Saturday, November 21, 2015

Electrical Meanderings

I've been planning to upgrade the electric system in the mobile home for months but I just haven't made it a priority.  On Wednesday, I was trying to cook dinner when the power went out.  I thought that was really strange since I was only using the microwave, but I flipped the circuit breaker outside and decided to cook with the stove top instead.  A few minutes later, everything went dark again.  I was really puzzled but flipped the circuit and finished heating dinner on just one burner.  The only thing I could think of was that the circuit breaker was bad.  I have never had any experience with a bad circuit breaker so I was just guessing.

Later that night, when all of the lights were off, the modem suddenly went off.  Now, I was really confused.  I couldn't imagine how the modem could trip the circuit on its own.  I decided to move the modem to my nephew's room so that we would have internet access at least.  This involved going outside and fishing the phone cord through the window while in my slippers. As I am setting the modem up, my nephew mentions that the outlets on one side of his room are not working and the water heater went off.  Slowly, it dawned on me that the electric oil filled radiator in his room had been plugged in and on since he got home from school which explained the earlier power outages while I was trying to cook, AND, he had just turned the water heater on which explained the power going out when "only" the modem was plugged in.  It turns out that half of the lights and outlets in the kitchen/living room, his bedroom, and the back bedroom (storage room) are all connected to one tiny 15 amp circuit.  So, the kitchen appliances, the heater in his room, and the water heater are all fighting for the same power.  Luckily, the previous owner installed a separate outlet in his room so the heater now has it's own circuit.  The kitchen appliances and the water heater in the storage room typically are not on at the same time.  Things are ok for now but soon I hope to install some additional outlets on their own circuits.

These experiences are certainly helping me understand the basics of home electric.  When I wire my barn-shed I will be sure to add enough circuits so that none get overloaded.

In other news, the engineers came out and tested my tie-down anchors and THEY PASSED!  I was so nervous because the test was so expensive and I didn't want to have to have it done twice.  The anchors that my nephew and I hand dug moved a little bit under the strain but then they held at 400 lbs for two minutes.

The mysterious pull test machine.
I can finally move to the next steps for the barn-shed which are extending the fence, skirting, and finalizing the permit.  And then I have to paint it.  I never have enough time and money for every project but I will keep on doing little things here and there and eventually it will all get finished.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Days Go By

This time of year always flies by.  It didn't help that I was sick last weekend.  I took Friday off again but didn't get a lot done.  First I rearranged the storage room so that the cats have more 'approved' places to hide.  Hiding behind the bug spray was not acceptable.  I found a box of old documents that needed to be shredded so I sat in front of the tv and shredded them.  After that I ate lunch and took a nap because I was feeling rather poorly.  I woke up at 3 and pruned the tree that was over-hanging the driveway.  It bugged me every time I drove by.  I didn't have enough energy to drag the branches in to a pile so they are still lying there.  Then my nephew came home from school and we went back to the house in town.

Oh, but first, I should have mentioned that we (including the dogs) went back to the house on Tuesday night because my nephew had Veteran's Day off.  I managed to get out of bed early to take him to school on Thursday morning and then I left work early to take him to a dentist appointment.  He doesn't get cavities so I wasn't worried but when he came out he mentioned that he needs all 4 wisdom teeth extracted.  Yikes.  He isn't too concerned but it will cost me around $900 after insurance.  Luckily, I have enough money in my health savings account for things like this.  I decided not to rush it and try to get it done before the holidays.  Instead, I scheduled the extractions for January when he has a Monday off.  He will get them pulled on the Friday before and have 3 days to recover.

On Saturday I stayed in bed as much as I wanted and wandered around in the yard a little, collecting seeds and pulling weeds.  I still felt crummy.  On Sunday I woke up and felt 98% better which was great because we had an early Thanksgiving meal to go to with his youth group.  We brought pies.  It all went well.

