Monday, August 16, 2021

A new look for the 250th anniversary

I don't know exactly how old my 18th century cottage is - the local history association says we know it was there in 1772, so it was probably built earlier. But 1772 is as good a year to celebrate as any - because next year will be 250!

I've made some progress, and one room is getting good enough to brag about. (lol!)

Before, there were holes in the floor - I made some more through stepping through it - water damage on a wall, and some really stinky old insulation.

I have fixed with the walls and windows, put in a new wooden floor (that was difficult - if I ever do this again I'll buy an actual floor and not try to build one), and started work on the fireplace.

Someone with more skills than I would probably have put on new plaster and done a more proper job - and not painted flowers on it because it was fun - but it looks a lot better. And, this can be redone later. At some point in time I may bring someone in to look over all the fireplaces and see if we can get them going.

There's still work to be done in here - for instance the ceiling, doors, and all moldings need to be painted - but it's getting there. 

I had to put in some furniture and test-hang curtains to pat myself on the back. I'll have to move it again to finish the last details, but I need to see progress. Progress keeps me inspired.

And now, I just have to do the rest of it, haha!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Waking up in a parallel universe

Do you ever have the feeling you went to bed in the normal world and woke in a strange parallel universe? The world is almost the same as the one you left, almost what you expect it to be, but not quite right? 

That's me this morning. I got a hint yesterday of something being wrong, but didn't get it. I was putting my tools in the car to go to "Project Cottage" and saw the police in the neighbor's yard. They all looked very serious, and I assumed there had been a burglary or something. The officers left before I was done, so I moseyed over to ask if everything was alright, and offer my help in case it wasn't. My neighbor said "I don't think I'm supposed to talk about it, but I am fine" - and I should have listened to the emphasis on I.

I woke up to the news that the neighbor in the next house is dead. He was a great guy, one of the first to welcome me to the village and always kind and helpful. He would get my mail delivered to him by accident and come over with it - he sometimes even got text messages from UPS that were for me - he always had a kind word, a smile, and a wave as he drove by the house. Sometimes in winter, I'd come home and he had shoveled my driveway!

My brain keeps presenting useless objections like, "But he was so young," "I just saw him," and "But he has a family, small children" and "But his van is there."

Of course, these objections - while true - have no impact on today's reality. He is gone, and the world is a darker place without him. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

2021 is a strange year

I promised everyone I wouldn't disappear again and that I would at least keep blogging, and then life happened. And being 2021, it has posed challenges.

One of my cats, dear sweet Adam, got a problem with an eye. I took him to the vet, thinking he would need some eye drops or something, and they said they had to take the eye out. I wasn't too worried about it - he was blind anyway and wouldn't miss it - but one thing lead to another and a week later he was gone.

That was rough, and sad, and still makes me cry. 

To make a difficult time even more challenging, the insurance company refused to pay, because he was blind. I argued it had no impact on getting an eye infection and all the other things that happened, but they didn't believe me, and I borrowed thousands of dollars to pay for all this. A friend in the USA ended up paying for his surgeries. I can't put words to how much it means to have such good people in my life!

Just as I was recovering from this - emotionally and financially - there was an extra $180 charge on my Wells Fargo debit card. They canceled the card, which was the right thing to do, but that also started a whole chain of fiscally difficult events. Because now I didn't have a card and checks aren't a valid form of payment in Sweden. Everything that was automatically charged to the card got a hickup - and I didn't have another way to pay bills in the USA. I for instance still have my car in storage in Bradenton.

Ever since Covid started, the mail service between us and the USA has been iffy, and it took over a month for the new card to get to me. While waiting for it, I made a tactical error. I decided to use PayPal to swiftly transfer funds to my Swedish bank account, so I could pay everyone. 

Guess what happened?

The money disappeared. 

I'm guessing something went wrong with the account number and someone else got my $1,700. PayPal refuses to tell me the entire account number to which the funds were transferred - it has been two months of excuses to why they can't/won't do that - and they love referring me to the bank's customer service. The bank's customer service say they can't do anything to investigate and that I have to talk to PayPal.

I reported PayPal to the Swedish Finance Inspection and they forwarded me to an inspection in Luxembourg where PayPal Sweden's head office is. From there I got a complaint address to PayPal in Luxembourg and they have until July 31st to respond. I doubt they'll get back to me and I will have to move forward with the complaint. Ugh!

