Too busy for words

We have been so busy that I have forgotten to write!

February 2018

My last post was last year! In early October. Since then, we made two trips back to San Antonio and a trip to Jonesboro (or two). Thanksgiving, Christmas, boarding cats, insurance, finding a medical doctor for both of us and oh, of course, getting this house done. 

Specifically, the framing was completed and wrapped, and the second floor was completed. I learned to do laundry in my RV, and hang it out to dry, and just really enjoyed the fall weather. Everyone said it was a dry summer, so the colors weren’t as pretty as they usually are, so I am hopeful for next year. 

I was missing my Jeep Cherokee, so we planned a trip to SA to pick that up in the late part of September. We also swung by our favorite architectural salvage yard to pick out a front door. When we rebuilt our Warriors Creek house, we found some beautiful things there to include into the new build and to add some immediate character. We actually purchased those front doors at a different SA salvage yard, but that one has closed in the 15 years that have passed by. While we didn’t find a door that was as antique as we both wanted, we did find a 40-year-old door salvaged from a subdivision in CA. Solid wood Spruce with a simple leaded glass window. The price was good at $250, but it was on a 50% off sale. Even better! I also saw a few brackets that I thought I could incorporate into doorways since I will not have arches. While in SA, we closed up all the storage there and moved our things to a storage unit in Jonesboro. 

Thanksgiving

Next, came November and Thanksgiving. We were lucky to have been invited to our neighbors for that day. In addition to sharing a meal, they also shared their extended family. Their son and daughter, mother (in-law) and father (in-law) depending on who you talk to. We are truly richer for knowing them. They may be a bit more conservative than us, but we are closer in our beliefs than outward appearances tell us. They have taken our country-fied education very seriously and have included us in most (if not all) of their rural activities… They take such good care of us city-fied folk. 

December came and work on the house slowed to a crawl. There were days of frantic activity, but the roofers (subcontractors) were constrained by a few days of cold weather (shingles would break if it were too cold) and sheer laziness. (I do not speak out of turn, what else would you call it when every time you look out, the roofers are not nailing and working, but sitting and smoking?) We picked out our cabinetry, all the materials for our bathrooms and my quartz countertop. 

Christmas Holiday

We went to SA for the Christmas holiday and left Missouri for about 7 days. It was a good trip, and we got to reconnect with a lot of our friends. We also picked up the front door we purchased. If we missed you in December, I will probably be heading down for my mother’s birthday in April. (She will be 80!) While the normal crew told us that “no, except for Christmas day, we really don’t take any time off”, I really couldn’t see much work done when we returned on the 28th.  

We did figure out a way for Bryan’s prescriptions to be filled (without breaking the bank) and received a letter from the Bexar County elections commission verifying our new address. I sent that puppy back in a heartbeat because voting is HIGH on our priority list!

The New Year

January was one filled with frustration. Between securing a new doctor for the both of us and medical appointments work on the house crawled on in an unsteady fashion. Our propane tank was delivered and filled. This was a 4 figure commitment. The drywall was delivered but it sat for about 2 weeks, with the workers showing up if and when they liked. These sheet rockers were a different subcontract group. I think our contractor had some colorful language for them on many occasions, and he said he actually fired them once. On January 3, the sheetrock was delivered and finally, on Jan 28, the painters came. One month was entirely too long for warm interior work. In addition, the foam insulation was started on Jan 11 but the ceilings could not be insulated until the sheetrock was installed. So, by the third week in January, we were heating the interior, all of which was not insulated, so the rockers could do their work when they showed up, and the heat just escaped out the uninsulated ceilings and roof. We had used 60% of the propane we just bought (along with the electric space heaters).  So, by Jan 31, we had to top off our propane, the level had dropped another 10%. Our combined “utility” bill (all propane expenses and electricity) for Jan was 4 figures!!!

February

The house is nearly tight, but “we still need to keep the interior warm and dry”, as they haven’t installed our front door yet. They did finally install a deadbolt in the door they enter by because we asked them to do so immediately. We got tired of looking out and seeing that door had swung open in the middle of the night or when they weren’t here. So, imagine our chagrin when by Thursday, no one showed up to do major work on the house. No one on Friday either. We picked out our light fixtures on Tuesday, and those could have been installed.  We picked out the majority of the flooring in January, that could have been ordered and acclimating to the house… Whyyyyy? 

The why

Apparently, they took on two insurance jobs right around this area, 2 house fires within the past month. Now, many know of our history. We know and understand the emotions and the processes involved in living through a house fire. And I truly feel for these people. But I would love it if our contractor would finish our job before he takes on another. Really. Our patience is running out. 

It took 10 months for our fire clean up and rebuild to be complete. A hard project, having to organize a build AROUND existing structures.  We are now at month 7 in this new build. And we are exhausted. And before you ask, we neglected to insist on an end date. Before we signed the contract, the contractor gave up a soft 4-month time frame for finish out: weather permitting. I think we should have insisted. 

And oh, I contracted a case of winter Poision Ivy…. 

Yes, this post is a bit, er, negative. And for that, I apologize. This is the unvarnished truth of it. And without the bad, the good would be not good. Was there good? Yes! We are THRILLED with our lighting choices, our floor choices, the paint colors and that texture is so unique and fantastic! Our daughter (back in SA) is terrific and our cats, Bryan and I are all healthy although I’ve gained too much weight!

In addition to the photos on this post, here is a visual timeline in photos:

Building

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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.”

 

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.