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City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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Archive for August, 2012

Lyme disease is no fun.

Some 20 years or so ago, Shay and I went camping for a week.  When we returned, we went back to work.  I can’t remember how long it was after that… days?  a week?  two weeks?  Anyway, at some point, while I was working, my right foot swelled.  At break time, I removed my shoe, uncovering a tell-tale bullseye on my foot.  I was barely able to put my shoe back on, but Shay and I went immediately to a local doctor who took walk-ins.

Sure enough, I had Lyme disease.

I was put on 30 days of doxycycline, which made me sensitive to sunlight.  Riding to work, I had to cover my arms, or contort them out of the sun.  Anytime sunshine hit my skin, it felt immediately like that part of my skin had been stuck into a hot skillet.

At the end of 30 days, I had to go back for a follow-up visit.  I got 14 more days of antibiotics.  Oh, joy.  The sun sensitivity lasts for a week or so after you are off of it.

During this time, I made a $100 error making change for a customer — I gave her a hundred too much.  I found out after that that Lyme disease can cause confusion and problems in concentration if it is not treated quickly enough.  It isn’t a terribly common symptom… and, at the time, central nervous system symptoms of Lyme disease were not widely recognized.

But I found myself having trouble counting money.  I would lose my place and start over, again and again.  It would take me 3 – 4 tries to count someone’s change.  I asked to be taken off of the service desk, since I had no confidence in my ability to count money anymore.  They didn’t take me off, saying they were confident in me, so I lived in fear that I would make another big mistake for the next several months, while the symptoms resolved.

So now here we are with this raw land that has up to now enjoyed a quiet existence as a tick and chigger heaven.

It has been a very busy couple of weeks!  We had the area for the house cleared, we laid out the location for the house, we went back and moved the location 10 feet forward, the pad was laid, and the house is set.  It isn’t finished yet, but it is certainly getting there!  I will be posting lots more pictures, maybe tomorrow, so you can see!

All this time, we’ve been pretty faithful with our measures to keep chiggers and ticks from biting.  The sulphur we’ve mostly replaced with Coleman Botanical insect repellant, made with lemon eucalyptus oil.  It seems tests have shown it to be as effective as lower concentrations of DEET.  Tests or no, the stuff works!  I have had no bites of any kind while wearing it, and I don’t think anybody else has, either.

Wednesday, August 1st, the day that Shay and I went to move the stakes for the location of the house 10 feet forward, we didn’t take any precautions.  No sulphur, no pantyhose, no repellent, no shirt tucked in.  I figured, this won’t take long, and the bugs have probably all moved to the trees anyway.

That night, I went to scratch my back, and found a rough bump right in the center.  I went immediately to Shay, who removed a tick about 4mm in diameter.  It hadn’t been attached more than the few hours that had elapsed, so I figured I was safe.  20 years ago, they were saying a tick had to be attached at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease.  I didn’t think that made a whole lot of sense, but I also didn’t know that the study of Lyme disease was in its infancy then.

Yesterday (Friday), we went to watch the house setup be completed.  As the day wore on, I experienced more and more pain.  This is not unusual for me, as I have benign hypermobility syndrome.  This is often referred to as “loose joints”, and just means that the joints have more movement in them than they should.  I have a regular level of achiness because of this, and I became my own chiropractor in my teens.  I have to adjust various joints several times a day to stay somewhat aligned and at as low a level of pain as possible.

My uncle is envious of me, because when something is out on him, he has to pay a chiropractor to fix it.  I just have to work at popping the joint.  It may take a few hours for it to get to the point that it will pop, or I may have to take ibuprofen to lessen the irritation for it to do it, but I can do it myself.  I told him that yes, I may be able to pop them back into place myself, but the thing that gives me the ability to do so also is what makes it so that I don’t stay aligned in the first place.  He doesn’t have to go get realigned several times a day, just a few times a year.

