Life continues to trundle along, and we keep hunting houses. We’ve been to see virtually every house in our price range, I think. There’s one that has some potential but is insanely overpriced. There are a bunch we’ve discounted for a variety of reasons. I’m still sad that we didn’t get the one we offered on first, or the one that we visited before we were in a position to make an offer… because everything since then has felt like much more of a compromise.
Today we looked at an entertaining one which we were quite excited about until we discovered that the pricing seems to be for an imaginary third bedroom. We were thinking maybe the area was worth more than we’d realised, but looking at prices of things sold around there, no, the price is for a 3 bedroom house. It does have a 3/4ths height finished attic space above the garage – which is, I we think, what they’re calling the third bedroom.
But it’s not permitted, nor is the forced air heating system with the slightly suspect ‘furnace in a cupboard in the lounge’ design. Which is a shame, because the lot is really lovely, and there’s quite a lot of potential there.
The house hunt has been painfully depressing, really. Possibly would be less so if work wasn’t quite so tough. But work has continued to be a real struggle for me. I’m hoping that things might change on that front, but that’s really a fingers crossed affair, rather than a definite at the moment. So, well, that’s where we’re at.
Smoothies here have been the biggest disappointment. I’m guessing it’s something like when a USian goes to the UK and mistakenly orders a lemonade at a pub*, or a milkshake more or less anywhere else**.
In the UK smoothies were fabulous combos of fruit and either yoghurt or possibly tofu. Healthyish but also so insanely good.
Here most places smoothies are a revolting sugary goop that’s maybe seen a fruit. There are some smoothie stand things that do smoothies, but honestly, their flavours are a disappointing averageness and their prices do not match their bare adequacy.
* For translation purpose, a lemonade in the UK is more-or-less equivalent to a US 7-UP. A freshly squeezed lemonade is what you USians are looking for in the UK.***
** A milkshake in the UK is generally milk with some flavouring. In the US it’s generally icecream smooshed up into a delicious goop.
*** If you want to throw people, in a US-pub ask for a lemonade. Oh they look so confused.
Before I start this, I think I should address something that’s been bothering me. I realise that me whining on here about how we can’t build a house and own a house is laughably privileged of me. Many people can’t even afford shelter, and here I am whining about how we own a chunk of land and can’t build on it, and we’re not sure we have enough money to buy a house. It’s crazy.
And it is incredibly privileged of me, but this position came at a very high price. The vast majority of that money came from my dad’s death. And frankly, I’d deal with rented accommodation and slowly saving cash up for years rather than have lost my dad to a painful, horrendous death from cancer. That also is part of the reason I end up so frustrated by it. When anything bad happens involving ‘that money’ then I feel like I’ve let him, and my mother down. She gave me the money from my dad’s life insurance with the intention that I would be able to get a house and not worry near so much about money.
And here I am near tears fairly frequently because we’re engaged in a battle to the death with the county, who (it seems to me) are just trying to make as much money out of the planning process as they can. Perhaps that’s not what they’re trying to do, but it certainly doesn’t feel like they’re actually trying to protect the land. If they were, the process would more based around what’s actually on the land.
Anyhow. That rant (which everyone’s heard before) over with, let’s talk about the dismal house situation. So the ant situation in the rental continues unabated (although there is bait). Our landlord’s arranged for a pest control person to inject the walls with poison, which is good because it turns out we now have three varieties of ant in the house. Working down in size, we have carpenter ants, what I think are possibly yellow ants, and little black ants. Hopefully this situation will resolve soon – and I’m hoping the injected poison will kill them quicker than the stuff the pest guy put down – which has left drunken, wandery ants that make me feel very guilty.
And while that can’t be said to be the main driving force for us wanting to move, it’s certainly an encouragement. Having our own stuff out of storage – given that we’re now looking at it being at least another year before we might be able to build – is something we’d both like. Both of us are missing the ability to do anything hobby-like to reduce stress. It’s not like we can’t here, we could, but storing any more stuff here is hard, and we can’t leave anything out without it becoming very oppressive in here.
