our project. He saved us nearly $500 in costs – the electrician was going to charge us that much just to remove a couple of scrawny limbs!

We are about 4-6 weeks out on the windows, roof and siding. More if we need time to finish the demo. And I’ve got a couple of folks lined up to help us cart and stack the brick once we get the bricks off of the house.

In other words? Progress. Forward…March!!!!

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Our Properties at Present

Cottage West – July 2017

I was looking up an old photo of how Cottage West looked back when we first bought it. To say that there have been a few changes since then is an understatement.

Cottage West – July 2014 You couldn’t even see the front! We had to tear out the old columns along with the porch and re-do it all.

It made me realize just how much we have done which puts into perspective the tasks remaining.

A new porch, new paint job, new windows and new roof go well with a landscaped yard full of flowers. We still have a few parts to paint, but it is looking sooo much better!

Along with that, I took a few more pictures.

This shot really conveys the amount of space between our house and Cottage West. Keep in mind, there were THREE houses in between back in the day. It is such a shame they didn’t have someone to love and care for them. If they had, they would still be standing and I wouldn’t have the massive yard that I do, but still…

Call it a July 2017 State of the Union portrayed in images.

As shocking as it might sound, I may need to just return this garden (outlined in white poles) to grass for a while. We have a LOT to do with renovations in the next two years. After that, I can consider having a food garden again. Albeit a smaller one!

It isn’t perfect.

That’s not an apple – that’s an Asian pear and they are coming in STRONG this year.

Not by a long shot.

The daylilies love this spot in the front.

Look close enough and you will find weeds.

I finally found enough hanging baskets at IKEA at a decent price to populate all the hooks around the entire porch.

GUARANTEED.

The front yard has become my breeding ground and “go to” spot for transplanting flowers out of into other parts of the yard.

But it looks, at least to me, a heck of a sight better than just plain grass. I’ll tame it eventually, I know I will.

The herb garden with horseradish along the front

Or else the gardeners I am eventually able to hire will tame it!

The rains sure helped resuscitate all of the transplants I put into the side yard of Cottage East.

Oh Cottage East, you are going to be so much work! But you are worth it!

 

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My Inner Writer Geek Has Been Unleashed!

Just look at this beauty!

A couple of weekends ago, I went to an estate sale. A former cleaning client is moving to California and selling an enormous amount of their belongings.

Among the cool collectibles?

A manual Underwood typewriter.

And I got it, of course, because it was a typewriter. Old. Heavier than hell.

And my inner writer geek had a look of starry-eyed wonder over this fascinating piece.

And of course, I can’t just stick it on a table as a conversation piece. Oh no. I had to get a new ribbon for it.

And then figure out how to replace said ribbon.

Which led to finding the information online (of course) because even old typewriter manuals are online.

I am ridiculously pleased with myself. My inner writer geek is practically salivating to write the Great American Novel while pecking away at worn keys.

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A Four-Day Weekend Means…

The stone and brick steps to the backyard BEFORE being stripped of vines and more.

Boy oh boy, have we been busy little bees!

These stairs are narrow, uneven and problematic with the chain link fence so close to them. Nonetheless, I cleared them and we are using them to access the backyard from the west side of the house.

Around here, the news that my husband would have four days off from work translated to “Amazing loads of sweat and backbreaking labor in both of our futures.”

The backyard “before” picture on Saturday morning. Believe it or not, this is AFTER the initial weed whacking from two weeks ago!

There is, after all, quite a lot to do. I had been tackling the side yard that borders my herb bed, planting hostas, daylilies and other perennials as I cleared the weeds. With Dave on board, however, we could tackle even more.

This photo can not properly convey the ovewhelming amount of vines, rubbish and yard waste we have to clear. It is filled with weeds, trash and will take us several weekends to clear completely. Along with the 40+ rusting paint cans around the corner. Aieee!

In the past three days we have managed to:

  • Clear almost the entire 4×20 bed of weeds and plant plenty of perennials
  • Mow the grass and weed whack the fence line along with the path along the west side of the house to the backyard.
  • Clear another planter directly in front of the porch along with a path of bricks I had no idea were even there!. They were covered with a thick layer of soil and weeds.
  • Remove and clear the thick layer of extra dirt the gas main guys had heaped along the base of the chain link fence.
  • Dug up the remains of one pole that could have hurt someone if they walked over it.
  • Swept the front porch
  • Cleared the inside of the house of most of the trash upstairs – filling three trash bags (trash amnesty day is right around the corner)
  • Determined where we need to go to rid ourselves of the 100+ paint cans that are filling the front room, the basement and a section of the backyard
  • Weed whacked and mowed more of the backyard and filled a trash bag full of trash.
  • Moved a heap of yard waste to the back alley (we will take it to Missouri Organics to be mulched next weekend)
  • Dug up a crap load of daylilies, moved and replanted them.
  • Cleared the stone and brick steps down to the backyard (no more vines and dirt!)
  • Mowed the rest of our properties

Now if that list doesn’t make you exhausted just reading it, then you are always welcome to join us. We could use a hand!