Now it is Wednesday already and the weekend will soon be here.  I have Friday off again and the engineers are coming out to do the pull test on the barn-shed tie downs at 9am.  Finally!  I hope they pass the test and I can move on.  I've been waiting months for this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

On Hand Decor

Last Friday was great.  I got to sleep in a little, wander around the house and do whatever jumped out at me.   What jumped out at me was the wall behind the cabinets.  I tried two different patterns and settled on this beige tile one.  I think it looks awesome!  Sure, vinyl flooring isn't fire safe but I have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.

The pot rack is handy too but I need bigger hooks and a shelf for the lids.  The other side needs some shelves.  I don't have any extra money this month for shelves so they will have to wait.

After putting up the vinyl flooring on my wall, I went outside and started tidying up.  I stacked the cement board up against the wall along with the cedar boards.  I didn't get much done though because 3 o'clock came too soon and I had to pack up the car and dogs and pick up my nephew from school.  I forgot  how crowded the parking lot would be.  The dogs were going crazy as people walked by the car and we were trapped there waiting in line to get back out on the road.

The weekend went by too fast as usual.  We had youth group activities to go to and grocery shopping to do.  On Sunday evening my nephew started working on a poster for his history class.  4 hours later and he was finally finished so we could go back out to the mobile home.  We are back at the house already because he has tomorrow off from school and I am going to attempt to drive him to school Thursday and Friday.  I'm  not looking forward to getting up early to get him to school.  That is why we live out there during the week, to utilize the bus service.

I seem to have acquired the cold that my nephew had last weekend so I'm going to bed.  Too bad I don't get tomorrow off but I'm taking off Friday again and that's just 2 days away.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pieces of the Master Plan

Well, it's not fancy but it is looking a little more like a kitchen.  I took a half day off last Friday and managed to get this cabinet up.

I hid my storage containers in the upper cabinet which frees up space on the shelves by the sink.  Next step, put up small shelves and a pot rack, remove the trim I used to cover the paneling seam and put up something for the backsplash.  I have this wacky idea to use a leftover piece of vinyl flooring for the backsplash.  I'll take a picture if I try it.

I have 3 more vacation days to use up before December 8th so I plan to take every Friday off until then.  It is quite nice to have 4 day weeks but on Monday I will have twice as many emails to answer. I can't escape the work.  My plans for Friday are clean up outside, store the shade cloth, roll up hoses, stack construction materials nicely.  Then maybe go through some of the boxes in my bedroom and organize the kitchen.

Every month I track the value of my house and rental house on Zillow and my 401K balance.  I have a certain number in mind before I retire/change careers.  Today I was only $2,000 away from my goal.  That is amazing.  I know the housing market and stock market fluctuate a lot but if I am that close now then I am pretty sure I will surpass my goal by my target date of my 45th birthday 1 1/2 yrs away).  It is great to see the pieces falling in to place.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mortgage Progress for October 2015

I did it!  After 6 months of pausing my extra mortgage payments in order to help my niece with college money, fix up my mobile home, and pay car bills, I finally had money to put towards the mortgage this month.

I paid an extra $1,200 which gives me a balance of $42.799 left on my mortgage.  At this $1,200 rate, I will have it paid off in 2 years and 5 months.  That's a bit disappointing because I want my mortgage payoff to coincide with my nephew's going off to college (hopefully going off to college).  I will have to try harder and speed things up.

It feels great to be paying down the mortgage again.  I know many people would rather invest the money but with my goal of retiring early, I am not in a position to take risks with my savings.  Plus, I find paying off the mortgage to be the most motivating.  I tried saving instead and it didn't work out.  There were so many other things that I wanted to spend the money on.  Locking my money up in my house keeps me from spending all of my early retirement money before I even retire early.

The plan right now is to sell the house in 3 years and use the money to live on for the next 15 years when I will be able to tap in to my 401K.  I hope it works out.  My retire date seems to be forever moving backwards.  I'm back on track for now.  Only $42,799 to go.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Constant Improvements

Is my weekend over already?  I miss it.  Luckily, another one will be here in 4 days.  Today was a very busy day at work with people calling and emailing me constantly. I hope tomorrow is quieter so I can catch up on all the work.