Of course, losing all that money made me fall behind on my bills, and saying "I can't pay you right now because PayPal lost my paycheck" sounds like a really lame excuse. 

All these financial problems obviously didn't fill the void from losing Adam. I adopted another cat. His name is Love - it's an actual name in Swedish, pronounced like Louvah - and he is the cutest. Though, my brain had a glitch. I read on his sign that he was only eight months old and since I work with animals I should know an eight-month-old cat is still a kitten. Nope, didn't think of that.

I have brought an eight-month-old terrorist with teeth and claws into the house. He has the face of an angel and thinks biting the dogs is the most fun thing ever. He is also deaf, which complicates explaining what isn't acceptable.

He kind of gets along with the dogs anyway, just because they are so patient. I've tried to do a slow introduction between him and Koda, and while they weren't immediately loving each other, I thought it would work. 

And then, he put his teeth into Koda's tail. 

At first I didn't think it was all that bad, but once we got to the vet and Koda had his behind shaved and was all stitched up, it looked like Love almost bit his tail off. It was really bad.

So now Koda is in his room with a cone on his head, eating antibiotics and painkillers, and I have no idea how these two are ever to be friends. And there are few more hundred dollars in vet bills, while the PayPal funds are still missing...

And these are just the big obstacles. It has been a challenging spring and summer. Hopefully, things will be easier from here...

Friday, April 23, 2021

Signed the contract!

This week has been a rollercoaster. In the "good" column we have things like the excavator coming to help at "Project Cottage" and in the "less good" column, things like me falling through the floor in the same cottage. Haha!

On Friday last week, I discovered my cat Adam had a problem with an eye. It was too late in the evening to call the vet - all the clinics in my area had already closed - so I tried calling on Saturday morning. Got an answering machine that wanted to forward me to another number where the call would cost $20. That didn't actually matter, because I didn't manage to find a person to speak with there either. All weekend.

When I finally got through early this week, I got the first available appointment - on Wednesday. When we came in on Wednesday everyone predictably asked why I waited so long. Ugh!

The veterinarian wanted to take Adam's eye out. The surgeon wanted to euthanize him, because "he is so old and underweight." No. I realize there will be a day in the future when it's time to say goodbye, but that time isn't right now. And now my trust in this surgeon is dented; he's great at his job, but... No.

They did the surgery and I had an excruciating wait until the next day to hear how it went. Luckily, Adam pulled through like a champ. On my way down to the vet to pick him up, I found out that the insurance company refuse to pay. Apparently, they don't pay for eye infections on blind cats. Hmm. That sent me into a bout of panic, because the bill was for over $2,500, and I don't have that just sitting around. Do normal people have that much money in their checking accounts? I ended up having to apply for a credit with a third party company to be able to bust him out of there.

Poor little dude. He has issues with the cone since he's blind, and everyday tasks like eating and using the litter box are near impossible if I'm not there to help him. It will be a long two weeks until they can take the stitches out and the cone off. But, he's home and alive.

Swinging back to the "good" column, I signed the contract for Project Cottage II! I'm super excited.

Overall, this week has been exhausting. So, TGIF! Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A big machine, just for me

Today was the day: a gigantic machine in the yard of Project Cottage. I intended to be there to take some photos, but I had to take my kitty to the vet, so the guys driving snapped some shots for me instead. Gräv och Allservice i Virserum did a fabulous job, and I'm certain that if I kept going by myself it would have taken until 2023. 

Not long ago, the place looked like this. 

I took down shrubs and started digging. After lots of hard work - and realizing what poor shape I'm in haha - there were stairs!

It was at this point I started to realize just how long it would take me to go all the way around the house. Each of these piles of soil contains a lot more than at least I could guess.

Enter the big machine!

Now the area is flat and even, and I can start repairing/replacing the siding. The only thing that didn't work out according to plan is the plant that was on the side of the house; emotionally I would have liked to keep it, but intellectually the guy with the machine did the right thing. 

This took the project a gigantic leap forward. And the interesting thing is, I thought I had dug out the staircase, but he found one more step, and two stepping stones. So with all that work I still hadn't reached the old ground level. I wonder so much what the place looked like back in the day.

To be continued!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The value of good shoes

A couple of years ago I fell and broke my hand, and that taught me to invest in good shoes. Purchasing Dr Marten's work boots still seemed an extravagant luxury, because really, who pays hundreds of dollars for a pair of boots? I got them anyway.

