Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The roof/floor saga begins! - Episode 1.5

Here is the extra content that goes along with the first post of my blog-saga*!

It is a video of J demonstrating the installation of our fancy snow & ice tape.

Kind of makes me laugh to watch it now. This is from our ^*~cR-aFt-eRNooN~*^ on Easter of this year.

* My bla-ga?

The roof/floor saga begins! - Episode 1

I have been so busy lately.

My main project over the past month or so has been replacing our floor. There have been other things going on. This feels like my capstone [home-improvement] project, though. Like, I keep telling my Homies* about it, and they just can't believe all this. It's pretty hard core. I'll blog about it, but if you're going to read this, you should probably take a break to go grab some safety glasses, ear protection, and a ventilator mask. You will probably need all that, just to read this post. It's pretty intense.**

SO, here we go.

J has been allergic to our house*** ever since he moved in. It's a mold allergy. Sometimes it's been better and sometimes it's been worse. Before we got married, he sometimes moved into his parents' house for a little while, until he got better. When he's having an allergic reaction, he just can't do much of anything. He feels blah, and just not really great.

Right before he closed on the house (last summer), the bathroom ceiling fell in. There was mold everywhere.

It was a problem with the roof. On the How-the-House-Works DVD, the previous owner talks about getting on the roof to re-tar it.

We had the bathroom ceiling replaced. We had our [not-very-]handyman replace the sheetrock, and I told him to also replace all of the insulation that had mold on it, please. So he did. The "handy"man also patched the tar on the roof for us.

J did well for a while. We patched the tar on the roof a couple more times in September, and during the fall. When the bathroom ceiling kept getting moist, we had a roofer come out to replace the flashing around the chimney. He did a pretty good job, we thought, but we kept having problems.

We called him out, as part of the warranty on it (because he said we wouldn't have any more problems with it getting wet), and he confirmed that it was done correctly, and told us we could pay more to have them look for another problem. They started talking about re-sloping the roof (because it's a pretty flat roof.)

J and I applied more tar.

I realized that the sheets of metal on our part of the roof moved around a lot. So we got silicone caulking stuff and lots of screws, and we fastened the heck out of our metal sheeting that was on our part of the roof. We sealed the seams like crazy! The problems magically stopped.

And then it became winter. And then a few months later, we started having more problems. I forget what happened first, but basically, we wondered if maybe the rest of the ceiling/insulation in the problem area was moldy. We determined that I would demolish part of our ceiling so that we could just see what it looked like (without having to hire someone and pay a few hundred dollars if we didn't need to). So I did that (March 8-9th). It turned out that the part I pulled down was moldy, so I kept removing sheetrock and insulation until the parts I was pulling down were not water-damaged.

We had a guy replace it. (A handier-man.) He sprayed bleach and painted KILZ to take care of the mold. He also put a plastic barrier in some places. He reminded us that he is NOT a roof guy, but he said he thought it would keep the mold from being a problem. He repainted the area so that it matched the rest of our alcove.

A few weeks later, on April 1st**** it snowed again. I happened to go into our alcove to grab some cleaning stuff, and about 4-5 ft from the wall, my socks got all wet. I was walking into a giant carpet-puddle. It was not fixed. In fact, there were pools of water under the paint, and spots where water was dripping from the ceiling. OH, no.

We tore the sheetrock down, pulled the carpet up, and set up a fan to dry things out, but about a week later, J was seriously allergic to the house again. He was mostly living at his parents' house.

I called real roofers. We wanted to know what the cheap, quick-fix would be, and then what the lasting solution needed to be. We had heard before that we may need a cricket (a built-in thing to re-slope part of the roof), but we didn't want to spend $2-3000 to fix the roof.

One guy suggested water and ice tape. We tried this, actually. On Easter, between sessions of General Conference, J and I got up on the roof. I re-tarred it, and J was going to put snow & ice tape along the seams, and along the rain gutter. What a joke! It didn't stick to anything very well. It no-way would have solved the problem. Even a lot of it wouldn't have. J just kept laughing because the whole thing was so ridiculous.

