Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Complexities of Home Building

Have you ever built a house? We are in the process and there is just so much stuff you have to think about that I never imagined. And rules. So many building rules you have to meet to get your permits. Some of them seem weird and a tad ridiculous to me. Like the fact that we have to have porch lights outside of every entrance. Ok, I understand that, but what if I don't want a light outside of every door? Tough. And you have to put electrical outlets so many feet from every door in the house and then every so many feet along a wall. We want a lot of electrical outlets but does it have to be so dictated? And then we have to have a lighted house number sign by the front gate (which is ok), but (always a but) we also have to have a lighted sign on the house that is supposedly visible from the road. The dirt road. Our house is set quite aways back from the dirt road, so ok we can put up a number sign, and we can light it, but I can't guarantee you are going to see it from there with the naked eye. Maybe some binoculars?

We were recently told we might not be able to build a wood-buring fireplace due to new California rules. Air quality concerns. Understandable, but we don't live in the city where air pollution is as much of a problem. We live in the desert. We want a wood burning fireplace in the desert! We looked into it and we are led to believe from our inspector that we can still build this fireplace as we had planned. Whew. I don't really understand it all - where the laws are at and when enforcement is happening. Let this be a warning to those of you thinking of building a home in California - you need to look into the ever changing building codes. You may not be able to build a wood burning fireplace and your plans for a wood burning stove may need to be changed to a pellet burning stove. Don't get me wrong - pellet burning stoves are a good idea, as are gas fireplaces. You just need to keep yourselves informed. The building codes are quite a process and always changing.

Right now we are working with the electrician to map out all of our lighting, electrical outlets and switches. Wow what a process! I have some serious admiration for electricians. Have you ever had to design the electrical plans for a new house? It is a lot of work and a lot of contemplation. What kinds of lights and where? Fixtures? Bulbs? Direction? What kinds of switches and where? How high do you want your switches? How high and where do you want your electrical outlets? You have to know measurements of what is to come. Where will things be placed in the kitchen so they can be lighted properly? Where will you place your bathroom sinks and how high and where will you place the mirrors around which lights will sit? Where will you place tvs? Recessed lighting? Facing directly down or angled at walls? It all has to be decided now!

So, we are in the midst of a lot of designing and planning and measuring and considering. I carry a note book with me most of the time. And a tape measure. The tape measure is my friend. We spend evenings like this researching images and sites on line. What kinds of lighting fixtures? What kinds of bulbs? What kinds of outlet covers? What about baseboards? How high so you know where to set the outlets? What kinds of railings for the stairs? What kind of lighting for the stairs? What is the typical size for kitchen cabinets and appliances and bathroom vanities? How much space is typical between a toilet and a vanity? How much space for bedside nightstands (so you can set outlets and lights properly)? How will the doors open in a room and will they interfere with furniture placement? You have to place the switches in places that won't be blocked by the doors. Where will you place the stereo? And speakers? Where and how many? How do you space the lights away from the ceiling fans so there will be no shadowing when the fans are running? Where do you want the switches to turn the lights on and off? Oh I could go on and on my friends. This is what it means to build a house.

It is a fun and exciting and stressful endeavor all rolled up in one, and we are so blessed to be able to venture on this crazy Byway adventure. Now, back to the internet research...

First Stained Glass Window is in!

Remember our stained glass windows we designed up in Salt Lake City for our new home? Check out the original posting here. The guys just put the first one in the house last week and it looks amazing! I am so in love with our stained glass windows!! The next one goes in next week. Here's a shot of the first window by the front door.

More Roadrunner

I saw our little roadrunner mascot on Saturday. Here he is. Such a cute little guy.

Juniper and Joshua

A recent shot of our home - Juniper and Joshua - and our little piece of paradise taken from atop Black Lava Butte. Construction progress is moving along. Can't wait to be living there. :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012


We are building a house on Roadrunner Rut Road. So isn't it appropriate to have the roadrunner as our mascot?

Some native American groups believe that the roadrunner protects against evil spirits. Since we started building I have been hoping we would get some roadrunners around our property because of our road name, and just because they are funny little birds.

Well, I am happy to report that we now have a resident roadrunner! He showed up a few weeks ago and he is now there most days running through the house and hanging out on the roof with our construction crew. Paul said he ran through the house the other day with a mouse in his mouth. They are meat eaters and I don't mind them helping out with the rodent control. I think mice are super cute, but they can wreak havoc in your stuff if you aren't careful. The roadrunner is not afraid of all the people or the loud construction noises, in fact he seems to enjoy checking things out. I did not know roadrunners were so curious.

I am not at our building site often (chained to my computer with my day job), so I haven't been able to witness many sitings, but yesterday we were at the house meeting with a solar company about our system and he came around to check us out.

Paul shot this video last week of our little friend.

Before our real live mascot came around we got ourselves a roadrunner sculpture - our first art purchase for our new home. We were visiting our favorite local shop Route 62 Arts and Antiques and found this piece from owner, artist and friend Dennis Blevins. He makes beautiful pieces from metal and this roadrunner was perfect! We can't wait to put him on our porch.

We hope to have many, many roadrunners in our lives at our new place on Roadrunner Rut.


Cleaning the house yesterday I finally saw my first scorpion. Or so I thought.

