busy day

Apr. 28th, 2017 03:50 pm
mellowtigger: (we can do it)
Politics. If you live in the state of Minnesota, please call the office of Governor Mark Dayton now. He's waffling on an important veto. Just leave a message on their answering machine, as I did, and hopefully you can help persuade him. Our state legislature passed a bill that forbids cities from raising their minimum wage or other protections above what's already granted as minimum protections by the state. That's right, the minimum protection would also become the maximum protection. The bill was taken from the corporate group ALEC, in case that's sufficient information to provoke you to action.

It's being called the city preemption bill. You can read the House HF600 text here and the Senate SF580 text here. You can find at this Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing For Change page the Governor's office phone number and sample text you can speak.  If you use Twitter, you can also use my Tweet's text if you'd like.  I've called.  I've tweeted.  Please add your voice to the swell.

yellow leafed cornGardening. It's literally freezing in Minnesota. I haven't planted my garden yet. On Wednesday  morning, I had a small pile of slush on my car windshield when I drove to work. I should have put a heater on my patio to keep my sprouts from freezing, but I didn't think of it until too late.  I lost a few plants.  On Thursday night, I did put the heater out there, and the plants survived much better.  I think I'll need one more night of extra care for them.

I have a very strange corn plant with leaves that are entirely yellow.  Not variegated yellow-with-green, but just yellow.  It's been growing for 2 weeks, with only a slight hint of green at the very tip of the leaf.  I've never grown an "albino plant" before.  We'll see if it survives to produce any corn this year.

blueberries front yard newly planted or transplantedI've also got a whole row of blueberries in the front yard by the neighbor's fence.  I planted 2 last year, I transplanted 2 this year, and I added 2 more this year to help fill out the row.  We'll see if I keep up with the soil amendments necessary to keep a low pH.  If I fail, and the blueberries die, then I'll just replace all of them with Juneberries.  They're much the same as blueberries, apparently, but slightly taller, and they're not picky about soil.

I'm also concerned that this freezing weather (round 2 of 2017) will keep my apple and apricot trees from fruiting.  I'd be disappointed to have to wait yet another year to see any fruit from them.  Last year, I received them while they had blooms on them, and the blooms fell after the shock of being planted.  Maybe I'll have to wait for year 3 before they produce.

I also asked the city of Minneapolis about rules for building a raised garden in my front yard.  I want a raised bed, so I can grow carrots and leave them planted until they finally produce seeds in their 2nd year.  I learned last winter that where I intended to put the raised garden was completely shaded from our low-on-the-horizon sun by my neighbor's tall house.  The bed wouldn't gather any warming light to keep the carrot roots thawed.  I'll have to put the raised bed in the front yard instead.  I just have to stay 5 feet from the property line, and I have to stay under 4 feet tall.  I've got the area marked, and now I have to buy more bricks to build it.

Security:
I wrote a large check today for the nice fencing that I want. I'm poor again, but it'll be worth it. A month from now, I hope that I have successfully enclosed my yard within a good fence. I'll need to learn how to work with Quikrete concrete, so hopefully I don't mess up anything.  I'm sure that I'll "feel" better with my yard and windows enclosed.  I could also easily get a dog for additional peace of mind, after I have the fence in place.  We'll see how it goes.

Health: My leg has almost stopped oozing.  It's easily pained, though, if anything touches the area where I lost so much skin.  I've had to skip doing much gardening this week, and maybe a week more.  I'm not happy about losing such rejuvenating exercise time.  I definitely heal slower now that I'm older.

I'm looking forward, though, to see what my yard looks like after this season of gardening is done.  It should be even nicer than last year.
mellowtigger: (Default)
injury on day 2My wound from being a dork at the Science March is not healing very quickly.  I stopped at a local clinic today, just to have someone look at it for me.  The doctor said that I was treating it appropriately, but to come back and see her if the swelling at the edges starts to spread outward.  She said for this type of injury that Bacitracin often works better than Neosporin, and she gave me some samples to use.

I was convinced at the Science March by speaking to some people more knowledgeable than I am on matters of property status that I should call to ask why I lost my Homesteader status on my property this year.  I assumed it was because I failed to fill out an annual form because mail delivery here is very bad, and I often get letters for people all over my block.  They told me that there is no annual renewal, though, so I called today.  It turned out that they didn't receive a form last year, even though I filled it out and turned it in at the Hennepin County office listed on the form.  The lady last year told me that it should be delivered elsewhere (even though it had the Minneapolis office address right there on the form where I delivered it), but they would sent it to the correct office.  All done... or so I thought.  The lady on the phone today from the Minneapolis City Assessor's Office said they never received it, but she'll mail another one today.  That's good, since my taxes were going up a very large amount (for me) because of that status loss.

