Friday, September 7, 2012

Loving Work

First came that nagging little voice . . . update the blog.  Then came the guilty feelings over ignoring that little voice.  Then, heck, it's just plain too much fun working and next we knew it was almost half a year since we've put out an update  LOL  That's particularly funny to me since I've always hated work and couldn't wait to escape somewhere else.  It's not that I'm lazy or anything, I've just never had the type of personality to take rigid schedules and rules well.  Now that I make my own schedule and decide how I want to spend each day work has become downright addictive!  OK, so maybe it's not addictive but it has been a ton of fun  LOL  We're still here though and working hard although progress isn't always easy to see.  Over the winter Tom and I both came to several realizations: we'd bitten off far more than we expected although not more that we can necessarily handle, and any thought of a timetable for completing things was way out of the question.  Not only are there just two of us but ya know, life has a way of just complicating things  LOL 

Winter passed fairly quickly with a good part of the remodeling on the east apartment being completed.  We can't run circles through the entire upstairs anymore and the east place now has a new bedroom complete with walk in closet.  While Tom was busy upstairs with that project I worked on the downstairs hallway and played a bit in the store area.  We still haven't replaced the floor in the front entrance hall but the rest of the work is done and looking fine.  Someday we'll have a new floor but at the moment our wishes are way larger than our budget.  Upon asking Tom what he'd like someone to see when entering the building he replied that he wanted a floor 'so awesome that when you walked over it you'd immediately turn around and walk back just to see it again'.  Well, I found exactly that with floor tile designed to look just like a lovely Caribbean sea, complete with fish and all, but with our budget of $300 we could only afford to tile a foot or so  LOL  I had better luck in the store area where we tested out paint for the tin ceiling and 'branded' the place with my business logo.  Metallic paint turned out to be a wash out on the tin ceiling due to the cost and the fact that we just didn't like the look.  After a few tests I've decided on a very pale silver blue with gloss white trim accented with a flash style paint.  Unlike the metallic the flash paint is an overcoat that gives an opal-ish quality to the paint.  The one we've decided on changes between a pale golden yellow and a sparkly pale blue.  I hadn't been really set on a theme although I did know what basic shades I wanted to use.  As it turned out the sage/mossy green color I envisioned, called Polliwog, clicked the last bit into place and I realized my theme was 'swamp'.  LOL  Now this isn't your alligator and snake infested swamp but a place of dewy mosses, wild flowers and graceful trees; a magical swamp if you will.  It won't be full of fairies but there is a rather attractive witch with purple high heels stirring a bubbling cauldron now gracing the wall.  A bit more will get done over the winter although like most projects there are many smaller tasks that need to be done first such as wall patching. 

Last winter also brought a major change and great sadness when our long-time friend, building neighbor and Julie's boyfriend, Doug Hayman, passed away in February.  While Doug had been ill for some time his death was sudden, unexpected and left us all shocked.  It's still difficult to look out our windows at his old business and not expect to see him drive up or wave.  Julie, while an almost constant fixture in the weeks following his death no longer spends time hanging out at the Cauldron.  I miss her but I can also imagine that the memories are even more difficult for her looking across the road and remembering. 

We took a short escape in March for an old-style Florida vacation.  We stayed just down from Old Town in Kissimmee and spent days by the pool, wandering through the shops and stuffing ourselves with seafood.  It had taken me several years to talk Tom into visiting Kissimmee but the vacation was a huge success.  Besides all the restaurants and attractions within walking distance there's a large amusement park in beside Old Town with lots of rides we remembered from childhood.  Of course in childhood we didn't end up with aching backs and stiff joints but it was still a lot of fun.  Especially the day spent racing go-carts  LOL

With spring came yard chores and a new addition.  We purchased the two vacant lots next door to assure our future tenants a place to park and Tom worked long hours clearing the fence row of trees and rocks.  I finished edging and mulching the yard for easier mowing, last year's herb garden came up in spades and Brandie and I planted a new garden at the back of the lot boarding the fire pit area.  I'm not sure yet who will live in our building when it's finished but I do know they will have an amazing outdoor area!  From the long front porch with the rockers to the different naturally divided areas in the backyard there's no end to the shady quiet place to relax or sunny ones for games and fun.  As May ended Tom called a halt to my gardening and we headed up to start the lower roof. 