I didn't do anything fun over the weekend, just the usual errands and chores around the house.  I took my nephew to a youth group party on Saturday night.  It was one of those murder-mystery parties where everyone dresses up like their character.  Before the party he was trying to figure out if he wanted to be the murderer or not.  Turns out he wasn't.  Everyone really got in to it and I don't know where the girls all got such fancy saloon dresses but they looked so authentic.

We managed to pull his costume together with only a $3 vest and $4 hat from the Goodwill.  I finally found a use for his mother's black leather jacket!  This is only reinforcing my pack rat tendencies, I'm afraid, since I have carried that jacket around since her death in 2002.  Gee, if the tuxedo shop would send me his back-ordered vest for his choir uniform I wouldn't have had to spend $3 on another one.  Which reminds me, he has a choir event this Wednesday and he is going to have to ask his teacher to borrow a used vest again.  I hope he won't get points deducted.

So far, I have no plans for next Saturday.  I might even go out to the mobile home to work on projects.  So many projects.  My nephew was asking me what the patches on the ceiling are covering and why none of the doors in the house fit the doorways.  I was hoping he wouldn't notice.  Ok, so maybe I should continue to make the house look a little more 'put together'.  It does help my attitude when projects get finished and I would love for the kitchen to be functional.  I hate to admit I fed him another Boston Market microwave meal tonight.  I've been eyeing a pork tenderloin at the grocery store.  I've never made one but it can't be that hard, right?  It has direction right on it.  As the weather gets cooler, I have plans to make cooking my hobby again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Digging and Digging

Finally, I got the two holes dug for the barn-shed tie downs.  On Monday, I checked my nephew's grades like I do every day because the school emails them to me.  I noticed two big zero's in English which brought his overall grade down to a D again.  69.5 to be exact.  I fumed about them for a while since I was at work and could not do anything and then decided that the new rule for this quarter would be that any late work means manual labor as well as zero's.  Last quarter, if he got the work in late then he escaped the hard labor but from now on, even if he turns it in and gets a half credit, he has to do work for me.  I knew he had done the assignments which made it extra frustrating for me that he didn't turn them in on time.  That kid is going to get stuck going to summer school even though he does the work.

So, when I got home, I got out two pairs of gloves and two shovels and we each started digging holes.  It was hard work even thought it had rained a couple of days earlier.  After 12" it was pretty much impossible so we unwrapped the digging bar.  I had heard that the digging bar makes digging in rocky soil easier but I had never used one.  

Teen labor.
 The internet was right.  Digging bars are awesome for digging up rocks.  He used the bar to pry out the rocks and I finished scooping out the dirt.  It was dark by the time we were finished and we had to use his cell phone for light.

18 inches!
 I was thrilled to get that chore done, well almost done.  I tossed a tie-down anchor in each hole and we went inside for the night.  The next day I had to work late so I didn't get home until after dark.  This morning, I heard it raining and when I checked the holes they had some water in the bottom so I scooped some Quik-crete into the holes and mixed it with dirt.  It rained again this afternoon.  Now I need to wait for the soil to dry out and then call the geo-technical engineers to see if my tie-downs will pass the 400 pound requirement.  I sure hope they do because I want to move on and do something else to the barn-shed, like, put skirting around it, build stairs, possibly even extend my fence so that it goes all the way from the mobile home to the barn-shed.

In other news, my nephew's choir class is having a fundraiser for their spring trip to a Disneyland choir competition.  They are selling super-expensive candles.  I'm really not interested in candles.  Doesn't anyone sell candy bars anymore?  I suppose it could be worse.  He could be selling magazine subscriptions.

$17 and $28 for candles.  I can't tell how big (or small) they are.

Today at work, one of my co-workers sent me a picture of this koala and said that when I was having a bad day I should look at the koala and it would make me feel better because at least I wasn't as miserable as the koala.

That made no sense to me.

