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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for the ‘Home improvement’ Category

Claire Wolfe

Weekend miscellany

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Just past the halfway mark of my six months without home Internet. Not too painful so far, right?

Its original purpose of lowering monthly payments to clear last year’s home-improvement debts kind of went kablooey when Dave quit paying for the blog. At that point, I emptied savings to clear nearly all that debt, figuring any unnecessary monthly payments would not be a good idea right now.

Kept a small emergency fund, of course. Always keep a small emergency fund unless you’re living in your car and eating out of Dumpsters.

My latest foundling

Meet my latest forest foundling …

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

Plans, plans, plans (blog and house)

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

:So the big question is: what do I do about the blog now that BHM is no longer paying me to do it? You had some good thoughts on that.

Actually, the big questions are both that and how do I plan for/budget for the final enormous project(s) on Ye Olde Wreck, which I hope to tackle next spring and summer?

These big questions dovetail. Bear with me a moment.

The back half of Ye Olde Wreck needs a new foundation: replacement of three beams 24 to 38 feet long, all new posts, jacking the floor up four inches, and replacing or sistering some as-yet-unknown number of rotted floor joists. Oh yeah, a little earthquake engineering and bug treatment, too.

It’s also time to address part of the reason the foundation is shot. To wit: drainage. On three sides, the surrounding ground is higher than the foundation and slopes sharply so that runoff goes — guess where? — under the house.

Like so:


This is the worst slope. But elsewhere, where the slope isn’t as drastic, the area affected is wider. We’re talking earth moving, retaining walls, gravel, and possibly French drains.

Foundation and drainage: two beastly, tricky projects that need to be tackled as one.

After that, the house will be fully sound — at last. Years of work remain, but it’s work like siding, deck building, painting, drywalling, minor electrical and plumbing, flooring, and landscaping that can be done in bits and pieces.

Ye Olde Wreck will be a wreck no more. Just an everlasting hobby.


I’d started to save for the twin monster projects and was paying down house debt from the last couple years of improvements when I got the word about the blog.

Now, I have to stress again that Dave and Annie are talking with me about other work that, if it comes to fruition, will more than make up for the lost blog income. They’ve been great. And of course you guys click those Amazon links and keep me going.

But in the short run, I no longer have a source of income I was counting on. And frankly, even if I still had it, I’m not sure I’d have been able to swing that foundation work.

A couple of years ago when the roof was leaking and part of it eventually collapsed I held a “roof raiser” and you bowled me over with generosity. I’ll never forget the flood of help you poured over me. Maybe that was once in a lifetime. Maybe it’s too much to think it could, or should, happen again.

And right now … I’m not asking. I’m not even close to asking. You can keep your wallets in your pockets and your PayPal accounts untapped.

Here’s what I am going to do about the blog, though: For now, nothing.


I’m just going to go on blogging as if nothing’s changed. For the next three months, that’ll still mean fairly “lite” blogging because I’m offline at home. But come mid-August, expect almost-daily posts again. With no donation button. No bleg. No whining. Also no moving away from BHM unless Dave kicks me out. Basically … no changes. (Well, not quite true; following the advice of Commentariat members who suggested possible ways to monetize the blog without tapping into BHM’s scarce funds, I’ll definitely be talking with Dave.)

Then, sometime late this year or early next, when I’ve gotten a better idea how much I can earn and save toward the foundation work on my own, I may need to hold a “foundation raising” and turn to you again.

If so, at that point I hope that everybody who benefits from this blog will kick in a little something. Or a big something.

If not, then not. Who knows what the state of the world or the state of anyone’s personal finances will be then, in this crazy time? I remain humbled and grateful for the way you all put a better roof over my head. Always will.

But however life and finances work out, sometime between now and this time next year, I need to put my best efforts into ensuring that this crazy old house gets a solid foundation — one that will stay there until the day I die.

