Lake Critters

Living in the sticks is so nice in so many ways… more stars than I think I’ve ever seen in my life, no traffic sounds, no sirens, and lots of nature all around.

We have lots of creatures, great and small, and I haven’t been as handy getting pictures of the mammals as I have of the insect-y ones, so I’m gonna share what I have so far of our insect, reptile, and winged friends (I’m pretty sure the Turkey Vultures would be insulted to be included here, which is why I’m doing it… ).

DSC_0002

 

DSC_0003

 

DSC_0009

 

DSC_0011

 

DSC_0026

 

DSC_0027

 

DSC_0028

 

DSC_0032

 

DSC_0068

 

 

 

 

Cool, yes?  There are lots more I haven’t been able to catch with my camera yet, and I have a remedial knowledge of almost all these things, so feel free to school me in the comments!

 

Timmmmmm-ber!

We have had ownership of this property for almost exactly a year now, and as we finally wrap up the renovations and look forward to getting our furniture from Jakarta, I seem to have killed our tallest tree.

Quick, somebody play taps.

The tree was a 75 foot white oak growing on the west side of the house, kind of in the middle of the lawn between the house and the woods on the edge of our property.

I don’t have pictures of it, because it was not really part of any of the stuff we changed or even part of our decision to buy this property… but you can see it here:

DSC_0069It’s the super tall tree on the left center of the picture, next to the house behind the really bushy green one close to the lake.

The green one.

The tall, green, 81 year old white oak.

 

WHOOPS! Not so fast, there pardner…

 

DSC_0003

 

What’s that you say? What happened to the tree, you ask?

Really good questions.  I used them to play “Stump the Tree Surgeon”.

On a recent Monday, I was enjoying an evening on the deck with a glass of wine and my spy-noculars, when a flash of brown passed through my peripheral vision.

Lo and behold, the entire bottom half of the white oak was brown and shedding its leaves.

“Hrmm.”  says I  “That’s probably not a good sign.”

Thursday, I again examined said tree.  Top half dead too.

In four days.

After 81 years of watching the land, then the lake, then the house, the biggest tree on our little acre of heaven said ‘Enough!’ and croaked.

So I called the tree surgeon.  He looked at it.  Thumped it. Scratched it. Then quoted me a price to bring it down.

“It happens.” was the diagnosis.

This is a huge tree.  Sitting 15 feet from my house and towering over it.  Shall we wait and see if it leafs out next spring while waiting to see if it’s going to rot and fall on the house instead?

Nope.

As much as we love white oaks, this one was, as the Munchkin Mayor said “…really most sincerely dead”, and although it provided some nice shade for the bedroom wall and the open section of the deck, it sat on a slope, dropped acorns everywhere and kept the whole west side of the yard from growing any grass for 40 feet up from the lake.

We are in favor of trees, but not troublesome ones, so… break out the chainsaws.

It took the guy two weeks to get to us, during which time the tree got deader and deader… sending oak leaves everywhere while the trees all around it merrily waved their green leafy branches at it. 

Then the newest characters in my character rich environment arrived.

 

DSC_0013

 

Four good old boys, three of whom had so much tobacco stuffed behind their lips they could hardly speak.  Add to that some real down home southern accents and I felt like I was back in a foreign country smiling and nodding and trying to understand what the hell they were saying while doing a simultaneous translation.

Really nice guys.  Fun and funny, but deadly serious about what they were doing.  Everyone had a job and they were very methodical and professional.  Make no mistake – Bubba (or Larry, in this case) knows what he’s doing.

So they chuck some rope up to the very top with a cool weighted ball thingie and the littlest guy (wearing those cool boots with the spike in the side) starts belaying himself up the tree, whacking off branches as he goes.

DSC_0021

 

Now play Where’s Bubba with this picture… (I  swear there is a guy in the shot)

DSC_0017

 

 

…and the guy still in the tree, branches all lopped off…

 

DSC_0031

 

 

So I’m talking to Larry (the tree doc), telling him that wearing the spiky boots and hauling up to the tree tops is every kid’s career goal at some time and he says “Yeah, except it’s not that fun.” I expressed surprise and said, “Well at least he gets a great view.”

