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December 30, 2010
Against the winter chill

A drip pan full of water froze overnight. (Russell wanted a photo of Gail standing on the solid ice. When she told him to pose instead, he discovered that the ice was not solid after all.)

Has it really been two months since we’ve last been here?

As our sons grow and we prepare to become empty-nesters, we find our schedule filling up in the meantime. Our original intention was to travel up to our mountain home as much as possible over the holiday season, both before and after Christmas. Unfortunately, the time became filled with Joss’ college and financial aid application deadlines. Cameron was home visiting from college and wanted to stay in the Bay Area, and we wanted to spend the time with him. In addition, we had relatives in from out of town and we wanted to maximize time with them as well.

Our two weeks of mountain time dwindled away. In the end, we ultimately traveled up for only two nights, December 28-29. The final impetus that got us into our car was a weather forecast for snow. Despite periodic snowstorms up in gold country, Russell has never actually been up at our mountain home when it was snowing.

So a few days after Christmas, we packed our Toyota Prius and drove up. Arriving outside, we were treated to pouring rain. Arriving inside, we found our usual dismaying news of water damage. Once again, the upstairs floors around the southern walls in the master bedroom and Joss’ bedroom were seeping water from the strong winds.

Gail set to work caulking. Frustrated by the constant water seepage, she finally nailed a board to the outside of the house to stop the almost horizontal winds from carrying rainwater into the room.

The familiar sight of water damage in the master bedroom.
Gail finally nailed a board to the outside of the house to reduce rain leakage.

We discovered that another source of water seepage was from the window wells filling up with water. Our kit home manufacturer, Topsider, had provided us with fairly cheap vinyl windows. Back when our inspector, Dennis, had begun his work, he had remarked that the windows did not have any weep holes.

Indeed, when we opened the windows we found that the wells were overflowing with water, which in turn was coming into the house. Russell devised a simple solution of using shims to warp the window screens outward, preventing rainwater from accumulating. He put shims in all of the south windows on both the upper and lower floors.

With no weep holes, our window wells would fill up with rain, spilling water into the room.
Russell fixed this by inserting shims.

It was on Wednesday, shortly after noon, that it began to snow. As flatlanders from the Bay Area, this is something that we rarely get to see. It was light, fluffy snow, falling gracefully in big chunky flakes. We stopped what we were doing and ran outside, enjoying the snowfall in the still, quiet air. Then we went back inside, enjoying the warmth of our space heaters as we watched the world outside turn white. It snowed enough to cover everything with a blanket of almost an inch. By late afternoon, it was already melted and gone.

Our car, covered with snow

Meanwhile, our work continued. Still working towards our occupancy permit, we went around and installed all of the smoke detectors. After we finished, one of them began beeping incessantly for unknown reasons. We were concerned this would continue for weeks after we departed, so we went back around and uninstalled all of them. It was not a particularly productive project.

Gail installs a smoke detector. The problem with vaulted ceilings is the smoke detectors need to be installed almost 20 feet above the floor.

Still, it was a very enjoyable trip. We continue to make slow progress towards finishing the house, even if it sometimes feels like baby steps. And we got to see snow.

Gail enjoys a quiet moment of snowy bliss.


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