Claire Wolfe

End of week links

Friday, May 6th, 2016
  • It is surely a mixed blessing to have time to design your own headstone. That’s a wonderful monument, though, and the Vanderboeghs could use some help getting it made. Kudos to Kurt Hofmann for a quote deserving of such immortality.
  • “Trump: Why it happened and what comes next” by David Stockman. (How come presidential advisors never sound either this smart or this liberty-minded while they’re presidential advisors? Only afterward?)
  • Yes, indeedy. We should always believe our heroic protectors when they tell us they need tools like Sting-Ray technology to catch terrorists, child-abductors, and the like. Sure thing.
  • Herschel Smith says goodbye to politics. He and I (and probably you) come from different places in the political spectrum, but I’m proud to be his friend-I’ve-never-met.
  • Andrew Sullivan’s blind spot.
  • And you think you’re having a bad day? (NSFW; it’s Nicki, after all. But it would still be NSFW even without Nicki.)
  • Pro-gun mom whose kidlet shot her in the back gets a very fitting alternative to criminal prosecution.
  • Sometimes even writers at the New Yorker think about the real world and ask good questions: What would happen if GPS failed? (A bunch of over-dependent individuals should also be asking what they’d do if their personal GPS devices failed. Or why they’re so dependent on technology that so often misleads them.)
Claire Wolfe

Faith, folly, or hubris?

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

I’ve mentioned The Wandering Monk. He’s a handyman recently in our area who came well recommended and is living up to his reputation. He’s more skilled, conscientious, and reliable than Handyman Mike and charges substantially less. He makes difficult things simple and is pleasant to have around. Quite full of himself at times. But a really decent 39-year-old guy with a lot of experience behind him.

I plan no big house projects this year, but I’ve been bringing the Monk in on a number of small ones — partly because I can afford him, but partly (alas) because he is a wanderer and it’s been clear to me from the beginning that he’s likely to wander out of the area just as suddenly and capriciously as he wandered in. I want to get as much from his talents as I can before he drifts away.

He’s very religious and talks a lot about God. But being Catholic, and being kind of a happy wanderer, his approach is very different than some I’ve run into (who all too often figuratively slam me against the wall and threaten me with “Jesus or else” — and seem to enjoy the prospect of “or else” far more than a decent person should). I enjoy talking with him. Mostly.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

Burning, not blogging

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Meant to get to the library for blogging earlier. But it was a good morning for burning. Just enough rain last night to keep the ground damp but not enough to soak the wood. And hooboy, have I got wood.

Last week a minion came and spent a whole day breaking down and stacking all that deconstruction rubble and since then, I’ve been getting rid of it the good, old-fashioned, no-dump-fee way.


Today was my fifth construction-rubble fire. These aren’t exactly bonfires, but couldn’t pass as humble little campfires, either.

BUT. In addition to getting rid of the unsightly rubble heaps, I’m making other progress. You recall the two unsightly exterior walls I bemoaned not long ago. Here’s one of them then:


Now take a look at today:


The door trim and shingles are my work. I got carried away. I’d figured to make that wall my main summer project, working on it an hour here, an hour there. But I love shingling. Took just five days even though I was sick for the first several of it. Still need to put up a fascia board and some edge trim and to paint the eaves (which of course I should have done before shingling, but I plead brainfog from that endless cold I had. I forgot.

The new wall with the T1-11 siding is courtesy of The Wandering Monk. And if it looks like just any old wall, take my word for it, it was more of an engineering project than you can imagine. Perhaps I’ll give you the full true-confession story on that wall next time I’m ready to make fun of yet another weird quirk of Ye Old Wreck. But for now … progress!

Now off to repay your patience with a couple of blog entries …


UPDATE Okay. I have posted a few more things today and in addition prepped three more blogs for posting between now and the end of the week. So you’ll hardly know I’m mostly offline. I also read and will be thinking about your blog-related suggestions. Big thank you for those.

However, I didn’t get most of my email answered. Will try to catch up on that within a few days, but for now I’m tired, my eyeballs need a break from this screen, and the dogs are calling me home. I can hear them sighing and whimpering all the way from the library.

Claire Wolfe

Catching up in the big world and my small one

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Still sick. More than two weeks now. Whatever you do, don’t catch this thing.

It may also be that springtime is complicating matters. I don’t usually get hay fever, but Old Blue looks like Old Green every morning thanks to its daily dusting of yellow pollen, and I’m wondering whether things that normally wouldn’t bother me are affecting me now because my respiratory system is already sensitized by the virus.

Whatever this is, please don’t catch it.


I finally found a dose of OTC meds that knocks the symptoms down maybe 50% while only reducing me to stupid and dry-mouthed, no longer brain-dead. That’s something.

And today I trimmed out the back door, which means I can soon get down to one of the most pleasant of all DIY tasks, shingling the wall. Fun to do. Looks great almost from the first course. And I can pick the task up or put it down any time. My kind of job.


Meanwhile, out there in the big world …

Kit Lange (Perez) has a thoughtful piece on “Two tactics being used against you on social media.”

