Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Coming Out of the Closet!

Not much to report on the house front. We got distracted twice this weekend with the Dayton Celtic Festival. Actually, we got distracted this weekend with one particular aspect of the Celtic Festival. You see folks, secretly Deborah is a "Gaelic Storm" groupie. Ever since she saw them play at the Dublin Irish Festival about 5 years ago she has to go see them every time they are in town and buy a CD so they can afford another pint of beer! Here is a picture from my position at the back of the crowd.

Elizabeth has been a fan for the same period of time and she is only five. They had her dancing on her seat.

This week, besides lots of garden work, I am working on continuing the vinyl tile from our bathroom into the closet where there is pre WWII tile over tar paper. So I have been on my knees, in and out of the closet for several days now as I level the floor with remnants of luan and backer board and tape the seams. Which leads me to a confession that I need to make after seeing a tee-shirt on an acquaintance that made me laugh.

"Mom, Dad, I'm Gaelic."

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Future is Already Planned.

I already have my next major project lined up, whether it will happen we have to wait and see but it is already planned.

Deborah's mother is from Spain and her parents bought an apartment there back in 1971 which is why we were able to afford to go to Spain this year. Accommodations were covered. Her mother also inherited a 50% share in a plot of land at around the same time. The other 50% was inherited by 7 or so cousins. This land is inland but near Alicante and was a weekend retreat for Deborah's grandparents and great grandparents. It is basically an improved "cave" cut into the side of a shallow terrace where grapes, olives and almonds were grown. When I say "improved" I mean the dirt walls were plastered over and the floor is tiled. There is no running water, bathroom or electricity at the location. It is very "rustic" shall we say?

The place has been neglected for 30 years, the doors are knocked down, the windows missing and the walls are graffiti covered. Much like some of the housing stock in Dayton!
The property has never been divided because 8 owners could never agree how to divide the land. Everyone wanted the "cave" for one reason or another except Deborah's mother. She always wanted to sell the whole plot. This year all the owners are in agreement to sell the whole plot because they are all around 70 or 80 years old and failure to do so will cause more people to be listed as inheritors of the land which I understand is quite common in Spain. Derelict houses can have dozens of owners. The process has begun to survey the parcel and record the property properly because it appears there are a few recording discrepancies. The official record shows 105000 square meters and the deeds show less. This is good news for the property owners but will take time and red tape to correct. If the records are correct this equates to about 26 acres of land. If anyone is interested in buying land in Spain, let us know.

I took some pictures;

This is the general area. The "cave" is in the center of the photo but you won't find it easily. Here is a close up.

Then there is the inside. It looks just like the rooms in the "Old Crack House" when we bought it only better!

So we have decided that if the land hasn't been sold in 5 years time that we will take a year off and fix up the property to make it look more attractive to a potential buyer AND write a book about the whole story and those associated with the land. So in essence we plan to go fix up an old cave in Spain for the hell of it!

This is mostly stone and plaster work as well as tilling some land. We have to replace a few doors and windows and fix a fireplace. All within the realm of my ability. The stone is already right on the property! There is a method to our madness though. By improving the appearance of the property it should sell for more money. This is in our best interests because ultimately Deborah and then Elizabeth become the benefactors of 50% of the site. If we write a book, the trip becomes a business trip regardless of how well or badly it does and if it does OK we may make enough money to buy the other 50% from the relatives which permits Elizabeth to inherit land owned by her great great grandfather and to make some choices when she grows up. If we don't and the land sells, Elizabeth can at least say she spent a year growing up on her ancestors land and have the memories her entire life.

So this means that I have 5 years to learn to speak Spanish. This is good thing because when I go shopping it looks like it may be mandatory in the U.S. very soon!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Been Laying Luan on the Bedroom Floor All Day!

That's right folks and the wife has been checking in periodically! The bedroom floor at the residence house has looked awful for years since wifey decided to pull up all the carpet. We have had to deal with grey 1940s roll linoleum over tarpaper for years. In several spots she even tore up the linoleum so it looked pretty bad. Since we plan to sell our residence house in September using the 5-day method we decided to make the floor look presentable. Rather than put in carpet that a new owner may hate, we decided to cover the floor with a suitable material that would accept carpet or vinyl tile. So I have been installing 1/4 inch Luan board on the floor and in the closet. The new owner can put in what they want and bid on our house accordingly. I spent yesterday on the roof applying roofing cement to all the seams on the porch roofs and at the edges of the dormers. It was hot up there and my bottom is sunburned from sitting on the roof! I also installed the last of the GFCI circuits in the basement and we also have a working doorbell! It's amazing, we have all these things at the "Old Crack House" but not where we live. Fancy that .....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's Competition Time!