When dealing with an older building you learn fast that you're not in charge.  Not too long ago I was watching a show about converting unusual buildings into residences and one of the participants complained that the structure of his building greatly limited what they were able to do.  My first thought?  Well, DUH!  LOL  Boy have we learned that lesson!  Tom and I may come up with ideas or have thoughts on how to complete a project but ultimately the Silver Cauldron has the last say in how, or if, a project gets done.  Seemingly easy projects, such as the roof - yes, we're still up there! - have a way of becoming complicated.  While the top roof was a long slog in the sun but relatively simple the lower roof, while smaller, turned out to be a complete puzzle.  Not only were there several different elevations to combine but the neglect, leaks and weight of the built up roofing had done considerable damage to the support structure.  The old roof itself turned out to be thicker and heavier than the upper roof and worse, everyone back through history who had worked on it seems to have been in love with nails.  There were row upon row of nails spaced an inch or two apart and none it seemed wanted to come out.  In a bit of backwards luck the roof boards themselves turned out to be dry as dust and just about as sturdy.  Far easier to pry off the boards than deal with the hundreds of nails  LOL  I had the honor of prying much of the old roofing off including one memorable day when Brandie and I removed about half of the roof.  Tom spent countless hours replacing joists and building up sagging spots before laying new boards and finally covering all with rolled rubber roofing.  Twice  LOL 

Apparently Mother Nature didn't like the way we laid it out the first time as she blew it clean off the roof!  At the end of June we had storms in the area fairly often and it was common for me to check the current radar on my cell phone or for Tom to call and ask about it.  One storm came up suddenly, looked really nasty and was moving with fantastic speed.  I went over to help Tom get the roof covered up and we scurried around like mad getting the rubber rolled over the open spots and weighted down.  I was nagging Tom to get off the roof when the tornado siren sounded and we both ran to get inside.  The storm was massive and caused severe damage to the area.  Luckily I'm a little dumb and rather than take cover I'd sped home while Tom sat it out in the Cauldron basement.  By the time it was all over the roof rubber was in the parking lot, my street along with a good part of the rest of Findlay's roads was blocked by downed wires and huge trees and my pond was smashed under a neighbor's tree.  The damage was devastating and amazing all at the same time and both our neighborhoods were without power for a week.  I was able to spend my time at home working with the neighbors to clean things up but you can imagine Tom's stress between worry over the lower roof and his city work chores with traffic lights.  There are still lights waiting to be fixed!  I've got to give a big thanks too for the neighborhood 'boys'; Matt, Brian and Buddy.  During the first few hours after the storm, before help arrived, they cleared limbs, directed traffic and kept things safe.  Thanks guys!

Besides the destruction the storm also brought joy and sadness.  A few days after the storm a neighbor dropped off a 5 week old kitten she'd found and while I honestly tried my best to find her a home or a place in a rescue shelter there were too many displaced animals already and no room for her.  Luckily the mice at the Cauldron picked that time to become a serious pest and Tom agreed, slightly unwillingly, to us adopting her as the official Cauldron cat.  Her name's Gizmo btw and she's adorable!  Black and white with a heart-shaped patch on her side  LOL  Somehow one tiny kitten has managed to turn bully Tiger into a pussy cat who plays and even shares baths with Gizzy.  Bear has also become an admirer and is no longer a loaner.  Harmony reigns in the house and ya hardly ever hear a snarl or spit  LOL  Unfortunately, shortly after Gizmo arrived normal one of my youngest cats, Hobo, suffered a stroke and shortly after died.  He was one of the crew I call the 'bugs', named for him actually.  Born without a tail he was tabby striped and looked just like a bug  LOL He wasn't quite five years old and while we've always known the bugs weren't healthy it seemed way too soon for him to leave us. 

August brought the end of the roofing project.  Finally!  OK, so it's not the end end but at least we're done taking off old roof and putting new on  LOL  The new roof helped the leaks, helped but didn't stop them.  Turned out the outer sheeting on the second story wall was so deteriorated it was leaking.  Surprise!  LOL  After that there were minor leaks to run down with the windows and flashing and finally, this week, it appears there's only one leak left.  I'm so excited to have the water problems done with I want to have a celebration!  But.  Ya know there's got to be a but, right?  LOL  The inside damage from the years of leaks is severe.  The back room, where the downstairs furnace hangs, has 5 or more broken ceiling beams and all kinds of parts I don't know the names for loose.  Basically the ceiling structure is falling down.  Not a huge surprise or anything just another puzzle to solve.  Somehow the old furnace has to be taken down from the ceiling, the ceiling beams jacked back up to where they belong and the bad sections replaced.  If that sounds at all easy remember there's just two of us and I'm a wimp strength-wise  LOL  Should be an interesting project!

Of course the end of August also brought our annual trip to the Easy Rider Rodeo in Chillicothe Ohio.  To say we were eager for a break and some parties would be a serious understatement  LOL  As the weeks of roof details wore on we talked more and more about the upcoming trip and Tom was packed and ready to go sooner than he's ever been.  Days ahead!  LOL  It was as good as time as ever, different from other years but that's pretty usual too.  We missed some of our old 'friends' we used to see, victims of job/location changes or the economy but we met some new 'friends' too and look forward to meeting up with them next year.  And we're already planning for next year's trip  LOL  Hopefully we'll get in a few more camping weekends before the weather turns really cold although considering the upcoming project in the backroom taking time off might not be wise or possible, we'll see.  Hopefully I'll be a little better keeping things updated here although I can't offer any promises there.  A bit ago I had the unhappy experience of a computer crash and things aren't all that they could be computer-wise.  Luckily our Cauldron pictures were backed up and I've got my photo editor reinstalled so soon there should be a lot of new pictures of the projects to check out.  No promises there either though, I tend to prefer being over at the building painting rather than sitting behind a desk  LOL

