Doni’s Old House Remodel: Nailed it!

It's been exactly five months since I bought this 1938 stucco-and-plaster house in west Redding. If I'd known in July the amount of time, money and stress it would take to make this house habitable, I'm not sure I would have taken on this project.

Now, thank goodness, I really think the worst is behind me. I'm living here. All the workers are gone. It's just me and all the unfinished little things that I can do, like painting trim, and puttying nail holes, and caulking. Lots of caulking. 

My hindsight is awesome. For example, had I known that all my earthly belongings would be in storage as long as they were - because of remodeling delays - I would have packed so much differently in June.

For one thing, I would have taken even more with me in my homelessmobile than I already packed into all those boxes and bags and suitcases which went for a Redding roadtrip all summer with me. I would have taken things like the navy blue long-sleeved dress I planned to wear for my friend's daughter's fall wedding, because when the wedding date arrived, my dress was still in storage.

Most important of all, I would have taken the dated paperwork for a speeding ticket I got in the spring, which I'd paid, but I had a ridiculously long deadline to complete the traffic school, a date that came and went because the papers were in my container. And when the container was delivered, and I got the boxes, it took me weeks to find the papers, and when I did, lo and behold, it was three days past the deadline. For the record, Shasta County Superior Court isn't the least bit sympathetic about people's moving woes and papers-in-storage explanations.

People have commented about how seemingly well I've held up through this challenging remodeling process, but honestly, I have had a few - OK, many -- moments when I felt completely overwhelmed. There were times when I was at Home Depot just before closing (9 p.m., FYI) after a long day, looking at something needed for some contractor the next day. Sometimes I felt so alone and tired and afraid of so much - of running out of money, of making the wrong decision, of hiring the wrong people, of finding more rats, of discovering yet another expensive unexpected disaster -  that one employee saying something as simple as, "Screwdrivers? Did you look in tools?" nearly sent me around the bend.

Even so, I know this little house has come a long way, baby. And that feels pretty good. I remember when the back room looked like this:

Now that corner looks like this:

The back bathroom was a mess of dry rot. Now it looks like this:

The old kitchen looked like this:

The biggest surprise when removing the kitchen cabinets was finding more than an inch of rat crap in the soffit above the cabinets and sink.

The kitchen now looks like this.

I learned so much along the way, such as to always offer a beverage to anyone who showed up to work, or give a bid, or make a delivery. Sometimes, in the summer, I wouldn't even ask, but just hand the guy a bottle of water. It was never refused and always appreciated.

I even started a routine in July of buying workers R&R Meats' combo lunch every Friday. It seemed like a good idea in Month 1. By Month 4 I was questioning my sanity. I spent more on those lunches than I did interior paint.

I learned that when hiring someone to install something, like a light or ceiling fan, and I'm paying by the hour, it's better if I unpack the merchandise from the box and assemble everything before they arrive, and add batteries, if needed, so I'm not paying someone by the hour to put something together before they install it.

I learned to check my pockets before washing my work clothes, because it just takes one random screw or nail to stop a washing machine drum dead in its tracks.

Check those pockets before washing work clothes.

I learned to ask anyone who set foot on the premises for their advice. I got a lot of good ideas that way, and I knew I was on the right track when there was a consensus.

I learned to have $5 and $10 bills on hand for delivery people. It's a nice thing to do, but it also ensured I'd be remembered favorably if they had to return to pick up something that was defective, which happened surprisingly frequently.

I learned to pay by the job whenever possible, not the hour. And if I did have to pay by the hour, I learned (the hard way, of course) to get an estimate first.

I learned to carry a tape measure in my purse at all times, and keep measurements of everything -- from room dimensions to window measurements -- noted on my phone for handy reference. It saved a lot of running back and forth between the project and various stores.

I learned to ask "dumb" questions like, "Where exactly is the gas line?" and "Where exactly is the water shut off?" and "Do I smell gas?" and "Why is it necessary to attach a chain to a rat trap?"

I learned to trust my gut, and if I felt weird about a worker, it was OK if I didn't hire him again; even if his work was good.

I learned to expect that with construction and remodeling, everything takes at least twice as long and costs about three times more than I expected.

I learned to troll the aisles for scratch-and-dent items and returns, because sometimes that's the location of some great bargains.

