Boom and Bust

The history of the Gold Country is replete with tales of boom and bust, of peak-moments of crazy-fabulous riches followed by troughs of fire, depression, failed-crops, and broken dreams. In other words, the prospective house needs a whole new roof, entirely new attic ducting, and an electrical make-over. There’s some witches-brew of mis-wiring; the light/fan in the master-bedroom trips the GFI in the master bath, but then the fan continues to operate. One GFI circuit in a front bedroom trips a circuit on the other-side of the house out on the deck. Another GFI circuit in the kitchen is un-tripped by itself but is tripped by the non-GFI outlet on the other side of the sink. The carpet smells of smoke, and walls need patching – that’s trivial and cosmetic, but/and there’s no vent-stack for the stove/range. Venting into the attic is not a recommended procedure as I understand it. The vent-stack could be fixed at the time of the re-roofing, but the full inspection report and termite-report and will come tomorrow. And no dirtbike riding, too noisy! Pbbth! Other than that the HOA is pretty un-intrusive! I’m gonna go have a beer.

Getting Better

High gray skies with a low-lying layer white cumulus in between the top-cover and the ground. Interesting muddle today. So we went down to the Evil City of Sleazeballs and Gov. Slimsuckers: Sack-O-Tomatos. It’s been a week since our last visit, and about three-weeks since our neighbor went into the Hospital, but she of the double brain aneurysm is visibly better than last time, and less at a loss for words. Therapy is keeping her busy, and last-time she complained saying, “I’m sorry I can’t be more articulate.” – but that right there was a good word-choice and a good sign. Today she was wearing her jogging shoes and it was other stuff to complain about, and we can tell she’s anxious to be out of the smelly facility and back home. I pointed to her shoes and told her she should make a break for it! She laughed.
Wednesday is septic-pumping at the new “other place,” and Thursday is the Inspection (and with that, Termite). I need to have a couple checks ready for the guys. State Farm declined to cover us because the zip-code is “high fire-danger” – but there are plenty of other homes out there, and this-here zip-code is also “high fire danger.” So…we got pointed to a broker who found a couple of mainstream biggies who will cover: both Travelers and Hartford. We’ll probably move our vehicles and all the rest to one of those…so bye-bye Snake Farm after thirty years. Things are looking up! Soon we’ll be measuring walls and painting at The Remote High-Chaparral Chalet, elevation about 3,100 ft.

The Center Cannot Hold

IMGP2105W. B. Yeats in 1919, the atmosphere of post-war Europe.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The middle finger always goes. Between moving rocks and yardwork this must be the fifth pair of leather gloves, nearly as many “Mechanix” type synthetics have also fallen by the wayside.
Also to the gray-goatee’d fake-factory spandex $3000 bicyclists taking up the middle of the narrow country road, yes YOU bastard Yuppie Boomers, I wave with my whole hand because the display of a single finger does not express enough contempt.

Country Livin’

Water, Waste, Trash, and Warmth. When we first moved out of the Perfect Suburban University Paradise we were uncomfortable with some of country livin’s inevitable mechanical features, such as a well and a septic tank/system. Not so much anymore.
For water there’s the “Irrigation District” piped-in water, a kind of hold-over from the old days of “Ditch Tenders,” water-rights, and mining operations – and what some still consider to be a rapine Utility just like in the old days. A lot of people up here have wells and that’s drinking water – but they need to be tested for various levels of stuff besides bacterial nasties, like iron so your pants don’t come out of the wash brown. In the current drought-conditions, some of the lower elevation wells were going-off dry or showing up muddy. In order to restore volume and flow, some people had to get another few hundred feet deep. That can get pretty expensive and I imagine that a bunch of other well-stuff gets upgraded or replaced at the same time.
Waste-systems, as a friend in MA where it’s actually pretty suburban but lacking in waste-infrastructure says, “Think of a septic system as a biological engine, and don’t throw food-scraps down the in-sink-erator disposal.” The leach-field or tank needs to be properly maintained and at a proper distance from the well. And then there’s “casual/causal waste.” Being that we produce X-amount of archaeological-worthy litter on a daily basis, where does the garbage go? Some folks also have burn-piles and on burn-days sometimes it’s smells like they’re burning old milk cartons and plastic wrap – it’s not all fragrant pines and balsam up in the woods. As discussed in comments:

Out in the sticks many driveways are practically tiny roads, too long, twisty and tight for the big waste-haulers to even navigate. If you have to push your waste-bins down a mile to the road every Thursday it gets a bit old. Lot of people have a small garden-tractor and trailer for just that. Lot of people leave the waste-bins lined-up in rows by the roadside next to the mail-boxes. Some mail-theft here too.
But still people are free to live like pigs in squalor, and you can see them from the road. Homes where garbage is piled all around, blue-tarps cover mounds of decaying old vehicles and mattresses, ancient rusting appliances dotting the landscape. I dunno, it’s either because they’re old, or just cheap, or poor, or they are hoarders who never throw anything away. We have passed-up several opportunities where the neighbors lived like pigs and too close-proximity made all the difference. I guess for some people it’s a way to prevent anybody (at least people of a certain sensibility) from even moving-in next door. Or they might just be crack-heads on Gov. assistance.