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Anniversary Memories

What a special day! While at times it seems Tom and I have been at the Cauldron forever at other times it seems only months. It's hard to imagine that as of today we've been caretakers of our building for a year. Time flies when you're having fun . . . or are too sore and tired to notice LOL Time also seems to warp our memories just a bit and I'd noticed recently a lack of appreciation for the work we've done; not only ourselves but with others. We've been back to the question of 'Are the apartments finished yet?' which has to be the most frustrating question we get. When people think of a remodeling job it's usually in terms of a good sized work crew, a crew of experts, and in a month or so the job's done. With our work crew of only two it takes considerably longer for even a small project and I think our supporters sometimes forget that. Us too. It's easy to see a perceived lack of progress when the chore list is miles long but you've only gone a few feet LOL Right on time along came the anniversary of the date we began this adventure and with it a great chance to change this perspective.

Yule is a big deal to me, being pagan, and it was easy to include the anniversary date in the excitement of the holiday season. I decided on a whim to have a party and mentioned it to Tom who seemed merely ok with the suggestion. As you might expect the plans grew from a small private celebration into an event and even Tom even got excited and saw it as a special day. I found myself putting together a slideshow of the progress of our work and even designing a special picture to decorate the party cake. Invitations went out, first to those who had been volunteering, then family and finally we were including those we'd been doing business with such as the crews down at Beltz Home Improvement and Ace Hardware LOL Of course you know the neighbors have all been curious so we added them to the list too. Cake progressed to cake and cookies, pizza and finally champaigne to toast our adventure with. Heck, we even had matching holiday plates and napkins! Since we spend most of our waking hours at the Cauldron I'd put up decorations and a tree earlier and these were a great background for the party. The building had bought 'presents' for Tom and I to open for Yule - a new saw for Tom and a paint set for me plus knee pads for both of us LOL Brandie and I usually exchange gifts for Yule so we decided to add our celebration to the anniversary party and the pile of gifts under the tree grew. Then Tom got into the act and the building bought more presents LOL This time it was a lovely wooden box for my office and a garden statue to spread happiness. The turn out was good, 10 or so people shared our celebration with us and given it was an afternoon event on a work day makes it even more special that they could arrange their schedules and join us.

As much fun as the celebration was - who doesn't like presents and cake? LOL - even more important was the shot of reality the party gave us. Or maybe perspective is a better word. After putting together the slideshow I was fascinated by watching it and remembering all the work of the past year. Even though nothing is really 'done' I'd look at the before shots and the pictures of where the given project was now and it was like the old cliche of night and day LOL When I showed Tom he seemed the same and we sat together through the entire show commenting and laughing about some of the earliest projects. Today at the party our guests were equally fascinated. Watching the slideshow it's easy to see how very far we really have come and what a great job we're doing. I'm not bragging or anything but considering we had no experience whatever with a project of this scale, had never worked together before and were admittedly clueless about the exact scope of the job we've done great. Knock wood but there have been no serious injuries (knock twice for that one!), we've kept on track budget-wise even with the surprises and we've never given up. Sure, there have been a string of vacation days for both of us, days when we just needed a complete break from even thinking about the Cauldron but we've always returned and chugged along. Happily too, which is a great thing in itself. While we've had our moments of temper and arguments they've been rare and we've survived them not only as working partners but as a couple. The work has been challenging both mentally and physically, especially physically LOL, and we haven't always been successful at the first try on a project but in the end we've found the solution and gotten it done. So yeah, we've done good, and sitting there today sharing the celebration put the focus on not how far we have yet to go but how far we've come and what a transformation it has been. And what memories it has made! LOL

Exactly a year ago at this time we were the owners of a very, VERY cold building that Tom soon nicknamed The Icebox and we stood in the dark shop space - we had no electricty - half excited, half panicking. Today we remembered weeks of trying to work bundled against the cold while Tom crawled between floors replacing and repairing gas lines and then water lines. The day he got the heat on is marked on the calendar and was a huge victory and celebration. Running water was great, hot water soon after was a dream and the day Tom got the plumbing working - Pot to Piss in Day - is one of our most laughed about milestones. Compared to those first freezing and uncertain months even the larger accomplishments like finishing the second story roof this fall and the most recent furnace work seem a bit in second place LOL Watching the pictures I remembered not only the backbreaking work up on the roof but the wonder of a ringside seat for the hot air balloon festival and and peace and expansive view found working up there. The shots I took so proudly of the beginning herb gardern bore no resemblance to the lush area it grew into over the summer. The much laughed about picture of Tom standing comfortable in one of the second story windows brought back additional memories and laughter. So, here we are, at Yule, the season of transformation and rebirth and we're ourselves are smack dab in the middle of celebrating just such an event. The Silver Cauldron was named for such, Cerridwen's Cauldron of transformation, and I scheduled the official closing on Yule on purpose. Good juju, as my friend Nick would say LOL What a great time for a reminder of the transformations we've accomplished at the building and also of what may be accomplished by all of us in just believing and trying. I think that makes for a pretty good Yule gift! = ) And I have to admit, it's gotten me a bit excited too wondering about the adventures ahead in the next year LOL Tom has finished the new furnace installation upstairs, an awesome and monumental process that you'll see pictures of next year, and has moved on to ductwork aka knocking into walls and ceilings. I've settled into a cozy workspace off the shop area and have been back at the restoration work in the entry and break room. Come January I'll update the progress this far and upload new pictures from the past few months. In the meantime we wish you a merry and blessed holiday season, and a prosperous new year!

