Archive for January, 2012


Perhaps I should have advertised it as an estate sale.  It wasn’t properly a yard sale, as the condo has no yard or driveway; nor was it a garage sale, as the parking garage is underground and not a place to hold a sale accessible to pedestrians.  It was Bear’s idea, a couple of months ago, to sell the leftover items of value right there inside the condo, instead of hauling them back to the house and laying them out on the driveway for a yard sale.  I wasn’t sure if I was really up for pulling a sale together, but I finally decided to go ahead with it and picked this weekend’s Saturday as the date.  Wondering how to list it, I called it a rummage sale, not realizing that term is normally used for junk sales organized by churches or other non-profits.  

We advertised in the local paper and on Craigslist and other online yardsale boards.  A goodly number of people stopped by, to my surprise.  Quite a lot of stuff headed out the front door at the fire-sale prices I posted, too.  We met a number of locals and neighbors, out walking on a Saturday morning who stopped by to see our sale, which was a nice bonus – I’m a huge believer in getting to know your neighbors.  The dear little old lady across the street came back three times for more goodies.  And told me I should have called it an estate sale, since so much of what was laid out for display was much nicer than rummage sale stuff.

None of the barware or stemware or dishes sold, nor did any of the furniture.  Probably because rummage sale goers aren’t looking for that sort of thing.  We may keep some of the old crystal, if I can find the storage space.   It’s an old set of fine, thin pieces of all shapes and sizes, originally twelve of each, etched with a delicate bamboo leaf design.  Very asian or oriental; I wish I could find the right buyer who would appreciate its fragile beauty.  I’d rather keep it for posterity than donate it, if a buyer can’t be found.  And Bear will have room for the art deco curio cabinet, as well as the oak sofa table, once I pack up all my stuff for the Kentucky move.  We just needed to whittle the pile of stuff down, and we did.

Washing everything up for display took two days, but the place looked very nice, like a little antique store, when I opened the door for business at 9 am Saturday morning.  I woke at 4 and arrived at 6 to put price tags on everything, and though it was a scramble to get it all done in time, it worked out fine.  I had customers waiting to come in at 8:45.  Bear showed up with coffee and extra newspaper for wrapping things at 9:30 and was a big help plugging things in for folks and taking the dog for a walk every couple of hours.  Plenty of customers went away with bargains, I made enough money to paint the downstairs, and have a lot less stuff to box up to donate or store.  I’d say it was a successful endeavor. 

A lot of work, and I’m glad it’s done.


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Aced it!

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Although installing new bathroom sink and tub fixtures does not exactly qualify me as a bonafide plumber, it has certainly made me appreciate the skill and patience required to do even this mundane plumbing task.  That beautiful sparkling sink faucet and drain took me the better part of a day with my shoulders wedged into the cupboard below and my head and arms contorted for what seemed like hours, undoing old corroded connections and assembling new ones.

I’ve never installed a sink faucet before; this was my first.  Always left “that stuff” to Bear, the handyman extraordinaire.  But he’s not available for this condo renovation project so I figured I could learn how to do it myself.  And I’m pleased to say it turned out very well.

The tub fixtures, however, are another story.  (Notice the use of the present tense and lack of a photo of the finished product.)  I knew they would be, but I entered the den of snakes anyway, and have some bites to prove it.  I bravely bought the set to match the sink faucet, and discovered upon trying to install it that they aren’t all universal mounts.  That is, the new faucet handle wouldn’t just fit right onto the existing valve.  It was pretty obvious when I got all the parts laid out and took the backing plate off.  What really had me scratching my head though, was the valve body included in the box – I thought, surely I don’t have to replace this whole thing, do I? 

So I called a plumber.  The ad in the Yellow Pages said “Free Estimates” so I thought, what the heck, let’s find out how much it will take to get it done right.  Plus, I wanted to know how much it would cost to have the tub drain replaced, as I had heard that is a difficult job and well worth hiring a plumber for.

A mountain of a man with “Joey” embroidered on his extra-large blue shirt arrived in about 45 minutes and I briefed him on my dilemma.  Really nice guy.  He complimented me on the sink faucet installation, and then gave me a huge education on “real” plumbing.  Basically, Joey said, we can do anything you want.  But replacing that Moen faucet with a Delta faucet would mean tearing out some stuff, which could be done, but it’d be pricey.  Pricey like, $900+.  He suggested I go to a local supplier (great tip) and purchase a Moen “trim kit,” taking the cartridge with me to make sure it fit.  He even told me how to take the cartridge out.  Then he quoted me $225 per tub for him to install the trim kit, which includes shower head, tub spigot, and faucet assembly.  $375 if I didn’t buy it myself.

I’m pretty sure he knew he was giving me all the information I needed to finish the job myself.  It was a friendly 15-minute conversation and yes, I asked a bunch of questions but he offered up a lot of detail I didn’t pump him for.  I thanked him for his time and said we would think about it and give a call back on Monday if we decided to have him do it.  On the way home I stopped by Ferguson Supply as he’d suggested and picked up the trim kit to install the next day.

