Monthly Archives: July 2014

Getting Things Done in the Mountains

bobcat

The ongoing saga of trying to figure out what’s wrong with the plumbing continues. Over the 2 years of being a permanent resident here I have had issues with the downstairs bathroom. I don’t need to go into detail — you can figure it out. Several weeks ago, I had to call Homer’s (again) to clean out something or other (baffle?) which they did. At that time, Jay told me the septic tank was tilting and I needed a new one. So, I called Koberlein, the supposed experts, for a second opinion. After all, they have the most trucks around and has been out here before and they said, “No. You don’t need a new tank (insert my sigh of relief here). You need the pipes replaced from the house to the tank.” Fortunately Jay from Homer’s was working next door so we all headed over there and discussed my waste removal issues. Jay was skeptical but agreed to come back today and replace the pipes. Here’s where it gets interesting if you are into these kinds of icky things or just annoying and frustrating if you are me!

intakeJay arrived this morning with a Bobcat, removed fencing and started digging. Under the baffle is a slightly tilting tank (intake?) filled with sludge and the pipes are cast iron so no chance that there is a “bowing of the pipe” as determined by Koberlein. Here’s where everyone starts talking bad about everyone else (and apprently whoever you are talking to is MUCH cheaper than whoever you might call), which seems to be par for the course up here. Jay explained things to me in gruesome detail and, while he was standing there, I called Koberlein. The person who took my call was not at all happy with me telling her that they hadn’t done their job properly (I really said it in a nice way), so I had no confidence that they would call me back. Jay recommended someone else to come and pump it out — he called right then and there and Blake said he’d be here at lunchtime today. Victory! It turns out that Blake is the guy who just got disengaged to the daughter of my friend so now I’m feeling like I’m being disloyal just to add to the drama! In the meantime, Koberlein called me back and reiterated their initial diagnosis. “But,” I said, “the guys never even looked and were just guessing that it was the problem.” “And,” I further stated, “you never pumped out sludge when I called you, only water.” Gary (from Koberlein) said that they did make mistakes from time to time but not to believe anyone else because I probably wasn’t getting the truth from either Homer’s or from the other guy. Ack!!

Who to believe? What to do? I have several comments on this. First, Blake (the newly-disengaged) will be here to pump out sludge. Second, Jay will come back afterwards, make sure the fence is back the way it should be and will shovel the dirt back in and check everything out. Third, we will look into the possibility of a new septic tank. This takes care of the immediate problem (if it does indeed get done today as promised). What it doesn’t change is that everyone talks about everyone else up here and not in a good way. Add to that the guys up here that assume women don’t have any brains at all. PLUS…being a single woman with no man to back her up, I am beyond hope and help altogether! I want to be a renter in the big city with a super that has to deal with this stuff! But I must resign myself to staying here and making the best of it. On the upside, I am pretty sure I am neither stupid nor am I clueless in matters of home improvement and now being out of patience, all I can say is “Look out people!”

For My Bird-loving Friends

ondeck2 After using a stand-in for birds around my house in the last post, I decided to try and get some images of the real thing. I am discovering that taking pictures of birds in dark corners isn’t easy especially when I leave my camera in the house and only have my phone. There are two birds that have made nests in my upside-down hanging planters. When I went to take down the planters before a big storm with very high winds expected, I discovered eggs in the nests so I quickly put them back on their hooks. I hoped that my interference wouldn’t matter to the mother birds and apparently it didn’t because here they are. Today when I went to the shed, I startled a large bird with two smaller birds that were feasting on insects in the yard. That led me to take a closer look at the nest under the eaves on top of the light fixture. Tried once again to get a decent image but — again — did not want to startle the bird sitting on the nest. I so wanted to share the little black and white birds that have decided to make my home their homes. undereaves2 At least you can see the location if not the birds and nest.

It must be the season for baby animals. Last night leaving the home of my friends Ken and Eileen I was stopped at the bottom of their drive by six deer — clearly two mothers and four fawns. A beautiful sight. On my walk with Sydney the other morning, I spotted a woodchuck. woodchuck34 Raccoon families are all over the place as are skunks. Bears are out there but I haven’t seen any this season. Coyotes are around according to people I’ve spoken with. And, of course there are the turkeys that are all over the place any season. All this got me thinking about how much of a city girl I am and how on earth I ended up here. Of course there was plenty of wildlife in and around Tallahassee too. I remember not at all fondly my experience with the very large old possum under my house, the time my friend Lynda’s dog got sprayed by a skunk, a raccoon that died in my yard.

Regardless of whether one “belongs” in the mountains in a wooded area, there is beauty to be appreciated and joy to be taken in watching little birds look for bugs in the grass outside my window as I write this. My friend, Robin, can identify most of these birds I’m sure and might even know what the white flash is that I see every time I try to get a look at the big bird that pecks away at the roof. She gave me Sibley’s Guide to help me learn but I always seem to be too late to get a good enough look. I will continue to take pleasure in sharing the habitat of many woodland critters and will remind myself to be careful while driving around the community. It’s sometimes very good to be so close to the city but close also to nature.

