For a year our contractor-son-in-law has been building a house between “paying jobs” for Carol Ann and me. We have been “moving in” for about a week now and it will probably be another couple of weeks before we actually begin sleeping in the new house. There are so many little things to be done and we don’t want to move until we tie up most of those loose ends. Located next door to our daughter and son-in-law’s recently completed home, our new house is located on a hilltop, one of the highest spots in the county at a little over 400 feet above sea level. I know what you must be thinking about son-in-law Sam building his in-laws a house next door to his. But it was his idea and we hope he won’t regret it in a few years.
Carol Ann and I have been rattling around in a two-story 4,800 square foot house for about 15 years now. We probably use only about a quarter of the house, keeping most of it closed off. The new house is 2,800 square feet but will give us much more useable room than we currently have in the “big house.” The new house is also on one level with doors wide enough to accommodate wheel chairs should there ever be a need. We even had the taller toilets installed to make it easier to get up and down!
Sam and his crew came over with a trailer the other day and got a load of furniture and yesterday we had movers come and load up the remainder of the furniture we are taking with us. That still leaves a lot of furniture and “stuff” in the old house. We will use it to “stage” the house to help it sell faster (hopefully). Once the house is sold we will have a “we’re not dead yet” estate sale.
The yard is not yet landscaped, but we have planted a little close to 150 shrubs and trees around the house. I went a little wild at a wholesale nursery, buying what I liked (as long as the nurseryman said they were “drought resistant” and liked “full sun”). The bulk of the plants include 35 crepe myrtles (Red Rocket) and 28 jasmine (Carolina and Confederate). The remainder include Texas sage, red yucca, dwarf fountain grass, spirea (two varieties), rosemary, nandina, bottlebrush, forsythia, bee balm, Chinese pistache trees, Japanese maples, red oak, and a few others whose names escape me. I had to do something with them after they were delivered so I sketched out a landscaping plan and hired some guys to do the planting for me. There is not a blade of grass anywhere around the house and the soil is very, very sandy. It looks like someone planted trees and shrubs on a beach, except there is no water near the house.
I bought a soil testing kit at Lowe’s and tested the soil from eight different locations around the house. I quit after testing the first three samples. All three yielded the same results and I imagine the other five would have also. The pH is neutral (7.0), Nitrogen is VERY LOW, Potassium is VERY LOW, and Phosphorus is VERY LOW. Like I said, it’s sand. I have to water the plants at least once a day and sometimes twice because the soil is “very well drained,” as the landscaping articles like to say. The plants have quite a thirst with the Texas sun beating down on them all day creating temperatures bordering on the triple digits. It takes me about an hour to water all of them. I can’t use sprinklers because without a lawn it would be a terrible waste of water and Texas has been in a severe drought since the fall of 2010.
I’ve been reading up on drip irrigation, also called micro-irrigation, and have installed a “test” system for one flower bed about 50 feet long. It’s working great and the lantanas went from looking very droopy to standing up and blooming again. I’m working on a plan for the remainder of the plants. Our front yard is relatively small, about 1,000 square feet and I have just about decided to go with sod, zoyzia probably. It’s more expensive but a lot less trouble than seed. It is also getting late in the season and I need something growing on my front beach to keep it from washing away should we ever have a rainy season again.
I am something of a gadget freak and spend a lot of time on the computer and wanted to make sure we had a home network with fast Internet access. That meant installing a wired network in addition to Wi-Fi. I had the electricians pull Cat6 Ethernet cable (for Internet) and RG6 coaxial cable (for cable TV) to each room while they were wiring the house. The cables all terminate in a hall linen closet that I have commandeered for a “wiring closet.” I have a “structured wiring enclosure” (the “box” on the wall) for a power module, ethernet switch, cable TV splitter, a Power over Ethernet adapter, router, cable modem, and an NAS (Network Attached Storage) external network hard drive.
I removed one of the ethernet/coax wall plates to check the electricians’ work and couldn’t believe what I saw. I had assumed that someone running Ethernet Cat6 cable for the home network would have known what kind of terminator (connector) was required. I should have known better. The coax cable was fine, however, the Cat6 cable was attached to a four-wire telephone jack, an RJ-11. Cat6 cable has eight wires and requires an RJ-45 jack. To top this off, only two of the eight wires were attached to the four-wire phone jack! I showed this to Sam, who must have called the electricians immediately because they were at the house the next morning to replace the jacks. I asked them to just leave them with me and I would save them the trouble. I don’t think I can do any worse than they did.
After finally getting the cabling sorted out I made an appointment with my local cable provider to transfer my service to the new address. The lady I spoke with told me to have all of the devices/equipment at the new address for the installers. The appointment was for today (Friday), sometime between 8 AM and 12 Noon. Last night before bed I disconnected 3 TVs, a TiVo, 2 TiVo minis, a Blue Ray player, a Roku, and a Chromecast with all of the assorted remotes, cables, and power adapters. Then I unplugged my Wi-Fi router, the cable modem, MoCA network adapter, Ethernet switch, and external hard drive. I also removed a box that was attached to the wall and connected to the MoCA adapter by a power cord and an Ethernet cable. There were countless cables and power adapters accompanying these items also. I put all of it in a box and this morning I got up very early (7 AM is VERY early for me) so I would have time to get the box and 2 of the TVs to the new house before 8 AM.
I unloaded everything at the new house, sorted it all on the floor, and began my wait. The pair of installer arrived about 9:15 AM. Not bad at all. I showed them around and told them about the home network I was constructing. They looked at it and informed they weren’t allowed to install any devices or cables that weren’t from the cable company. I said, OK, use your own splitter, and I will change it later. One of the guys then said that I would lose all of the recorded programs on the TiVo machines during the transfer of service. That would not go over well with Carol Ann. After the tour we went outside so I could show them where the cable came into the house. The house is a couple of hundred feet from the street so Sam had buried a conduit from the road to the house. There was twine running through the conduit to make it easy for the cable installers to pull the cable from the road to the house. The “Alpha” installer told me right away that they couldn’t do that. They were installers; they did not bury cable (apparently pulling it through a conduit was the same as burying it). I volunteered to pull the cable through the conduit but they said the conduit was not large enough. Because of the distance involved, they would have to run RG11 cable, which has a greater diameter due to the extra shielding. Another crew would be required to come out and bury the cable. He could make an appointment to have the cable run and buried, after which I would have to reschedule the installation. Seeing my disappointment, he suggested a temporary fix. He could run the cable, but not bury it, from the road to the house. It would lay atop the ground until the burial crew came and buried it. Tomorrow being a college football Saturday I agreed and they headed down to the street.
Within a few minutes they were back at the house telling me there were only two “ports” at the street and both of them were in use. He would have to call his supervisor for instructions. The supervisor was there in about 10 or 15 minutes (this is a fairly small town) and after looking over the situation informed me that he would have to schedule a crew to come out and install a port at the street for my house. After that was done, the burial crew could be scheduled, and after the cable was buried, the installation could be rescheduled. I’m reading weeks into this and not real happy but what could I do. I called customer support and asked them to cancel the disconnect at my old address. I loaded one TV, a TiVo, router, cable modem, MoCA adapter and assorted cables, power supplies, and remotes back into the box and brought them back to the old house. As of this writing I still haven’t figured out which cable goes where, plus I seem to be one short, which requires a trip back out to the house. My team kicks off at 2:30 CST tomorrow, Saturday. Hopefully, I will have it figured out by then and will be able to watch the game.