Books could be written on that topic. Investigative reporters could spend years plumbing the depths of how “they” — the ubergovernment and the deep govocracy, probably helped along by outfits like the Southern Poverty Hate Law Center — use our ‘Net postings to build dossiers on us. And how they use their postings on our fora and comment sections to provoke and undermine us. Kit’s only touching on a couple of things. But her points are well-taken.


This Vox essay on “The smug style of American liberalism” has been making the rounds.

IMHO, it’s overlong and repetitive. But it makes absolutely valid points about how “liberalism” became synonymous with snotty elitism and social justice pecksniffery (the very opposites of anything actually liberal, of course). Most salient point: The snottery was always there, but when the left abandoned the working class or the working class abandoned the left, nothing remained to hold the arrogance and contempt in check.

The “right” may have Donald Trump, but fundamentally the “left” is in a whole lot more perilous shape.

The most remarkable thing about the Vox piece is the source: Vox’s lefty credentials are as good as anybody’s.


Did you receive yesterday’s email alert from The Zelman Partisans? Two fine articles in it.

The first was a classic by MamaLiberty (a piece I’d have been proud to write myself). Check the original out here.

The second, a new one from the prolific Carl-Bear Bussjaeger, looks at the question of whether Obama could regulate firearms out of existence. Ha! You know the answer to that one, but Bear’s last line says it with a hammer blow.

I’m prepping this blog Monday night, before Bear’s piece posts to TZP. But it should be there at the top of the TZP blog by early a.m.


While the news is neither as good nor as dramatic as it sounds: A Colorado town’s entire police force resigns. (H/T MJR)


Finally, the 100 greatest Hollywood movie quotes of all time. I think they got it right on about 90 of them. Some of the 10 that just missed the list are better.

I don’t recall seeing one of my favorites, though. From The Wild One. A woman asks rampaging outlaw biker Marlon Brando, “What are you rebelling against?” He shrugs: “Whaddaya got?”

At least that’s how I remember it from when I was 14 and ready to rebel against whatever ya got.


Now it’s back off to my bed couch of pain many sneezes, with plans to rest up and be ready to nail shingles by the time you’re reading this.

Claire Wolfe

Sometimes you just have to laugh

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Yesterday The Wandering Monk came by to pry some lengths of 2×4 off the exterior walls of Ye Olde Wreck. They are among the last traces of the monstrous not-a-garage. I’ve never had any idea of their purpose. They had zero structural function. They were as far from decorative as could possibly be. The only use I could imagine for them was for hanging tools, but there was no sign they’d ever borne hooks or any other hanging devices.

They were just … 2x4s. Extremely long ones. Nailed high up on the walls.

It baffled me that I’d been unable to make headway prying them off myself. But since they were large and potentially dangerous if they crashed down from overhead, I figured I’d leave them to a pro.

Here’s the reason they were so hard to get down:


The nails on the left — some of them nearly 5″ long — were holding up those useless trim strips. Dozens of the things, pairs every couple of feet. This is only a sampling.

For contrast I give you nails of the size the geniuses who built my house used for crucial structual functions. On the right are 6d and 8d nails like those they used to attach both the enclosed porch and the entire back wing to the original one-room house. These are not the actual nails, which were all rusted and bent from the stresses of the house pulling apart around them. They’re just nails I keep on hand for light duty applications — like nailing up trim.

I don’t know when the cancerous not-a-garage was built. It was clearly a boozy afterthought. But the useless 2x4s the monk removed yesterday were true dimensional lumber, from back in the day when 2×4 really meant 2×4. That puts them solidly in the time when the original builder was still living there.

Somebody really had some amazingly whacky priorities.

Anyhow, now that the 2x4s are gone, the only remaining trace of the not-a-garage is 1/4″ fiberboard that covers the original tongue-and-groove siding. And those my prybar and I are more than capable of doing away with.

Claire Wolfe

I give up! No, I don’t. But sometimes I wish …

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

It started raining again Sunday evening. Just a soft, unserious, springlike shower, followed by a few more days of the same. But knowing it was coming, I put in several hours of outdoor work, then prepped for an indoor project.

Since there was not a lot I could do inside until The Wandering Monk arrived to help me drywall a ceiling, I wandered across the little one-lane road and tried to make more progress cleaning the empty lot that will someday, if all my plans and dreams come to fruition, contain a gravel path with steps down to a homemade pergola, a small picnic area, a few fruit trees, a firepit, and maybe some chickens or even a goat or two.