So, yes, we’re looking. The problem is, everyone seems to have realised that living in Thurston County is a frigging nightmare. This I am presuming based on the fact that one street to the next, similar houses, similar looking streets, the houses on county land will be waaaay cheaper. I’m guessing the hassle of trying to get permits to renovate, fix, improve those houses from Thurston County puts off people – like us – who enjoy the challenge of renovation. There may be other reasons; I don’t know if there’s some cultural or civic difference between ‘county’ and ‘city’ land. It’s not like you can easily tell from the address (although I suppose if you look at google maps, you can see the boundary).
It is insane though. It’s also insane how the boundary will wiggle to exclude or include one development, or one street, or something random. I really don’t understand how it works – how that distinction is made – it doesn’t seem to have any relation to the density of housing.
But it means that I look at the list of posted houses and go “oh yay, some new ones we might consider” (because the one we were debating sold…the weekend we looked at it) and then click through them an conclude that they’re all in the f’kin county. Which instantly excludes them. So yay for that. Hopefully we can (a) get a mortgage and (b) get a house and (c) our financial adviser won’t tell us this is an act of deep insanity. Which it might be.
So today we looked at houses. I’d say we looked at 3 houses, but one of them was in such poor condition that it was more a stack of rotting timber with bits of rust holding them together. I kind of wanted to see inside, but sadly the code didn’t work on the door. It was built, I think, in the 1930s, and built appaulingly. No foundations, just wood directly onto brick / concrete piers. No obvious dampproofing to protect the wood. Just plonked atop. The whole thing looked like sneezing wrong might cause it to fall over. Indeed, I was slightly concerned that opening the front door, had the code worked, might have made it so structurally unsound it fell.
House 3, now that wasn’t great either. It’s been on the market for a long time – and when we went in it was apparent why. It is a dingy, smelly house. It had some things that we thought might be worth looking at in the photos – mainly hardwood floors. However, when we got there the overwhelming smell of smoke, and the fact they’d clearly had pets, and pets had clearly had incidents involving the floors… that wasn’t so great.
Now, house number 2. House number 2 is upsetting. It’s possibly slightly overpriced, in an optimistic way. It’s a 1950’s rambler, but manages to be a rambler that we actually like. It has underfloor heating in the main areas of the house… which is pretty f’kin nifty. And it’s in a not unpleasant area. Rather closer to I-5 than we’d like, but actually by the time we’d been there half an hour, the white-noise of the cars had disappeared (to us).
It’s clean and very out of date, which is the kind of thing we do. Irritatingly, had we seen it before we bought the land, and intended to buy a house (rather than land) this all would have been insanely easy.
As it is we have the complexity of: Well, we can afford it with a mortgage, but then what do we do about the land, because if we buy a house and use all of our money to reno’ it, we’re unable to develop the land. And we’re certainly unable to build on the land. And well, we might be able to get a construction loan, but the county have encouraged us to get a well on the land as soon as possible, because the well-rules are going to change…
…only that means getting a permit, and we have no timeline for permitting.
…which leads us back into a circle.
Part of the problem is at some point Rebecca will be returning to the fold*, and we have nowhere to store another car. Which means that our rental situation which has up until now been really quite pleasant (although currently seeming to be an entirely ant-related insanity place), won’t work out in the long term. Also, we’re paying someone else’s mortgage and that always makes me feel a bit grumpy. Even when the person is nice.
Of course, there is no good solution to this, which is part of what’s so pissy. The county have left us in an impossibly shit place, and seem unwilling to concede any wrongdoing. And here we are trying to work out what’s for the best. And I have no clue.
*hopefully, although I every time I ring, the person trying to source me a diff in England despairs slightly more, because he’s paid for 2 diffs, neither of which has arrived.
So it turns out there is an amount of time after which Thurston county start billing for their time. It states on the application that there is a process for billing, but as with every other part of the process it’s incredibly opaque. There is no indication as to what is include or excluded in their billable process.
Apparently (we have worked out from the bill) they allow 2 hours of time for a site planning application. Working back from this we think we know what application type they’ve grouped us under, which we don’t understand because it doesn’t relate to the fee we paid, but from that we can apparently get 2 hours of resource stewardship time. After that they bill over $180/hr – for, it seems, any activity. Breathing may be included.
