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Attic/before photo

The Attic–Before

Insulation work on our new house started on Monday with the attic!  The plan is to take up all the plywood flooring, remove the old pink fiberglass batts, then frame up another 8 inches. They will make a box around the doorway as well, and create an insulated cover for the door.

Next they seal all the joints, and then blow in cellulose insulation. Oh, and before that the electrician will do a bit of work on the bathroom exhaust fan, and also some other electric work that is easiest to access from the attic.  After that they will put down the plywood flooring again on half of the attic so we can use it for storage.  At completion, we will have insulation value of R-50.

IMG_0554But then we got the news yesterday that there was an area of mold on the ceiling of the attic, over the bathroom area.  We were surprised because we hadn’t picked up any mildew odors. IMG_0556But it was all hidden beneath some rough plywood which you can see in the photo on top as a partial ceiling, and the next photo shows where they took it down. (And look, there are the new framing boards :)) And next: a picture of the mold. (These two photos sent from the crew, to keep us in the loop.)

The good news is that our crew found it, and contacted the remediation company they like to work with and today they came right over to the house to check it out, and also checked out the rest of the house.  They will let us know how much it will cost.  Everything always costs more than you think it will. But happily, they use ecologically safe methods for removal–basically baking soda in a soda blasting process.

So we are waiting to see what has to happen with all of this before the insulation process can resume. But the other good news is we really like the folks we are working with.

Tomorrow morning I will go over to meet the electrician; he will be continuing his work during the hiatus of the other work. Along with the bathroom exhaust fan, he will be fixing the doorbell, adding the wiring for future lighting in the living room, and adding a switch for the kitchen light next to our back door. Every day a little more is accomplished, in this second phase of our search for greener house.

Billie helps with the sorting

Billie helps sorting

This week we really got serious about decluttering and downsizing in preparation for selling our house.  One room at at time.  I started with the hall bathroom.  It has a huge closet in which, among other things, we store our many candle holders of all sorts. I dragged all of them out onto the counter, and Margy and I decided which ones to pack for the new house, and which ones to pack for Goodwill.  Our cat Billie, as you can see, was very interested in helping.  Or at least supervising. I am happy that more of them are going to Goodwill than are coming to our new house.

One room done, many more to go… I went to bed exhausted, but it feels really good.

Abundance

Equals the gift of free food? Margy and I went to Winslow Park beach yesterday and visited our favorite apple tree.  It was surrounded by ripe apples on the ground.

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We have gathered apples from this tree in some other years–but in November.  And never so big or abundant as these.    DSC03061

Our friend Bob made delicious applesauce at our house that November.  The best applesauce ever!  (Well, recently, our friend Susan gave us a gift of homemade applesauce that might compete for that title of best ever.)

We scooped up a couple dozen apples, and carried them in our pockets back to our car, and then to our house.

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Back home, we turned on some music (Eliza Gilkyson’s Beautiful World), put parmesan chicken in the oven (Johnson family recipe), sat at the island counter in our kitchen, and cut and cored the apples. We cooked them in a pot with just a bit of water.  Nothing else needed. Then we sat down to Christmas dinner, with hearts full of gratitude.

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They fixed it.

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After my complaints about the poor job on the doorway flooring, the lead carpenter came out yesterday morning and re-did the doorway… looks good this time.  We decided not to sand and refinish all the floors so we’ll have to wait for the natural colors to catch up with each other, but the floor boards flow from one room to the other as they should.

Hurray for speaking up.  (And thanks for all the moral support from commenters!)

Cranky

I am feeling cranky today.  After some good beginnings with our carpenter and his crew, yesterday we went to the house, and were shocked by some very poor work on the wood floor being done to fill in where the doors were enlarged.  Cracks, a big cut joint between several boards right in the middle of the door.  I didn’t take a picture of that.  But the other day I had taken a picture of a few other un-finishings. Like this mark over the windows that were installed–a deep scratched groove in the drywall.  There are three such marks below and two above.

Scratch DSC02947We don’t have any touch up paint for this room’s color (the sellers left some paint cans from other rooms in the basement.)  So does this mean, really, that we’ll have to repaint the entire room?

There was also a mistake in the placement of a grab bar in the bathroom, and while it can be moved, the place from which it will be removed will now be marred, and the bathroom wall is either wallpaper or a sponge-spackled paint finish that we don’t have the ability to duplicate.

When I contract with someone to do work that we cannot do ourselves, it creates in me a sense of vulnerability.  When things come up, I ask myself all sorts of self-doubting questions: Am I being too picky?  Should I have said more? What can we reasonably expect? Can we assume they’ll finish up the work nicely, or do we have to raise the issues as we notice them? Should I have held up our second payment check to make sure these issues were dealt with? (We are doing the work in three stages, so it didn’t seem unreasonable to make a second installment before everything was totally done on this stage–But?)

I did call the carpenter shortly after we noticed the poor job on the flooring–this was being done by a member of his crew–and he interrupted the work and has said he will fix the issues we raised.