I learned that sometimes it's worth it to put up a fight for what's right, such as when returning damaged merchandise, or asking for compensation when employees at a particular store took three hours to find something I'd paid for and my handyman was hired - by the hour - to pick it up.

I learned to make design choices with my lifestyle in mind, such as choosing floors and counters with a pattern that doesn't show every grain of salt or bread crumb, because although I don't have a housekeeper, I like things to look as if I do.

One of the most upsetting lessons I learned was that when hiring an unlicensed laborer, even a guy I've worked with for years, write the checks for no more than $499, and in the check memo, write specific project titles - rat soffit removal, tree trimming, carpet removal, dump run, etc. -- as a form of CYA later.

Corey Bunton, falsely charged. Remember his name because Doni's goal is to convince some brilliant, compassionate lawmaker to write a bill named for Corey. Let's call it Corey's Law. This law would allow laborers - some of the hardest physical workers in the country - to work as long as they like doing non-licensed contractor work, and earn as much money, without penalty. Doni says it's unAmerican to do anything else.

Because without that, if some vindictive asshole files a false claim with the CSLB claiming my handyman was impersonating a contractor, not only might the state actually believe the lie and follow up with a sting and fine your handyman, but any appeal would fall flat because the checks would prove the very law that the handyman didn't actually break. The fraud unit doesn't care. The state doesn't care. It's a royally messed up system.

Finally, I learned when to step back and take a break, which is what I'm doing now. Most of the big stuff is done. I still need to have some minor plaster and drywall patching that will be done in a few days inside, such as the taped-up hole in the ceiling where I was going to have a whole house fan, and where the coving was cut for the bracket.

The bracket installation messed up the coving, which will be repaired soon.

And I just hired a handyman to fill all the holes in the attic (where wires go down the walls to drafty outlets) with expanding foam. Once all the attic and ceiling holes are addressed, I can finally have the insulation blown into the attic, which will be fantastic, because this old plaster house is FREEZING-ass cold! In fact, as I type I'm wearing my down winter coat. Seriously. The guy who patched the holes in the attic yesterday laughed and said I should move my desk up there because the attic was toasty warm. I didn't think he was very funny. I spend a fair amount of time thinking of pioneer folks, before central heat and insulated dwellings, and I wonder how they endured the cold.

Oh, in case you're wondering why my home lacks insulation, it's because my attic is completely bare. Early on in the remodeling process I hired some guys with the world's biggest vacuum to suck out the highly flammable redwood-shavings insulation as well as the live and dead rats, as well as a raccoon skeleton.

You know, normal attic contents.

So that's why I have a naked attic. The good news is it's a clean attic.

Meanwhile, every day is another adventure. Last week a handyman was trying to pull out a big stump by the back door and he found a water pipe and electrical wires under the stump. Of course, that ended that job, until I'm ready to face the bizarre under-stump utilities.

The next day I stepped on a nail while shoveling dirt back around the base of that same damn stump. The nail went through my tennis shoe and into my heel. Enough to leave a puddle of blood in my shoe.

Curse words were spoken. A beer may have been opened.

This was the culprit that caused Doni to get a tetanus shot. (Beer cap for perspective.)

I got a tetanus shot, because my Facebook friends said I should, especially the medical professionals. To quote Dr. Richard Malotky, "I've only treated one patient with tetanus. He died pretty fast."

Doctors Greg Greenberg and Pamela Ikuta said that actually, it's not so much the rusty nail ER docs worry about, but some really nasty stuff such as pseudomonas found inside shoes. Fascinating.

Later, my daughter-in-law reminded me that I had that Tdap booster after the grandkids were born, you know, so I could hold them.  At the time, I was focused on the fact that it protected me (and my grandbabies) from whooping cough, but it turns out that the "T" in Tdap is a booster for guess what? Tetanus. Who knew? Turns out I didn't need the tetanus shot after all.

But I'm still here to write about it, so I'll shut up.

The same day my pseudomonas-filled tennis shoe was impaled on the rusty nail by the special stump was the same day I'd planned to call and cancel the pest service I'd hired specifically for rat abatement. After all, I'd had the service since July without a single rat capture.

