Saturday, May 29, 2010

Another step on the journey

New phone numbers! The Man has all kinds of power cords and wires and boxes and antennas and a regular phone all hooked together yet it's not hooked to any phone lines so it's technically a cell phone but it doesn't use a cell phone so that we have phone service at The Secret Cabin. This mess of plastic and wire spaghetti also provides data service for our internet needs. Our personal cell phone numbers have also been changed. I am working on getting the new numbers out to family and friends.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Now what is she doing?

I'm cleaning the living room. With the break in the heat wave and having finished lining up materials, time to work on taking The Secret Cabin from construction zone to home. I feel like I got at least one layer of dust conquered. I know, I still owe pictures. Forthcoming sans heavy layer of dust.

I also met with Lonny of LR Construction, Hancock, Michigan. He's going to be cutting the concrete in the Lower Level floor to correct the location of the bathtub lines. He seems like a super nice guy. It's a little project and I think it sounds 100 percent NOT fun. If all goes well, I've got other, more fun, projects. I love Eric and Jake and they are truly AMAZING but they will be finishing the cabin soon and I'd like to have a local crew for the other work that needs to be done. Stuff like a patio, garden/green house/pergola, and the machine barn needs a concrete floor in the worse way. A bit of advice: Do NOT put sand in your machine shed AND if your contractor doesn't know what crushed and packed screenings are, fire his butt immediately - chase him off your property with a stick if you have to. I also would like to have another pole barn - a small one just for my horse and his little donkey friend. Oh, and the front porch. Here's HOPING I've got another good contractor! Let's all keep our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

View from the "nest"

This is what I look at when I lay down in bed. I'm thinking of calling the loft, which is our bedroom, The Nest. It's cozy which is the polite term for small. The bed is basically the only thing in the area. The paneling makes the bed feel wrapped in wood like the sticks used in a birds nest. I'm thinking the view is similar for a bird in its nest. Kinda cool.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stirring the pot

It's back to work for me. I'm just running around checking in with my suppliers for the next and hopefully final installment of The Eric and Jake Get R Done Show. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Did he say EIGHTY-five?

I left town for two weeks. I didn't want to announce to the world that I was out of town and that The Secret Cabin was sitting all by its lonesome. Especially since we ended up having to deal with the ex-contractor and informed him that we were using the final $2000 he claims we owe him to fix his f-ups (not to be confused with hiccups). It was good to see The Man and Beasts after being away for three months. I'll be glad when we're finally finished and we get the rest of the farm transferred up here. We've been at this for a year now and we're both really exhausted. Yes, things are light years better since we have Eric and Jake on the job but last year was really bad and it's difficult to put it all behind us when we've still got "aftermath" to deal with. Anyway, imagine a plane full of people sitting there listening to the pilot inform us that we are on our final decent and that the temperature is eighty-five degrees. All the heads on the plane wheeled around and looked at each other and said, "Did he say EIGHTY-five degrees?" Even with the heat, it's good to be back in the beautiful Keweenaw.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Sunny Side of Things

Okay, so I'm really sick and tired of all the negative stuff. We are clearing the decks and tying up the loose ends by dealing with the previously blogged "uglies" which means that it'll all be behind us soon. That's a positive. The blog will be able to focus on life off-grid. Cool, yet sunny things like, oh, I don't know, Holy smokes look at the sun run those two table saws, the whole lotta watts guzzling light, and the radio! True story. Happened on Eric and Jake's last carpentry blitz the first week of May. Yep, kind of gives a whole new meaning to making hay in the light of day. We are down to just the finishing touches and the construction will be over completely so we'll be getting into the edge of your seat, day-to-day, I got up, I turned on the breakers, I made tea and breakfast, which used x amount of watts, I did chores, I made lunch, I did some more chores, I made dinner, and then I did even more chores, then I took a shower. Now, I have this much "juice" left. I collapsed into bed. I got up and went through x amount of watts via phantom loads because I forgot to throw the breakers last night. That kind of VERY COOL stuff. I will reveal the honest truth about how it's all working out, whether or not I have to throw my food out in a snow bank in the winter because there's just not quite enough sun in the winter to run the frig, or if I scream and jump out of the shower with soap in my eyes and my back spasming because it's too hot or too cold, or if The Secret Cabin is too warm or too cold. You can't get a more honest depiction on comfort level than a cat either curled up tightly because it's cold or it's all stretched out and taking up as much room as a tiger with warm belly fur facing the masonry heater. TECHNICAL TIDBIT ALERT (in case you're curious): A system is sized for your lowest sunlight producing time which for us Northerners is, of course, Winter. I'd have to look at The Man's sizing sheets (hmm, that didn't sound good) but if I recall correctly, it was specifically the month of January. So, this means that in the Summer, you've got way more juice than you can use. By the way, when you think about it, doesn't it seem weird that we pay for and/or use electricity to keep our food cold when it's cold outside? Why do we do that? I'll have to google "wild beast proof snow bank box."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Not your goal after $47+k

