The Crane

April 15, 2014 by Kara

Monday morning, a giant, giant truck pulled into my driveway to deliver roof trusses. It was awesome.


(note neighbor’s van parked on my lawn– contractor had to borrow their keys and move it out of the way!)


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Week Nine

April 14, 2014 by Kara


Things have been busy.  My work responsibilities have ramped up, we had a major two-day event last week, with another big event coming next week, and then non-stop craziness for the next month or two.  After the big event and the adrenaline started to leave my system, I crashed.  I was sort of judging myself for laziness on Saturday (which I spent basically glued to the couch), and then I figured I actually have a fair excuse for being tired– there is the work crazy, plus the house construction!  And while construction hasn’t been as disruptive as it could be, because I had to clear everything out of my garage and back room, things are cramped up in here, and I am starting to grow weary of weaving my way through furniture to get to the kitchen sink.  It feels a little bit hoarders in here (SO MANY CHAIRS IN THE LIVING ROOM), but it is only short term, and when I can move back into the back room and garage, OMG, the happiness.

So, construction report!

The overall recap– the old garage (which was right behind the house, blocking all view of yard) was torn down, and the new garage is being built in the driveway.  On top, a little one bedroom apartment!  It looks giant from the backyard, but tiny from the front of the house.  The best part is, I am actually gaining a ton of backyard space– the old garage was basically in the middle of the backyard, but the new garage is only in the space that was driveway.  There will be some stairs going up to the second floor, and that’s the only yard space that will be lost.

Construction myths:

I really thought that I’d feel pressured from having strangers in and out of my house to keep things really tidy.  Nope.  I have been keeping my kitchen in the messiest state ever (see: work is busy), and I just don’t even care.  I have a feeling the construction guys don’t care either, but I still feel slight shame over it.

I also expected the work to be more intrusive to my living space, but I basically just gave up a back room, and called it good.  Admittedly, very little work is being done to the existing house (in phase one, anyway!!), but it is nice that it isn’t very disruptive aside from the furniture hoarding situation.

Building progress:

This week we got interior walls, and they are starting to close up the outside walls.  I also have a roof again instead of just tarps!  Hurrah!


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Weeks 7 & 8

April 6, 2014 by Kara


Photos straight out of the camera and in the order they happened, beginning with new fish for my stock tank “pond.”  All of which, obviously, are named Norman thanks to Westerman, who is too lazy to update his blog anymore.

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I think my amazing door is this one.  There are little slidey things on the side of each pane that raise, lower, and tilt the blinds between the glass panels.  I love it so.


Peony before the rain came.

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Earlier this week, there was a boatload of rain.  We’re not allowed to complain about the rain because of the drought situation, but I will just point out that the tarps didn’t necessarily keep all of the rain out of the house.  Did I mention that there is no roof in that corner?  Yeah, no roof.

The first part of week eight poured rain, and there were some shenanigans with the permit to deal with, so things moved relatively slowly.  But on Friday, I came home to the first wall up on the second floor, and Saturday I came home to four walls!!  The new construction is making my house look very tiny!

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The second floor is required to be set back ten feet from the property line, which is kind of a bummer, but will make it a very cozy little space.  Unfortunately, the setback area can’t be used for a deck, either (deck counts as living space.) A deck along there would have been lovely.  Instead, it will just be roof.

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The peonies peaked during the rain!  They are a bit bedraggled now, but this little plant just gets more amazing every year.  My secret?  Neglect.  There are something like fourteen blooms on that sucker.


And this peony came back from the dead and bloomed for the first time!


Stock tank pond with new goldfish and a few new plants.


The mini-lilacs also reached their peak bloom some time last week (during the rain).  Man, I love these plants!  The big lilacs still haven’t bloomed, but one does have a few, tiny buds.


The chickens are happy about the beautiful weather.  They are also happy about peeking in the windows and sneaking into the neighbor’s driveway every now and then.


My back room is filled with air compressors, nail guns, and boxes of nails.  Construction is very glamorous.

In other news, weather has been so strange.  All of the rain finally brought some snow to Tahoe, and rumor has it conditions are great up there.  I’m hoping it will last at least another week so I can take one last trip up this year (and hopefully not end the day avoiding mud on the slopes like the last few times…).  It is predicted to be 85 degrees on Tuesday, and I will have a good laugh about the glory of California if I am sweltering in the 85 degree weather on Tuesday, and snowboarding this weekend!


Construction Week Six

March 23, 2014 by Kara


Monday of week six, I came home to a mountain of dirt and a tractor in my backyard.

I love construction.


Unrelated, the next door neighbor must have tossed this can into my yard, because Casey came running in with this treasure, hid in Rusty’s crate, and did NOT want to let it go.


Getting ready for the garage floor.


Another day, I came home to the window in this room (my office/craft room/guest room) having vanished, with a re-framed, sheetrocked new wall!

There was some wall missing on the other side….


And the next day I had this……..



