In March 2010, Nic and Stef bought some land in Pemberton. And in October 2011 they found they were expecting a baby. Now they just have to build a house... and a home!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Waterfall walk

Here are some photos, taken by Sony Falardeau, from our walk up to the waterfall above our house. It takes about 30 min from our house to get here:

You can see our lot from the falls.

And here we are at the top, trying not to fall off the slippy rocks.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Working weekend

Stef spent the weekend plumbing in the sewage for the suite. Is this a sign of things to come? (Working weekends, I mean, not sewage).

I spent Saturday 'suporting' him by doing the crossword on the lot and taking pictures. It is lovely up there... sunny and with the gentle rush of a waterfall in the background... wonderful.

Stef the plumber hard at work carrying pipes up the driveway, as seen from our soon-to-be-front-lawn.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pre-building traumatic stress disorder (PBTSD)

I have just realized that I am emerging from a bout of what I will hence-forth think of as Pre-building traumatic stress disorder (PBTSD) (otherwise known as Post-planning traumatic stress disorder – same thing). I realized this when Stef picked up the phone over lunch today and said ‘Hi Ricardo’, and mentioned something about I-beams or frames or concrete, and I experienced only a tiny upwards lurching of my intestines. This felt like a very minor reaction, for which I congratulated myself. It was only then I realized just how antsy the anticipation to the build had made me, and why, exactly, this blog sat dormant for over an ENTIRE YEAR with nary an update. It is, you see, because I was in the grips of trauma. All the unknowns, the sheer, gigantic, incomprehensible size of the task ahead, with a basically-pretend budget and no to-do-lists in sight, was giving me absolute conniption fits. Every time Stef said ‘we really should discuss the house’ my guts did a summersault and all I heard in my head was a very loud voice (mine) going ‘LA LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!’, after which my flight-or-fight instinct kicked in and sent me fleeing to the bathtub, door locked, where I could curl into a small ball, whimper, suck my thumb and wait for it to pass.

Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad. But nearly.

Now, however, I feel pretty hunky dory. Like when a door slams and a Vietnam vet just experiences a slight tightening of the shoulders, rather than flattening onto the floor. I can express my feelings without having a panic attack, and even write about it in my blog.

I don’t know why. There is still a nearly-pretend budget and a massive task ahead. But now I can see things actually getting done, as if by magic so far as I’m concerned, with some minor hiccups but nothing major, and it all feels more human and manageable. When I give talks in front of hundreds of people, my guts similarly seize the night before. But once on stage, once the words come out, I gain confidence and feel fine. Indeed, one might argue, I gain hubris and feel invincible… which isn’t necessarily a good thing for the project (either a lecture or a build), but it’s better for my state of health. And requires less self-medication through alcohol.

All that said, I have a nagging feeling that Stef might be about to come down with a case of Building Traumatic Stress Disorder. Obviously he’s the one on site, making things happen ‘as if by magic’ which of course is actually ‘as thanks to all his hard work’. I hope he can celebrate the milestones as they pass, and feel proud of all the groundwork he has done to make it all happen so smoothly. But the stress will mount for him. So I hereby declare that I will do my utmost to support him and prevent a full-on bout of conniptions, which I can testify aren’t nice.

Many people told us to make sure we had room in our budget for marriage counselling (ha! No really, they meant it). During the planning, we did have argument-like-debates about whether we really needed a designer or could do it ourselves, or how big the house should be, etc. But now that’s all settled, I’m happy to trust Stef with all the decisions, and the argument-like-events have disappeared. Perhaps they will reappear once we have to settle on kitchen cabinets. But I’m going to bet that we’re the first couple ever for whom the planning was stressful but the build was fine. Until we run out of money, anyway :) (no, really)

Friday, May 20, 2011

A penny for luck

The foundations were poured today [Friday 20th], and I have managed to convince Stef to press a Canadian penny, minted 2011, into the concrete. He put it just under the front door – a lovely touch, I thought. This should bring us good fortune for years to come, according to my vague memories of Chinese tradition (read: according to something I just made up). It sounds good, anyway.

Foundations, for those who don’t know, are the concrete bits that underlie all the important, load-bearing walls. I had imagined that they would pour a giant slab in the shape of the house, but instead they went around building wooden forms in the exact shape of all the walls, so you end up with a mini concrete model of your house plan, all dug a foot or two into the gravelly ground. I’m not sure if this is done for structural reasons or because it saves on money for concrete… perhaps both.

All has gone well except for two small things. Well, maybe three. Four?

Stef noticed (before the concrete was poured) that some of the walls were a bit out, by a quarter of an inch here, but 3.5 inches over there… He pointed it out and asked Ricardo to change it, which Ricardo very pleasantly did. No harm no foul. But after a few such incidents Ricardo started having second thoughts about the project, saying that maybe he had too much work on after all to take on the framing of our house; maybe he doesn’t want to do it.

