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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

$10,000 house article (part 1) is now online

Monday, August 31st, 2015

I don’t know when webmaster Oliver put this up, so you may have caught it before I did. But part 1 of my series on turning a $10,000 house into a home is now online at BHM.

Working on part 2 as we speak.

One of these days, I may even have a front porch. :-)


Claire Wolfe

Project pix and Robbie

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

The complicated ceiling:


And here’s what the old beadboard ceiling looked like when the roof above it collapsed last year:


The roof peak I painted and trimmed this week:


The peak behind it still needs doing, but that’s a job for a pro — and a job that probably won’t get done until 2017.

Here’s a before pic. Or rather, a “during” pic. This was taken while the not-a-garage was being torn off and I was just trying out my first paint samples. Sorry I don’t have one taken from a similar angle as above, but I think you can see the difference, anyhow.


Yeah, parts of the house were pretty much at shack level when I bought the place. That back corner where the not-a-garage used to be is still unfinished even now (2016 project, if all goes well), but those multiple bizarre roof extrusions have been removed and — thanks in large part to you — the roof both looks and is good.

Bonus. My sweet baby boy at 14 years old:


Old, sick, and weary. But he was so happy in the sun that day. I had to take pictures, knowing they might be the last ones.

Claire Wolfe

Hustling, bustling, and not falling off the roof

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

I’ve been hustling the last week to catch up on summer projects before the first autumnal rains hit tomorrow. The rains will be much appreciated by the poor, fire-scorched people east of the mountains; what a terrible summer they’ve had!

Even here, near the coast, a real rain will be a blessing for downing dust and cleaning sometimes-smoky air.

Normally, sea breezes keep our air clean, but it’s been eye-stinging a couple of times this week. I can only imagine what the poor east-of-the-mountains folk have been enduring.


I apologize to the Commentariat members who left interesting or helpful remarks I should have replied to. But I’ve been outside hammering, sawing, caulking, and painting. Cussing, too, of course. But only minimally because this week’s two projects went pretty well and I’m amazed that after nearly two idle months with a broken ankle I’m as caught up on house projects as I am.

The last three days I was up on a roof, though. Ugh. That part I could have done without.

It was no big deal, really. That section of roof is nearly flat and only about nine feet off the ground, so the job itself — scraping and painting a peak of the house and putting a cedar trim strip over the edge of the torch-down roofing — wasn’t all that perilous. I had plenty of room to stand, walk around, and stage equipment and materials. But knowing I had to take the first step back onto the ladder to descend freaked me out. Just thinking about it. Hate that part.

The first and third days I worked up there were cloudy and pleasant and no problem. The second day the sun baked the tarry black roofing — and me. Heat and fumes had me light-headed. I also had to do the “scariest” work that day, including cutting off some protruding bolt-ends and a piece of conduit for a satellite dish that’s no longer there. This was only my second time ever using an angle grinder. Though I marvel at what short work it makes of metal, the device totally intimidates me.

Metal shrieks! Sparks fly! Piercing bits of fire fall into my hair and onto my arms. I’m wearing goggles, of course, to protect eyes from stray metal bits, but you’d have to bundle up in a spacesuit to avoid all the sparks. They do no harm, but they definitely sting. And such high drama! That tortured metalic screaming. That flying fire. Those oweys. The risk of burning the whole place down (never mind that the risk is miniscule and I had a bucket of water beside me). Even though I did the cut-off work and other snall, stressful stuff first thing and only had to do the EZ second coat of paint after that. I felt out of balance all morning.

And I’m such a wuss. So that noon, hot and light-headed and freaked out, I go to climb down the ladder. And I can’t. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I try to step onto the nice, sturdy extension ladder borrowed from a neighbor, and my feet refuse.

I take a breath, walk back over to the wall I’ve been working at and inspect progress (merely for something to do). I take a drink of water. I walk back over to the ladder … and still no go. I picture myself, broken, on the driveway below.

I spot a young neighbor outside by his car and consider calling him over to help me down. And with that, I realize I’m just being silly. I climb onto the ladder and go down, no problem. But back in the house, it takes me 15 minutes and a large glass of sugary ice tea before I quit shaking.

The next day I have to go up and down several times and I’m perfectly fine.

Still glad that job’s over with, though!