But when I went to the garage to return the shovel (to dig in the dirt where I later stepped on the nail) I found THE MOTHER OF ALL RATS in a trap in the garage. I kid you not; this rat was so large that at first I was horrified to think the trap caught a squirrel. No ma'am. No squirrel. Rat. Giant rat. And the worst part was that even though the trap had snapped right about where its waist would be (if a rat had a waist) it was still very much wide-eyed and alive. Thank God for chains on rat traps (see dumb question, above) or that rat would have bolted to some remote corner in the garage with the assistance of his still-functioning powerful rodent biceps. He'd have been concealed there in the dark until the smell gave him away.

You can bet I was praising Jesus for my pest service as I hit pest-control speed-dial and asked for a technician to please come quickly to deal with the rat and put it out of its suffering. When the pest guy arrived, I asked how in the world the rat could still be alive, snapped as it was across its middle.

"Yeah, we're seeing a lot of that," he said nonchalantly as he put on a pair of blue exam gloves. "I don't know what people are putting in the rat food these days but we've seen rats snapped across the neck in a trap and still alive."

I couldn't bear to watch how the pest guy dealt with the rat, except I know it involved a bucket and my hose, and that it took what seemed several minutes before it was all over.

I will never use the term "drowned rat" in a sentence again, and I will give up coffee with cream and sugar before I give up my pest service, which means never.

I am supremely rattled by the mammoth rat in the garage, because over these last carefree rat-free months my rat phobia had subsided. In fact, I had come to believe that maybe the rats were gone forever from my property. Now I'm worried they'll try to sneak into the house, even though I know (hope) that every possible entrance is blocked.

The truth is, I'll probably be fine for a while, at least as long as I don't have insulation. A rat would freeze to death in here.

Maybe I'll postpone the insulation, and just put on another coat.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

69 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    Great wrap-up – it had my laughing out loud repeatedly. Hat tip to Dr. Malotky too.

  2. Congratulations and glad things are settling down. No harm in boosters when the interval is long and immune systems weakened by age and stress. Also, punctures need to be seen. They are among the worst common injuries. Never take one for granted. My guess like the stories of childbirth, you will soon forget the horror and be looking for another remodel. We stay in the same home for 43 years while others change addresses like shoes. It’s a way of life for many. Keep us informed, happy for your new surroundings and most of all sense of humor. Merry Christmas!

    • Oh, Randy, thanks for the medical info, as always.

      And you can write this down somewhere if you’d like: This is my last remodel! I mean it! I was in my last house for seven years, and cannot imagine leaving this house for a very long time.

      Merry Christmas to you, too! xodoin’

  3. conservative says:

    When I looked at my 1962 house in Nevada, there were air fresheners on top of the refrigerator and in one bathroom. Should have raised my suspicions. The smell they were trying to cover up was mold. Ripping out a metal cabinet and mirror in one bathroom, I found black furry mold on the wall. Someone cut a hole in the sheetrock to ground the bathroom outlet (using a technique not allowed by the code) and fungal spores from the dirt in the crawlspace found their way to the humid bathroom.
    I scraped the mold wearing a N95 mask, vacuumed it and its gone. I patched the hole in the drywall using a technique I saw on Youtube and textured the way the man at Home Depot advised. It is ready to paint.

    My other story: the owner spent almost $4,000 to put in PV solar in one bedroom. He left the paperwork. $4,000 in summer 1999 is like $5000 today. It powered one fifteen amp outlet. He probably got $50 worth of electricity for his investment. Remember the Y2K hysteria?
    There were four one hundred pound batteries. The inverter weighed about fifty pounds because of all the copper. All the Y2K solar stuff was dead. The recycler paid me $65. I had to build a ramp to get the stuff in the truck. The recycler used a fork lift to move it around. I got a back ache. When I moved the battery box outside there were about 30 snails, which I threw in the street for the birds to eat after the cars crush the shells. The holes in the roof from the two solar panel mounts are patched. The three inch hole in the sheetrock is patched and textured, ready to paint. The hole was for heavy copper cables bringing power from the solar panels to the inverter and from the inverter back outside to the batteries.

    • Good tip. Air fresheners. They were in every room in my house, too. Turns out it was to cover the smell of rodent-filled ducts and pet stained carpets.

      Good job taking care of business. So where are you with house now? Is it done?

  4. Tom says:

    I’m glad that you are settling in but I sure miss having you across the street.

  5. Carol Cowee says:

    Think you’d best invest in a Rat Terrier!

  6. AJ says:

    Aaaaaw Doni,
    Reading this I remember all over again why used to buy the wretched flashlight…….. and why, once I discovered you were no longer on their writing team , I ceased the relationship .

