Black Snake Moan: The Literal Version

I can’t help but channel my inner Samuel L. Jackson more often than not recently since learning of the two slithering tenants that took up residency in our crawl space (at least it’s not on a plane??) The fact that they’ve given no references, did not allow a proper background check, and that they’re living rent free…well, let’s just say that we have our differences.

Now then, a gentleman with Alabama Wildlife Pro came out to the farm to see if he could sweet talk the snakes out of our crawlspace so that our duct-work installation crew would return. When I say return, I mean that quite literally. At the moment the first snake was spotted one could make out the dust in our driveway as they sped out and hopped back onto the road.

To our frustration, the crawlspace was empty. He spent nearly an hour hunting about for the pair and found only one old snakeskin that had been shed. There was evidence of the snakes coming and going amongst the crawlspace but none to be found. Overly thorough, which this gal appreciates, he checked our returns, around the house, and up amongst the attic. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

He asked us to give him a call should they return but ultimately…after an hour’s search, the man-hunt was called off.

Snakes – 1, The Mr. and I – 0

Giving the go ahead to our duct-work crew, they arranged to come back out the following morning to finish attaching the final pieces of our duct-work. I really thought that I’d exaggerated just how quickly they’d left the day before until Mario showed up the next morning with a brand new machete (Rambo anyone?) ready to ‘bust out the inner ninja’ should the snakes come back. Being of a small build, female, and horribly weirded out by most all reptiles, it felt a tad humorous to accompany him to the crawl space where I waited as he put on his headband flashlight and crawled under there.

The rules were simple – a scream would mean he’d found a snake. If this scream was intended to be a ‘war-cry’ or ‘cry for help’ I wasn’t certain, but I waited patiently at the crawlspace entrance as lookout…for snakes…don’t ask, I couldn’t tell you.

After looking through the entirety of the crawlspace he exited triumphant and declared that it was safe to return to work, which he did, promptly calling in the remainder of the crew.

Two hours in, so far so good. Another hour passed, still going strong.

…a knock at the door…

They’d found a snake. As per the previous day, everyone panicked and fled our crawlspace. I was provided photos they’d taken. A rat snake by all appearances but still…a three foot long snake that might as well have been an anaconda snatched out of the rainforest and dashed away into our crawlspace.

I couldn’t have us going another day without air as the duct-work was only 3/4’s of the way installed so…I did the only thing I could, I put them on snake-watch. It is exactly as it sounds, they sat near the entry to the crawlspace and kept their flashlight aimed on it to track its movements while I called back up the wildlife removal expert to come and evict our unintended tenant.

It seemed that within the hour things would settle down, work would resume, and we’d be back on track…wrong, wrong again.

After close to an hour of trying, the snake remained a free agent, simply retreating back behind a cinderblock in the far corner of the crawlspace anytime the hook was reached out to gather him. At a loss, all that our brave wildlife expert could do was set three traps surrounding the corner so that if it slithered out, it’d trap itself…theoretically. So I guess that’s what you’d call being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

We’ve wondered over the past couple months why we haven’t seen but the one field mouse and no other critters aside from the occasional rabbit or deer near the wooded edge of the property line. Considering the size of our rat snake it seems he’s been making a killing for himself.

With little choice left to us we did what any rational person would, we named it. So here’s to you, Snake Gyllenhaal!

This day just gets more and more bizarre as it goes on.

~Christy

The Ugly…Bites Back: A/C Unit 2.0

It comes in threes. Isn’t that the old wives tale? Regardless, our adventure takes yet another turn…this time for the crazy unexpected.

Duct-work installation went off like clock work yesterday morning. I can’t begin to describe just how much torn and crumbling material was torn out from our crawl space but I hear a picture is worth 1,000 words.

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After an hour of demolition in the crawl space. Fare thee well, old duct work!

To be blunt, I’m amazed that some of this was ever considered ‘up to code’. The vents themselves looked to be nothing more than pieces of plywood …if not just cardboard… that were then covered in a thin coating/sheet that has done little to offer protection, as the pictures illustrate below:

I admit, seeing all of this cover the entirety of my driveway…I couldn’t help but go and peek at what all supplies they had in their truck. To be fair they showed up with a crew of six technicians and three trucks.

