Trip #5:  October 3, 2023 – October 22, 2023

Utility trailer load count:  9

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

With the cottage in PEI closed for the season (earlier than expected thanks to yet another hurricane threat–one that didn’t arrive full force and caused no damage, but we had to do all the preparations nonetheless), and still some time on hand till I was ready to start work, we decided on an extended trip to the lodge, choosing this time to leave on a Tuesday because that’s when we were ready.

Actually, it was late Monday night when we left, at 2338.  We chose to leave even earlier to ensure we got through metropolis before any commuter traffic became a problem.  This was our first trip down in our new truck, which had a small diesel engine and which so far had been giving us terrific fuel economy (forgive the various photos that might show the instrument panel with its mileage display–I was logging the  fuel economy with great interest and admiration on this trip).  With the usual stops along the way, and this time taking the Rt. 301 route through DE and MD (we prefer this road to DE-1 and MD 113), we arrived at the lodge at 1150 and spent the beautiful afternoon getting unloaded and the usual just-arrived sorts of things.  We brought Pythagoras down from the cottage–our big orange dragon–and he now had a place of honor marking the hidden well by the end of the driveway.

When I opened the tractor shed, I was startled by lots of quick, noisy movement.  Alarmed, I swung back the doors, only to see dark shapes leaping into the shadows.  Some kind of large bug–they turned out to be called spider crickets, for their long legs and general resemblance to big spiders.  Ugh.  Harmless, but creepy.  They had been sitting all over the insides of the doors and on the tractor, waiting out the daylight, apparently.  I did not care for them, but knew they’d be a factor since most of them had escaped to hide in the recesses of the shed.  Throughout the weeks I took to leaving the doors open to let them out, and also make it a less cozy place for them at night.


Wednesday, October 4, 2023

We started, as we often do, at Walmart, shopping for miscellaneous needs and–yes–groceries.  The supercenter had a better grocery store than the local Food Lions, with which we were entirely unimpressed.  Back home–after a stop for a Hardees sausage biscuit, the taste of the south–I picked up some loose branches and downfalls from the driveway and various undocumented things.  With good weather on hand, a desire to get it over with, and the bigger desire to get to work on the house, I spent the afternoon powerwashing the house and siding with a powerwasher I’d brought down this time, cleaning off mold, mildew, discolaration, and even stripping some of the old paint.  It was exciting because we were planning to paint the house this time.  I took a zillion photos to show the before and during stages.  And also because it was such a nice day and so pretty out.

I tried making contact with several contractors, most of whom I’d already had some type of earlier contact.  In what was becoming a sigh-inducing trend, it was hard to nail anything down.  Tony Melody, the roofer, with whom we’d had an extended conversation during the summer, was going away and would be unavailable for the next week or so, but I could try him thereafter.  Nathan Iseman, the dock guy, was expectedly aloof and noncommital.  Tom Hastings, a mason with whom I’d made initial contact, didn’t reply right away.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

We spent the day cutting trees and brush on the east side of the house, near the water.  This included lots of vine-

y stuff, and a big mis-shapen shrub/mini tree with 100 trunks near the patio, which was a terrific thing to finally get rid of.  We filled the trailer to be ready for tomorrow (the dump is closed Thursdays), then afterwards, we went into town to Ace for the house paint and various other supplies.

These three photos show a holly branch that rubs on the electric wire leading to the house.  I’d called the power company about this and hoped they’d send someone out to remove it, since it forked over the wire and I couldn’t see a way to safely remove it from the wire without damage or danger.

Friday, October 6, 2023

We started off with a trip to the dump from 0700-0810.  I should have hitched the trailer up the night before, but didn’t for some reason.  I had some issues hooking up in the dark of early morning, and wasn’t that sure how well-secured the hitch  was on the ball, but it seemed OK.  But on the way home with an empty trailer, on bumpy, narrow, dark Cemetary Road, the trailer bounced off the ball.  Safety chains saved the day, and there was no real damage (later I did find a small dent and scrape marks in the rear bumper that had to have resulted from this).  I stopped on the side of the road with a tall embankment running up one side, and rehitched without much trouble.  Actually a truck with several Mexicans that had been following us helpfully stopped to see if all was well, and they also helped me get the trailer hitch reconnected.  Very nice.  I learned some lessons and would spend the rest of the week using extra caution securing the trailer ball.

