The following links take you to approximate spots in the story!
The move from Rochester, NY to Reno, NV took place just a bit over a year ago. God has blessed me beyond my wildest beliefs! It has been a very busy and exciting year for me. There have been many significant events for me in that time: Meeting VTR inventor Charlie Anderson, participating in a Nationally important study on Digital TV propagation, giving a paper on that project before two major bodies and the FCC, going to the NAB conhe FCC, going to the NAB convention in Las Vegas, getting to personally know a private keeper of lions, becoming president of the major local ham club in the first six months of living in Reno, acquiring three major pieces for the VTR collection; the list goes on and on.
During that time, though, one important goal kept eluding me-- finding a new permanent home. I did know from the outset that I would wait a while before comitting to this project. However, the temptation to look was very strong. And look I did, starting as early as November, 2000.
From the outset, I set a number of somewhat mutually exclusive goals for any new property. These goals were:
It quickly became apparent that these goals were in fact, quite mutually exclusive. The first thing to fall was the ability to have a competitive ham station. For the Reno area, this limited me to a couple of mountain ranges which were either unreachable part of the year, or owned by entities unli owned by entities unlikely to sell. So, the first decision made was to look for a home parcel, and find mountaintop land later.
Any property that could accomodate the VTR collection would have to be somewhat similar to a warehouse or a museum. These properties are available, but I could not afford them. So, I was pretty much resigned to being lucky or building from scratch.
The neighbor encroachment problem was never a big issue. Despite the Reno area having the fourth highest number of persons per square mile in the US, there is still plenty of land available. You just had to be willing to drive a bit to get away from city center. The lion ownership goal would be hard to meet if I chose to stay in Washoe county (Reno's county). Due to the presence of significant urban areas, it is very hard for an individual to get a permit to keep big cats anywhere near Reno. All outside-the-county property meeting the other criteria required either a long or dangerous drive to get to.
So, several months into the looking phase, I realized that I would have to significantly compromise if I was going to acheive even part of what I wanted. During this part of the search, I frequently found properties that had a solution to a particualr problem. But these usually had serious disadvantages that overruled the significance of the single-problem solution. One important thing I discovered in all of this is I would probably have to build to gy have to build to get what I really wanted.
One day in early May, there was a breakthrough, or so I thought. I will always remember this, as it represented a turning point in the search process. I was eating dinner, and reading the Realtor's Real Estate Directory as I ate. This was the most useful tool I had found for finding suitable property, as it listed property by area and selling price. By this time, I was thoroughly familiar with the format of this bi-weekly publication. So, it was with interest I noted a new area had appeared in the listings that wasn't there previously. This was an area where I had been doing much of my looking, so I read on. The first listing showed a nondescript piece of vacant land (The wrong parcel, I can now add!). The description read: 'Level lot between N. Virginia and Trail Dr. No CC&R's. HUD home (I.E. Mobile or manufactured home) on foundation OK. Horses OK. One lot away from commercially zoned Sierra Safari Zoo. Property currently zoned HDR (High density Rural). Great investment potential or build a home on it.' The price was $49,000.
Three things immediately caught my attention: 'N. Virginia St.', 'Sierra Safari Zoo', and 'No CC&R's'. Now, I already knew where the zoo was; I had been o zoo was; I had been out there 2 or 3 times already, as they kept lions. (One of these times was the very first weekend I was in town. I had learned from the newspaper that they were having a behind-the-scenes tour!) In any case, I either didn't finish dinner, or I quickly finished it. I then immediately drove out to the zoo to see what I could find out. Needless to say, I was very excited.
This property turned out to be the sort of things dreams are made of. It was an L-shaped parcel one property to the West of the zoo. The long arm of the L ran from North Virginis St., which is a major street in Reno, and the gravel road known as Trail Drive. The zoo was also located between these roads. Just as in the description, the lot was one lot away from the zoo. But, it was the short arm of the L that was the interesting part. This part of the property extended behind the neighbor's property until it was only a bit over 100 feet from the zoo fence. This intervening land was a fairly deep ravine, and not suitable for any kind of structure. The lay of the land (Which was anything but level!) made this area overlook the entire zoo. But most importantly, this area of closest approach to the zoo exactly corresponded to the lion enclosure. (Can you spot two lions in the enclosure?) So essentially, I would have thlly, I would have the lions to myself!!! (And the rest of the big cats as well!) As if in confirmation of this being a great location, the lions roared for me while I was there!
There was a lot more to this property that made it good besides the proximity to lions:
I was so excited I could hardly sleep that night. I called the agent who had this land listed. (The listing office was, oddly enough, three lots West of this land, on North Virginia!) I learned the owner of the land had an idea very similar building idea to what I had in mind at the time: A steel building with a house built into one end. This would be a livable, practical structure that would meet the needs of both home and museum. (He had dropped the idea when he discovered he really needed ted he really needed to be downtown for his business idea to work.) So, I started designing. I also photographed the land, intending to send pictures to my parents in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
During this time, I was investigating several other ideas as well. I finally sat down and did a thorough analyisis of the advantages and disadvantages of all the land parcels I ws looking at. Only one other parcel scored close to this one, and it was very close: A barn that had been converted into a house at the other end of Lemmon Valley. it was on a fairly good-sized piece of land, and was already built. However, it had some serious building code violations that would be a major problem to correct.
At this time, I also started looking into manufactured homes to put on this land, instead of the steel building. It was all very encouraging, but still expensive. Package financing was not available through this home dealer. I didn't think I could come up with the funds to pull it off.
Then, the bottom dropped out of everything on the weekend of May 12th, 2001. That was the weekend of one of the Reno Amateur Radio festivals, called 'Hamfests'. This particualr event was being held at my employer, KNPB TV. I was supposed to arrive real early to open the place up. However, I overslept 2 hours. Had it not been for another employee who ws also a ham, the event would hav the event would have been a major disaster for me. In any case, and especially as club president, I was totally frustrated by this stupid oversight, and it set the tone for the entire weekend. One thing after another went wrong. Finally, on the day after the hamfest, I came to the conclusion that I was not going to be able to afford to do anything real estate related unless I had a minimum of $20,000, and possibly a lot more. So, realizing I was defeated, I put away the maps, books, etc. and tried to forget about having a permanent place to live until I had raised the necessary funds. I also worked out an aggressive savings plan to raise this money.
The first month of this went fairly well, and I resisted every temptation to even look at listings. Even though time will soften the impact of most problems, this one refused to soften. Every time I thought about what I had in storage, I statrted to long for finding a permanent place.
One day, about 2 months into all this, I broke down and looked through a Realtor's Real Estate Directory. In that issue, I found a quonset hut building with home that looked suitable. I then broke my urge not to do any more looking until I had saved some serious money, and checked it out. Although the property was dilapidated, it did show some promise. Ultimately, it was deemed impractical to fix up with my avilable resources. In that same or the next issue of the Realtor's Guide, I saw a listing e, I saw a listing that attracted my attention. It looked an awful lot like the barn-house I had been considering before. The agent listing it, Landfinder Country Properties, was someone I had worked with early on in the property search. They had also provided me with a lot of information I had not been able to obtain anywhere else. I called them and inquired if this was the same property I had previously been interested in. It was. it had also already been sold. I then ended up discussing with the agent my frustrations with trying to finance a construction project.
It seems that a bank will not give you a construction loan unless: 1.) You own the land, and have paid (Or nearly paid) for it in full. 2.)The well and septic are in. And, in some cases, 3.)The foundation is complete. This all means you need about $70,000 up front to purchase a typical lot, and prepare it for building. There was no way I could ever raise this kind of money.
