Sunday 30 January 2022

Movin' home

 January has whizzed past with loads on the go, as usual. I haven't even had a chance to write about the year that was - I haven't digested it and now we're already a month into 2022.

November, December and into Jan were pretty stressful months for me as I was double-timing it at work with the company to run and a new almost full-time project on the go and a new employee for the project to train. 

On top of this, my landlord gave us notice. I've had my eye on properties and there hasn't been much 1) of interest, 2) within my budget and 3) dog friendly for many months. To have to property search over November and December when the pickings are even more slim? 

Come the first week of January with three weeks until I needed to move out of the place my mom and I have been renting, I finally found a house. Asking price was way too high for the area and what I could see from the photos, and too high for my budget. I wrote to the landlady and made her an offer - and she accepted.

I've been living in George now for 15 months. When we (me plus factory bunch) first moved down, I had a six-week short-term, fully-furnished rental. This gave me time to find a house to rent for the next 12-months (or more). Being mid-November, there wasn't much available but I did see two properties in my target suburbs (close to the mountains). The first was not even close to the ideal and the second, which I ended up renting for 13 months, ticked enough of the boxes to make it suitable. 

Three bedrooms, shower, tiles throughout, pet friendly, decent kitchen, garage, garden. Awesome kitchen space with a gas hob was really what won me over from the beginning.

I didn't have much time or any other options to consider and I had to commit immediately.

On my first night there, I felt like moving out. I discovered an infestation of cockroaches in the kitchen. I'd turned the lights out and then returned to the kitchen. On turning on the lights again, I saw cockroaches running all over the counters and cupboards. I took a shower and discovered no shower rail to hang a curtain (= water all over the floor), no bathroom fittings (not even a toilet roll holder or towel hook) on the walls. Outside the kitchen door, the paving was 1-5cm deep in dried mud. The garage door couldn't be locked.

Minor irritations that came out over the next two weeks was that the back garden was mostly weeds under the trees and against the back wall. The lawn was also bumpy and rocky as they'd dumped building rubble plus some soil and grew grass on top of it. The lawn sat higher than the house behind a retaining wall outside the kitchen. On the side was a section of steep lawn to get 'up' to the lawn proper. Very uneven and not something that my mom was able to negotiate. I build stairs, cleared weeds and chopped alien trees (bugweed) and got a guy in to help with a big mass of ferns and weeds. 

After spending and hour or two each night after work sweeping the back paving, I discovered the problem. When it rains, the run-off water come out of the retaining wall carrying soil and silt with it. This gets deposited on the paving. It is non-stop and only the degree of sedimentation varies. 

Water can trickle out of the embankment for days after it has rained and we had months of constant water on the paving such that algae and moss grew, making it very slippery and treacherous for my mom. I could only scrape and sweep when it dried out.

To say nothing of the lovely tiled floors inside! Between me in-and-out and the dogs in-and-out, I've never done so much floor sweeping and cleaning in my life. We would sometimes be sweeping twice a day.

By six-weeks after moving in, my landlord had attended to the bathroom fittings. This was a blessing and was really essential for the property.

This little house had so much going for it. It was only 18 months old when I moved in. Lovely tiles throughout, great kitchen and although the en suite bathroom was small, the design worked and the shower was one of the best of my life. The property and garden were a decent size, the simple outside braai area really worked for me (I've made braais more this year than at any time in my life) and the location was absolutely perfect. 

I loved the aluminium window frames but, as an ex-Johannesburg girl, I struggled with there being absolutely no security - not a door gate or burglar bar on the windows.

Water. This was the biggest issue. From the mud slush and retaining-wall issues out back to ground water seeping under the skirting board and across the floor of my mom's room, and worsening wall-damp situation, we were fighting a losing battle every day.

As a tenant, it is my duty to notify my landlord of the condition of his property, which I duly did every few months. I didn't ask him to fix anything (these are major fixes) - just notified him. We did speak on the phone a number of times where I made suggestions - like getting a water drainage person in to assess runoff from surrounding properties to put in a furrow or sorts... Without this any other fix would be a plaster, not a solution.

In early November I got a call from the agent asking if I wanted to renew. 

The landlord said he was happy to renew for a year with no rent increase but that he wouldn't do any maintenance. "Six months and then reassess," is what I suggested. The next day the agent called. "He isn't going to renew anymore because he needs to do 'maintenance'," is what the agent reported.

It seems like they planned to get a relative in who would be tasked with the maintenance. They guy came along with his wife in early Jan, saw the damp and issues and declined. Another young family came to see the place. I don't know if they are moving in or whether anyone is moving in.

In looking for a place, I think I saw five properties -  all with fundamental flaws. by the time January began, I was quite stressed about finding something.

And then, I found 'the one' in an online listing directly by the owner.

 I had a good interaction with my landlady from the start. My mom and I met her and her daughter at the house. I liked the feel if its strong bones and bigger living area (ours was very small) and I fell in love with the very big lawn at the back. Very big. Flat. Perfect for ball throwing.

"It's perfect for an agility course," say my dog-school friends and teachers. I agree.

The agreement was signed.

The dogs do everything I ask of them. Now this is something for them. Mostly lawn with some trees. The black spot is Rosy.