It is funny, though, as we’ll be doing something like standing and talking, or sitting and watching a movie, and he’ll suddenly say, “I heard that!” — feigning jealousy at my being able to pop my own joints.  Most of the time, I don’t even realize that I popped something until he says that… it’s just that natural for me to work to alleviate the discomfort of something being misaligned.

I do have days, though, in which the pain will increase and increase, until I can barely walk.  This is normally on errand days, when I do a lot of walking on hard floors.  I try to remember to take ibuprofen before I leave on days like that, but I’m not always successful.

So as the pain increased Friday, I didn’t think a lot of it, just figuring it was my usual pain.  I was nearly crippled by the end of the day, and took some ibuprofen when we reached the car.  When we got home, I curled up on the sofa.  I hurt so bad, I couldn’t bring myself to get up and take a shower.

After a while, I took my temperature.  It was 101.2*, in spite of the fact that I had taken ibuprofen two hours earlier.  Shay took me to an after-hours clinic.

After considering my vitals, my symptoms, and my previous history, the doctor decided it was probably Lyme disease again.  So now I’m back on doxycycline (thank goodness the stuff is cheap!), and taking Tylenol and ibuprofen to keep the pain and fever down.

I am in less pain now than I was in last night, but I still don’t feel very good.  Everybody is making sure that I pretty much don’t have to do anything, because it drains your energy as well.  I am so sapped.

Learned my lesson, though!  I don’t care if the neighbor’s kids think we’re paranoid, I am not interested in doing this again!  And I’m even less interested in one of my kids, my beloved husband, or my mom doing it either. :)

Little beastie had terrible timing… I’m too busy for this!  The Lord is carrying me through, though.  :)

Preparing the Land!

Well, we have entered the nutty time of the move.  The house has been delivered to the dealer (only 2 WEEKS early!), and is sitting there waiting for us to have a place to put it!

But first, here’s my favorite line from the deed to our property, which we paid for in full:

"...the buyers, their heirs, and assigns shall have and hold the described property in full ownership forever."

Of course, property tax laws make all land- and homeowners renters anyway (pay your property taxes or you’re evicted and your property and/or home sold).  BUT it is still a very exciting line to read in the deed.  We showed this sentence to our kids, and explained to them that since they are our heirs, this means this property isn’t just ours, it is theirs.  Particularly for ILoveBunnies, who is five years older than Bunny-Wan Kenobi, this produced quite a bit of excitement.

I also want to take a moment to explain how this got paid for.  My grandmother and grandfather came from very modest backgrounds.  My grandfather was in the Army, then later started an advertising business.  They saved up.  They bought wisely.  They invested wisely.  Their savings grew.  They bought this house in a very nice, up-and-coming neighborhood, and continued to save.  The neighborhood has up and come, alright.  Whenever one of these older homes is bought, it is razed and replaced with a mansion.

Fast forward to the last few months and the settlement of my grandmother’s estate (my grandfather passed away many years ago).  It is the wisdom of my grandparents that has paid for this property we now own, and put the down payment on the mobile home we are about to install on it.

For Shay and me, life has always been very much paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes that hasn’t been enough.  My grandmother worried about me, knowing how little we made.  Then she got to meet Shay a bit less than two years after we were married.  She saw how much we loved each other, particularly how much Shay loved me, and his deep faith in the Lord, and she knew I’d be alright.  She knew our life would be difficult, but that I’d be alright.  And that’s the way it’s been.

We are so very, very grateful to them.  It is my sincere hope that they would be pleased with what all their work is accomplishing for us now.  I have no doubt that they would be delighted.  We have gotten to the point in recent years that we have been able to save somewhat.  But this economy is not like the economy my grandfather and grandmother built their investments in.  Our investments are not in bonds, developments, and things like that.  We have been investing in things that will get us by in emergencies and further our self-sufficiency.

