Monday, December 30, 2013

Out, damn air pocket! Out!

Since we arrived late on the 27th, the toilet on the lower level has not been flushing properly.  This particular toilet has always required the user to hold the handle down for a few extra seconds to evacuate the effluence.  However, the past few days, the toilet bowl would fill up with water as usual, but never drain.  Ugh!  Needless to say, I plunged the heck out of it, with little luck. 

This year, I made a vow, when possible, to fix household items myself, instead of calling in the professionals. Yes, it's sad, but true, I've never had much faith in my ability to fix things.   So, to honor my vow, I did a little research online to see if I could determine what the problem could be.
Side bar:  Boy!  There is nothing more entertaining than reading through forums where a simple question by someone else about their stopped toilet, elicited comments about poverty in America, political slams, and readers feeling the need to explain how they could afford their humble second homes.  Alas, I gathered lots of information from various websites, YouTube, and forums, and began to conclude it was either blocked somewhere along the drain line, which was hard to believe, since we hadn't used it since arriving, or there was some sort of obstruction in the vent stack preventing this particular toilet from getting enough air to flush fully.  Our A-frame's vent stack is on top of the shed roof above the loft, meaning, there was no possible way to get up there to inspect it for a possible blockage.  Sigh...

So, yesterday, I dropped by the Boone Lowe's store, and picked up a hand-crank auger, and some liquid solution that claimed to be non-toxic and easy on the environment; which if I could manage to get down the drain --- might clear up the problem.  I was hoping I didn't have to resort to the liquid product, placing my bet that the auger would solve the problem...I lost the bet!  So, last night before bed, I reluctantly tried the liquid solution. This morning, I was once more disappointed to learn the toilet was still unable to flush.

I will say, in desperation, I phoned our plumber.  While waiting for a return call, I decided to revisit Lowe's and speak to one of their knowledgeable sales people.  I found Anthony on his way to deliver something, asked if he could help me, he agreed and promised to find me once he did so...He did.  He was fairly certain the problem was a blockage further down the drain line, and pointed us toward some seriously toxic looking product, he said was sure to do the trick.  Since he mentioned he thought the blockage was an air pocket (based on the symptoms I described), I asked how the product would eliminate an air pocket.  He provided an answer, but that is when the light bulb went off in my head, and his words missed my ears.  I asked him what he thought about my closing off the supply line, as if we were about to winterize the house, opening all the taps, draining all the water out of the house, then reopening the supply line.  Is it possible this would push out an air pocket??  He was very encouraging of the idea, and added we might want to fill each sink and tub with a little water, and as we opened the drain line, proceed to flush the toilets, and release the water in the sinks and tubs simultaneously.

I couldn't wait to try this, and VERY pleased to say this solution worked!  It's true what they say, two heads are better than one, and Anthony's was just the head this little problem needed. Shout out to Anthony at the Boone Lowe's! The upside is I didn't have to pay a plumber, I am now the proud owner of a $10 hand-crank auger, and some non-toxic liquid designed to unstop drains that cost me $14 ( I could have done without the liquid).  And the best part is, with a little tenacity, and a promise to myself, I am enjoying a strong sense of satisfaction this evening. (Insert beaming face here.)

Ah, yes!  And one residual benefit of all of this is that by forcing myself to problem solve, I honestly believe the exercise has generated some creative sparks and nifty ideas that may address some other issues in my life with which I've been wrestling.  A doubly cool outcome, if you ask me...

All better now.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

How we winterize the chalet.

People often ask us what WE do to winterize the chalet, because I think they expect it to be a time-consuming task, so I thought perhaps it would be useful to explain the simple steps right here. 
I had never done anything like this until we bought this house, but I believe the contractor who renovated the home prior to our purchasing it included one important feature that makes winterizing easy peasee.  This is certainly something that made us less squeamish about buying a second home 3 hours away, because it was designed for long winters when occupancy would be intermittent. 

This is more than a cute little trap door, located in the lower level bedroom.  Inside is access to the water supply line, and drain line. 

Oulah!  The drain line is to the left and supply to the right.  

Whenever temperatures will be close to or below freezing for any stretch of time, we winterize the chalet using these steps.  Note:  These steps are based on the system that was integrated into our home prior to purchase, and included here for information purposes only.

Step 1:  Turn off the breaker to the hot water heater, since there is no need to heat it while we are not here.  We keep a small electric wall heater inside the closet where the hot water heater resides, in order to keep the tank from freezing. (Follow the link to see which wall heater we use.)  We like it because it has a built-in thermostat to regulate the heat.
This step is likely overkill since the closet is in the center of the home -- but we feel better erring on the side of being overly cautious.
Step 2: We turn the knob to the supply line to the horizontal position (Typically when the knob is in this position, the line is closed off).
Step 3: Open all the faucets, and flush the toilets a few times to evacuate as much water from the tank and bowl as possible.  (Often I will use a plunger to force water back into the lines at sinks and drains.)
Step 4: Back at that adorable trap door, open the drain line (turning the handle to the vertical position) in order to evacuate water from the entire house.  (There is a lovely swooshing sound as all the water drains out of the house.)  Note: We leave the drain line open so that air can move freely inside the lines, giving any water that remains there room to expand when the outside temperature drops below freezing.  (I believe a cheerful & helpful plumber recommended this.)
Step 5:  Before departing, we always leave cabinet doors under sinks open to keep cold air from being trapped around exposed plumbing.


