Home plans and other things

I suppose I am connected with a lot of you via FaceBook. That’s fine. You can stop reading now. 

Or should you? Some of this you know, some you don’t.

One thing that I have had such an issue with in the past is copyright infringement. At USAA, right after I was hired, I was charged with creating multimedia graphics with photos, art and music without infringing copyrights. I had no idea what all that was about except to say that I knew creations were legally protected from intellectual theft. I learned in a hurry. (Ask me about when I told the CEO of USAA at the time – “no, you can’t use that Rockwell painting with music.” I guess that was the first time I was labeled a trouble-maker! LOL)

Bryan and I had the plans for a beautiful antebellum house drawn up but since our builder had an accident and I had performed the most egregious math error, we cannot build that.  Better to lose the money already invested than to start a build that will never be finished! Time to down size. So many of the builders we interviewed said, “just draw something up on a napkin” or “show me the TYPE of house you like on the internet” and we could go from there. so, we pulled a few pictures we liked and accepted a bid last week from a builder to build a house from a photo on the internet. I felt weird about sharing this information with you guys because I almost felt as if I were stealing someone’s intellectual property. I know though, dormers, porches, front doors, they are all common to homes. Its in the way you put them together. 

Our builder called last Friday to tell me that he was having trouble getting the material list together so was just going to order the plans. Hurrah! I can share now! The house is 2420 sq.ft. with 1320 of porches! And for all of you people who kept asking if the master bedroom is downstairs – YES. We will be meeting with him tomorrow to lay it out!

Nice farm house! This is the front, and it will be facing North.

 

Also, weather permitting, our barn will be erected in about 3 weeks! So that is good!

What isn’t cool is the run around that FedEx has given me pertaining to the delivery of my cat’s prescription food. It should have been delivered last Friday. Would you believe, after 8 phone calls, changing the delivery address from our legal physical address (given to us by the Oregon County courthouse) to the address at the RV park, having the package in Jonesboro, AR all week, been out for delivery 2x this week, due yesterday. At 8:30 p.m., the tracking info told me the driver TOOK IT BACK TO JONESBORO. 

Jonesboro is only about 80 miles from my location. Closer than SA to Austin. On Monday I was told that no, I couldn’t pick it up in Jonesboro – I offered. FedEx has 3 offices in West Plains, nope, not there either. I think they were jacking with me. 

At 9:00 last night, this package was shipped to Memphis. Today, it went to St. Louis. Its due to be delivered tomorrow, (8 days after the 1 delivery date), and I have no confidence it will be here. I called FedEx, and opened a complaint ticket. 

The investigator had the audacity to tell me that I gave them an illegal address first. I blew my top. Nope, Nope, Nope. Just because their databases hadn’t caught up yet. And, oh, btw, our local post office would have gladly accepted the package and held it for me. But, no. FedEX tells me “They don’t do that.” s–t-heads.

Merlin sitting with me while I take photos of mushrooms.

After I blew up at the investigator, I asked to speak to someone who could and would help me get my package. And just so you are on the same page as me, this is not vanity food, or a posh toy for my cats. This is food. This is food that they can eat so they won’t DIE. I actually asked them if the mission of PetFlow was to treat our pets like family, would it be alright if FedEx lost heart medication for a family member? Would they pay the vet bills? She said, well, we do have a claims department. (I would rather have my cats healthy than to have to go through claims because Merlin died.)

So, finally, I backed off of having someone deliver it today. The investigator brought in an agent in Springfield, and she tells me I can pick it up from her tomorrow after 8 a.m. Springfield is a bit further than Jonesboro. She was also surprised that the drivers out of Jonesboro 1) wouldn’t leave it with a rural local PO (they do it around Springfield all the time) or 2) Allow me to come and get the package.

I’m not done with this yet, I will be reporting it to PetFlow and following up with FedEx. I want heads.

so. now. I. just. have. to. chill. 

like Merlin.

a moment of zen

(turn up your speakers.)

 

#FedEx #PetFlow.com

Driveway and water

The drillers wear big water galoshes while working. This worker stashed his boots where he could get them fast! I thought it was funny!
Bryan photographing the progress of the driveway from on top of the hill toward the road. (it also looks like I need to clean my lens!)

This week brought about huge landscape changes with the driveway being cut in and the ability to move forward. And we struck water yesterday, although about 100 feet deeper than originally anticipated. (I hope it doesn’t break the budget!) 

 The guys who are doing the driveway work said it would take about a day and a half. They started on Monday, and here it is Thursday and they still aren’t finished. Luckily, they bid this out by the project, not by time! 