Today when I headed over to my renovation project, I thought, "It's getting too warm to wear all this. I guess thick jeans are okay, but should I take sneakers instead of the Doc's? Nah, if I don't wear them I'll step on a nail or something." 

I've been working on the living room floor. It's completely rotten and must be replaced, but it's difficult, because it isn't good enough to stand on. So today I wanted to make myself a "bridge" to help distribute my weight.  

I was going to call it a day, but wanted to get over to the side to see how bad it really is. I treaded carefully while mumbling, "It's a shame this floor isn't in better shape, it must have been really pretty at one point in time. I hope nothing lives under here. The boards are like paper now, just a matter of time before someone falls through... GAAAH!"

Aaaand, suddenly the rest of the floor was at knee height. Trying to climb up only resulted in stepping through it again. And again. (All this was accompanied by extensive cursing.)

Only when I was back in the relative safety of the hall did I realize how lucky I am. If I hadn't worn the thick jeans, my legs would have been torn up and bleeding. If I hadn't worn the Doc's, I might not be able to walk right now. As it is, the only owie from the ordeal is a swollen finger that I bumped when I fell. 

At least this proves that my line of thinking is correct - the house needs a new floor, lol!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A day filled with fun coincidences

This is so cool. I was over at "Project Cottage" and a car stopped. Out came a man who said, "It's so nice to see who's here now. My dad bought this in 1908." I think he said it was used to be called John's cottage, but I'm not great with names, so I might remember that wrong.

And to make it even cooler, he used to have school lunches in my house as a child in the 1940s! 

I've guessed that my small upstairs room (I think of it as Adam's room) has been a kitchen, and that's correct. The kids ate in both the other rooms up there, so my bedroom and Koda's room were both used for school lunches for the children.

We walked around the cottage and chatted, and he said, "You need help by an excavator." It was so great to be able to say, "It will be here on Wednesday" - and he looked super surprised and happy. He asked several times, "You're really getting an excavator over here? On Wednesday?"

Of course, it's due to the help of kind people in the village, but he still seemed to think it's just as awesome as I do. Loved this guy!

Apparently, he drives past there about once a week, so that's an extra incentive for me to accomplish things. I want to show the place as beautiful as it looks in my mind. :-) 

The whole area is so beautiful. Just look at this tree and the spring flowers!

With a little help from my friends...

I can be a bit of a recluse - extroverted when I'm among people, but also really good at staying at home and not talking to anyone. So it has surprised me this past week how many people care about me and are there to help me when I need them. 

Like magic, my "handyman" - whom I usually call in a panic when something has broken and my house is flooding lol - was at the cottage, measuring the broken windows. I pretend to know how to do things, but he actually knows, and it's infinitely reassuring to hear a person like that say "We'll fix this." 

And last night, a local company asked if I needed help. So next week an excavator will be at the cottage, at a very reasonable price. Honestly, I didn't think I'd be able to afford transporting one over there, but they want to help and encourage the project, so I think they made sure to price it within my reach. 

I am so very grateful. I've been digging and digging, and doing this by hand would take months. And, just like they said, the mere presence of large machines may discourage more mischief. It will be obvious that someone's there and cares about the place.

Complete strangers have contacted me and offered to drive and walk by and help keep an eye on it. One guy said, "I'm something of a night owl, so I thought I can just as well go by there when I'm out and about at night." How awesome is that!

I am humbled and deeply grateful to everyone.

Monday, April 12, 2021

A positive side effect

I whined about someone shooting the cottage windows the other day - and when I say "I whined" I mean big time. In the village's Facebook group, to the police, and even to the press. It seems reasonable to go wide on this one - a person shooting random things like houses must be nipped in the bud before someone gets hurt or killed.

I didn't expect anything positive to come out of all this, but I have been surprised. So many people in the community have reached out, offering everything from kind words to help with finding materials for the repairs. Many are complete strangers, and the outpour of support truly warms my heart.

Talking to some new people helped me learn more about the place too. This one guy I've only waved to from the car before - they have a really beautiful Rottweiler - said he has lived here for 20 years and never knew the cottage had stairs until I started digging. 

One of my neighbors - I've never actually talked to her before, just waved when she rides her bike past my house - knew the last time someone lived in the cottage. Apparently, it was empty for a few years and an older man rented it the winter of 1986. She said he wanted to live in a place without electricity or other modern conveniences.