This is what the cabin looked like when the appraiser came out last fall during Deer Hunting Season Shut Down when the cabin was supposed to be completed. I used the one photo to show that the cabin was not insulated and drywalled but did not show that the drywall was on the ceiling and used the same photo you've already seen of the ceiling as it was hanging over the appraisers head that fateful day in November. That will forever go down as a top ten embarrassing moment in my life. Below is the what was paid to Dudenas Contracting at the time of the photos. We were later billed another week's work for the labor for the drywall installation. A three man crew took a week and it was roughly $2,640 plus materials. So at this point, a month was spent building the pole barn (billed separately and not included in these figures) and four and a half months was spent on the cabin. After Deer Hunting, another week and another approximate $2,640 plus materials was spent on siding the cabin. With the siding on, The Secret Cabin was now ready for the Winter weather which was moving in when I had Dudenas remove all their equipment from our property. To avoid ugliness, I didn't say much past, we need all this picked up so I don't run it over with the tractor and snow thrower; no, lumber goes in the barn not in the basement of the cabin; no, don't leave that - you need to take ALL your equipment because come Spring, if I don't need it, it gets recycled; I don't know, I just want to see my husband, I'm exhausted; I don't know, I'm completely fried; I don't know, I haven't seen my husband in five months. While I was thanking God/Goddess and all spiritual entities of light, love, and goodness than somehow I got the cabin to the point where it was ready to brave the weather, under my breath I was screaming, "get your shit and your asses off my property NOW so I can throw myself face down in the snow and cry so hard that I can't hear my heart crack and my soul moan." I stood there looking at the cabin seeing what I didn't get done. What I FAILED to get done. I fought tooth and nail to get the cabin to the point it was at but it was no where what should have been done. Dealing with these guys really ran me through the wringer. Worse, every time I tried to get issues addressed, I was personally verbally assaulted by Mark. I only left the job site once during the day to go cry my eyes out and I only cried myself to sleep once. I only threw (not physically) one guy from Dudenas' crew off the job. I only fired one other contractor because he gave me crap about a job he did incorrectly - set in concrete I might add. I did NOT pick up a 2 x 4 and knock some respect into any man for all of woman-kind everywhere and as a result stayed a free member of society. Our wallet took a beating too. Remember the bill to remedy some of the seriously ugly craftsmanship that went on is not yet in but is an additional expense to this phase of the project which will far exceed the last $2000 we are refusing to GIVE to Mark. I have consulted a few industry experts and all agreed that the cabin should have been completed for the amount of money we paid for the time that had passed. 
32 x 24 Lower level (basement addition) 20,385

Extremely slow labor and wasteful use of materials:
Enclosed and improved front porch (adds 8 x 24 of conditioned space)
Removed two walls and loft floor; added 8' to remaining, existing loft
Structural reinforcement and improvements
Soffits, facia, and trim along bottom of cabin
New roof, install chimneys
Removing old widows, reframing for new windows and doors, and
Installation of 1st shipment of windows and doors
Job site cleaning (man's definition of clean) 21,407.49
          Plus above mentioned work (ceiling and siding)                              5,280

          Total                                                                                                        47,072.49

