Monday, January 7, 2013

Company’s Coming!

“Company’s coming!” are two words that stir up a flurry of activity no matter where you live.  It is amazing how much the utterance of that simple phrase can effect your vision. 'Vision' You may ask. Yes, once those words have slipped out, or even just been thought, you suddenly see a myriad of things that need to be done around the house that just the minute before had been invisible. And why is it referred to as a ‘flurry’ of activity when a snow flurry is defined as a ‘brief instance of light snow’. Our preparations since we returned home after our Christmas adventure have been anything but brief and light. I think a ‘blizzard of activity’ would be more apropos in our case.

While I have started writing this blog entry while in the midst of our preparations, I am not going to post this until after our guests arrive as I will be including photos of our guest room that I do not want them to see before their arrival. Now I will cover the Five Ws and One H that journalism classes teach are needed to complete factual stories:

WHO Is Coming To Visit?
Our youngest daughter’s family will be our first official house guests. The mice and other critters we occasional heard scurrying around in the attic when we first moved in do not count, they were residents before us, not our guests. Our visitors will include our daughter, son-in-law, toddler grandson and grandson-on-the-way.

WHY Are They Coming?
Besides coming for a nice long visit (about a month) to enjoy the beautiful Ozarks, we plan on putting our son-in-law to work! He is a roofer by trade, and while the roof is one part of the house that does not need work (we think), we will be taking advantage of his carpentry skills for deck repairs as well as dry wall repairs. You may recall that the house had been foreclosed on and vandalized before we bought the property. In fact, the bank selling the property felt the house was in such bad shape they sold the property for the land value alone and the house was considered as having ‘no value’ due to the lack of wiring, heat, water, etc.

Dry wall nails sticking out of studs currently
provide lots of convenient hooks.
(clothes drying rack, wood carrying tote,
lantern and oven mitt for the fireplace.
I must admit that I think I am going to miss the gaping holes in the dry wall in all the rooms for some odd reason. Maybe it’s because they lend personality to the house, albeit it the personality you would associate with an eccentric, homeless person – rough around the edges but lovable in their own way. I am also going to miss all the protruding nail heads in the bare studs where the dry wall was ripped away as they gave us convenient hooks in almost every room. However, I am also very much looking forward to breaking out all those cans of ‘Oops’ paint I have been collecting to give all the rooms a fresh coat of paint once they have all their walls restored. In fact, I just made one more such purchase this week. Although I probably already have enough paint to cover every wall in the house twice over if I were not particular about which color went where, I found a 5 gallon container on the Oops shelf at Lowes that was marked down from $133 to $25. The selling point for me was that it is close to the color that is currently in the living room that I decided I really like. The living room is fairly long and will take 2-3 gallons so now I do not have to get creative trying to figure out which gallons I have on hand to mix-and-match in the living room.

WHEN Do They Arrive?
They will be arriving on January 5th and staying for about a month, assuming off-grid life works for their young family. Part of our preparations have included adding to our off-grid ‘amenities’ to encourage a long visit, such as heat in the guest bedroom!

WHAT Will We Be Doing While They Are Here?
Besides the work projects around the house and property, we want to introduce them to our new life as well as the beautiful part of the country we now live in.  And most important are family time and playing with our adorable grandson.

We have been making a mental list of various things we want to do, events we want to attend and places to go to, but there will be more details on that in future blogs as the activities unfold. Unfortunately, we will probably not get to show our grandson some of our favorite wildlife, such as armadillos and roadrunners, as we have not seen any since late fall. We have had a plethora (another of my favorite words) of birds at the feeders we put out this winter, so hopefully he will enjoy watching them as well as the antics of the squirrels that also come to visit around the feeders.

The guest room awaits.
WHERE Will They Be Staying?
In our newly decorated guest room. While it will not be complete when they arrive as the walls will not be painted until after our son-in-law repairs the dry wall, it does look much better from when we first moved in. You may remember pictures of me tearing up the hideously filthy carpet last spring. Well, after the necessary sanitation work to make the house odor free, the two spare bedrooms have been left untouched except to be used for storage for other household projects. But the the guest room is now inhabitable and hopefully comfortable for their stay.