  7. Eleanor says:

    Dear Doni, we learn things we would have thought obvious if we didn’t know what people will do!

    I learned not to allow a licensed contractor’s worker to smoke in my backyard in the middle of July.

    I learned not to accept the same ‘licensed contractor” shouting us down as he stood beside the sink he had installed waaaaaay out of kilter in my new countertop.

    I learned not to accept an additional (20%) charge to take out a floor that did not need to be taken out.

    I learned that lying comes awful easy to some people.

    I learned the some licensed contractors become very defensive when asked to do the right thing.

    I learned that it’s hard to complain to a licensed or unlicensed worker who you are probably going to have to leave in your home when you have to go out at some point.

    I learned that there are some really great contractors, too.

    I learned from you, Doni, to keep the faith and the strength.

    I predict that you will be very, very happy in your beautiful new home.

    • Oh, Eleanor, thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to you. I can feel your pain and relate to nearly every one of your hard-learned lessons.

      You are correct that there are some really great contractors, but there are also some dishonest jerks, too. Sometimes the bad apples don’t show themselves until they’ve already done damage. (That’s why I am a big believer in hiring based upon multiple recommendations.)

      But you know what? I think you are correct, and that I will be very, very happy in this little house. I love it already. I can see me here for a long time.

      I hope things work out with your project, too.

  8. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    “Once all the attic and ceiling holes are addressed, I can finally have the insulation blown into the attic, which will be fantastic, because this old plaster house is FREEZING-ass cold!”

    I might be imagining this, but I sense that some of us bad boys who write for you have encouraged you to get a little saltier in your own writing. (I’ve probably just insulted Hollyn and Val, both of whom sometimes add a healthy pinch of salt to the stew.)

    This wrap-up column seals it—I want nothing to do with renovating the house we own in town. Time to do a little cosmetic work and plant a “For Sale” sign in front of that sucker.

    And oh yeah……I still feel bad about advising you that you didn’t need to worry about tetanus. That was after looking up how extremely rare it is in the U.S.—the scientist/statistician in me working out the cost/benefit ratio. Unlike Dr. Malotky, I’ve never watched someone croak from “lockjaw.”

    • Dear Steve,

      Please do not blame yourself for my embrace of cuss words. Although I know it might appear that your and R.V.’s salty language has rubbed off on me, I have a confession: I am a lifelong cusser. Those who know me best know that especially when I’m stressed, I can curse like a sailor. I just know when to hold ’em, and when to let them fly. It’s a matter of time, place and the company, don’t ya know.

      One of the things I love about owning and publishing my own website is that I can use whatever language I want.

      Even so, every time I write and post something with a word that I know some readers might find objectionable, in the back of my mind I recall many conversations on this topic between myself and Greg Clark, my former boss and former managing editor of the RS (someone I’d wished had become the paper’s editor).

      I had a short list of favorite cussing words and phrases that sometimes seemed the absolutely right words for that particular column: hell, damn, chicken shit, bull shit and variations of crap (holy crap, full of crap, etc.) as well as freezing-ass and big-ass.

      I remember one column about a huge emu that escaped from Haven Humane Society and sprinted down Highway 273. I called it a big-ass bird. That was one of those times when Greg asked if I really, REALLY thought that word was SO important that it was worth the potential fallout, and risk having some extra-sensitive readers skip the overall column message and fixate on one little cuss word. Greg usually won and I usually removed the word, but I have to say that every time I DID use even the most minor cuss word, I heard from some pissed off people. (Pissed off. Another fav.)

      “That column would have been so much better without the use of obscenity! Shame on you! I thought you were better than that!”

      Apparently not.

      So here I am now, in Greg’s position when R.V.’s column, for example, lands in my inbox and I find myself looking at a few f-bombs and having the same questions I faced with Greg. Are the cuss words necessary? Do they alienate readers? Can readers handle them? My answer: Sometimes, sometimes and usually.

      I try not to micro manage, to use AP lite editing, and trust that good writers will choose their words carefully, and intentionally.

      I say that, but with R.V.’s last column I briefly considered adding an editor’s note along the lines of: “The following column contains language some readers might find objectionable ….”

