Good Medicine Jam

Monster jam
Monster jam

Our weekend was spent at my favorite summer jamboree. Every June the Simms brothers host a pile of musicians on their ranch near Helena and all we have to do is play, play, play. The Simms and their team of friendly helpers give us food and love in return. This year did not disappoint. First off Mike Simms shared with me how he is deeply into the Gypsy Carpenters’ blog. He started reading from post #1 and is somewhere in year two. That’s a lot of embarrassing material to be dredged up. Burt and I think Mike might know our past better than we do. It’s always a thrill to talk with a reading fan. I think there are 6 now.

Then I got to share my recent bigotry blowout story in person with Mike and a couple others. It felt good to get that off my chest. And then we played music and left all that other BS behind for a few days. It helps that our phones don’t work up in the mountains. My friend KaL came to walk me and Olive and Chava on Saturday. We caught up on all things dog and some not-dog. I miss KaL. We used to run millions of miles together. Now we walk a couple of miles a year. Next year should be better.

After our sore hands and fingers and brains gave up we headed to Helena for showers and tool collection. Today I am writing from Jardine, MT. Look it up. Grizzly central. We’ll be hear all summer. Stay tuned for more pictures with my fantastic birthday camera and tales of walking in bear country with the dogs.

Noodle dog
Noodle dog
Stay tuned. I got a new camera for my birthday. Chipping sparrow.
Stay tuned. I got a new camera for my birthday. Chipping sparrow.
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It’s that time of year and it’s a whole new world

Hooded Oriole sipping the aloe nectar.
Hooded Oriole sipping the aloe nectar.

I’m talking taxes. The Gypsy Carpenters just went through their annual tax reporting. As we all knew, know, or will know, the so-called tax reform does not favor the small time business owner. Taxes were confusing before but we knew the system. Now nobody knows the rules, including, it seems, the TurboTax e-filing program. A person of average intelligence should be able to file their own taxes without emotional trauma or fear of misreporting. Filing was difficult before the reform. Today, post-reform, I have no idea what when why or how. It was ugly. We owe so much that retirement looks more profitable. You think I’m kidding? I am not. Looking at you, Mr. Trump. Our main hit was caused by changes to rental income. What once was a legal and reliable loss or net even for us is now income. Substantial income. Also troubling, the TurboTax program is double counting my 1099 income. I can’t get it to take it once with appropriate deductions. It’s either in twice with deductions or in once with no deductions. A person of standard intellect should be able to manage. Tears were not shed but they were there caught in my lashes wanting to break free. I will not cry over you and your assaults on the small business owner Mitch McConnell and friends.

What does any sane person do in this situation? I estimated our taxes due and filed extensions with the feds and the state and sent them a ton of money. And now I put my head in the sand until we return to the US and I can find advice. The way I currently read the tax situation it does not pay to be a part-time entrepreneur.

Meanwhile Burt has a hernia and our livelihood is at stake. A surgical repair is required for him to get back to work. No heavy lifting from now until six or more weeks post surgery. We’re trying to figure out how to schedule the operation and recovery so Burt can get to work as scheduled. At least our Baja house is at a place we can leave it until Burt and our bank accounts recover.

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The end is in sight

Shower - rectilinear fixtures all around.
Shower – rectilinear fixtures all around. The one faucet isn’t on because the set screw had no threads.

My services are suddenly in demand as we wrap up this major remodel. My new meds and the increase in work has improved my tennis game. I’m quicker than I’ve been in a while. Laying flooring requires hand strength and squats. Look out Dad and Sara Gay, Burt and I are in training to take you on this winter.

This summer’s weather has been better than we could have hoped. There was a month on smokey skies but only a few days over ninety degrees. The evenings have cooled down without exception. We haven’t needed our A/C once. The post-Mimi remodel has given the gNash new life. There’s more room and better fengshui. Aside from the truck being at the mechanics for over two weeks it’s looking like a successful summer on the Gypsy Carpenter business and pleasure plan.

Burt thinks we have about 8 days left of work. we’re going to play tennis, music and hike and work from now until our departure for Portal.

Powder room floor demo.
Powder room floor demo.
Our Mexican hammer has the best staple removal tool.
Our Mexican hammer has the best staple removal tool.
The stove is in and it works.
The stove is in and it works. Check out that back splash.
Then I did this. What is wrong with me?
Then I did this. What is wrong with me?
Drilling tile requires a water cooling stream. Here's our system.
Drilling tile requires a water cooling stream. Here’s our system.
Here's a visiting box elder bug. Some say stink bug.
Here’s a visiting box elder bug. Some say stink bug.
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Work Update

Double vanity with carpenter.
Double vanity with carpenter.