Claire Wolfe

Conversation at a small-town hardware store while waiting for paint to be mixed

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

R. You’ve been working on this house a long time. Where do you live?

Me. Across the street from C_____. ‘Bout a mile from here.

R. Directly across the street?

Me. No. Two doors down.

R. Ohhhhhh, my great grandfather built your house! And the house farther down on the other side was my grandfather’s place. And … (goes on at some length)

Me. Cool. I knew the whole road had been owned by family a long time ago, but I didn’t know it was your family.

R. Yep. Your place wasn’t much more than a chicken coop when great grandpa first started it.

Me. I guessed as much. I can tell it was originally one room and that six additions have been made over the years. And I hate to tell you, R., but most of them were made badly. You know how old houses are; full of surprises. But I’ve never seen as many stupid decisions as in this place. Oh, I cuss. And cuss. And cuss.

R. Yep, that sounds like great grandpa.

Me. I love the place, though. It’s fixing up really nice and what a beautiful spot.

R. I tried to buy it from him once, a long time ago. But he said there were too many other grandchildren and great-grandchildren and nephews and he didn’t want to look like he was playing favorites.

Me. Too bad. ‘Cause if you’d have bought it you could be doing the cussing instead of me. And at least you know what you’re doing when it comes to construction, which I don’t.

R. No, I’d have just sold it. (laughs, then adds) Great grandpa was originally from Wisconsin. He and his wife owned a bar/dance place back there. He made moonshine and sold it under the table, so to speak. But he found out that the feds were onto him, so he fled out here. Literally packed up the car in the middle of the night and escaped. When he got here he added an “e” on the end of his name so they wouldn’t know who he was.


So my house may have been constructed and repeatedly added onto by an incompetent (and perhaps a drunken one). But he was also an Outlaw in the best American tradition.

R. also told me other things about the house, such as the fact that there was once a pond inside the (now blessedly defunct) mystery room I dubbed the not-a-garage. He didn’t tell me why there was an indoor pond. But such a thing would be entirely consistent with what I’ve experienced about the place.

Claire Wolfe

Just life

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Sometimes it’s so nice just to be. We forget that. Well, I do, anyway.

This weekend was perhaps the nicest of the summer. We’ve been having glorious weather for the most part, but often way too hot. A few weeks ago, the southern Oregon coast sweated through several days of 100+ temperatures, and it got to at least 97 here. When it’s that hot it saps you, even when you’re huddled in the shady house with a ceiling fan spinning. I know you folks in the midwest and south have it worse; so no complaints, really.

But this weekend was everything a summer ought to be. Temperatures around 70. Cloudless afternoons after cool, maybe misty, mornings. A little breeze blowing. The kind of weather you don’t even have to think about because it’s precisely what weather ought to be.

In the mornings, I grabbed a pair of loppers, a squeeze-bottle of Off!, and a bucket and picked some lovely fat blackberries while the dogs hung out and ate their share.

At home, after ritual coffee, I trimmed the inside of the front door and started on the next 1/3 of the Infamous Ceiling. This section was originally going to be the fraternal twin of the bit I already did. When I realized how (pardon the pun) over my head I am, I figured it would be more like a half-sibling. Now I’m aiming for third cousin once removed. More drywall; less beadboard.

I do think that old beadboard would make better wainscotting than ceiling. Since finding the amazing Lost Vanity, my thoughts are turning to a nice wainscotted bathroom.

Today I started cleaning up Ye Olde Vanity. It’s coming back to life quickly and well. Some gouges I’ll never gracefully get rid of and one inlay piece is missing, which is beyond my ability to fix. But it’ll be close to its old self. That spare garage-sale sink I had out in the garden shed is going to fit it, of course. An hour of scrubbing the porcelain and scraping old caulk and that was like new.

An hour or two is all I’ve been doing. Just enough to resume steady progress while still doing other things and enjoying what’s left of summer.

No long, sweaty, achy, brain-hurting days of labor. No depression or anxiety* or self-doubt or anger. No being among the walking wounded. Just quietly getting things done, and even doing them reasonably (if far from professionally) well.

Yesterday I ended the day taking a long walk in the woods with furrydoc and her bounding lab mix — like Ava, 10-years-old but still unstoppable. Robbie trotted right along behind us. In June and early July I thought he was at death’s door. He’s rallied remarkably. But even with him doing a little better, we don’t usually walk so long these days, nor does he keep up as well as he did yesterday evening.