This corner has fruit trees - guava, avo, fig
and possibly peach.

e started moving on Thursday. I'd decided to move all of the smaller items myself with the plan being to put personal cupboard items into crates, take them to new place, unpack and then do another load. Thursday involved a lot of back-and-forth with packing and unpacking happening throughout the day. With the houses only one kilometre-odd apart, it was an easy and convenient system to use. 

On Friday morning, a moving truck came for the big and heavy stuff like beds, couch, tables, washing machine, fridge and the like. This was also very smooth.

I did some more loads on Friday of random items, some boxes and odds. And then a sign-out with the estate agent in the afternoon.

I spent most of Saturday at the old house with a gardener to do a final tidy-up and move big things like my raised pallet bed (with my beautiful strawberry plants) and my YOLO Compost Tumbler, which I emptied first to take with me (quality compost). We trimmed the plants in the retaining wall, weeded the paving and swept the paving.

I popped through today for a load of odds today like the dog kennel that the dogs don't use (I'm going to sell it online, for sure) and random stuff left indoors.

On Monday morning, I'll meet a cleaning lady for us to do a final clean inside - floors and cupboards and bathrooms - plus windows. And then a key handover and that will be it.

On my new side, I've got rearranging and sorting and cleansing to get through. The main stuff is done but I've got refinements to make, my home-office to reestablish and garage contents (like paddling gear) to reorganise. I took my kayaks to the factory before the move and would like them back here but I'm not yet sure where to put them.

As for the dogs - they transitioned seamlessly and are very, very happy canines. They love the big open lawn and Rusty keeps giving me a silly toothy grin, which just melts my heart. Rusty and Rosy seem to be hardly shedding fur. It has been three days and we have not yet swept the floor. No need. No fur and no dirt.

A view of the mountain. Similar to what I had - just a bit more visible and about 1km further back.

The new house is older but it is solid and has been cared for. It isn't fancy but the bits work. The road outside is busier but manageable. Location is still good for quick access to trails, parkrun, dog school, work and paddling. And my landlady is really nice.

I've got happy mom, happy dogs, a better space in the living area for my home-office, an awesome garden with a good mountain view, and a home for at least the next 12 months.

Here's to 2022.

Wednesday 12 January 2022

New DIY woodwork fun

A few months ago, we built a shop counter from pallets. It was my first experience building something in this way. It was also my introduction to using an electric planer to smooth the rough pallet planks. And I enjoyed the opportunity to drill pilot holes and bracket screws.

I see that I haven't got a photo on my phone of our finished counter. It looks really awesome. 

While not rocket science, it really helps to be shown the basics of wood working. 

This project created an itch. For more.

For Xmas, I got a jigsaw to go with the driver drill that I bought on special a year ago. 

My first project was to be a headboard but instead this weekend I made smaller-size trestle table legs, which are for chalkboard signs that will go on the pavement outside the kayak shop at the factory.

I made the first legs based on a set that I have at home. I watched a DIY YouTube video before making the second one and learned an improved technique to attach the hinges. 

The first of two.

I so enjoyed cutting the pallet planks to size, sanding them down and using my drill. I have three projects in mind that I aim to get to over the next 2 to 4 weeks. 

I find it incredibly rewarding to use electric tools, to work with the wood and to create something useful. 

Armed with a drill and a jigsaw, I can create almost anything. 

Wednesday 5 January 2022

The books that I read in 2021

I had a pretty good year on the reading front. My reading was primarily fiction, as it usually is, but with some excellent non-fiction in between. There were a number of books (not shown here) that I started, gave a good go but then didn't finish. I'm thankful that a friend keeps me well stocked with digital ebooks so I can pick and choose. Most are right up my alley for a fiction escape in the crime genre.

I got through more audio books this year than I expected. I enjoy listening to audio books while driving longer-distance trips, cooking or doing other tasks with my hands where I have capacity to listen. While many of the audiobooks were the usual 10-14 hours in duration, I am really enjoying the punchy 2-4 hour short stories.


I can recommend that you give these a read. 

  • Run and Go Far because they are inspiring and motivating. You can read the reviews that I wrote on Erica's Run and Jennifer's Go Far. I am very proud to know these two strong, smart, kind, athletic and accomplished women.
  • Entangled Life (about fungi) because it is unbelievably interesting, 
  • The Midnight Library because it stimulates thought about your own life and choices.
  • Becoming because it is a good read and also insightful.
  • Troubled Blood because it is brilliant fiction. The story is superb, the main characters are awesome and the narrator is seriously talented (he narrates all the Robert Galbraith audiobooks). I've read or listened too all the Robert Galbraith books - love 'em - and always look forward to the next one. If you've never read a Robert Galbraith, start with the first one and work your way through the series.

Always a win with Jo Nesbo. I can't remember the stories of these others but I do recall that I thoroughly enjoyed them.

I've read a bunch of Fredrik Backman. Always good. 
The Woman in the Window - a bit in to the book I realised that I'd read it before. Well, I read it again.
This Wilbur Smith - my first ever Wilbur Smith! He crafts a really good story. I read it early in the year prior to Wilbur's passing. 

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is higher in the literature heirachy than the rest here. A good story, strong characters and lots of thought into the lives and situations of others. It is a fiction story but could read like a real experience. Good review here in the Irish Times. 
I've read or listened to a lot of Jo Nesbo's books over the years. I feel like I know his flawed detective, Harry Hole.

The Little People was a quirky, creative short story and a good listen.

The Printed Letter Bookshop was probably my favourite in this pick just because it was a sweet, people story.