Monday, 31 December 2012

More Reno Updates

Sorry for not posting more consistently the last few months. This time of year is always crazy for me at work. I have been working twelve hour shifts forever it seems like with not much computer time left over. David has been a busy little bee in the meantime, so I thought I would show you some updates on what he has been doing and some of the improvements.

This is a before picture of the pantry he built for me. Check this link to see the (mostly) finished room. I'm showing this picture in particular here because of the window. This broken window had been boarded up and walled over so this room was a pitch dark cubbyhole. The large sliding door which we aren't using had a perfectly good double-paned window in it, so he took it out and put it in the pantry room. I can't describe what a difference this had made. The room seems three or four times larger now.

The landlord brought in a large crane and the ramp was set in place

Then decking was laid down on it ( we were hoping for expanded metal but I guess it was too expensive?)

Small strips of wood were nailed down every few feet to give better traction. Dave has since gone back and nailed down roofing tiles in between the slats for better traction in the winter time.

The crane operator also dropped off Davids shipping container tool shed. Dave, using found material laying around, built up the space beside it and built...... addition to store all our items that don't need to be in the house such as extra building material, gardening equipment, bicycles etc. The yellow door on it is actually a dutch door ( the top half can open separate from the bottom half) I originally got it for the kitchen but it was too big so I am happy we were able to find another use for it! Eventually I want to plant a garden wall on the west facing wall of the metal shed and cover the wood shed with cedar shingles to pretty it all up a bit.
We bought clear vinyl roofing material which is awesome for letting in tons of light, don't need to have power to see what your looking for (well in the daytime anyway!) David is posing with a new  soaker tub we just acquired, which some day will be installed in his bedroom

The stain glass window got hung in the spare bedroom/massage room
And this seemingly boring picture is the magic of electricity finally being installed on the property ( all those poles and the wire was put in just recently) We still don`t have power yet as that was just the first stage of what has to happen before we get plugged in. We still need to run wire down to the dock, build a small structure on the float to house the breakers and power meters, and then run another wire from there to the house. The landlord also wants to install plugs all the way down the dock for the other boat owners to have access to power as well.

So the last four months have been busy ones. I am amazed at how fast Dave is getting stuff done. I am loving seeing the place and all the essentials coming together at last. I have been holding this vision in my head for the last three years now and it`s great to finally see it all happening for real. There is tons more to do ( three type written pages of stuff! Davids honey-to-do-do-do list) but the vision is getting clearer every day and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to make my dreams come true. Never give up if you want something bad enough and believe in dreams coming can happen!

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My Dream Pantry

Ok, the room isn't totally finished yet but I wanted to show you what we've got so far. As big as my kitchen is, with the layout of it (namely having doors and/or windows on every single wall), there is not a ton of storage or counter space. There was a small room in the back of the house that I originally planned on using as a wood-working shop. After some thought, we decided it would be more useful as a pantry/back kitchen. I want to start making wine and learn to can food. This room is set up to do the work in and store the finished products after.
The first thing we did ( and when I say we, I always mean Dave!) was to change the door from the solid one that was there to this nice wood one with the window. Eventually I want to put the word pantry in frosted letters on the window

Then Dave built a counter along the back wall with a laundry sink in the center. There is lots of room under the counter to store carboys of fermenting wine. We will be building wine racks across the upper back wall and putting in a wall socket on the left hand wall so I can use the food dehydrator on the counter. I love this work station. Lots of room for canning jars, wine bottles etc on the counter and a huge sink for washing up.

Dave surprised me by mounting this wood panel that used to be part of my boat ( the hatch to the bilge pumps) in front of the sink. I love it!

Next he laid down some flooring. There is linoleum all around the edges and wood paneling in the center (it's not finished in this picture)

Next Dave custom-built me some large shelves and used some recycled old windows as doors

There is plenty of room under the shelves for storing bulkier items

I just love being able to see everything at a glance!

There are many finishing touches to do and it all has to be painted, but for now I can store and organise all my food and large cooking utensils and thats a good thing!

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Now We're Cooking! ( And Washing!)

Slowly but surely we are inching our way back into the twentieth century. After a year and a half with no running water and only a two burner, propane camp stove to cook on, we finally got our propane system hooked up. I am in HEAVEN!!! Running hot water at the twist of a tap has got to be one of the few luxuries I do not ever want to be without again. If the shit hits the fan, I'm moving close to a hot springs...just saying!

First we had to get water to the house. That took a bit of doing as the nearest source is an artesian well about half a km from our house. It is piped over to the far edge of our property and we had to tie in a pex pipe from there to the house. Once at the house, the water had to be piped into a reservoir that we put on the back dock. That gave us enough back pressure to be able to hook up a pump to it to get it to the on-demand hot water tank because the tank needs a certain volume of flow to trigger the automatic turn on function. But hallelujah, we now have endless fresh sweet tasting running water in our house!

