Morning at Howard Prairie Lake

Morning at Howard Prairie Lake
Morning at Howard Prairie Lake

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Current Location:  The Running Y at Klamath Falls, Oregon; 72 degrees F with a sunny warm day ahead.  We have been relocated here from the apartments until September 20.

Solstice sunset from the as yet unfinished back porch of the new house

Once again, two months have passed since the last update.  Although we have managed to fit in a bit of recreation now and then, most of life has been consumed by the big project of the year, the new house.  I cruised back through my photos to make an attempt to track the progress for public consumption here on the blog and decided that I will post a separate blog about happenings not related to the new house.  So if you want to see kayak trips, hikes, our digs at the Running Y, or family gatherings from the last two months, wait for the next post.  If the process of building a new house is as fascinating to you as it is to us, here you go. Be aware, this an extremely picture heavy post!

We have traveled between Klamath Falls and Grants Pass on a fairly regular schedule, with about a week here and then a week there.  It is important for us to be available to the builder to make important, but sometimes spur of the moment decisions that haven’t been addressed.  It is surprising how many of those decisions must be made, in spite of the detailed contract that Mo signed at the beginning of the build. Several times it has been important that we were on site at the right moment. 

We are very thankful for the lovely, comfortable, and air conditioned MoHo to live in for the times when we are at the house site.  We do have a larger space in the RV shed, filled with furnishings and “stuff”, and a working TV hooked up to satellite, but it can get pretty hot in there in the afternoons.  During those times, Mo will retreat to her small shop with a window air conditioner, and I will retreat to the comfy bed in the MoHo, lying under the cooling fans with a good book or Candy Crush. Internet time is limited, since for the time being, our internet there is through the Verizon MiFi.  In spite of our new supposed unlimited bandwidth, things can really bog down in the evenings, and are still sometimes slow during any time of day except 3AM.  I am so spoiled by Spectrum cable, and can’t wait to get it permanently hooked up at the new house when it is finished.

Most chores at the house site involve working outdoors, although we are waiting for any kind of real outdoor landscaping until the house is finished.  In the mean time, Mo has raked and cleared rocks from all the piles of rocky dirt that were moved from the house site and I keep things watered, knock down the dry grasses with the weed eater, and make sure the roses don’t get completely out of hand.  There is plenty for us to do during the time we are there, and with the temperatures sometimes hitting triple digits, most of that outdoor stuff happens in the mornings.

Now lets take a cruise through the last couple of months:

May 24  Setting up sprinklers took several days.  We have a well, and a complex filtering system that works with our limited GPM to create excellent water in the 1700 gallon cistern.  However, that requires paying close attention to just how much water we use at any given time.  Once the house is built, we will eventually put in something more permanent, but in the mean time hoses and timers and local sprinklers are watering the most important parts and I hand water whatever else is needed when we are there.  It gets very hot and dry during the Grants Pass summers, so watering is extremely important. 

One of my favorite roses, but she is a bit delicate for the hot Grants Pass sun, and as summer progresses, she fades out really quickly

The mound at the driveway entrance is in full sun and the plants have grown huge in the 4 years since I planted them.  We are storing some of the other sun loving plants in pots where they will benefit from the regular watering in this area.

The roses were moved from the apartments last fall, and are planted in a group that also will receive regular water from timered sprinklers.  A few other plants are stored here as well, but the afternoon sun is hot and not so good for the hostas and the one rhododendron I am trying to keep.  This one was a Mother’s Day present from my daughter Deborah in 2003.

May 25  We return to Grants Pass to find the garage slab finished and to enjoy the spring flower bloom.  Sometimes very surprising to return to the house site and find more things completed.  This time it was the slab for the garage, very smooth and shiny.

May 26 Once again we were awakened by 6:30 am with the A team framing crew arriving to add the subfloor.  I can’t believe how quickly these guys get things done.  This was our first indication of just how high off the ground the living room and porch would be.  The slope gives us almost 6 feet of elevation from the short upper side of the house to the tall lower side.

May 27 The weekend was quiet after the subfloor was completed, with the Memorial Day holiday giving the crews a break.  We celebrated by inviting my grandson Matthew over for a birthday dinner on the new floor.  Our first guest in the new house!

June 2 As soon as the holiday was over, the framing crew was back.  We weren’t there to see how it all began, but Matthew took photos for us and emailed them. By June 6th, when we arrived back at the site, most of the framing and exterior sheeting was completed.  It is starting to look more and more like a real house.

It was great watching the crew put this huge very heavy beam in place on the back covered porch.  We won’t be painting this one, it is so lovely and will be stained so it shows up.  We will do the same to the big matching beams that are over the bathroom tub bump-out.

We spent most of that week watching the framers, in between trips to Grovers, a locally owned shop just down the road from the property, to pick lighting fixtures for the outside porch lights.

We made the 40 minute trip to Medford to the huge Ferguson’s showroom  to pick plumbing fixtures and faucets.  The most exciting choice was our search for just the right granite.  We visited two different granite outlets in Medford, and were thrilled to find a fabulous choice that was actually a bit below our granite budget.  At least that makes up a bit for the plumbing, that was a bit above our plumbing fixture budget.  It never occurred to us that the granite would be anything but the various “Sienna’s” or “Bordeaux’s” in shades of gray or brown or cream. At the first place we looked, every single piece of granite that was even moderately acceptable to us was considerably over our budget.

