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I drove home this evening into an amazing sky: a firey sunset with peach-colored clouds and a long, vertical plume. It was a gratifying afternoon. Dobie (my pooch) and I spent some hours on my “job site”—where I am converting a used portable classroom into a home. This afternoon I was focused on…mud, actually. Mud of two kinds: mud, meaning wet dirt, and mud meaning sheetrock “mud”, the stuff that is applied to “raw” sheetrock (or drywall) before it is painted. More on the latter in a minute.

As to the wet dirt: the operative word here, in reference to my painstaking progress on my project is…wet! As of last Friday, I now have water on my new place. An outside spigot never looked more beautiful than this one.

I turned on the faucet and, voila! This changes my world at the Pixie Plantation. I can finally wash this building and paint it and I can mix the powdered stuff I got at Lowe’s to install tile flooring. Perhaps most exciting of all, I can water my plants!

In order to have water, I needed electricity, since I’m relying on a well to keep me “watered” here. It was Friday two weeks ago, that my electrical guys were able to return to work for me. (See my prior posts for background.) Will, the electrician’s assistant, and his helper, Omar, installed outlets and ran electrical lines in my new place, primarily in the bathroom and kitchen.

It wasn’t until the following Friday that I arrived to find monster trucks and machines and five guys from the power company—all there to bring power to my building!

From a huge spool, they strung cable to the top of the power pole on my property.

Then they dug deep trenches and ran the cable to the power box near my house-to-be. Finally, they got their heads together—literally—and hooked everything up.

Last Saturday, a new contractor, Ray, and his son-in-law, Russ, showed up and began working on my bathroom, taking up where Kermit the contractor left off. (Kermit has been gently, but firmly, dismissed from the job site—at least for the time being.) They constructed walls around the tub area in the bathroom and hung sheetrock.

In the lower right hand side of the picture is a roll of insulation, which I installed in the bathroom walls.

Thursday this week Ray and Russ returned and Russ put “mud” on the seams of the sheetrock. Today, after I sanded most of the areas he had “mudded”, the exterior walls of the bathroom look like this.

You can see that the illumination in the building is the original: intense, white, buzzing fluorescent lights, under which many children toiled to take their tests. Eventually, I will do away with them. For now, they provide the building with a workshop ambiance—quite appropriate to the activity going on! Twenty-two fluorescent lights is a bit much, however, for one little home. But, that’s a problem I’ll solve later.

For now, I’m happy to have light.

And I am thrilled to have water. While Dobie romped this afternoon, I dug holes in the ground, planting some of the bedraggled daylilies, purple coneflower, and other items that have lived in pots at my house for the past three years. The ground is terribly dry and packed hard, so I am using post-hole diggers to make a hole, plopping the plants in the ground, and then making mud (halleluia!) by watering liberally with my hose.

In the next few days these plants and the others will be all cozy with mulch that should help them survive the winter and give them some nutrients, in addition to holding at bay all of the vines and growth I didn’t manage to pull up.

Tired from his romp this afternoon, Dobie is not quite sure what to make of the fact that he’s been allowed to run—sans leash—on the property the last few times he’s made the trip with me. As I write this, he is zonked out on his bed. Time for me to do the same. Tomorrow is likely to be another day in which I’ll sand some more on the sheetrock, apply more mud, dig more holes outside, put in more plants, and water them in.

For some of us, life doesn’t get any better than playing in the mud!


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Cast of Characters:

Randy, the electrician

Will, the electrician’s assistant

Wallace, the building inspector

Kermit, the unreliable contractor

Kevin, the well guy

Scottie, the well guy’s assistant

The wildflowers

The wildflowers put on a pretty show last week, but I was focused on other things.

On Monday, at the end of a busy and productive day, Will, my electrician’s assistant, and I stood in the kitchen as he identified, again, the places where new outlets and wiring were needed. This used, portable classroom is receiving a simple make-over, and long pieces of plastic-coated strands of metal and lots of gray electrical boxes are critical to making it my home. (Please see my previous posts for background.)

“You’ve got to have an outlet for every two feet of counter space,” Will (pictured above) had explained earlier in the day. “You’ve got to know exactly where your sink, counter, and appliances will be.”

So, I’d spent time with my measuring tape, imagined opening the refrigerator door (Boy, that’ll be a tight fit.), standing at the invisible sink washing dishes (Won’t it be nice when there’s a window right there?), and reaching into an imaginary pantry (Darn, it won’t be as big as I’d like, but it’ll have to do.). So, here Will and I were at quitting time on Monday, identifying all of the electrical components they’d add the next day.

Or, so I thought.

As the list of necessary and desired electrical elements grew beyond what my electrician, Randy, had originally cost-estimated for me, I explained to Will that I needed for Randy to let me know what additional charges would be involved.

And, then, I made the critical mistake.

