Monday, April 28, 2008

Tree Poop

We thought we'd sorted out our trees but they just don't want to cooperate. While making plans to have our fence built we found out the birch tree in our back yard is in the way of a retaining wall we now need.

It's the battle of conflicting city bylaws. One bylaw says new house foundations must be 9 or so inches above the crown of the road, (no I'm not going to check the exact figure right now). That means our lot will be higher than our neighbours'. Which brings us to the next bylaw: we'll need a retaining wall along the fence-line, complete with a water-proof lining to keep any rain that falls on our yard from flowing down into our neighbours' yards. Only one problem, there's a tree in the way. This is where any number of tree-protection bylaws kick in. Nope, no way you're building a retaining wall across that poor tree's roots.

Which leaves us with two options, both of them time-consuming and expensive. (Naturally)
Option #1. Remove the tree.
We really did want to keep that tree, and not just because it blocks the neighbour's view into our bedroom. We like trees. We even wanted to keep our weeping willow until the city arbourist pointed out that it was a liability, just waiting for the right moment to yell "timber". I think the only reason it was still standing was because it couldn't decide which of the surrounding houses would make the softest landing. We believed the arbourist, as Mr Willow had already thrown one of his huge limbs onto the ground about eight years ago, leaving huge craters in our lawn & taking out our clothesline. He must like children because he did it on the one sunny summer day that our yard wasn't swarming with small children. That was the summer of "Grandma Underpants' Daycare-E-O". (hmmm, will have to blog THAT story here soon... because what is the point of having a blog if you don't use it to embarrass your Mother?)

Option #2. Build a wall around it.
Right, have the retaining wall go around the tree, into our yard. It would have to follow the drip-line of the tree and we know from experience that, according to the city's tree-protectors, the drip-line is determined, not by the crown of the tree like we always thought, but... see that looong, skinny twig that's sticking waay out of the tree's crown, the one that looks like it's about to break off any second? THAT's what determines the perimeter of the drip line, which then determines how big a chunk of our backyard the tree well will take up.

Kim set out to find out what it would take to be allowed to cut down the tree.

While I lay in bed, sick, thinking about our tree conundrum.
I thought that, since I really didn't want to see the birch tree go, we'd have to look at this "giant tree well in our back-yard" from a different perspective. What if we tried viewing it as a positive feature instead of a landscaping disaster? I started brainstorming some ideas (I know, you usually need at least two brains to do any storming but I guess I'm enough of a split personality that I can (sort of) pull it off. Can hold some pretty heated arguments with myself too.)
I came up with a couple of interesting ideas and phoned Kim to describe one concept to him in great detail. "Can you see it?" He said that NO, he couldn't but it was a good thing I was trying to put a positive spin on having 1/3 of our yard taken up with a tree well because he'd just heard back that the only way we would be allowed to cut down the tree was if it was certified by an arbourist to be a hazard. Not likely, considering it was surveyed only months ago and found to be in fine health.

So, the fence and retaining wall start to go up on Wednesday, complete with an "interesting landscaping feature".

News Flash - Finally got our plans back from the engineer ( only 10 days later than he'd promised) and they are now FILED with City Hall! Fingers crossed that they get approved with no hiccups.
Back to "waiting patiently" mode, again. OOOHHHHMMMM.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

One more miracle, to go please

I have my husband back - and my dining room table.

The most recent snag we ran into was when Kim took his plans for our house to the fellow we had lined up to do the final 'official' drawings. He was now too busy but said that Kim had done such a great job so far that he could do the rest himself. Right. Kim has been working on the house design off & on for over a year now & was really looking forward to passing them on to someone else. Not the good news he wanted to hear.

The past week or so he's been living at our table, pencil in hand, eyes glazed, steam coming from his ears as he's cranked out elevations, cross-sections, floor plan, foundation plan, site plan, flight plan.... oops, that last one will have to wait - no holidays for us yet, much as Kim deserves one.