      And then what? Who am I kidding? Children aren’t reading R.V.’s columns. And reasonable, intelligent adults can handle a few cuss words, especially since I’m always encouraging writers to write as they talk. Besides, we have a different audience than the R.S.

      Even so, as I edited his last column, I even considered taking out one of R.V.’s f-words, but when I did, each particular sentence really lacked the original punch without its f-words. So I left them in, and felt good about it.

      Oh, and no worries about your tetanus advice. The majority of advice swayed me to get the shot.

      And your house … yeah. If you’re going planning to sell it, I’d just do enough cosmetic curb appeal to make it enticing, and leave the major remodeling for the new owners, who might not have liked your remodeling choices anyway.

      Never fear, there are plenty of starry-eyed people like me, potential buyers who look at a house like yours and think it’s nothing but potential.

      One’s born every day.

      Good luck!

      • Scott says:

        and then some commentators get deleted for not cussing but typing the truth….

        • Well, I confess that’s it’s subjective. One person’s “truth” might be considered a personal attack or hate speech by someone else.

          Or the deleted comment might be in violation of our comments policy:

          Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          “The truth” that gets deleted are often cutting personal attacks sans any point made other than the barb, or undifferentiated, foaming-at-the-mouth hatred aimed at some perceived out-group. There are internet platforms that encourage that sort of thing. This isn’t one of them.

          As a contributor, I get to look at the admin site version of, which I occasionally do, and I am rarely baffled by the reasoning behind comments being tossed overboard or permanently held in limbo. That includes more than a few of my own. More frequently, a comment gets held up while “waiting for moderation” for reasons that I won’t pretend to understand, but those seem to mostly get approved after review by the site’s proctors.

          • K. Beck says:

            I have had my comments put on hold because the post contains a URL. I guess someone checks out the URL and then, so far, sends it on to ANC.

            I was wondering about that too when it first happened to me. Hope this helps explain one of the hang ups on ANC.

        • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

          Hello Scott, I did delete your comment. Personal attacks are unwelcome here.

          Another thing that is unwelcome here: trying to evade the ban hammer by using alternate names and ip addresses.

          • Tim says:


            I suspect your comment will disappear, but I think you were doing a fine job critiquing until you got to that part about loosening apron strings — “was that so important as to risk the potential fallout?”

            For what it is worth, I agree that the comment moderation can be a bit left-biased when it comes to edgy material. For instance, “Trump is an effing ahole” is far more likely to remain than if the subject of the clause was the former president. But it’s their sandbox – I just play here…

          • Scott says:

            Your right Tim, I should have used that line for my 2nd sentence and stopped on a positive note, my bad.

      • Beverly Stafford says:

        Sometimes the supply of cuss words is insufficient to meet my demands.

        On another topic: one comment a few columns ago was a suggestion of how your could install a whole house fan. Is that still a viable option?

        • LOL. I hear you. Sometimes there are simply not enough cuss words for some situations.

          Re the whole house fan … Ugh. I’m at the point now where buying a whole house, and paying someone to do the attic work in preparation of the fan, and finally, to install it, is just not in the budget. I returned the whole house fan a couple of months ago after one contractor did the gloom-and-doom scenario. Turns out he wasn’t entirely correct, but the fan is returned, and right now the most economical thing for me to do is to have the opening patched.

          I could always have it done later, if funds allow.

          • K. Beck says:

            A friend in the Bay Area has a whole house fan. When it was put in, sometime in the 90’s, maybe, I don’t remember exactly, no one needed AC in the Bay Area. Anyway, one cannot stay in the house when the fan is running because of the noise it makes. My friend turns it on then leaves the house for a couple of hours. Personally, I hate that thing! All this is to say, if you plan to put in a whole house fan, check out the decibel levels before you pay for one.

    • K. Beck says:


      Anti-vaxers, close your eyes. Anyone who does handy work around their house or does outside gardening should get a Tdap vaccination at least once every 10 years. They are available at Shasta Co. Health. If you injure (break open your skin) yourself in a dirty location you should go to your Doc or a walk in clinic and get another Tdap. You really don’t want to risk “lockjaw.”

