Shrimp & Grits

Thank god dry January is over. Not that I practice that ridiculous custom, but I was getting tired of hearing others’ brag and/or complain about their dry Jan woes. 

My first meeting on Friday was 7 and I had no real breaks until 4. So I tried doing my exercises and got a call while just starting. Got in front of my machine to handle the call and then started exercises again. Another call. Another exercise attempt. Another call.

At 5:30, I gave up on exercises and took the dog for a long walk. Without my phone. 

Building a house on top of a mountain is no small thing. It’s an amazing amount of planning, research, negotiation, financial shell-game, anxiety, disappointment and hopefully, ultimately, joy.

I didn’t have a coherent plan when I started. My original vision was very scaled back. Really just a semi-permanent camp-site with a couple of conveniences. I intended to put a very small kitchen in the original 312 square foot structure and a little outbuilding with a toilet and shower. Even for that modest plan I needed first to put in a 1,600 gallon cistern for water and a septic tank and drain field. But as that work was progressing, and the more time I spent here, I found I wanted to be here more. I realized I did not want a weekend get-away. I wanted a 2nd home.

If I wanted to be able to stay here for weeks at a time, and to work from here, I would need electricity. And a larger bedroom. So I literally took back to the drawing board and designed what is now Black Dog Ridge. 1,300 square feet with two bedrooms, 1.5 baths, indoor and outdoor showers, and a large deck (1/2 covered) with a pizza oven and outdoor fireplace. There will be an outdoor patio with another fire pit and and outbuilding for storage and tool shed. I have a small crawl space and root cellar for extra storage. Large and fully modern kitchen. 

Getting electricity in was a big milestone. As was getting internet up there. But it all happened. It took perseverance and dogged hounding of Manpower and Frontier Communications, but it happened. 

And Kenny. Kenny is amazing. This never could have happened if I had not been introduced to Kenny. Barry, the excavator I hired to dig the sewage and cistern, introduced me to Kenny. A master craftsman, he built this house with his own two hands. 

After jacking up the original structure and pouring concrete pads and block foundation, Kenny hired RE to do the rest of foundation block work. He also hired Chris and his crew to help with rafters, framing and outside hemlock siding. Kenny did the rest. All the insulation and flooring, installing windows, electrical service and wiring, plumbing, tile, installing fixtures and appliances, kitchen cabinets, deck, deck rails, roof et al. He does it all. Quietly and steadily—working alone 90% of the time. And we became good friends along the way. I will drive into some small town not far away this afternoon to watch his two boys play basketball. 

So we are nearly finished now. I am not taking many pictures because the yard is still full of construction scraps and excess materials and the inside still has saws and boxes of nails and screws and reminders of all the hard work that is now wrapping up.

We have three remaining projects to complete inside. The long kitchen bar can be installed now that the  10’ x 20” x 3” double live edge English Walnut plank has arrived. I picked it up last Thursday from Urban Timber and drove across with the trailer. Kenny also needs to cut a cedar tree and he will use two ends of that for vertical stair supports. Stair treads will be here in 2 weeks or so and those activities along with a handrail (also custom) will complete the inside of the house. 

Outside, just a bit of working to put outlets in the outdoor kitchen, frame in a spot for the outdoor refrigerator and put the stone facade on the outdoor fireplace. We are also going to build a nice front porch and water collection and filtration to return rain water to the cistern for re-use. 

So we are building a house. And we are nearly done. By April or May perhaps, I think we will be done with everything except the outdoor patio and I hope to be done with that by June’ish. But we shall see. Weather, work and circumstance sometimes intervene and a few weeks here and there will not matter so much. 

Generally speaking I am a strong supporter of unions. We have irrefutable proof that without the ability to bargain collectively, corporations will divide and exploit workers to keep wages low and profits maximized. But unions do overstep their bounds at times and that is frustrating. It amazes and saddens me that the police unions go to extraordinary lengths to make it difficult or impossible to sanction or fire bad cops. The unions and other police officers stand by these bad cops who are aggressive, unprofessional, and often deadly and corrupt. And that does not serve the majority of cops who are doing their jobs. Same with teacher unions. We need to have the ability to get rid of bad or lazy or ineffective teachers — with reasonable checks and balances of course. But we often see long-tenured teachers (and professors) who take large chunks of money from the system that could be better spent on effective teachers.

My Tuesday poker club is full of geeks. We mostly bullshit while playing–discussing everything from social and economic policy to movies to technology projects to Supreme Court decisions. So last Tuesday we played poker while listening to the State of the Union Address and occasionally chatting on-line about what was going on. The poker game is a small distraction to the shared experiences of being together.

What do we think it means when Tito’s says their vodka is handmade? Anything? Nothing? 10,000 gallons a day by hand? And why does the picture on their logo show a pipe doing from a distillery into an oak barrel? Vodka is not aged in oak barrels. It’s not aged at all. Just made and sold.

Brittany and I did the underground bunker tour at Greenbrier yesterday. It was pretty interesting. Cold War remnant although I have a theory that it remains a government facility for evacuation ‘hiding in plain sight’ as they saying goes. They gave some bullshit pitch about how it is now a private data storage facility, but I’m going with my own theory. 

Anyway….back at Black Dog Ridge for this next week. All is good in the mountains of West Virginia.

No other news of note.

Humbly Submitted. 

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