My taxes were done months ago, and I earned just under $30,600 in 2016.  It doesn't sound like much, and it isn't, but it's a lot more than I earned working at the local animal shelter for years.  It doesn't allow much of anything for savings, but I'm still getting by "easily" in my house.  To buy my house last year, I relied entirely on the savings that I quickly acquired while working for Dell for one year.  Life would be easier if I could tolerate long commutes and for-profit corporate life, but it's just not worth the toll on my well being.  I'm better off poor at non-profits, and I don't regret it.  :)

Speaking of taxes, my property taxes were going up a LOT this year as a result of the assessment increase and the loss of homesteading.  Luckily, I've been overpaying just enough each month that I could absorb that increase, but hopefully I can get the tax reduction from homesteading back onto my property.  Meanwhile, my assessment went up from $57K to $65.5K.  That's still a lot less than the value I'm paying on insurance, since that's a full replacement cost of $150K.  But... I mentioned being poor, right?  Lower taxes are good for me.  I plan to continue volunteering to help make a difference in the local crime in Jordan community of Minneapolis, so hopefully I'm contributing a commensurate benefit with my time instead of my cash.

My parents left me a gift last year that will cover the nice fencing that I want for the yard.  I got the quote from the company if I do all the work myself.  I need to give them the okay to order the materials, since the ground is now thawed.  I'll have to install the fence myself for the cheaper price, which will still be over $3.5K for everything.  I think that I'll "feel" a lot better about living here, though, once that's done. I've been woken up a few times already this month by gunshots, so adding a small sense of security would be a good thing for me.  And with a fenced back yard, I could easily get a dog for additional peace of mind.

I'll soon be facing some new stress at work (a coworker taking a very long leave of absence for a worthwhile cause), but that's the only added stress that I anticipate for 2017.  If that's all I have to worry about, then this year will be a good one.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
In the tradition of the old Christmas stop-motion shows from the 1960s, Tim Burton created "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Like the old shows, it's also part musical. The opening song for the film is what I hear in my thoughts as I roam the aisles of holiday decorations in the stores in October.


I bought lights this year, and I put them up tonight for a test. I figure I'll slowly add to the collection each year, growing it slowly as I learn what's easy to work with and adds consistently to the mood of the place.

Halloween 2016 lights

I even have a pumpkin patch in the front yard, although I think I'll have to pull the pumpkins for indoor storage.  One or two has already wandered off, and I want to have plenty for the pumpkin carving party on our block that's been suggested by our block leader for the local kids.  I wish I knew how many trick-or-treaters to expect, so I could plan for the candy loot bag.  All I got from the neighbors during National Night Out was "medium" traffic, whatever that means?

galli

Sep. 17th, 2016 03:09 pm
mellowtigger: (wild things)
Keeping with the animal theme, I met chickens (Gallus gallus) today.

This morning was overcast, so I took the opportunity to spend a few hours touching up the deck. I got some decent work done, but I've already spotted yet another section that I've failed to coat at all. I guess I'll be touching up again sometime. It was nearly 1pm before I finally got on the road in my car to do some nearby traveling.

welcome sign Twin Cities Chicken Coop TourI had seen the Chicken Coop Tour invitation, so I visited a few locations in Minneapolis nearest my house. The lady at the end of my block has several chickens in her back yard. She wasn't part of this tour event, but I've already talked with her. She also has several dogs that obviously get along well with the birds. I wanted to compare how other people were raising chickens in the city.

This event seems to be well organized. At least the places I visited had prominent signs in the front yard to welcome visitors and direct them to the back yard. There seems to be a lot of interest, too, because there were several visitors at each place during the short time that I was there.

One owner mentioned that Minneapolis city code says he can't build a permanent structure within 4 foot of the property line, so his chicken coop is that distance from the fence. With that 4-foot tract sitting behind it unused, he decided to just fence it in too and use it as part of the chicken run. It looked very efficient. He didn't even have electricity at the coop, but he had a solar air heater and he said that filling up their fresh water bucket each morning would keep them in water throughout the day without freezing.  During subzero days, he could just run an extension cord to the coop and drop an aquarium heater into their water bucket.

Another house had been participating in this tour for many years. They even had food and drinks and takeaway gifts for people to share. She said that for years, a pair of old women would show up promptly at 10am, and they'd all share a glass of champagne together.  It was maybe too extravagant for a chicken tour, but it certainly leaves a good impression.  I got the refrigerator magnet seen here, and I signed the guest book.

Raising chickens does increase the daily chore routine, though, which I prefer to avoid adding to the load. And chickens do require resources of food, water, shelter, and heat.  It was good to see actual costs calculated and displayed by the chicken coop.

Twin Cities Coop Tour chicken refrigerator magnetchicken coop feed costschicken coop heat lamp costs

So, I don't know if it's for me.  I think I'd like to try it sometime.  I seldom bring meat to the house unless it's prepackaged and/or precooked stuff, so eggs would be a good source of vitamin B12 for me.  Plus, I'd know that the chickens were treated well and fed healthy meals without being dosed with antibiotics.

