Thursday, June 12, 2014

Good Morning and Thank You Bad Contractor

This morning I was up around my usual time, padded downstairs in my usual way, and started making coffee with my usual lack of coffee-making talent (if you don't get up before me, you deserve bad coffee). I went to empty the prior pot's used grinds into the trash (which is in the garage to prevent the dogs from feasting), and stopped at the door that opens from the kitchen to the garage. The door has a paned window on the top half so you can see into the garage from the kitchen, and I tend to be sensitive to changes in light or movements in the garage. I didn't even have to look through the glass to notice something was different out there. When I opened the door, I was greeted by a "poof" of swirling debris resembling grey snow, and saw that a portion of the garage (which we just recently finished converting to a hobby room) was covered in the stuff.

Some time during the night or early morning, about a quarter of the garage ceiling collapsed, dumping all of the blow-in insulation it previously held onto the floor and one of the hobby tables.

I quite calmly finished the process of making coffee (okay, not entirely calmly; I did say "what the fuck" out loud) and ensured there was a full pot brewed before I went back upstairs to wake David and quietly inform him, "We have a small problem in the garage." Wasn't that thoughtful of me?

Not surprisingly, David's immediate response exactly echoed mine: "What the fuck?"

A somewhat closer inspection made clear what the problem was. As you can see below, on a section that had not yet collapsed you can see the gap between the drywall and the rafter beams it is supposed to be attached to. That's not good.

Oh, yeah, and did I mention the ceiling fan was hung without being secured to an electrical box attached to a rafter? So, yeah, both of them were dangling another foot-plus into the room.

 Once we started getting into the clean-up and tearing down the portions of drywall that were clearly ready to fall, it became apparent the cause of the collapse: The contractor who hung the ceiling used nails instead of screws, and only placed them every two feet on every second rafter beam. They used blow-in insulation (probably because the space above the garage was originally attic), which over time absorbed moisture from our lovely, humid climate, which added weight to the ceiling. Compounded with the vibration of the garage door being opened and closed several times a day over the course of three decades, and you've got a bunch of ever-loosening nails.

Now, we realized shortly after the bought the house that the original builder had taken some shortcuts (my understanding is that at the time of construction Georgia had few or no actual building codes for residential), and that the sellers had done all of their "upgrades" on the cheap. But, we really did not expect to have the ceiling collapse in the middle of the night. We're just grateful no one was in there when it did.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Seventeenth Century Dinner

Some time last year our family was introduced to an educational program that was an instant hit. "Tales From the Green Valley" is a BBC production that follows a group of historians and archeologists over the course of a year as they live on a restored Seventeenth Century farm in England. Similar to some shows that have been produced in the U.S. (though those were clearly more focused on entertainment than education), the inhabitants of this farm were restricted to using only foods, tools and technology that existed in the 1620's. Unlike their American "counterparts," these Brits are experts in their field and pretty much knew exactly what they were getting into. They stayed an entire year, and the program was was presented in twelve installments, each representing one month of the year.

If you are a history buff, you MUST watch this program (we streamed it from YouTube). If you are a homeschooler, you MUST watch this program. Even if you are only even mildly interested in things that are outside the realm of your everyday life, you MUST watch this program. Just sayin'. (End of commercial)

So, one of the things that most impressed me (not necessarily in a good way) was how much time and energy was expended in producing, processing, and preparing food. It wasn't just the cooking (although that took at least one person most of the day to feed everyone on the farm), it was also the cultivating, harvesting and storing. And in the case of foods they could not raise, gathering funds or goods to trade for foods.

But, to the point of this post. Michael is completely enthralled with this show. Not only did he watch it all the way through all twelve (one hour) episodes the first time, he went on to watch all of the "spin off" shows. Then he went back and re-watched Green Valley. Several times. And then he re-watched all of the spin-offs. Several times.

That was last year. And I thought we had finished this "block of learning" for Michael. But, nope, he recently dug up Green Valley again, and watched the entire series all the way through. Three times in one week. That's how this kid absorbs.

At the end of the third viewing, he announced that "we" needed to go to the store. "Why do we need to go to the store?" I innocently asked (not really innocently, since I know there is always a plan behind every trip to every store with this kid, sometimes involving world domination). He explained that he "needed" to cook a Seventeenth Century dinner for our family (I keep trying to explain the difference between "need" and "want", but, like most adults, Michael realizes that semantically when you want something really, really, really badly, it somehow magically transforms into a need). I insisted that he provide an actual recipe and list of ingredients, which he promptly did. So, off to the grocery we went (which was a much better alternative than growing and raising and trading for all of the ingredients ourselves, thank you very much).

I don't remember the actual name of the dish, but we managed to find all of the ingredients at Kroger, except the rosemary that Michael insisted we use from our garden (good boy). He cooked it himself, as specified in the program's recipe (which, if you know anything about Seventeenth Century recipes, is vague at best and baffling at worst). In true British style, everything was boiled.

Remarkably, it turned out to be really tasty. It looks really plain, and could be a little dry unless you put lots of the "broth" on it. But, you know what? It was good. Plain, simple food. Although a small salad on the side would not be remiss ... if you have that stuff in your garden ;)

(Full Disclosure) This particular recipe called for an accompanying "pudding". If you're an American, or haven't read much Brit literature, let me clarify that British "pudding" has nothing to do with The Jello Corporation. In this particular historic case, as far as I can tell, it is (leftover from slaughter) meat, and herbs, and oats, all stuffed into an animal's digestive organs and boiled in the same pot with your meat and potato/vegetable. Sort of like a sausage, except you actually know what's in it, because you cooked it. In the case of this family dinner, we skipped the pudding part.