But then, he had his girlfriend to impress (he’s got a polite crush on furrydoc’s dog). He did a good job of it, too.

Days of contentment. They may not make for exciting, fiery blogging, but they sure make for good life.


* Well, there was some anxiety a few days ago when I woke up at 1:00 to Ava rambling randomly about — and shortly realized whe was distressed by a bat swooping around the living room and kitchen. I was eventually able to shoo it out the backdoor and never came in contact with it, but those were some not-happy moments. I know this is the season when juvenile bats, not yet fully possessed of their bat-sense, get into houses. But all the doors and windows were closed. So clearly I still have some structural gaps to fill.

Claire Wolfe

Midweek links

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015
  • Panama was already better than many countries on guns. A smidge, anyhow. Now, in hopes of combating rising crime, they’re about to get better. Only a little better than the original smidge, but it’s something.
  • Even the most worthless of petty bureaucrats now think they deserve to be treated and feted like Oriental pashas. Who are these people, anyhow?
  • Once again, at least a few on the fringe are sending the message that they’ve had enough. (Tip o’ hat to jed)
  • Yeah, now let’s see if the EPA and its employees get treated like a private corporation and its people would be. Criminal charges. Heads rolling. Monumental fines. Screaming public outcry with environmentalists leading the mob.
  • The Atlantic does a provocative takedown of campus speech coddling. Doesn’t address freedom issues much, but focuses on how psychologically unhealthy this BS is.
  • I was going to say that this is another tiny house I kinda like. Then I got to the part about a finished one costing $95,000. Ninety-five freakin’ thousand dollars? For a teeny little trailer thingie? Is somebody pulling our collective legs??? (H/T jed)
  • A pair of beauties (and I really do mean beauties) via A.G. in comments. Jake Weidmann is one of only 12 master penmen in the world and the youngest by 30 years. Though I may be pretty good at finding stuff in garage sales and second-hand stores, this tops everything I’ve found in my whole life — both for art and for mystery.
  • Kardashian overload. It happens to the best of us. Not usually on air, though. (H/T jb)

Now, I hope that keeps you happily busy for a while, ’cause unless Washington, DC, sinks into the ocean, aliens land, or I find the tub from Cabin Sweet Cabin lying at the roadside before Friday, I’m taking a couple of days off. Should be back with you by the weekend, if not before.

Claire Wolfe

A tale of serendipity

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

This is a story about an act of serendipity that happened yesterday. To tell it, I have to begin with something that happened in 2000 or thereabouts.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Claire Wolfe

Just Sunday

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

Mid 60s with a gentle breeze. A few horsetails of high cloud in a blazing sky. Going to be ice tea weather in a few hours.

This year’s wild blackberry crop is enormous and right on schedule. The dogs and I enjoy handfuls of sweet berries on our morning walks. I’ve so far done no serious gathering as I don’t have a stove to make jam or syrup (and a hotplate is too tippy). I’ll soon head out with a bucket and grab some berries for the freezer.

The dogs wait patiently for their share. They could easily gather their own from the low vines, and they do when I’m not picking. But the moment I stop to grab a handful they stop, stare, and wait for the meager share I dole out even though they could get more, faster, on their own.

No doubt there’s a message about the effects of the welfare system in there somewhere.

Though the berry harvest is exactly on schedule, the September spider crop has arrived early. I have to be careful when I step out my back door or when walking in places where vegetation presses close on the logging roads. Ick! To get a faceful of spiderweb — or worse yet, a mouthful of spider!

First sign of fall — too soon. What with the conspiracy of minor disasters that kept May and June so unproductive, it seems more as if summer should just be beginning.

I finished that one segment of ceiling Friday (pix later) and am now plunging in to delayed spring cleaning.

Pardon me; I must go tear the kitchen apart.