That made me go "wow" - I'm odd, but not odd enough to choose to live in an old cabin this far north in winter without power or water. It would be brutal! And a more personal "hmm" - I'm pretty sure the owners told me no one has used it since the 1970s. Did they forget about him, or did he just decide to use it for a few months? It doesn't matter at this point in time, just curious.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

For f***s sake...

I think I've said this before, but renovating and rescuing an old cottage would be a lot easier if people would stop destroying it on purpose. I went to Project Cottage yesterday, driven by a nagging feeling that something was wrong, and someone has shot every single windowpane. All of them.

Right now I am angry, frustrated, sad, furious... It hit me really hard, because it brought me back to when I lived in Bradenton and the gang shot my house. I slept with a 9 mm Walther next to my pillow for a year, until I was able to leave and come here. I chose this village because it's tiny and should be fairly peaceful. 

How wrong one can be!

I loved this window in particular, because it had six panes of beautiful hand-blown 19th century glass. Replacing it with the same quality would cost $392 per pane. So $2,352 to get new glass for the whole window. 

I'm guessing the culprit is a young man, probably a teenager, and they probably think it's super cool when the weapon goes bang and the glass crackles. It probably makes them feel strong and awesome. But you know what? Right now, it's a matter of material damage. Expensive material damage since they've destroyed a total of 21 window panes, but still material. What if someone had been in there? How super cool would it be to face charges for a murder attempt?

This is the second time someone has shot this poor cottage since December. I've ordered a security camera with a 4G SIM card and signs saying, "STOP SHOOTING THE HOUSE! I'VE PUT UP CAMERAS!" I've also whined on Facebook, hoping someone who knows the culprit will see, and a local newspaper saw my post and picked up the story. 

I'm filing a police report too, but I'm holding off with sending it in until I've gotten in touch with the property owners.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Project Cottage II is back on! Woohoo!

I did a lot of thinking during the Easter holiday, visited properties for sale, and even made a budget spreadsheet to figure out how far I would find it reasonable to go to purchase the 18th century cottage. Aaaaand, when the seller's representative got back to me after the holiday, we were able to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Woohoo!

(If you haven't followed my blog, you're probably wondering why I have a Project Cottage and a Project Cottage II. I don't own the first one, I just have an agreement with the owner, because seeing something beautiful a mere two miles from my house slowly die bugged me.)

Anyway, they're drawing up the contract and I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed for working it out financially. I don't have a "great" credit rating, but it's "good" so hopefully that will be enough to borrow what's needed.

I went out there before work today with the dogs to try to fix the door that has fallen off, and almost got lost in the woods. I was completely certain that we were right behind the house, but also completely certain I'd never seen a forest looking like that before, so I was about to pull out the phone and check the map when I spotted the roof through the trees. We weren't far off, but a few hundred meters north of where I thought we would be. That has never happened to me before, guess there's a first time for everything.

Though, I've always had a funky feeling in the woods over there, and they're littered with Iron Age grave sites and similar. So who knows, maybe something is messing with my internal compass. 

Anyway, the first attempt at fixing the door failed spectacularly. It weighs a ton. It's way too heavy for me to lift and hold. 

I managed to slide it up and wedge it in the opening so the house isn't completely open to weather and nature - I half expect to meet a deer in there - but it definitely didn't work out like in my imagination.

I have to rethink this strategy, and I'm pondering several options. I can try to build something up that I can slide/push the door onto, so it sits at the right height and I can attach it to the frame. 

Or, get another door, but I like this one because it's really old. It's probably a bit newer than the oldest portions of the house, but still old. I have a spare door down in my shed. If it fits I'll take it as a sign.

Or, I could build another door. I don't know why I think that's a great idea when I have not just one but two doors and one of them is supposed to be there, but my imagination is still in overdrive.

Or, once the house becomes mine I could board the opening up until I get to renovating this side and put in a French Door with windows. That would be SO wrong for the period, but it would probably also look gorgeous.

Looking at this photo feels like a good time to point out that we don't have termites in Sweden. Otherwise I would be concerned about them. The siding looks ratty, but there's a solid log structure behind it. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to just replace the siding or save as much of it as possible.

I'm excited! 

A new look for the 250th anniversary

I don't know exactly how old my 18th century cottage is - the local history association says we know it was there in 1772, so it was pro...