The Cauldron Crew

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Roof Wth A View

There are some benefits to nasty jobs as this picture shows. Tom and I started the roofing project about the time of my last post about our bee hive experience. One of our first days working up there was over the weekend of the Findlay Balloon Fest and we were lucky enough to experience the fly over. You'll find more pictures of the ballons over in the photos section, btw. Notice too we really do have a pretty amazing view over Findlay and that's good as it's about all we've seen recently.

With roofing companies booked solid due to a spring hailstorm and labor at a premium we made the unwelcome decision to do the roof ourselves. Well, not exactly unwelcome as the savings would be great but Tom knew how hard a job it would be while I was just nervous about the height and someone getting hurt. Hurt. Now there's a word I'm becoming all too familiar with LOL If I had to describe our roof work in one word I think I'd be torn between agonizing and hysterical, seriously. It's hard, heavy, backbreaking work that literally just grinds you down. Also interesting and aggravating LOL There's between 1/2 and 1 inch of old roofing that needs to be pried up and hauled off to reach the original roof. Yep, original lumber and old square-headed nails. That was pretty neat to see. Nowadays when nothing at all seems to last it's amazing to see such old wood still hanging in there. For the most part LOL There's a few holes that have been patched with tin and one side that seems to have been replaced after a fire. The entire west third of the roof has 'plywood' instead of the older boards and the center third seems to have been added sometime after the east third. Either our building was two that were combined at one time or it was enlarged on two different occasions. We'll have to examine the rafters and such later for more clues, make that Tom will, I'm too much of a fraidy-cat about spiders to go near the attics or basement LOL Seeing the different layers of roof covering has also been interesting although also majorly aggravating. I would so love to tell some of the past 'roofers' a thing or two! The second picture in this post will give you a look at the different layers btw.

If you're Tom you slide the roofing shovel - a narrow bladed shovel with wide teeth - under the entire mess, shove it as far as you can and then push down to use a built-in wedge on the shovel back to lever the chunk up. Of course Tom's tall and has muscles while I've been sitting at a desk for more years than I'll admit. I have to pry up the top two layers of paper and then pull them off - a process that has left me on my fanny on more than one occasion - then remove the several layers of shingle by prying followed by cracking off the bottom layer of tar. Yep, tar! That's the guy I'd like to dig up and give a piece of my mind too! LOL The stuff is great when it's in the 50's or below, it just cracks right off the wood. Once the sun hits it though it gets just the slightest bit sticky and stubborn. And the dang stuff is heavy! When Tom and I are working together I get spoiled and only have to get the stuff off and Tom shovels it all into the truck two stories below. With the weather closing in though I've convinced Tom to let me work during the day and the combination of prying off the old roof and then carrying it to the edge and dropping it into the truck is kicking my fanny. Plus my aim isn't too good so I end up picking up a good part of it up a second time as I keep missing the truck LOL

To date, a month into the project, we're almost done with the second story and I'm seriously hoping not to be shoveling snow off the thing to finish it LOL To be fair we had our annual vacation during this same time and lost a bit over 2 weeks work. And it's not a job you can do in the rain although sometimes you have to. Twice we've been soaked down by showers while we worked to cover open roof. When we started we suffered under broiling sun while this past week I was shivering in ear muffs and hoodie. I'm guessing we're saving roughly $5000 per story doing the job ourselves, perhaps a bit more since there's been several areas needing new wood and repair. Surprisingly I'm holding up to the work pretty well although I wish I'd bought stock in Bayer aspirin before we started the project LOL I've had a few blisters, some pretty constant although the fabric self-sticking tape works pretty well to prevent such things. If you've got lots of shoveling coming up wrap the lower half of both thumbs with it. Back strain is pretty a daily companion and my wrist complains just a bit but there's also been the benefit of loosing a few pounds and getting rid of some excess jiggle - just in time for vacation too! Tom hasn't fared quite so well though and the heavy work on top of his physical job caused a flare up of tendonitis in his shoulder that required shots. Recently he's been bothered by a fairly serious as yet undiagnosed wrist problem which has really hampered him. Friday we worked most of the day putting down insulation and gluing the new rubber roof on a large section and much of the work was easier for me to do that to strain his wrist. I learned how to place the insulation board, space out the fasteners and even spread the glue although pulling the rubber into position is too heavy for me to manage. It was a long day but I think I made a pretty respectable roofer's assistant LOL

