House of Horrors part 1

If you’ve been following our blog – apologies for the long absence – you know that we finalized our building plans a while ago but had to delay construction during the building boom. It wasn’t just the cost of materials – contractors kept putting us on the back burner as they could make more money on the huge houses many people wanted. Quite a few people are choosing to commute rather than live in the metro Atlanta area, and that drove demand up for a couple of years.

So, then came my cancer diagnosis (incurable lymphoma)….. I no longer wanted to wait for a usable kitchen (or get jerked around by any more contractors), so I convinced Hubby to go look at mobile homes. We found one that felt (feels) like home and looks like a real house. The dealership was selling the lot model, so we could get moved in very quickly.

We closed on the house before Thanksgiving and had high hopes of being in our new home by Christmas or at least over Christmas break. Now some of the delays that followed were due to heavy rain, but not all. There were unnecessary delays in getting the foundation in, and then further delays getting the house here. The house was finally delivered at the end of December. Meanwhile, Georgia Power was also dragging their heels, which didn’t help matters.

Eventually we had electricity and lo and behold – we had no power to the laundry room or the master bathroom. In addition, when the water pressure test was done, water started pouring out of the bottom of the home. The factory (Live Oak Homes) sent out a maintenance guy who showed up after dark with a flashlight and no tools after driving 5 hours. He said the electricity issue was probably a GFI outlet somewhere and he couldn’t look at the water problem in the dark, and promptly headed back home. On Monday, he discovered that the installation crew contracted by Wayne Frier Homes of Byron had not hooked the shower up to the sewer lines, so any water running into the shower ran straight into the insulation below the house and stayed there until he cut the protective membrane. His plan was to plumb that and let the insulation just dry out on its own over time — a plan we said “Heck no” to — or words to that effect. There was an additional water leak in the line going to the shower valve and the shower valve would not turn off. That required cutting a hole in the master bedroom wall.

A week later, we had multiple holes in walls, ceiling vents hanging down, a rats’ nest of electrical wires hanging down outside from the frame of the house, a huge (insert profanity here) mess throughout the house, but still no electricity in those rooms. At that point we insisted that a licensed electrician come inspect the house and diagnose the problem. The electrician came on Tuesday, took 40 minutes to find it, and two hours to fix it. (He installed a new three wire Romex from the breaker panel, under the house, and back up to the light switch). The factory could have saved themselves a lot of money by sending the right person from the start, especially as the maintenance guy never seemed to actually be onsite for more than 3 hours at a time. Oh – and the problem ended up being a missing neutral wire going from the breaker to the light switch in the laundry room. I’m not sure how you end up with a run of wire without a neutral, but the factory managed it!

Now the second crew that came in to do regular maintenance stuff was fantastic (more about them in a future blog), and they fixed the holes in the wall from the above fiasco, but they ran out of paint. Here’s an example of what has frustrated us in the extreme over the past three months – the dealership and the factory couldn’t agree on who should pay for the darn paint. Meanwhile, we had patched walls and were already close to paying our second mortgage payment. We ended up buying a gallon of paint — for $14.95 and I painted! The last time we heard “That’s a factory problem” was two hours ago — no, the house is still not fixed.

The first crew that came in to do the initial sheet rock patching etc. did a fairly good job of the walls, but when they left we had a speed bump going through the kitchen. Eventually this turned out to be a problem with the front half of the double wide being half an inch higher at that point that the back half — or so we thought. This is an installation issue, and after many, many, many phone calls, the leveling was resolved a couple of weeks ago (6 weeks after delivery, or thereabouts). The first crew tried to mask this by piling what looks like sheet rock mud over the join to create the speed bump and then gluing the floor tile to that. Surprise, the surprise, the floor tile popped off on both sides. Never mind, that we don’t really need a speed bump (trip hazard) going into the kitchen. The installation supervisor FINALLY came out today, and in addition to the floor leveling problem, a board the factory installed along the marriage line sits above the subfloor. Now there are hammer marks along the way where crew one tried to beat this board into submission, but the misalignment increased toward the pantry end of the kitchen. This is when the supervisor announced “That’s a factory problem” this morning. We are waiting to find out who will fix it and when. We know it’s going to require sanding at a minimum, and that will require cleaning….. I can’t tell you how many hours we’ve spent wiping shelves, blinds, ceiling fans, walls, etc. down after multiple rounds of repairs.