The greatest, most beautiful door in the history of doors.  It has blinds inside the glass that you can open and close.  I almost cried when I came home to discover this!


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Oh, and we’re up to four walls in the garage!

There will be a garage door in the back of the garage as well, so that there will be better yard access.


Construction Week Five

March 22, 2014 by Kara

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I was too lazy to post last week, but for my own record-keeping, still want to keep track of things week by week.  Last weekend marked the end of week five, and one day I came home and THERE WAS A WALL!

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Then there were two walls!

Then on Sunday, I was letting the chickens wander around the yard, and eventually I found them sneaking out to the street.

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I was worried that I’d need to keep the chickens cooped up (pun intended) for the duration of construction due to the utter lack of fence, but I am able to let them out when I can semi-monitor them and they seem to be keeping to the yard.

Somewhere around the end of this week (or the start of week six, I don’t remember), some drama with the engineer popped up.  That drama is sill being sorted out, but it caused a slight delay.  Hopefully, everything will be fixed up (drama-wise) by next week.

Construction Week Four

March 9, 2014 by Kara

Right?  Is it week four?  I believe this is the end of week four.  I should take better notes.


A few pics of the recently departed Liesel were in this last download.  This is about a week before her untimely end.  I guess she wasn’t as little as I thought, she seems quite fluffy here exploring the construction rubble!  (No, she didn’t eat any nails.  I watched them carefully.)


After the dramatic glory that was the destruction of the old garage, the next few weeks were rather anticlimactic.  The guys built the frames for the foundation, spent a LOT of days setting in all of the rebar that goes inside.  Item of note– I was aware that they put rebar inside concrete, but never thought about how they’d set it up so that it stayed in the middle of whatever they were pouring!  Lesson learned– it is all wired and tied in place before the foundation is poured, and that process was pretty detailed and took a lot of days.


The precision of all of it!  Precision makes me feel so tired.

After everything was set up, the concrete was poured!


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And then it promptly rained for a solid week and a half.

At the end of last week, they popped off the forms, and added wood to the top of the foundation, so here is where we are now:

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There will be a second garage door here in the back for yard access.


The guys also dug up a few more bottles– this one is JR Watkins.

Next week is scheduled to be all sunny, all the time, so I’m excited to see what they do.

In conclusion, here is the last photo taken of Liesel, two days before she died:


To Liesel!



Ode to Liesel

March 8, 2014 by Kara


Liesel, my favorite chicken, died last week.


Wednesday morning, right before I left for work, I ran out to top off the chickens’ water, and saw some tail feathers laying sideways inside the coop.

Shit.  I thought.  Shit shit shit shit shit.

I braved myself up for what I was about to see, opened the back of the coop, and sure enough, there was Liesel in the nest area, but dead.  I am kidding not even a little bit when I tell you that my first thought was: “WHY COULDN’T IT HAVE BEEN GRETA!?!?”

I ran back into the house, tracking mud everywhere, grabbed my phone and made two frantic phone calls while peering, terrified, out the window at the coop.  The first was to a coworker to report that I’d be late due to a chicken tragedy, and the second was to a friend who I knew had experience with dealing with dead chickens, as he was the former owner of The Baroness, who came to live with me after all of her sister-chickens had been killed by a raccoon.

I asked him what to do and he said: “Well, do you feel like digging a hole? It would need to be really deep.”

I looked into my yard, a veritable construction danger zone and mud pit, looked down at the wrap dress I was wearing, and simply could not figure out how to go about digging a chicken grave at 7 AM in my work clothes.  Then I had a flash of genius.  The contractors!!  They have equipment!  They could dig me a chicken grave!

My friend talked me through the logistics of this, which first required getting Liesel out of the coop and putting her in a box somewhere safe and out of the way, like inside my house, until the hole could be dug and she could be buried.  I would also, obviously, need to call the contractor and explain that I needed him to take a break from whatever technical building thing he was working on and dig me a grave in my backyard.

I thought about that conversation for a minute, realized how insane I would sound, and went with plan B…… an undignified burial in the garbage can.

I put my hair in a bun, pulled on my rainboots, gathered several plastic bags and a pair of gloves and tromped out to recover Liesel.

Moving her was stupidly difficult for me.  I stood over her for ages, completely frozen.  I could get myself to gently touch her wing, but anything other than that was out of the question.  Eventually, I got it done.  But it sucked.

Liesel had always been a little bit off, which made her all the more charming.  In looking at photos of her to post, I can see that she was a bit smaller now than she had been, but other than that there had been no signs of poor health.  She was still shiny and fluffy and active, hanging out in the yard last Sunday with the other chickens doing chicken things.  Whatever happened, it happened quickly, and that is a relief to some degree.

Ah, Liesel.  You were the best one.




The Pre-Process

February 19, 2014 by Kara

The artist formerly known as The Garage.