Heating. Given the sheer natural abundance of timber, wood is still a viable heating alternative to rapine utility companies like PG&E, but in an appliance-rich environment they still they mostly get the “E” out of you for lights and computers – unless you go Solar. But the cost of electricity is not so great (compared to the Expensively-Perfect Suburban Paradise), and many kitchens are all-electric. My preference is for gas wherever possible, and it can be re-plumbed to connect-up to the propane tank, because most furnaces are running on propane…

Lookeyloo

Went drivin’ past a couple more houses, and got in to see one today. Lovely 8×8 pier construction and a nice hip-roof with good overhangs, sheathed in tile. Wish we could crash through the pending short-sale contingent, but the necessary work involved would probably not produce a net benefit down the road and someone is already in the #1 spot. Poorly home-done and obviously amateurish crown-molding in a couple rooms where none is needed or desired, wallpaper, stick-down vinyl floor tiles, some ugly golden-oak cabinetry to rip-out – all fairly and easily doable but altogether not a win-win after adding it up. The deck needed some TLC and the grounds needed pruning, but the barrier was already set in the contingent sale, and at a cost per-foot where we wouldn’t come out ahead, even if we were in the game. Too bad, the home had real nice bones and wasn’t chopped-up by a weird floorplan.
UPDATE: But mainly I liked the hip-and-gable roof style with generous 4-foot overhangs. Houses built today with no trim or overhang look like they come out of an appliance factory.

Return of the Weatherman

Winter came back wet and cold. This morning we made meatloaf with grilled onions and the windows over the sink fogged up with the temperature differential. In the distance is a thin, turquoise line of clear-blue off over the Valley, and between that are rows and rows of stacked cumulus clouds advancing towards us.
Yesterday was clear but chilling as we drove out to see a bit of property with a house on it. We can’t afford to build a “dream-home” but would like to park some retirement money in real estate and not The Market or in Banks with no-return – nor in gold and silver. That just freaks me out. My own retirement account is static and UN-reachable for another few years. I’m not very astute financially and was never taught how money really works by my Leftist-religious parents or the schools I attended. I believe my parents liked to keep us shielded from The Root of Evil, and also they probably didn’t want us kids to worry about it since it was scarce for them too. But as a result I didn’t even know how to balance a checkbook until after College. Unlike many of my smart-money affluent classmates who were on the “Ski Team” and such, I think one of the “draws” for playing Polo and Swimming was the uniform costs were so low – all you needed was a swim-suit. Even a pair of soccer-cleats cost more than two Speedos. Football was gear-intensive and expensive. But I also didn’t know much how to go about getting and making money, and my HS retail-career consisted of scooping ice-cream. I hate ice-cream now and never touch the stuff.
So we went out on a search with our Real Estate friend, but the first house we went to was over-full with a party of stoners. Hey, I think I just invented a categorization, like a “Pride of Lions” or a “Murder of Crows”: “A Party of Stoners”…
Anyhow they were living in squalor. It was a sad combination of rubbish strewn everywhere, cigarette-butts in huge urn-like ashtrays dotting the landscape inside and out, hoarding-rubbish obstructing walkways of un-made laundry piled in every nook and corner, filthy floor-coverings, and the stench of marijuana, sweat, and urine. There was a sweet dog that needed a better home and owners. I had a BIG sad.
The neighborhood is immaculate, beautiful, neat as a pin with nice and neat neighbors. This worn-down hulking dump on the edge of a hillside would need to be nuked from orbit and the ground scraped three inches deep and salted before re-building could begin. There was already a skip in the front yard but no evidence that much effort was being made to clean-up and fill it. We backed-out carefully.
The next house was empty and because of the chill in the weather cold as an icebox. It was another one beyond our financial wherewithal to fix-up to a living standard. We’ll keep looking. It’s a fine balance between how-much major re-construction and the whole permitting process is required, and fixable livability – we’ll be staying there not renting it.

Interior Design

This is nearly finished by our Master Woodworker. Burt and his son John at Hangtown Woodshop are willing to do custom, to-order stuff like this that busy for-profit guys and regular woodbutchers and sawdustmakers won’t touch because the margins are greater elsewhere. So we applaud them and the use of the Creative Function.
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..and will replace this ugly-stick mess. Blarg. Golden Oak is so mid-70’s, which is a time better remember for other things, like The Ramones!
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And we have already popped-off the other divider-rail, which has it’s own replacement piece – laid up like parquet, very sweetly.
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Then what?

Bit by Bit

It’s terribly mundane but represents the whittling-away of the chore-list which may lead to some greater freedom of activity besides yard and house-work. With the new freezer in place the garage is pretty much all-done.IMGP1777_01aB
Yesterday we ripped-into and bonsai’d the last juniper shrublet, and today the lowquat tree is gonna get a shaving. Temps are expected to be mild in the low 90’s and the King Fire is 98% contained.

Back to the Basement

We painted the raw construction-grade 3/4″ ply floors before we took off for the Bay so they would cure and dry while we were away. Upon our return we assembled the stacking shelves, moved bins of material goods, and also moved the garage shelf-unit down to The Understory. And more junk. Today we removed more sagging excess 2×4 shelving and cleaned it all up, assembling a small work-bench for the drip-line PVC stuff from half the old shelf-unit. Organization is taking place.

I hope it’s all for the good and a Shiny Bright Future because the King Fire* took another blow-up and has turned towards Swansborough (among other directions), where some 600-residents were evacuated earlier today. We looked at a couple of homes there on the plateau that rises up out of the canyon. It’s only about ten miles from Hangtown so things are a bit edgy. The thick gray-brown smoke pillar that rises up into the turgid sky and is capped with pyro-cumulus lid is dramatic and ominous. 11,000 acres have been consumed and there’s only 5% containment.

UPDATE: Fire updates move to fire post.