Solid gold septic

Dawn’s gotten three quotes for the septic system, ranging from $60,000 to $90,000. As one person eloquently put it, “holy crap!”

Last week, Dawn even met with the sewage enforcement officer to see if there were any other options. (“Sleep with him if you have to,” I said.) It didn’t matter; there was nothing that could be done, and even if there was it would set our project back six months. So we are building the Taj Mahal of sand mounds.


Dawn’s to-do list, updated

In early April, I posted Dawn’s to-do list. Let’s review:

– Gut the Summer Kitchen — done!
– Clean out basement, dig out mud, and pour a concrete floor — done!
– Install cellar doors on mansion, Paymaster’s Office — temporary doors installed!
– Clean off vines, remove bushes — done!
– Trim Sycamore trees — done!
– Remove rust from basement grills
– Scrape adhesive from kitchen floor — done!
– Take down wallpaper from 6 rooms + hallway — done!
– Remove all loose paint, plaster — done!
– Clean up entire farm (in April she had already filled two twenty-yard dumpsters) — she has now filled six dumpsters!
– Periodic site cleanup — done!
– Scrape paint off stairs; stain and seal
– Strip paint off 42 windows and 24 shutters (with a blowtorch!) — done!
– Repair, sand, prime, and paint all 42 windows and 24 shutters — halfway there!
– Prime all exterior trim — done!
– Buy all fixtures, from faucets to mattresses — bathroom fixtures ordered!
– Demo back porch on mansion — done!
– Remove boiler and oil tanks from basement — done!
– Remove linoleum under carpets in Summer Kitchen — done!
– Demo all ceilings in Summer Kitchen — done!
– Remove trash, organize barn — done!
– Clean out trash in Tractor Shed — done!
– Clean out basement of Paymaster’s Office — done!
– Remove couch and all other trash from Paymaster’s — done!
– Clean out dirt and debris from Privy
– Re-roof privy
– Remove all items inside workshop — done!
– Dig out mud on the first level, pour cement floor if needed — dug out!
– Repair floor joists/floor in second story of workshop
– Re-roof workshop
– Fix drainage around workshop
– Rebuild outside stairs on Aquarius (greenhouse)
– Install drapes on ceiling of Aquarius — done!
– Rebuild Mom’s green house
– Build basement steps in Tenant house
– Build a rail fence around the back yard
Not bad for six months! Of course, she’s done such a great job, we gave her all the interior painting as well. That will realistically take about three months, depending of course on how many people she can get to help. (Just call her “Dawn Sawyer.”)

Both the boat and the metal wagon were found in the cornfield!

Both the boat and the metal wagon were found in the cornfield!


Dawn vents

About three months ago, Dawn sent me an update on the project, and it was such a rare event that I posted it to the web site. Well, she did it again:

So what needs to be done? What doesn’t need to be done. Monday, August 29th, the electrician is supposed to be here, the heating and cooling guy is supposed to start today, but only the cooling guy is here mapping out where the ductwork should go. Did I choose the right company, I don’t know, and yes I doubt myself on a regular basis. Not accustomed to this feeling, I become hostile. However I do try to keep it to myself. Mike the cooling guy was pleasant and seemed to know what he was up to, and was even figuring the future into his design work. I cannot picture what this house will look like when we are done. While Mike the cooling guy was about his business, the excavator showed up with 6 tons of stone dust for the bottom of the electric pad hole behind the privy. While we were talking I placed a call to the designer at PPL, who said there were additional requirements for the hole. I asked him to please come out and look before we did anything we would regret later. He obliged my request by coming by at 2:30 and meeting with the excavator and myself. He told us to put some of the dirt back in the hole and get another 10 tons of stone dust to place at the bottom of the hole AND the trenches. OK. Meanwhile the roofers started working on the gable ends and placing the copper gutters. Wait, I need a picture.

So back to the electrical pad hole. This is kinda done, and now I find out that while PPL could come out and install the pad sooner rather then later, the electrician needs to install the meter box and disconnect first, it needs to be inspected and then they will come out, so I really did not have to dig the trench NOW. It could have been done in two weeks. ACK. Where the &^%* is that electrician!

dump truck filled with radiator pipes

Yep, it’s a LOT of old radiator pipes

Ok, so a friend pointed out the other day that Gregg was having second thoughts about where to place the meter, but while he told everyone that would listen or for that matter read the blog, he neglected to tell me. I don’t know why, something about fear and worse things then death, blah, blah, blah. I have a call into Jason at PPL to find out if the other location is acceptable, but I have been told by the designer that my new location is not really a building, but a dilapidated wall with three other walls trying to stand next to it with no roof left to speak of. Hum sounds like most of the buildings. Needless to say I am ignoring the designer of the electrical pad and asking Jason, who was the one who told me I could have a pad instead of a pole.