Oh! and another bit of news. We received the estimate for the new design of the house to be built from our new builder and its something that we can live with! Bryan and I have always loved large wrap around porches. This amenity is one that we loved in the previous plan and one that we didn’t want to do without.  So, our new house is a little farmhouse style, with porches. The heated space is 2420 sq feet with about 1300 sq ft of porch. And you do pay for that porch. But, we will use it and love it. So, we should be pouring the foundation next week! How’s that for progress?

Flora and Fauna

One of the things I was looking forward to was learning which plant is which in  this new place. In order to really care for the place and the land, I believe I need to know what things are! I started photographing the little seedlings and larger plants last February when we came up for a visit in the hopes of figuring all this out. I continued that activity whenever we came back. I am astonished that there are so many wildflowers blooming and so many active butterflies and bees this late in the season (early August). 

Here is a little gallery of some shots, hopefully you will be able to see the captions as some plants and butterflies are identified. Oh, and help a girl out and feel free to comment, maybe ID a plant or two for me, I am finding myself short of patience for the research! And check back often, I will be adding to this gallery!

 

Harder than I thought it’d be…

We closed up the house on July 3. And Independence Day took on a special meaning. We were free. Free of a mortgage and free of the crushing property taxes in SA for a little while. 

We stayed in town because Lauren’s birthday (her 30th!) was quickly approaching and we didn’t want to leave her just yet. We enjoyed a few more visits with her and she and I had a few girls only errand runs that Dad begged out of. 

We moved full-time into our 5th Wheel at a little park just east of the AT&T Center. (I was going to say the Joe Freeman Coliseum – But I don’t think EVERYONE would know the location!) It was pretty nice, there were a LOT of full-timer’s there and we watch many, many Class C motor coaches stay for a day or two. That is definitely the way to travel! The cats were cool with sharing this small space with us almost right away. The Feliway plugin helped, I’m sure.

I was able to get together with some of the girls again, Carolyn, Ramona, Catherine, and Susan. We even ran into Rita! What a treat! I loved seeing their faces.

If we didn’t connect during that final two weeks, don’t fret. I haven’t left the planet. Lets both make an effort when I come back (for Doctor’s visits and family visits!) …

On the 16th, Lauren came over again, since we were leaving on the 17th. And saying goodbye was really hard. 

When I was a girl, we would take road trips up to Iowa at least 1x a year. Always for the 4th of July family reunion, and I remember a couple of times at Christmas time.  We would drive up, and everyone would come tearing out of my grandmother’s house, crying and laughing. Then, at the end of our visit, everyone hugging and crying and hugging some more. I think I was crying because my mom was crying… I moved away when I was 3, and so, didn’t “get it”. 

That last night, when we were walking Lauren to the car, was like that. I am tearing up just thinking about it. But as I keep saying, the tether is just longer now.  And FB does help!

We took 2 nights to get to our new locale, we only drove 6 or so hours a day. We didn’t know what to expect towing the 5er – and the cats. 

We stayed in a nice park just south of Tyler that first night. By going IH10 to here, we missed the bulk of the construction road work. Its name: KE Bushman’s Camp. Not so much camp – but golf course… beautiful. I even went barefoot!

The next night brought us to just east of Hot Springs. Not as nice, we were next door to bikers – 3 Harley’s and a big truck. I think they were full-timing there. They came out to smoke, so, we didn’t like that too much…

At each park, I took Merlin on the leash for a walk. I am pretty proud of him, he’s doing so well! Since we left the big house, we have only had to break up one fight, and that was in the TRUCK! They were fighting because he pooped outside the box, and then took her spot on the other side of the box. So, if she wanted to lay down, she was in it. I cleaned it up at our next stop.

Until we get the basics out at our land, we are parked at Chipmunk Crossing RV Park, 8 miles south of West Plains. I am saying we are on an extended vaca until the address situation gets worked out. I have an address, but it doesn’t work yet. Once we have a driveway, we’ll get that sorted!

Pictures of the park, and our wee kitties…

 

Spring in Southern Missouri

Last week, we travelled to our new “neck of the woods” to start our collection of storage facilities (okay, I am being sarcastic. And click here to see a video of the typical traffic in our new neighborhood.)

As I mentioned in my previous post we met with Jim (our one and only builder, thank God) and the two brothers he likes to work with, the Mills brothers: Andrew and Alan. These two guys will be the ones who do the “land work” – dozing and leveling both our drive way and our barn area and RV parking. In addition, they will be doing our septic work, but I am not sure when that will happen. They are truly a one stop shop!

First things first!