What a surprise when we entered the warehouse at EleMar  in Medford. We found Verde Bordeaux, an incredible granite that has gorgeous tones of green, gray, and neutral, with flecks of garnet and quartz.  I’m so excited about this choice and can’t wait to see it in the house.

We also stopped in at Marble Concepts and Design to choose the cultured marble that will be used for the showers, tub deck, and counters in the bathrooms.  Picked a simple white with a faint gray vein that looks very pretty.

June 7- 9 The most dramatically exciting days so far in the building of the house were the 3 days it took to get the roof trusses delivered and installed.  Because we wanted a covered back porch, and a special tray ceiling in the living room, and because the house has a very complex roof design, our trusses were among the more complex engineered trusses that foreman Gary has used.  There are a ton of incredible photographs of this process, and if you click on any of the photos it should take you to the corresponding gallery if you are interested.

Not only was the crane operator incredibly skilled in negotiating the trees to get those trusses place, the entire framing crew was amazing.  They walked like monkeys on the narrow girders to get the trusses nailed.  Talk about athletes!  These guys were just incredible to watch as they played on the roof, laughing and shouting to each other as they completed the job.

June 15 Framers finished installing the Tyvek and roof sheeting, and the roofer showed up while we were away.  When we returned all the roof shingles were installed and the house looked even more like a real house.

June 18 By this week the house began to take on her personality, with the interior spaces defined, and the ceilings visible.  Gary and Darren the electrician came for the final electrical walkthrough where we approved all outlets and switches and lighting placement. 


We measured the space for the island, and how much width should be between the cupboards and the island.  Mo and I stood in the pretend space pretending to be back to back, me at the stove and Mo at the sink to determine how much space we would want without taking away the walking space between the island and the living room.

One of the bigger decisions we had to revisit was the choice between our originally designed tray ceiling and a vaulted ceiling.  Looking at the vaulted space in the rafters was a bit seductive, and we were tempted to create another window up high and make a vault.  After an overnight of thought, we again decided to stay with our original idea for the tray ceiling.  It will add a lot of character to the space, more in keeping with the Craftsman traditional feeling of the house. 

Mo and I spent more time reviewing lighting choices and ordered several fixtures online through different outlets.  Some things are joint choices, some things are my own special desires, and I ordered a very nice triple mirrored medicine cabinet for the master bath.  Love being able to see the back of my head hands free!.  I also ordered a special outlet in the bathroom drawer so that the hair appliances can remain plugged in and cords are all hidden. 

We also revisited the original drawings for the custom kitchen cabinets, which have been changed a bit since the first bid, a change order that is up from the original budget.  Gary has a saying when Mo asks, “How much more will that be?’'  He responds, “Oh it’s just minimal”.  Well, Gary, minimal adds up, so our joke now whenever he brings ideas to us is, “Oh, it’s just minimal, right?”

June 30 During this week at the site, we finalized the rest of the light fixtures that are coming from Grovers, including a lot of LED bulbs!  There are a ton of LED can lights throughout the house that are part of the electrical bid, in addition to all the regulation CO2 and Smoke detectors that will be hardwired in. 

This week also saw installation of the HVAC and heating system, which we knew was going to be in the attic.  Still trying to get used to that idea, but it seems to be the location of choice.  Hot air rises, so we keep thinking our feet will be cold, but everyone insists that the circulation is state of the art.  Also, the HVAC guy said that he has to replace systems that are under the house often because of animal damage.  I guess we will find out, but we are putting in a small gas fireplace in the living room, both for our feet and for Mattie, who needs her warm space.

The last choice for the week was for the laminate for the laundry room counters.  I can’t believe how nice laminate is, and with granite in the kitchen and cultured marble in the bathrooms, laminate is perfectly fine for the laundry room.  I can’t wait to see how it looks.  The newer laminates look a lot like granite.

July 7 was a big day, with all inspections, including electrical, mechanical, framing, and plumbing passing with flying colors.

July 8 When we placed the house it was especially important to keep the big oak on the west side for afternoon shade.  Still, she was a very old tree, a California black oak that is native to the area.  These oaks tend to lean toward the light, and this big old tree had a serious lean.  She also had branches that grazed the western wall of the house, something that wouldn’t be good for the paint or the windows.  Mo hired Rico, the tree surgeon who helped with some of the initial tree removal at the site to take care of the tree.  Rico was careful to only take down what the tree could handle without stressing too much.  She will now be a nice rounded tree when she fills out next spring and won’t be as likely to tip over in saturated ground.

July 10 As we packed up and prepared to leave the home site for our temporary home at the Running Y back in Klamath Falls, the insulation crew arrived to begin that project.  While we are away, the framers will return to put up the siding, and the drywall installation will begin.  Should be exciting when we return on July 17th to see the changes.

If you have made it this far, I applaud you.  As you can see, it is a picture heavy post full of all sorts of detail.  Exciting things are coming up for the month of July, so it was especially important for me to get all this posted so I can share all the fun things we will be doing with good friends in the next three weeks.  Stay tuned.