So the east side of the house is getting pointed starting Sept 15 if we are lucky. The roofers want to leave the pent roof on that side unfinished until the mason comes; they also don’t want to place the downspouts on until the mason is done. The plumbing, the new well, the electric and the cable are all coming into the house at the same location on the east side of the house, and the gutters are to be fed into a pipe that runs underground along the east side of the house, around the corner, across the parking lot and driveway, and empties on the side of the hill- all of this needs to be coordinated and I am getting a little crazy because of it. I still need to dig out the dirt around the existing electrical going into that side of the house and it looks as though I will be the one to do it. Sigh.

I need to get all the windows and window sashes done by the end of September.

I need to hire a paver.

I need to hire an excavator to do the septic.

My mom calls – her email is down again. When I check it, I find that she has viruses again.

I am really cranky and mean to Gregg, I feel bad. Could it be that I didn’t fall asleep until 3 am?

Darin is hard at work glazing now, and Mike is taking care of the dormer siding.

I am sure there is more. Oh, I have learned to drive the dump truck, and at the end of the day, I went up the hill to start the burn pile on fire. Darin went with me because he had the lighter.

I called Toni; I need to know what type of inspections I need to have done, and when and who needs to do them – who do I call.

All in a days work, I am going to bed.

Sleep well, my love; you’ve earned it.


The True Cost of Dawn

While Dawn was in LA last week, she was actually working–her old company needed her to cover for a week, and we are in no position to turn down money. Well, I just ran the numbers and found Dawn made a little over $1,000, and spent $1,400!

appeal result

Dawn had to speak in front of a dozen people!

My first thought, of course, was that Dawn was never coming to LA again. But then I realized that, on average, she spends $5,700 per week in Pennsylvania! So if I had any sense, I’d whisk her back to LA immediately!

But then she sends me a copy of the appeals board decision, and I remember that she just saved us over $50,000, and that wouldn’t have happened if she had been in LA. So it’s all good, I guess.

P.S. Most of Dawn’s expenses were in dental work–she likes her dentist here and refuses to find one in Pennsylvania. (She’s already got an appointment in December to get a crown replaced.)


Sometimes web surfing takes you to some odd places, and yesterday I found myself at the “Outhouses of America Tour.” As the title suggests, they have pictures of outhouses from all over the country, and I suddenly realized (which is kind of scary) that we have a great outhouse!

The privy. It's a three-holer with separate men's and ladies sections, though we're not sure which side is which.

Dawn will not be amused by my sudden protectiveness of the privy

Most outhouses are wood; ours is stone. Most seat one; ours has three holes and a divider wall (although we can’t tell which side was which). Most have a crescent moon for light and vent; we have two original windows! Of course, ours is in pretty sad condition — the roof has partially collapsed — but it’s on the list to be restored, and it (along with the other 18th century buildings on the property) are being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Suddenly I’m feeling like we shouldn’t be mounting the electric panel on the privy as we planned. I mean, there’s lots of 18th century stone houses in the country, but how many 18th century stone outhouses are there?


Dormer Series

The “skylight” you see is next to one of the dormers, where the whole roof has to be stripped off to replace a rafter that had failed. (It was replaced with an “LDL” which is basically a strips of wood laminated together, which is much stronger than regular wood but a lot easier to work with than steel.) The windows are downstairs, stripped and painted and waiting to be re-installed.


Amish Roofers II

Dawn has really gotten a kick out of the Amish roofers, for several reasons:
1) They all speak with a heavy Pennsylvania Dutch accent.
2) They arrive by 7am, and stay until 5pm.
3) Except for Melvin, they all wear traditional Amish clothes — dark pants, long-sleeve shirts, suspenders, and straw hats. When the temperature hits 100, they take off the straw hats.
4) They are all short and seem to be solid muscle; they pick up 10-pound slates like nothing.
5) They built a chute into the dumpster, and after using it twice they just started throwing stuff down.
6) They don’t mind explaining to her how things work, what the options are, and why they are doing it the way they are.
7) They are all craftsmen, and take a lot of pride in their work.
8) The only power tool they use is a small motor attached to a ladder for shuttling the slates to the top of the roof.
9) To make pilot holes, they hold the slate against their groin and stab it with an icepick. (I am not making that up.)
10) And the best reason is they gave Dawn permission to videotape them.

Nevertheless, Dawn managed to get 30 minutes of footage without ever showing their faces.


Dawn’s top ten

I asked Dawn what she missed most about being home, figuring (of course) that it would be me. I didn’t even make the top ten:

1. Water pressure
2. Soft bed
3. No bats
4. No bugs
5. Beach
6. Perfect weather
7. Neighbors
8. Food variety
9. Her truck
10. Dishwasher

Matt and Brian digging out the first level of the workshop, where the air conditioning equipment will go.

Matt and Brian digging out the first level of the workshop, where the air conditioning equipment will go.


This Old House II

I don’t want to “out” my contractor (especially after Dawn made me remove the reference to “evil Mike”) but when This Old House came to take pictures of Gary, he brought an entourage — Vince, Sean, and Lauren. Dawn immediately put them all to work, letting them pause only long enough to take a short video

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