At no point did they tell us that we’d run out of ‘included’ time. We discovered this last night when our landlord brought over the mail. In it was bill for hundreds of ‘billable’ dollars, that we had no idea they were charging us. Most of this is answering e-mails with questions attempting to work out what the hell they want from us, one e-mail alone is over $90. This is insanity.
Not least because they’ve asked for things it turned out they didn’t need – so, in fact, they’re billing us for doing stuff that’s wrong. That said, the woman who is in charge of our application is under the impression that if she understands what she wrote, everyone should get her interpretation of the words. So she would no doubt claim that when it said in a letter we needed to submit this thing, but ten subsections later there was the word “but” in parentheses, it is clear to everyone that the thing it looked like she was requesting (which incidentally costs $thousands) was only required in a specific set of circumstances.
The whole process is a nightmare. It’s enough of a nightmare that it makes me miss British planning departments who are arcane and crazy restrictive, but at least have the basic fucking decency to tell you up front that they are, and post the incredible, crazy, restrictive stuff where you can see it.
The end result of this is we’ve been billed hundreds of dollars – and may get more bills, because we don’t know which bits they’re going to bill for because they won’t fucking tell us.
I am somewhat concerned that members of the Russian federation are going to use the fact they have a puppet / weak / blackmailable US president who has weakened western government cooperation, and the Brexit which has weakened and distracted Europe to commit mass genocide on LGBTQIA people.
So, it turns out that now our county planning technician is asking us to obtain a surveyor’s report to delineate the high groundwater risk for our property. Because the county think it’s at risk of flooding. Despite the fact that it’s almost the highest point for the entire street. But no, it’s at risk of flooding.
Today we went out because the hydrogeologist has put markers in the areas he would like us to identify the high groundwater risk, when we went out he strongly implied there was no significant problem. But left open the ‘We need to have an internal discussion before making a decision’ get out of jail free card.
And then we got our answer.
It’s a fucking disaster.
The county requirements would force us to move our house to chop down at least 1 of the beautiful old maples (at least 50 years old), and a large number of firs, cedars and assorted other trees. At least, that’s the only way we can interpret them.
The county is also asking for a permit that requires has a potential 128 day processing period (which probably means at least 2 years, given that our 8-12 week permit process is now running into it’s 6th month).
So the answer is, we can’t build.
We might be able to argue it. We’re considering legal options because the county told us, provisionally, that it would be an easy plot to build on.
So today we got an answer, of sorts, from the county.
They can’t give us a timeline. They disagree with our wetland biologist’s assessment of the water that was on our site on the day that we visited.
And clearly any complaints we send are passed directly to the person we’re complaining about, because when we ask questions in our complaints, the answers come from the person we’re complaining about. So that feels highly professional.
As it stands we have 2, maybe 3 weeks before we won’t be able to build this year, with no sign of a permit, and in fact an increasing feeling that we’ve bought a lemon, and lost about $80,000 on land that’s not worth shit. And that makes me feel like I’ve let my dad down, because the majority of that money came from inheritance when my dad died. And I feel like I’ve squandered it.
Tonight also brought the bonus realisation that if we can’t build this year, we may not be able to do it at all. At least, not in the foreseeable future.
So I ordered another Razika album (direct from Norway, because no one locally could get it) which arrived yesterday.
It’s on white vinyl and handily came with a CD copy. So that’s pretty easy to rip. The white vinyl and my SL-6 are not close friends, I have to turn off the autosense mode for it to play the record… but even ignoring that, yay! Yay for more Razika.
I need to stop buying records however* because I’m nearly** out of record storage space
Also, what is overjoyously cool is hearing those few words I understand and going “Yay! I understood that!”
* I may have bought a second hand Desmond Dekker record a couple of days ago, having listened to him on 6 Music and having realised I didn’t have enough…
** By which I mean that all the gramophone records are packed away in storage because there’s not enough space in the house, and despite that, the shelves are kinda full. Full in an ‘oh, I might need to obtain a new record storage thing. Or make one. I’d love to make one. If only there was more time!