Back home safely, I removed the trailer and we presently headed out for a trip to Lowe’s in Pocomoke City, where I’d previously ordered some new shutters for the house to be ready for this trip.  We also bought a new tall stepladder for the work ahead.  Back home around 1030, where I spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with a Genworth issue–mom’s LTC insurance company–when I discovered some random person had uploaded an unrelated bill to our portal.  I documented this nine ways to Sunday, since I thought any insurance company was likely to use something like this as an excuse to hold up payments or something in the future, and wrote an angry email, which I also posted to the portal to ensure it was on permanent record on our account.  As it happened, some days later the mystery upload had disappeared from the portal, but I never heard any peep from anyone at the insurance company about it, or about the communication I’d sent.

Tom Hastings, the mason, called and said he’d be able to come by in the afternoon.  Initially I was excited about this, because our plans included opening several new windows in the existing block walls, and having found a mason willing to come out seemed like a huge coup to me.  But when he arrived, my spirits sank.  He was a gruff old-timer (not that old, not far from our age, but definitely an old-timer), single-minded, and generally unhelpful to us.  He seemed negative and patronizing on most things, not a real self-starter, said he needed plans so he would know where to make the openings, over-explained how we’d need to remove the dividing wall between the existing kitchen and Dee’s room (now called the office), like I was an idiot.  He brought up permits about the changes, blah blah blah.  Though we felt we cracked his tough shell a bit by the end, the meeting did not leave us feeling too positive, and in fact became a significant turning point in the project when we decided we could–and would–just live with the existing window openings and the existing rooms.

Frankly, this was a bit of a relief in many ways, since it vastly reduced the scope of the project, limited how many lackadaisical contractors we had to try to work with, and meant we could do most of the work ourselves.  I guess it had been coming to this all along, with the various disappointments, frustrations, contractor attrition, and difficulty finding anyone to return calls or messages or commit to ever meeting us before a one-day window on the fly.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

One of the good things that happened in our absence between June and now was that this big, dead, leaning tree that had partially fallen right along the fence line with our neighbor, and which I’d been pondering how to get down safely, actually fell on its own, so now I could simply cut it up.  The tree was loblolly pine (southern yellow pine) and quite difficult to cut up despite its semi-rotted character.

Afterwards, Heidi and I worked off the patio to cut down an old dead tree near the waterfront at the base of the dock, and various smaller trees, some limbs from the big pines, and more vines along the bases of the trees.  We also cut down a cedar tree and another overgrown shrub out by the gray shed.  This all mostly filled up the trailer again.

Later in the afternoon, I took care of miscellaneous chores inside and out, including hanging some pictures in the Lodge that I’d been meaning to do.

It was a beautiful evening and we try not to forget to soak in the environs whenever we’re here.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

There was a change in the weather overnight, and it was cool and crisp in the morning, dew point 37.  Super nice, and perfect painting weather.  I’d waited out a few days to let the house dry thoroughly from the powerwashing, and a day or two of iffy weather conditions, so now I was ready to get to it.  I spent 0900-0930 prepping and getting my tools and materials set up, then from 0930 – 1200 painting the north gable wall, the tallest part of the house and working carefully around the electric wires.    We chose #79o Bayberry Blue from Clark & Kensington, the same color we had trialed on the shed earlier.  The store didn’t have satin base in stock, so we went with flat–I would have preferred satin, but the flat worked fine, and covered well.    This was a real transformation to the house.

Continuing, I worked during the afternoon on the west wall, i.e. the front of the house, taking another three hours to reach the corner.  2 gallons used to this point.

Meanwhile, Heidi was hard at work out along the driveway, cutting down logs of what I call “yellow stuff” for its yellow-colored trunks.  I don’t know exactly what the shrub is, but it’s a weedy, fast-growing mess that grows thin and tall and was simply overrunning this area, which had once been open ground.  I hate the yellow stuff.  Heidi had been stacking it by the driveway for us to pick up in the trailer, and left 2-3′ “lollipop sticks”, as we called them, that still needed to be cut at ground level.  This work was going a long way towards really clearing out the land near the end of the driveway, which had seemed impenetrable jungle initially.