Claire Wolfe

Friday links

Friday, August 7th, 2015
  • I really like this tiny house story (via Shel in comments). These folks aren’t trying to be trendy or green or holier-than-thou. They just know what it’s like to have been economically clobbered and don’t want to be vulnerable again.
  • Cops kill an unarmed white kid and the world says ho hum.
  • In Montana: another Oath Keepers operation to protect miners against fedgov intrusion.
  • ;-) Kickstarter campaign raises billions to wall off the Bay Area during Burning Man. (Via A.G. in comments)
  • Islamists hack to death a fourth non-theist blogger in Bangladesh.
  • Boy, I’ll bet the fedgov wishes it could do this.
  • Indeed, let these crony billionaires and their crony puppets pay their own way. (H/T jb)
  • A guy who doesn’t speak French wins the French Scrabble championship. (Given how snobby they’re reputed to be about their precious language, I’ll bet that really ticked off some Parisians.)
  • Your awwwww story for the day. And this time it has nothing to do with dogs.
Claire Wolfe

At the ceiling of madness

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Yes, it’s conclusive now. I was insane to begin this project at all and plugging at it for most of two weeks has not improved my mental health. Quite the contrary. You may soon read news reports of some poor, pathetic nameless woman picked up by police after running down the street, covered in sawdust and sheetrock mud, babbling wildly about cursed beadboard and claiming to be possessed by demonically acute angles.

But though it may have cost the final threads of my sanity, it’s getting close to done now. A couple more trim pieces. Lots of caulk, two coats of paint … and I’ll have 1/3 of a ceiling.

Here’s where things stand now. Or actually where they lie. I was on my back on the floor when I took this photo yesterday evening (as much from exhaustion as from trying to get a good angle on the work).


Neither my skills nor my tools were really up to this task, but the big sanity-killer was the general kerflotchiness of the structure itself. My design relies on the various pieces coming together to form neat chevrons. Unfortunately, the ceiling beams themselves don’t come together in perfect chevrons (something not readily apparent until I was in the nitty-gritty of measuring and cutting). So there’s a great deal of “make-do and fake it” where the key bits come together. The underlying structure may be off only by half an inch or so, but that makes a huge difference when you’ve got as many as 12 pieces converging in one spot, and the problems grow the closer you get to being done.

I am envisioning strategically place architctural rosettes in my future to hide some of the worst structural and aesthetic sins.

Meantime, let’s see how many of those sins can be successfully disguised by caulk and paint.

And how much father I get before I’m hauled off ranting about the dark evil lurking in the rafters.

Claire Wolfe

Random thoughts for a cloudy Tuesday

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

I’ve been working on my complicated ceiling for nine days now, along with some related projects on the walls and trim. Feels more like nine weeks. And of course, this being an old ill-built house, every step of progress reveals some new problem. I’m making only a few hours progress a day, but at least it’s getting there. Slooooowly.

Why was I not born wealthy so I could sit by a pool sipping a pina colada while someone else gets paid to do this sort of thing?

Oh well, when it’s done, I’ll brim with satisfaction about how I did it all myself. And it was a breeze, really. A breeze.


Speaking of being wealthy …

I love celebrity scandals even when (as is increasingly the case) I have no idea who the celebrities are or what they did to become famous.

Current case in point is a personage known as 50 Cent. Mr. Cent has been for years giving every sign of vast wealth. Not wealth as in “Hey, how ’bout I fund a mission to Mars?” or “You know, I’ll bet I could build an electric car for the masses.” But wealthy as in $40,000 gold chains, multiple Rolls Royces, $1.6 million dollar bets on boxing matches, and a 24-bathroom house with its own private nightclub.

Recently, however, Mr. Cent has declared bankruptcy, apparently in hopes of avoiding a $5 million court judgement against him for posting some woman’s porn video online without her consent. Now he claims and claims and claims again that he was merely pretending to be rich all this time.

Which is more pathetic? Actually being rich and using your wealth to display yourself before a moronic public? Or pretending to be rich because you’re so desperate to win the good opinion of said morons?


Poor Hillary. How much longer can she last when even the WaPo runs op-eds like this about her?

Um. Well, being a Clinton, and being a politician in this age of morons, probably she can go at least until next November. Would be delightful if instead of spending the proverbial “one term in office and one in jail” she took her oath of office from her cell in a federal pen.


That’s all I got today. Ceiling trim awaits. I’m closing in on having the first 1/3 of the total job done. That constitutes my proof of concept on complicated, salvaged ceilings. After that, I move the bed back out of the living room, put away the tools and recoup my sanity before embarking on the next 1/3.

Unless the pool and the umbrella drink materialize in the meantime. Then some other poor, sore, sweaty sucker with sawdust in his hair can do all the embarking and all the overhead hammering and nailing. And welcome to it.

Claire Wolfe

Post-weekend catching up

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Various and miscellaneous.

« Read the rest of this entry »



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