It’s a long way from most of that and I’m beginning to despair.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

Mr. J.J. O’Shaughnessy leaves his itty-bitty mark on history

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Summer’s been with us all week (and that’s no April fooling). Aside from a little fog Monday morning, the weather’s been that ideal sort you don’t even have to think about. No worries about shivering or roasting or (thank the gods of the NorthWET) getting rained on. It’s just … what weather ought to be.

Everything smells good, too. Like spring. Well, some low-lying places in the woods smell like skunk cabbage. And skunk cabbage smells like you-know-what. But even that’s a welcome aroma; it say’s winter’s officially over.

In the warm, I’ve been hammering ceilings, beating rugs (lovely, messy, old-fashioned task), and bringing order to the chaos of the de-construction rubble heaps outside the back door.

While sorting rubble, I found something on the back of a door frame that The Wandering Monk tore out last month. I couldn’t get a decent picture of it, but it was one man’s tiny bit of immortality. In pencil (and in rather nice, flamboyant handwriting), somebody had scrawled “J.J. O’Shaughnessy” and the name of one of the nearby towns.

The signature was against a wall where no one would ever see it until the door was torn out or the house demolished, and possibly not even then unless they were looking carefully. I didn’t spot it until I was hammering apart several defunct door frames yesterday.

Off I went to the lumber yard to ask Rick, whose great-grandfather built the house, if that name meant anything to him. After 15 seconds of painful thought he got it: “J.J. O’Shaugnessy was a friend of my great-grandfather’s. They were both logging truck drivers. I remember he had his own truck with his name and a … what do you call it? … a shamrock on the door. Yeah, he helped build the house.”

I refrained from saying I don’t think I’d have signed my name to that particular work of art and asked if J.J. still has any descendants in the area.

All dead now, Rick thinks. He’s not sure whether the one O’Shaughnessy in town is related or not.

In any case, I’ve pounded all the nails out of the frame piece and I’ll hand it over to Rick as a memento. If he finds a proper O’Shaughnessy to give it to, all the better.

Me, I’m still looking for … oh, a sack of gold coins somebody might have stashed in the walls to save them from Mr. Roosevelt. Even a bit of old newspaper headlining the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the Lindbergh kidnapping would do. But so far, nothing but bugs and rot. And the proud signature of Mr. J.J. O’Shaughnessy, log-truck driver. To which he did not add a shamrock.

Claire Wolfe

I don’t always marry my first cousin, but when I do our house looks like …

Friday, March 25th, 2016

You’ve seen the improvements in my wreck of a house and indeed there’ve been many. I take pride in showing off pictures like this:


What I don’t often show you is how absolutely godawful some of it still looks. In some cases, it’s even worse than when I bought it, largely thanks to said improvements. Really, in some ways a tarpaper shack would be an improvement. I’m not kidding.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

Great movie! Lousy weather. Life in general

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Great movie! The Martian

Boy, have you guys seen The Martian? Holy cats!

I watched it on DVD a few days ago and was glad I didn’t see it on a big screen or, heaven forbid, in 3D. I’d have had a heart attack and not be here to write this at you.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

1965 boho chic

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Well, I’ve put up a trial version of my fake transom windows over the new bathroom door. I used matching garage-sale picture frames with “stained glass” cling film on their glass.

Currently they’re simply sitting on nails half-driven into the wall. Not permanently installed. Proof of concept and all. But so far, so good. They let a pleasant, muted light pass between the bathroom and the rest of the house and vice versa.

But they have this vibe of “broke bohemian college student ca. 1965” about them. Long before cling film existed, college bohos managed to fake this same stained glass look. Plus they had tables made out of wooden cable reels. And … somewhere on the wall, inevitably, something from Picasso’s blue period. That bent old man playing the guitar, usually. Him.

And if not that, a bullfight poster. Preferably featuring that romantic young matador who got gored to death and died right in the pages of Life magazine.* What the heck was his name? Ah … Manolete.

(You can have “Paris at Midnight” in the 1920s if you want the bohemian big time. I give you San Jose State College, three blocks off frathouse row, with people who were soon to decree their abode a commune.)

Ahem. Anyhow, cheap, pre-hippie boho wasn’t quite the effect I was going for, but for now this will do.

Unfortunately I haven’t the skill or the camera to capture the effect in situ with light shining through into a dark room, but here’s a shot of the “windows” in the kitchen with meek and wimpy sun shining through them.


And while we’re on the subject of art, I just happened to look down into my kitchen sink one night last week and spotted this “dishwater art.” Couldn’t have designed that if I’d have tried.


More of substance tomorrow. Really.

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