The agent at Landfinder told me about another place that would finance everything, including the well. This place was called Oakwood Homes. A couple days later, I visited Oakwood Homes. They had a good quality product, and were ready to finance some fairly nonstandard projects. (Things lke alternative energy, etc.) Their homes also had unusual framing that would takeraming that would take the great weight of some of the VTRs. A credit application was submitted, and it was discovered I had about $15,000 more in credit than i thought. Now, the zoo land project (Among other possibilities) started to look doable.
The first thing I had to do was see if the land was still available. (I had been boycotting the area ever since the weekend of May 12th.) Much to my pleasant surprise, it had not sold. This was surprising, as property around here usually sells in the time this one had listed. I had asked the Lord to not let this one get away, despite facing a delay of up to two years. Doggone if it didn't look like this prayer was to be answered!
So, estimates were requested for all phases of the project. When they came in, everything was (barely) within budget. My parents also helped out with a surprise gift of money. This money would help me make a bigger down payment, thus helping me get the mortgage interest rate down to a reasonable level. (These types of package loans have a higher interest rate than a traditional mortgage. However, that can be significantly reduced by a substantial down payment.) At this point, I decided that Landfinder Country Properties would be the agent to represent me. They had been awfully helpful. The offer was prepared and submitted on July 24th, 2001.
Now, the test began. I learned several hours later that two other people had tendeher people had tendered offers for the land at the exact same moment. (What are the chances of that?) Per the agent's suggestion, I made some adjustments to the offer, including increasing my offer up to the just-reduced listing price of $47,500. The seller then left town on busines for three days, so there was no word on what would happen until Saturday. All I could do was wait. Hair and blood on the floor! Finally, at about 5 PM on Saturday, July 28th, I recieved word that my offer was accepted. It was such a busy day that day (A Hamfest, followed by a tour of a manufacturing plant, followed by a ham club meeting, followed by a party for a co-worker. I was also preparing to drive to San Fransisco the next day to rescue some electronic equipment, and had to spend much time planning that.), and I was so beat from waiting for this to happen, I could hardly rejoice!
The next order of business was to properly close the sale. Because of the way real estate transactions work, and the nature of this package loan, it would close in two steps. The first step is called the 'house closing'. This closing is where the mortgage is applied for, and the money handed over. The second closing, called the 'escrow closing', is when the real estate part of the transaction is completed.
Now, it seemed everything started to slow to a crawl. It seemed to take a long time to get 'real' estimates on t'real' estimates on the various phases of the project. The house closing finally took place on August 15th. The escrow closing is supposed to follow in a week to 10 days. It dragged out 20 days until September 4th. This is one day short of a year from when I started to work at KNPB!
Now, the contractors could be lined up, and the actual order placed for the house. This required some extra work on my part, as I had requested some unusual modifications to the house structure to accomodate the great weight of the antique VTR's, as well as a lot of extra electric circuits to power them.
On September 10th, my agent at Oakwood Homes broke his foot and was out of work for nearly 10 days. This, combined with the horrific attacks on the United States of September 11th, and the project was again on hold. When the agent was fianlly back to work, he immediately discovered that my house order was on his desk and had never been dealt with. Right then and there, we reviewed the order. Much to our pleasant suprise, it was correct in every detail. So, the order was signed off, and submitted for production on September 21.
I next learned one of the realities of dealing with county governments. They are not in a hurry. The plans for the site, garage and foundation were submitted for approval to Washoe County. They had to be corrected several times before they were finally accepted for submission. During this time, no progress could beo progress could be made on any front, including the well. The final approval process could take up to six weeks.
On or about October 5th, I learned that the plans had been approved, and four building permits were issued for the project. It took a few days for the site contractor to be mobilized. Finally, on October 12th, at 1:08 PM, the first earth was moved on the project!
By the end of the following week, the site had been prepared, and the 'pads had been cut' for the house and garage. The next week, the foundation trenches had been dug for the both the house and the garage. The excavation contractor told me that working the extremely rocky soil on this land was like mining! What would normally have taken about a day took nearly a week. An old garbage burner on the property was set aside for future landscape use. Meahwhile, it is doing double duty holding up theaddress sign
The weekend of October 20th, I installed the mailbox at it's location in the zoo's parking lot. I learned firsthand just how hard the rocky the soil is here. Even though I used a rock breaker and other tools, I could not get down more than 24 inches for the mailbox mounting post. (I niox mounting post. (I nicknamed one particularly stubborn rock in that hole, 'Osama'!) But, because the ground is so hard, I don't think that it will ever move!
During the first two weeks of construction, I had to get the electric service order going. This turned out to be much more challenging than I thought, as our utility was not fully aware of the fact I needed to really use most of the capacity of my electric service. After many hours of working through various different proposals, a reasonable compromise was finally reached. Still, the electrc service could turn out to be the biggest delay.
Another major milestone was reached on October 26th, when the garage floor was poured. Attention was then turned to the septic system, and the house foundation. The septic system was straightfoward, but very hard work due to the rocky soil. (I also found some interesting minerals in the tailings from the eight foot deep trenches.) The septic tank is an 1,000 gallon model. The trenches are backfilled with three feet of 2 inch gravel, and the leach lines went on top of this.
While the septic system was being worked on, the reinforcing rod was being installed for the house footings. Although the reinforcing rod in the footings for the the footings for the house looked rather makeshift, it took several days to get them properly placed.
One real problem remained with the project. The well. The well is a major open question in a project like this, as one never knows how deep the well will end up being. This is especially tricky in the area where I am building, as the underlying rock was fractured in odd ways. These kind of subsurface conditions also required a more expensive kind of drilling, called mud drilling. The well quality varied considerably in my immediate neighborhood. There is one well close to me that is only 150 feet deep, and yields 25 gallons/min. Another well, less than 400 feet away, is 250 feet deep and only yields 2.5 gallons/min. (The zoo has a 400 foot well, but is deep because of their significant water needs.) The general feeling was that the well would end up being around 200 feet deep. So, 300 feet was budgeted for, and extra funds are on hand to go 400 feet if needed.
The contractor for the well is supposed to do all the research for getting the well permit. However, the contractor we retained was constantly calling the agent at Oakwood Homes, asking us to do research for him. I ended up doing some of this research as well, needing to take time off from work to do it. Finally both me and the agent got sick and tired of doing the well contractor's job. So, a new contractor was sought out, and an estimate obtained. Although this new . Although this new estimate was higher, both the agent and I thought it was a more realistic estimate. We gave the original contractor one final chance. He immediately asked us to do more research. He lost the job right then and there. So, hopefully, the well will be drilled the second week of November.
The week of October 29th saw the biggest activity yet. On October 31, the first of three concrete pours was done on the house foundation. Because of the new foundation design required by this model of house, an enourmous amount of concrete was required. The joke is that this foundation could hold up a skyscraper! That day, the garage superstructure was started, and the septic system was finished. While all this was going on, the 'neighbors' watched with interest!
Most importantly, a date had finally been set for drilling the well. The original well contractor, faced with the loss of this and subsequent jobs, 'cleaned up his act' and got the permit paperwork finished and into the Washoe Cd and into the Washoe County Environmental Health Department. If the paperwork is approved, work should begin on Tuesday, November 6th. (An encouraging sign: A marker is in place on the property that says: 'well'!)
This week (the week of 11-6), the foundation contractor started working on the forms for the stem walls and runners in earnest. By late Tuesday, they were complete, and ready for concrete. Both of these items will be poured at the same time, which will save considerable fabrication time. The garage is now nearly finished. The roof was installed on Tuesday. Last major item remaining for the garage is the overhead door. As of Tuesday, the well is not yet started. Where is the well contractor?