There is another competition going on at and the prizes are awarded as a drawing instead of a judged entry. This means I have a chance to actually win something, right? I am generally unable to enter home improvement competitions because nothing here is really finished completely and the judges want to see furnishings, carpet, appliances in place and all that fine stuff. Well, we do have one room that is almost finished and it is a vast improvement over what it looked like before and in between. The kitchen. It has been featured on this blog before because it was the first time I had made a concrete counter top and it sucked up so much of my time in the early years. I won't describe what was done because, quite honestly, we did EVERYTHING and no contractor was used! Sure I made a few mistakes. Sure I had to correct them, but it is better to fix your own mistakes than those of someone you paid to make them! I'll let the pictures show you the stages so you can see the scale of the project. In case you are trying to figure out the dimensions, this room is 26 feet long by 8 1/2 feet wide. Now multiply what you see by 13 (the number of rooms) and you will realize the enormity of the task we undertook when we bought this place. You can see some pictures of some of the other rooms at this site. It was and still is an ambitious first project. The only other rooms that are this close to being done are a few closets and the "Steampunk powder room". So, I present to you our kitchen in pictures but before I do that I have to give you the sales pitch that makes this entry qualify as a contestant. This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tile, Tile Everywhere!

In Spain, ceramic tile is the medium of choice when it comes to flooring and even walls. I don't have to explain why tile is so desirable because if you ever lived in a hot arid, sandy region you would certainly understand. If you haven't well, maybe you should visit one or stomp around the neighbors sandbox and then walk across your nice wall to wall carpet. If things aren't stucco-ed here, then they are tiled. The sidewalks are tiled

The houses are tiled

And the mother of all tile jobs was this. The esplanade in Alicante that extends for several blocks.

Then of course there is the stone carving.

Even this is too grand for "The Old Crack House".
And let's not forget "Betty"! She would look so "kewl" next to Elizabeth's red pig!

I have a question for all you folks who really know Spanish. I wanted to learn to speak Spanish really badly. So, I searched the web and from it I learned to speak Spanish really badly! I tried three different translation web sites and got three different answers for the phrase "This Old Crack House."

Here is what I got;

esta antigua casa de crack
Esta casa vieja de la grieta
Esta Vieja Casa de Primera
I suspect it is Este casa vieja de cocaina or something similar. Sombody please enlighten me!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shoebox Living

I spent two weeks on the Costa Blanca in Spain, along the Mediterranean coast. Also known for many years as the Costa BloodyFortune! Almost everything is "New" there. Most of the buildings are less than 40 years old. The oldest buildings stand out from all the rest because they are only one storey high. These buildings could be a couple of hundred years old but it is often hard to know the age of a villa because they tend to be covered in stucco and the style is all the same! I did notice that the oldest buildings are made of natural stone. Early 20th century buildings are concrete block. There are many buildings that are both stone and block. Stone makes up the ground floor and block makes up the second and third floors. However, post WWII construction uses ceramic blocks. Here is what they do

They knock down an old structure which is generally located between other structures and rebuild using newer materials. You won't find any wooden structures around here. Everything is iron, concrete and ceramic. The apartments get taller. You will often see these ceramic blocks being used to add a fourth or fifth storey to an existing, older building. These apartments average around 700 sq. ft. in area and are expensive. In the area we were staying they range between 170,000 Euros and 225,000 Euros depending on size. Which translates at the current rate of exchange to be around $272,000 to $360,000 for a shoebox! Anyway, here are some more scenes from the streets of Spain for your viewing pleasure.

Since stairs are an integral part of daily life here and many people live on the slopes of mountains the one thing that you will notice above all is that most people are slender and fit. I do believe that this will change soon .....

Friday, July 11, 2008

Where Did he Go?

I know the long silence and suspense is just killing you. You have many questions - like;

What happened to Gary?
Where did he go?
Why isn't he posting anything?
What the phuck is HIS problem?

Well you need not worry any longer. I am back from two weeks in Spain with some pictures and at least two ideas for blog posts. You will have to be patient though because I just got back at 3 AM yesterday morning and I have already cut the grass at both houses and chaired a public meeting last night. Jet lag is catching up with me today but there is beer in the fridge to help with that problem!