Friday, May 14, 2010

Business as usual

As of yesterday, we have officially contested our ex-contractor's final bill. We completely audited the entire job. A task that took us two months. That's what happens when you don't get the requested backup paperwork or a complete detailed bill. It wasn't until the next to last bill that our request for backup paperwork was provided. We did find material bills that we were charged for that weren't ours and deducted them. There was also a credit for materials that we didn't receive credit for. We did not answer the ex-contractor's phone calls because the "botches" were still being dealt with and we knew there'd be a fight. We have a list of extra work performed by my new crew to fix these botches. I can hear the calculator running in the background as I type this. While, the final dollar amount is not in yet, we received another invoice in the mail from the ex. We knew that telling the ex-contractor that we had already generously compensated him for the quality and amount of work they did in the time frame they did it in was going to unleash major ugliness. Once again, I tried to make the point that the work performed was not done so in a timely fashion. It does not take a crew of four guys four weeks to build a simple, basic 30 x 60 pole barn. If it took them two to three weeks longer than it should have for just the barn project, how much time did they dawdle away while the time and material meter was running on the cabin? Well, just in case you are wondering, the answer to that question according to Mark Dudenas, Dudenas Contracting, Calumet, Michigan; is that it doesn't matter. Which then, as it has happened on several occasions, I was personally, verbally assaulted. After all, it is easier to bully someone than it is to be responsible for the work performed. Apparently, my big, scary 5 foot 4 and 3/4, looming, all powerful, womanly badassness yelled at EVERY poor, innocent, quaking in their steel toed boots workmen on the job and got along with NO one and Mark Dudenas has people that will back him up on that. Seriously, I want to see one of these poor, helpless 6' tall guys point at me and tell everyone how mean I was to them when I bought them muffins, cookies, and/or beer. I realize that I am not perfect however, usually, I repeated myself at least six times before I got frustrated enough to start stringing colorful metaphors together at higher decibel levels. I was able to put up with watching the guys trip over all the construction waste and my requests for them to clean things ignored for at least two to three weeks before I threw everything out the front of the cabin myself. The real clincher here is that I don't know how Mark could really know anything about our job as he wasn't doing his job and managing it. He maybe showed up for 15 minutes a day, three to four times a week. So, once again, as usual, my questions were met with hostility, bullying, and verbal assaults and accusations. And here I thought I was the customer, the one, in this case, NOT signing the paychecks. When I pointed out that I did get along with other contractors. He accused them of not doing their jobs. Whatever agreements I had with other contractors were between me and that contractor, of which the details were not anyone else's business. On the telephone with Mark, I was too busy having my personality attacked to even get out that we were not paying the bill because we felt we already paid him more than enough and that we weren't happy customers. When he talked to my husband, because he refused to talk to me after he hung up on me and I called him back, my husband was able to tell him that we felt we paid him more than enough already and that we were using the money he invoiced us to pay for work to correct their work. Of course, he was insulted and wanted a for instance. The Man was able to get out item number one when Mark started up again. The Man was not verbally assaulted, but, of course, no conversation with a contractor that doesn't do his job yet feels he still should be paid is complete without the threat of being sued. So, we stated our case in an email, suitable for forwarding to his attorney (our contact information was included along with instructions to please send all correspondence to both of us). Now, back in the day, yours truly here worked for a couple of attorneys. I love attorneys. They are articulate and logical. My grammar and communications skills were never sharper than when I worked for them. I don't know if Mark will take the email we sent in to his attorney or not. However, knowing and loving attorneys as I do, he will take one look at that email and tell Mark that he should be thankful we don't sue the pants off him and that the pittance compared to the rest of the job and what we've already paid is not worth his time. I also know that in the meantime, before Mark can get to his attorney, yours truly is not under any kind of gag or cease and desist order. So let's have a little bit of sick, twisted fun here, shall we? I am going to post the cost of damages to us right here on the blogosphere. Gross, gory details straight from the source and motivation for all about to build or repair to be very, very careful. Stay tuned. Again, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned or screwed over by one of the contractors that give the others a bad name.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The $25,000 Man

So, we last left off with Eric and Jake, my bigger, stronger, and faster crew readying The Secret Cabin for appraisal. Yikes, kind of dating myself there with the reference to the 70's TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. In one of my previous entries, Little Miss Pissy Pants, there are two pictures that show what I've got now and what I had when there was nothing left but dust settling in the driveway when the ex-contractor's crew pulled out for the Deer Hunting Shut Down. Last year, it was absolutely humiliating to hand the appraiser a list of all the money we paid the ex for the work we did manage to get done when the place looked like a war zone. Really, we're not THAT stupid. Fast forward to my new wonderful crew that spent the week getting The Secret Cabin ready for the appraiser's visit. You'd have thought I said that the Obamas were coming for tea. We just got our appraisal back and we are tickled pink that the appraisal increased $25,000. (Last year's appraisal gave value when completed. We are now considered completed so we are comparing apples to apples.) As far as financing is concerned, we were already fighting an uphill battle with being off grid. So, for the first time since we purchased our little slice of heaven on Earth, after four years, we have an honest to goodness conventional mortgage. And so, we reach another major milestone on our journey to The Secret Cabin.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sink and counter in