On Wednesday, the J-bolts were set in place in the runners and the stem walls. Just after 1 PM, the concrete was poured for both the runners and the stem walls. On Thursday, the forms came off and loose concrete was trimmed off of everything. Due to some confusion, no man-acess hole was built into the stem wall. That will be cut into the wall after it is determined exactly where it will go. With the concrete pours done, the final site grading was started. This will be a big job, as nearly 2 feetg job, as nearly 2 feet of material must be removed.
The well is at last underway. I arrived at the site just after the equipment started showing up. The County inspector also showed up, and I was able to particpate in the final approval. If all goes as planned, the well should be complete by next Tuesday.
The drilling of the well started sometime early Friday morning. The subsurface held up well enough that mud drilling was not needed all day. But, that was about all the good news. By the end of the day, they had drilled 300 feet, and not hit water. No one had predicted this. The drilling will now have to wait until Monday to proceed. The drilling will have to switch to mud then, as the well collapsed at about the 160 foot level. (At least the entire well isn't done with mud!) All I can do now is wait and pray.
In the good news department, the house structure itself has been ordered shipped, and should be set on Tuesday of next week!
Over the weekend, the discovery was made that much of the tailings from the well had run down the side of the hill. This made an ugly gray 'lava flow' on the hillside. Although this should dissipate in time, it is ugly for now.
So, the first order of business on Monday, 11-12 was to dig new trenches for theg new trenches for the tailings to flow in to. The hillside will have to be cleaned up when the well is complete.
Because the well had partly collapsed over the weekend, the driller had to switch to a 'mud' drilling process. A heavy mud is forced into the borehole through the bit. This does two things. First, it floats up rock powder from the drilling process. Second, the density of the mud helps keep the walls of the hole from collapsing. This process is more time- and equipment- intensive, so it costs more to do. It also is a closed process, and the mud is continuously reused. Unfortunately, the collapsed material is much harder to drill through, so it took the entire day to get back to 300 feet. The good news is that the static level of water in the well Monday morning was 35 feet. This is an encouraging sign, and means we may not be far from water!
On Tuesday morning, it was found that the well had caved in again, but not as badly. When drilling was finally resumed, it was found that the drill was penetrating a thick layer of clay. This layer ran from about 300 feet to 398 feet, nearly 100 feet. Below this was a narrow bed, about 19 feet thick of the type of gravel that might be an aquifer. Then, more of the gooey blue-green clay. The clay is very tough to drill through, as the drill bit cannot bite into it. Drilling was stopped for the day at 420 feet. Now, a serious reality check had to eality check had to be made, as we were now way beyond budget on the well. After talking to the home contractor, and the head of the well drilling firm, it was decided to suspend drilling until it can be determined that the extra costs can be financed. Although this is only expected to take a few hours, it is a major blow to the project as much paperwork will have to be redone, and this will undoubtedly delay completion of the project. Here's a picture of the well crew removing a drilling rod from the well.
After the financing check is complete, drilling will continue to about 500 feet to see if we run into another aquifer band. The head of the well drilling firm feels that there will be more (and better) aquifer bands not far below where we found the 19 foot deep bed. We may even find the artesian aquifer that is under much of this area. If we haven't found anything promising by this depth, we need to start thinking about a new hole. The head driller also feels if a new hole is indicated, we need to move at least 40 feet to find something substantially different underground.
The house did not ship on time on Monday. It apparently left early Tuesday morning. It was in Bishop, CA just after noon. The house pieces had to stop somewhere near Mono Lake for the night, after encountering high winds in the mountains. It is now expected on site midday or late Wednesday.
In the only real posit the only real positive progress for the day, the electric service installation was started on the garage.
On Wednesday, the house halves were shipped to the site. (Here is the North half and the South half of the house.) Not much else was done on the house proper. The garage door was finally installed. This completed the garage. The well, however, continued to get deeper and deeper. A small area that might be an aquifer was discovered around 500 feet. It was so narrow (less than 20 feet) that it was felt it would not be a big producer. With two mud pumps on the rig leaking badly, drilling was stopped at 520 feet.
Realizing a crisis was looming with the well, I passed out a message to all my Christian friends on the internet to pray about the well. I also tried to discern if there was another spot to drill. The answer I seemed to get was to keep going in the current spot. I set a 'drop-dead' depth of 650 feet. This is 50 feet deeper than any other well in the area.
Thursday morning, work began in earnest on setting the house. I took the day off to watch how it was done. I would also be able to watch the well drilling process in detail.
To set the house, the two half sections of the structure were of the structure were placed on either side of the foundation. This was done by a really cool radio controlled tractor called a housecat. The person sitting in this picture is controlling the housecat with a handheld radio control.
Here's an inside view of the North half and the South half. Each section was then set seperately. To set a half section, two aluminum I-beams were placed under the section while it was still on it's shipping axles. These beams extended over the foundation. The section was then jacked up just enough with hydraulic bottle jacks to put a 'truck' under each of it's main beams. These trucks allowed the structure to move in 2 directions: laterally along the aluminum beam, and at right angles to the aluminum beam. Thus, slight misalignments were easily corrected.
Once the trucks were in place, the axles and towing tongue were removed. Using hand winches, the half section was pulled along the aluminum beams until it was over the foundation. (Here's the South section just starting to move..... then closer..... and closer..... contact!)The section was then lowered onto wooden sleepers, and the aluminum beams removed. Then, using bottle jacksack.jpg">bottle jacks and more sleepers, the section was gently lowered onto the foundation. This was repeated for the other half section. As soon as both sections were in place, the roof was completed to make the structure weathertight. Here's the house as initially set. Here's another view of the house from within the zoo. Over the next several days, the rest of the interoir work will be finished. 28 jackstands were installed under the house to support the main beams. I took a good walk through the house, and found only one minor problem: There was no ceiling light in the study. In many other cases, things were found to be better than expected!
Meanwhile, the well drilling continued. There was delay getting going that day. The two leaking pumps had to be repaired. (The mud chews up the seals so badly that they have to be repacked every two days!) The drillers had also noticed an encouraging sign that morning: a slight artesian flow out of the well, of about 1/4 gallon/minute.
The driller showed me how to take samples from the mud, and determine if we might be getting into some promising material. Working around these people was a major learning experience for me!
Drilling continued without much change until about 570 feet. There, they suddenly hit 5 feet of rock.ly hit 5 feet of rock. This was an encouraging sign, as it meant we might finally be close to the bottom of this clay. 10 feet deeper, we were seeing strong signs we were close to an aquifer. Soon, we started seeing the brown sand that is indicitave of an aquifer. At that point, the drilling mud suddenly started to get thinner. The well was going artesian on us, even though it was full of mud!
realizing that we were going to have a lot of water flow out of this well, we suddenly needed to build a temporary dike to divert this water flow to a safe spot on my lot. The excavation contractor had left for a week. So, we had to quickly find something. We soon discovered the neighbor living just south of me had a 'bobcat' front end loader. On inquiring on whether or not we could use it, I found that the bobcat actually belonged to the zoo. (That means they own 4 bobcats: 3 of the wild cat variety, and one earth moving machine!) So, I went over to the zoo, and got permission to use it. (One of the drillers was an experienced bobcat operator.)
Before the dike was ready, there was already a stream of mud flowing away from the drilling site, down the east side of the new house. (They were just finishing setting the second half while this was going on.) In any case, the dike was completed, and is now diverting the flow towards the septic field area of the property.