I'll keep the idea as a definite "maybe".

canines

Sep. 16th, 2016 11:13 pm
mellowtigger: (wild things)
I've pondered today several times if I would like to have a dog at the house. I certainly would feel safer with a living burglar alarm beside me. I'm not sure I want to establish a separate "dog poop space" from garden space, though. Regardless, I'd need to get a fence first, so the dog has a place to run without supervision, especially in winter.

I had pondered getting a Shiba Inu or an old Greyhound, since they're supposed to be "cat like" in their demeanor, with low demands on the human. As I read up on them, however, I see that both breeds tend to aggressively chase smaller animals, which would be bad news for my cat when she darts down the stairs and takes a flying leap onto the floor. It's the sort of activity that might trigger a deadly chase by the dog.

So I went looking for suggestions. Animal Planet had a decent quiz (that I liked better than the more official AKC one). It listed some interesting results for me:

Scottish Deerhound
Scottish Deerhound
(97% match)
I'd never heard of it before. Low energy, which is good. A little big for my space, though, and they rate it low for guard duty.
Great Pyrenees
Great Pyrenees
(96% match)
Beautiful, fluffy, low energy, and good with pets. Those qualities seem great. But "barks a lot"? And other places say it may be a drooler.  Yet other places mention the loud bark, but then also say it's quiet indoors?  Then again, how much time can you keep a giant dog indoors?  So, I don't know.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
(95% match)
I'd never heard of this one either. Cute face, low energy, and some watchdog ability. Maybe this is the kind of dog I need in the house.  Except apparently it's expensive if you can find one, so no.
Collie
Collie
(95% match)
Good old-fashioned Collie. Very friendly and good protectors. They'd be easy to find here, I think. But barking is the issue again?
Finnish Spitz
Finnish Spitz
(95% match)
Another breed I'd never heard of before. Good with pets and good guard ability, but again with the loud barking.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
(95% match)
Another one I've never heard of. Exceptionally good with pets, great guard dog, low energy. Sounds terrific, what's the catch? Oh, yeah, a big animal that's destructive when bored and may slobber a lot, while being expensive and short-lived. Ok, not for me.

I could just get a tiny Chihuahua and be done with the question. Then spend hours watching it be terrorized by my cat. Some guard dog, eh?

If I ever get a dog, I'm sure I'll just roam the animal shelters for months until I find a mutt that strikes my fancy, and just hope it's not an annoying barker or digger.
mellowtigger: (we can do it)
I ordered a small chainsaw with my last paycheck, and it finally arrived at the store this weekend.  I used it today, and it's decent for a small tool.  It locked up a few times on the small-ish diameter tree that I cut down, but it accomplished the job. 

tree cut with red stainI tackled the almost-all-dead tree that had already broken off during the big storm many weeks ago.  A woodpecker had used it to house some chicks earlier this year.  I'm not sure what happened to them after the storm and their section broke off.  They were lodged horizontally for a few weeks, caught in branches of other trees until the next storm finally took that section down to the ground. 

After I cut down the main trunk, I saw the red area in the main part of the tree.  If it's just stain from the oil the saw uses, then I would expect all the cross sections to show that red coloration, but only the lower parts of the main trunk did.  Does anyone know what it means?  (edit: Thanks to Litchfield on G+, it seems this red tint is typical for box elder trees trying to fight off a fungal infection.)

tree cut and stacked for firewoodI got the bits cut up into firewood lengths, and I got them stacked in the back yard. 

I bought this house on a homesteading arrangement, and it's starting to look a bit like a homestead, I think.  Slow progress, but steady.

I'm looking forward to the street at the end of the block finally opening after the construction is finished.  It's looking much nicer than prior to construction.  Supposedly there's no new lighting coming with it yet, even though the conduit infrastructure was put in place for it.  I heard at the last Jordan Area Community Council (JACC) meeting that street lights cost about $8K each, and funds weren't included in the reconstruction for all new lighting.  Disappointing, since that street is supposed to be party of the bicycle-friendly network of Minneapolis, but it remains a high-crime area.  #WarzoneInMinneapolis

Still, though, it does look rather welcoming for bicyclists, joggers, and walkers.

26th Street reconstruction in Minneapolis

I look forward to driving to work on that road again.  And maybe taking the bus and bicycling on that route too, if the crime calms down.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
I have mason bees, giant (apparently) spaghetti squash, and now a fire pit.

fire pit back yard, 25 feet from back of houseI checked the Minneapolis website for rules about fire pits, then I measured 25 feet from the back of my house.  That distance pretty much put the fire pit in the middle of the back yard, which is farther away than I would have liked, but I don't want to give the city or my neighbors any reason to complain.

I wanted to put some fire damage onto that metal ring immediately after setting it up today, thinking maybe it will help reduce the temptation of anyone to simply steal it from the back of my yard.  I still very much want a fence, but getting rid of (at least some of) those trees is the priority expenditure for September.  August money went to pay off the electricians for the air conditioning that never got installed.  At least I no longer need the a/c for this year.

