Monday, April 25, 2011

little changes

Wow--it's been almost a year since I updated the blog! I guess we've been enjoying the house more than telling everyone about it. ;)

And it has been fun. We had an open house on Memorial Day weekend, celebrating the house being finished, and lots of friends (most of whom had been a part of the building process!) celebrated with us.

At Thanksgiving, we gathered around a big table with family and friends.
And, this spring, we got to start sharing the house with Matt and my new baby, Jonah. Here he is on a visit to Julian, with his first in-the-room exposure to power tools, as his dad finishes up replacing the baseboard on the wall behind the pellet stove.
More recently, we took care of one pesky little problem: a light bulb that was stuck in its fixture, jammed in so we couldn't get it down without climbing up the 26' to the ceiling, in the middle of the big room. It took 5 people holding the ladder...
...and one brave ladder climber. But now all the lights are working, no one has to dread climbing back up. At least for now.

There are lots of little project remaining, always, but more of the formidable tasks are done. Matt even cleaned out the garage--bringing down and selling things we don't need and hauling out the trash. And, for fun, he planted a bunch of hops plants behind the garage, for future homebrew fun.

We've started renting the house out as a vacation home, on You can visit the site here. It seems like our first renters have enjoyed the home almost as much as we do.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Final Milestones?

As of this Thursday, the house officially has power. And, the french doors have handles.As of Friday, the heater/AC unit is working and has a thermostat controlling it all.
A simple wire and wood post fence is now built by the road, ready to host grapevines when the time is right for planting next year.
Most of a walkway has been built, connecting the landscaped stairs down the hill to the front porch.
And, on the other side of the walkway, you can see a new oak tree planted in the yard. (An apple tree, too, but it's out of view.)
The top step is now finished, with an elegant transition between wood and carpet.
Besides all this, there's now a functional ice maker, washer and dryer. And, the attic access door is painted and hung.

Matt's still anxious about taking care of more details, but we crossed a bunch off the list!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Done enough

Yesterday, we discovered that the house is done enough for the neighbors to come and admire it. Matt and I were glad to welcome some long-time neighbors in to check it out--especially Bob, who's been dealing with significant health issues and hasn't been around much. He approved of the house--and shook Matt's hand to show it. :)
We worked on the little tasks that remain--moving a few more things up, arranging things, touching up details, doing some landscaping stuff. I discovered that it's much more pleasant to do all this with an almost-finished house. 'Cause there's a fridge to cool your drinks and nice couches to take breaks on...

There are still a few big pieces remaining; the power has yet to be connected. Apparently, the right form didn't get filed after last week's inspection. The new plan is a Monday morning inspection check-off, and line installation on Thursday. Also, on Wednesday, the good folks from Jerry's Heating will come to do the last bits on our HVAC system.

Mom and Dad created some lovely quilt hangers this weekend, so we can hang quilts to decorate the big room. I made some pillows for the family room. Matt, Emily, Phil and Shan are up there today, taking care of more things. More and more little pieces will come together.

I have to say, these little details are way more fun that the early details: like rebar dimensions and footing depth. It's a joy to be in the house, and we look forward to using and sharing it even more.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Movin' on up!

Yesterday was a big and beautiful day. It seemed really special that on Mother's Day weekend, and on Nona and Grandpa's wedding anniversary we were finally able to move furniture into the house.

We started at Matt and my place, loading some stuff we had here, and moved on to Nona's, where most of the furniture and things we purchased (so many years ago!) with insurance money were stored. It was a tight fit, but with all the cars and trucks pictured here full, we were able to get everything up the hill.
(We learned a lesson, too: watch what you set under a van you're loading. We trapped our cooler under the sagging weight of the truck. Luckily, neighbor Gary loaned us his jack so we didn't have to drag it up the mountain...)

Up the hill, we started the fun process of unloading all the pieces. We fit quite a lot of stuff into that truck.
All of it made it down the steep little hill and into the house. (Okay, we might have broken one plate in the moving process, but the big pieces were all in place...)
Everything made it inside, too, even the big heavy pieces like the fridge and the wood stove.
Emily and Nona worked hard at getting the kitchen in order. Josh and Matt R. put electronics together. Matt P and I put some pictures up and I made the beds. Lea hung curtains. Shan organized the bathrooms. Mom and Dad reclaimed a storage rack from the garage. Phil and Dad took down plastic that was still hanging in high-up windows. Everyone hauled lots of things, put things in order and worked hard.
And, then, we shared a lovely evening of relaxation in our beautiful house! Nona made us an incredible Italian feast (lovingly reheated in the microwave, since we don't yet have our final power hook-up...).
I thought it was kinda fun that we had to use a card table add-on for our first meal at the dining room table. This is a house that's been built by a gracious community of extended family and friends!
After dinner, there was a game of Cranium in the living room...
...and a movie in the front room...
...and we celebrated Matt R's birthday with Nona's homemade apple goodness, ice cream and trick candles. (Mom says its all they had at the store... Really, we weren't TRYING to pick on him.)
And at the end of the day, the dishwasher did most of the dishes for us.