Drilling finally stopped at 598 feet (600 feet minus 2 feet for how far the drill stuck out of the ground.) By this point, there were signs the aquifer was ending, anyway. The drill was pulled out for the night, section by section. When everythig was secured, we already had 2 gallons/minute flowing out of the hole, despite all the mud in the hole. (Could increase to 10 gallons/minute when the well is clean.) This well was going to be spectacular! Praise the Lord. I prayed for a little water, and got a gusher!! Unfortunately for me, this meant 1 or more late night visits to make sure the dike was holding. I made one stop at about 1 AM. By then, the water flow was about 5 gallons/minute! The dikes were performing very well, so I decided everything would be fine and didn't do any more late-night visits.
On Friday, prep work continued on the house. The electric service was partly wired, and the wiring between the halves was tied together. The outside joints between the sections were sealed and covered.
By that morning, the flow from the well was approaching 10 gallons/minute! Here are three views of what I called 'The Lion River'! view1 near well; view2 behind the house; and view3 looking down the center of the property. The drillers quickly discovered the well had collapsed again, ad collapsed again, and the bottom 200 feet were filled with debries. In fact, more material was removed from this part of the well than was originally drilled out of it. The moment that the well was clean, the casing was run down the hole. I unfortunately did not get out to see the casing being welded (It comes in 25 foot sections), but I did arrive just in time to see the last section being driven in to the hole. The fast action getting the casing down was justified, as all but four feet out of 600 feet were sucessfully driven in. This makes the 'official' depth of the well 594 feet. Once the casing was in place, a fine, round gravel (Specially made by the Paiute Indians) was poured into the space between the hole walls and the well casing. By carefully monitoring how much gravel was going in, the crew knew exactly how full the space around the casing was. They also ascertained the fall of the gravel by listening to it tinkle against the casing as it fell deeper. It was kind of eerie to hear this in the relative silence of the evening. (This was done with the drilling rig not running.) The well drilling crew worked well into the evening to get the gravel in so the cement seal could be poured the next day.
Overnight, the flow returned to 10 gallons/minute/ pouring out of the space on the outside of the casing.
On Saturday, November 17th, the cement seal was poe cement seal was poured around the well. This was done by pumping cement down a pipe to the 100 foot level. The pump used was a double-diaphragm, pneumatically-powered pump. The cement used was 'neat cement', which is pure portland cement (27 bags/yard). When first mixed, the consistency was like thin clay slip. It hardened very quickly, and the crew had to work very fast to get it all in the hole. Even so, the cement constantly hardened in the pumping equipment, requiring frequent stops to clean it out. The artesian pressure in the well was so high that it forced the mud out of the well casing before the concrete was even fully in place. Within an hour or so of pouring the concrete, there was 10 gallons/minute of water gurgling out of the top of the well casing! An attempt will be made on Sunday to cap the well, after the cement has had a chance to harden.
Not much happened on Saturday to the house itself. The most important thing done was the patching and plastering of the inside joint between the house sections. Inevitable shipping damage to the drywall was also repaired. The excavation contractor returned to do some cleanup, including cleaning up some of the spilled drilling tailings from the first day of the well project. I even got my hands dirty, and put in a couple runs of conduit between the houseit between the house and the garage for amateur radio-related cables. On Sunday, an attempt was made to cap the well, but a normal cap actually broke under the pressure! I spent some time that day getting rocks out of what would be the driveway when everything was done.
On Monday, November 19th, I learned that a big push would start that day to try to get a certificate of occupancy by Wednesday. So, stuff started to happen fast and furious! First and foremost, the well people succeeded in capping the well. This required a massive (And expensive!) bolt-flange cap like you would expect to see in high pressure steam work. A pressure gauge was installed in the cap to give us an idea of what kind of pressure was really there. That would help determine what kind of water extraction method would be used with this well. By the end of the day, there was 14 PSI built up in the well. Not enough to pressurize a water system, but a lot of pressure for an artesian well.
Work began on installation of the propane tank. After a spot was picked by the contractor for the tank, a gas line was fabricated and delivered to the site already under pressure test. A trench was also dug for the telephone conduit. I would sune conduit. I would supply the conduit for the telephone, as well as a second conduit for power, antenna transmission lines, etc.
Inside, work continued on the plastering. Besides the plaster, the entire interior of the house would get a coat of paint. One thing that didn't happen was a layer of plywood to strengthen the living room floor did not get applied.
Tuesday started out real slow, then went real fast. By the morning, the pressure in the well had built up to a very respectable 20 PSI! This was still not enough to pressurize a water system, so it was decided a very conventional submersible pump would be installed at the 200 foot level. The pump was purposely sized a bit on the small size, about 10 GPM, as my water requirements are not great. This would help reduce energy costs. Still, I could get 30 GPM from the well at this depth, if I wanted to. The well label was also put on the well, and you can read it for yourself! Nothing much else was happening in the morning.
By noon, work was well underway, but you couldn't tell much was happening. The trench for the well plumbing/wiring had been dug, and the well crew was making ready to install the submersible pump.
By late afternoon, much had happened, but it seems like everyone was rushing to get things done as quickly as possible. That's when details get oves when details get overlooked. The elctric was all hooked up, and ready for power from the utility. The well pump was in, as well as the water line and an underground shutoff valve. But, the water line had been hooked up to the house incorrectly. I also noticed that the pressure in the well was forcing water to leak out through one of the pump motor wires, between the conductor and the insulation! The telephone and acessory conduit were in place, but the accessory conduit had been run up the telephone pole along with the telephone conduit! Inside the house, the painting was well underway. The garage was also painted that day. The wood for the living room floor had still not been installed.
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the Reno area was hit by a tremendous windstorm. This storm was enough to rip gutters off the apartment building adjacent to where I am currently living. I went out to the site in the high winds, and found everything was properly 'battened down'.
Overnight, though, the wind had done it's damage. The topmost row of shingles on the house was loose and flapping in the breeze. I brought this to the attention of the contrctors, as well as the other problems I had noted before.
By noon, the wiring for the well was run, but the wiring for the casing heater circuit (My request) was not completed properly. The pressure tank for the well was installed, but it is not a good in it is not a good installation. By this hour, the wind had changed direction, and was now lifting shingles on the peak of the garage roof! No one seemed excited abut this potentially serious problem. At least, there was wood on site for the living room floor, but not enough.
I finally got the contract for the electric service from the electric utility. One of the few spots of good news for the day: It was designed as advertised, and $2,000 under estimate to boot! I promptly got the paperwork to the right people at Oakwood Homes to set the electric service connection in motion .
Unfortunately, we are now into the Thanksgiving Day weekend, and little work is likely to occur until Monday. So much for being able to at least move boxes over the long weekend. I guess, this is all about learning patience.
By nightfall Wednesday, the winds were already kicking up for another storm. Only, this time, rain is forecast as well. The winds were at least as bad, if not worse, than Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see how much worse the damage is Thursday morning.
Well, the damage was indeed worse Thursday morning. The yard around both the house and garage contained broken shingles. Several shingles were missing from both the house and the garage. One shingle on the garage was bent up at an odd angle. A couple shingles on the huple shingles on the house were folded over. Still, the basically completed house looked really nice in the unusual light of that morning.
I looked inside the house. There had not been any progress on the extra plywood layer on the floor. And yes, there was still water leaking out through one of the wires on the well. The propane tank had not been installed. In short, all the progress made on Wednesday was superficial.
Before I could do anything, it started to rain, with a few snowflakes mixed in. The wind was still howling, which quickly made it miserable. But even in this weather, I witnessed a wonderful sight in the zoo's lion area. It seems the zoo staff was going around to all the big cats, and giving them pumpkins. (I'm sure there were cat-edible treats as well!) For some reason I do not understand, big cats love to play with pumpkins. Even in this brutal weather, Kenya lion and Jambo lion were jumping, and running, and sneaking and pouncing. (It's amazing to see the grace with which these big and powerful animals move!) They were so happy they each had a new toy! I also think Kenya and Jambo enjoy each others' company.