Another guy told me with great confidence that we needed a membrane. I liked him because he called me "ma'am" and took off his boots before he came inside, and he had a nice accent (he was from South Africa). He also seemed like he REALLY knew what was going on. He kept explaining things to me, and giving me metaphors, and showing me things on the roof, and he seemed very genuine.

He showed me that our roof was basically rolled roofing (not sure what that is even usually for, but it's very cheap, very flimsy, not-at-all durable stuff), with sheets of metal attached to it. During the summer and winter, metal contracts and expands. So it was impossible for the metal roof to do much of anything. Basically, a 20 year old rolled-roof was all that was protecting us! NO WONDER J was having problems. The worker told me we needed to pull up all of the old roofing, replace all of the plywood, and put a TPO membrane down. (Because after years of getting wet, there wasn't much chance that our plywood would be good anymore.)

A TPO membrane is what they use for really flat roofs. The stuff was originally formulated to line ponds--water can pool on it and just stay there, and it doesn't go through the membrane. I don't know how they got started using it in roofing, but nowadays, it's very common for commercial and industrial buildings. Most people just don't build houses with flat (or very low pitched) roofs.

Another company verified that we needed a membrane, but they were willing to just do the junction between our back portion of the house and the front portion of the house. That was going to be quite a bit cheaper. We liked them until we Googled them to see reviews--and it looked like they had written their own fake reviews. It seemed really weird and dishonest, so we left them alone. We called the second company to see if they would be willing to do just the junction between the roofs.

They were willing to do that. So we had them do it on April 18-19th. And we felt pretty good about their work.

EXCEPT, even though the plywood wasn't in great shape, and there was obviously a lot of water damage in some places, there really wasn't much mold. So we were kind of confused.

Within a couple months weeks, it rained again, and J became sick again. Summer kind of started, and as J got sicker, I arranged to have another [cheaper, but still good] guy replace the rest of our roof with membrane (on June 22nd). Obviously since J was so allergic, it must have been a collective problem, right?


The rest of the plywood was still in decent shape. We replaced it anyway. None of the insulation had mold on it. Our roof looks nicer, and our makeshift-skylight was transformed into a pair of very pretty, real skylights. But J didn't get better. He only got worse. J kept wanting to sleep outside (which I really, really didn't like), and he did for a week. Then we began sleeping at J's parents' house. J started moving his stuff over there, because he didn't even want to come home to get ready in the mornings.

We wondered...what could J possibly still be allergic to?

It didn't make any sense.

We guessed that it might be the carpet. Although we had new carpet "installed"***** when J first bought the place, we left the carpet that was in the main room, because it didn't look bad. We also left the carpet in one of the bedrooms. But J thought it was more likely a problem with the main room carpet, because he didn't spend a lot of time in our office and when he did, it didn't make him extra sick.

And then I remembered something very important!


* aka. my friends at Home Depot. I mean, the workers.
** I was so tempted to put something like this (for while you were getting your stuff):









*** One way he knows it's the house is because he wakes up feeling like he is having an allergic reaction, and he doesn't do too well at the beginning of work, but then by the afternoon he is feeling much better.
**** Now, remember, J and I were married March 20th. So, I was tearing down sheetrock two weeks before our wedding (the day after my bridal pictures!), and hiring roofers, etc., was just a couple weeks after we got back from our honeymoon. Hey.
***** By the "handy"man. WORST Carpet Installation EVER.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chalcy + Paley = BFF

Chalcy (our new puppy) and Paley (my cat) are best friends.

(Well, Chalcy thinks so, anyway.) (Sometimes Paley thinks so too.)

They're working through their differences.