Monday, October 9, 2023

With an early start and more great weather, from 0730-1130 I painted the south gable and east wall to the bathroom bumpout, using about 3/4 gallon.  I’d initially bought three gallons, and didn’t think what I had left was enough to finish, so we went to town for another gallon and quick trip to Food Lion for some needs.

Back home, I got the pot roast in the oven at 2, then we loaded the trailer with all the yellow stuff Heidi had cut earlier.  With a battery chainsaw, I went through the brush and cut flush all the lollipop sticks, probably 5o of them, and got them in the trailer and then everything ready to go to the dump first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Dad’s 84th birthday!  We started early with dump run #2 from 0650 – 0800, then on the way in the driveway stopped to load in the last of the cut yellow stuff, which hadn’t all fit in the trailer.  Then, from 0830-1000, I finished painting the last of the house, from the bathroom bumpout to the corner where I met the north gable.  This used about 1/3 of the 4th gallon of paint.

Later, I realized there was a small gable section on the south wall, above the kitchen, that was barely visible from ground and therefore I’d never even though of–this would need paint sometime.  The extra paint I had on hand would come in handy for that.

With the painting done, I worked with Heidi on the driveway, cut several hate-able cedars, and filled the trailer again.  Then, with the remains of the day, I painted window trim around most of the house, except the bathroom and back room, where the blue paint was too fresh.  This brightened things up and, even though we planned eventually to replace the windows (soon, just not at this minute), it was well worth the quick work.  I cleaned up and prepped the trailer and truck for the next dump run in the morning.  We (especially I) like the early morning dump runs because we (I) am at the freshest, and there is little chance of having some slowpoke in front of us that might make us wait to dump the trailer.  People are always getting in the way of things unless you avoid the times that other people are anywhere.

We also got our new sofa delivered in the afternoon, which was great to get rid of the stinky old uncomfortable couch that I think came from a yard sale or somewhere when Debbie et al helped Dee reclaim his house back in fall of 2021.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Dump run #3, 0655 – 0800.  Leaving the trailer at home, we then went erranding:  up to Tractor Supply, where I’d been but had never had time to fully look around; Walmart; Taylor Seafood, where we left only with medium shrimp for now (but good), and lump crab was $45/lb.

Back home, I called Bundick to see about arranging a water test.  The person on the phone seemed a bit clueless, but nonetheless I’d delivered the message and hoped for the best.  We’d been wanting a baseline water test for the well, and had been told earlier that someone did these once or twice per week, so I was trying to arrange this accordingly.

Next, I called Thornton Services to inquire about heat pumps.  They were very professional and helpful on the phone, and set up an appointment for Aaron to come out the very next day–what a pleasure, after so much time chasing down so many other aspects of the job.  I’m a big fan of the individual worker and self-employed contractor, but only if they know how to run a business and not just do the work well.  One has to communicate and be reliable and be ready to discuss new work.  But sometimes, a bigger company is really the way to go.

With that done, I was excited to install the new shutters I’d ordered.   They really dressed up the house.  Initially, I’d only ordered shutters for the windows on the north and west walls (the two most visible ones), plus the larger windows on the east wall.  But they looked so good that I impulsively measured and ordered shutters for all the remaining windows too, since I felt it made such a difference to the house.  I also painted the front door trim and bathroom and back room windows, which I’d left last time since the blue paint was too fresh.  Done around 1615.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Aaron Turner from Thornton was here around 1030, very helpful and full of good information.  He knew Dee from before, as  Thornton had put in the small heat pump in his room in 2021.  Aaron talked us through a few options, including a ducted system that sounded really nice, plus ductless (the usual wall-mounted unit).  We had estimates in the email by afternoon, finding a large price difference between the types.  While initially we had liked the idea of the ducted system, i.e. hidden air handler in the attic and ductwork leading to ceiling vents, now it seemed like the ductless system, with wall-mounted control units that everyone is familiar with, might be the way to go.  Lots to consider.

With the appointment done, in the afternoon we worked at the end of the driveway, cutting down several cedars and a large, dead walnut branch that had overhung the end of the driveway and the pillars.  We filled the trailer again, and staged additional piles nearby so we could load them as soon as the trailer was empty again in the morning.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Dump run #4, 0700-0815.  NOTE:  sign at dump says 6″ diameter limbs max, and another sign says something about 12″ max for stumps.  We’re always forgetting what’s OK and what’s too big at the dump, though it’s not been an issue, but we try to be compliant.  This free dump for brush has been a real boon to us here.  We stopped on the way in with the empty trailer and loaded up the staged piles.