HOW  Are We Preparing For Our Guests?
Here is a list of some of our most recent projects:
1. Building a toddler proof enclosure around ‘Reggie’ (the wood stove). Since the wood burning stove is not situated up against a wall, but is actually 3-4 feet away from the closest wall and sits at an angle rather than parallel to any of the living room walls, this was a bit of a challenge. We looked at various gate/fence systems designed for child safety and none of them really met the need. So, we strolled around Lowe’s looking for a solution. We found pre-made deck railings in 6 foot lengths and an adjustable ‘baby gate’. We created an enclosure by attaching angle brackets to the bottom of the railing pieces and screwing them into the recently painted living room floor with decking screws. We left a 4-5 foot opening in the enclosure at the front of the wood burner which is where the adjustable baby gate is attached. Both the left and right edge of the gate have hooks that slide into eyehooks we screwed into the railing posts, so that the gate can be totally removed.  So, until they arrive we can access the stove to add wood without opening the gate each time and we will also be able to do this when our grandson is napping and throughout the night to make ‘feeding the stove’ easier when the protection is not needed. Then later, the entire enclosure is removable until it is needed again in the future.

2. Baby-proofing the rest of the house. We decided it would be easiest to cordon off the laundry/work room with a baby gate. As most of the dangerous to babys stuff is already in that room, we can make the rest of the house safe by moving any other items deemed unsafe to that room a well. Plus, we can install the gate so that there is a few inches of clearance between the floor and the bottom of the gate so the cats can have access to their litter box which is also in that room. It will also give the cats a place to escape to should they for some reason tire of our grandson’s or his dog’s attentions. We also picked up a supply of child-proof drawer latches for various kitchen and bathroom cabinets. I am sure that there will be a couple quick responses to a few missed items soon after our guests arrive, like the oil lantern I just noticed we have sitting on the end table by the sofa. Although we do not need to use the lanterns that we started our off-grid life with, we still use them on occasion for ambiance.

3. Adding another hot water feature in the bathroom. You may recall that Alan installed a hot water heater shower system several months ago as the weather was turning colder and was making room temperature showers an ‘adventure’. Since our grandson takes baths rather than showers, and we thought there would possibly be other needs for hot water where we didn’t want to wait for the time it would take to heat it on the stove, Alan modified the shower’s hot water system to have another option. Besides sending hot water to the shower head, we can now pump water from the storage bottle through the water heater and back into the storage bottle. By cycling the water in this manner we can heat the entire storage bottle of water (about 3 gallons) fairly quickly.

4. Setting up the guest room. The first project on the list for this was painting the ceiling. This was the room I had determined was used by the daughter of the previous owners and the ceiling had a ‘lovely’ hand painted bright yellow sun that covered almost the entire ceiling and then was surrounded with various names that looked like they were added using a black Sharpie marker. After Alan took down the old, dirty light fixture, I pulled out yet another gallon of my ‘Oops’ paints. Fortunately I had one in a light cream color that would work for ceiling paint. I was not looking forward to finding out how many coats it was going to take to cover up our rendition of the Sistine Chapel. Let me tell you that I quickly became a believer in high quality paint brands! The one I was using was ‘Behr’ brand and when I opened the can I was surprised at how thick it was, and when I started rolling it onto the ceiling it covered the ‘artwork’ on just one coat – even the black Sharpie signatures.

After the ceiling came the floor. Yet another Oops paint, this time a gray floor and porch paint followed by polyurethane (unfortunately not from the Oops shelf but still worth the price for the nice smooth and glossy finish).

This propane tank feeds the heaters in the two guest rooms.
While I was working on the painting, Alan was adding optional heat sources to both of the spare room. We had brought a wall mounted propane heater designed for in-home use from our home up north and had purchased another one down here. The two spare rooms are side by side and share a closet which is situated between them and runs the length of the rooms. We will probably put a wall in the closet so you can not walk from one room to the other through the closet. It will probably be best to do this before both guest rooms are in use to give our guests a bit of privacy from each other! Anyway, Alan mounted a 40 pound propane tank on the exterior of the house right outside of where the shared closet is located. He then mounted a heater in each room on the exterior wall and near the closet so that he could use the one propane tank for both heaters.  We are building up quite a collection of propane tanks, which makes it convenient when one runs out when we are in the middle of using it. We can simply replace the empty one with one we are not currently using, such as the 20 pound tank for the grill, as a temporary replacement until we get the empty one refilled.

Back to the guest room projects, next came wiring in the overhead light and outlets. We added a ceiling light that turns on and off at a wall switch and made one of the outlets in the room ‘live’ (all 12V of course). After that there was a previously purchased cabinet that needed to be built, a newly purchased crib to be built and the bed to assemble. Throw in a few useful decorating items and voilà the room is ready for guests, as long as they don’t mind some missing drywall.

So, I have answered the journalistic  5 Ws and a H, which leads to one more W: WHICH aspects of our off-grid life will not be what our first house guests are expecting? I am leaving the answer to that for a guest blog from my daughter which I have asked her to write sometime during their visit. I am just wondering if they are expectations are higher or lower than the reality they will find.
They have arrived!

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