I plan to get a chain saw that uses the same batteries as my lawn mower and edger.  It'll require a special order at Home Depot, but I'll finally be able to get rid of these horrible box elder trees.  It seems their only purpose is to attract carpenter ants (I've seen the large black ants on at least 2 of them) and fill my house with box elder bugs.  They're back for a 2nd season this year.  At least the bugs now are not as bad as earlier this spring.

singed arm hairsI still want to do some more work on the fire pit: put some sand and rocks as a bottom layer, which will raise it up another inch or two.  That metal ring gets very hot, so I might consider putting some thin cinder pieces on top to make it suitable for sitting on the edge, away from the searing metal ring.

I also need to get a proper poker for the fire pit.  It came with a mini-version that is much too short.  I noticed some strange white fluff on my arms, and it took me a few moments to realize that I'd singed the hairs on my arm.  They were all in various stages of melting away.  Oops.

mason bee houseI moved my mason bee bamboo home from the old house.  It appears to be well used this year.  Lots of the holes have been filled up by a mother bee putting one of her larva into each tube then sealing it up.  I call it a bee "home", since mason bees are not social, so they don't form a "hive" together.  They're also quite sociable around humans and not territorial at all, since they don't have an expensive hive to protect.  Yay for helping out a few more pollinators in the city!

You can tell from the top photo that the "small vines" (not like the huge pumpkin vines taking over the front yard) are flourishing in the back yard.  I wasn't sure they'd get enough sunlight because of the huge box elder trees lining the southern edge of the property.  So far, all I can tell that's fruiting is what appears to be the spaghetti squash.  It's making squashes much larger, maybe twice as large, than the stuff I usually buy in the grocery store.  I'm not sure I want one that's so large.  Unless I've lucked out, and it's actually one of the watermelons that starts pale and will look more watermelony in a few more weeks.

I'm looking forward to much cooler weather, sitting in the back yard by the fire pit, and contemplating plans for more changes to yard layout for 2017.  It's slowly getting closer to what I want.

mellowtigger: (gardening)
Locals know that I've been spending a lot of time digging in the yard this year.  It's slow progress, but you can notice the difference now.

front yardback yard

The front yard has strawberries, pumpkin, and flowers; the side yard has the vegetable garden, raspberries, and blueberries; and the back yard has an apricot tree, apple tree, some large vined foods (spaghetti squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.), and bayberry.

Coworkers gave me some native plants, and they're in various stages of recovery or outright thriving.  Also thriving this year is some bergamot that another coworker gave me 2 years ago.  It's nice working with other nature afficionados.
native plantsbergamot and mason bee home

It's very slow progress.  Digging in the ground here means more than just lifting up the sod.  It means sifting through all of the dirt and sod to shake out the "dangerous bits": broken glass, rusted nails, sawed off bolts, and lots of other stuff.  My bucket of "stuff that shouldn't be in a yard" is full, and I still have a lot of sifting to do.  I've been throwing a lot of sod into a makeshift cinder block compost heap, where I'll take it out next year to use for filling up a raised garden bed that I plan for next year.  All of that material still needs to be sifted for dangerous bits.

This weekend, I dug up some bones that weren't obviously leftover dog food.  My collection now includes these 5 samples (plus smaller bones or things that seem like bird bones).
bones

I emailed this photo to the Minneapolis 311 service to ask for help in identifying this stuff, and to ask if my property was ever once a dumping ground.  I'm finding all of this stuff (bones, glass, rusted metal) in any area of the yard and at any depth.  When I water the new apricot tree, the standing water develops a faint blue oil sheen on it.  I want to know if this property was once a dumping ground 100+ years ago, before the house was built.

And I need the giant box elder trees in the back yard to come down.  I noticed carpenter ants this weekend.  They have to go.  Whether all these trees are on my property or the neighbor's though... is an arguable point.
mellowtigger: (the more you know)
For some reason, I woke up around 5:30am. It was light outside, the weather was cool, and it seemed to overcast. I checked the weather forecast online. Yes, overcast until noon then rain.

deck after stainYes! It's time to stain the deck. The wood was nearly white from bleaching in the sun, so it needed a new color and protection from further exposure.

I guess I was expecting the stuff to be kind of an oil. It's an all-in-one stain and sealant, though, so it works more like varnish. I didn't know, so I've made some mistakes.

First, don't be surprised by the initial color. I applied it a little thinner than I should at the beginning because I wasn't expecting my deck to be so... PINK. It later dried to a much nicer pecan color. Also don't use the roller to mostly-cover railings, thinking that you'll touch up with the brush later with a second coat. There is no second coat. After the stuff starts to dry, it's already waterproofed and any attempt to apply again just beads up instead. Use the roller only on the broad surfaces, and use the brush everywhere else.

Second, use a "bleach" (the home supply store sells cans of special stuff for this purpose) to eliminate any unintended stains on the wood. I looked down at the deck and saw it was already terribly bleached by the sun, so I started painting the stainer onto it. Then I got to the parts that were black with mold, and... too late to change course now (hands splattered in paint, skies about to rain) so I just sealed it up. I may regret it later. I'm not sure what the mold will do while sealed under the varnish away from water.