I contemplated the well tank installation long and hard. It would work as installed, but there was no provision for adding even a sediment filter. The control box for the pump motor was mounted on the outside wall, directly behind the electric service entrance. Thservice entrance. There was not even a pipe nipple between the electric service and the control box. Furthermore, the control box would be buried in any insulation I installed. Last, but not least, there was no clue as to which way the water flowed through all the plumbing.
I decided to start working outside, with the elctric service. A check of lug tightness revealed that the lugs on the utility side were not properly tight(!) The lugs on the service side were properly tight. I shortened one of the service side hot leads slightly, so it (the insulated portion!) wouldn't touch the front panel when it was installed. All lugs were properly tightened.
I then dug up the ground in front of the electric service until I found where the water plumbing entered the garage. I carefully determined which pipe went to the well, and which one went to the house. While in the hole, I discovered that the single condoctor run for the well casing heater(!) was directly buried, and not in some sort of conduit. the only way this problem would be corrected is to dig a trench and run new cable. At the same time, I could put in some wiring conduit for monitoring the casing heater and the well pressure. Since the ground was so soft from the thorough soaking we had recieved overnight (I think it was the most rain recieved at one time since I have lived in Nevada.), I gave some thought to digging the trench myself. But, I had to go to someone's house to someone's house for Thanksgiving dinner. That ruled out doing my own digging. But, as the day wore on, I made up plans in my mind for correcting the well tank system shortcomings.
While everyone else was rushing madly about doing their Christmas shopping on Friday, I was more than happy to be filling a shopping cart with parts and pieces for the well tank retrofit project. After the shopping was done, I went to my workplace, and took advantage of power, tools and workspace available there. I fabricated a very heavy wood platform which would get the well tank 12 inches or so off the floor. This took longer thn expected. I then made a new wall mount for the well pump control box. This would be connected through a proper pipe nipple into the electric service.
When I arrived back at the site, I discovered to my considerable joy that the plywood had been laid down on the living room floor. Praise God! One more major obstacle out of the way! The setup crew also showed up, and repaired the shingles on the house roof. They also did some exterior trim painting.
I worked until it was too dark on the well tank retrofit. I got the well pump controller remounted first. I then started working on the loop of pipe that would accomodate water treatment equipment. This pipe was mounted on wood standoffs 5 inches off the wall. It is arranged in two levels, giving future flexibility to add more equipment, should it be needed. The lat be needed. The last thing I tried to do was get the tank up on the wood platform. I found it was so awkwardly heavy I couldn't do it. I will try again tomorrow, either with help from another person, or by slowly raising the tank up on cribbing of some sort until it could be slid onto the platform. In the evening, I built the valve and union assemblies for the sediment filter.
Saturday turned out to be a total washout. The strongest storm yet hit the area, with hours of driving rain, followed by hours of driving snow. As badly as I wanted to work on the pump tank, I could hardly get near the garage. Knowing that it would be totally miserable to try to work in this without power, I just gave up for the day. That meant I would have to cancel all other activities on Sunday and concentrate on the tank installation.
Sunday was a totally different day. There was a beautiful coat of snow on everything! Mt. Peavine looked spectacular with a fresh coat of snow. The lions were all out, somehow enjoying the pretty day. (And probably waiting for breakfast as well! The cats are fed about 33 percent more food in winter to help them generate body heat.) An icicle had formed from the water leaking through the wire on the well!
Before I could start any work, I got paged to come into work. This kind of got me off to a slow start. This thrslow start. This threw my timing off a bit, and forced me to make an extra trip to the site. I then started to take another good look at the walls around the pump tank. They needed insulation, and some sort of covering. After looking things over, and doing a little shopping at the building supply store, I decided that I would use particle board to close in the pump tank area. This material was reasonably fire resistant, much easier to work with, and could take screws without special anchors. So, I got the materials and went to work. Here's what things looked like before I started. Once I got the hang of things, it went pretty fast. The insulation went up, the particle board went up, and the pump controller was properly installed (For the second time in 3 days!). I ended up using some concrete pavers as cribbing to get the well tank on the platform. I then started to work on the plumbing. But, now I had a problem. It was dark!
I parked my truck at an odd angle in front of the garage, and used it as a light source. With the headlights, I was easily able to finish the plumbing. When everything was done, it looked really nice! I even found time to make it to church for the evening service.
On Monday, November 26, the only noticeable thing that happened is that most of the remaining t of the remaining issues with the well were corrected. The leak through the wire was repaired, and the wiring was spliced and enclosed. The pump was tested and found to work fine. The well crew really liked my rebuild of the well tank system. But, it was now full of water, and freezing weather was predicted overnight. Per the well company's instructions, I tried to shut off the water going to the garage. I was not sucessful. So, I ran a hose out of the garage and just let the water run. The well people had also put a hose bib on the well casing. They had water running out of that through another hose. Even though there were two hoses attempting to drain the well, there was still about 10 PSI of presure in the casing! The only thing not corrected was the incorrect wiring for the casing heater. This will probably not be corrected this season.
On Tuesday, everything went wrong. Overnight, my left hand (Which had ached a bit the day before) had become intensely painful. I ended up skipping work and trying to nurse it back to health. What caused this? I'm not really sure. I suspect it has something to do with the stapler used for the insulation straining muscles in my wrist. Ultimately, I ended up getting a brace on the wrist, which helped enough to get me to work the next day. (It was actually from tightening the screws used to build the wooden platform for the well tank. this injury still occasionally bothers me!)
On Wednesday, I spent much of the day hoping that I would feel good enough to drive to the San Fransisco area on Friday for some activities there over the weekend. The main activity was a training course on working with exotic cats. I had booked this class well in advance, and knew I would be heartbroken if I missed it.
By Thursday, a plan had materialized to save at least the exotic cat part of the trip. I would take a Greyhound bus. This ended up working really well, as the bus stop on the Bay area end was right in front of where I was going. So, I contacted the well people, and let them get the foot valve on the well turned off. (Turns out they had a rough time doing it, and suggested a tool I should fabricate for doing it.) I made sure everything was thoroughly drained of water. (They did a good job draining it for me.) I then got ready to travel!
That evening the Lord knew I was under stress from a lot of stuff going on for the house project, this trip, and some other things that will doubtless be the subject of a future webpage. I was ministered to in the most, incredible, wonderful way! I arose early Friday morning with revewed strength, hope, and above all, peace and Godly love. I kind of felt like a new Christian!
The trip itself is a subject in it's own right. You can read more about it on the Non-Domestic Felines Husbandry Course page!
I didn't get back until Monday afternoon, December 3, due to a major snowstorm in the Sierras. This turned out to be one of the biggest storms in several years! I ended up being stranded overnight at the Sacermento, CA Greyhound terminal. Yes, there are better places to spend a night!
As soon as I was back, I learned more things were happening with the house. The new loan papers would be ready to sign on Thursday. Things were ready for the gas connection. Sometime during the week, the house was to be thoroughly cleaned. Power had not been hooked up yet, and there was no indication when that might happen.
On Wednesday, the gas service was finally installed. This was pretty uneventful. An already-filled propane tank was installed on a simple base of solid concrete blocks. The gas lines were hooked up, and the entire system tested for low pressure leaks (The 'Manometer test'). The furnace and water heater were re-jetted for propane. This was also my first time to see the finished carpet job, which was very nicely done. However, I couldn't walk on the rug, as everything outside was pure mud, and I didn't want to track it onto the new carpet.
On Thursday, I signed all the paperwork to re-calculate the mortgage. As it thrns out, the well cost overrun added about $70/month to the payments. At least, my first payment wouldn't be due until uldn't be due until March 1st. This gave me time to save some money, and make some inital improvements.