The truck has been at the mechanic’s for over a week. Rumors of a reunion trickle in. Maybe we’ll see it again early next week. Other rumors of her possible demise were premature. She was leaking oil like a broken pipeline but it turned out to be a connector deep in the engine. So we hear. These last ten days Burt and I and the Olvis have been sharing our 24 year old Subaru and getting things done. Actually, it’s Jen’s Subaru. It was mine from 1998 until 2009. I gave it to Jen when we hit the road. Lucky for us it is a spare car in her corral now and we could borrow it for the summer. It has made for a much more interesting summer for me since I was more mobile than usual.

The job moves along and as usual for us, hitch itch is making us cranky. Some more than others. The kitchen is nearly complete. The backsplash was grouted today. The stove can be moved in now. The dishwasher and a faucet need to be installed. The faucet is electronic. You wave at it and wash your hands just like at Coscto. New skill set coming up.

Installing the tile backsplash.
Installing the tile backsplash.
More flooring
More flooring
Tub and magic wand.
Tub and magic wand.
Vanity.
Vanity. That drawer front was damaged. A new one is on the way.
Shower
Shower
Burt gets a little edgy at the end of the job.
Burt gets a little edgy at the end of the job.
Detail on backsplash.
Detail on backsplash.
I am tired but I am also sneaking up on it.
I am tired but I am also sneaking up on it. Sorting the lengths in advance makes the work go quicker.
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Bath Tub

Space for the tub
Space for the tub.

Measuring, to me, seems to be the most basic skill of carpentry. You can’t do anything without measuring. This bathroom formerly had a jetted tub fit into this nook. The remodel would have a stand alone tub in the vacant space left when the old tub was removed. Our trusty carpenter Burt would have to help the client pick out a tub that fit nicely in the space and then without actually having the tub he’d have to make sure water and drains were in the right place. It’s no fun when the spigot doesn’t reach the tub. Messy, too. I am happy to say everything was just where it was supposed to be.

Work is wrapping up. We’ve got maybe half the square footage of flooring installed. The bathroom is just waiting for the toilet and shower door. Doors need painting. A kitchen back splash remains to be tiled and then it’s time to reinstall trim and do touch ups. There is light ahead.

Considering the install
Considering the install.
The drain has to line up. Feet must be adjusted.
The drain has to line up. Feet must be adjusted.
It's tight under there.
It’s tight under there.
It's in!
It’s in!
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Work Update

Heated Floor
Heated Floor. Job not done. That tail at the top was attached where wires were not crossed. Notice the cardboard bath tub model.

Last week I installed a heated floor. This was my third installation but we used a different style than the previous two jobs. This heated floor is built from one long loose wire that you weave between anchors to fill the desired floor space. The previous jobs used a mesh where the wire was embedded and the mesh had to be cut to fit the space without cutting the wire. It required solid engineering calculations and origami skills to determine how to fill an irregularly shaped space with a rectangular mat. The style we used this time was quite a bit easier to install but it left me feeling kind of empty. Anybody could have done this. I really enjoyed using my measuring and folding skills on the previous jobs.

As a side note, if you want one of these floors and aren’t planning a full remodel it will be a very pricey job. It’s not very difficult to install a heated floor if you’re down to the subfloor and have stud bays opened for the power and thermostat. It’s a whole can of worms to rip out existing flooring and not damage the walls and temporarily remove toilets and tubs (because all the flooring will have to be replaced) and route the wires up the walls to a thermostat, and then install and redo the floor. It’s also a high risk job. The wire needs to be kept intact and in position while the floor is retiled. If the wire gets cut the floor won’t heat then the whole thing has to be ripped out and started over.  It’s so risky there are current testers to use as you install to make sure there isn’t any unseen line break. Personally, if someone wanted me to install a heated floor in an existing bathroom I’d charge at least plumber’s wages. That’s $120 an hour here. On the other hand, if you’re a DIY homeowner and you are redoing your bathroom, I’d say go for it but skip the box store kits. Buy this style kit from an electrical wholesaler and plan ahead. At the start of the job you need to know where you’ll be sourcing power and placing the thermostat. If you forget this headaches will follow as you try to get wires up stud bays. And be very careful when you cover the wires with thinset.

The counters also came in this week. These are a cultured quartz. Manufactured stone gives a lovely, consistent appearance. Ground up rocks and pigments are mixed with polymer glues and then poured into forms. I prefer this more predictable finish. Granite tops always gave me the shivers. Ordering your dream kitchen from a 4″ x  4″ square that never shows the natural color and texture variations of a full counter is a high stakes game. I love how these tops complement the dark cabinets.