Well, the removal and replacement of the cartridge wasn’t as straightforward as Joey had made it sound.  Long story short, the new one didn’t go in right and the danged faucet wouldn’t completely shut off after I got everything assembled.  Then when I went to pull the cartridge back out, it wouldn’t budge.  Crap, I thought.  That’s not right, it should slide right out.  But it only came out halfway, and I didn’t know if I just needed to use a little more muscle or if tugging harder would really mess things up.  I was beginning to think I might have to pay the guy that $225 just to get me out of my fix.

But first I called Bear.  He eventually came over and, as I hoped, tugged a little harder (with 200 pounds behind it,) and the cartridge popped right out.  Sure enough, it was damaged – the rubber seal at the back was torn and half missing.  We decided I should have greased it before inserting it; a minor detail Joey didn’t share.  I was just relieved it came out without destroying anything internal and I hadn’t messed things up too much.  I picked up a replacement cartridge last night and today I’m ready to try it again.

I will admit, it would have been much easier to just pay the quoted price and have it done without the headache.  I thought I really screwed things up there for a while, which was not a good feeling.  Of course I wouldn’t have learned anything about replacing shower fixtures, but I would have skipped a lot of anxiety and hassle.  Would it have been worth two-and-a-quarter?  I thought that sounded a little pricey, but the shower faucet doesn’t work yet and I won’t rest easy until it does.  We’ll see if I pass the test today.

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I will miss this.  Chard, beets, broccoli, carrots, peas, lettuce, turnips.  In January.  I love my little SoCal garden.

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Renovation dog

In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, the obstacle that looms largest in my Path to Farm Freedom is the cleaning out and renovation of a two-bedroom, three-story condominium that now belongs to Bear.  Its owner, a long-time friend of his, died of a stroke this past Spring and left it to him in her will.  You would think that would be a very positive thing, to inherit a property that can be rented out to generate cash flow, and generally speaking that is true.  All you have to do is clean it out, fix it up, and find good tenants.  Simple, right?

Alas, these things never are.

First of all, the place was stuffed to the rafters with too much furniture, junk and trash, and was incredibly filthy.  A small dog and a large cat kept indoors ruined every inch of carpeting upstairs and did serious damage to the walls.  Windows left open to the elements for years (you can do that in San Diego) resulted in damaged windowsills and left mold and mildew everywhere.  Cigarette smoke stained the ceilings.  No serious cleaning had been done in more than a decade.  Boxes and bags of miscellaneous stuff were stacked everywhere, and kitchen cabinets were ruined by spilled contents.  Junk everywhere, intermixed with items of value, had to be sorted through and disposed of. 

Secondly, without disparaging anyone or going into too much detail, this is a solo effort; a workforce of one.  As my grandmother would have said, “Being handy never gets you anything but a lot of hard work.”  I have experienced the truth of her wry little observation many times in my life, and this instance is no different.  Because I am She Who Makes Order out of Chaos, and Bear is inept at the most basic household duties and is, I am speaking kindly here, motivationally challenged.  But this condo needs to be rented out (not a good time to sell anything, do I even need to mention that) and I won’t leave him hanging with a stone like this tied to his neck.  He could never afford to hire someone to do what I am doing.

So I am working like a dog – a renovation dog, since I really want to get the hell out of suburbia and get to my farm, and I can’t go until this is done.  I started the clean-out process in October, as soon as it was legally available, working four hours at a time on weekends – the longest I could stand to be in that hell-hole.  Bag after bag of trash carried down two flights of stairs and across the parking garage to the dumpster didn’t even seem to make a dent.  The place stunk, the work was depressing, and I could barely see my progress.  But November allowed me more time, and I doggedly persisted with my four-hour work stints, until the upstairs bedrooms were stripped to just their furniture.  Fifty-seven large bags of crap drug to the dumpster.  God forgive me for all the glass not recycled, the stuff just needed to go.

It took more than a little elbow grease to clean up and restore a maple bedroom set and the large oak entertainment center before I could post them for sale on Craigslist, but it paid off and they both sold.  Several other items are still advertised, waiting for buyers.  Lots of stuff donated to GoodWill and Father Joe’s Villages, but lots of stuff still remains.  Pulling everything out of the upstairs bedrooms was a huge step, as it allowed me to start the painting and repairing process.  I had hoped to have the upstairs done by the end of December and ready for carpet installation, but I missed that mark.  Still painting bathrooms and replacing fixtures, and the stairwell hallway walls will need painted after that, then I can move downstairs. 

I don’t think I work as fast as I used to.  But two rooms and a hallway painted from top to bottom, including closets and door jambs, various wall repairs and a rebuilt windowsill, is a good start.  I’m working 8 hours a day now at it (it’s a 30-minute drive to the condo) and I hope to pick up speed as I get more efficient.  And I will need to; the winter is getting short and I want to be in Kentucky in time to put in a garden. 

This damned condo renovation project is the figurative grenade rolled under my door that threatens to blow up all my plans for finishing up here in San Diego and getting myself out to the Farm.  I should be out back in my own little suburban yard finishing terrace walls and stairs, resetting flagstone paths out front, and renovating the landscaping so it can be maintained by a gardening service in my absence.  I need to clean out the garage, pack 7 tons of household goods, and get it moved to storage.  There is a lot that will need to be done this winter, to earn my liberty, my ticket to freedom.

Wish me luck, cheer me on, pray for strength and patience for me.  I will need a lot of all those things to get this done.

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