Building/moving to a new home – day 111

Country living is a new experience

Long days of hard physical work leave little energy for blogging, but there is so much to do and learn as we prepare the house for occupancy, that I feel I must capture these moments before they fade from view.

There is a vast difference between our lives here in Floyd and our lives in Lake Monticello even though the house designs are quite comparable. The big difference, of course, is that here we are still building the house and there we moved into a completed house that had been lived in for six months and almost fully debugged.

We are dealing with the raw stuff of nature here and are fully engaged in keeping the weather at bay and the house clean and heated while shlepping heavy boxes and ungainly articles into the house while contractors sand walls, fix doors and appliances, and generally make themselves useful.

The other big difference is that country living is mostly manual where living in the suburbs is almost entirely automatic. By this I mean that suburban living is almost entirely a matter of throwing switches and setting dials. In the suburbs, when you want heat you push a button or dial a temperature you want and it happens smoothly and reliably, almost all of the time.

In the country, you may have automatic systems in your car and in your kitchen, but you probably use wood for fuel and this takes a lot of attention to do it right. It works well and is quite economical, but a well-fired stove just doesn’t happen by accident. A whole series of actions go into making that cheerfully glowing fire burn at the right rate through the day and night.

I am learning fast, but I still have more to learn before I can confidently set up a wood stove to burn through the night, so we don’t wake to a cold hearth.

The house will not get cold, even if the fire goes out, because our baseboard heaters will cut in and keep the temperature at whatever temperature we set. Electric heat is increasingly expensive, so it is better to keep the wood stove burning whenever possible. You might say we have chosen to heat with wood for the superior ambiance and economy, but we keep a backup system ready if our wood heat fails.

Some folks have suggested we install backup heating with propane for those times when electrical power goes out for days. We are still considering that as an option because we see how severe the weather can be in this part of Virginia.

Meanwhile we have our hands full debugging the problems that continue to show up in our new home.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel – only more tunnel

A fully equipped house with appliances is a truly complex system. Those of us who have designed complex systems which have to operate in the field know how difficult it can be to achieve reliable operation in a distant installation. This house is better than many, but there are still problems.

When you buy a house where the appliances are part of the purchase, you must not assume that they work. Every single feature and appliance of your new home should be tested before you need to use them.

We discovered some problems in the last two days that we must add to our list of things to handle:

The dishwasher doesn’t. Somehow, water is not turning on inside the dishwasher even though there is water pressure in the line leading to the dishwasher. Gretchen discovered this after loading the dishwasher with a full load of glassware.

The kitchen exhaust fan inhales. When Gretchen turned the fan in the microwave stove on, it deposited a load of sawdust on her fry pan. Although we paid a good deal of money to ensure that the fan exhausted outside, it appears that the microwave fan assembly has been given other orders. Air is being drawn in through the exhaust grill at the top of the microwave stove and it blows out through the intake grill.

One of the bathroom fans is dead.

The pellet stove we purchased is still not working right. After being coaxed into normal operation, it ran for several hours and then quit. Either there is some arcane secret I need to learn about this stove, or the installation was done improperly. Blue Ridge Heating and Air has not delivered a satisfying customer experience yet.

The well water still smells of chlorine and metal. The well-diggers may have put chlorine into the system to clean it, but it should have dissipated by now. We need more information and possibly a Reverse Osmosis water purification system like we had in the old house.

All of these problems will be handled eventually, but they certainly add to the workload we face in getting this house ready to use as a continuing base of operations.

Meanwhile, we enjoy the incomparable joys of living in the country, sunsets that stun the senses and vignettes of nature like the hawk sitting on a fencepost watching his next meal scampering in the field before him.

I also got to spend an hour at a blogger’s luncheon at the incomparable Cafe Del Sol.  Doug Thompson did such a good job describing the lunch meeting that I gave him the picture I took to accompany his article. Check out his post if you haven’t done so already.

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