 Our diversion from the artesian well going off to the left

The water goes into the resevoir on the back dock, then from there into the house

Once in the house, the water goes through the water pump mounted on the wall ( this will all be moved to the pantry soon as we have a solar panel on the roof there that will keep the water pump battery charged)

From the pump, the water ends up passing through that big metal box on the wall which is a propane hot water on-demand system

One of the very first items I ever bought for the house, a couple of years before I knew I was even going to have a house, was the steam shower unit. I had been lusting over units similar to mine but never thought I could afford one as they were in the $3-5,000.00 range and had to be shipped up from the States.

 One day on Craigslist (where else?), I found one for $1,100 from a local supplier that was closing shop.  I scrounged up the money and joyfully made my purchase. It then sat in storage for a few years, eventually got moved into the house where it sat in a box for another year, then got set up and sat for another year with no water or power to use it. I actually thought I might die before ever getting to set foot in it. But I didn't, I lived to experience my own shower in my own home. It was absolute bliss! I don't think I can quite describe the humiliation of having to beg for showers, it sucks.

 So far I am quite happy with the shower unit. The water pressure is good, the temperature range is good. I am however, a little disappointed with the built in jets on the wall. I pictured them as being more of a pulsating- massage- kind- of -experience. Instead, it is like sitting under a gentle warm waterfall. That being said, we don't have it hooked up to power yet and it has more bells and whistles to be tried out like the steam function. So maybe there is a setting for those nozzles that I don't know about? Fingers crossed!

Now that the basic necessities of grooming and dish washing were looked after, I was hankering for more creature comforts, so my Christmas present from Dave was getting the soaker tub hooked up. I live with chronic pain and water therapy in it's various forms is one of the things that helps me cope. There is nothing like a long languid soak in an Epsom salt bubble bath with some ice packs for after to take away the majority of life's aches and pains. In the end, there were a few tweaks to be made and a few small floods mopped up, but now I am in water heaven!

Our kitty Minou, watching the inaugural tub filling ( that's steam in the air!) We didn`t have anywhere to really set up a Christmas Tree this year, so to honour the water elements I made a tree that reflects water. The star is a starfish, the branches are driftwood separated by coral beads and fishing line. I didn`t have time to finish them but I have a bunch of clear balls that I am going to cover in sand that I have collected from all over. The jars at the base contain different salts for the bath, Epsom Salt, Sea Salt and pink Himalayan Salt.
Got my pirate rubber ducky ready to go !
( I never used to like baths until I had one in a soaker tub. I have found out it is critical to be able to completely submerse yourself for maximum effect. The bigger the better or build one of those Japanese box tubs.)

As long as we had the propane guy here to hook up the hot water on-demand, I got him to set up a system using two, one hundred pound propane tanks strapped to the outside of the house. They are piped into the house to a manifold that has various connections for a variety of appliances.

This is the generator and propane tanks mounted to the house, the source of all our power and heat!

The yellow line is the propane line which goes to a manifold which branches off to various appliances
  We got him to send a line over to the kitchen and after he had replaced all the orifices on the stove ( we switched our natural gas stove to propane), he hooked it up and now we are cooking on a real stove with four burners and an oven! It makes a lovely change to have roast meat and veggies after all this time of pan frying or boiling everything. Baked apples next on the menu, yum!

About a month ago, I found a propane furnace on Craigslist for four hundred dollars. The temperature has been dropping the last few weeks and our hoped for electrical power hasn`t materialised yet, so I have decided to get it hooked up. The propane guy ( Keith) is getting some parts for it and we should have it up and running by next weekend as well as having the small propane fridge hooked up. I can`t wait for ice cubes and ice packs and ice cream.....ahhhh how I have missed the ability to have the power to freeze things. It`s another thing that would be sorely missed in a SHTF scenario.

 Like the song says, you don`t know what you got, till its gone! This last year and a half has shown me what life could look like if we ever lost power for good. Its hard work and very labour intensive to haul water and boil it etc. Living without heat just sucks. Every winter all my plants died from the cold. I spend days huddling in my bedroom around a small propane heater that can`t be left on while sleeping. This means waking up to see-your-breath kind of cold. Doing Reno's without a good source of power and no heat is tough to say the least. Paint doesn`t dry, silicone doesn`t stick, you get the idea.`I really missed ice cubes, toast, roast chicken, and being able to rinse a plate clean.

Even though we still don`t have power, we will now have a stove, fridge, furnace and hot water which is a huge leap in lifestyle for us. The furnace still requires some power to run fans etc so for now we will need to run the generator to use it, not ideal as it is noisy and very expensive to run, but at least we have an option to heat the main part of the house if we want to.

 We have been charging four deep cycle batteries whenever we use the generator and we use them to power our water pump and the lights and computer in the evenings. Eventually we want solar panels to do that job, but all in good time and finances willing. Life just got a whole lot easier and comfortable and for that I am eternally grateful, I give huge kudos for my ancestors that had to live their entire life like that and even harder than I had it ( I still had Laundromats, community centres for showers and propane to cook with as opposed to a wood stove which is so much more labour intensive!)

I am looking forward to this New Year and finally getting the house of my dreams built!

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