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It’s like an arts and crafts fair gone wild! The love child of Michael’s and Home Depot?

And look! Shiny new METAL duct-work to prevent future critters and basic wear n’ tear from becoming an issue…at least for the next decade or so!

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Oh right, I did mention the ugly didn’t I? About that… so last night I received a call from the Mr. Work on the duct-work had come to an abrupt halt as they discovered not one but two snakes lounging about in our crawlspace. Suffice it to say, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only person, aside from Indiana Jones, that runs in terror at the sight of a snake.

So this morning I hunted around for someone that could come out and remove the two newest tenants of our home. In doing so I discovered we are an unfortunate loophole in our particular location. …as in, we are within a city yet zoned county for all purposes related to animal control. SO- even though our city has an actual technician that handles snake removal specifically, we are “outside his jurisdiction”.

Next step…I called the county animal control to have someone out to gather up our tenants and another brick wall was found. They service our area BUT they do not cover the removal and relocation of snakes.

This is just getting better and better. Time to roll up the sleeves!

After exhausting the yellow pages, I received a referral from a pest company we’ve used in the past that covers the removal of ‘dangerous’ wildlife -including- da da da daaaaaa…SNAKES!

So now the waiting game begins or rather I summon forth the patience somewhere in me, we have a technician coming out to safely and humanely catch and relocate these two slithery tenants this afternoon.

I cannot wait to see if they’re still under there or if they’ve found their way into our attic.

Until next time,

~Christy

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly: A/C Unit 2.0

Now then, I admit that five days without our A/C was horrible, as in…the humidity and heat blended together in such a fantastical way one could feel the brain melting. Over-dramatic? Mmm likely though sitting through 87 degrees in your house on a whopping 92 degree day is the polar opposite of fun.

I am pleased to say that Freedom Air did arrive Saturday, albeit behind schedule, but the fact they were willing to work through the worst thunderstorm we’ve had, since moving into our new farmhouse, was both appreciated and wonderful. I mentioned before that they’ve a fantastic attitude and sense of customer service, well… I wasn’t exaggerating that. Those fellows stayed from 2pm until 10pm to ensure we had everything installed and air flowing cooly throughout the house.

As for the good, we have air. I repeat, Houston, we have AIR! So simple yet so crucial, it was the first night we’d slept well in days.

Onto the bad… upon tearing away the interior and exterior A/C units we were informed that our duct work was in less than stellar condition. I put it gently. The reality is more pockets of insulation laying on the floor of the crawl space that have fallen from tears and gaps found in the duct work. The likeliest culprit, critters and simple wear n’ tear. …though considering where we live, critters are most likely.

And of course, the ugly – when they came back out the following day to ensure that everything was working correctly, since they were forced to install during a horrible storm, they found that the crawlspace was chilled akin to an ice box, that the 73-75 degrees we were maintaining inside the house was at the expense of cooling off our crawlspace. The duct work was simply that torn apart. To add insult to injury, when inspecting our returns inside the home, they found multiple that were damaged to an extent that air could not properly flow through them, rendering them useless.

Reality took another turn as it dawned on us, we weren’t simply replacing an ancient air conditioning unit but now the entirety of the duct work in the crawl space and all of the main level returns in the house. And that folks, -that- is ugly. To their credit, I appreciate that the technicians with Freedom Air took the initiative to tell us about the problem otherwise our new energy efficient machine would’ve simply run endlessly and our power bills would’ve likely doubled.

“When things do not go your way, remember that every challenge — every adversity — contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.” – Roy T. Bennett

Dwindling passion for the long road ahead rekindled, doubts about what new surprises tomorrow might hold quelled, and determination to forge ahead and shape our forever home together restored.

Each ‘surprise’ carries with it its own unique challenges, more often than not – expense, but the Mr. and I can forego likes and wants in favor of needs for the time being. So we are on our way to new metal duct work in the crawlspace for improved performance and life expectancy and from there…well, getting that darn pasture fence finished once the rain lets up will feel mighty good.