I expressed anxiety about what Wallace, the building inspector, would say when he came to inspect the electrical work. The plans I’d submitted included a bathroom that was part of the original construction. As you can see, however, I picked out a classroom with no bathroom at all.

Kermit the contractor had worked on Saturday, and when he finished, the skeletons of my walls were standing.

But, Kermit failed to show up on Sunday to hang sheet rock, so the studs were still exposed, all but shouting “new construction”. I worried that the building inspector would fine me or, in general, make things difficult when he saw my project wasn’t going according to the plans I had submitted.

To Will I said, “I’m not sure what Wallace is going to hit me with.” But, I wasn’t going to slow down the project. It was time to get on with this show.

Will missed that part of the script.

Maybe he didn’t want me to get “hit”. Or, maybe it was a Mars and Venus thing. Warring planets, crossed stars, minds in alternate universes. What registered in Will’s brain was: “STOP. DO NOT PROCEED.”

And, that’s what he told his boss, Randy, after he left my property Monday evening.

Meanwhile, tired and exhilarated, I coasted home in my universe that evening, Venus as my guide.

Tuesday morning came. Bleary-eyed, but determined, I drove to my property. It was as if I’d walked into a darkened theatre, the curtain drawn. What had happened to the actors in my play? I tromped around my property and looked at long trenches…

…and white pipes tucked neatly into the ground.

By midday, I headed home, called Randy, got the story, and nearly cried. Could he come on Friday? No, he said, that wasn’t a good day. We left things hanging.

Next I called Kevin, the well guy. “Hey, Kevin, I thought Scottie was going to be back today to finish the work.”

“Ellen, he’s on his way. His mother’s been in the hospital and she might need more surgery. That’s where he’s been this morning. But, he’ll be there.”

Then I called Kermit. Told him I was angry (my words were a little more crass than that) when he didn’t show up on Sunday. And he said, “Aw, Sweetie, I didn’t mean to rile you. You shoulda called me.”

Biting my tongue, too close to lashing out, I told him I’d talk with him later.

Meanwhile, my dears, this building comes along slowly. Kermit will likely be fired. Randy and Kevin and their assistants, Will and Scottie, will come through for me.

And, always, despite the drama going on in my schoolhouse project, the weather is cool and the wildflowers are blooming, putting on their very best show.

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Early Tuesday morning I slid from bed and trudged into the kitchen. Taking care of a few things there, I was aware that my eyes felt strange, so I moved down the hall and peered into the bathroom mirror. My top eyelids had disappeared and in their place were small, white tufts of flesh. The lines of my face pointed inward and down. I looked like an angry bull.

I splashed cold water on the mess and moved on. For the fifth time in as many days, I made the one-hour drive to my new property. I arrived at 9:30, fatigued but hopeful, expecting to see the same bustle of activity that had been there yesterday.

Yesterday, there was the well guy digging trenches,

connecting white plastic pipes to bring water from the well to the house-to-be,

and then out to the garden areas I’d designated.

There were also the three electrical guys, working hard to make the right connections to bring me power to the building and power to the well.

So, here I am. No hustle and bustle, no guys with electrical wiring or gray conduit pipes, no one with white PVC pipes that will eventually bring water to my kitchen sink, bathroom tub and out back to the garden.

Why am I the only one here?

I decide to savor the quiet, enjoy the fresh morning air, the dew on the ground, and push aside doubts about what is going on. I sip on a drink, have a snack, look at the newspaper I’ve brought from home. On one of the uppermost sprigs of a cedar tree sits a mockingbird. Well, at least I can snap a few pictures on this gorgeous morning. So I run back to my truck and grab my camera. (See the photo at the top of this post.)

That done, my spirits begin to slip under the covers, where I’m wishing my body had stayed back home. What’s happened? I know the guys said they’d be back today.

When in doubt, mow, I always say. So, I put a little gas into the tank of my old mower, push the button for the choke, or the throttle, or whatever that thing is on the front of the mower, and I pull the crank. Okay, this is more like it. Progress. When you mow down the grass, or in this case weeds and wildflowers, you can see what you’ve done. You’ve made tracks and for a type-A type of girl, you can’t see too many tracks.

Finally, it’s midday. Time to give in, go home, where there’s other work to be done. Besides, my body’s aching; my heart is heavy. My two princes—my  electrician and well guy—have left me alone at the altar. It’s one thing for the guy who put in my septic tank not to come back to spread that last mound of dirt. And it’s another thing for Kermit the contractor not to show up on Sunday. (See my previous post.) But Randy and Kevin? What’s up with that?

On the way home, it is a disgruntled bull that gives me a lift, helps to turn my day around. You never know where a little light will shine. Please go here: for my bull story.

Once I drive several miles from my property I am able to get cell phone reception and call my two princes. It’s then I discover the reasons I was the only one to show up this morning.

More next time! I’ll be keeping you posted.

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