The newly weed whacked west side of Cottage East (looking from back to front)

All of this, while my body is aching and uncooperative.

The front porch planter cleared and the old brick path revealed. Ta da!

We met with two potential contractors today as well. One, a siding company, seemed to be unprepared for the reality that we are facing and told us they couldn’t help us. That was rather surprising.

I weeded this planter area as well, uncovered the old brick path, and planted daylilies in it.

The other guy, who owned a foundation company, assessed all three of our homes and gave us quotes on two of them.

The Cottage East (our newest acquisition) will need around $4,000 – $8,000 worth of foundation work. And the Cottage West needs around $5,000. The good news is that the Cottage West is not urgent and can be put off for a while. But the Cottage East will need work sooner rather than later.

I’m laying some of those side wall bricks directly on the broken concrete sidewalk. I’ll edge with bricks set on their edges, level anything too uneven, and then brush sand on top to close up any gaps.

On Wednesday I have two more siding companies coming out to give bids. Both do siding, windows, exterior doors and roofs, so I’m hoping we can wrap it all up in a nice bundle and “get ‘er done.”

Basement window well BEFORE

That will be a heck of a financial hit, but we can finance it until more money is freed up in April 2018 and then knock the balance out of the way.

Basement window well AFTER

A dear friend came over yesterday and looked it over. She had some great advice on the design of the kitchen as well as positioning of the dining room and more.

That hard working man of mine leveling the edges and hauling away the extra.

As I turn the areas over in my mind, I can see that Cottage East will be a whole house Airbnb, not parted up into separate rooms and co-cohabitation like I had originally thought. It will be great for families who are traveling and want room for kids and more.

As we drove through the neighborhood today I saw this stone lion face fountain. This is exactly what I want for the backyard!

Imagine spending $200 per night to stay in a house, with a full kitchen and laundry facilities available to you and your family.

It will be a couple of years out, but we are on our way.

The back porch – I would like to see this rebuilt to twice the depth and be able to hold an outside table and chairs.

I will admit, it is a staggering amount of work and money. I want to do it RIGHT, and I also see it as an investment in our future.

The white house our neighbors bought. I can’t wait to see what they do with it!

My paternal grandmother did very well for herself developing and selling off the tracts of land that she and her husband, a well-loved dentist in Liberty acquired over the years.

The backyard brick wall before it was cleared of vines.

As we drove back from Minsky’s Pizza today, I said to my husband, “How I wish I had known, in the darkest moments of my life, that this future was waiting for me. Just a hint, just a small reminder that the best was yet to come.”

It isn’t a walk in the park. It isn’t easy. A week ago today I was reeling from inordinate amounts of stress and very little sleep. I have a very tall mountain of work in front of me. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be stress-free.

But it is worth it. And I have to say, I am grateful for the life I live and the home and family that I have. I have so much to smile about each day.

We learned on Saturday that our neighbors (the ones who rehabbed and sold us the house we live in) had bought the white house directly to the east of Cottage East. They approached us about removing the chain link fence which borders the vacant lot and Cottage East.

The latest schematic for Cottage East – 3 bedrooms upstairs, a dining room with a roomy storage closet, an upstairs bathroom with dressing room/lounge area, and more!

I was reticent at first, “If we remove the fence and the brush, we will have a rather clear view of the decrepit white house,” I objected.

He smiled, “Don’t worry, it won’t look like that for long.”

And with that, I was over the moon. We are really looking forward to working with them in a few months to remove the brush and chain link and see what they do with that great old house. It is in desperate need of a facelift, but it is well worth the effort.

As Dave said, “Babe, in a few years, this block is going to look absolutely amazing!”

And I for one could not be happier. I’m excited to be saving so many houses from continuing disrepair and neglect. We are making this block something to be proud of!

Beneath a thick layer of paint in the back bedroom, we found this floral wallpaper. I would love to reproduce this, perhaps using stencils. It’s so delicate and feminine!

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Ah…Acrimony…How I Have NOT Missed You

The front yard of Cottage West – I will add more plants now that I have a clean palette to work with.

I deal with others plainly – up front, honest – and I expect the same.

It doesn’t always happen, my approach is not always responded to in kind and I have long said, “That’s their problem, not mine.”