So it’s Spring Break here, which I get the impression should be capitalised. I continue to believe that the US does holidays wrong. It’s not like the UK is any great winner on the holidays front, the rest of Europe has always been way better at that kind of stuff, but the UK is less terrible than the US by a long way.
I say this because the students (and staff) get one week off between winter and spring quarters, which is quite clearly insufficient. But then holidays in the US are generally ridiculously inadequate as far as I can tell. The presumption appears to be that people can rest when they’re dead.
Anyhow, so it’s holiday time for me, although I’m actually going to end up working through most of it (perhaps this working thing is infectious?) because otherwise there’s no way in hell I’ll be ready for next quarter. That said I decided to take this weekend to do some of the long delayed jobs on the cars. Kathryn’s mother and her wife kindly let us use their garage, because… it being Washington, it’s raining and the main job needed the car to be dry. First up was the swamp-mobile insight, which has been leaking since we got it, had sprung a new leak early in winter, and had continued to leak in a most distressing way.
Indeed, frequently getting in to the car was unpleasant in the extreme, with it smelling like you were hopping into a cozy swamp, the carpet on the driver’s side smelling distinctly less than fresh. It turns out that first generation insights are notoriously leaky beasts, with Honda essentially building a car with many large holes which they filled with caulk and then painted over.
So I ordered a billion small plastic clips, some fresh silicone sealant, and this weekend (having had the clips for nearly a year) set to. It turned out that the person who rebuilt the car after its accident had decided to just slather glue on to hold the trim in place…
There were literally no intact clips except for the ‘special’ ones at each end. So, I pulled the broken clips out* with my newly purchased ‘trim remover’ tools, dug out the cracked caulk from the passenger side, and tried to clean up that and the driver’s side as much as possible. That done I laid down a bead of silicone that I then realised I had no means of making as smooth as I’d like, because it’s fairly thoroughly recessed.
Still, it’s normally hidden under trim, so I wasn’t too worried. While I was doing this, Kathryn set to on the seat with the hot/wet/but not steam cleaner**. She pulled out a fearsome amount of filth, and it actually doesn’t look quite as horrendous as it did before, but it still looks pretty shitty. She also had a good go at the carpet which now smells much less bad than it did.
That done we went out for a nice curry and then headed home. Today I headed back over and started reassembly, which went okay although the driver’s side trim still doesn’t sit quite the way I’d like it to, which I suspect is that I didn’t bend the metal clips to quite the right place before reattaching it***. Well, I say it went okay. That’s a bit of a lie. There are two small pieces of trim that go at the back, and the sticky pad that attaches the (brand new) metal clip that holds on the small piece of trim is not sticky. It’s slightly tacky if you push really hard on it, but it’s not sticky. I’m assuming this is because it was probably made around 2006, when the car was last being built new.
Obviously, because it comes with a sticky pad I’d not bought any of the ‘trim attaching sticky shite’, so I had to abandon sticking it on, and it’s now sat lacking that part. When we get a dry day I’ll clean it and stick it on, but I’m rather peeved by its absence. Although I suppose it means that if it proves to still be leaking I can do a more vigorous removal of caulk and try again.
So anyhow I then traded the insight for the Rav, for which I had purchased a shiny new radio. It claimed to have bluetooth audio, bluetooth hands free, CD, and MP3 playback. It lacks AM, which the old radio did have, but frankly I don’t think we’ve used the AM feature on ours.
This installation did not entirely go smoothly, however.
First up, it turned out that I’d ordered the wrong gender of adaptor. I had bought female Toyota adaptors, and (if I think about it, it’s obvious) I needed male. Of course I realised that after I’d crimped all the sodding joints together with my crappy cheap crimping tool, and also after I’d pulled the old radio out of the Rav. So then I had to throw the radio back in, go and buy a 4x as expensive adaptor (which is just the same as the cheap adaptor I got from china for $2, but $16 and in a box), more crimping doohickies, and I also opted to fork out for a better quality ratcheting crimping tool (because the cheap one I was using kills my hands and produces crappy crimps).