So anyway, here we are with this raw piece of land.  It used to be a hay field, which explains why it is relatively smooth and well-drained, and why it had no trees until the last couple of decades (got to see that in Google’s historical imagery).  Then it had a driveway running through it to a long-gone house somewhere east of us.  That’s all that’s been on this land.  It’s never had electricity, phone, water, sewer, anything.  Where do you start?

The first step is getting the place bushhogged. Forget the thick woods at the front of the property for now, we need to work with the grove of pines in the center of it and the clearing at the back. When this picture was taken (from the clearing toward the grove), you could hardly see into the grove at all because of all the brush.

What a difference! Now you can see into that grove. While I was standing more near the corner for this shot, it's still from the clearing, looking into the grove. Somewhere in there is where the house will sit.

Unfortunately, some of the pines are in the house's footprint, or are too close. Our property is on the top of a very gently sloped hill, but a hill nonetheless. These pines grow very tall, with very deep tap roots, so they make marvelous lightning rods. So... top of hill + lightning rods = not too safe. We marked all the trees that are to come down, so the logger will be able to tell which ones to take.

In addition to being lightning rods, these trees eventually become hollow, making them even more of a threat to have around.  The trees we are leaving are enough to give us a bit of shade without endangering the house.  However, we will be planting replacements — trees that grow 30 – 40 feet tall, and don’t have the deep tap roots that lightning finds so irresistible.  Eventually, all the pines in the grove will be gone, because eventually they will be a danger to the house (they grow 80 – 100 feet tall).

ILoveBunnies gives Daddy's machete a try on a bit of brush left over from bushhogging. Neither she nor Bunny-Wan Kenobi was able to replicate Shay's effortless one-swing slice of young saplings, though.

Bunny-Wan Kenobi decided maybe he'd be better with a saw instead.

We learned some quick lessons, as it has been a while since any of us has been this rural. We got some hats to keep the sun and ticks off (from above, anyway), and some field-grade sulphur and pantyhose to keep the chiggers away! We also got some light-colored, long-sleeved cotton shirts for protection from sun and chiggers. Mosquitoes are nothing compared to the misery inflicted by the tiny chigger!

Chiggers are redbug larvae, and they love brush and tall grass!  After our first visit to the property, when it was being shown to us, I ended up with a lot of chigger bites.  I had forgotten about chiggers, not having dealt with them since I was a teenager!  Contrary to popular belief, they do not burrow into your skin.  They inject enzymes into your skin which liquefies the cells, and they feed on that.  Your body’s response is to wall off the injury with a crusty tube.  Unfortunately, this only helps the chigger.  After a few hours (usually long after the chigger is gone), the site begins to itch.  It is both the enzymes from the chigger and the tube your body has built that contribute to the horrific itching that follows and lasts for two weeks.

The next time we went out, it was my mom and ILoveBunnies who came back with chigger bites.  This was when I realized we needed to do something to keep this from happening.  I remembered going to camp for 2 1/2 weeks every summer when I was growing up, way out in the woods.  We used sulphur to keep the chiggers away, and it worked quite well.

To dress for chiggers, you first put on pantyhose.  Even the MARINES do this!  Chiggers cannot get through pantyhose.  Then you put sulphur on your skin in the various places chiggers prefer — around the waistband, around any band on your skin (the bands and straps of bras, for example).  More around your neckline and shirt cuffs, and under your arms.  Without pantyhose, you also include the top of your socks (and down to your ankles, if your socks are loosely woven), the backs of your knees, and around the waist and legs of your underwear.  Believe me, if you’ve found a chigger paradise like we have, it’s a lot safer to go with the pantyhose.  You do NOT want chiggers in your underwear.  Trust me.  You tuck your pants inside your socks, and your shirt inside your pants, in an effort to keep the chiggers on the outside of your clothes.

After bushhogging, it was time to get a driveway bulldozed!

The same man who bushhogged for us came to clear a driveway for us. A good number of trees had to come down in the dense front woods to give us a driveway. Here, he forms a pile of downed trees.

We'll have a lot of burning to do!

He works back and forth to smooth the driveway. He won't finish it just yet. That'll happen after the home is in.


