While the cat is away
(what Pamela did during John's vacation)
It started as a simple invitation from Susan for John
and I to come back to the states for a visit. While I would have loved
to see friends and family, I had so much to do here...
Each morning once extricated from under the cats, I'd
get up and turn up the thermostat to get the house warmer. Then I emptied
the dehumidifier - unlike Massachusetts, it is humid here in the winter,
dry in the summer. Although maybe it's not so unlike Massachusetts,
since our seasons are reversed, so the humidity happens in the same
months! Then I get to clean out the litter boxes. We finally resolved
the problem with Nightshade peeing outside the box. It was basically
an issue of a spot on the cement floor attracting her. Once we closed
off that room, she was fine. I have now thoroughly cleaned the area,
and hopefully we will have a new wood floor there soon.
Then it's time to make coffee and breakfast, and provide
a lap on which a cat could sit. Once I had given attention to all three,
I could prepare my lunch. As part of this I have to slip a high blood
pressure pill into some soft cheese, wrap it in ham, and feed it to
Nightshade. Then I could turn down the heat and go out cycling for a
while. In the evening I would make dinner, and provide a lap for cats.
Then I'd prepare their evening meal, some special kidney food, with
added water and electrolytes, which they'd beg for then turn their noses
up - John does a better job enticing them with "yummy" sounds.
As the evening wore on, Diabolo would start doing laps from the bedroom
to the living room and back to try to heard me off to bed, where he
insisted on being brushed. Since I turn down the thermostat at night,
there is no longer a fire for them to worship, so I'd be pinned into
bed by the three of them seeking warmth.
That part about cycling in the middle of the day happened
for the first few days John was gone, but soon it was replaced by work
on the house, or hanging out while workmen did work on the house. Aside
from needing to stick around and take care of our pernickety cats, I
had booked the new kitchen to be installed, among other things. I described
the old kitchen in a previous diary, and have
been looking forward to it's destruction for some time. I also planned
to replace the closet in our bedroom, get lots of work done on the third
bedroom, and organise the new workshop. I'd also booked a builder to
finish off our skylights. And the gutters were finally scheduled to
I actually pulled out the old closet the night John left
and had the new one up the next day. Like many features in the house,
this closet was not designed in any useful way. There was barely any
room to hang clothes, and many of the shelves required a ladder. I'd
talked with John about putting up a wire unit across the entire wall
and leaving it open. He was afraid the cats would get fur everywhere,
and wanted to have doors to keep them away. Well, I figured we could
add doors later, and just installed a new wall to wall unit with double
rows of hanging space on John's side, shelves in the middle, half a
full height hanging space (for dresses) and half a double row of hanging
space on my side. No doors, and guess what - without doors, the cats
ignore it. They only want to get into places where they are prevented
by a door!
I've mentioned in several diary entries that we had two
small chopped up rooms that we were making into one larger one. Apparently
at some point in the history of the house, this was a garage. When it
was converted, they did half the job, and built one tiny room, and left
the other unfinished. I can't really imagine why, but I also still haven't
figured out why the house was extended 800mm (2ish feet) either. Not
much logic has gone into this place in the past. But that is changing
under the current regime!
John and I had started back in May, by removing the closet
and desk and pulling down an incredible number of studs. This wall had
been put up without resource consent and we had a document indicating
it was a non-load bearing wall, plus confirmation of that by looking
at the support for the roof in the attic, so we knew we could safely
and legally remove this partition which chopped the room up so poorly.
To finish off this renovation we needed to empty both
rooms - remove that wall and closet in between the two, remove the old
wallboard and ceiling (which had lots of water damage and such), and
put up new gibboard, and have it plastered. We'd also eventually have
the floor extended into the previously unfinished part (the cement floor
that Nightshade liked to pee on). So I piled all the cycling clothes
and such in the current guest room, and moved the workshop stuff on
the deck. I couldn't do much until the gutters were back on the house
though - because in order to get the gutters on, we had to remove the
Perspex covering on the pergola - which overlapped the gutters. Once
the gutters were on, and the Perspex replaced, I had a nice dry area
in which to keep stuff. And in fact, with the new gutters, I really
did have a dry area, since the new ones don't leak!