I was sweeping the floors and rocking out to classic rock (70s music motivates me for cleaning). FYI life in the desert means endless sweeping up desert sand and dust. I had just put some debris into the dustpan and for some reason I was looking closely at the stuff in the dustpan (a white dust pan is good for that) and suddenly I saw that distinctive body shape that equals SCORPION. But the size of like a pin head. Seriously. Here is a photo of what that speck looked like in the dust pan - check out upper right dark spot.

This is what that speck looked like when I zoomed the iPhone camera in.

I mean, that looks like a scorpion, right? But can they really be THAT tiny? And in my house? To give you a better idea of the size of this speck, here is another shot I took with my camera so you could get the full effect.

Curious I did what I always do - Google search. I searched for "tiny scorpions" and quickly discovered (thank you as always Wikipedia) that what I found was not a scorpion, but is actually an arachnid. Yes, I found a spider that looks like a scorpion. It is called a Pseudoscorpion. Also known as a False Scorpion or a Book Scorpion. What? I had no idea these existed! And they are everywhere people, not just out here in the desert. You probably have them in your house and you've never seen them because they look like specs of dirt. Read the Wikipedia description - its fascinating. 

They are actually beneficial to have because they eat moth larvae, ants, book lice and dust mites. They got the name book scorpion because if you have a lot of old dusty books, that is often where you will find them. So don't be alarmed if you open up one of your old books one day and see a tiny scorpion. He's helping you.

Yesterday was an insect day. Just before I found that little guy I caught a huge black widow on the porch. Do not like. We knew we had one (or more) somewhere on the porch because we were finding webs all the time under our chairs. I am glad we caught her (all spiders are female to me because of Charlotte's Web) and released her far away from the porch. 

Later in the day we had swarms of what I believe are long-horn beetles all over the Joshua Trees in the yard. They are still around. I am writing this outside on our back porch and I can hear and see them. I think the birds are happy about it but I hope those guys move on quickly. Paul had a home invasion of those out here years ago and it wasn't pretty. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Laguna Beach Sunset

One of the many great things about living out here in the Mojave Desert (Pioneertown), is that Los Angeles and San Diego are only a little over two hours away by car, along with all those beautiful beach towns in between. We went down to Laguna Beach for the weekend just to get away and see a new place. So, on Sunday morning we were sitting on the ocean watching the waves and surfers and the seagulls, then by late afternoon we were back in our little desert house (after some shopping and lunch in Corona along the drive home) with plenty of time to unpack, do laundry and get settled in and ready to start a new week. We drove down on Friday and returned on Sunday, but if you can handle a long day, then you could head down there just for a beach day, returning home at night with no need to pay for a hotel. 

We caught this sunset on Friday evening, right at the main public beach area/boardwalk in downtown Laguna.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dana Point, CA

This weekend we are on a little Byway getaway in Orange Country on the California coast (infamously known as the OC). We decided to get away from the desert and head to the beach. One of the beautiful things about living in Pioneertown is that you are only a couple of hours from Los Angeles and San Diego and all the beach places in between. We thought we would escape the desert heat, but the heat followed us here as we are in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave all over this part of California. In spite of the heat, we are having a great time being in this different environment.

We are staying in Laguna Beach for the weekend, but today friends took us down the coast to share with us one of their favorite spots in the area - Dana Point. Dana Point is about an hour south of Los Angeles and less than 10 miles south of Laguna Beach. It is a pretty drive down the coast on Highway 1. Dana Point is a town, but it is also one of the few harbors in the OC area. The harbor/wharf/cove area has ample free parking, fun beach/picnic areas, a place to launch boats and kayaks, and lots of little restaurants at the wharf.  The wharf is also a launching point for whale watching tours, sport fishing tours, and boats to Catalina Island. Dana Point has held an annual Festival of Whales in March, since 1972.

You will find the Ocean Institute here, with a replica of the tall ship Pilgrim outside. A tall ship festival is held here every September - the largest on the west coast of the US. The Pilgrim was Richard Henry Dana Jr's ship and Dana Point was named for him. He described the area as "the only romantic spot on the coast." I don't know the coast around here enough to judge that statement, but it is a very nice place and I would recommend a visit here if you are coming to the area.

We spent the afternoon at the harbor/wharf watching the boats, kayakers and pelicans along the docks, then walked around Dana Point Cove. Past the beach area one can walk quite far and the rocks and tidal pools are beautiful. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the day to capture the place. Its worth a stop on your Byway.

Pelicans hoping for some fish.

Pacific Ocean View from Dana Point.

Dana Point Cove.

Barnacles on the beach.

Favorite thing I found beach combing at Dana Point Cove.

Found on the beach in Dana Point Cove.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Vintage Perspective

The viewed yesterday through Kim's super kitschy, fabulous, vintage (1960s)  inflatable terrarium footstool...the one she has been looking for forever and found at the fabulous Route 62 Vintage Marketplace in Yucca Valley.

Labor Day Weekend Scenic Byway

Scenic Byway moments from Labor Day weekend....

Over Black Lava Butte - Sunday afternoon

Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa - Sunday afternoon

Backyard Cotton Tail - Sunday afternoon
Sunset, Sunday evening 
Joshua Tree full moon bright sky

Watching the moon show last night