I just wrote a billion words about all of the nitty-gritty details about making this happen so that I don’t forget, but it felt like a lot to make public, so here’s the timeline of why getting this off the ground took so danged long!

June 2010- buy house and dream of moving the garage

July-2012- start to plan actual garage construction, but get distracted by other real estate opportunity

November 2012- original slumlord real estate dream collapses, start looking for a contractor for the garage

December 2012- meet with designer, contractor, and architect: garage plus living space on top!!!!

January 2013- plans drawn!  start working on refinancing mortgage

March 2013- get distracted again by real estate

April 2013- game on again!  jump through endless hurdles from bank, modify garage plans

July 2013- submit plans to building department.  wait ten thousand years.

November 2013- lots of bad news from the city.  modify building plans. bank is getting anxious

December 2013- PERMITS APPROVED!

January 2014- bad news from surveyors.  sign new mortgage.  cross fingers for good news from surveyors

February 2014- good news from surveyors!  pick up building permits, scream for joy!!!


Week One

February 17, 2014 by Kara
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How About that View?!

A few highlights from week one of construction:

* It took about two days to completely demolish my garage and jackhammer all of the concrete under the garage, behind the garage, and in the driveway.

* Anything that was able to be reused was saved for later use or donated to Habitat for Humanity (who got my practically brand-new garage door, openers, and even the instruction book).

* ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND pounds of concrete was hauled out of my yard.  It took 9 trips at 11,000 pounds each.  FOR REALS.

* My contractor told me this morning that he was surprised the garage had still been standing.  One of the support boards on the top of the wall had been so cut into, that there was less than a half-inch of thickness holding that wall up.  It should have been at least three inches.  Frankly, none of this was surprising.  I was more surprised that they hadn’t just pushed really hard on one garage wall to knock the whole thing down….

* He also told me that it was a miracle there hadn’t been an electrical fire- (please forgive my utter lack of electrical vocabulary)– the wire/breaker/whatever running to the garage was for 100 watts/volts/some electrical unit, but the wires used were for TEN of the same unit.  Because there was low demand for electricity out there, nothing had exploded.   However, if there had been several electrical things running at once, the wires would have immediately overheated, melted, touched the nearby wood, and burned shantytown to the ground.

* My old, broken dog house, turned on its side, has become the blueprint table.

* This arrived in my driveway today…

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… and, as seen above, is resting right outside my living room window.

* Because the driveway is gone, my garbage cans are now on my front lawn.  That plus the chemical toilet in the driveway are really locking down my status as “Classiest House in the Neighborhood.”

* While digging the trench for the foundation, one of the guys unearthed a bunch of old, old, OLD glass bottles, and saved them all in a bucket for me.  After hosing them off, I pulled two that had markings:



The one on top says: “Hinds Honey and Almond Cream”, and the bottom one says: “Hires Household Extract for Making Root Beer at Home.”  Preliminary googling notes that they could be from around 1900 (!!!), and probably from the 1920′s at the latest.  Isn’t that nuts??  Apparently part of my new foundation used to be somebody’s trash heap.  I kinda wish I could keep digging in there to see what else I could find! (Don’t worry, I won’t.)

* My friend Camille and her girls came by today to see the craziness while the foundation was being dug.  The girls were playing in the back room, when the whole house had a big “THUD.”  The girls came out saying: “The house moved and now there is a crack!”  And this:


The tractor-thing digging the foundation got a little close to the wall, and pressed a little too hard, busting through the inside, although the outside is still in tact.  “Not to worry!”  The contractor said.  “We’ll fix it!”  I’m actually not worried, as they’re taking that wall out at some point, anyway, but it was a bit of excitement that I was glad I was home for.  Otherwise, I would have seen the crack and wondered if it had been there all along…

* As of this afternoon, the trench for the foundation has all been dug, and I guess the next steps are to pour the actual foundation, and from this point forward, it is all construction instead of demolition!  WOO HOO!


Gone Garage

February 15, 2014 by Kara

This week, after over a year of planning (and almost four years of dreaming), penny-saving, architecting, building permitting, mortgage refinancing, and more drama and delays than you can shake a stick at, I picked up my approved building permits, and had my garage demolished.


When I came home Wednesday evening to find my garage totally reduced to a pile of rubble (the photo above is after two days of concrete/wreckage removal), it may have been one of the most exciting moments of my life.

I’m having the garage rebuilt in the driveway, where a garage belongs (to the left of my house in the photo above), with an addition on top, and the removal of the old garage and faux-patio is significantly increasing the size of my backyard.

The process of making this happen was no small feat, and there were many, MANY points along the way where I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to move forward, so to have construction (well, demolition) actually happening is glorious.  GLORIOUS!!!!

With garage (and fence):


Without garage (or fence!):






I AM SO EXCITED!!!  I will have a thousand more things to say about the ridiculous process of getting the green light, and clearly more updates than one can shake a stick at, but for now, LOOK, MY GARAGE IS GONE!!!!!!