Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Still Sinking...

Dude was motivated to work on the sink in the basement again. He laid out the temporary piping that would connect it into the grey-water tank until we moved it under the stairs. He made the mistake of asking me a question.

Let me take you on the journey we experienced. It's all about the string theory of ranch reno.

If we were to move the cast-concrete sink to its final location (per the plan we wanted), the old work bench would need to be first cleared, then removed, along with all the paint and stuff stored under the open staircase. The piping for both water supply and water drainage needs to be installed along a concrete wall (below grade). The stairs are also along this wall, and are already narrow, not leaving much room for any kind of piping to take up valuable space. The drains leave the house to head to the grey-water tank about five feet south of this wall on the west wall (also somewhat below grade). The stairs sit mostly on the north wall, but take a turn at the west wall for the last two steps, which are concrete. There isn't any room below those two steps, or above them, to site a pipe. If we deepen the risers on the stairs to the allowable maximum, we may be able to widen the landing to allow for piping at the corner. (We would also reverse the door to the basement, since it swings out over the stairs -- dangerous when you have an armload of stuff.)

So then Dude asked about rerouting the hot water supply. Just a simple statement, really. But it brought up another issue.

We had wanted to do point-of-use heaters. I had first learned of them during my college studies in London, and fell in love with them and towel heaters. That is heaven! But we currently have a very large hot-water tank. It serves us well, but zaps a lot of energy trying to keep all that water hot until the moment we need it. Being so far from civilization, and prone to power outages which are ignored for days at a time by the local authorities, we've been wanting to move toward an alternative power supply, if only for emergencies; this would allow us to use electricity for normal life, but easily switch to alternatives as the occasion arises. If we were going to use solar or wind power, it would be better to heat small amounts of water when needed than to keep a large amount constantly hot. So at this point, we began the discussion of what is needed to put in these POU heaters, and what kind of output they offer. How many fixtures can be accommodated by one unit? Can one unit serve both an upstairs and downstairs bathroom at the same time, and where would it be located? Do we have enough voltage coming into the house, and do we have enough breaker spaces to accommodate multiple units (they take two each!)? And how much power does one solar panel produce anyway?

At the moment, my blood sugar was low, and my brain was refusing to consider math or research. I began a complete emotional collapse. Mentions of washer and dryer, vents, redesigning the driveway, and even the idea that we need a canning sink and not a shop sink in the basement just sent me over the edge. But low blood sugar means grumpiness and not tears, so I tried shutting down instead of really lighting into my dear hubby. He would argue I wasn't successful.

I'm really frustrated by the immobilization that happens when we have too many ideas and not enough action or final decisions. I love design, I love drafting, I love putting it all together. I do not love projects without parameters, or those that continually change, or hypothetical ideas of which I have no idea how they're going to be accomplished. If I feel overwhelmed and frustrated, I retreat into projects that are less important and easier to accomplish, like the garden or the round pen.

So that's where my mind went: the garden. It's appropriate at the moment, since spring is soon to be upon us. (As a friend said last night, the 60-degree days have now been joined by the 60 mph winds, so spring must be here.) We have a crew coming out in a few days to help with the pruning of the orchard and nursery, so the chainsaw needs to be sharpened. We need to move the manure and moldy hay to the garden, so the tractor can plow as soon as the frosts are gone; that project will take the next two months. I have to be convinced that the garden will be workable before I start planting seeds -- I have no grow lights, no greenhouse, and the top of the electric heater isn't enough space for the number of seedlings needed for a canning garden.

The big concern out there is the water supply. One well is completely collapsing in, and will take quite a bit of work to get going again. Another one is full of mud for some reason, and will take some specialty equipment to clean out (it's too muddy yet for heavy equipment out there). The grey-water tank was intended for use by the garden, but we don't have a pump yet or any idea of how to get that water to the garden. One previous plan had been a water tank on the hill, gravity-fed into the garden -- but no idea how to get the water up there (one of those hypothetical ideas). This is all important, since the water supply and irrigation design will determine what I grow and where, and now is the time to start those seeds.

We ventured out into the high, cold winds and measured the garden. Basic design investigation: slope of the land, sun path, dimensions, identification of features. It's a large garden at 6300 square feet. I'm not convinced it will be enough. I sketched, he measured, and then we ran back to the house. No amount of frustration is worth hanging out in that kind of weather.

And so, for the next hour, we designed the irrigation system. It's very organized, customizable, removable, and will provide a level of storage too. It will cover the orchard, the nursery, the grapes, the garden itself, and maybe even the salt flats if we want to grow grain. It's all on paper, and a shopping list has been generated. Security fencing has been chosen. That makes me happy.

It's the only thing we really accomplished that day. (Let me take that back: Dude reduced his cookbook collection by half, and I reduced a decade's worth of worship sheet music by half. Huge accomplishments each.) And it all started with that stupid basement sink again. Someday we'll get to it. But the sting theory of ranch reno involves prioritizing as well, and right now, food trumps a non-functional sink and hoses-as-drains. There's still "this much to do"...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

That Sinking Feeling

Remember our phrase "This much to do?" Sometimes the "this much" is all connected, like the string theory of ranch renovation.