With another great-weather day on hand, I turned to the pillars, which were in need of some paint.  We came up with the idea to paint the balls red and green, like buoys, with a black flat area, then white for the rest.  I did one coat of everything, and they looked great.

Meanwhile, Heidi de-vined trees, and limbed up a big cedar tree nearby.  Afterwards, I used the trimmer and a new plastic-bladed trimmer head to go crazy on the deep ivy covering the ground along the driveway.  This worked great, and changed the appearance (and outlook) of the whole area as we continued to fight away the ivy.  Eventually, I planned to mow all this area (it was once open field, as seen in some of the vintage photos), but we didn’t have a mower yet.  The trimmer was a lot of work, but highly satisfying.  It was starting to look like someone cared about this place.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Light showers starting at 9, then heavier and more steady during the afternoon.  I busied myself with measuring around for some future custom bookcases, bedside tables, and such that we might build over the winter at home.  I changed the old, junky hollow-core bathroom door for one of the leftover solid wood doors that I’d removed from somewhere else–it was a decent fit, still a bit tight in the width and needing some minor adjustment, but it worked well otherwise.  These pictures just show the state of things outdoors from a walk I took early in the day.

Later, we drove into town for a run through the Exmore Emporium (where we’d gotten Heidi’s pine dresser another time) and the next-door Mercantile.  Saw nothing of particular interest in either place, but I was hoping for another dresser or some such for the bedroom.  The search continues.

Back home, I finished work on the bathroom door, organized some tools and such, and then did some exploratory surgery on the window trim in the back room so I could see what the framing was like and figure out the new window sizes.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Rain overnight, and cool and breezy.  A very high tide at 1030.  I spent the morning prepping messages to send out to vendors in the morning, and some related work.  Then, I removed some of the paneling and trim from the old window in the office to check out the framing and rough opening there as well.  I also removed the center trim from one of the double windows to see if there was a post in there (no, it was just weight pockets).

In the afternoon, we visited Wallace and Grommit and Robert Charles at his house, where they’d been working over the summer.   It’s an odd house, but actually really cool, with an enviable spot right on the main creek.  Got the usual bits of Debbie info on vendors and so forth, some of which would prove to be helpful to us.

Monday, October 16, 2023

With messages I’d prepared over the weekend, I contacted Matt Mabalot electric (referred from Aaron Turner). Mike Lewis plumber (from Debbie), Sharp Energy (Debbie), Nathan Iseman again.  Paul from Bundick showed up unannounced to do the water test, and fortunately was also able to take an extra sample for a separate bacteria test, which actually is really what we wanted.

I used the timmer on the ivy and low brush in the turnaround area and around the house, then we cut mostly small trees on the right (north) side of the driveway, leaving only the big trees.  We took down a large, very dead, but still very hard, loblolly pine, and filled the trailer for dump run #5, from which we returned around 1230.

In the afternoon, Heidi limbed a cedar tree at the corner that we wanted to take down (easier to remove low limbs first with the pole saw), and another small cedar tree, and I used the tractor to remove various stumps from the trash trees we’d cut down earlier.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Talked with Tommy Arnold; the plans, which he’d had since last December and had been working with to get through engineers and such, were finally ready–signed and stamped by the engineers.  Of course now I had to tell him that we had decided not to proceed with the second story after all–I could feel his interest snap even over the phone.  He had planned to deliver the plans to us later in the week, but later modified that and said he’d send them directly.  Fine enough.

Afterwards, we went up to Lowe’s again to pick up the second round of shutters I’d ordered, which I installed as soon as we got home.  These were for the small kitchen windows, the office window, and the bathroom.

Meanwhile, Heidi continued her good work on cutting and killing the vines in the trees, and when I was done with the shutters I used the trimmer and my new favorite plastic blades to devour another large section of ivy along the driveway.  Then, I moved one final woodpile (just firewood) from its spot along the driveway up to where there was an existing pile near the turnaround, and cut flush the 4′ tall stump that had been holding it up.

