19 March 2010

This Old House-Update

So you'd probably like to know what, if any, progress is being made on Sycamore Hill. Well, despite the warm weather begging us to get out of the house (kids having a picnic above), last week we finished both the new kitchen and the living room. Here are some before and after pictures (and between) of each. We're really down to just the dining room (the handcrafted replica light fixture from the East Coast came in this past weekend) and back entry for substantial interior renovations....and a lot of small miscellaneous items.

Kitchen Before
Kitchen During
Kitchen After
Living Room Before
Living Room During

Living Room After....red trim, that's unusual you say? We're basing it on some historical precedents...and it is growing on me.

18 March 2010

4 tales of Country Living

We've lived in the country for exactly 46 days. What comes with living in the country? Here are four tales from our first 46 adventurous days (2 tales from this week alone!)

I suppose it's ok to say this now, but we never locked our door while we were in town-only rarely, if we were gone out of town and always at night of course. Since moving to the country, finding that our nearest visible neighbor is a mile away, we've taken up the habit of locking our doors whenever we're gone. But we've been sorta backed into this new habit because there is no way to leave our back door unlocked....it always locks behind us. And since at the beginning of our stay in the country we hadn't transferred house keys to our key chains, we've locked ourselves out and had to break in.

The first time it was the whole family. The second time, when I met a gutter guy outside at the barn, I walked out the door and pulled it shut behind me....then instantly said to Mr. Gutter Man-I just locked myself out. As if an epiphany of stupidity swept over me. We're correcting the issue with a heightened sense of keys and leaving the door open with only the screen door shut while out roaming the property.

The second tale has to do with creatures. Lots of them. When we first came to look at the house we noticed a massive amount of dead ladybugs on the floors....but then the house had been vacant for over 3 years. I would expect that. Then when we got the house temperature up after moving in, the ladybugs (more precisely those darned asian beetles) began to come out of the woodwork-literally. And recently it has been particularly bad as spring has sprung. Here's the thing: we tell people we have a ladybug problem and they in turn say, "oh I know, we have them too". And I always come back and say "no, seriously, we have a ladybug problem...we use a shop vac". So I am posting a picture of our typical ladybug infested window. I'm hoping someday they go away.

The third tale could have just as easily happened in town, but the excitement of an all volunteer fire department (2 townships actually) showing up late on a Sunday night to drag your dryer out the door seems particularly fitting for country living. This past Sunday evening, just before the kids' bedtime, my wife asked if I would come smell the BRAND NEW dryer (used only 3 weeks) because it "smelled hot". Well I guess so....when I went to inspect you could feel a tremendous amount of heat pouring out of it and it sounded as though the gas was still burning inside even with it off. So I began to pull the towels out that were drying and found one that was singed along with a large burn mark in the steel drum of the dryer. Uh, I think we have a fire.

So the kids and dog bolted out of the house, my wife followed with shoes and sweatshirts in tow, and I grabbed the phone and called 911 fearing that the shut-off mechanism in the dryer malfunctioned and was allowing fire to get back into the supply line (it didn't help that my wife said she saw a glow from the crawlspace below the dryer). I had sox and pajama bottoms on as I went outside with the phone. We all, including the wiener dog, crawled into the car which my wife backed away from the house and waited for the fire department to show....fully expecting to see the house erupt into flames. So, when they got there, I was giving information and feeling a little stupid that there probably wasn't a serious issue. At least not serious enough to require 14 emergency response vehicles lining our long drive and the county road back to the bridge. And it's a little humbling to be standing in sox with a draft making its way through your fly and trying to sound all manly-like. All three safety features failed in our new dryer-the melty thing hanging down in the photo is the rubber fin in the tumbler that got so hot that it-well-melted.

The fourth and final tale is another creature story. At 5:40 I woke up this morning to get in the shower to meet my buddies for coffee. My leg ached. What's up with that-like I got a major bruise. But I didn't see a bruise....instead I saw a tick. Crap! Now, as a kid I grew up playing in the woods and pasture and never got a tick. Ever. I live in town for 14 years, move out to the country and have one after just a month. So I made my wife get out of bed to help remove the sucker-the location of entry being somewhat difficult to have full access to. I said get a match and she just wanted to pull-after the first pull and it went deeper I repeated "GETAMATCH!" Then I said, oh no, let me do the match thing. It backed out and she pulled the rest out with the tweezers. "Where's the iodine? oh, that's right we don't believe in it." Peroxide. Well, my leg still aches like crazy and I'm waiting for word from my doc on what I may have contracted.