In talking with Andrew and Alan, we discovered that they need permission from the utilities that exist underground (the phone company) and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MO-DOT). I assumed that we would use the existing driveway at the top of the hill, but that the driveway also exists in a location on the highway that is at a hairpin curve with a steep drop to the east. Bryan and the Mills didn’t think it would be approved by MO-DOT. So, (in the hopes that there are no stupid questions) I asked, how can we get approved by MO-DOT? The answer is more complicated than it seems.

Call them, but they need a street address. 

  1. How do I get a street address (no home has ever existed on this parcel of land)?
    1. Go to the post office to talk to the post master there.
      1. Answer 1: We’ll ask the carrier, once he returns from his route to call you, and he’ll assign it.
      2. Answer 2: But we’re in the middle of computerizing the addressing system (tied into the 9-1-1 system) so that everyone can have access (to 9-1-1) so you may need to go to the county clerk’s office.

We went to have lunch and waited for the postman to finish his route. At 2, we decided to head over to the county seat and the county clerk’s office, just in case. 

The conversation at the county clerk’s went like this: 

“Hi, we’re the Snows, Bryan and Dawn. We purchased a parcel off of 142 last year and we want to start to build. We were told that we don’t need any permits for the building, is that correct?” “Yes, ma’am.”

“But we do need permission from MO-DOT for our driveway. But we do not have an address to tell them where along the highway we are! That’s why we are here.” “Your postal carrier will probably assign you an address, but it may be in the ‘9-1-1 region,’ so let me check. …. oh, yes, here you are. Is this correct?” (She showed me her computer.)

“Yes.”

“… yes, I have your address here, but the system isn’t exact right now, so I need to put in a ticket to make sure its correct. Let me see, you don’t have a residence on it yet? Oh, then, you cannot get the address….” 

My head nearly came off. I took a breath, laughed and said, “Okay, we want to build a house on the parcel we bought, we need no permits as such, but we need to get water, electric and septic. In order to get those things we need to put in a driveway and level the appropriate areas. In order to get a drive way we need approval from MO-DOT but they need an address, but you are telling me you cannot do that because we have no house?” 

It was as if the light went off (again, because it seems as if she understood what we wanted at first.) 

“oh, yes! You want to build. There has never been a house on that parcel?”

“no.” 

“Okay. I’ll call you next week with your address.”

 

What kind of house?

Who am I?

It’s so much fun looking for houses. Boy, the sky is the limit. And you can imagine a different sort of life!

For years, Bryan and fantasized about building an alternative house. We talked about geodesic domes, rammed earth processes, even stacked hay bales. And we have always wanted to do something more environmentally sustainable…  

I love cottages, something cute, creative. We are living in Bryan’s dream home – its his “take-my-breath-away” house. He always knew we would sell this for a larger property/smaller house configuration and so we did two weeks ago. 

We started looking at floor plans about a year ago. Southern Living House of the year 2012 was my hands-down favorite. But there were some problems: no study/library, no real pantry, and while I really think I would like some “all-together-open-plan” activities, I think in real life: not so much. So, after really thinking about this, no. 

Decisions, decisions…

I really love living with my second refrigerator. I really think having a laundry room near the bedrooms is a no brainer. I really need a mud room. Bryan really needs his library/study with doors. And a couple of guest rooms: mainly for guests near term, and hopefully (don’t show this to my daughter) I hope to have a few grandbabes running around for summers. I would love a footed tub, and Bryan wants a nice big shower (which we have now, actually). And WRAP AROUND PORCHES.

No, we didn’t take this photo.

We have always loved Oak Alley. If you haven’t been, you really must go visit. It’s a day trip from New Orleans, LA. We both love the look of this Southern Gem and wrap around porches have always been high up on our “have to have” list. 

We decided to hire an architect whose design was listed on one of the “stock” plan sites. We had some changes to the existing plan, and so, we worked with the agency and the son of the man who originally did the design. It is basically Oak Alley. Originally, they have an elevator and 3 stories. But, did I mention, we had changes? So, two floors, no elevator and move the laundry room upstairs. 

We hired them late in December of 2016 and they promised a 10 week turn around. We finally received plans with all our changes on April 4. (Not quite the deadline as promised, but finally.) All the while we were waiting for the plans, we were making repairs and improving our current house and receiving calls from our builder. We arranged with him to break ground on August 1 as he would be finished with his current project by then. We were so excited. 

Hopes dashed.

The week we took delivery of the plans, we received a call from Jim. He and his wife were in a serious car accident and he would not be able to work on the house. Ever. Oh, my gosh. 

So, after all the angst with the architect, we were back at square one. Because frankly, at the price per square foot he quoted us, we could afford to build this beautiful Oak Alley look-alike. Truly, it’s a bit bigger than we need, but we took out the 3rd floor and put in a stairway instead of the elevator. 