We’re also still waiting on the installation of the underpinning….

Other smaller construction issues include at bathroom water faucet without a drain plug, another with a drain plug that wouldn’t close, doors that wouldn’t close, a bathtub valve that didn’t let any warm water through, vinyl tiles with gaps between them leaving subfloor exposed, missing sheet rock in a closet, misaligned sheetrock behind the fridge, and a dryer vent that is jammed up against the washing machine instead of being behind the dryer space making it inaccessible. If you’re interested, here’s a link to Hubby’s blog with pictures.

To close — will this house be worth it eventually? Yes, we still think so. It overlooks the creek and that is where I go when I need to calm my mind as I deal with my diagnosis. I am doing well enough post-treatment to have a positive mindset 95% of the time, and when I do have to repeat treatment, I’ll be able to look out the window at the beautiful place with which we have been blessed. What would we do differently if we could go back in time? First and foremost, check the Better Business Bureau rating of any home builder, whether it be a modular home or stick built. Do a quick Google Search. Doing either of those would have sent us in a different direction. I let my emotional turmoil get in the way of good sense while I was still weak from treatment, and Hubby let his concern for me and big heart get in the way of asking me to be patient. I met this wonderful, wonderful, man 21 years ago today. So while the house has brought a lot of stress into our lives, as long as I can look at the creek with Hubby by my side, life is good here on the farm.

Construction · Lazer Creek Apiary · Natural Food Sources

Dog-gone confused

Maggie after a hard day’s supervising the humans.

Maggie has been quite happy to spend her days running around the farm for the past 6 weeks and made it clear that she thought her humans must be insane to go back to a 98 degree house in the city. How do you explain a broken air conditioner to a dog? Needless to say, none of us was very happy, but Blythewood Heating and Air rearranged their Tuesday schedule and came out first thing Tuesday morning to replace the failed part.  The humans have been so happy with their service over the years.

After the air conditioner was repaired, Mrs. Human went shopping while Mr. Human went to work and Maggie spent the afternoon in her crate. Then the humans came home and started putting stuff in boxes, especially Mrs. Human’s leave-the-house-all-day-and-don’t jump-on-her-until-she-changes clothes. That got worse today when the humans came home with a truck and put “Maggie’s” loveseat in there followed by a whole lot of other furniture, including some from the forbidden-to-dogs guest room. However, Maggie is now happily back at the farm, stretched out on the bed in the RV because Mrs. Human has the laptop bag on her spot on the couch.

We were able to put most of the furniture we intend to keep into a 16 foot Budget rental truck, and Hubby is currently about an hour away from the farm. We need to build the workshop before we can move much more, but what we have in each location is more than enough. Spending summers in an old FEMA RV has really changed our attitudes about our definition of enough. I will be really happy to get my food processor and mixer down here, but as we don’t have much of a garden going yet, I won’t be canning anyway. The fig tree in the city doesn’t even have many figs this year, so I wasn’t tempted to try any new fig recipes in between packing boxes and shopping.

UPDATE:  I was unable to save or publish this last week, but the mobile hotspot appears to be in a better mood today.   Hubby’s wonderful brother helped us unload the rental truck last Friday and I’ve been living in the mobile home for a little over a week.   Ferrell gas hooked up the propane on Tuesday, but I haven’t tried the stove yet as we have yet to move pots and pans.    Hubby completed the front deck yesterday while I was at work and it is beautiful (and safe).

I am very excited about my new job, even after the ubiquitous  meetings in which teachers are reminded about federal and state laws pertaining to education.    Tedious as these meetings can be, they are crucial for new teachers and a good refresher for the rest of us.    I really like my co-workers, administrators, and the policies that are in place.    Best of all, I get to drive through beautiful countryside at the end of every day, sometimes watch a train (or two) go by, and then spend my evening at the farm.

