Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Cat House

*note: I tried to download photos onto the computer at work, but because of my sore neck, I can't wiggle around on the floor trying to find the usb ports. Later.*

With the forecast for heavy snow on December 18, I was able to take the day off and leave for Florida that morning. I'd planned to drive to Mom and Dad's house that evening and leave the next morning, but fate dictated otherwise.

I stopped at Mom and Dad's, then started the first leg of the journey. It's a total of about 21 hours from their house to The Cat House, and the longest I've ever driven in one day (when I'm driving, not just riding) is 12 hours. That was 16 years ago. I just can't do that anymore.

I stopped in NC for some good ol's Smithfield Barbeque. While I was there it started snowing; it had been overcast all day. When I got back on the road (with Zippy finishing some of my hush puppies) I was out of the snow within 10 minutes and into rain. It rained the rest of the day, but it's better than ice any day.

After driving for 7 hours, I stopped for the night at a pet-friendly hotel about 40 miles north of Savannah. I took Zippy in with me to register, and since I hadn't tried to hide him, they didn't charge the $10 pet fee. The $70 bill included breakfast (Denny's Grand Slam), so it was a pretty good deal. Zip had slept the entire day in the car; at times I have to poke him to make sure he's still alive, he sleeps so soundly. By bedtime he was wound up tight, and he barked every time he heard a noise. Motels are noisy.

Next day, we drove to Orlando, a seven-hour drive. Spent that night and Sunday with Jennifer and the kids, then Monday left for the Keys, a seven-hour drive. Three days. If I could leave early in the morning, I could drive farther each day, but I get sleepy in the mornings. I'm okay in the afternoon and early night.

As we drove over the bridge that officially marked the start of the Keys, I kept telling Zippy (who just wanted to sleep) that we were coming home for the first time. We're Keys homeowners now. He wasn't impressed, but I was very excited.

Driving slowly through the Keys doesn't bother me. I like to take my time and drink in the views of the water and islands. I love to see mangroves growing at the side of the road. There are lots of birds to observe, although quickly. It's okay if I have to go slow.

It was dusk as we drove over the Seven Mile Bridge onto Bahia Honda (which has been rated the best beach in the country in the past) and dark as we reached Big Pine Key. Tom told me where to turn off Key Deer Boulevard to reach our little subdivision (read: fishing village), but I'd forgotten by the time I got there, and I ended up driving to the end of the island anyway. That was okay since I got to see several Key deer along the way. Finally, after backtracking, I reached our place in the Keys, the first time as a homeowner.

The amount of work that needs to be done on that place is overwhelming. Everything has to be updated. Whoever did the last (attempted but not finished) remodel did a piss-poor job, and it's possible that previous renos were just as poorly done. The plumbing has to be replaced. The a/c was done improperly, so all of the vents have to be pulled out and replaced, along with the a/c units themselves. That alone will cost about $9,000; to do it really well and have an energy-efficient system was $7,ooo-$10,000 more, and we just can't afford to do that and attempt to do anything else to the house now. The floors are sagging; the windows all need to be replaced (the current windows must have been the absolute cheapest ones available) and hurricane shutters added; much of the wiring has to be pulled out and replaced.

We decided to make three rooms liveable for now, the kitchen, one bedroom and one bathroom. Since we're totally remodeling the master bed/bath/closet, we're using one of the upstairs bedrooms for now; it's huge--12' wide by 20.5' long, the depth of the second story. That room could be used as an apartment; it's plenty big for a couple of beds and a sitting area. It's going to make a great guest room. Eventually. For now, it's our bedroom. My old queen-size bed and one end table are in there now, along with the cat tower.

The upstairs bathroom is usable. It has a harvest gold tub/shower and sink with a fairly new white toilet; all are in working order. That will be the last room to be remodeled. After massive cleaning, the kitchen can be used. We have an old stove and fridge that we took down, and we bought a microwave oven.

The entire house has popcorn ceilings. U G L Y. They catch every bit of dust, and, in the kitchen, grease. Grease and dust. Not a good combination. We don't want popcorn ceilings, so Tom scraped every bit off the kitchen ceiling. Ugh, more dust, but repeated mopping of the ceiling, walls, and floor will eventually get rid of that problem. Unfortunately, there are those stupid ceilings in every room, and the ones upstairs all have cathedral ceilings. Fun fun fun.

I really enjoyed doing some yard work. There are a lot of nuisance trees/plants in the yard, along with plants that I just don't like (pampas grass, anyone? It takes up so much space and provides a hiding place for any kind of nasty insect or reptile, so out it goes.), so much has to be done. Brazilian Pepper trees are considered nuisances; they take over wherever they take root, and they can grow 1' a week. They have clusters of beautiful tiny red berries, so I hate to see them go, but Monroe County has deemed them nuisances and to be eradicated. Since there are so many other things we want to grow, I can live with that.

We have a silver buttonwood hedge outside the two streetside fenced sides of the yard. They're terribly overgrown but will be beautiful when they're trimmed. Deer like to rest under the hedges and they provide privacy screening. There are many cabbage palms in the yard; most will be pruned so they don't take up so much space and some will be removed to make room for other palms. There are two coconut palms in the back yard, one large and bearing fruit, that'll need to be trimmed but not moved.

Three HUGE hibiscus are in front of the bedroom windows; they're almost to the second story, so they need to be drastically pruned. Bouganville covers the left front corner of the yard. Many more assorted palms in various sizes will have to be removed or moved.

The deck has been demolished, and Tom has torn out the walls and insulation in the master bath and closet. The fixtures have been removed. He discovered Dade Pine siding on the house; it's absolutely beautiful, washed a pale bluish-gray, but he says the upkeep is too great to consider removing the vinyl siding.

I'm worn out just thinking about it.

My neck is hurting, so I'm going to take a break. Whatever I've left out I'll try to catch up with later.

On the knitting front, I did very little, just some sock knitting to Ft. Lauderdale and back. I'm starting to feel the creative bug again, but who knows when it'll actually bite.


KnitNurd said...

Wow Rita...I had a lot to catch up on. You and Tom have been BIZZY!!!
I'm enjoying the updates on the Cat house...hard to believe your dream has come true and in no time at all, you'll be living there full time. Hurrayyy!!!

rita said...

And it's just getting started! It's been so cold there for the last week that Tom hasn't gotten much done, but really there isn't much that can be done until the floors are leveled and more money comes in. Did you know that almost all of Florida had freezing temps last night? Lowest recorded in Key West was 41; it might have fallen by now!