Cue the Bubba snorts all around.

Turns out the guy up the tree doesn’t like heights.  From 65 feet up he says, “I don’t look down, I just concentrate on what’s in front of me.  I don’t like it up here.”

And that, my friends, is what’s called Job Irony.

Anyhoo, he finally sawed his way out of the branches and administered the coup de grace…

DSC_0034

 

 

 

 

…then he started working his way back down taking chunks of tree with him.

DSC_0035

DSC_0039

 

Every time he shoved a new log overboard it hit the ground with a huge thud and shook the deck I was standing on.  So, not riddled with beetles or termites. That tree was solid. And heavy.

 

DSC_0046DSC_0049

DSC_0054

 

All that was left now was to grind the stump.

I look up the driveway and a guy is walking down the hill with a big orange stump grinder following him.  The man has a remote control stump grinder!  Big toys for big boys.  Big expensive toys.

 

DSC_0059

 

Do you see him standing there holding his remote?  Now you know, when he found this thing in the Lumberjack Quarterly his eyes lit up like Christmas.  I hadn’t seen this guy all day – he just showed up when it was time to grind and disappeared once the deed was done.  Nice gig.

 

DSC_0062

 

And finally, after everyone worked to haul off the logs, rake the leaves and spread the sawdust for mulch, this is what it all looks like now…

 

DSC_0070

 

It was a terrifically hot day… the hottest of the summer to that point – over 100 degrees of ‘feels like’ temperature with air you could wring out like a sponge and those guys were suffering. I was standing in the shade taking pictures and still sweating like crazy, so I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to lift branches and logs while covered in itchy sawdust that stuck to them like it was glued on.

They usually quit at 5.  When they finished at my house, they quit at 2.  Good decision.

 

Four guys, four hours (plus the remote stump grinder guy who was having too much fun for work) and the world has one less giant white oak. 

We shed a tear for our departed tree, but as always around here…

Onward!

 

Little Bits from the Lake…

If you live in a city lucky enough to still have Ice Cream Trucks, you will recognize the sound of a Scott Joplin rag coming up your street, maybe accompanied by the sound of children’s laughter and the joy that comes with it.

 

On our lake, you can hear the same tune way before you see…

 

the pontoon boat that is playing it as he makes his way around the lake.

 

DSC_0008

As you can see, he only has popsicles. [Edit: He has MORE than popsicles! Can it get any better?]

And they are very expensive ($3). 

But the point is we have a Popsicle Boat! 

 

He will come to your dock or meet up with you in the middle of the lake.

 

 

He has a fish net delivery system that works nicely and avoids accidental sinking of your popsicle.

 

DSC_0003

The laughing children are still present but there are usually more adults flagging him down.  :)

This guy’s name is Dave Dempsey and we are glad he chose our lake to hang out on.

 (don’t forget to click on the pictures to see Dave close up)

 

Final Renovations

Well it’s been a busy Spring and Summer.

Once the dock was in and I could easily fall into the lake and just as easily haul myself back out, cool and refreshed, it was much easier to watch everyone around me work at jobs I have only a vague idea of how to do and no skills for whatsoever.

The walls inside the house all got painted downstairs, along with our bedroom and the future TV room (formerly the Dining Room). The two downstairs baths got their fresh countertops and one of them got a new set of tile to replace the molded plastic shower, and we have all been saved from the last of the hideous striped wallpaper and wallpaper borders in both places.

I’ll spare you the drama of more renovation tedium and move on to the big stuff…

We decided the vinyl siding had to go… it was doing poorly and the gaps and edges made us cringe everytime we caught sight of them in the low sun of early evening, so we decided to re-side the house in Hardie Plank (a terrific termite proof cement board siding that we have had on two previous houses and can recommend whole heartedly).  As we pored over the standard color choices for the Hardie Plank our contractor informed us he could order it with primer and we could paint it any color we liked, and we jumped at the chance to get a ‘non-standard’ Hardie color. 