But, with builders as with ex-es, never start dishing dirt until you know it’s well and truly over. Come Monday Ricardo was still on site, and he’s now full-throttle towards framing. This is good, because it will get done quickly and cheaply and by someone who comes with great references. But it’s also awkward, because Stef is perhaps more of a perfectionist than him, and rushing doesn’t fit well with that. We’ll see how it all pans out.

Problem number two is a leftover from the naughty excavators – turns out there was a hole in the sewage pipe (eeeeew). It’s not connected to anything yet, obviously, but a leak under the house would have been very bad news. Stef checked it on advice from our next door neighbours, and had them come and fix it. Sorted. Good thing that happened before the next phase, which is filling in the concrete frame with gravel and then pouring a slab of concrete flooring on top. Imagine trying to fix something lying under all that…

Problem three is a ‘big unknown’. On the weekend we went for a hike up to our local, un-named waterfall (we found an even better viewpoint than one we had seen before. It’s astonishing what’s in our backyard), and ran into local Pembertonian and paraglider Sony up there. That’s the second time, coincidentally, that I have run into Sony on a hike. Anyway, we could see the lot from our perch high on the cliff, and Sony mentioned that when he was round at our neighbours’ the other day (for Bible class apparently), his landlord, friend and former building inspector, who was also there, started clucking and sighing and making all manner of noises. “At this point, we should be taking pictures, because they have the makings of a lawsuit on their hands,” he said, apparently. This has us confused, unless he means the shoddy work of the excavators (previously mentioned). So it is a mystery hanging over us till we manage to get him on the phone. It’s probably nothing. Just a fun reminder that everyone loves to gossip about a big build.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fast forward to foundations

Things are progressing at an astonishing pace and with very few hiccups, leaving me open-mouthed and very happily excited. Stef actually said in the car the other day that he’d have us living in our own rental suite “by the end of the year”. Astonishing.

We got our final ‘approval to build’ from the Benchlands’ aesthetics committee on Thursday 5 May (maybe the 18 months starts then?). Horrah! They were previously disturbed by the lurid colour of green that Stef had used on the digital plans (it was one of the 6 greens offered by his paint programme; not exactly what we plan to paint the house), but quickly put to ease.

In the meantime, the digger and blaster boys did a good job giving us a driveway area and excavating where we’re going to build, though a bit more of the nice featury bluff of boulders at the front got taken away than Stef was hoping/expecting. (“I kept saying: ‘to here. No further.’ Then I’d come back and more would be gone!”) But this is a minor issue, and it has left us with lots of nice chunky boulders to scatter around the yard or at the front, to prop up little landscaping beds. They also managed to: overcharge for the use of machinery, by doing stupid things like having a digger and only one truck to take stuff away one day (so the digger had to wait while the truck drove) and then a digger and three trucks the next (so the trucks sat around with nothing to do); nick some of our precious trees by sorting the rubble into different size classes (not sure why they did that) and piling them up too close to said trees; install a too-small water pipe, though thankfully our neighbour Roger pointed out that this wasn’t to code and they fixed it. So things weren’t perfect, but basically this just gave Stef something to do and made him feel needed (kidding), and in the end the final product is fine, which is what counts.

Stef has hired a framer (who he has variously been calling Eduardo and Ricardo for the past week, totally not knowing what his name was and both of us finding this hilarious. Turns out he is Ricardo and his son is Eduardo, and he doesn’t care what we call him so long as we pay). He worked on the house down the street and comes with good recommendations, and had the cheapest quote by far, so that was one of those easy decisions that we need to cherish (though it left Stef in agonies for a while over whether he should have done the framing himself. This is silly, though, as just hiring a few helpers would have cost as much and wouldn’t come with the same tools or expertise). Ricardo/Eduardo is going to work solidly through the weekend and Stef should be pouring foundations by next week. Astonishing.

We keep having silly moments of angst about the plans (Stef: will the deck be big enough? Is it unfair that one of the ‘kiddie’ bedrooms is so much nicer than the other, with vaulted ceiling and south-facing view and a mini balcony? What if the kids fall off the balcony? Me: Is there room for the dining table? Is there enough kitchen storage area? Will I be okay sharing a closet with Stef?). These, of course, are stupid questions. It will be a lovely house, and all will be well. Stef has decided to move the front balcony out by two feet (bigger is always better for decks in my view). But it’s not all angst. We also have sweet dreams of a picnic table on the front lawn, and a fire pit in the back, and a pile of wood under the deck stairs, and a cold-frame for plants on the front deck, and a veggie garden by the driveway, and a little wooden seat out on the rock with the waterfall view…