Then I got back home and set to a second time. Then I found that the new radio required different mounting screws for its ISO mount than the original Toyota one, and that they weren’t included, I then ransacked one of my boxes of stuff and (thankfully) found some that fit.
Then I finally installed the benighted object only to find when I powered it on that it seems to be suspiciously lacking in actual bluetooth functionality which was the entire damn point of installing it. Looking through the manual bluetooth is not mentioned…and checking the box it doesn’t have the bluetooth logo anywhere on it. I’ve lodged a complaint with the supplier**** on Aliexpress although I’ve allowed for them to just tell me how to turn it on. I’ve also screencap’d the current listing which still states that it has bluetooth.
All of this has left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied with my progress. Especially as I had plans to also fix the broken heated rear window in the Rav as well, and that’s not happened either.
All in all, feh.
* Working on modern cars really is a world of hideousness, isn’t it. I’m really not used to ‘removal’ meaning ‘snap it in half and replace it’, leaving the broken bit rattling around inside the car somewhere. Ugh.
** I thought it was a steam cleaner when I bought it, but it turns out it’s not. Damnit.
*** Did I mention that I really am not fond of working on modern cars?
**** This is the first time I’ve got something from Aliexpress which wasn’t as described. I’ve bought things that didn’t work well, or were shonky ass crap, but it’s the first time I’ve received something which outright is not what was advertised.
…get some kind of answer from the county saying that our permit is approved in approximately the next 3 weeks, it is highly likely we’ll have to delay our house build for an entire year.
This is extremely distressing and frustrating and expensive. It will probably cost us in the region of $6000 dollars to do that, assuming our rent doesn’t change, and also ignoring the fact we’re hoping that our house will be cheaper to heat.
Also, instead of the rent going on repaying a mortgage, it’s going on paying someone else. I like I landlord, and the place we live is nice, but I’d rather have the money be paying for the wood that builds our house than paying someone else for stuff.
So that’s not….fun.
Still, I suppose it would take the stress off in some way. Feh.
…they’ve requested what appears to be a logging related form (which we have said we don’t think we need to do), and a form that appears to be related to the construction of a subdivision, rezoning a site, or constructing a large retail development…which we’ve also said we don’t think we need to do.
I know you’re all dying to know how it went… well, we managed to find a composter* and trundled out there with our Bokashi bin. Something was clearly horribly wrong, however. When the bin came out of the house, the smell produced as it was moved was… bad. Exceptionally bad. We bagged it up and even still could smell the foetid odour.
So, we pulled up at our land (after visiting a garden store, ACE hardware, and finally the Eastside Urban Farming place**) and plonked the composter down, unceremoniously, as the rain poured down on us. And then I opened the bin. Oh good holy fuck did it smell.
Even as a seasoned emergency nurse, I was concerned I might hurl. With fine technique I launched the contents into the compost bin, and then we piled wet leaves on top, damping the smell down a bit. I had planned to take a photo, but the horror of the scent was beyond comparison so I skipped that step. Then using one of the puddles of water around the place I rinsed the bin, wiped it out with bio-degradable cleaner, rinsed it, rinsed it some more, wiped it some more, rinsed it some more, and eventually conceded that it smelt less-bad-enough that we could bag it up again and throw it in the back of the car.
So raging success it was not.
Having googled – it may have been too wet, or our stuff may have sat on the counter too long, and we possibly want to be better at draining it. The white fuzzy fungus is apparently exactly what we want, which it was showing… so I’m not sure exactly why it went so horribly wrong.
We’re going to continue with the other bin, and when we’ve cleaned the other bin out more thoroughly, we’ll try another attempt without anything wet-ish. I’m wondering if the wet tea-bags and wet-coffee-grounds are the problem.
And hopefully it’ll rot down quickly, because I really don’t want to have that smell again next time we go out there.
*which it turns out is harder than you’d think if you’re trying to shop at independent stores
** oh such a bad place. So bad. I will spend faaaaaarrrr too much money there.
It is with some sadness that I announce the passing of my swimming costume (or swim suit, if you must). It’s withstood my lackadaisical care for 15 years, more or less. Normally I’d not be so attached to a piece of clothing, but I bought it as a gift for myself before I went into hospital. I still remember riding my motorbike to Stroud’s one and only sporting goods shop and grabbing it in my lunch break a few weeks before I was admitted. And wearing it was pretty much the first time I went swimming as an adult.