After all this though can ya believe the hard part is still to come? The first of many roof vents have been removed but there's still two chimney stacks to deal with plus the 'end' of the roof. We can't stack materials on the new rubber so finishing things off will require the insulation boards and any tools to be hauled up the ladder from the lower roof. With the vent and chimney stacks being removed it's also time to work on replacing the apartment heating systems. We plan to separate the heat sources so each apartment has it's own furnace and this will require new vents to be cut through and new furnaces to be installed during the roofing project. Nothing like adding a second budget busting project LOL

If you're interested in numbers the second story roof is approximately 50 foot by 50 foot, give or take. One section of the back extends out about 10 foot further for a bit over half the width of the roof so it's hard to guesstimate exactly. Materials for the second story have cost us between 3 and 4 thousand dollars and we'll need just a bit more to finish out the area that extends. That section also needs to be built up and leveled out to match the rest of the roof so we'll be buying lumber for that as needed. Usually I'm able to remove one section 50 foot long by about 7 foot wide at a time before the truck is full and a dump run is needed. That's anywhere between half and a full ton of stuff pried up, carried to the edge and dumped! The first story roof is about 2/3 the size of the upper story and has the same basic shape with one section lower and extending further out which will also need leveled out. I'd estimate the cost for materials on that to be about the same as while we'll need less rubber roofing we'll need flashing that we didn't need on the upper story. Estimates from local builders came in at $6000 for just laying new material, tear off and repair wasn't included, so you can see that while the job is difficult it's definitely worth it financially.

And, as I said earlier, the past month hasn't been all work and no play. We made our yearly pilgrimage to the Easy Rider Rodeo Finals down in Chillicothe for eight days of motorcycle events and parties. While there we caught up with long time 'Chilli' buddies, met a few new ones and generally spent the time eating, relaxing and thinking of anything but the roofing back at home LOL Those hot and sunny days at the rodeo seem a long way off now but overall I have to rate it as a great summer both at the Cauldron and away from it.

I've been asked a few times recently if I would take on the roofing project again or what I'd say to someone facing a similar task. Yeah, I think overall the roof has been a good experience although I could wish we'd begun earlier and not been so pushed for time. Tom and I have worked well together and learned to rely on each other just a bit more in the process and the learning and physical benefits have been many. To recommend it to someone else though, that I'm not too sure about LOL Any project of this size, especially one involving hard, physical labor tends to wear you down and it takes a lot of determination to stick with it. Starting and then deciding mid-stream to quit and hire it out could prove fatal budget-wise or drive a project/partnership past the proverbial last straw. For most people I wouldn't think the attempt would be worth those risks but then again, if you're into challenges or just plain crazy, as Tom and I have been called on more than one occasion, it just might be for you LOL

Hopefully our next post will contain pictures of a completed project and I'll be able to share our celebration of not having buckets catching water all over the place. It'll seem strange without the sound of dripping heard everywhere LOL Until then, if you're in the area be sure to look up and you'll likely see one if not both of us working roof-top = )

Friday, August 12, 2011

To Bee or Not To Bee

We have new tennants! Tom discovered them last night while mowing the backyard. We're not sure where they came from but he swears they weren't there last week when he mowed and I didn't see them earlier this week when I was at the back gate. Given the size of the hive they've been busy little bees LOL Tom's brother and sister-in-law, Jeff and Vicki, raise bees so next time they're in town hopefully they can tell us a bit about what's going on. We're also checking in the neighborhood as we do have at least one bee keeper nearby and it's possible they've had a hive run away. At this point all we really know is they're gentle and good natured and aren't even disturbed by the noise of the lawn mower. Still, we'll be leaving them alone and keeping our distance LOL There's two more shots over in the 'photo' section including a close up showing the amazing number of bees gathered on the comb. Provided they don't belong to someone else and Jeff can instruct us it might be nice to have a bit of honey from our own property provided it leaves them plenty for the winter. We'll keep you updated as to what happens with our new friends = )


Sunday, 8/14/2011

Tom's brother Jeff arrived last night to check out the hive. He confirmed they were honey bees and said it was likely they'd come from a hive that had grown too big and split off. Best estimate was around 2000 bees in the hive. We missed the collection but Jeff smoked them a bit and then carefully trimmed the hive away and placed it in a bee box then left the box under the lilac until late evening. From his report the bees were happy to be moved as they were surprisingly docile and he wasn't stung even once. Boxing the hive and then letting it set gives the bees a chance to return to their new 'home' and settle in before being moved to a new, safer location. I'd have loved to have kept the hive but future tennants and the insurance company likely wouldn't have been to happy about it. They'll be safe and secure over the winter with Jeff and Vicki's other hives = )

I can't wait to see what other surprises - of the good kind! - the Cauldron may have in store for us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Updates All Around

Is summer flying by for anyone else? Is that just too universal of a question to even ask? LOL Things at the Cauldron have been moving along making for a hot and sweaty summer. At the same time we've also remembered to take time to enjoy the season and get out a bit. We started out the 'season' with the annual Christmas in July party hosted by friends Harry and Rory Galligher. Like the bike runs it's a bit different each year and this party was laid back and family style with plenty of great food contributed by all the party goers. New this year was a great band which I should likely mention here but I never did hear their name.