Now all of the drawings & plans have been checked over by the busy draftsman and are in the hands of an engineer for.... um.... making sure it'll stand up or whatever engineering-type stuff he does.
Next step will be to City Hall for their final stamp of approval. Our time-line will once again be out of our control as we practice what we've learned is the most important part of this process: waiting patiently. Good thing I've started that yoga class. Oooooohhhhhhhmmm

Monday, April 7, 2008

Why we live here

I can't take a decent picture of my work to save my life but even my crappy little camera can't mess up a view like this too badly.
Every time we decided that we should just forget about all the trouble of building a house, sell both lots & buy a house already made somewhere else we'd go for a walk, end up at the river and realize there is nowhere else we'd rather be.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Small Victories

I've been wanting to write about last Saturday since, well Saturday, but just the thought of that day exhausts me.

We had too many physically & emotionally demanding tasks crammed into one day.
Sold 1/2 our property, 1/2 our sandbox, making us mortgage-free - for the time being.
Bought a car. Took the boys out for dinner to celebrate.

Not in that order and not, unfortunately, even in the same city.

A few weeks ago Kim was rear-ended when he stopped at a crosswalk for a pedestrian. He's fine, aside from a sore neck, but the moron (& he really was, but that's a whole other story) who hit him must have been going pretty fast because he managed to write-off Kim's car. Just what he needed to deal with right now: looking for another car in the middle of our property transaction & finishing up his floor-plans for the house.

That's why we found ourselves running a rally race all over the Lower Mainland & Fraser Valley last Saturday:
First to Mission (from NW Richmond) to pick up the new-to-us car and drive it to Abbotsford for a quick "it'll only take 1/2 an hour" repair under the previous warranty. Naturally, it was 2 hours before we could race back to the dealership in Mission to finish the purchase.

Running late for our next appointment and we now had 2 cars to take on the long drive back to Steveston. Me in my decrepit, underpowered little Toyota, Kim in his shiny (almost)-new Maxima which "goes like stink".
We stayed together for the first long stretch of highway, then realized we were running so late that it would be better if at least one of us were not embarrassingly late so Kim blew off, leaving me in his dust.

Kim loves to drive. It's one of his passions; something he does for the sheer enjoyment; the reason we don't fly anywhere for holidays, we drive.
Me, I'd rate driving somewhere between doing laundry & cooking on the enjoyment scale. Its something you do because you have to. I think I have a reputation for being a bit on the pokey side when I drive. (don't choke now)

But we were very late for a very important appointment - with the notary to close the sale. So I drove fast, but my version of fast is no-where near Kim's and I could relax a bit knowing that at least one of us would get there soon.

I was about a mile from our destination when Kim called. "Oh good, he's been there a while already & is wondering where the heck I am" I thought when he asked where I was.
"I'm almost there, at 2 & Steveston Highway"
"You mean 5 & Steveston"
"No, 2 Road"
"You mean you're ON 2 Rd, going TOWARDS Steveston Hwy"
"No, I'm ON Steveston, now between 2 & Railway"


"Oh, you're coming up to that red light?"
"I just stopped at the light"
"Oh yah, there you are. I'm two cars behind."

Must have got caught in some kind of time-warp, or maybe it was that 'Twilight Zone' short-cut I took.

Signing the sales agreement that will finance my fabulous new house was almost anti-climactic compared to seeing Kim's face when I caught up to him on the road.

Miracle confimed

While were were stunned, & thrilled, & stunningly thrilled, to get the call from Land Titles Offices a mere TWO business days after submitting our plan for registration, we had no idea just how unusually fast this was.

In all of his calls to LTO Kim had been told it would take a minimum of 6 business days to process our registration.
Yet, when we met with our notary on Saturday to close of the sale of 'the other' lot. (Yay! Yay! Yay!) she was even more thrillingly stunned than we were. "Sure 6 days is the minimum but in many cases it can take up to 6 or 8 WEEKS"

I know Kim made three calls to various people at LTO so what I'm curious about is.... just WHAT did he promise them?

Or maybe it's just that, with all of the snags & delays & additional costs we've endured, we were finally due for one great big break.