The primer is an unfortunate mustard yellow… think Grey Poupon.  Good to eat, ugly on a house.  The neighbors were temporarily alarmed until we told them it was primer, then re-alarmed when we showed them the paint color we had chosen.  Oh well.  They were gracious, and acknowledged that we didn’t get to pick their ordinary pale brown either, so we were even in the Paint Your House Sweepstakes.

Anyway, here are before and after pictures of the sad blue vinyl being replaced with our particular color of happy (you don’t have to like it either- we are very pleased and that’s all that matters).

 

DSC_0071

BEFORE Old, sad, pale vinyl siding.

DSC_0001

AFTER Spiffy new siding. Swell new color.

                                                                                                                          

 

DSC_0088

BEFORE Ugly brick, gapped siding.                           

 

DSC_0051

AFTER Smooth new siding, much better match for brick.

 

DSC_0124

BEFORE Pale house. So sad.

DSC_0064

AFTER Vibrant house, with dock, stairs, and color!

DSC_0065

AFTER Happy house of color.

                                    

 

DSC_0039

AFTER Always a good deck, now a deeply colored, whitely outlined oasis of happiness.

 

What color it is depends on the time of day.  The chip we chose is a deep burgundy and the house matches the chip perfectly.  But in bright sun and occasionally on a whim, there is definitely a splash of purple in there and that’s cool, if for no other reason than that it assures us of a pretty uncommon choice of house color.  :) 

As with our living room, the new warmer paint color made the existing white trim pop very nicely and even made the nasty brown mottled bricks look less like a state prison motif than they used to.

It took 3 coats of paint (and WEEKS of time because of constant rain) to get it completely covered, but by god it’s well and truly painted now.

The Dock!

What’s a lake house without a dock, right?

Almost all the houses we looked at already had docks, which can be good because the ones you need on this lake are expensive, but bad because you get stuck with someone else’s idea of what kind of dock is useful.

The water off the front of our property is more than 60 feet deep, so traditional docks are out. Here they have to float and the docks  become part of the landscape – the water doesn’t freeze, so they are permanently moored by cables to the shore, and the cables are made tighter or looser as the lake levels fluctuate (Alabama Power operates the dam and lake levels. They do not, however, operate our electricity, which cracks us up).

So we spent last fall agonizing over the new dock – one slip or two? what color roof? what shape roof? what color decking? Archways? dockbox? how big should the swim deck be? etc. etc. etc.   They fabricated it over the winter and waited for our return to deliver and install it.

What follows are pictures of the big day… (click the pictures to embiggen them)

dd1

Off in the distance, we spotted a dock being pushed around the point and headed for our house…

dd2

dd3

dd4

It’s here! The dock is here!

dd5

dd6

At this point the dock was tied to our shore side trees and left to pivot while they did the final work on it (fixed pillars and decking that couldn’t handle the rolling and waves of the crossing).

dd7

Then the dock was moved into position so the cables could be connected on each side and the underwater ballast anchors could be set (those help keep the dock from catching wind on the underside of the roof and flipping back over itself).

dd8

Finishing touches (like getting rid of thousands of tiny aluminum shavings).

dd9

Ta Da! We are docked!

Renovations Begin Part Three

Finally! I bet you thought I dropped off the face of the Earth, yes?

I was missing some ‘after’ pictures, and although the winter was an eventful one in Jakarta, it was fairly slow (and COLD) in Alabama. So let me catch you up on the things that were finished, or nearly so, last fall…

The master bathroom was, to put it mildly, not to our taste.  It was pink. It had a shell motif border around the ceiling.  The shower was a plastic molded unit, and the accessories were all gold finished.  It did have a very nice, new Jacuzzi tub, but the last time I took a bath willingly was in 1965.  Stewing in grubby water has never appealed to either of us, no matter how many candles we use or how much champagne we drink, so while it was an unpopular decision among the people who don’t live here, the tub was scrapped.