With Tom a bit burnt out replacing windows he turned his attention to replacing the front entry door while I continued the never-ending task of stripping and refinishing woodwork. There's pictures of each step of the way including an awesome job I did restoring a door frame and if I ever get a free moment I might even get them uploaded LOL We'll try for sometime in the next week but no promises there. We're both a bit tired of the constant tearing up and nothing put back together so I decided to spend some time in the east apartment living room closet. I think it was mostly to check out the color scheme but here this week, once Tom gets the molding installed, we'll actually have one 'space' complete. I find it hysterically funny that after almost 8 months of hard work the first part done will be a tiny closet ROFL We're only an army of two though and making good progress considering.

Our next 'vacation' was a trip to Wetzeland an annual biker swap meet held just outside Van Wert. It's a long weekend camping in a dusty field surrounded by parties, loud music, motorcycles and drunks. Surprisingly it's also really relaxing and we were able to spend time together lounging around camp as well as doing a bit of swimming. This years highlight was the performance by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Definitely an awesome moment listening to the crowd sing along to Freebird as the sun set over the pond.

It's good that our trip was relaxing as it will likely be the last bit of rest for the next several weeks. Due to an early summer hail storm there is not a roofing company to be found in the area and those willing to even schedule an estimate can charge way more than we're comfortable paying. So . . . guess who gets to learn the finer points of tearing off a roof and putting on a rubber roof? Yep, it ain't Tom, he already knows how LOL So far I have about 45 minutes to my credit, just enough to realize it's not going to be a lot of fun. I learned how to use the shovel to pry up the half inch layer of old roofing and spent some time hammering nails back down. For those of you who've never seen their naked roof believe me, it's not a pretty sight. I can understand now why the water just pours in downstairs LOL

Ya'll all know Murphy's Law too, don't ya? In this case it goes something like this. Day one of roofing Tom's up there by about 7:30am tearing off a four foot by 50 foot swath of roof and knocking down the old chimney. I got spared since we weren't supposed to be roofing and I had only flip flops and shorts. It was well after noon before I got him to quit and only then as he started to have cramps. He headed off to the local home improvement store to cool off and I headed home with plans to meet back up at the Cauldron later to cover the open roof. Have you figured out yet where this is going? LOL I'm home relaxing aka half asleep and suddenly I hear a huge growl of thunder and realize the western sky is dark and stormy and THE ROOF IS UNCOVERED! Have you ever seen a woman in an absolute panic? LOL I was slamming windows shut at home while I ran for keys and shoes and then raced to the building. I arrived just as the first drops began to fall and grabbed the only covering available, thin plastic painting covers. Armed with the covers and some pieces of wood I actually did a fairly decent job of getting the majority of the open space covered. It wasn't a lot of fun getting soaked or watching the lightening all around me or fighting the wind tugging at the plastic but it was kind of cool getting the job done. Luckily though Tom arrived just about then, muscled the roll of rubber sheeting into position and slickly rolled it right over the open area. Just as it stopped raining ROFLBO It couldn't have been more perfect or true to our style if planned LOL Soaked and grubby we loaded the rest of the soggy removed roofing into the pick up and called it quits for the night. AND, after a quick stop for dry clothes we headed immediately for the local steak house and hot food.

It's been an interesting and productive six weeks or so over all and I wish I could share more of the experience here. Unfortunately the combination of physical labor and summer temperatures leaves my good intentions snoozing on the couch LOL

We did have one low spot in this past few weeks - more like two separate ones. A nearby property that has sat vacant for some time was recently bought by the city. Since last year a vagrant has been living in a shed there unknown to most of the neighborhood. He was quiet and there were no problems with theft, trash, alcohol, drugs or anything. In it's wisdom the city decide to let the weeds grow and the landscaping die however decided to remove this harmless man. The sent a crew down to demolish his shed and haul his personal posessions to the dump. Yep, this is legal. He's technically a squatter on private property and his personal effects by law are considered to be abandon. Not right but it's the law. It also offended me and while I knew it wouldn't change anything I wanted the city administration to know my opinion. I made a circuit of four locations, each pointing the finger at the other, until I ended up back where I started. There my opinion was not listened to respectfully as should be due a resident who was being civil and polite. I was yelled at, treated as an idiot and ridiculed in front of other office personnel and visitors. Finding out the city cares more for it's rights than the rights of others and also that residents also can't have their opinions heard wasn't the best experience of the week. Anyone want to take a guess as to my vote on the next request for a tax increase? ROFL

Have a great August all!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Long Time no Blog

Gosh, talk about being behind! I swear if there were two of me I'd still be weeks overdue getting things done LOL Seem like a good general update is in order. During the last blog I told you about the in's and out's of the stripping operation. Having finished that chore - finally - I was looking forward to getting out of the bathroom and doing a 'fun' job. I started out working on paint choices for the downstairs room and entrance mostly to stay out of Tom's way upstairs. He started working on the new counters and cabinets in the east apartment bath and kitchen and also replacing some windows. Ugh! Talk about sticker shock with the window bill LOL We've got about 4 times the amount of windows in a standard house so take your cost for new windows and multiply times four! And that's just for the second story! In the updated pictures there's a photo of Tom installing the windows and you can see how he easily fits standing inside one of those windows. We're talking the size of doors here!