First off, as a biology major drop-out, I am very interested in animals so I had to look up koalas.  This koala is in fact sleeping in the rain and not miserable.  His fur is waterproof and koalas live outside in trees so it is normal for them to get rained on.  They also sleep a lot to conserve energy.  This koala is perfectly fine.

But, being someone who cares for many animals, seeing an animal in perceived "need" does not make me feel better because I am better off than it.  I want to help it.  So, I gave the koala a coat and hat and sent it back to my coworker.

Problem solved!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

More Projects and Dogs

A whole week has flown by.  I tried to post something on Thursday but my computer refused to download photos.  It is working now so I will try again. On Monday, after work, I had to go grocery shopping so no extra chores got done.  On Tuesday, I left work 30 minutes early in order to have more daylight and I attacked the bed project.  First I measured the space, then cut the plywood, put together the frame, put the plywood on top and viola, the bed is now 8 inches off the ground.

8 inches off the ground might not sound like much but it is wonderful to me.  Now I can sit on the edge of the bed to put my socks on and I don't feel like I am a poor college student sleeping on the floor.  The dogs don't seem to care one way or the other as long as they can still sleep on the bed.

I managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder and neck while hauling around that heavy plywood but on Wednesday, I was able to put up the light that my mother bought me for over the sink.  Doesn't it look nice?  I would like a couple more of those light fixtures, maybe one for the kitchen and the other bathroom.

I also put up a clothes rod for my hanging clothes.  Since the bed takes up almost all of the room, the clothes hang over my bed.  It's a king size bed though so there is plenty of room and I don't run in to the clothes.

It rained here over the weekend and the weather gave me a headache most of the time but I still made the drive across town to officially adopt my foster dog Sassy.  She has been with me since December and I did not want to be forced to have her leg amputated.  Her leg is 75% better than when I first got her but Sassy always keeps her leg up when we visit the vet so the vet wants to take it off.  She also has Valley Fever and the pound only gives dogs one month of medicine and then the dogs go on the urgent rescue list.  They are given one week to be rescued or adopted or else they are killed.  I decided that I would rather adopt her and take her to my own vet.  We have a vet appointment next Saturday so we will see what my vet recommends.  Since she has been here since December, she fits in pretty well.  My big dog barks at her when we are all in the car together because he thinks she is too close to him but other than that, they have their pack order figured out.

With four dogs now, I don't have room to foster more especially since everyone has to fit in the car together.  Once I am settled in one location I can foster again.  That probably won't be until my nephew goes off to college.  Until then, I will have to be happy with volunteering at the shelter and not bringing any home, although, that was my favorite part.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hot and Cold

Whew.  A lot was accomplished but so much left to do.  I posted a picture of my barn-shed to a Facebook group and someone commented that it would have been cheaper to build it myself.  It annoys me when people say that.  As if I have all the time in the world to do everything from scratch.  My father build our childhood home from scratch with my mother's help while raising 5 kids together.  I am not my father.

So, I took apart this dog kennel that I have been moving from place to place for the last couple of years.  I used the panels to create a space for the cats in the storage room to help them acclimate before I let them outside.

They promptly escaped but are still in the room somewhere.  That's ok.  The intent was to have a secure place for them to hide in case a dog gets back in that room.

Hello kitties?
 Friday morning I had an appointment with the plumber.  The shower faucet in my bathroom has been leaking for over a year and I thought it was time to do something about it.  I called a real plumber because I wanted it to be done right the first time and in a timely manner.  While he was hammering a hole in the wall, I decided to change out the silver door knobs with these bronze ones.  They match the look of the house much better.  The door knobs have been on my to-do list for weeks.  It is great to be able to cross something off.

While the plumber was off buying another connector for the left side, I snuck in for a photo.  I wanted to see how he did it since I was planning to hook up the same kind of shower out at the mobile home.  It looked pretty familiar except the mobile home doesn't have copper pipes.

New shower head with single handle replaced dual handle.  I was sure there would be mold in the wall but it looked great.  One less thing to worry about.