Here’s to another day in paradise!

~Christy

Hotter than Hades…our A/C experience

There is nothing quite like receiving a call at work from the Mr. to inform me that our A/C unit has quit working. As we are a stone’s throw from summer and the temperature just keeps on rising day by day, you go through three initial phases when you hear the words: our A/C is out.

  1. Denial. It’s not pretty, as in…you find yourself begging your unit to turn back on, bribing it with nonsensical luxuries an inanimate object could never use since they’re not …you know, alive? And then you realize you’re flattering it, encouraging it, telling it what a wonderful unit it’s been and come on lad, don’t you have at least a few more years in you?
  2. Anger. There is no ‘frustration period’, not in the South with these temperatures and this humidity. So you go from pleading and flattering to threats, just like that. Once more, inanimate object…not alive…it has no conscious presence but it doesn’t matter, you find yourself managing not to break your foot kicking the thing as the realization of pending costs, inconvenience, etc kick in. Now it isn’t regret you feel, but as I said, anger. You may find yourself repeating, ‘We’ve only lived here two months. C’mon man!’ …it’s real.
  3. Ingenuity. At this point you realize that all of the moping about and frustration doesn’t accomplish anything. It felt good at the time but was essentially useless, wasting energy in a house that’s now 80 degrees inside…and rising. So this is the point where you channel your inner MacGyver, roll up your sleeves and start making phone calls to find a solution to the problem.

And that…that is where our story begins…

During the closing process, we did elect to have a home warranty on the farmhouse that would cover major utilities and appliances for the first year of ownership. While we’ve never needed to use this warranty in the past with previous homes, we knew going into a fixer-upper that it would be foolish not to get it. Lo’ and behold, two months in and our A/C stopped working. Frustrating? Yes. Manageable? Theoretically, yes. That left us with nothing to do but call the home warranty company to alert them to the issue.

At first, things moved quite smoothly. This happened late afternoon on a Wednesday and so they had us call the company they use for heating and air in our area to set up an appointment. Due to the circumstances we’ve undergone, I will actually name them: Bailey’s Heating & Air. A technician was assigned to our unit and scheduled for first thing on Thursday morning. He arrived within his allotted time frame and asked me only two questions: Where is the unit located? Can you turn on the A/C?

Naturally, I showed him where the exterior and interior unit (of which is in our crawl space) were and then stepped inside to turn the A/C back on. I stepped outside and found the crawl space door open and his gloves on the fence but he was skimming through his phone. When I asked what was wrong it was made to sound like nothing serious, an easy fix, he’d just need to retrieve the part from their office. His claim was that the fan motor on the interior unit was shot and needed replacing but as he had other calls to attend first, he couldn’t be back until the following morning to replace the fan motor.

Now you can call me crazy, or spoiled, but I’ve never dealt with a company that comes out to assess your issue and then leaves to go to other calls -before- fixing your problem. This fellow did…but not before requiring a check for our co-pay with our warranty coverage. Once more we endured another day of insanely hot temperatures inside our house…as did our poor dogs. We re-arranged work schedules yet again…because what else can you do?

Yesterday morning he was to be here between 7-8am. The Mr. took the day off to keep the dogs cool and be here to help as needed. At 11:30am I receive a call at work. …the technician never showed. I tried calling him, no answer. We called the home warranty company. Forty-five minutes on hold granted us, ‘There is nothing we can do. We haven’t received his report yet on the issue or your co-pay, so we can’t assign anyone else at this point.”

Fiddlesticks to that!

I immediately had the Mr. call and cancel our check as it seems more and more likely this technician, that did not introduce himself with a name, had no branding on his clothing, on his work truck, or an ID badge, was likely a fraud.

Now as we’ve always had excellent service and success with Freedom Air, I pulled up their number, even though they are not contracted with our home warranty company. When I called them and explained our situation, they changed around a technician’s call order to have someone out within an hour to assess our situation. I went back to work and felt relief, things would be fine now.