Anyway, this is what we had to work with…

Image

My scale model is gazing in dismay at the molded plastic shower unit, and basically it all just had to go.  Here is the shower just before it left the building.  Note the lovely shell wallpaper border…

Image

Dave got started on the early demo and then things just got ripped out and patched, ready for our new stuff.

Image

Image

Image

Demolition is messy.  Re-building after you demolish is messy and noisy.  Really, really messy and noisy.  All this was going on in the bathroom while the rest of the house was getting painted/hardwooded/new doored.  But it was educational.

Image

Image

….and the beginning of my epic glass block shower wall…

Image…then the shower walls and floor, vanity and wall paint…

Image

ImageImage

Image

Image

Image

Phew!  And finally the finished master bath…

Image

Image

Image

bath4

 shwr

It’s messy because we are still living oddly as the last of the renovations are done, but most of the work is being done downstairs now….

bath3

And that’s the renovations we did last fall, in three parts.  I had a great time because we had a great contractor and crew and Ted had a great time because he didn’t have to see it happening (his Civil Engineering Soul would have stroked out if he’d been forced to watch all this).

Renovations Begin Part Two

Welcome Back!

So. In addition to the master bathroom, the hardwood floors, the fireplace reface and the cabinet work, we wanted to re-jigger a couple of things.

I doubt anyone out there could look at this front porch and not find it cringeworthy…

DSC_0136

Ted never found it as objectionable as I did, but he agreed it really wasn’t very attractive, and since my solution was a fairly inexpensive re-face, he succumbed to my whining and voila!

DSC_0034
this is before it was even grouted!


Here’s a close up of it, once it was grouted…

porch

Quelle improvement, yes?  Yes!

Meanwhile, back in the house… there is a closet/cupboard thingie that our sellers were using as a pantry.

prebarn

Doesn’t look too bad, until you actually open the doors and have to deal with ugly, awkward, in-the-way bi-fold doors. Bleah.

DSC_0015

Add this to the list of things Ted didn’t really find as objectionable as I did, factor in some more whining on my part, and voila!

barn1

The perfect solution.  A barn door over the shelving, that slides right across the doorway to the stairs when open. 

Stairs that used to have a baby gate that I ripped off the wall the first day we moved in (no babies have ever lived in this house, so don’t ask us…). 

Here’s a pic of the hardware when it first went up, before the door was added…

barn2

Meanwhile, outside the house, Tim the Painter was busy making all the goofy add ons the same color (the ramp our sellers put in and the stairs we put in).

dtrpaint

stairpaint1


Big improvement there, too, once the shine wore off that bright white- which didn’t take very long.  :)

We had a dumpster delivered to hold all the garbage that came out of the house.  The guys working on it took the old shower stall, bathtub, vanity, doors and toilet, but all the tile, carpet, wood and stuff went into the dumpster.

We filled it.  I forgot to take a picture of it full but use your imagination…


dumpster

And now all that’s left to show you is the master bath renovations! I don’t have all the pictures for it yet, so sit tight and I’ll be back with Part Three before you know it!

The Renovations Begin…

Ted went back to Jakarta and I stayed behind in Alabama and we braved a 7 week separation in order to take care of the two biggest renovation projects on our list (replace ~1000 sq ft of flooring with hardwood, gut the Master Bath) plus take care of a little pile of smaller projects.  I definitely got the better end of that stick… even living through major renovations couldn’t dampen my love of this house and this lake- and now the people who helped me in so many ways to get it all done, from the pest control to the insurance.

[As always, you can click each picture to make it bigger]

The house had, inexplicably, three different floor coverings on the main floor- a whitewashed engineered wood, grey carpet, and grey tile.

They were laid at odd angles, had nail pops, stains, and a bad case of ugly.  So job #1 was to pull up everything that would not eventually be replaced with new carpet and put down oak hardwood floors. 

Since all our cabinets and trim were glossy white paint, we chose a cherry stain for the oak.

Here’s the floor we objected to:

bLR

Note carpet “shaping”. The tiny bit of floor on lower left is engineered wood.