Undermount sink with half divider.
Undermount sink with half height divider. I like the square cornered sinks, too.
Counter install
Counter install.
This is a cultured stone. Quartz style.
This is a cultured stone. Quartz style. I really like it.
Installing a marble style tile.
Installing a marble style tile.
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Cramming in the work and fun

Kitchen
Kitchen minus the island.

The new kitchen is nearly done. The modern cabinets are installed and we are waiting for the counter and appliance delivery. After that it’s just a faucet and touch-up paint. Work continues in the master bathroom. This week we’ll install a heated floor and finish laying tile. Soon after it will be time for the vanity install and counters. After all that we’ll be on our knees for a few too may days installing the engineered flooring in the living room, master bedroom, powder room, entry, and laundry room. I’m going to need a tylenol.

Last night we hiked with a friend at Priest Pass just southwest of Helena. The pass is so named because 19th century Jesuits left behind a stone cross embedded in the hillside. I like going up there to see the remains of the narrow gauge railroad that served as temporary route over the continental divide while they built a tunnel. There’s also an old adit and miner’s shack. Mine and railroad spur were abandoned before the 20th century started. The trestle has stood strong for over 100 years but now time and beetle killed trees are conspiring to bring it down. Yesterday we found ripe huckleberries and whortleberries and a trio of through hikers. The through hikers had started at or near the border with Mexico and were only a week or so away from arriving in Canada. Our friend John shared some homegrown cherry tomatoes and pea pods. He works for Helena Food Share so he knows how to share food. I ate my snack of cold fried spaghetti and dodn’t offer a bite to anyone. That’s how I am.

I hope your summer is full of excursions and interesting people, too.

Range hood detail
Range hood detail
Continental Divide Trail
Continental Divide Trail
Through hikers enjoying fresh veggies John happened to be carrying.
Through hikers enjoying fresh veggies John happened to be carrying.
Flea bane
Flea bane
The three-spotted mariposa lily.
The three-spotted mariposa lily.
Juvenile red cross bill
Juvenile red cross bill
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Demo well underway

Kitchen open floor plan now visible.
Kitchen open floor plan now visible.

The Gypsy Carpenters have been on the job less than a week and almost all demolition has been completed and major style decisions are made. The cabinets and counters are measured and ordered and paid. Tile and bath and faucets and flooring have been selected. Now we just need to find an electrician. Hopefully that will become clear tomorrow.

Besides intensely working (we’re sore and tired) we have managed to fit in some fun, too. I had my first fiddle lesson with Mike on Friday. Mike was my first music teacher nearly twenty years ago. It’s a little weird to be back sitting in his studio after a ten year hiatus. We learned a hornpipe and worked on some tunes I already knew. We’ve also played music for fun with our former WMD band mates Todd and Barb. Todd and his wife Gretchen left Helena right after we hit the road and they returned to stay a couple of weeks ago. Fortuitous timing for all of us.

Today we are celebrating Burt’s birthday with a trip to see some live local theater. The Full Monty is on at Helena’s Grandstreet Theater. I am embarrassed to admit this is my first visit to our local theater institution. As they say better late than never. It took a while for me to figure out my husband is a fan of live theater. I grew up in Drama Club and drifted away. We’re both looking forward to this hilarious and bawdy show.

As decision fatigue set in I noticed that Keith is the most stylish Home Depot employee we've met. He says all credit goes to his wife.
As decision fatigue set in I noticed that Keith is the most stylish Home Depot employee we’ve met. He says all credit goes to his wife.
WMDs
WMDs
I don't know what this is but I like it. Accidental art.
I don’t know what this is but I like it. Accidental art.
Master bathroom demo.
Master bathroom demo.
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Working Again

We are removing this wall.
We are removing this wall.

This beautiful kitchen is already a thing of the past. Twenty-two years ago Burt and his partner Ralph built this house for our clients. Twenty-two years ago Burt said the kitchen and dining room were a bad design. Burt thought the dividing wall should be removed. Twenty-two years later Burt is getting what he wants. This morning we started demolition. Every nail I pull I think, “Why did he build this so well. Couldn’t he have skipped a few of these nails?”

If your worried about these beautiful cabinets, have no fear of waste. These old cabinets have a new home. Next year you might see us reinstalling them somewhere else. This year’s job includes the kitchen remodel, a master bath and laundry room remodel and new flooring throughout the main floor. After three hours I’m already sore. It’s going to be a long summer as I get into carpentry condition.

Kitchen to go.
Kitchen to go.
The wall on the left and the peninsula in the foreground will both go.
The wall on the left and the peninsula in the foreground will both go.
First toss in the dumpster.
First toss in the dumpster.
My job was to try and remove moulding intact. Not as easy as it sounds.
My job was to try and remove moulding intact. Not as easy as it sounds. The entry way will be expanded and the laundry room remodeled.
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