We're looking forward to sharing many more days in the house, and are grateful for everyone who's helped. It'll be fun to use, together!

Friday, May 07, 2010

like an archeological dig

Having passed final inspection, we called to get our power connected. Only to discover that we never started the proper process for electrical connection--something we ought to have done five years ago.

All of which has meant digging--to show the planner and the inspector the power line conduit we laid long, long ago. And which meant figuring out where it was buried, so very long ago. And lots of digging.

Also, there seems to be some different of opinion about the proper side of the power pole for a conduit to come up on; I remember that we had to move it to a different side five years ago. And Matt says we've moved it twice since then. North, east, whatever. Here's hoping no one else has other opinions.

But, now, having now passed through the planner and inspector, paid the bill for our power hookup, there now remain just 2 more pieces: a final, pre-installation visit from the inspector on Tuesday, and line installing on Wednesday. Here's hoping...

Monday, April 12, 2010


Dad met with the inspector today, and we have passed our final inspection! Hooray.

Many thanks to all y'all who've helped build this house with your labor and prayers.

Grandpa would be proud.

(And there are, of course, still a few little tasks remaining...) ;)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Site to See

It was a big weekend for our house site--it went from bare dirt and a tractor to landscaped yard. Well, at least landscaped-ish yard...

Here's where we were at lunchtime on Friday--Nona kept watch from the porch (and sometimes inside the house, when the wind got too cool) as we moved the dirt around a bit, to make sure we had appropriate drainage away from the house. It was, honestly, pretty disappointing to drive up and see that some of the dirt moving we thought our hired tractor was going to take care of, undone. Dirt moving is SO not our favorite job...
There were a couple of other little jobs on our list for the weekend--I missed taking a photo of Matt's last indoor railing modifications, and of Dad's caulk around the exterior lights, but I did catch our friend, Jerry, installing his little door to the crawl space.
And what a cool gift to us it is--a super-engineered door, made from an old metal bedframe, with a handle bearing the Littlehale monogram. Cool stuff. We convinced Nona (and Mom and Dad) to pose with it by the front door. Which now has house numbers on it. Like a *real* house. Thanks for the beautiful little door, Jerry!
Our friend, Eric, showed up to help, too. Digging in, we realized that dirt moving is lots better with many shovels (and people to use the shovels. Technically, we've had lots of shovels all along, and we know shovels alone are not enough). We got things into place quicker than we'd feared.
Matt took care of some details for an irrigation system. And, you can see, we brought up a trailer with a big ol' load of mulch from the landfill.
Mom got into the action, too, shaping the front yard.
And, I started unloading that big load of mulch. It smelled wonderfully organic (in the earthy, decomposing sense). That trailer holds a lot of mulch.
As the sun set, we spread our last loads of mulch in the yard.
Now that we're over five years into this building project, we finally gave one of our wheelbarrows the name it deserves: the Evilbarrow. I painted it on the sides, lest anyone forget. That felt good. (Now that we're nearly done, I think we can offer one Evilbarrow to anyone who would want it. Not that we'd want anyone we love to be subject to this horrible, certain-to-tip-over monster...)

But not even tipping loads could stop us: here, Phil celebrates the emptying of the trailer.
Before heading in for dinner, we stopped for a quick photo of Friday's crew with the empty trailer (and one Evilbarrow).
Saturday, we set to work on the next yard project, which had dual purposes: clearing the piles of brush and branches that have been sitting around the site for years, and making them into wood chips to finish covering the yard. Our friends, Andy and Lea helped us tackle the pile behind the garage, alongside our neighbor, Bob.
Bob brought some ratchet straps, with which we tied big bunches to drag down the hill to the wood chipper. Kinda like we were human mule teams. Here, Bob and Andy show us how it's done.
Lea and I gave it our best effort, too. It was very satisfying to watch the huge piles of branches dwindle down. I can only imagine that the neighbors are relieved, as well...
At the bottom of the hill, Matt R. and Emily jumped in to the chipper-chopping work. (They didn't jump into the chipper; you know what I mean.) This time we rented an even bigger machine than the one we had last time (which was like, um, 6 years ago or something). It made (relatively) quick work of all that wood we'd had piling up.
All the wood--the burned manzanitas at the bottom of the property, pine and oak we'd had to cut down, went in to the chipper. Here, Matt feeds in a tangled, dry branch from an oak tree.
It was a lovely, sunny day. We kept the chipper running pretty consistently for hours, making a couple of trailer-loads of wood chips.
This next picture is beautiful for what you can't see: a gigantic pile of old branches. Now, we just have the big logs and dreams of freetime for creative woodworking projects.
The wood chips were to quick use, covering the rest of the bare ground. While all this was happening, Dad was hard at work (below, on the left) making a little walkway area by the garage door, using a few retaining blocks and some railroad ties.
We got kind of busy trying to finish everything up and didn't take many more pictures, but here's the final image of the weekend. We think we've now done everything on the Inspector's list, plus built a swell walkway of woodchips edged by local stone--and even planted a few native plants in the yard. Dad's planning to go meet the Inspector on Monday; hopefully, he'll agree with us that this is a beautiful, code-compliant house, ready for electricity and inhabitation.