Click the thumbnail to see the full picture.  You can still see some of the very grey wood on the lower left corner that needs stain.  It's a big difference in the appearance.  I continued painting through a few light sprinkles of rain, until my can finally ran out of sealant. I have some more touching up to do, but the vast majority is done. 

Then I started mowing the yard, but the rain finally chased me inside with it half done. Now I'm showered, posting online, and looking forward to a quiet afternoon after already working half a day outside, and it's only 11am.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2004)
I spent my tax refund on a new lawnmower.

I  intended to switch to a powerless push mower that has the spiral blades on it.  They sell for only $100, and there are no CO2 emissions and no chemical batteries either.  I accepted a used one from somebody, though, and I had difficulty with it.  (It was known to be problematic, which is why the previous owner was looking to get rid of it.)  So I splurged with my tax refund on a battery mower instead.

I got a Ryobi 16" 40V mower that also comes with 4A lithium ion battery and charger.  It cost about $320 altogether with tax.  I tried it out this afternoon.  My yard is just slightly too big to mow on a single charge.  I missed just a few stripes in the back yard.  Maybe if I don't let the grass grow so high (so it doesn't require covering ground more than once), then I'll have faster coverage on a single charge.  It takes almost 2 hours to fully charge the battery again.  It was plenty powerful, though.  Actually, it was as decent as most gas mowers that I've tried.

The good thing about the Ryobi model is that the 40V battery works with several of their yard tools.  I can see myself buying more of their tools to make better use of the investment.  This particular mower also includes a mulching attachment so instead of catching grass clipping in the bag, you can ditch the bag altogether, which I did.

This model is also lighter than a gas-powered mower, so it's easier to lift it inside the house.  I have nowhere outside the house to store it.  The handle also folds up easily for even more compact storage.  It's also much quieter than a standard mower.  Since it's quieter and lighter, it makes mowing the yard easier.

We'll see how it holds up over the years.



settling in

Jan. 9th, 2016 11:55 pm
mellowtigger: (we can do it)
I've lived in (as opposed to merely owned) the house for a full day.

Gunshots last night (not too nearby) woke up the cat first and then me (as the cat stirred).  Neither of us spent too much time worrying after the first two shots, because it's just too cold to worry about anything else right now.  By the time it broke out into a burst like firecrackers, we just crawled back under the blankets to get warm.  The opinion I heard from a local person several weeks ago is that most of the violence here is drug/gang/turf related stuff, so I doubt they'll have much interest in some old guy with his cat.

The current outdoors temperature as I write is -21C/-6F (windchill -31C/-25F).  It really helps to put the house through an insulation test, although it's been a bit of a challenge for me individually.  I've run a small electric heater almost continuously today, and that'll get expensive.
  • There's a spot underneath each outside door that needs to be fixed.  I replaced the trim insulation which helps, but that one corner is still leaking on both doors.  I need to patch it somehow.
  • Air circulation upstairs is very bad.  It's cold in the bedrooms.  I've got one room shut, so it's even colder in there, but my room is still unpleasant without the use of a small electric heater.  I discovered that the vent in each bedroom is an intake vent only, so the only hot air is coming from the landing by the stairs.  That heated vent, though, has poor circulation, so I need to see what's obstructing it or leaking air on the way.
  • Most of the windows seem to be sealed well.  A ground floor bathroom window leaks cold, so I've shut the door to that room.  The pair of windows in my room don't seem to leak cold, yet the outer storm panes have a solid coat of frost on them, so moisture is reaching them from somewhere (melting from roof?).
  • There are still boxelder bugs alive and newly arriving in my sight.  How do they survive this cold?  Where are they getting indoors?  The house must have holes somewhere.  Not good.
  • I've kept the basement door closed today to keep the cat from investigating until I've cleaned down there.  I'll have to go downstairs tomorrow, though, to check for cold air coming in.
I catnapped a lot today to make up for lost sleep last night.  I didn't get much accomplished.  I cleaned the gas stove burners again, so they work, but they still don't ignite on their own.  I got the dining room bookshelf put together, so the plants now have a home at the window, although little direct sunlight reaches there.  Tomorrow, I need to get the kitchen shelves done, so I can empty some of these boxes stacked around.

Tonight I broke out a wool blanket that I haven't used since Occupy Minnesota while sleeping outdoors in the cold.  We'll see if I sleep better with it on the bed.  Even Hope is spending time under the covers with me instead of on top.

I'll keep updating this thread in the coming days, so stay tuned for more escapades.

Edit: 2016 January 10 Sunday 07:55:
Currently -22C/-9F (windchill -31C/-25F) outside.  The wool blanket helped a lot.  Last night was more comfortable than the one before.  I didn't wake as frequently, so I must be growing more accustomed to the new place.