The bill was horrid.  $550.  I'll have to figure out how to absorb it in my budget.  And now I need the shower tile patched or re-tiled.  I vote for re-tile but I will probably live with a garbage bag for a year or two until I am ready for the bathroom make-over.

5 hours later, the plumber left and I went out to the mobile home.  I cut a hole in the floor and fed the pex pipe through.  It connected to the water supply underneath.  There was no going back so I worked on each step and tried to make sure I had a good fitting before moving on to the next.

This is the little 2.5 gallon water heater that I bought to replace the 15 gallon one.  I just don't have time right now to install a 20 amp circuit for the larger water heater.  My nephew will have to take quick showers.  The water heater is in the storage room (with the cats) and I poked a hole in the wall and stuffed the pex pipe through.  I really don't care about how it looks at the moment.  My goal was a functioning shower.

Here you can see the pipes coming through the wall.  I left the old shower head, tub spout and handles because they would not budge and I didn't want to destroy the wall.  I will strap the pipes to the wall later.  I had the bright idea to add a second shower head because the shower controls have an outlet for the tub which is just capped.  So, there is a shower head on top and a hand held shower head lower on the wall.  They each have an on/off valve because there is only enough water pressure to use one at a time.  I don't know which one my nephew will prefer but I though it would be fun to have the choice and I had purchased that hand held shower head years ago.  The hand held is also convenient for dog baths.

But on with the story, so yesterday I got it almost hooked up and I realized that I was missing two fittings.  Ugh.  Today I went to Home Depot, bought the extra fittings, and also got some plywood for my bed.  I bought a metal bed frame and need to cut the plywood to fit since I don't have a box spring.  I just realized that I didn't buy the 2x4's that I also needed.  Darn.  Oh well, I ran out of time for that project anyway.  I went out to the mobile home again and finished the plumbing.  I waited an hour and being impatient, turned on the water.  No leaks!  Well, the pressure release valve on the water heater wasn't tightened all the way but other than that, no leaks in the house!  Both shower heads worked and the water heater worked too.  I checked outside and, well, I have 3 problems.  One problem is the leaking water tank.  That's an old problem.  I'm waiting until the tank is empty before I fix it.  I didn't use teflon tape on the threaded fittings and that was a big mistake.  The next problem was a leak from where the Sharkbite metal fitting did not screw on to the plastic fitting straight.  I tightened it more and I think it will be ok for now but really should be replaced.  And the third problem.  The tub drain has totally disintegrated at one connection.  All the water drained directly under the mobile home.  Now, I did want to add a greywater line but I didn't really have it on my to-do list.  It has just moved up to  the top of the priority list.  For now I can catch the water in a trash can (there is almost 4 feet of clearance at that corner) and siphon it away from the building.

At least my nephew's shower is functioning with cold AND hot water.  That is huge and that was my goal for the last two weeks.  I had to stop what I was doing to go pick him up from the airport this evening.  Fall break is over and tomorrow we will start our school schedule again.  That means loading up the dogs and moving out to the mobile home and returning to the house on the weekend.

It feels good to have accomplished something.  Next chores: tub drain and getting my bed off the floor.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Friday Plans

It sure would be nice to have every Friday off, and still get paid the same, of course.  I have big plans for Friday.  Hook up shower with hot and cold water, put up indoor cat habitat, dig two holes for the barn-shed tie-downs. I'm hoping 2 out of 3 get done.  

I went to visit my cats at lunch today.  They are still staring at me from their hidey-tent.  I took apart this dog kennel after work.  It looked pretty with the morning glory vines growing on it but I need it for a more practical purpose. I am hoping I can re-assemble it in the storage room so that the cats can get out of their small cage but not get into my stuff, plus I want added protection just in case the dogs get in the room.   