DSC_0149

This is the engineered wood- entry, hall and kitchen. You can’t see the nail pops but trust me, they are there.

flr8

Don’t ask us. Someone apparently had a plan, or some sort of logic, or maybe just a tic…

It made no sense to us, we didn’t like it, and it had to go.

First we had to remove the hideous track lighting/speaker setup…

tracklight

…and then paint the ceiling and walls. 

mask

mask1

The painter tore down the tracklights, masked the cabinetry and painted the ceiling a fresh white.

Then my new best friends (plumber/electrician/carpenter/handymen) came in and ripped all the ugly floors up and tore the boring white ceramic tile off the fireplace…

DSC_0133

The fireplace as it looked when we were househunting…

lr2

And finally they painted the walls a color called ‘stepping stone’ which made the white window trim look brand new!

lrpaintlrpaint2

Now we were finally ready for some beautiful new hardwood…

hall

prefloor

lrflr

DSC_0003

kit2

kit1

lr20

kitfl

In and around the floor work, the guys were putting slate tile up on the fireplace and converting the TV shelves to bookshelves…

fpl2 fpl6

fpl1

book1

fpl4

So we ended up with a painted room, new wood floors, a re-faced fireplace and hearth, and re-purposed shelving. 

lr5

It was messy, dusty, loud, and painfully slow, but they got it done.  Mostly.  We are still missing the wood trim around the hearth, because it has to be milled and wasn’t high on the priority list, so…

If you are enjoying the renovation narration, stick with me and I’ll take you through the rest in digestible chunks.  

If you aren’t, I totally understand and I hope you will come back when I switch from “getting ready to move in” to “life on a lake in Alabama”.

It promises to be a colorful one if the last two months are any indication.  :)

Lake Perks

Something I’ve always loved about being on a lake is the morning fog when the air is colder than the water…

DSC_0009

I was up at 2am last night for various unimportant reasons,  and it seemed uncharacteristically dark outside.

Usually I can see lights in yards around the lake, reflected moonlight, just… light- however distant or faint.

So last night I had to investigate this new dark and I went out on the deck in the (literally) freezing cold.

I couldn’t see the lake.  I couldn’t see my railing!  The fog was close and thick and moving and it was blocking out all the lights on the lake.

And absolutely silent.

Then I looked up and 5 feet above my head was sharp, clear, black sky filled with thousands of stars.

I stood there and watched the fog swirl until the cold seeped too far into my skin.  It was like standing on a cloud.

Now you know why it will be worth visiting us in the fall.  :)

The Work Begins…

Obvious statement #1       We have a lake house!

Obvious statement #2       We should go down to the water!

Not so fast, my friend.

Small problem…

housewater

Let me digress a little.

Our new house is about 15 years old, and we bought it from the people who built it.  Their names are George and Judy so we call them the Jetsons.

The view from our deck is awesome.  It is what causes people to come to our very ordinary home and say “This is a beautiful house!”.

It isn’t.  It’s a vinyl clad box with no windows on the north side at all.

But from everywhere in and around our house what you see is lake and stone cliffs and trees by the lake and more lake, so people give the actual house a pass and declare it ‘beautiful’ because of our view.  Go ahead, click on it for full screen awesomeness.

265view

We assume this was the draw for the Jetsons.

Because while we do not understand people who can live right on top of all this watery beauty and not need to partake of it, that is exactly what the Jetsons did.

Look, but don’t touch.

Yeow!  Pure torture for the people of my tribe.

So we are currently having steps built down (24 ft) to the water’s edge where we will be installing a dock next spring.

Here is the area we have chosen to sacrifice to the stair gods…

bare

and here we go….

earlyover

skele2

skeleton

overview

kevin

That’s Kevin, my contractor, inspecting the progress.

begin

zigzag

landing

Next spring, our beautiful new floating dock will attach to this landing and we will be 100% water accessible. Yay us!

DSCF1146…and you can’t see it here, but directly to the right, tacked to a tree ——> is our dock permit!

So far, so good!