Monday, June 24, 2019

June 23, 2019 - Holy cows! In the midst of one of their projects, Marilyn & Joie caught sight of a very large black animal ambling along a path in the back yard. "Bear!" Marilyn shouted, with a mix of concern & pleasure that they were finally getting to see one of the animal visitors all the other neighbors had sighted. But then more big creatures (of varying shades of black and brown) came out of the woods.

"No, they're COWS!" Joie retorted in a gleeful tone and counted 7 of them, now contentedly grazing in The Viewing Circle. For those of you who don't know Joie, as much as she loathes snakes and large birds, she adores cows.

While Marilyn grabbed the camera, Joie found the number to the police department...not to report trespassers but to ask for help herding them away from the highway beyond the house.
Note: Joie actually told the dispatcher, "We got a coupla big ol' heifers in our back yard!" Apparently, spending all those years in Texas left its mark on her in more ways than one.

A very nice police officer arrived quickly, followed a bit later by the rather petite wife of the owner of the cows. It turned out that a tree had fallen on their fence about a mile or so north of Chateau de Joie and their small herd had taken the opportunity to check out whether the grass really was greener on the other side.

Unfortunately (because Marilyn & Joie really wanted to see the little woman handling the huge cows with nothing but a bucket of feed), the critters had already turned back into the woods from whence they came. Since they haven't returned, the gals felt sure the behemoth leader of the pack led them home without any human assistance.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

1960s paneling & built-ins
February-March, 2019: Abracadabra! The Reno Queens turn a cramped office/storage room into a bedroom!
   In case you're wondering why on earth they would tackle such a big project in the middle of a school term -- Joie's good friend from Texas State years landed a great job at the university and quickly needed a place to 5 WEEKS! So the gals leapt into action to create some space upstairs for Lisa and her two cats, Sammy & Monkey.
   Unfortunately, saying a magic word wasn't enough to make it happen, but here's the pictorial account of how it did. Week 1 whizzed by as the room was gutted down to the studs.

Joie+crowbar= breaking bad

Built-in # 1 eliminated

1/4 way there
Built-in # 2

Housemate Brittany sledge-hammering

#2 gone - useful closet coming

+ behind door cubby for books

Whole room down to studs
New electrical work roughed in
Week 2 started with Bussiere electricians Serge & Vitale(2) doing the rough electrical work (the Reno Queens don't do electric ...yet). No power in the room for the next several steps--but extension cords made it possible to keep working after the sun set (which was around 4 pm when this project started).

Marilyn got the plumbing pipes wrapped in sound-reducing insulation, then Joie installed sound-proof board on that entire wall before drywall was hung over all of it. (Definitely helped with sounds of rushing water & toilets flushing.)
Marilyn installing soundproofing insulation
Wall of plumbing needed extra soundproofing

Ex-housemate Katherine cutting foam board

Exterior walls required rigid foam board insulation


Mixed insulation completed

Katherine installing

Dust was blown up the chimney!
Weeks 3 and 4 were packed with hanging drywall on all the walls and the ceiling. Our contractor/master builder/mentor/friend Ryan Regan-Ladd regularly stepped in to give guidance and suggestions, and to check on our demo and insulation progress, but when it came to hanging the drywall, especially on the ceiling, his expertise, special equipment (like the giant air purifier shown here), and hands-on help was needed and appreciated.
Ryan, Joie & mechanical helper

Drywalling a ceiling isn't for weaklings!

Joie just can't get enough learnin'

Perfectly smooth!

Creating the closet took a bit of creativity but finishing the drywall in the tight space was hardly a challenge for Joie after she had drywalled the closets in the downstairs suite (see "Closets, Closets, Closets" 4/18/18 post ).
Joie with her mudding hawk
M sawing out old frame

Joie taping corner of closet

Beautiful teamwork
Marilyn painting
With only 1 week to go, Serge returned to install modern lighting cans and switches, as well as more wall outlets, in record time. Then Marilyn and Joie tag-teamed to get the walls and ceiling painted.

Deadline-day arrived and Joie and Marilyn were still racing against the clock to complete the final tasks on the to-do list. In fact, they had just begun installing the carpet pad when Lisa pulled in the driveway. Not surprisingly, Chateau de Joie's newest housemate jumped right in to help finish the job...proving just what a good friend she is!

Baseboards and door & window trim are still to be done but here are some almost-final pics of the conversion...


A shelved nook behind the door and a wide bay window ledge make perfect spots for a few favorite things.
Full length mirror on door

View thru bay window

Rods, shelves and a chest of drawers turned office built-in #2 (see above before-pic) into a bedroom closet with a perfect space for the television opposite the bed.

Until doors arrive, a curtain suffices nicely.

And THAT is how magic actually happens!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Jan-Feb, 2019: What's in the box? Joie's reaction to her discovery of a mysterious box was about the same as Brad Pitt's had been in Seven -- a freakout of monumental proportions!

"It's the Plague of a Thousand Deaths," she screamed, recalling the tales of those who had accidentally inhaled the lethal exhumations of an Egyptian tomb. Yes. It was that bad.

It all started with Joie's need to demolish a wall before the start of the new year. The beginning of that reno story can be found in the January 3, 2019 post and, when the transition is complete, the whole story will be related in a blog tentatively titled "Bar Crash 101." But the "What's in the box?" mystery began when the removal of a section of old paneling revealed an air/heat duct (marked with a suspicious white X in the photo). The rectangular holes in the floor are air returns that had been covered by the former built-in bar.