Paley was initially afraid of Chalcy. She was about the same size as Paley when we brought her home*, but Chalcy looks kind of like our renters' dogs--Chalcy looked more like the lab, but was about the same size as the min-pin, like some terrible combination of Paley's two mortal enemies. Our renters' dogs are MEAN**. And they CHASE her. We kind of expected Pae to be afraid of the puppy.

Pretty soon after we brought Chalcy home, Pae realized that Chalce was not the same as the other dogs. Chalcy would notice Paley and try to go be with her (like the other dogs (!!!)), but as Chalcy would scamper toward Paley, the puppy kept tripping on grass. And then, Chalcy would get near Paley, and the puppy would suddenly lose interest in the cat because she would suddenly notice, OH WOW, A NEAT PIECE OF GRASS! So Chalcy would lay down--right by Paley, but totally disinterested in her--to chew on some grass, or whatever. Chalcy was not exactly quite the same threat Paley was expecting. So Paley started trying to sniff Chalcy, and a little bit tolerated Chalcy sniffing her. Within a few days, Paley started to rub up against Chalcy sometimes.

Chalcy liked Paley, because they were about the same size, and Paley is black like Chalcy (and her missing littermates), and Paley has a tail. Chalcy licks Paley, so Pae knows that the puppy likes her.*** Since Paley is a friend, Chalcy always wants to play with her. Her littermates always wanted to play, so Paley must want to play too, right?

This is how their interactions usually go:
1. Paley rubs up against Chalcy, or comes to sit near her.
2. Chalcy gets excited. Chalcy licks Paley and nestles her head into Paley's side. (Paley is ok with this.)
3. Chalcy begins to suck and chew on Paley's face/side. (Chalcy is little rough with Pae, but Paley is willing to tolerate it, because it's obvious that Chalcy is trying to be friendly, and not trying to be mean.)
4. Chalcy starts to play-bite Paley, which Paley will sometimes put up with.
5. Paley gets tired of playing too rough. She yowls and smacks Chalcy with her paw.
6. Chalcy is excited about the new smack-each-other-with-our-paws game, and starts wagging her tail. Chalcy backs up a couple feet, and does that playful-puppy thing, where her bottom is up in the air, with her tail wagging, and her front is crouched down, ready to pounce on Paley. Chalcy jabs a paw towards Paley a couple times.
7. Paley playfully bats her paw at Chalcy's paw.
8. Chalcy tackles Paley and pins her down to chew on her.
9. OH NO! Paley does NOT want Puppy Fun. (Also, Chalcy is quite a bit heavier than Paley, so being jumped on hurts, or is uncomfortable at least.) Paley yowls and hisses. If Chalcy does not move quickly, Paley will GRAB onto Chalcy's front leg with her claws, and Pae begins biting Chalcy repeatedly, while she growls. (GET OFF, DOG!)
10. This hurts a little bit, but it is Puppy Fun too, so Chalcy enjoys it for a minute, and then it hurts a little, so Chalcy will back off, or Paley will jump out from under Chalcy (to go sit a few feet away).
11. [Repeat.]

As I've been typing this, it sounds a little mean, but everyone is playing, and nobody gets hurt. When Paley is really done playing, she will go climb a tree, or jump up a fence, or hop up onto the car, or go somewhere else Chalcy can't get to.

A lot of times, Paley and Chalcy will play on opposite sides of a fence, batting at each other through the fence. Sometimes they'll run through tall grass. Paley will run through the tall grass, and stop somewhere, and Chalcy will run though the tall grass to "catch" her. Then Paley will run somewhere else a couple feet away and crouch down, and Chalcy will bounce through the grass to find her again, and the game continues. It is a game for both of them--Paley loves all of the attention from Chalcy.

Sometimes they're not too interested in playing, and they'll just lie down near each other, a couple feet away. Usually Paley will come sit kind of near Chalcy and I, and after a couple minutes, Chalcy will take whatever she is already chewing on ("Tug!" or "Stick!") and go lie down near the cat, so that she can keep chewing on her toy, but also be near Paley.

