Monday, February 11, 2013

Well, sure, but...

So the big hound dog and I drove up to get the well going. (C would have come along, but our old dog, Jeep, is doing poorly and we don't like to leave him alone. I keep telling him to buck up and get better so he can enjoy the life of a country dog. He just looks at me and sighs.)

I'd replaced the busted pipes yesterday and left the heater on in the pump house so the PVC cement would cure. Big moment - flipped the switch and the pump made pumpish watery noises. No leaks. Woohoo! I chugged back up the hill to the house, and no water coming out any of the taps I'd left on. Huh. There must be a valve in the pump house, right? Down the hill, found the valve and opened it and it made water-rushing sounds. Great! Back up the hill, and this time there is water dribbling into a sink here and a sink there. And rushing out of a couple of other places like inside walls and at a toilet valve - gah! no handle on the shut-off! I rush around like crazy and cap this and tighten that and redirect the other and finally decide we're under control, and look! there's working water in the house! Hurrah! I tell the dog how great this is, and she seems to understand. And that's when the sound of a waterfall begins to register.

It wasn't terrible. It was in the old concrete-floored boys' bathroom, gushing out from a mysterious plywood box in a corner. I didn't have a hammer or a crowbar to pry open the box. I accepted defeat, turned off the pump, drained the line, mopped a bit with rags found in the gym. Sigh.

I closed up the pump house and clumped up the hill for the last time, wondering if leaving a small, warm, completely plumbed bungalow in town for this cold, dry (except when it rained!) brick behemoth was such a great idea. Maybe I was too old (54 suddenly seemed very old) for this.

And as I topped the hill and headed for the car, I saw a giant dump truck. A rock-star dump truck, red and black and shiny and huge. Not Elvis's dump truck - that would have been pink and made by cadillac. This one looked like ZZTop's dump truck. And coming out of the schoolhouse, hand extended (there might have been a puff of smoke) was our contractor, C's nephew, over from the coast. I think it's going to be OK.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Almost ready to move

We took a trailer-load of tiles, fencing and gardening stuff up to the school yesterday. Sorry, no photos. But it was warm out and we got the gym cleaned up. Thanks for all the help, guys!

Snow on the roof

The view to the northeast from the roof. There's at least a foot of snow still up there.

We're kinda almost nearly ready to move in, even though the roof still leaks (roofers coming Monday!) and there is no working heat.

The best news: the well seems great and the pump works! The pipe between the well and the pressure tank had frozen and busted, though, so I'll be fixing that Monday. This is my first well, so I was a bit nervous about making it go, but some friends were on hand and we fiddled the breakers and fired it up. And water poured out of the break like crazy. Water right out of the earth. Amazing. Imagine that going up to the school and coming out the taps.

About heat: My buddy has an electric furnace that should be enough to keep us warm in our home classroom through spring, and we've got a great little wood cook stove that will help. Then we'll see. Maybe we can get the old boiler running a radiant baseboard system by next winter. A big wood stove (or two) is another option. I've been up late on, checking out the stove reviews and comments. Those folks are so into it their signatures include makes and models of everyone's wood stoves, chainsaws and wood-hauling trucks. It's a really helpful resource, and fun to read. I've decided on a Pacific Energy Alderlea, but that's $2,600... so maybe an Englander 30 for $1,000.

I figure we'll figure it out as we go along.

Here's a shot the garden, from the southwest door. (I trust next February's garden shot will be a little more impressive.) Those are bags of duck bedding - poo and straw - that S hauled up for us. If you squint you can kind of imagine fencing, trellises and lumps of foliage under the snow.

Tomorrow we rent a truck for the first real load. We figure two loads. Or maybe seven. Woohooo!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tour, continued

This is the gym, a huge space. The worst of the roof leaks is here, and the floor is rolling and a little spongy. The ceiling is 19 feet high. Below, behind M you can see the door that opens into nothingness (was the scoreboard there?) and various construction and destruction materials.

Below is the abbreviated hall inside the southwest doors. It's all new materials - sheetrock, particle board - and the bathroom at the end interrupts the hall that used to run completely through the building. The gym is way down there off to the left, Unit 2 on the right. The nearest doors open into the two "new" classrooms, added in 1955.

A short tour

Here's the giant coal-fired boiler in the basement. It's a monster - wouldn't it be great to get it running again, on wood? I'd like to stoke the huge firebox, watch the gauges, send steam off to the far ends of the building. Maybe put in some radiant-floor heating...

Previous owners had converted two of the bright, sunny classrooms to living units or apartments or pods or whatever you want to call them. I took this standing in the doorway of Unit 1, looking across the entryway into Unit 2. These are the only three spaces with original flooring left (not counting the gym, which is in lousy shape).

This is the kitchen in Unit 1, from the doorway. The cabinets are roughed in and the island is a desk set up on glass block. I think this was an office. The wall has been opened up into a passthrough to the old classroom, below.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Making a start

We drove up to the school Saturday with DD and SIL to begin to make the place livable. The young folks worked on cleaning up broken glass and putting plastic over the two busted windows in the classroom that will someday be my studio. Woohooo!

I forgot the ladder, so brave SIL made do with the window sill and some support from M. The room really warmed up with the cold sealed out, and we'll work on getting replacement windows - preferably steel-framed like the originals.

That's Jeep supervising from his warm corner. And C wields the vacuum, below. So at the end of the day we had windows plasticized, a classroom cleaned up, the pipes in the crawlspace scrutinized (all nicely heat-taped), the electrical tested and the pump poked at. We close up and head home. I'm tired from clumping to and from the pump house in the snow.

It's ours!

The school from the front, with knapweed filling the old lawn. 

After months of waiting and negotiating and renegotiating and waiting some more, the short sale has finally closed and this large, neglected, amazing place is ours as of Jan. 31, 2013.

It's a 1936 schoolhouse designed by Gustave Albin Pehrson, noted Spokane architect, and features Art Deco castings front and back. There are four original classrooms, and two more added in 1955. And there's a gym, the old kitchen, large boys' and girls' bathrooms, a couple of offices converted by previous owners into kitchens, and a foyer with rounded walls. About 11,000 square feet in all. It's set on eight rural acres overlooking a town too small to have a tavern, and the Little Spokane River wiggles? wanders? in the valley below.

And the flat roof leaks like crazy, and the finished floors in most rooms are gone, as are the original windows and most of the plaster-and-lathe walls. The school has been reimagined and partly (and mostly unsuccessfully IMHO) remodeled by several owners since being closed in 1977 and sold in 1980.

The school from the back at the gates off the gravel road. That's the gym on the right.