Edit: 2016 January 10 Sunday 12:50:
I did a first pass at cleaning the basement. I scooped up the cat poop that was transformed by alien fungus. 
alien fungus on cat poop in basementcloseup alien fungus on cat poop in basement

I wore a dust mask.  I'm no fool.  I've watched X-Files, and I know what happens when you inhale bizarre fungal spores.

I figured the basement was finally clean enough to let the cat down there, so I opened up the door.  While I took my first shower upstairs, the cat disappeared as expected.  I figure she's hiding down there somewhere now.  Guess I'll leave her be while I drive to the old place to pick up more clothes.

The shower worked just as I expected (which was bad).  I need one of those U-shaped shower rods so I can pull a shower curtain around both sides and the back of the tub.  The window over the tub collected water drops, as expected.  The back of the tub collected enough water to run off to the floor a bit, as expected.  Both issues I can work around.  I just need to install a U-hoop shower curtain.

Also, I stuffed the opening of the dryer hose in the basement that was leaking in vast quantities of cold air.  That plug should help a lot with the temperature in the house.

Edit: 2016 January 10 Sunday 18:26:

Slow progress. I've moved everything from the former bathroom, living room, kitchen, and basement.  Maybe next weekend I can get everything from the bedroom and garage.  Then I still have 2 weekends free for cleaning the old place.  I've got a lot more stuff than I realized.

Sometime, I still need to settle into the new place too.  First on the agenda is getting the kitchen shelves ready.

I have a lead on a recliner chair and a 2-seat sofa.  Maybe I can pick them up next weekend if I reserve a U-Haul pickup soon.

Edit: 2016 January 12 Tuesday 21:02:

I discovered why I had closed the doors to those two rooms: the spare bedroom and the ground floor toilet.  Those windows have only a single pane of glass between inside and outside air.  There is no second storm pane to create an air pocket between the two environments.  Each window has now been sealed (ineptly) with plastic in addition to keeping the door closed.  I guess those windows will need to be addressed this summer.

Edit: 2016 January 15 Friday 10:06:

I bought some metal duct tape, so I could go around the basement and seal any leaks in the ducts to help airflow toward upstairs.  Instead of leaks, I discovered that there's a vent on the stack directly above the furnace.  It's in a hard-to-reach location, and it's rusted solid in full-open position.  Most of the hot air has been going just to the basement.  Doh!  I used the metal tape to seal up the vent except for a small portion to keep the pipes from ever freezing.  We'll see how the rest of the house feels when we're back to subzero (fahrenheit) on Sunday.  Today, we're at a balmy -6C/21F, so it's not a good test, since everything feels comparatively warm anyway.

Edit: 2016 January 15 Friday 20:00:


I don't have much in the way of glassware, but it's finally washed and in the kitchen shelves.  The date of the newspaper when I boxed up my glassware for storage last time: 2003 September 21 Sunday.  It's been a while since I've lived on my own.

Edit: 2016 January 16 Saturday 16:31:

I've been hauling back and forth most of today.  The temperature has hovered at the subzero point (-17C/0F) all day.  I got small amounts of ice in my beard from emptying out the garage today.  At least I've finished the garage... mostly.  There are some cinder blocks for gardening that hopefully can wait until warmer weather, since I might also retrieve additional supplies from the garden soil if they decide to cut back on the official garden area.  Meanwhile, sun is setting, air temperature has dropped subzero again, and it's time for me to start sorting through boxes in the living room to see what can go where.  I have way too much stuff from long-term storage.  I think most of it just needs to be donated to a local thrift store, since obviously I've lived without it for a decade or longer.

On one of today's many trips, I figured I'd fill up the gas tank at the corner store.  When I saw that it's a "pay first inside" gas pump, I knew that I wouldn't be coming back because it's so inconvenient in cold weather.  On top of that, I was accosted twice by strangers for money during my brief visit.  I declined both, since I'm not feeling like a money piñata at the moment.  I'm unlikely to be spending much of my money there during this year.

The only way this area (or any area) can turn around, though, is to spend money at local stores.  I heartily recommend "The Nature of Economies" by Jane Jacobs.  It's a very simple read, and it gives a great argument for how to view economic systems as biological systems.  Think of wealth as water; it simply must flow in order for there to be any ecosystem.  When it stagnates, the ecosystem changes in response.  It can arrive/depart in bursts (like gold rush mining towns or desert rains) or filter slowly through many layers (like thriving cities or rainforests), but the wealth/water must flow.  I need to start finding local stores (besides Cub Foods) to do my shopping, so this neighborhood can thrive again.

Edit: 2016 January 17 Sunday 07:16:

It's -25C/-13F (windchill -36C/-33F) outside.  We have a windchill warning, but it doesn't feel as bad inside this week as last week.  I think those small changes I've made recently have helped.