      • Terry says:

        I seriously hate having to get a tetanus shot, because my arm is sore and hates to move for three days. But, I, too, go get them. My doctor told me he’d seen one patient in a hospital with lockjaw. His description of the symptoms was enough to guarantee I would get a tetanus shot whenever I needed one. And Doni, that was the first thought that went through my mind when I read about you stepping on that nail. Thank you for getting that shot! I hope the hole in your foot has healed well, too.
        And Thank You so much for sharing your stories with us. Your hard-earned wisdom and cautionary tales are so valuable, and your wit makes me laugh every time. Have a glorious 2018 in your new home, and good luck with whatever is under that stump!

  9. conservative says:

    When you turn 65, you get a “welcome to Medicare” visit within 12 months. Has its own CPT code. It covers all the preventive medicine, vaccinations, ultrasound of aorta if you ever smoked. I had a tetanus booster and Prevnar. Pneumovax has been around for decades to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia. Prevnar is a fairly new vaccine which covers some strains of pneumococcus not contained in pneumovax. Pneumococcal pneumonia kills tens of thousands of Americans every years.

    I put a gram or two of Borax in my shoes and boots every few weeks. It is a powerful bacteriostatic and fungistatic. My toenail fungus is much better now that I am not putting my toes back into shoes colonized with the fungi I picked up taking showers after spinning at the Y.

    In world war 1, horse manure was everywhere. It contains Clostridium tetani and Clostridium perfringens spores (gas gangrene). Before world war 2, more soldiers died of preventable or treatable infections than died of direct effect of wounds.

  10. Patricia Bay says:

    This article made me smile. Wonderful, humerous wrap-up about more than your awesome house. It shows your indelible spirit.

  11. Brandon says:

    Doni wrote: If I’d known in July the amount of time, money and stress it would take to make this house habitable, I’m not sure I would have taken on this project
    Puh-lease! You were made for this kind of work. Making something awesome out of something not so awesome is your jam, Doni! And we love y0u for it! Brandon.

  12. Ginny says:

    You will have to write more in one year from now, that hopefully I will be alive to read, of what living in your new/old house is now being enjoyed, and keep the rat detective!

    Bet the rats have a good feeding ground in your general area. Know we had one when we lived at a lake in WA. People threw their garbage out the back yard rather than pay for garbage. (Inside the boundaries of an Indian Reservation that County couldn’t do anything, as it was Indian Reservation.) But enough of us got together to get the problem handled. Since no Indian Reservation in your area, maybe City/County would do something, if you are very lucky!

    Keep showing how all the house looks in the before and after photos. What you showed today, your home will be a real showcase, even if you spend some nights in the booby hatch to get past all the bad days and weeks and month this summer and fall. (smiling)

    Just have a wonderful Christmas, dear……… Blessings today and forever……..

    • Oh, dear Ginny, I hope we’re all still hear a year from now!

      I will keep posting about the house. I’m not done. And I’ll take more after shots to share. (I always end up writing at night when it’s too dark for good photos.)

      Merry Christmas to you, sweet Ginny, and blessings to you, too.

  13. Sue K says:

    You are one awesome interior decorator. Love seeing the transformation.
    Your tenacity and resilience are commendable.
    What adventure will we be able to read about next Thursday? :o)

    • Thank you, Sue. I should have given attribution for the back bathroom decor to Shelly Shively, my designer sister.

      Next week, well, I do have this new issue of evidence of something quite large burrowing beneath the garage, the one that had the boarded up rats’ nest. Stay tuned.

  14. Michelle says:

    Keep the pest service or, as suggested, get some terriers. Once one of our Jack Russell’s was going crazy in the kitchen, I opened the cupboard door, the dog flew in and the bottles started flying, and a moment later the terrier popped out with a mouse clamped in its jaws! You are living in uninhabited rat territory and there are many Redding rats just looking for… a new home? Garage?

    • conservative says:

      Rats, mice and ground squirrels harbor the ticks which carry Lyme disease and Tularemia (named for Tulare County, CA). The deer tick gets is misnamed. It should have been called the white footed mouse tick. Rodents sometimes carry sixty or more ticks, especially early forms. Cats are good at grooming ticks off their fur. Rodents aren’t.

      Backyard chickens are a good way to get rodents who share the chicken feed.The CDC has reported outbreaks of salmonella from backyard chickens. Horrible diarrhea and vomiting. Seldom fatal unless the host has HIV, is on chemotherapy or has sickle cell trait or sickle cell anemia.

    • Oh gosh, Michelle. I love your story about your terrier. It was both horrifying and satisfying. (I know. My comment is in the wrong place. That happens sometimes. Sorry.)