So, other than power, the only open issue was the roof. I am now negotiating to get this fixed right so it won't be a major problem again. It looks like this will be easy, since I now have good pictures of the damage.
Over the weekend, which was filled with Christmas activities at church, I did manage to show the pictures of the roof damage to the people at Oakwood Homes. They are now aware of the extent of the damage.
On Monday, December 10th, I attempted to contact the electric utility to find out when they planned to hook up my electric service. I had no success getting through to the right person. I also got the well test results back: The well was contaminated with coliform bacteria. This was not good, as the standards call for zero coliform bacteria. On the good news side, the housecleaning has been done, so only the power problem is preventing move-in now.
While out at the site that night, the Lord reminded me He is still in control of all of this. One of the lions, probably Kenya, put out a long, powerful roar! I just stood there and reveled in it, thanking God! It was the longest, most powerful roar I have heard yet, and it was at a time in the evening when the lions aren't usually active. Definitely a sign from the Lord!
On Tuesday, I talked to s Tuesday, I talked to several people about the well contamination. The normal course of action in these cases is to chlorinate the well. But, because the well is very deep, and artesian, getting chlorine to stay in the well for any useful period of time is next to impossible. So, the long-term approach is going to have to involve filtration. The best choice appears to be UV sterilization. But, this will be expensive to install. I am going to repeat the test at least once more before getting any additional water treatment equipment.
I did take the time to finish installing the circuit breaker for the well pump. I also put the right filter in the sediment filter for the water system. And, there was a good piece of news: The electric service installation is now scheduled for either Friday or Saturday. This is good, but it also means no certificate of occupancy until Monday. Looks like I am moving Christmas weekend.
As usual, nothing gooes easy on this project. On Thursday, we had another terrific windstorm. This storm took out power at the KNPB transmitter site twice. I spent most of the day on Thursday babysitting the generator at the transmitter site while the utility tried to figure out why we were having so many power outages. (This string of power outages started ironically, on 9-11.) I figured that the electric service installation would be delayed by the damage caused by the storm.
On Friday, I called the home deaI called the home dealer, and got them to come over and get the roof fixed-- again! This time, they responded right away, and it looks like it was finally done right.
Saturday morning, I got a call from the utility. They were out connecting power! (Turns out the only place that had power problems in the previous windstorm was our transmitter site, so most crews were free for things like installations!) I got out there just in time to see the service finished and connected to the primary circuit (14 kV). The fuse was installed without incident, followed by the meter. With little ceremony, the main breaker was thrown. So, at 10:20 AM on Saturday, December 15th, Quadruplex Park/The Lion House came to life! I did a quick check of power throughout the house; everything appeared to be in order. Now, it was time to call the dealer, and get the Post-Delivery Repair and orientation (PDR) scheduled!
As could have been predicted, more waiting! Dave of Oakwood Homes was out of town on business, and it took six hours for him to return. But, what he had to say was somewhat amazing: Their PDR person had quit. So, he told me to go ahead and bring up all the systems in the house, and to plan on a final paperwork signing on Monday morning. The PDR would be sometime after ld be sometime after the first of the year. Yeehah!! It was finally happening!! And I was able to do the start-up myself!!
Unfortunately, it was membership weekend at work, and I had to work both Saturday and Sunday. So, I was working on the house around my work schedule. The first order of business was to get the heat on. I started by trying to purge the gas line through the pilot. (In the process, I discovered the natural gas-to-propane conversion had not been properly completed. This did not make me happy.) After trying for more than an hour to get the pilot to light, I had to give up and go to work. As soon as work was over, I went back to the house. I opened the gas line at the furnace and purged it. The pilot lit on the second try! Within a few minutes, I had heat! But, then I discovered more problems with the furnace. The flame was burning too yellow. There was no air adjustments in this furnace, so the flame was entirely controlled by the orfice size. After lookig in the instruction book, I realized that the orfice must be too large, and the furnace was overfired. Taking the burner assembly apart confirmed this. Aaaaargh! More waiting.
I could not find any place open on a Sunday in Reno to get an orfice. The gas company seemed reluctant to come out and fix it. So, it looked like I had to wait until Monday to get heat. Frustrations were deepened by the fact that I ended up working a double shift on Sunday as the unitn Sunday as the unit manager called in sick. Still, I managed to install a setback thermostat on Sunday morning, before I had to go to work. Keeping energy costs low was absolutely critical to making the new house affordable to live in.
Sunday night, in the middle of sloppy mud, I took a 'crawl' under the house to make sure all was in order there. I also wanted to see what I would need to do to run phone wiring. I discovered that it was fairly warm under the house, despite there being no heat yet. I also discovered the heat tape on the water line was completely improperly installed. I would have to do a lot of work to the heat tape system to make it useable. I had no trouble finding the phone line drops, but I also inadvertently discovered a water puddle under the house. I was soaking wet when done with the crawl!
On Monday, December 17th, I went in to Oakwood Homes and signed the papers. I was handed a set of keys to the house. It was finally officially mine!
I then called the gas people. They were not happy I had tried to turn things on by myself. They told me the amount of overfiring was slight enough that I could run the furnace until they could come on a service call on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the weather was not cooperating. A rain storm had turned everything at the site to mud. It was going to make moving a nightmare. I still wanted to be on-site that evto be on-site that evening, but it would only happen if everything went perfectly. For once, it did!
Immediately after work, I went to Home Depot and bought 24 concrete pavers, each a foot square. I also purchased a quartz work light. I then went to U-Haul and picked up two mattress bags. After a hasty dinner, I went to the site, and set the pavers. I had to do a fair amount of earthwork to get the pavers to do what they were intended, but in the end I succeeded. I had a mud-free path across the worst of the mud.
While I was working on the pavers, the lions began to roar! What a heavenly sound! They roared off and on all evening! Praise God!
I then lit off the furnace, and proceeded to start warming things up.
I then went in the back yard, and repositioned the back stairs until I could get into the house. This took some earthwork as well, but eventually, the back stairs lined up exactly correct!
With easy entry to the house now possible, I moved on to the next problem: water. I tightened up the joints in the water system, and opened the foot valve. The water started flowing. I set up the hose, just as before I had gone to California. After letting it flow for about 10 minutes, the air was pretty much out of the water line. After a prayer, I threw the pump breaker. Everything pressurized properly, and nothing leaked! Praise God! I then cautiously opened the main valve to the house. Everything appeared toerything appeared to pressurize properly. I first blew down the main water line using an outdoor faucet. I connected the hose to let the system flush out while I checked everything else.
All the faucets worked, but the water was, as expected, quite dirty. But, it ws good enough for the toilet, etc. One faucet in the master bath seemed to run slow. And one drain in the second bathroom seemed to be slow. I filled the hot water heater, and also had satisfactory flow from the hot water spigots.
I checked the time. It was just barely early enough to attempt a move. I went to the apartment. Using some canned cat food, I lured CC cat into her carrier. Black cat was easy to get into his. CC didn't like the carrier at all, and made the most pitiful moaning you have ever heard! I put Cat's carrier door-to-door with CC's, and the moaning stopped. Meanwhile, I disassembled the bed, and got it loaded into the thuck. There was no room to park, so I had to double park while doing this. (I don't miss the parking snarl at the apartment!) I took the bed and some other essentials over in the first trip. As is traditional with me, the very first thing brought into a new property for was a bible. I had packed all my bibles, so I walked in with my pocket bible in my hand!
The water flow from the outside faucet had dropped to a trickle. I determined that the water had turned to mud, and the filter had clogged. I washed the filter off, and e filter off, and had enough flow for the toilet, etc. I would have to ask the well driller what to do about this.