The Purring Bird

I often leave the door open so Sydney can go in and out from the house to the deck and the yard. dogsondeck Sometimes I wonder if I am issuing an invitation for small (or large I guess) animals to come into the house. Not standing guard, there are hours of the door being open. Sunday night, I was watching tv and I heard a purring sound kind of like a low growl. I looked over and figured it was Sydney snoring or hearing something outside. It was late, almost dark, and the screen door was closed. Then I heard it again and Sydney started growling and barking so I realized it wasn’t her. It sounded like it was coming from the living room maybe under the couch as if there was an animal in the house. Bravely I got up and walked around the room with Sydney right at my heels (she wasn’t all that brave) and heard it again and again. I was quite sure something had gotten into the house earlier and was only now making its presence known. After walking around for a bit longer, I realized it might be coming from the roof! Why the sound travels the way it does in this house is beyond my understanding. It probably has something to do with the fact that there are no ceilings so I hear every little thing from the rooftop.

20110410-bird-on-roof (This is not the actual bird, just a bird actor portraying my bird.) Climbing the outside front stairs I could look down on the roof and there was a decent sized bird pecking away at the roof. I watched it for a few minutes, yelled something, and it flew off. It wasn’t huge but not small, not as big as a turkey or a hawk, maybe as large as a pileated woodpecker. It flew off so quickly I couldn’t even see any identifying colors or markings. Went back into the house, the noise had stopped, so I was satisfied yet puzzled. How does a bird make a noise that sounds like an animal purring? Maybe one of my friends knows the answer — Todd Engstrom perhaps! So you shouldn’t think I’m absolutely crazy, it happened again last night. This time, Sydney was up and barking and I immediately headed for the stairs and there was the same bird (I assume) pecking at the roof. It flew off very quickly again so I didn’t get any better look, but am now more curious than ever. I am a city girl. Living in the mountains and the woods has been a real education for me and one that I’m still not sure I want! It is very disconcerting to hear animal noises outside the window as I wake up or while watching tv. Turkeys using the deck to launch into the trees (they don’t do this so much anymore now that I’m here full time) or deer walking up the driveway. While it sounds idyllic, I am totally paranoid that something will get into the house. I definitely need a plan!

Reports of my demise…

… are greatly exaggerated (apologies to Mark Twain). [Just for the record, there isn’t definitive evidence that Mark Twain actually wrote those words.] MTE5NDg0MDU1MTUzNTA5OTAzAnyway…I walked into Sleepy’s mattress store to look at buying a new mattress. The bedding I purchased for this house was not the best but at the time it was used only for vacations so it wasn’t an issue. I realized it was time to bite the bullet, look at new mattress technology, and get something that (1) was not 3 feet off the ground and required climbing into; and (2) might eliminate waking up with a backache. Into Sleepy’s (with Rachel and Riley) we went, waking up Gary, the salesman who was obviously sound asleep at his desk. Gary is the quintessential salesman but funny and good at what he did, so we quickly decided on a mattress, was assured that the Fourth of July sale prices were already in effect, and then was told, “You know, we have 0% interest for a year if you want to spread out the payments.” This was very attractive to me since mattresses these days are ridiculously expensive, so I agreed. Gary took down all my information and called GE Credit which provides most of the appliance, furniture, mattress, etc., credit. I was turned down!logo

“Wait,” I said. “This is ridiculous.” Some time ago I was turned down for a credit card and didn’t think much of it. I chose to ignore it but this time clearly something was wrong. “Let me speak to the person from GE credit,” I whined. The woman I spoke with didn’t want to give me any information but Gary, in his most convincing salesman way, persuaded her to talk with me again and she said, “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but you are listed as deceased!” Needless to say, I was upset and confused. “Clearly,” I said, “I am not.” She indicated there was nothing to be done except for me to call Experian, one of the three major credit reporting companies in the country, and straighten it out. While Rachel and Riley sat on one of the many beds, I tried to call Experian and quickly realized that this was an effort in futility. We left Sleepy’s without a mattress and headed home to try and deal with Experian. (It is a 40-mile round trip to Sleepy’s.)

When I got home, I tried calling again. It turns out that you cannot actually talk to a person unless you buy something! It took me about 2 hours to figure this part out. Not having a choice, I bought a “membership,” which allowed me not only to look at my credit report but provided online a phone number that eventually got me to a real, live human being. There was some comfort in being able to tell my story to a sympathetic person but I was furious that my credit had been held hostage by this company and that I had to pay for information that should be mine in the first place. Two things happened at this point. First, I was walked through the “disputes” procedure and did it over the phone rather than online. Second, after assuring the person that I was indeed alive, she told me where the problem was in the first place: Envision Credit Union in Tallahassee. They noted that, when I closed out my Envision accounts, I was deceased! The next day, because now it was almost 5:00 PM, having taken 3 hours to get this far, I called Envision. They couldn’t have been nicer and agreed that they had made a mistake in how the notation was made, but they deal with Equifax! About a week later, the Envision representative called back for the third time and told me she had fixed it all with Equifax and that would fix it with Experian. In the meantime, Experian misstated my birth date on my record so I filed a dispute for that as well. It was taken care of almost immediately while the issue of my existence hung in the balance for over a month. This morning, I finally received an email from Experian (with whom I still pay a monthly membership until this is resolved!) that my disputes had been processed. I checked and I am alive once more with good credit I guess.

This is a cautionary tale. Michael told me that the federal government requires that every person be able to get an annual free credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. If you are interested in checking out your credit, go to annualcreditreport.com and you can get a free report like I did. Equifax had no problem with me being alive and apparently now Experian is sorted out. It is disturbing and unfair in my opinion to be at the mercy of these agencies. It just doesn’t seem right and to add insult to injury, having to purchase one of their products in order to solve the problem made it even worse. I strongly encourage you to check your reports annually as I will from now on.