In the past week or so, Chalcy has realized that Paley does not like to be jumped on, so now Chalcy catches her by standing above her, instead of knocking her over. Paley likes this better (of course), so she is willing for longer.**** I think they will be better friends as Chalcy gets older and learns to be a little more gentle. Paley sometimes gets tired of Puppy Games. She does like Chalcy, though.

* Except that Chalcy's mass is all bulk, and Paley's mass is all fur. So. Not exactly quite the same.
** To cats.
*** Chalcy also licks the calves and the goat, so they know she's different than our renters' dogs, too. She likes them, and they are friends.
**** Chalcy still loves to bite Paley's tail (because it is long, and it moves, and it is covered in FUR!), and she loves to bite Paley's ears--this is tricky, though, because Chalcy's mouth is bigger than Paley's ears, so she ends up biting half of Paley's head. This is not Paley's very favorite game.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Farm Update, etc.

It's been a little while since I posted about our little farm.

Our calves are doing well! We fenced the front and back pasture areas well enough that the boys are always out grazing. That's what they do all day, every day. Pretty much. We de-horned* them and castrated them, and after that they had the worst 6 hours of their lives, but they're fine now, and they've forgotten all about it.

The calves are suuuuper cuddly. They are the friendliest guys in the world. They both love to be scratched. When I go out into the backyard, often one (or both!) of the calves will come up to me to be scratched. They stick their necks out, so that I can reach to scratch their chins, and their necks, and I'll scratch behind their ears, and their little bangs, and their foreheads, and they just soak it up. If I'm busy, or stop scratching, they'll rub their neck against me, so that I know what they want.

The calves usually come when I call them. I'll call, "C'mere boys!" and they come running. This is helpful if they have gotten somewhere they're not supposed to be.**

When we brought the calves home, they had ropes around their necks. We left them on, and it helped us tell the calves apart. I think we could probably tell them apart without the ropes, but eh, just to be sure, we've left them on. They are also helpful for directing them to particular places. The calves are getting BIG, though, and the ropes have been getting tight. So about a week ago, I got them collars. IFA was having a sidewalk sale, so I bought cheap collars in basically the same colors as their ropes were. I feel like they need bells, because don't calves wear bells around their necks? J tells me he can't think of any useful reason to put bells on them, and it's true--I can't think of any reason to bell the calves either. Oh well.

I have the funniest video of the calves with Paley. I need to figure out how to post it, I guess. See, [months ago] I used to come home, and sometimes Paley would be all wet. Half of her head would be wet, or she'd have a big wet blotch for a couple inches on her tail... and I started to wonder whether the calves were licking her.

They were!

Paley would go up to the calves, and rub against them, and the calves would lick her! Except, their mouths are so big (and they're so slobbery) that they soak her.

One time J and I were out with the calves and we saw it happen. Too funny! We laughed and laughed. We were like, that's so weird! But then I told J, cats lick each other.*** And J was like, "Oh, yeah! They speak her love language!" and that made me laugh too, because it was like, "of course!"

The calves are great. We like them. The very best thing, I think, is when I go outside and Stew first sees me. He looks up at me, kind of like the dramatic chipmunk YouTube video. I feel like he's thinking: "*GASP!* SHE'S HERE! You're here, finally!" Often he'll start walking out towards me, to say hello.

The chickens are mostly doing well.

We moved them to a different area (because the calves were EATING the chicken coop. Hey!) so they have plenty of space to dig around and eat bugs. When we put them in their area, it was grassy, but now it is just dirt, because they tear up the grass so effectively.

When we had moved them before, one of our chickens went missing. It was Gertie, from the chicks that we actually raised. I mentioned to J that I wondered whether she might have gotten out and ended up across the street with the flock across the street. She did! Our neighbor came over one time, and we were talking about chickens and she asked if we had lost one of our birds a few months ago. Actually, yes!