When we got back from Lowe’s, we noticed that some crew had been here to mark out the proposed construction route for our Spectrum internet–exciting stuff to see.  (Really.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

In the morning, I reorganized the kitchen, moving the microwave to the other side where it would be less in the way, then set up some new wire shelving we’d bought for the back room.

When it was outside-working hours, we cut down the big cedar tree at the driveway corner that had been interfering with the twin-trunk tree that was also there, then worked in the space between the house and blue shed to remove various small trees and shrubs and clean the area out.  I finished out the area with the trimmer, and we fully loaded the trailer for dump run #6 from 1130-1230.

Back at the house, the guy from Verizon was on hand to mark the position of an existing buried cable (orange paint).

We spent the afternoon cutting more vines, small trees, and a horribly tortured thing with a huge canopy, which had been forced to grow this way and that in its desperate quest for light.  I’d never seen a trunk or limbs with so many sharp angles.  We filled the trailer again, and went for dump run #7 from 1530-1630.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

I spent some morning time preparing for our meeting with Matt Mabalot, the electrician we’d made contact with.  We liked him, and he was interested in the project, so this was a great relief.  Afterwards, we went to town to sign the Thornton contract and pay the deposit, after which we had a late breakfast at Exmore Diner.  The heat pump installation is scheduled for December 4-5, so we started making plans to return back down for a week around then.  While out, we got rid of trash and recycling, filled the diesel jug, bought chain oil, and were home by 1030.

During the day, we cleaned out an other section on the south side of the driveway, removing small trees and brush first, then weedwacking the ivy with my plastic blades.  This filled another half trailer.  I found a battered plastic standpipe amidst the ivy that I thought might be part of the septic leach field–the location was right according to the septic plan from the 1990s that I had on hand.  Across the way in the big cornfields, they were de-corning:  two combines, and a seemingly endless parade of big trucks.  I always love watching this stuff.  They worked all day, but still didn’t finish harvesting all the corn.

Later, I finished up with the weedwacker the last section we planned to do for now.   So now the entire driveway was pretty clear on both sides, along its whole length.  This made a huge difference to the feel of the property.

Friday, October 20, 2023

We continued work on the south side of the driveway, cutting the last (well, last for now, at least) brush and small trees and filled the trailer.  We took dump run #8 from 1130-1230, then returned and cut several more small trees, plus two large holly trees that had been bothering us, and filled the trailer for one final dump run #9 from 1445-1545.  This load was really heavy, with too much weight at the aft end (those holly trees were dense).  I did some figuring:  The trailer is roughly 14 x 6 x 3, so 252 cubic feet for each load, or 9 cubic yards, so total of 81 cubic yards taken to the brush pile on this trip.  Good stuff.  There was more to do, but that would be for another time.  But what we’d accomplished changed everything about the property.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Our last day.  After the morning ritual, I started packing, including packing up all the vinyl LPs and reel-reel tapes that Dee had, but which were just taking up space here.  We had room in the truck, so I figured now was a great time to clear these out.

We had a meeting with Gary Ulmer from Loudoun Windows (Debbie) from 0950 – 1115. We didn’t make a commitment just yet, but this was what we were looking for.  Good quality vinyl windows, with all the features I wanted:  Internal grilles, screens, double-hung, tilt-t0-clean, and all that.   The price for all the windows was reasonable at $4200 (with us doing the installation). We also talked about new doors (2), but there were some issues since our plan of the moment was to fir up the floor with 2xs on the flat to accept a subfloor and hardwood, all of which would raise the floor about 3″.  This raised issues with the standard door heights, and while he could customize doors to fit, the costs skyrocketed, so two doors would cost $4800.

We spent the rest of the day on final packing, and just sort of killing time.  The last day is always tough, partly because since we leave in the middle of the night we want an early-to-bed, but there really wasn’t time to get into much new.  I did my final walk-arounds and photos and video-taking, took my time packing the truck and putting away the tractor and such.  Across the way, they finished the de-corning.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Up early at 2330–just done with bed.  SO we departed at 0009 and got home at 1110, after an easy trip.  Weather was good the whole way, then started to cloud up around Portland with a bit of rain between there and home, and rain all day once we got home.  I unloaded crucial stuff and left the rest for later.

Total trip:  2225.8 miles, 27.2 average MPG, 49.9 avg MPH

Continue with December 2023.

The Lodge: December 2023