Wrong. I’m getting really tired of surprises…

The Mr. calls me at work once more. I was expecting, ‘We have air!’ Instead I received, ‘It’s far far worse than we anticipated.’ It seems as though the technician from Bailey’s Heating & Air never actually did anything to check or look over our unit because when Freedom Air’s technician arrived, the moment he undid just one screw on the side panel, to look inside, water spouted out with a fury. When the side panel was removed entirely he found -four inches- of standing water inside the unit. Every single electrical anything had been fried.

Considering the terrifying cost of putting in a new unit, we opted to try and replace/repair what we knew to be utterly shot. Nearly a grand and five hours later, it still wasn’t working…additional parts would need replacement and potentially the entire unit. So we had two choices, take the gamble and keep replacing things at the risk of still having to shuck it and replace the unit whilst knowing we were spending more on parts/labor than the unit was worth or…just replace it and have air again.

Financially…though painful… and logically, a new unit simply made the most sense.

So we went ahead and ordered our new unit which I am told is being loaded right now downtown and en route shortly to be delivered. Four to six more hours without A/C? If it means I won’t have this problem again, we will sweat it out a bit longer.

Now the real fun begins…haggling with the home warranty company, discovering if Bailey’s Heating & Air is even a legitimate licensed company, and trying to figure out where in the budget I’m slashing to make up for the new $12,000 expense.

Exhausted but hopeful,

Cheers!

Horse Fencing 101: SCIENCE …errr PROGRESS!!!

Morning y’all, don’t mind me … between what feels like two-full time jobs and 5-7 hours a day in the harsh sticky heat of the South I find myself jiving my inner Bill Nye the Science Guy.

It’s been a couple weeks since I last posted photos of the project’s progression from gently rolling weed-filled acres to a proper horse pasture. Now I’ll be straight with you, since I’ve still only access to our battery operated …you heard that right… push mower, it is still very much weed-filled acres, even higher than when we started however. (Lookin’ at you, rain!) BUT…all four sides have every third post set and concreted in place, all the corners posts are concreted in as well as our pasture access gate posts.

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Posts going down to the edge of the southeastern side of the pasture.

Now before I get too excited, as pictures can be quite deceiving, for maximum strength and lowest strain placed upon each individual post, we elected to space our posts 10′ apart. So right now, every 30′ there is a post. So it looks like we’re ready to attach fasteners and start unrolling the CenFlex but alas… I’ve still a solid 60 posts to set and backfill with our gravel/sand mixture.

Now that…THAT in itself is the right bugger of this project. On average once loaded up with backfill our wheelbarrow weighs about 50-60lbs. Hauling this up and down a 4 acre hill is a terrifyingly spectacular thing to witness…at least when I’m the one doing it. A few trips ‘down’ and I start envisioning myself just tipping over or the wheelbarrow tire going flat. A dozen trips ‘down’ and I start to imagine sitting on top and magically riding it down and squealing to a stop just before the post hole. Like I said, I spend a lot of time in the sun doing a simple but very tedious task over and over and over. Your mind starts to wander.

…to be continued.

Fencing 101: Real Talk

In every DIY project you undertake, no matter how big or small the job is, there will always be a pivotal moment in which you ask yourself, “Am I still glad we chose to do this or am I filled with regret?” Now generally speaking, I’m a ‘you can’t cut the wind from my sails’ kind of gal but let’s just say that the previous gust propelling us through this project has dwindled to a passing breeze.

Now I can assure you that these long labor-intensive hours spent beneath an unforgiving sun haven’t curbed my enthusiasm, even seven weeks in. Why? Because this equestrian CANNOT wait to have her horses home and grazing in her front pasture. I envision watching them enjoying a summer morning as I’m looking out my kitchen window. That vision, …that alone… has kept me moving forward through every conceivable problem that can happen when trying to muster manpower, funds, time, and energy to put in 4 acres of pasture fencing.

So what did it? What has me so deflated?