On the second trip, I took more supplies, and the cats. On the way to the new house, I got water for drinking and for the cats. I got the cats inside, and released them in the bedroom while I unloaded the rest of the stuff. I put the bed together, and settled down for the night. Meanwhile, the lions kept roaring. Even in the bedroom, it was quite loud. I drifted off to sleep, listening to the wonderful roaring. The lions had never roared this much, nor have they roared this much since! In any case, my first night in the house was blessed and quite uneventful!
The next several days began the living of a split existence. The first order of business on Tuesday was to get the gas service in order, and get the water heater lit. One thing I was not pleasantly surprised about is that the inital gas comissioning came with a hefty service call charge!
In talking to the well driller, he told me that I needed to let the well run at full tilt for several days, until the water ran clear. There was still much mud in the well, and the force of pumping would remove most of it. So, once again, I had a stream of mud/water flowing down my property!
In the evening, the first round of boxes was moved from the apartment to the new house. Thiso the new house. This turned out to be back-breaking work, as the first round of boxes moved were books, and they were very heavy! I also fixed the front door striker plate so the door could be properly locked and unlocked, and wouldn't blow open in the wind.
Over the course of the next several days, I managed to move most everything in boxes from the apartment to the house. There was time spent each night doing minor repairs to various things around the house. The living room was quickly filling with boxes arranged in neat rows by content. Unfortunately, the apartment did not look any emptier with all the boxes moved.
Over the four day Christmas weekend, I had hoped to get the heavy furniture moved. Because of everyone's Christmas plans, I never succeeded in finding any help. So, I did what I could with moving kitchen stuff, etc. I also somehow succeeded in moving the heaviest electronic stuff, like a heavy TV monitor and a Sony 3/4 inch VCR.
What I did do over Christmas weekend was go shopping! I took advantage of a 10 percent off everything coupon from Lowes to buy a second water filter, a garbage disposal, an industrial grade electric drill, some quartz floodlights, a vaccuum cleaner and a bunch of odds and ends. I also bought a nice TV/stereo cabinet from Wal-Mart.
The second stage water filter was an exact machanical match for the first stage filter, but with a 5 micron element. This element I got from element I got from an industrial plumber. In the future, I will order all my filter elements in bulk to save money. The filter installed fairly easily, and made an immediate difference in my water quality. It was also over the weekend that the water from the well flush was running consistently clear, and the flush was terminated Sunday just after noon.
What should have been one of the simpler tasks of the weekend turned out to be one of the most difficult and frustrating steps of the entire project: Getting the phone service hooked up. With the sky darkening, and the weather turning on me, I took time late Saturday afternoon to get the misinstalled telephone conduit straightened out at the pole. This was fairly easy, although I got Dixie the neighbor alarmed from laying in the hole and working. She thought I was hurt! This turned out to be the only easy part.
I spent Christmas eve installing a permanent circuit in the garage for heat to the water system. Now, I could completely close the garage doors and keep the heat in. I found time to make it to the church's Christmas Eve service, even though I was late.
When I got home from church, I was amazed to find an 18-wheeler stranded in the bottom of the ravine! A big-rig tow truck was there, trying to get it out. They succeeded without incident. Why an 18-wheeler was back there on Christmas eve, I will never know!
I wanted to attend midnight mass at one of the t mass at one of the other local churches, but ended up staying home and working on the stereo stand. The lions roaring next door comforted me on what was a pretty lonely Christmas eve. But I was looking forward to spoiling lions the next day!
This turned out to be the worst Christmas I have ever had. It started with the telephone service installation. I had to straighten out the conduits on the house end. The day before, I had done most of the excavation for this repair, as the soil was soft, and it was perdicted to be quite cold overnight. I had preassembled the new aboveground stub section for one of the conduits. I was originally going to build both stubs, but I decided to do only one. This turned out to be a secret blessing.
It was with substantial difficulty that I cut and cleaned up the underground part of the conduit stubs. The pipes were under a lot of bending pressure, and repeatedly cinched the small hacksaw I was using to do the cut. It was also very hard to enlarge the hole, as the soil was quite frozen. Finally, I managed to get everything ready. The pull-rope was spliced. The glue was applied. And, I tried to mate the old and new conduit sectons. Nothing fit, and the conduit was ruined. I tried several salvage methods to get things to mate properly. Nothing worked. The big problem was the pressure being put on the conduit by the house fouuit by the house foundation. There was nothing I could do about it. I tried to enlarge the hole. It was the I discovered an 150 pound rock set on the conduits by the installation contractor to get the conduits to bend. There was no way I was going to be able to move that stone in this frozen soil. I was completely had!
There were no stores open on Christmas day to buy new fittings. The project had to be done, as the telephone crew would be there on Wednesday. Then, I remembered I had not built the second stub. There was the 45 degree fitting I needed to make things work! Praise God! So, over the course of the next hour, I built up, piece by piece, a new stub. It fit, it worked, and it was attached to the house. While I was at it, I drilled a hole for the inside wire.
Now, to finish the pole end. All I had to do was clamp the conduit to the pole, and somehow backfill the hole. Total frustration. None of the clamps fit properly. The wood of the pole was as hard as iron. I finally had to run a long extension cord out to the pole, and drill pilot holes for the screws!
When this was all done, I was exhausted from frustration. And even though it was later than I had planned to leave, I left for Tigertouch in Fallon, Nevada with a truckfull of big cat treats!
However, I am going to skip over that for a moment, and finish the story of the telephone work. When I got back from Tigertouch, I knew I needed to install theeded to install the inside wire. The first thing I did was open all the cover plates for the phone jacks. The bedroom jack was OK. The kitchen jack had the plastic conduit pushed up so high in the box I couldn't push it down. (The bedroom was that way, too, but it was easily pushed down.) The conduit was nowhere to be found in the shop room. I ended up spending a considerable amount of time and effort (As well as several trips under the house) trying to find the end, and never succeeded. It appears the setup contractor had caught the plastic tube with a cutoff saw, pulled it part way out, and cut off the end to boot. Repair would unfortunarely mean opening the wall. Ultimately, this forced me to put the computer in the bedroom.
Running thw wire started out easy, but quickly turned into an exercise in futility. Despite making sure it was free to unwind, the phone wire kept getting tangled as I pulled it under the house. I suspect I had some 'feline help' on the topside!
After carefully looking at wire hanging options, it looked like using duct tape to tape the phone line to the beams would be the easiest and best way to install it. But, I could not locate any of my several rolls of duct tape! I ended up gong to a convienence store to buy some, only to discover I had left my wallet at home! So, I went back home and got my wallet and purchased a small roll of duct tape at an inflated price.
Things still refused to gs still refused to cooperate. I managed to misthread the wire around pipes more than once. One of these times, I had to untape about half of it, pull it out, and re-run it. Finally, driven by almost pure frustration, I was ready for the telephone install. It had taken me 5 hours to do about 1 1/2 hours worth of work. Christmas day was ruined! Or ws it?
Back to Tigertouch. I had picked a good day to visit Tigertouch. My good friend John Williamson, who runs Tigertouch, was not having a good day. He ws not feeling good. His well had quit working, due to a short somewhere in inacessible wiring. So, I was able to help John get his well working. Then, it was time to spoil cats!
Rocky lion was waiting to see me as we drove over to the big cat compound. Rocky now knows me well, and is usually the first cat to greet me. But, all the cats knew one thing: I had food treats! We gave Detonator tiger and Nala lioness each a big bone. I was allowed to give Kicky cougar a bone through a feeding hole. Kicky was excited and strong. She knocked the bone out of my hand trying to nab it with a claw. She finally got her bone, and ran off with it.