      You can bet I’m keeping the pest service. And really, today is the first time I’ve really thought about getting a dog. If I did, I lean toward a dachshund, and I’d want to start with a puppy.

      I may change my mind in five minutes, but right now that seems like a good option.

      My stomach flips at the thought of rats looking for a new home: mine!

      • Michelle says:

        It was actually more horrifying because I have 3 Jack Russell’s and the other two wanted a bite of the mouse too. I’ ll leave that to your visualization. Alas, I also have chickens and sheep and yes, plenty of vermin near the barn. The girls occasionally strike gold and catch one and savor every bite. But they are house dogs and generally keep the house rodent and crumb free.

  15. Richard Christoph says:

    Doni, thanks for the entertainment, information, Schadenfreude, and for this most enjoyable wrap of your arduous journey in making this old house your beautiful forever home.

    With apologies to Jack Black and Kyle Gass, YOU are the quintessential “Tenacious D.”

    • Why, thank you, Richard!

    • Richard Christoph says:

      Our two 15 year old brother and sister dachshunds (Emily and Reggie) are curled up at my feet as I type, and though they can no longer join us backpacking in the Trinities or on long beach walks, they have provided more pleasure than we would ever have thought possible. Loyal, affectionate, curious, and wonderful watchdogs—-highly recommended and if possible, get two.

      • My sisters and I grew up with a doxie named Ginger (middle name Snap, for obvious reasons). I loved that dog. Super smart, super stubborn, but really funny, too. And they’re good rat hunters, too. (Although after hearing about all the ticks on rats, I wouldn’t want my dog to catch a rat.)

        I’m mulling it over. (You say get two so the dogs keep each other company?)

        • Richard Christoph says:

          Yes. We just came indoors after enjoying today’s warm sunshine, and as I prepare for a long mountain bike ride, I know that they will cuddle up together and enjoy each other’s company while Terri and I are both away for awhile.

          You are so right about smart, stubborn, funny, and I would add clever and manipulative. We will miss them so much…

  16. Gary Solberg says:

    Enjoyed one more “Doni’s house installment.” Somehow I expect there will be yet more installments.
    As for stepping on a nail, I have heard that it is a good idea to get a tetanus shot or booster every 10 years. And if then you step on a nail, get a booster if it has been more than 5 years since your last shot. What did your tetanus shot shooter tell you? Just curious.

  17. Grammy says:

    Best column and comments ever!!! I had such fun reading them all. Yes sometimes a cuss word does the job better than anything else.
    Your columns also under line the second and third thoughts we have had about moving less acreage. Easier to just keep what we have to modern standards. And then we also think, “We would have to pack and move ALL of this stuff.” You make us have no regrets about staying right here over the years.
    The photos show a home that you should be proud of creating.
    As far as the flooring choices, now I understand why people make fun of my white and blue tile floor. I love it but everyone comments on it, “White!?”
    So is your yard your next big issue to deal with?

    • Yes, I agree that sometimes a cuss word is the right word.

      And I feel bad for making moving and remodeling look so distasteful that it’s causing people like Steve to not remodel, and people like you to not move. (But you know, eventually someone will have to move your stuff out … so better start culling now.)

      Blue and white floors sound lovely, but If you love them, that’s all that matters.

      • Grammy says:

        Have been dulling all along. The Igo?Ono yard sale sure helps mover the stuff out of here. After I pack it up. Display it for sale, then pack it up again I am divorced from it and off it goes to the thrift store.
        told daughter to just call up NorCal auction and move the stuff out of here when it is time for us to leave the top of the earth. Newer generations wants Ikea not turn of the century stuff (1900 turn that is.)

  18. Frank Treadway says:

    Hey Ms. D, I think that’s a Saber Toothed Tiger skull, one of the last in West Redding, not some sweet, friendly raccoon or possum. You might also get checked for Hanta Disease, rat/mice born bacteria.

  19. K. Beck says:

    IRT Corey Bunton: “goal is to convince some brilliant, compassionate lawmaker to write a bill named for Corey. Let’s call it Corey’s Law. This law would allow laborers … to work as long as they like doing non-licensed contractor work, and earn as much money, without penalty…”

    Have you written to Dahle & Gaines? Contrary to what someone else said, contacting your elected officials by USPS or e-m IS the most effective thing you can do. If you have sent them a letter could you post it here so we can all follow up with our own letters? Once we wrote ours we can send copies to all our friends and ask them to do the same, sending the letters to their reps. Sending letters to district reps in an area you don’t live in is useless.