Our friend that we hired to help us? …well he had to quit today. His new job is going to lessen his availability and while we are thrilled for him and this new opportunity it unfortunately has left myself and the Mr. holding the bag when we’ve SO MUCH work to do and two weeks left till the horses come home.

What’s a girl to do? Well, this particular girl wasn’t having it. I’m not a quitter, never have been and I don’t intend to start now. So instead of wasting time moping and stressing, which solves every problem (said no one ever) am I right? I grabbed the shovel and wheelbarrow and started shoveling backfill gravel like a woman possessed.

Five hours under that sun, a bad glove-edge tan line, and bug bites from here to New Zealand (hi kangaroos!) I have another 11 posts set in concrete and 10 more, that were set yesterday, backfilled with gravel and sand.

That’s right, this gal has ALL of the concreted posts -done-. Now…we still have another 60 or so posts to set with gravel and sand BUT…just let me have this little triumph born from sheer Irish stubbornness.

Now if you would please pardon me, I’m going to go collapse on the sofa for a ‘Netflix and chill’ kind of evening.

Until next time!

~Christy

Our Little Miracle – Ember

I know it has been forever since I posted about our fence progress but I live, sweat, and bleed that pasture fencing right now and tonight I’ve decided after a day spent laboring in the unforgiving southern sun…I’m taking the night off!

Now I realized a short while ago that whilst I litter my Instagram and Snapchat with photos and information about her, I haven’t mentioned our little Ember -once- on here!

Prepare yourself for the cuteness overload slideshow…

Two days after we closed on our farmhouse, a friend and I drove out to pick up an emaciated mare that we’d fallen in love with a month prior. She has the sweetest disposition and simply enjoyed being groomed. After trailering her home and taking her to the barn we kept reminding how her much better her life was going to be now, that she wouldn’t have to fight for feed, would receive proper hoof care, and loads of TLC …something that has been horribly lacking in her life these past fifteen years. Sweet ol’ Lilah didn’t even know what a treat was! She does now, I’m happy to report and will sniff every single pocket you have to find one. Food oriented – ahhh…just like her new momma.

After settling her in with our geldings I headed home and off to an early shift at work the following day. Everything seemed like your run of the mill Monday until I received a text, “Congratulations Mom, it’s a girl!” Following said text was this picture:

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Ember at 3 hours old! Lilah is the best mama!

That’s right…the emaciated mare we’d rescued was skin and bones with no muscle left on her to speak of…and was pregnant, though her former owner claims she had no idea of her condition but we won’t go there, it’ll just get me riled up again.

Shock was our first initial feeling, how could we have missed it? How could a mare her age, in the condition she was in when we brought her home have gotten with foal let alone carry to term?? And on top of everything else, this sweet mare foaled by herself with no one there to help had any complications arose. So there I was, staring blankly at my mobile screen trying to figure out what had just happened.

We hadn’t signed up for two but…I mean, look at her! She was sweet as the day and born without complications from a mare that had endured the worst of conditions. I can only assume she looked as pitiful as she did as she was giving everything she had to support growing little Ember.

Fast forward a few weeks, Ember just turned one month old this past Monday. She is sassy as the day, heavily muscled, and endlessly curious. Watching her grow stronger everyday only makes me more excited to have her home and placing her foal-sized halter on for the first time gave my heart a little leap.

Foals are 50% precious, 50% mischievous.

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Ember at one week old.
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Nearly three weeks old!

As I’m feeling nostalgic looking over her growth-progression photos, I’m leaning towards the precious side right now.

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Ember at one month old. Lilah has put on another 5lbs, we’re now at 40lbs put on in 30 days!

Not for nothing, Lilah (or Mama), has packed on around 30-40lbs over the past month on her new feeding regime. She and Ember have an acre to themselves, whereas she came from a barn where 40 horses shared 10 acres. She willingly hurries to the gate when she sees you approaching and no longer dreads being haltered. Grooming is something she’d never previously experienced and you can watch her physically relax as she begins to yawn and those eyes start drooping when currying her withers and hips.

All in all, we are so happy to have these special gals in our lives.

XOXO,

Christy