Monday, June 22, 2020

The Kitchen Refresh Phase II – or At Least We Aren’t Showering on the Patio

With Covid-19 and Shelter in Place/Quarantine restrictions this spring everyone’s routines, daily/weekly rhythms and more have been disrupted. So I doubt we will get any additional sympathy from our faithful readers as we start the Retro Ranch kitchen refresh (phase II) and its ensuing disruptions.

The kitchen refresh was supposed to be a Spring 2019 project but as funds aren’t limitless we had to split the project into two phases. (See Retro Ranch blog dated July 24, 2019.) We reserved the project dates of late May, early June with our contractors, Northwest Home Concierge (NWHC) last fall. We knew the kitchen would be out of commission for at least 5 weeks, so we wanted the option of cooking (grilling) on the patio in warmer weather. 

With our project start date of May 17th rapidly approaching we had to get serious about packing up the kitchen. Of course we had started various other outdoor projects that sucked up several weekends of our time, while at the same time I had to deal with boxes of books, hockey cards, sports and rock ‘n roll memorabilia that had been on two pallets in the garage since we moved into the Retro Ranch 4 years ago. Beth has been remarkably patient in my choosing to ignore the elephant in the room, errr garage but we finally got most of the garage cleared just in time for the new appliances to be delivered (in boxes) and for the contents of the kitchen to be boxed up and stored in the garage. (Note: The garage is still full of boxes and stuff, albeit different boxes and stuff and the Mini sits forlornly outside.)

Our new “normal” would mean the fridge in the garage, the microwave on the patio, washing dishes in the utility sink in the garage and the coffee maker in the hall bathroom. I am getting my steps in now everyday just getting a hot cup of coffee and adding cream to it before coming back to my home office. The microwave lasted on the patio about 2 days before it migrated back into the house and is perched on a table in the entryway.

After getting the final measurements for the new countertop on Monday, all hell broke loose on Tuesday morning. The NWHC crew arrived and after putting down protective barriers, the appliances were pulled and relegated to the garage and the demo work began. Within 5 hours of arriving the NWHC Team had removed the old brown tile counter top, tile backsplash, butcher block, range hood, sink, disposal, cleaned up and were gone. As I looked in what 3 days before had been a working kitchen, the view was bleak. Beth, on the other hand, was thrilled that the brown tile countertop was gone and on its way to a landfill.

Day 3 was the beginning of the electrical work and the installation of the new kitchen window. Our internet was knocked out as the modem was on the same circuit they turned off to work in the dining room and kitchen. An extension cord through the hall and into the hall bathroom (adjacent to the coffee maker) was the new source of energy for the modem and the Wi-Fi was back on. The preliminary electric work was completed on Thursday and while we temporarily had no functioning outlets in the kitchen or dining room, at least we could plug the modem back in to its rightful source and remove the extension cord from the hall. We also learned on demo day that there was no insulation in the walls in the kitchen. The NWHC Team ingeniously devised a system to blow in insulation on Friday. So we have the added bonus of a warmer, more energy efficient kitchen too.

An additional challenge was the limited number of counter depth refrigerators available that would fit our opening. The current fridge, was not original to the house and was too deep. The cabinets had been cut to accept this fridge but we would need to rework them again as our new fridge would be taller and not as deep. The cabinets over the stove were also reconfigured to accept the new microwave / range hood. Removing the microwave from the counter will be a much better use of space, too!

It was now time for Ted, the drywall guy, to come in and do his magic. In addition to installing drywall in the kitchen and patching the holes created during the rough in electrical work, the kitchen, Ted TDWG, had to patch above the electrical panel (for the second or third time) since he has been working at the Ranch.  With a coat of primer applied to the drywall, the first two weeks of the project were completed.

Our routines and kitchen rituals have been upended, stuff is not always where it can be found, there is dust…everywhere and the project is just finishing the first third of the work. As I look back at some of the inconveniences (first-world problems) we have experienced while restoring the Retro Ranch, this is relatively minor. We don’t have to take our clothes, towels and linens to the laundromat, there isn’t a porta-potty outside our front door as our only toilet for our morning constitutionals, etc. and we are not showering on the patio as we did for two months in the summer of 2017. Oh and the St. Louis Blues are still the defending Stanly Cup Champions, one year later.


Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Anti-Bucket List: “Easy to Install” Irrigation Systems, Sunday evening trencher rentals and more

We have all heard of, or maybe even have, a list of things we want to do before we kick the bucket - a bucket list. After a recent Retro Ranch project I’ve decided that I have the opposite of a bucket list too – the anti-bucket list, things I have done once and will never do again. In addition to drinking yogurt water (served with a meal in Turkey), I can now add operating a trencher.

Last year Beth decided she wanted an irrigation system in the front yard (because Scott likes a green lawn and Beth is the sprinkler handler) so we purchased an “Easy to Install” Rainbird sprinkler kit. It didn’t get installed in 2019 so a couple of weekends ago, on a lovely sunny Sunday, it was time to install it. We needed a warm day so the hose would be flexible. While I sifted more rocks on the side of the hose, Beth followed all of the instructions and set up the system in the front yard, above ground. Everything seemed to work so it was time to bury the lines late Sunday afternoon.

Getting the hose in place, about 4 inches down, required splitting the turf with a straight edge shovel and forcing the line into the opening. Although it didn’t go quickly it was going until we got to the first head which need to be 8 inches down. After fighting the first one for about 30 minutes, and having 5 more to go (and the looming existence of roots the further towards the trees we moved) Beth decided a trencher was in order. I assumed this meant the project would carry into the following weekend. Silly me – it seems The Home Depot rental department is open until 8 pm! So off we go to rent a truck and the trencher. Obviously, it wouldn’t fit in the boot of the Mini. Loading the trencher at The Home Depot using ramps took 3 people. This concerned me, I wasn’t sure if Beth and I would be able to get it back in the truck.

Getting the trencher in place in the yard was no small trick and I fired it up. Holy crap – the vibration and the fact I had to pull it back as it trenched. It also wanted to veer to the right after a few feet so it was a matter of fighting the machine and then trying to reposition its direction. It brought back bad memories of raising teenagers. Fortunately, after an hour from hell and ripping our yard up, the trenching was complete. I then had to clean the trencher and, with the help of our neighbor, Joe, we got it back in the truck. Upon returning it to The Home Depot the rental clerk, who rented it to me about 2 ½ hours earlier, asked me how it went. I said, matter of factly – “it beat the shit out of me.” I also told him that it did its job and that it was both the first and last time I would ever operate a trencher.

While I was dealing with the rental return, Beth finished installing the sprinkler system. With a few adjustments, it appears to be working just fine. (Scott’s deadpan comment to Beth was, “I love what you’ve done with the lawn.”) Beth really is amazing on the things she will jump headlong into. The baby grasses are starting to sprout in the scars where the lines went in. We have a few more things to complete to button up this project but we can add another check mark to the task completed list on the Retro Ranch website.

The other project completed that weekend was clearing the garage floor - dealing with boxes of stuff and getting rid of the pallets they were on. This project finally made it to the must do list because the Kitchen Restoration - Phase II began in May. Scott went through troves of memorabilia and stored, trashed or gave away many things. Beth went through and created a huge donation pile.  If only the donation places were open! The garage was cleaned up just in time for the new kitchen appliances to be delivered!

Stay tuned for the Kitchen Renovation - Phase II, coming soon!