The next project was to get some plastic cupboards to
start moving the workshop stuff out on the deck. But finding these plastic
cupboards in Nelson proved to be a chore. I'd seen them at many places
in the States, but could not find anything similar here. I tried the
local hardware and DIY shops, and even a store that specialises in plastic
stuff called Plastic Box. Finally after doing many Internet searches,
I decided to try a local department store (similar to KMart) and found
some great plastic cupboards in the gardening section. They were a snap
to put together - literally - no tools required, and keep things dry
and secure - since they can be locked. I had a perfect place on one
of the covered parts of the deck to set up the new workshop. Just behind
our clothesline. I bought two of these cupboards and also used the old
shelf unit from the bedroom closet and the pantry from the kitchen for
all the tools and spare bike parts and such. I also tried to devise
a way to hang wheels and tyres in the bike shed. I tried building something
to hold the hooks, but gave up on it as too clunky, and found some hooks
to hang over the walls instead.
Once the two rooms were cleared out, I started pulling
down old gibboard and pinex. There were one or two places where the
old wallboard wasn't in atrocious condition, but for the most part it
was very bad - either this cheap pinex stuff, or lots of little bits
of gib patched together. But better... or worse ... actually was the
state of insulation.... The wall between the old finished room and our
bedroom had insulation, but none of the other walls - and these were
exterior walls. (When we did the kitchen, we also found the exterior
walls lacking in insulation! I know there is insulation in other parts
of the house and have finally realised that it has been put in as walls
have been redone, so it is in newer parts and most interior walls! Most
kiwis heat individual rooms, rather than using central heat, so interior
wall insulation makes perfect sense to them! They also claim a noise
benefit. Why they don't worry about noise from outside, or cold from
outside is beyond me!
I initially planned to only insulate the exterior walls
and moved what was in the interior wall to an outside one, but realised
the front bedroom has not been redone and therefore has no insulation,
so I decided to do the wall next to it, and then had enough left over
to do the wall I taken insulation from initially (next to our room).
So with it's own heater and small windows (no double glazing here either),
this could be the warmest room in the house! It is to be the
guest room, so it should be quite comfy for our visitors!
When talking to Chris, the gibstopper (plasterer), about
doing work in the kitchen and dining room, I also asked about this room.
He recommended Ziff, a builder, who could do the wall board, and I decided
to go ahead and get this project finished while John was away. Removing
the ceiling did make life easier for Thomas to install the skylight
in this room, since he could tear down as much ceiling as he wanted.
(Thomas is doing the skylight tunnels and our floors.)
Ziff and Hawney moved the attic access, pulled down the
old ceiling and got the new ceiling up on Friday (before John was due
to come back Sunday.) They did a lot of structural work and replaced
and repaired some broken ceiling joists as well as some rotten wall
studs. The new walls are actually straight! The room is somewhat long
and narrow, but definitely will be a better use of space than the two
small rooms before - especially since one was never finished. We should
be able to get all the guest room furniture into the room comfortably.
Our current guest room does not have space for the everything, so its
furniture was actually divided between two rooms!
You can see from the pictures that Thomas and Nigel got
one of the skylights built, but when they went to do the other two we
found that the units in the roof were actually too low, and mostly over
the soffits, not actually in the room. I had to get the roofer back
out to move them. This was an ordeal, but since I hadn't paid yet, I
had some leverage. The skylights were moved Friday as well, and hopefully
Thomas can finish building the tunnels this week. I was truly bummed
by this turn of events because I'd hoped to have most things done before
John returned - oh well.
I did manage to get one other project done Friday. I had
the locks changed. Now I'm not being mean to John by changing the locks
while he is gone. The house had four doors, (5 really, but we dont
use the fifth one - it's treated as a window behind a coffee table).
All four doors had different locks and keys - some of which were openable
from outside, and most requiring a key to open from the inside. I wanted
them all keyed the same, openable from outside with a key, and inside
without. The inside key feature is sort of a security thing in that
if someone breaks through the glass, they can open the door by turning
the deadbolt. I found a system that looks like a regular deadbolt knob,
but is a removable key, that you leave in most of the time, but would
take out and take with you for an extended trip. So we have all new
locks and one key to do them all! So when I pick John up from
the airport, I can hand him a new key to his new house. And it will
seem like a new house for him because in addition to the above work...
The kitchen is 95% done. Read about the kitchen.
Oh yeah, if you didn't see him on his travels, John went off to America
for a few weeks, and continued on to Ireland, since a round the world
ticket was cheaper than return fare to Boston. Hopefully he got some
much needed fun and time away from stresses here. I'm quite excited
to have accomplished so much while he was away. I still have work for
him (insulation under the floors and the attic, painting, moulding and
tile. But it seems that we should be able to relax and enjoy the house
and life in general here, and go out and play (or work) without having
to concentrate so much on making the house liveable. It is now 95% there!
New roof and gutters, new heat, new hot water, new kitchen, new wiring
and lights, insulation, new bedroom, new keys! I wonder if the previous
owners would recognise it?