She said a new bird had shown up at their house, and the bird kind of stayed to herself. Our neighbor had wondered if the bird might be ours, since she thought we had birds too. J went over later and picked her up. Gertie was so skinny! And! Our birds didn't remember her. It was pretty sad. They all pecked at her, and chased her. So she started spending a lot of time on top of our chicken coop. Poor girl! She spent every night on the roof of the chicken coop.

Gradually she has integrated back into our flock. She's fattened up again, too. Now, several of our birds spend some time on the roof of the coop. It's kind of a pain, because they poop all over it, so I hose it off but it often looks dirty.

We started irrigating this year. When we water, snails come out! They slide all over our ag water pipes, and they climb all over our water access places. I pick them up by their shells and toss them to the chickens. What a treat! The girls love snails. They all cluster together and it's like watching a game of football--one bird will grab the snail, and start running, and everyone will follow, and try to get the snail. Awesome.

Yesterday morning when I went out to take care of the birds, I found that our white bird with more black was dead. I think she died of natural causes. She was one of the older ones, and it didn't look like anything interesting had happened.

We also recently picked up our final addition to our farm: a goat! She is a Nubian doeling. Nubians are the best milk goats, so J really wanted that kind. They are also the least pleasant, supposedly. Their bleat is kind of annoying. We named our girl "Feta" and she is about 4 months old, so we plan to start milking her probably next March.

She was very nervous about coming to our house, but she fits in very nicely. She feels like she is part of a herd with the calves. She just follows them around. Feta is very friendly! Especially for a Nubian. The family we bought her from had 4 young children, so the goat definitely got her share of love from them, and I think it made her a very patient goat. She lets people touch her and she is not aggressive at all**** (except with Chalcy! Poor Chalce!), so she's pretty nice.

It's very funny because the kids next door are SUPER interested in our animals. They love to come up along their side of the fence, and watch our calves. They like the goat even better, though. Yesterday I saw them outside bleating at her. It was the funniest thing! The calves are mostly quiet. (They only 'moooo' once in awhile, when they're really hungry and they think we've forgotten them.) The goat bleats fairly often, though. Not all day, or anything, but quite a bit, and a few times a day. So the boys 'bleh, bleh, bleh'-ed at her from the fence, and she would turn around and look at them, and sometimes 'bleh' back to them.

Well, Chalcy is crying because she is Not Allowed to play inside today (because of the work I'm doing), and she does not like to play outside Without Me. I think it's nap time, and time for me to get back to work. I do feel like I have so, so much to blog about, but this is a good start, eh?*****

* (Not for the weak of stomach:) For dehorning, we used a paste to burn the root of the horns. I think it hurt them a lot and they hated it. For castration, we used a band castrator, which is basically a contraption that stretches a really really tight rubber band, and then you stick the whole thing over their parts, and then let the handles close, and roll the rubber band off. I think this actually didn't hurt them much.
** A couple weeks ago, J moved the calves into the back pasture and forgot that he hadn't closed the fencing on the other side of the house. In the morning he was leaving for work and as he drove out of the driveway, he stopped and came running back towards me-- "Em! The calves are out! Come help me bring them back!" So I put Chalcy in her crate, and went to help him bring the calves back. He was trying to tug on the ropes around their necks, and they weren't too interested. They were hanging out in the middle of the road, in front of our house. (And I thought ducks in the road was funny...) So, not a good place for them. "C'mere! Chuck! Stew! C'mere boys!" I got them excited and started jogging in front of them, toward their other pasture. So they started trotting and followed me. Of course.
*** I remember at the Humane Society, when I adopted Paley they told me she was a really sweet kitten and she had gone around grooming all of the other kitties that were in the same cage as her. If cats lick each other, it means they're being sweet.
**** Except with Chalcy. Poor dog!
***** Happy Canada Day!