We had a big rain storm yesterday and I checked under the linoleum.  It was still a little damp but not like it was before.  I haven't sealed the area around the new window or the dog door so I know some rain can still blow in.  I'm confident that the big leak has been fixed though.  Too bad I don't have my gutters up yet.  I could have collected a lot of water.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Not a Lot to Show

It was a lovely, relaxing, long weekend.  Would I like it as much if it was a permanent thing and I didn't have a job to go to?  I would like to find out.  I feel like I squandered away too much of it even though I went out to work on the mobile home Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  I only stayed 4 or 5 hours each day because it was hot and dirty work.  I managed to cut a new piece of paneling to cover the wall where the water was leaking in.  I'm going to be honest.  It isn't getting painted any time soon.  Let's just call it an "accent" wall.  I have more important chores to do.

Do I dare add trim around the door?
I put up a pull-up bar in the doorway of the bathroom for my nephew.  He didn't ask for it, I just put it there to make exercise convenient.  Maybe if he hits his head on it, it will remind him to do a few pull ups.

After that, I started tackling the shower plumbing.  I decided on a configuration for the pipes and then went home, thought about it, and changed things around.  Then I bought plumbing connectors and started working only to realize that my plan would not work.  I left frustrated and bought more plumbing parts.  I would call that job only 10% complete.  It will have to be my main focus on Friday if I am going to get it done before my nephew comes back on Saturday.  I did not work on snake proofing the dogs' fence or making the cat area more secure or fixing up the kitchen.  There's just too much to do.  At least the weather should be in the 80's this week.  That will help my productivity for a while until it gets cold and I want to just stay in bed and nap with the dogs.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Two Steps Back and New Members for our Team

Even though it was 102 today, I decided to take the afternoon off and tackle some chores.  First step, pull off the paneling around the door in order to find the leak.  It took a while to get the paneling off and I made a big mess.  I felt like I was taking two steps backwards after we worked so hard to make the place livable. I got up on the ladder and poured water around the outside of the door.  I went inside and watched the water trickle in right where the drip edge is located on the outside.  

See where the brown drip edge was cut to make room for the door frame?  Even though I thought I caulked every gap, there was a hole inside the drip edge channel right by the door frame which let all that water drain right in, down the wall, ooze out the bottom of the paneling and pool under the linoleum.  At least, I hope that is the cause.  I've thought I found the cause of the water leak 3 times already but I am pretty confident that I have found the real cause this time.

I caulked the hole on the outside, caulked all the edges on the inside, and tomorrow I will buy some Great Stuff Foam for even more protection.  Then I will pour water around the door again and if the inside is dry I can put up new paneling and FINALLY finish trimming the door inside and out.  I also drilled some drain holes in the drip channel so that the water will drain away from the door.

This mystery wire was cut by the handyman who put in the door.  Obviously, the outlet doesn't work now.  My coworker said he would come over this weekend and help me reconnect it and figure out my electric panel.  The panel is still labeled 'furnace' and 'dryer' and there hasn't been a furnace or dryer here in over 10 years.

Here's another project I have started.  Barn cats.  Specifically, mouse hunters.  I contacted a cat rescue to see if they had any unadoptable cats that would be suitable for an indoor/outdoor situation.  After 3 months of waiting, 2 cats were delivered this week.

A woman had trapped them when they were 6 months old and tried to tame them but they did not appreciate the attempt at taming.  The woman brought them to the pound to be euthanized for being unfriendly.  I do not mind if my cats are unfriendly as long as they keep the mice and rats away.  We have set them up in the back room where they will stay in a large crate for 10 days and then they can roam the room for another 10 days.  After that, I will open the cat door and, hopefully, they will remember to come back to the room for food, water and shelter.  Ideally, I would like to close off the jacuzzi area, greenhouse, and under the mobile home so that they can hunt in those areas and not leave the safety of an enclosed space.  This is the area that the cat door opens to.  The jacuzzi area has a chainlink fence but no roof yet.  I have added 'build catio' to my to-do list. I have wanted a catio for a while now and these cats are so pretty, I don't want them to be coyote food.

I took tomorrow off too so I will continue working on the door weather-proofing and then move on to, maybe, getting water to my nephew's shower, then painting my bedroom, building a bedframe to get my mattress off the floor, putting up the overhead cabinet for my kitchen, organizing my storage room...and the list goes on.