My work with the paint choices was a bit frustrating but nothing compared to Tom's tasks. The first window revealed tons of rot and a serious insect infestation. Other windows were better but most of them were all in need of replacement, both the inner and outer trim and the interior window framing. In the case of the first window we'll have to also re-sheet and coat the enterior due to rot. Average time for installing each window was a day; Tom's days start when he gets off work at 3:30 and run until 9pm or so. That's only for the window btw, not the making or installing the interior trim. He got half of the windows upstairs replaced, about one per room, before being burnt out and in need of R&R.

The paint was a snap by comparison LOL Tom had suggested tropical colors of some sort while I needed to keep the same color through the entry, stairway and landings and break room, all of which are different for the amount of light. I think I tried a dozen or so color chips before settling on four different test shades of blue. Thank goodness the home improvement stores now sell those little samples LOL Using the tropical idea I selected an historical shade that is a close match to a light Carribean blue. It's a bit too intense for me in the entry although everyone else likes it. I can't say as I got too much done in the actual way of painting though. About the time I started Tom decided to work on the apartment entry door so after one coat I've got that project on hold. There's sure to be repair needed on the walls after the new door is installed and there's no sense making it all nice, ripping it up and then doing it again.

Much of the work needed for the kitchen cabinets also got done. While Tom salvaged as much as possible from the old cabinets he still needed to make new fronts and all new drawers. Once things are all finished I'll have to get some close up shots of the window molding Tom's made as well as the floor molding and cabinetry. The man definitely knows his way around the woodworking tools! With the amazing job he's done on the walls and trim I hated even more the idea of only stripping the floor molding downstairs. It just didn't seem to do the building or quality of his work justice so . . . I'm back to stripping LOL Not quite such a bad job this time, lots easier to strip varnish off woodwork that layers of paint off walls. On the other hand I've discovered more of what we term the 'green paint from hell'. This is the first coat of paint at the bottom of much of the woodwork and it defies removal. It takes at least 6 coats of stripper with each sitting 30 to 45 minutes to begin to get it off. We talked to our friend Walt, a local antiques dealer and restorer and he said it was milk paint. Then he laughed evily LOL The stuff wears like iron! So far I have the floor molding and one entire doorway stripped down in the entry and stairway, the hardware stripped and ready to enamel and the transom window rebuilt. We'll be leaving the built in cupboard finish alone since it's in great shape. Matching the colors was another learning experience LOL

We have the original wood removed of finish, replacement wood we estimate was installed 50 or so years ago also removed of finish and two different varieties of new pine that Tom is using. The color we're matching is a red oak/red mahogany mix. Using that color stain on the original wood results in a perfect match while on the replacement wood and new wood the color comes out dark walnut. Two days and about 20 stain tests later - six different colors of stain! - I determined it will all match provided I stain all but the original wood bright red and then recoat with the red oak/red mahogany mix followed by a second coat of the bright red. That will all be followed by several coats of a brush on laquer. Given the labor involved I'm doing the public areas first and then later, once the apartments are up and running, I'll strip and refinish the wood in the break room and offices.

Outside things are really looking nice. The update pictures have some shots of the new herb garden I planted. Also you'll find a picture of my new nemisis poison ivy. Back in the day I was terribly sensitive to it but over the years I either was lucky enough to avoid it or never got a serious rash. Not so this year! The old garden was polluted with it and even being cautious I got an awful case. Tom's taken on the job of getting rid of it all and has been making progress although the stuff is terribly difficult to kill. We also discovered it has actually infested the yard itself so for the past week or so I've been banned from working outside. We'll keep up with the spraying but given the severity of the rash I got this year I may lobby to have the yard professionally sprayed.

Away from the Cauldron we've managed to carve a bit of time off and find time for fun and relaxing. The motor home is finally ready to roll and we're hoping for a shake down trip next weekend. Bike nights are in full swing and we've been able to catch up with some of our party buddies. This past weekend was Harry and Rory's benefit for Cancer Patient Services - a great time for a good cause. If you missed it be sure to put it on your schedule for next year; great people, some of the best bands in the area, tricycle races and grilled burgers and weenies. Biggest summer news so far is we have our Gold Rush passes for the Chillicothe rodeo and we're by-passing Wetzeland this year. It's a bummer missing Wetzel, we had planned on this being our last trip and having a blow out time, but they've doubled the camping rates for vehicles to try and weed out the non-biking crowd. It's an admirable thought but doesn't do too much for us old bikers who can't pack it all in on the back of a motorcycle and sleep on the ground. With Wetzel out we're hoping to head down to Eldora for the Kings Royal race and just as good a time.