Country living.

14 March 2010

7 miles to school-up hill both ways

A few weeks ago my son asked me at the dinner table if I would be able to come in and talk to his 3rd grade class. I said, "does your teacher know about this?" And he just sorta shrugged. A week later he said his teacher wanted to know when I would be in. I guess he knew what he was talking about. So I gave him a date to let his teacher know when I would be able to come in and talk about being an architect.

Then I found out the day before that I would have an hour to fill! Oh...uh, ok. And that a doctor friend of mine went in with props the day before. I don't have props-everything is computerized these days. So, I dug out my architectural sketch book from 6th grade (yes, 6th grade!) and a bunch of my college drafting tools, a set of blueprints and cool looking drawings from college and headed in to talk to...now...the entire 3rd grade. I asked what the kids thought were tools I would use and one young man said "imagination". I was impressed as heck. At the halfway point I unrolled a giant sheet of paper and pinned it to the wall and explained that they were all going to be architects now. We designed a restaurant and named it after their elementary school. They've been sending home thank you letters with some of their own designs on the back-they are so cool.

I asked if they had any questions. They asked how many buildings had I designed and what were some of them. So I started listing off some that they would know. Then they asked if I had designed their new school. I said no, but since we had been talking about community involvement, I said I did provide one very important element to the site design.

The school sits on a fairly rural looking, rolling hills kind of site...just off a county road that is lined with massive old maple trees planted by a farmer in about 1880. This is probably one of the most picturesque roads in the whole county because the giant trees stretch out for about a half mile. The school corporation's engineer decided that the access street to the new school and platted subdivision needed to have extensive decel lanes on either side of the county road for buses. I was the councilman of that district at that time, as well as on the plan commission and urban forestry committee; the building commissioner called me and said that all of the trees on the side of the road the school was going to be built were marked for removal. Then other calls began to come in from residents in the area. We managed to get the work stopped long enough for some common sense to settle in....and at what could have been a violent meeting in the jobsite trailer.....I suggested that instead of wanton destruction, a three-way stop be installed by the city eliminating the need for decel lanes and regrading. Both the county and city leaders were pleased. All I got from the school corporation was this: "it better not add any days to our already tight schedule!"

"Uh, I just saved you upwards of $70k for an idea that your high-paid engineers evidently couldn't come up with" is what I wanted to say. Still waiting for the thank you.

The kids and the teachers applauded when I said I had saved the trees that we were overlooking from the classroom we were assembled in. I relayed this story to a friend who told me that he didn't think the superintendent liked me....thought of me as an idealist. Which kinda honked me off to be honest. In their massive expansion program heated in debate, I was the only elected official in the city or county to come out publicly and support the project.....rack it up to idealism.

I have to be honest. I've been a bit on edge lately with guys my senior (and I'm 40+!)denouncing me for being an idealist. Or for ignoring some pretty common sense approaches to solve problems....which seems the opposite of being idealistic. As I told the 3rd graders, our future leaders, gathered there that they should get involved in their community because it's the only way to make it a better place to live........I felt like I was straight-up lying to them. Maybe I should have given them a few qualifiers.....like leave your ideas at the door. Imagination? Young man, you won't be needing that any longer....it will only get you excommunicated.

Maybe it's just Indiana-or maybe just Republicania County-but it's pretty clear to me that if you have the wrong people in place who are more concerned about control than leadership....you'll stagnate and drive your young minds away to where they can be free to imagine and contribute to communities who welcome them. The Indiana brain drain doesn't have to exist but I think the good ol' boys are very comfortable with that giant sucking sound.

03 March 2010

riddle me this...

What do Mitch Daniels, Owl Pellets, Evan Bayh, Molded Concrete Block, the Indiana Dunes, a giant elephant, the H2 and the sun all have in common?

Topics I promise to get to soon. HH may be on a brief hiatus, but I'm certain I'll be back to blogging soon. I have the small matter of a house to get renovated. But today was certainly a bright spot on the calender....I've settled into my office thanks to a buddy who ran my internet line last night.

Now just for the door casings, baseboards, boxes of books, floor refinishing, slurry coats, painting, ........ you get the picture.