As I was trying to answer some questions for the Northeast Kansas City Historical Society this morning (Cottage West will be listed in their 2nd book), I clicked on Parcel Viewer. And as is a habit for me, I clicked on the 311 cases. For those of you who are not aware, this is where maintenance and property repair complaints show up.

I check these often. I do this so that I can keep abreast of any developing situations. There is usually a delay between a call coming in and the inspection. If I can get in there and fix what needs fixing, I avoid months of a complaint hanging out there on 311, long after it has been resolved.

In any case, I noticed the following:

Case Notes
Date: 06/28/2017
Summary: 311 update
Description:Citizen is complaining that this owner has covered the yard in mulch in an effort to not have to mow the property.

Date: 06/06/2017
Summary: 311 Update
Description:Citizen is reporting that the yard is not being mowed. There is overgrown grass on this property.

So, on the 6th I’m guessing that our friendly neighbor Dale wanted us to mow. But on the 28th someone was complaining about the mulch we had landscaped the yard with.

So in other words, mow it, but how dare you lay down mulch? Thank goodness I don’t live in an HOA!

The city apparently visited on the 8th and declined to write us up. Perhaps they have bigger fish to fry. I doubt they will object to landscaping either. In fact, they will probably wonder why more folks aren’t doing it. Anyone can have grass. It isn’t that hard. But a tasteful display of blooming perennials nestled in clean mulch? That’s some beauty there, folks.

So I figured I should check through ALL of the properties. I quickly found this listed for the front of our house:

Case History
Case ID: 2017066624
Date Submitted: 06/06/2017
Status: RESOL
Summary: Property Violations
Description: Citizen is reporting that this property has not been mowed. There are herbs growing in the ROW and the area is unkempt.

Oh no! Not that dreadful mint again!

This was probably also Dale. But maybe not. Not everyone likes flowers and plants. The city looked at it and declined to open a case, so I’d hazard a guess that improving the neighborhood and feeding the neighbors (our Vietnamese neighbor loves using our mint in her cooking) was fine with the city. Nevertheless, I plan on moving it. It will take several years because mint is notoriously hard to get rid of, but eventually, it will border ALL of my properties.

Perennials in front of Cottage West

Mint is great for keeping out vermin. Ants, mice, rats, they all hate the smell and avoid it. I have been threatening to plant a moat of it around my home for years and now I think it is well overdue. Plus it smells awesome when you keep it in line with the mower and everyone can have mint tea!

I moved on in my perusal of 311 case notes and found this one for the red house, now known as Cottage East, our newest addition:

Case Notes
Date: 06/28/2017
Summary: 311 update
Description:

Citizen who lives across the street wants the brush growning [sic] along the fence line to be cut down/removed.

Oh boy. Would this be the same neighbor who wanted the house? The same one who had calf-high grass on Saturday but just spent the last 2-3 days obsessing over every inch of the corner property with mower and weed whacker in hand? The timing between that and this complaint lodged yesterday is…interesting.

I can’t say this conclusively, and in the end, they have the right to complain about the properties around them however they wish, but it is a little disheartening and petty.

If their purpose is to improve the neighborhood, it is more than understandable, and I do hope that is what it is.

We are a little more concerned with making sure the house itself is shored up – the walls repaired, the roof and windows replaced. We don’t want meth heads breaking in and doing whatever they do there, but hey, if I need to spend a chunk of my weekend making sure every inch of our properties are in pristine condition, we can do that too.

Several companies are coming out to give us quotes on the issues at hand. I don’t want to slap a band-aid on it, because that never works. I want it done right and expect it to last a LONG time.

The newly mowed vacant lot on the left is one our neighbors are buying. We will be cleaning this easement up this weekend.

I can only hope that others would do what I would do in a situation like the one we were faced with in the aftermath of the property sale dispute. Take a moment to grieve, be angry, upset, or whatever about not getting their way – and then move on. It isn’t worth fighting over. It isn’t worth the feeling in your gut or heart to be resentful.

I’ll admit, my stress went zipping up again when I saw those reports. Just like I do when my renter calls me with an issue, I want to fix it RIGHT AWAY. But I also realize that killing myself to satisfy others is not in anyone’s best interest.

Well, maybe someone’s, but not MINE!

The properties will be repaired.

The landscaping will be done.

And eventually, I hope that my neighbors will stand down and recognize that I am not their enemy.

I can hope for it at least. None of us needs that kind of stress in our lives.

The east wall of the property. It may look intact from this angle, but this brick facade is also buckling and threatening to collapse. We will need to pull down the bricks and install Tyvek and siding ASAP.

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