It’s been too hot to get into a bee jacket in the evenings, but the hives I checked this morning have done very well without us while we’ve been busy with other things.   Unlike other years, there does not appear to have been a pollen or nectar dearth this summer as all the established hives are jam-packed with resources.   We’ve had a lot of rain this summer, and I think the bees are finding a lot of wild flowers on the forestry land that was cleared over winter.

We’ve been too busy this summer for me to blog much, but I hope that changes now that we are almost settled.   There are so many things that I’m excited to write about, but for now I have to go write about what I’m going to teach next week!

Bees · Construction · Lazer Creek Apiary · Pests - General

Workshop progress and swarming bees

Pouring the slab for the workshop.
Pouring the slab for the workshop.

Well, the slab has been poured for the workshop, the pieces and parts of the building are on site and we will start putting the puzzle together Memorial Day weekend.   I figure it’s going to be like a larger version of the greenhouse — a much larger version — but I’m hoping that things go together better!   The metal is clearly sturdier, so if the holes are drilled in the right places, things should go well.

The concrete needs to cure for 28 day days before we apply stress to it, so the first task is to just build the frame.   We’ll add the insulation and siding in June when the foundation can withstand a wind load.   This will be my big red barn and hubby has promised to put a cupola on top once he gets a chance to build one.  I’m excited, especially as the cupola will do double duty as a bat house.   I really enjoy watching the bats swoop between the trees at dusk, and I hope they eat love-bugs as the first of those are making an appearance already.

Finished workshop slab
Finished workshop slab

The PVC pipes are our electricity, water, and drainage access lines for the future.   The large pipe on the right is simply a conduit that runs from one side of the shop to the other to allow for easy expansion of things like wiring if (when?) we find the need to change our original plans.   Before we left on Sunday, we spread wheat straw around the slab to minimize the splatter of clay onto our bright, shiny, new concrete with the rain we anticipate over the next week or so.   I threw a couple more cups of buckwheat seed out with the straw.  After all, why waste space that can be used for nectar producing plants?

Another decision we made this past weekend was to replace the RV with a small mobile home that will later become the business office for the apiary.   We’ll live there until we get the house built.   I’d intended to live in the RV until we finished the house, but the lack of closet space combined with the abundance of mice slowly started to weigh on my mind.   The darn mice love to chew on my wooden spoons in the kitchen drawer, so I replaced the spoons with silicone spatulas.   The mice then ate the silicone.   We keep plugging up holes, and they keep finding new ways in.   The most amusing evidence was the time I arrived to find about 9 feet of toilet paper unspooled — it’s actually pretty funny to picture a mouse trying to climb up the toilet paper roll, but still disturbing!

So, by the end of summer, we should be upgrading to 762 square feet of home, but we’re not the only ones looking for a larger living space:  hubby arrived just in time to see bees swarm from my hive into a tree on Wednesday evening.   He put multiple swarm traps out, but they still headed toward the creek the next morning.   While I love having that hive up by the RV, it tends to be the last to get checked, which means that it doesn’t always get checked when it should.   That will change in summer when we can check a few hives a day instead of trying to get to all 38 on a weekend.  We did check hives Saturday afternoon and upgraded most NUCs to 8 or 10 frame hives and added supers to some of the existing 8s and 10s.   While doing so, we checker-boarded frames with fresh foundation in the brood chamber and moved nectar frames up to the supers.   The nectar flow is incredibly good this year and all of the queens are laying well.   We only found one hive with swarm cells, and we distributed them to NUCs.

We’re experimenting with starter strips instead of full sheets of foundation this year.   We put a mixture of both into each hive this time to see which the bees prefer.   I installed frames with starter strips into a couple of hives last trip and the bees are drawing really pretty comb onto them.

The weather is probably not going to be conducive to a trip this coming weekend, but that gives us time to pack up a few more things to take with us the week after.   There’s one thing for sure — when you keep bees, you’ll never run out of things to do whether you’re in the city or the country, so life, as always, is good.