I hate to be in the mode of criticizing other people’s work. But I do expect people to do a good job. This is only a small “easy” job for them apparently, but it is the home we hope to live in for a very long time. I want to look at the improvements we made, and feel happy about how beautiful they look.

I was thinking about all of this this morning, and trying to figure out how to get into a better mood.  I remembered some advice that Sarah Susanka wrote:  “Every situation contains within it the food and fertilizer for our flourishing, but the only way we can find this out is by being obedient to each set of circumstances that present themselves–to fully engage whatever arises to the best of our ability and to process any reactions and judgments as they come up, without editing or suppressing anything.”

She went on to describe her discomfort with situations of confrontation, how she hesitated to share her direct feelings for fear of angering someone else.  How important it was for her to begin to notice that pattern and uncover what came up in her, so she could learn to be direct–to deal with the difficult and uncomfortable as it arose.  Yep.  That resonates.

So I blog to notice what comes up for me, to give it some attention–to be able to say, I am afraid to demand of others the level of perfection that I demand for myself. And I am afraid to confront others about their mistakes.  I don’t want to make anyone angry or uncomfortable.  But I do have it within me to confront–if I can get through the resistance to having to do it, the wish to avoid it. It wasn’t what I wanted to have on my plate yesterday or today, but there it was. Here it is.

Compost!

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One of the first things I brought over to the new house is a composter.  We had two, one that was active, and one that was quietly “cooking.” This one we emptied for use at our old yard, and then cleaned up to bring over.  We are currently using the other one, and will likely need to leave it at our old house, because it will be full of un”cooked” compost.  I figured I better set this one up before the snow came, but that is taking a lot longer than usual to arrive this year. Still, by the time we actually move, I imagine there will be snow–and we will be ready to compost.

Little Beautiful Changes

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The new windows!

The carpenters are busy at our new house, creating some beautiful changes.  One has been to create a double large window in the back bedroom, where there was only one small window before.

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Before

It is a balancing act for green housing, because any hole in the envelope is a hole in the envelope–but these are on the south side of the house, and will let it a lot of light, and connection to the yard.

It made an immediate difference!  This will be my room where I also hope to put a small desk for writing.  My files will be in the basement, but I wanted to write where there was a lot of sunshine. Today I was looking for a sunny spot in our current home, to read a little for my sermon this week, but a sunny spot was hard to find… I am imagining how nice it will be to sit in the sunshine of these new windows.

I am so glad that in our search for greener housing, I learned how important it was to me that there be beauty in my home. Perhaps otherwise it would have felt too extravagant to include these windows in our plans for making the house our own.

Here is how it looks on the outside, before and after.
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Contradictions

Maple on BirchwoodIn our search for greener housing, we’ve come upon a paradoxical sad choice. There is a large tree next to our new house, whose branches stretch dangerously over the roof.  If the branches get covered in too much snow, they might break and fall on the roof.  Also, they will block morning sun to our future solar array which is so important for our ability to stop using fossil fuels.

It turns out that this tree–we believe it is a maple–is on Portland Water District land.   At first we thought we could just prune the branches that were over the roof, but this would be quite a severe pruning.  I did some research online and learned that mature trees do not handle severe pruning well: pruning it as needed would likely cause the tree to deteriorate and eventually die. I never knew that before. The PWD doesn’t like the idea of pruning because it would cost as much as cutting it down, and then they’d have to come back later and deal with it at some point in the future.  I had a chat with the PWD right-of-way person today, and we’ve decided reluctantly to let them cut the tree down.

I am someone who listens to trees, and earlier, when I asked the tree about what to do, the tree expressed a willingness to sacrifice itself for the purpose of our moving into greater harmony with the earth.  It seemed so easy and gentle about it all.  But I feel so sad about it all. I love old trees. I love that this tree has multiple trunks and I can squeeze in the middle of them–though I also learned that multiple trunks are not as healthy for a tree.

I am not asking for advice here–just expressing the contradictory feelings that come up for me as we try to navigate our way forward into greener living. We plan to plant many trees on this land–most likely fruit trees and nut trees.  So we will give back when the season arrives.  We may be able to keep the mulch that is created by the process, to use in future gardens. But today, I just want to honor this grandmother tree, and her kindness and serenity and openness to the sincere and contradictory journeys of human travelers.

Prayer to Mother Earth

Earth_high_def_1024Mother Earth, we human beings have destroyed so much. You would be justified in wiping us off your body. But still–we can sing, and write poems to celebrate your beauty. We are your children, we are so intricately made. There are those among us who are heroes of love and compassion. How creative are the artists, and the stories we humans tell! Let us find a way to live into the future. Help us to grow into our maturity as a species, and not to destroy ourselves and so many others of your children.

Still, if you are on a deeper unfolding journey, of which we know nothing, I yield to this flow of your own maturing. I give thanks to you for being able to witness your beauty and your mystery. You, lovely ocean world, you, blue and green and gold and white sphere full of life.  And always–life and death and more life again. I stand in awe to be included in such a world.