Looking from our gravel road, down the driveway toward where the house will sit. The post at left marks a corner of the property.

The driveway goes right into the grove of pines, where the house will be.


You can now see and travel from the old driveway that cuts through our property to the new driveway.

We have rented a 20' shipping container to use as a secure shed for now, until we're all settled in and have a regular shed.

Meanwhile, as I said at the top, the home we ordered arrived at the dealership TWO WEEKS EARLY!  So we went to sign the papers and take a look.  When we arrived, only one half was actually there.  When we finished signing, we went and took a look at it, as well as we could.  We heard the other half was almost there, so we waited.

Here comes the other half! It was so exciting to watch it get hauled in like that. Our salesman watches from the left. Oversize load? You'd better believe it!

The red shutters are just as pretty against the siding as I had hoped!

Mom and Bunny-Wan Kenobi watch as some steps are put up to the door so we can go in. All of us but Shay had come from the property, so we're all in our woodsy clothes.

"What did you put in that thing?!?" This is the incredulous question we got from the driver. In his 20 years of pulling mobile homes, this was his heaviest haul. While it is normal for them to blow some tires on the trip, which is why the accompanying truck carries a load of extras, he had gone through 13 tires, and two sets of brakes had flown to pieces.

One of the brake failures had sent shrapnel into the vapor barrier and insulation under the house. This dealership has amazing service reviews, though, so they were quick to assure me that they will take care of the damage. And I know they will. That's the kind of reputation they have.

What did I put in that thing?  Well…

We wanted a solid, well-built home that will be safe, well-insulated, and last a long time.  I did some upgrades… mainly things like upgraded linoleum throughout, with a thick, high-quality linoleum that will last a long time, and won’t be an allergy or asthma issue like carpet.  I turned the dressing table in the master bathroom into a linen closet.  I added a second, larger pantry to the kitchen.  I kept the options that extended the cabinets to the ceiling and upgraded them to a more durable kind (one of the upgrades the salesman had already figured I’d want).  I put in a gas stove and furnace, which I have missed since we lived in Delaware.  I put in some of the decorative upgrades they offered, such as arches in a couple of places.  These upgrades wouldn’t have accounted for a lot of weight, though.

Shay, on the other hand, requested some upgrades that added a significant amount of weight.  Thick plywood floors instead of oriented strand board.  2″ x 6″ exterior walls instead of 2″ x 4″.  Maximum insulation, something like 33/19/33.  Not a lot of weight in the insulation, but it gives you an idea of the types of upgrades he was after!

It has 2″ x 8″ floor joists on 16″ centers, just like a stick-built home, too.  Very nice.

We can’t wait to see it all put together, and also see the rooms we couldn’t get to that day.  Well, we could have, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut the plastic.

Until then, here’s a shot of part of the kitchen.  A bit grainy, but it’ll give you a idea what it looks like…

I upgraded the Formica, too. It was unclear whether it was more durable, but I had already chosen it before I knew it was an upgrade. I really like it. This island is humongous! I will be able to do so many things on it. I have a lot of counter space, even though I took some of it up adding the second pantry.

One of the standard features of the kitchen was a beautiful arch over the stove with columns that rested on the counters beside the stove.  It housed the vent and light.  As you can see, I did not get this feature, even though it was very pretty.  I was really concerned about how far away the light was from the stove, and that my mom would not be able to see well when she cooked.  I saw a photo of a model that had the arch, and the light was on.  You could see a little of the light on the wall behind the stove, but you couldn’t see the light on the stove.  For Mom’s sake, I nixed the arch.  We weren’t really sure how we would like navigating around the columns, anyway.

Thursday, the logger is supposed to come to take the trees we need removed, and grind the stumps.  He assured us that he doesn’t grind the stumps to the ground.  He grinds them into the ground, and grinds the roots, too.  They won’t be coming back, they won’t be termite havens, and they will be gone plenty enough for the home to go where they used to be.