Be sure to check out the pictures after you've read the catch up. I finally have all shots online and even organized. Amazing! LOL The most current progress shots are in the main folder viewable directly upon clicking. Pictures showing the complete progress may now be accessed by clicking the 'more folder's' option where you'll find them separated by area. Some even have captions to explain a bit more about the project.

Litha blessings and a happy summer to all!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Stripper Retires

After countless weeks and two and a half gallons of stripper I can finally report that the walls in the west bathroom are free of their layers of old paint. Saturday afternoon I scrapped off the last of the crud and cheerfully turned my stripping can and knife over to Tom for use on the woodwork. While the walls still need a bit of sanding and have definite character aka damage from years of use they are a beautiful color and grain that will look wonderful once refinished.

For those who ever contemplate such a task my first advice would be 'don't do it'! LOL If however, you're like us and choose to forge ahead here's a bit of what you can expect; the things the home improvement books and sites won't tell you. Stock up on pain relievers, paper towels, newspaper and old clothes. While stripping paint off walls would seem to be fairly straight forward it turns out to be murder on the back especially if you're working at it for several days and you'll be glad of those pain relievers. Many will suggest scrapping the disolved paint sludge into a can but we found it much easier and less messy to continuously clean the sludge off the scraper with a paper towel. Otherwise you tend to end up with a lot of gunk building up on the scraper that spreads back onto the wall. It's also important to keep as much of the stripping chemical and sludge off your gloves as possible and use of paper towels helps with this. Keep in mind that the sludge produced is extremely sticky and if allowed to build up on your gloves or scraper it will tear your gloves rather than come loose or worse, you'll end up with scraper, gloves and paper toweling stuck together in a wad.

Protecting the floors and anything else in the room is an absolute must. The stripping compound doesn't know the difference between old paint and say, your toilet seat, and can effectively melt both. It will eat through your flooring, countertop finish and anything else it falls on if allowed to sit more than a few seconds. And I do mean a few seconds there! I have seen it bleach out vinyl flooring in the short time it takes to cuss and climb down the ladder to clean up a spill LOL The sludge of melted paint and stripper isn't as bad for eating through things but it does stain and removal will damage the material it fell on. I found layers of the Sunday newspaper ads, the ones printed on slick and shiny paper, worked great for catching the inevitable globs of goo that slid down the wall or fell off the scraper. For this project I used approximately two and a half gallons of stripper, one and a half 12-packs of paper towels and almost a full box of rubber gloves. One of the best ideas I had was to pour the stripper solution into a clean, empty metal paint can - you can buy them at most home improvement stores - and I also stored the applicator brush in the can. For this job I used a 2-inch disposable brush and found it great for larger flat areas as well as detail work. Surprisingly enough the brush bristles didn't melt in the can.

Safety-wise you need to know that everything they tell you on the can of stripper is true. Many varieties are pretty nasty. We used Ace brand extra strength stripper after a single coat of lead abating stripper. The lead abating stripper was non-toxic and stabilized the lead but the rotten egg smell was very strong and took weeks to disapate. Because it works by breaking the bond between layers of paint it stopped working when it hit the lower layers which were old-fashioned oil based paint. Our second and third coats of stipper using the Ace brand worked much faster but I was surprised by the effects of the chemical. We all read the safety labels on products we use, or we should, but most of the time they're overkill - these warnings aren't! When they advise to work in small sections they're serious. Doing a section larger than approximately 4 foot by 4 foot will result in some serious reactions within a few hours. You can expect burning, streaming eyes, a sore throat and hoarse cough for a day or so even with good ventilation and safety gear. I found that two days of stripping followed by a day of being away from the fumes worked well. Contact of any kind between the stripper chemical and bare skin results in almost immediate burning and redness. If possible work near a source of running water or have a bucket of water near by. Rinsing the chemical off right away stops the burn immediately; the longer you delay the more chance of skin redness and irritation.

Remember also that the sludge from the melted paint is still paint, just disolved. If you get it on your clothing it is permanent in most all cases. It's possible to reduce the stain by immediately scrubbing the clothing with mineral spirits but the fumes and flamable nature of the mineral spirits makes this not such a good idea in general. Mineral spirits are also very caustic to the skin so if you try this form of removal make sure to remove the item of clothing first. I personally found that one out the hard way LOL For jeans and some types of boots/shoes you can use fine grained sandpaper to remove the dried sludge resulting in a very faint stain that blends in well. The sludge also tends to fall from the walls and ceilings so especially if you're working overhead wear fitted shirts buttoned up and head gear. Julie and I had a hysterical day weeks ago when a glob of sludge fell into my bra resulting in boob, bra, shirt and jacket being stuck together. The stuff gets everywhere so be warned! LOL If you are working in your home you also might want to set aside an old pair of shoes for use in that project only and take care to remove them before entering the rest of the house. We'd intended to replace the floor in the adjoining kitchen which is good since there's a permant track of stripper smudges now on the floor even with precautions.

Other than that, my last word on stipping is good luck, take your time and have patience - the job's worth it but it's a very long haul.