So, since April 4, we have been reconsidering our finished plans.

Since we have sold the house, and we needed to start to clear out the garage, we took all of Bryan’s woodworking tools, and a few other things up to a storage facility near our property. We will be building a barn first with a workshop in the rear so that Bryan and who ever builds our house can use the space and tools securely. So, we did that this week. After unloading the trailer we sat down to lunch and we received a call from Jim. He wanted to introduce us to the Mills Brothers and talk. We met Jim and the Mills brothers out at our property the next morning. Jim was healing and actually has received a “provisional” all-clear from his doctor. So, our builder is our builder again!!! Hooray!

 

 

 

Catch up with me

 Background

During the process of getting our current house on the market, a friend recommended that I start a blog on all our activities. Well, I already have this site, so, I will transform this more commercial photography blog into an experiential blog describing our triumphs and frustrations in the process of building our house.

But before I jump in with our current activities (and there are some doozies), I must catch you up.

In 2009, the year I quit USAA and Bryan retired, we spent a month hunting for an acreage on which we could build our retirement house and observatory. So, naturally, it had to be located in a dark site AND it had to feed my artistic soul. No dry desert for me, no way. We spent that month in Kentucky, as we had never been there and it was beautiful. 

Bryan and LaNita at Lauren’s HEB management school graduation.

When we returned, we realized LaNita (Bryan’s mom) would be by herself with no one really to care for her in her golden years as the rest of the family were all working more than they should! So, we put the dream on hold until the time was better.

In the summer of 2010, LaNita had lost too much weight living by herself, so I forced her to move in with us that fall. The next 2 years were up and down for sure, but we were both so glad that we had waited and that we could care and love her in her final months.

Meanwhile, between 2009 and 2010, my small business of commercial/personal photography took off and we really never decided to go and seriously look for property again. We were both on the board of directors of the International Panoramic Photographers Association and that took us to many places between 2010 through 2014. We spent time in the great Northwest, and all along the California coast, New Mexico, Arizona and Tennessee. In all those places, we looked at the places convenient to our different IAPP trips and loved seeing so much of this country.

Two years ago, we took another trip, but this time overseas, to Italy, my dream place. I would live there in a heartbeat… but that is a different story. And at that time, Bryan asked me to think about retiring. My business was really changing and I was finding it difficult to change with the new requests coming my way. Shortly, after we returned, someone in my family became deathly ill and I decided enough was enough and said no more. By setting aside my business, I was able to be with my family through to a successful outcome. (All is better now although it was touch and go for several months, thank you.)

When we got the all clear from the doctors, I asked Bryan, “what are we waiting for?”

Inertia

Mind you, we were very comfortable in our 3400+ sq foot house. It’s a lot of house to care for, and we loved every inch of it. This is the one that burned down in 2002 and we rebuilt in 2003. So, it is loaded with well loved, personal touches along with the remembered pain and angst of all the challenges that we did NOT ask for. 

But in 2015, the time was right. Lauren (our daughter) seemed to be self sufficient and everyone was healthy then and is now (knock wood). So after the Italy trip, we really thought about how to find that perfect place for our sunset.

Bryan found a website called DarkSiteFinder.com and we cross-referenced that with Zillow.com. We looked around the Sherman area 2 or 3 times. Even had an agent take us around in the North Texas country side, specifically, Telephone, TX. Last year, we did fall in love with a 30 acre place in Annona, TX. But, this placed suffered the same as all the places in TX, the owners were very proud of the houses on these beautiful parcels, but the houses themselves were virtually all “tear-downs”. The Annona place was affordable at just over $2K an acre which was the going rate in the area, but the house was plain weird. The house was not worth the additional money they wanted. As an example: They had an upstairs with no stairway. The interior way to get upstairs was a ladder. Really, a ladder. Okay – no. 

We became very upset, and stopped our search for a while. Inertia had set in and we were so comfortable, but really not doing what we wanted to be doing! Last fall, our agent of choice had told us that it was a sellers’ market and we should get back to it. Knowing Bryan as I do, and knowing that I need a deadline to accomplish anything, I thought, let’s look on Zillow again. Maybe we would find a place that would spur us to get our house on the market. Sure enough, Bryan found an affordable place that was more acres than I thought we could afford and was situated in a beautiful part of the Ozarks Plateau in southern Missouri. Rivers surround it, close to Mark Twain National forest and DARK.

We found the place on a Friday afternoon and I asked Bryan what was he doing the following week. He grinned at me and said, “Going to Missouri.”

 

So, our adventure begins.