So it’s a slightly sad feeling to know it’s been replaced. But the elastic was rock hard, and had gone very, very yellow.
I did not in fact get to watch tank girl, because the box I thought was filled with DVDs was in fact not. Instead it’s a box containing a few random CDs. The film archive is clearly still in storage. Sadly that also means no ???????? Katakuri-ke no K?fuku, at least not for a while. Which is a shame as there are a big group of new people to break.
The ongoing disasters that are the US and the UK seem to be continuing unabated. As I watch the UK continue to debate the validity of my existence and the US continue to demonstrate that a large proportion of citizens want me to be gone, or alternatively dead, I’m finding it harder and harder to remain positive about the future.
We have reached the point where we’re actually making bigger spends on our house project (on top of the original big spend of buying the land). This week we’re paying the designer (I’m assuming he’s not an actual architect) which is a not insignificant chunk of our remaining money that we can’t get back if we suddenly have to flee the country. Which worryingly is not an impossible situation.
In our state this week a Sikh man was shot for the mistake of being brown in the US. And in various places people have been shot for being brown and foreign. And I know for many people of color this is just another normal day. And I sincerely apologize for not doing more to combat it before, although I’ve been pushing along nudging in my quiet British way. But still. Way below good enough.
But to actually be concerned for my safety on a regular basis is, quite frankly, shit. To have that aching paranoia – should I be here? Should I stop here? Is that someone I need to avoid? Its exhausting.
And to do that while we try and make decisions about building ourselves a home? Well, it’s not great. Let’s put it that way.
So today we headed out with the intention of going to a march. Specifically, an ACA march which had some link to Danny Heck – our local congresscritter. So we hopped in the insight and drove on up to an area of Tacoma. We had actually decided not to go yesterday, for a variety of reasons, but this morning our conscience won us over – we headed up there.
And… were disappointed by the lack of diversity. I am aware that Tacoma’s way more diverse than a lot of Oly, so we were hoping to see some non-middle-class and non-white faces. And I know that I have little that I can say to criticise others. I have never organized a march in my life, nor have I done overly much political – I keep trying, but work is overwhelmingly busy and I struggle to get everything needed done in any given day.
But seriously, in the middle of Tacoma, in a park which is clearly being used by a non-white local community, and virtually every person in that march that I saw was white and (from the vehicles, clothes and people, and my stereotyping) pretty much middle class. My beloved is right, we need to be reaching out to other communities. Making connections with other groups. The fact that the left has so staggeringly failed to bring our message to groups that would actually benefit enormously from leftish policies is one of the most disappointing things about us.
It’s also one of the things that scares me the most.
Still, having made the trek we debated some other actions that were going on, but my immigrant status means that caution tends to be the better part of any kind of valour, and instead we decided to engage in a day of self-care.
We went around Point Defiance Park, for a bit of a wander. We had lunch at the Antique Sandwich Company which was one of Kathryn’s occasional haunts as a child. Visited the world’s most depressing nursery (more dead plants than alive ones). And then meandered down to the Tacoma Art Museum for an utterly amazing exhibit. The Outwin 2016 exhibit had some incredibly powerful portraits. I’m not usually that interested in portraiture, although I have more space for modern portraiture than classic imagery.
But this was truly exceptional work.
And then, occupying the flipside of culture, we headed to Tinkertopia, which is kind of along the lines of what we’d like to do as a store. Not exactly, but it’s in that region. And I picked up a record player for my office (because that’s what my office needs, obviously). It’s a 1950s Decca P-903 that needs a *lot* of love. The case isn’t too bad, although the handle is missing (sadly). However, turning it on it does make a pretty awful noise (they’d already turned it on, so I was feeling daring).
If anyone has a P-903 service manual that’d be handy, because I suspect things are sad internally. The motor’s certainly running but ooooh that deck needs (at the very least) lubrication.
Still, it’s another thing I won’t have time to tackle for a while, but when I do it should be fun.