Edit: 2016 January 17 Sunday 15:20:

I'm a doofus.  I bought that U-hoop shower curtain rod without realizing that it needed to bolt around a vertical shower pipe (as pictured) instead of the horizontal that I have coming out of the wall.  So I went to the store and got a regular tension shower rod instead, and I installed it on the other side of the bathtub.  It works fine for now.  I think I'll keep that U-hoop, though.  Maybe one of these days (or months... or years... there's so much stuff to do!), I'll rearrange it so that the pipe that would attach vertically into the ceiling instead goes horizontal into a tension rod.  Then I could still have a U-hoop, and I wouldn't have to figure out how to attach something vertically on a sloped ceiling.

I also bought some corner door seal stickers.  Both outside doors now have much better air-blocking capabilities.

Edit: 2016 January 18 Monday 15:48:

Done hauling for today.  On schedule for finishing up the move and cleaning the old place on the coming weekend.  I need a nap.  And a vacation.  I feel old.  :)

Edit: 2016 January 21 Thursday 16:48:

Car repairs.  Yuck.  The last arctic blast destroyed whatever was left of my car's suspension.  Even the smallest bumps are now hard and loud thumps.  I knew this moment was coming, but I have to get it repaired now.  With two major expenditures under my belt during the last month, I'll be running short for 2016 already.  I'll have not-quite-a-year's savings.  All of my savings are the direct result of my short time spent at Dell.  (My bank account liked me working at Dell.)  I have a much nicer salary now than when I worked at AHS, so I should still be able to recover a savings account this year.  It just means that I'll do no major fixes on the house this calendar year.   And I can't do a major computer upgrade this year either.  :(  Unless I either work another part-time job or get a roommate, and neither is anywhere in my "want to do" list this year.

There's no time to ask the various neighbors for suggestions on good mechanics in this area, so I'll just take it tomorrow morning to the same place I've been going for the last decade.  I've already logged in to move the money from savings to checking to cover the expense.  Entropy.  Gotta love it, because we can't escape it.

Edit: 2016 January 21 Friday 18:38:


Ouch.  Just.... ouch.  It was about $2600 for repairs.

car repairs suspension bill

That's more money than I was estimating.  I had to dip even farther into my savings account than what I moved last night.  I still have enough saved to absorb one more major problem, but that's now my limit.


I know that having any money saved at all means that I am in better financial position than the majority of USA citizens.  I'm down to a 6-month buffer, which still puts me better off than 71% of USA citizens (see chart above).  I should feel lucky, right, that the "bar" here is so low that I'm well off in comparison?  How exactly did we stop being a civilized nation?

Edit 2016 January 24 Sunday 22:48:

I didn't get much accomplished today.  I was woken up at 4:30 by loud music nearby.  Later, I had help from two people with hauling a small sofa and a recliner across the Twin Cities to my living room.  I have furniture, yay!  Then I spent most of this afternoon napping.  Rest is good.

Edit 2016 January 25 Monday 09:43:


I forgot to mention that I dropped off my old house key with a landlord yesterday.  And this morning I mailed my first mortgage check.  So I guess it's official; I'm living in my own house now.

I wanted to spend $1000 on my first mortgage check each year, but I felt better cutting back to just $500 (actual minimum is just under $400) this time because of the massive drain on my savings during the last 30 days.  I know that the math shows I should pay extra anyway, because skipping an extra payment this early in the exponential function will cost me more savings later, but... it's also important to keep a small bit of savings around too.

I guess this update will be my last post in this thread.
mellowtigger: (Daria)
My brief house-hunting adventure is nearing its end. I will either own a place soon, or I will resign myself to living as a renter from now on.

The first place I liked (on the market a year) sold as soon as I started looking at it. The second place I liked (also on the market a long time) had an assessment of $8,100 on it from the city of Minneapolis, meaning that I would have to pay somebody's else's prior bill, so I stopped pursuing it too. I've decided that this third place is my final attempt, win or lose.  I'm done considering ownership as a possibility.