Feeding Rocky ws the best part, though. We gave him a four pound piece of beef. (Rocky's teeth aren't the best, so he didn't get a bone.) John dropped it through a feeding hole. Rocky immediately grabbed it, and strutted off with it. Rocky was so happy, hcky was so happy, he was actually high-stepping! John and I stared in disbelief. This was one happy lion! Rocky proceeded to take his meat to the top of a cable spool, and eat it there, just like a human would eat dinner at a table. The whole time, he was doing the closest thing to a purr that a lion can muster. In any case, for a few minutes, Rocky was the happiest lion on earth!
We gave a big piece of beef to Missy cougar in the indoor habitat. More beef was used to hand-feed to Nikki tiger. (She thinks she's a 'person' and therefore lives in the indoor habitat.) Nikki groans in a most unique way when she is fed in this manner! After this, John, Barb his wife and I talked for several hours about all sorts of interesting things.
So anyway, despite the terrible frustrations of the rest of the day, spending several hours at Tigertouch more than made up for it. It was the best way I could possibly think of to spend Christmas day! I left there walking three feet off the ground!
Wednesday, December 26th was a busy day for the project. First of all the washer and dryer were finally delivered. The delivery people used an interesting strap system to move the appliances. In fact, they carried both appliances together when they were outside! I had them just drop off the appliances, so I could hook them up myself.
The telephone li>
The telephone line was supposed to have been installed today as well. When I got home, I nearly tripped in the dark over a cable strewn all over the side yard. It looked like the telephone people had gotten a late start, and had the cable bind up in the conduit. So, I decided to wait and see what would be done the next day.
That evening, I installed the garbage disposal. This project started out very challenging in the sense that all the waste plumbing under the sink had to be redone. I ended up buying a lot more parts than I thought I would need, just to be ready for any eventuality. Turned out to be a good decision, as I ruined one part. Having a spare on hand was a blessing. Once I got underway redoing the plumbing, it went amazingly fast!
The next evening, I arrived home excitiedly from work, hoping the telephone system was ready to go. It wasn't. Nothing at all had been done. The big project this evening was moving all the heavy furniture. With the help of my boss Fred Ihlow, and our IT director Brian Brastoff, we were able to move everything in 2 1/2 trips. Finally, the apartment was beginning to look empty!
The next morning, I called the phone company to ask them what was going on. They told me that the telephone cable had goten stuck somewhere underground, and that I needed to fix it before they could finish the job. Totally frustrated by these people, I picked up some PVC conduit repair items and headepair items and headed for the site.
The first thing I did was determine where the end of the cable was. It was at the one horizontal 90 degree turn in the run. I pulled the cable back out, and immediately learned the source of the problem: The end of the cable was not properly taped to the rope. I re-did the taping, and proceeded to start pulling in the cable....alone! It took a number of trips back and forth between the pole and the house, and some moderate exertion. But, I did what the telephone company said they couldn't do, without any special tools or manpower!
But, the telephone company continued to prove recalcitrant. They wouldn't send a tech out to finish the install until Saturday, even if the world was ending!
After taking time to have dinner with a friend, I spent Friday evening packing up the little odds and ends of stuff left at the apartment. I left behind only those items needed the next day for cleaning. I moved the new vaccuum cleaner and other cleaning supplies from the house over to the apartment.
Saturday turned into 9 straight hours of cleaning at the apartment. I just simply started cleaning and worked on it until I was done. As I walked out of that apartment for the last time, a good feeling came over me that I had done it. The most challenging portion of the great Quadruplex Park/Lion House project was complete. Praise be to Jesus!
I turned my keys in the next day, but had to check mail for about a week, as the post office messed up my change-of-address. But, eventually, I was able to turn in the mailbox key as well. I have not been back to the complex since.
I took a picture showing all the stuff in the living room, staged from the move. About half of it is now unpacked, and the rest will follow very shortly.
The last item that was moved as part of the inital move was the stone lion I thought I was going to have to leave behind in Rochester. It now stands proudly in front of the house, telling the world a 'lion man' lives here! And, finally, I even had a temporary ham station set up for the January 2002 VHF contest. I didn't do very well, due to low power and omnidirectional antennas. But, I did thoroughly enjoy the view!
So here ends for now the story of my house project. There is still much more to do, like designing and building appropriate water treatment for the well water. The yard needs to be properly graded, and even landscaped in a few spots. Fences need to be set up or mended. Everything in storage needs to be moved to the garage. And the big VTR's need to move into the house and be set up! But, these are all subjects for later.
This page wouldn't be complete without a description of my feline neighbors. In the above picture, Kenya the lion looks out over my land from within the zoo. Kenya is the zoo's magnificent male lion, and my favorite animal there. I have spent enough time at the zoo already that Kenya (And lion Jambo) are beginning to get to know me. Kenya is still a young lion,(And still playful!) and his best years are ahead! Here's two pictures of mighty Kenya taking a big stretch! Note his mane covers his entre belly like a carpet. Barbary candidate if I've ever seen one! Picture 1.. Picture 2.
Sierra is the zoo's adult lioness. She is also one of the zoo's older cats, born about 1992. She has borne two litters of cubs, with Kenya as the father. Jambo is one of her cubs. Sierra is a sweet lioness, but she is a bit more shy than Kenya or Jambo.
Jambo is the zoo's second male lion, and is son of Kenya and Sierra. He is only a bit over a year old, and is still very much a cub. (Here's a picture of Jambo as a young cub.) Jambo has some health problems that requirh problems that required that he be castrated. As a result, he will never grow a mane. Still full of youthful energy, Jambo loves arranging the logs placed in his cage by the keepers. The keepers have a habit of rearranging his logs on him while cleaning his cage. When Jambo is let back in, he promptly rearranges the logs to his liking!
Here are all three lions out watching the world! (Left is Kenya, in the corner, with paw on the fence. In the center, sitting on the house, is Sierra. Jambo is on the right, near the picture's edge.)
Tasha is one of the zoo's two Siberian Tigers. She is of a good breeding age, and will eventually be mated with Nickolai tiger. Tasha shares her cage space with Hobbs the liger. Tasha is perhaps the most shy of the big cats, and frequently stays in her house.
'Big, Bad, Beautiful' is how you would describe Nickolai the white Siberian tiger. He, too is a young animal. Even though he is not quite full size, he is already an imposing animal. When Nick is old enogh to breed, he and Tasha hope to raise some cubs! Nickolai loves to spend time in his water tub!
Hobbs is Sierra Safari Zoo's liger. A liger is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger. As a result, ligers are not found in the wildnot found in the wild and are uncommon in captivity. The zoo's oldest cat, Hobbs was born in 1992. For some unknown reason, ligers tend to inherit a double set of size genes, and therefore grow to enormous size. Hobbs weighs in at around 1,000 pounds, more than both of his parents together. (I have been told that 2 of Hobb's littermates are tha largest big cats on record!) Hobbs is a very sweet cat, and loves human attention!
Last, but not least, are the cougars. The zoo owns two cougars, the one pictured is 'Songan' (I think.). Although they are very large, cougars are not technically big cats. They do not roar as big cats do, but they can purr very loudly!
Although most of the cats have their own cages (Tasha and Hobbes share their cage), these cages are not the largest cages. So, to give the cats more exercise, there is a large common cage that they share on a rotating schedule. This cage also features a pond, which is primarily for the tigers. (I have seen both Kenya and Jambo go swinning though!) There are also plenty of toys in the common area for the cats to play with. Even though the cats are in the common area one at a time, they fight a serial battle over toy ownership! Even though the cats enjoy the common area, they still spend most of their time sleeping!
You can visit the Sierra Safari Zoo online at: www.sierrasafarizoo.com!farizoo.com! Back to the Tim Stoffel home page.