 A thorough investigation determined that the surprising duct came off the main shaft from the furnace in the basement, ran straight up the wall between the dining room and hallway into the attic, crossed over twenty+ feet of the attic floor toward a hole that opened into the kitchen below.  However, the duct was disconnected from the hole.

The Campbell gals had been told the vent in the kitchen ceiling (only about 10 linear feet from the duct in the hall) was an old "fresh air" vent that opened into the attic for cooking fumes and smoke to go up, a function which was actually handled by a new exhaust duct they'd had installed above the stove. Since no air, hot or cold, came out of that vent, it had made sense to seal it off so that nothing undesirable could travel from the attic to the kitchen.

It should be noted that, even if the duct had been properly connected to the vent, the attic is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer for the heat or cooled air to reach the kitchen by such a long, circuitous route.

The next logical step in demolishing the wall was to remove the duct that served no apparent purpose. Thus, the Reno Queens received another shock when they were greeted with a flow of heat powerful enough to warm the entire upstairs!

After moving into Chateau de Joie, the gals had the original furnace and a/c system replaced with a brand new (very expensive) system, but since their living space was never as warm or cool as it should have been, it was assumed that, as Floridians, they were expecting too much, or perhaps the lack of exterior wall insulation and old windows were the culprits. A mere 4 years later they learned the truth -- a good amount of the heated or cooled air was going straight to the attic!

Ductwork maze
Now you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with Joie's encounter with a mystery box. soon as she realized one major thing was wrong with the ductwork, she decided a complete tracking of the entire system was necessary. By spending a lot of time on ladders and inspecting the crawl spaces with flashlights, several ducting problems, including more disconnected supply lines, were found and, at least temporarily, rectified (a lot of duct tape was involved). Unfortunately, the coldest room in the house held a secret just as bewildering as a main duct delivering heat to the attic.

A rusty old grate very high on an exterior wall of that chilly room seemed to be part of an original clothes dryer vent, but it had been rigged to connect to the main air return to pull fresh air into the system. In reality, that "fresh" air is freezing half the year, which resulted in an ice-cold draft being continuously pulled into the crawl space above the room...solving the mystery of why that room was the coldest in the house.

Behind the rusty grate, a metal duct piece passed through the wall and connected to a large, home-made cardboard box covered in foil with a rusty metal handle on one side. The odd contraption was hung by wires from the rafters. With Marilyn on a ladder outside in the cold working to remove the grate and metal duct piece, Joie worked from the inside to separate the weird box from the other end of that piece.

The mystery box will forever remain a mystery.
At the moment of separation, a blast of ancient black dust hit Joie in the face. And that's when she screeched something about the Plague of a Thousand Deaths.

After all that, the Reno Queens were incredibly disappointed to discover the box was empty, giving no clue at all as to its purpose or what the metal handle was supposed to turn. There was nothing left to do but add the box and its accessories to the growing dump pile...then race to the decontamination showers.

UPDATE April-June: This project turned out to be a near deadly disaster as Joie became more and more ill until she couldn't even get to campus to teach her classes. Her description was that she felt as though she was being eaten from the inside out. A lot of doctor appointments, followed by a lot of tests, finally revealed that she had multiple bacterial infections, so the "plague of a thousand deaths" wasn't so funny any more. As of June (after a lot of heavy antibiotics), she is almost, but not completely back to normal, still fighting one last issue. Needless to say, no more destruction work without a mask!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Ye Olde Box
January 3, 2019:
A Tale of Two Mailboxes
   by Marilyn Campbell

Once upon a time there was a happy abode, known as Chateau de Joie, that sat on a peaceful country property where all manner of woodland creatures frolicked. The elderly caretaker of the home was known to all as Mama Marilyn and she enjoyed her various tasks…except for one—fetching the communiques from Ye Olde Box where they were delivered daily by ye olde letter carrier. That task required endurance and courage...for the rugged journey was fraught with peril.

First there was the long walk from the abode to the property's border, along which ferocious beasts waited to pounce on anyone foolish enough to enter their domain.

The walk starting from the front door

Even when she made it to the end of that trek, she had to dodge speeding carriages to cross a highway that was coated with invisible ice in the winter

Mama Marilyn had heard tales of those who had not survived the journey but she was not one to shirk her duty because of a bit of danger.

Continuing walk past parking lot

Last leg of driveway

Unfortunately as the seasons changed and she grew slower with age, she became determined to ease her travails.

Deadly crossing
It took a very, very long time, years in fact, but having a strong will and the time to repeatedly plead for help from local authorities, she was finally granted an audience with the Royal Postmaster.

FINALLY, a week before Christmas she received official permission to have The Box relocated to a mere ten feet from the Chateau's front door.

As a Christmas gift to their beloved caretaker, the local lords and ladies prepared the ground and installed a new post for a new box to be set upon.

Lady Katherine pick-axed

Lord Chris shoveled

Mama Marilyn & Lady K scooped

Marquess Joie, recently injured in the line of duty, supervised

Huzzah! A post set in stone to last for many ages to come. And then The Grandest Box in the realm was delivered... does part b attach to parts a and c?
And lastly, the best part of every tale of woes and wishes...The Happy Ending!

Ready for service!
And from above a choir of angels could be heard singing, "Hallelujah!"

1st Delivery - with room to spare!