I owe you a picture and it'll be worth the wait. The sink and counter were successfully installed yesterday. There is just so much going on right now I'm feeling overwhelmed. It's a good overwhelm though. Everything is getting all trimmed out and looking so amazing that I'm in a bit of a state of disbelief. I'm really having a hard time wrapping my head around it all. I find myself just standing there staring at the counter, faucet, sink, cabinet, and window. Or the rake head windows and the wood paneling on the south wall. Or the ceiling. Or a door. My plumber buddy, Roger, is coming out tonight so we should all be able to stare at the toilet after tonight. I also promise to post my "Little Black Book of Fabulous Contractors" in the next week too. Here's to everything we've ever worked for and all the sacrifice paying off and our dreams becoming reality. Yep. Wow.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


The amazing Eric and Jake got those big, heavy rake head windows installed in the south end gable. And, they trimmed them all out. AND they got all that paneling up on that wall too! Today! They did all that in one day! They also cleaned up so that when I walked in tonight I could really see their handiwork. I'm seriously feeling spoiled.

Little Miss Pissy Pants

Okay, so the ex-contractor called again so my bad attitude and "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" is all locked and loaded. He would "appreciate" a call back. Well, you know what buddy, my husband and I would have appreciated you getting off your lazy butt and getting our job done and not making it personal. Remember this guy would call my husband and complain about me. He wasn't doing his job and I'd start getting on his case and he'd call The Man and ask him how he could stand me. You know, I'm really pissed so here you go: Don't hire Dudenas (emphasis on the ass) Contracting for anything. This first picture is what I got when Dudenas put the drywall up on the ceiling. That is a piece of drywall just hanging there. It was not only like this for four weeks before Dudenas offered to fix it as I was having them load up their stuff and snow was falling but it was hanging like that over the appraiser's head when she was out for our appraisal. Gee, I wonder why our appraisal was so low. Gee, I wonder why the bank wouldn't do anything other than extend the construction loan for six months at a cost of $750 plus interest. Gee, I wonder why the bank said, "You are having someone else come in and complete the cabin, right?" So, Duden-ass, you know what you can go do. Now, the second picture is where Eric and Jake make it all better for me. I had a choice of paying to have Duden-ass' work torn down to rehang the drywall so you couldn't park a semi between the sheets or pay for something to cover it up. I thought it'd be quicker to just cover it up. It is nice to be stunned for the better. I am loving my ceiling. You see what I got from Duden-ass when I told them that the appraiser was coming. I told Eric and Jake the appraiser is coming and he's on it. "Okay, they like to see this, this, and this" and that's what he's doing. Here is a bit of advice and I canNOT stress this enough, ask for home owner references and call them. It is not enough to ask your building department if there have been any problems with the contractor you are considering. You need someone in your shoes, the home owner, to tell you about their experience. When you're taking bids and asking when they can get to your job is a good time to find out if they are getting more work as a result of the work they are doing. This is the key. Eric and Jake go into people's home's to install windows, doors, and kitchens for some retailers and get asked back by the home owner. Those are the guys you want. Run from contractors that tell you time and material. Do not let the work proceed if there's no proposal for the next phase of the project. Kick them off your property if they don't get you a proposal and want to go to time and material. A professional that knows what he's doing can tell you what it's going to cost you. Look for a company where the boss/owner is a hammer swinger. Otherwise, you get someone lazy and full of hot air making empty promises. Find out how these guys treated other owner's property. Were there cigarette butts all over? Did they chew tobacco and spit in out all over the place or in a cup and leave the cup around? Did they leave food wrappers and their own trash wherever they were standing? They should be cleaning up at least weekly or more often if the mess is a tripping hazard. Find out their break policy. Duden-ass' guys took at least two breaks a day - 15 minutes each times 3 guys times their hourly rate. Over the course of our job it added up to $5000. That's a lot of money to have dismissed as "as you claim." Hence, the Little Miss Pissy Pants and my not caring what Duden-ass would appreciate.