    You will be up against the whole contractor’s industry, it won’t be an easy sell…tons of money on the opposite side.

    Let us know.

  20. Bob Ferrari says:

    I’ll chime in on the “Corey’s Law” idea.
    For every great handyman there are a thousand who are liars and cheats or simply incompetent. Having a contractor’s license doesn’t make a person honest and competent. However, using a licensed contractor gives the consumer protection against shoddy work. Most of the contractor license law is for consumer protection and only exposes a licensed contractor to discipline, whether deserved or not. I’ll agree that there are big flaws in the whole CSLB structure. It’s broken into fragments on, what seems to be, a union model. The only way to change it is for the State legislators to change it. And, it doesn’t really matter to them vs. the political return for their effort.
    What’s the big deal about Corey getting his license? It’s not that hard. I was kicked out of high school yet I have two. Most licensed contractors are just small businesses trying to make a living. I don’t know who the “whole contractor’s industry” is. It’s not like the CSLB is pro contractor. It’s a government division with some really out dated regulations some of which really are hard on us. It does do some good service when disciplining some really bad rip offs, even helping people get their money back.
    In my line of work there are unlicensed guys doing repairs which they have no business doing. I don’t really care what they do, everyone needs to make a living, and people can hire whoever they want. But if they bid directly against me it’s not fair, since I’ve paid my dues and meet the legal obligations, and I need to protect my own income. I pay the fees and insurance, and workman’s comp which protects you, the consumer if something goes awry – an accident, a missed important thing… we have continuous education and training, and that’s a cost over head and expertise the unlicensed guy doesn’t have. But he is free to go get a license. There’s no hindrance . That’s fair.
    The one “lesson” I thought you might mention, was how beneficial it might have been to have a competent general contractor running the job. No 9p.m. trips to home depot. Costs known up front. Hidden remodel surprises not your problem… It might have cost you double what you thought but not triple and been way more efficient.

    • Tim says:

      If you’re a newshound like me, you may have read a few articles in recent weeks alluding to the Dunning-Kruger effect to illustrate how the least competent among us *think* they are doing a fantastic job.

      A lesser know corollary is that highly competent people don’t actually think they are that special. Getting a contractor’s license wasn’t that hard for you, because you’re probably very competent at the skills and prerequisites.

      Many people aren’t. They may not take tests well, or read well, or have good paperwork/organizational skills, etc. Or they may have a criminal incident in past that they fear may cause them to fail the background check (I know an unemployed 50 year-old who refuses to apply for any job requiring a background check because he fears the humiliation of being denied based on a sealed burglary charge from when he was 16 and stole a 6 pack of beer from a neighbor).

      I don’t care if the guy arranging my patio pavers has dyslexia as long as he can follow the pattern, but dyslexia is probably a huge hurdle to getting his license. And because I have more than $500 worth of pavers, the law says I need to use a licensed contractor even if the labor portion of the job is just a few hours.

      Today 1 in 3 jobs requires an occupational license, up from 1 in 20 in 1950. Surely we’ve gone too far?

      A country physician from New Hampshire recently lost her license because she didn’t know how to use a computer and, at age 84, didn’t care to learn (a recent law requires her to submit prescription records electronically). Until that point, she had had zero patient complaints over her 55 years in practice.

      Protecting consumers from a few rotten apples sounds like a great idea, but not when it throws out bushels of the good. A simple solution to consumer protection is to just read Yelp, Angie’s list, Google, or Facebook reviews. Or, if you’re a statist, have a state registry where veried customers can leave reviews.

      • K. Beck says:

        I bought a 1976 house previously owned by a person, or persons, who should have never been allowed to own a screw driver! Kludge City here! Now I am left to redo all sorts of things I would really rather not have to deal with.

        I have not heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect, I will do a google search.

        • Tim says:

          It’s fascinating, but if you’re like me it may lead down a Wikipedia rabbit hole where an hour later you find yourself learning how the presence of humans causes sexual arousal in Ostriches…

  21. Chris Nagy says:

    Just curious… love the photo of your kitchen, but what did you choose for your stove? After your last travails with a very high-end stove, did you find a different brand?

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