There are still two things that could prevent it from happening.
  1. We can't get an engineer's certification for the basement/foundation repair work that was done sometime previously.
  2. The banks decide that they dislike me after all. I was pre-approved for a mortgage because of my high credit score (805), but the final loan review is still ahead of me. Anything could happen, since my credit score is highly variable. The last time that I tried this process, all 3 credit agencies couldn't confirm that my credit score even existed, so banks turned their collective noses at me.
house listing on MorganHere is the listing for the place that I want. It has several really nice features for me.
  1. It's a very small footprint (136.25 square meters / 447 square feet), so the size is quite appropriate for me and the cat.
  2. It's cheap at US$55,000.  The mortgage cost is basically the same as I currently pay in rent, so I can clearly afford it even while poor and working a part-time tech support job.
  3. There is a 2nd bedroom if I find it necessary to take a tenant. (I really hope it's never necessary.)
  4. The yard is a "blank slate" covered in grass that I can redesign as I wish (lots of food-producing trees, shrubs, and plants).
  5. Just 1 block away is a very tiny park.
  6. Just 2 blocks away is a tiny community garden.
  7. Just 3 blocks away (length-wise) is a NiceRide bicycle station.
  8. Just 1/2 block away is a designated bicycle pathway (26th Avenue N). It goes to another pathway that leads directly to where I work. If I get my old injured leg in better shape, I could bicycle to work again.
  9. Just 1/2 block away is a bus stop, although the trip to work would require a transfer to a 2nd bus, and the trip would take 30-40 minutes.
  10. It's very near my old workplace at Animal Humane Society, just a short bicycle ride. Maybe long from now I could semi-retire with a part-time job there to cover my costs for food, utilities, and taxes?
It has some drawbacks too. Keeping in mind that I can't afford anything that qualifies as "nice", this place is actually pretty good.
  1. The foundation/basement repairs need an engineer's review to confirm it's up to code (for my peace of mind and also for later resell). The inspector couldn't perform that service. This item is the only "blocker" for me.
  2. It's never had a garage, just some gravel by the alley for parking a car.
  3. The outdoors air conditioning unit (for central air) has been removed, and some cables (phone? tv?) in back have been cut, possibly all taken by thieves trying to recover copper from an empty property.
  4. Oh, yeah, did I mention it's in a relatively high crime area?
  5. The upstairs bathroom needs to be redesigned completely. The shower/tub has an outside window in it, plus a "shelf" area behind the tub that basically exists only to collect water and drain nowhere.
  6. I can't even guess where the nearest grocery store is.  Probably on Broadway Avenue somewhere... but I can't picture where.
If this purchase doesn't work out for me, then it means that I spent $1500 (earnest money plus inspection with radon test) on a very expensive lesson to never get involved in any process that involves a bank.

Edit 2015 Nov 06 Friday 10:20:
Yes, the seller produced the engineer's report for the reinforcements and has agreed to the other terms of repairs.  The only holdup will be the final yea-or-nay by the bank.  I have my Home Stretch homeowner class all day tomorrow (Saturday), and I'll send the lender my certificate of completion.  That's the last of the paperwork that I have to submit.  So... this might actually happen.

Edit 2015 Nov 13 Friday 17:49:
Do they know something that I don't know?  We haven't even set a date yet to sign the closing documents.
house sold sign 2015-11-15

Edit 2015 Nov 17 Tuesday 16:58:
I got the email this afternoon that my closing is scheduled for 2015 Dec 28 Monday 10:00.  I guess that makes it a post-Christmas present?  I'll believe it only when somebody hands me the keys to the front door.

Edit 2015 Dec 15 Tuesday 17:56:
Their running the 3rd (and final) credit check on me this Friday.  If there's any roadblock to closing, this is when it'll be decided.  Otherwise, I'm ready to move in and start paying my own bills.  Their last estimate that they sent me was $420/month, compared to my current $400 for rent.  There are utilities to pay on top of that amount, but it still totals to a reasonable price for my income.  For insurance purposes, it is insured for a replacement value of $130,000, so that price tag is hopefully a good sign of its value.

Edit 2015 Dec 18 Friday 17:28:
The semi-official PDF of closing documents totalled $393.92 monthly, which is $6 less than I'm currently paying in rent.  I hope this purchase finally happens.  It's 10 days until closing, though, and the 3rd credit check was supposed to happen today.  I have received no emails confirming that we're on track.  I'm assuming bad news for Monday, when I should be calling utility companies to inform them of my imminent acquisition of the property.  :(

Edit 2015 Dec 21 Monday 09:56:
I emailed since I hadn't heard anything.  The loan agent replied, "we are on schedule to close next Monday". I think it's finally time to start getting excited.

Edit 2015 Dec 21 Monday 11:32:
As the mortgage company's customer service agent recommended, I called utilities today to arrange the new ownership.  I decided to go with CenturyLink (formerly Qwest, *shudder*) and got 40Mbps service for $30/month.  I avoided the bundles for phone service and tv service, which increased the price considerably.  Why does home phone cost as much (or more) as internet?

Edit 2015 Dec 28 Monday 15:29:
I have the keys.  It finally happened.  I had to help the guy load the air conditioner unit into the kitchen area (for installation outside with the central air in the spring season).  I'll just throw a tablecloth over it and pretend it's a table for a few months.  Now begins the slow process of moving in.  I cleaned the floor of the many dead box elder bugs (doors badly need new weather stripping) and disinfected the toilets.  I got a few boxes of books unloaded.  That may be all I'm up for today.  I got 2 hours of sleep last night.  Hopefully tonight is better for me.  I shouldn't be on the roads or sidewalks soon anyway.  We have a winter storm warning in effect with heavy snow expected to begin in about 90 minutes.  Winter in Minnesota is not the best circumstance for moving.

Edit 2016 Jan 02 Saturday 09:18:
I finally got the bookcase and books entirely moved last night.  I had to strap down the boards to the top of my car and drive slowly there over bumpy roads.  My back and wrists are not as invulnerable as they used to be.  This process is taking longer than I expected.  I'm glad I have the whole month to make the transition.  Today will be for cleaning the kitchen and bedrooms.

Edit 2016 Jan 10 Sunday 00:24:
I've relocated into the house.  New thread here.

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