Corrosion in the mirror
When Dude fixed the plumbing, the cast concrete sink in the basement was left out of the new design. (This has resulted in the continuation of the drain-the-washer-out-the-basement-door-by-means-of-a-hose situation. Not my favorite.) In order to deal with painting, or cleaning nasty stuff, or washing a small animal (haven't done that yet, but we have to be prepared for anything), we need to have the drain actually lead to a drain. Imagine that. The intent here is to connect the current drain for the sink to the grey-water tank via semi-temporary piping (the sink will be moved as we redo the basement).

Pulling it out
In order to do this, we needed to move the fridge/freezer in the basement that was on that exterior wall right where the pipe needs to go (along with shelving holding saddles, guns and tools). But in order to move anything down there, including this older fridge, the very nice fridge in the middle of the room (now the end of a "wall" of storage stuff) had to move. This fridge was a give-away from the church when we downsized, but nicer than the current one, and we've wanted to bring it in for fourteen months now. With the current one falling apart under the weight of my juicing supplies, it's time. Remember that the basement has a very broken concrete floor, and is stuffed with five generations and a church-full of stuff.
Rusting sink

In order to move up the fridge, the "disorganization that is the living room" had to move. Some stuff was taken out to the storage container. Some was moved temporarily. Some just needed sorted and restacked. In cleaning out all those piles and surfaces, Dude came across the replacement faucet we had purchased somewhere around a year ago. We were desperate for a sprayer nozzle (and handles that turn the proper direction), but had never put it in. If we're going to move the fridge out of the way, this would be a good time to do it. Or so Dude thought.

"That was beyond nasty." Dude's own words. I couldn't agree more.

The kitchen sink is a 1950s (we think -- could be older and repurposed) cast iron, two-basin sink, with a metal apron on 1950s metal cabinets. While the cabinets are scratched and beat up and worn, the sink seemed strong and decent. Until we got underneath... which required railroad lanterns, a large mirror, channel locks, and a whole lot of kitchen cleaner.

The kitchen has never been really cleaned, apparently. The unbelievable amount of nasty food-and-sink-water stains on the insides of the doors and shelves made my stomach turn. The wear and rust were bad enough as we pulled out the ancient cleaning products and twenty steel-wool scrubbies. The mirror showed the incredible state of erosion around each faucet attachment. Trying to reach the back fixtures to undo them, Dude was attempting to not lay on the disgusting cabinet floor. Finally, after not getting anywhere with his hand twisted up like a clenched eagle's claw, he gave up and we switched to trying to remove the whole sink and faucet as a unit. It took quite a while before we discovered it really wasn't attached to anything; it was just sitting on rubber cushions at the corners, and the disconnected drain pipe was blocking the sink removal as we tilted it forward. We dropped the sink to the floor and took a hard look at what was underneath.

New faucet in!
Oh. My. Goodness. The metal cabinets are rusting away... literally. Years of gunk cover every surface. Dust was on the horizontal surface on which the sink sat -- really? How does that even happen? The ancient silicone-type-stuff (because it's unidentifiable) is now cracked and useless and has allowed plenty of nastiness down that stretch of the wall, onto the original, untreated double-lap siding behind the cabinet. Decades of spilled leftovers coated both cabinet ends on either side of the sink. My skin was crawling.

Fridge takes over kitchen
There's really nothing we can do. The reno of the kitchen and living room has to be one large project (due to taking out a wall), and we're not quite prepared for that. So we basically have to plug our noses, put it all back together, and get on the ball to redo it quickly. This was a temporary fix after all... all for the sake of a sprayer.

The new faucet is in place and working great (except that I need to seal it yet). With that and hot water and soap under our fingernails, we took a break and dealt with some other things in our life (namely, rehoming the Ditz, who has begun killing chickens). When Munchkin and I returned, Dude already had the nice fridge in the front yard on the hand truck. We cleared the refreshment bottles, magnets and to-do lists off the old fridge, and brought in the new one. It's deeper than the old one, and heavier; it took all three of us to get it the six feet up the front steps and into the living room.

And even more nastiness!
Grime, after being soaked
We tried moving it into the kitchen past the old one, but it was too wide. So we emptied the old fridge and freezer into plastic crates and onto the counters, then moved it out of the hole and down the steps into the yard. The animals can lick it out for all I care. The space where it sat was just as nasty as the space under the sink, but more dusty. There were two spoons, one fork, an ice tray and an old radio hiding back there. Ick. If you remember my post about the grime under the stove and how long it took me to scrub it all off, you'll understand what we found under the dust. I was just going to leave it; no one is going to pull that fridge out until the remodel. But Dude, gracious to my injured left hand and injured right arm, put all his weight and remaining energy into quickly scrubbing the floor. That's even worse than the underside of the sink. Think of the nastiest substance you know, and then turn it into a slimy paste. Yeah. Gross.
Clean, empty, big fridge

When it was cleaner (it won't be entirely clean until we replace everything), we moved the new fridge into the space, rinsed it out (I used the new sprayer on the drawers!), and began to fill it. Everything fit wonderfully (and is delightfully organized!), so we quit for the night on that clean note. We'll see how long it takes to get back to the plumbing project that brought us to this point originally. I'm beginning to think we need permanent changes instead of these temporary ones, but then I'd have to continue the hose-drain option longer. I'll take the old sinks for a while longer.