Another handy feature:  In the crawl space, you can see that the supply line is well insulated and also wrapped with a thermostat controlled heat cable to reduce the risk of water freezing in the supply line.  I wish we could take credit for this, but once again this was the brain child of the home's contractor. In the case of a power outage, this little feature's effectiveness is reduced, but so far, it has worked beautifully. 
It usually only takes about 10 minutes to complete all the above steps, but as we are pretty anal, and double check ourselves frequently, the process take a few minutes more than it should.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Table Rock Mountain Hike - September '13

Keith and I were in Blowing Rock one weekend in September, and decided to check out Table Rock Mountain, which is located on the other side of Linville, just south of Crossnore. (Roughly an hour and 20 minutes from the chalet). On that particular day the weather was one of those amazing fall mountain days that fully engages your senses, and beckons you to bask in the glory of nature's splendor.  Needless to say, we basked unaware that my father would pass away just 19 days later following a difficult year with lung cancer.

The funeral services were in Las Vegas, and we all arrived in staggered fashion in the days leading up to the services.  It was good to have that time with my brothers & sister before and after the services, because our father did not make it easy for people to care for him, let alone show him our love and affection.  My siblings and I all had complex relationships with our father, but I'm pleased to say we share a closeness that I truly believe will weather time.  If this post comes across as lachrymose, that was not the original intent, he just came into my mind as I was writing, and upon reflection realized how soon after these photos were taken, he would no longer be here. 

On a sunnier note, here are a few snaps from our hike up Table Rock Mountain:

The view of Table Rock from the parking lot.

The view along the way.

View from the summit.

I'm so rarely in front of the camera, so I thought it was about time...

So sad to see this vestige of a once beautiful tree having succumbed to the woolly adelgid, a non-native insect from China that is slowly killing these beautiful evergreens.  From this vantage point you can really see how pervasive the problem is.  

That same day we met up with friends Kim & Steve and another couple at the Todd General Store for dinner, and Bluegrass.  I snapped this barn along the way.

Inside the Todd General Store.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Future Chalet Artwork??

I came across these art pieces by Emma Barratt on the Society 6 website.  I've included both images below, but think one or both would be perfect for Riverwood.  They are both whimsical, and appropriate for a 70's era chalet, don't you agree?  Perhaps Santa will see this post?

This reminds me of the backdrop from a Bullwinkle episode. I can envision Boris & Natasha in that helicopter, on the hunt for their nemeses, Rocky & Bullwinkle. 

This is just too darn fun! 


Thursday, December 12, 2013

A-frame fascination...

It must be the cold weather that has me thinking about sunny beachside A-frames this morning, as I once again allow the high 20 degree temperatures to delay a run outdoors.  Tomorrow, darn it, tomorrow!  I promise..Now, check out this little beauty on Holden Beach right here in NC.  It is cute as a button, don't you agree??  Would love to see the inside...
And for a little nostalgia...Check out the images for the A-frame play house & Fisher-Price A-frame toy set I found on Hatch, the blog for  

An a-frame at Holden Beach.  I suppose this is what the beach version of the Riverwood Chalet might look like nestled among sand dunes instead of perched along a roaring river flanked by river birches, at an elevation of 3,600 feet.   

OMG!  The playhouse version!  I'm sure I've seen one of these as a young'un growing up in New England.  Precious!

I recall being quite envious of my childhood neighbor's at the time (Lisa & David), who seemed to have every possible FP toy available in the early 70's.  They MUST have had the A-frame in their collection.  Gotta have one!

Monday, December 9, 2013

History of the A-frame

I was doing a little research on the history of the A-frame because I was curious when the oddly shaped structure came into vogue and why.  The triangular shape of the house has certainly been in use for years -- immediately coming to mind for me are of course the pyramids, and tents used on the battlefield during the Civil War.  Apparently what led to the sudden popularity for this shape structure, came after World War II (through the early 70's) as a result of an increase in disposable incomes which could be spent on second homes.  It was also popular at the time to gravitate toward modern design for a second home, and due to the affordability and adaptability of this particular shape, it easily found a following. 

In 1955, an architect by the name of Andrew Geller built an A-frame in Sagaponack, NY which went on to receive international attention, and subsequently where the love for the A-frame gained even greater traction.

Here's a few pictures of Reese House:



Several of the Roaring River Chalets were built during the early 1970's; ours being circa 1973, toward the end of the A-frame craze, if you will.  We know it was factory built, trucked in and placed on the foundation which comprises the lower level and crawl space.  We presume it was built not far from Blowing Rock, and despite some preliminary research still haven't identified where. 

A little winter nostalgia

Since I can only imagine what the chalet looks like with the recent snowfall up there, I thumbed through old photos and found this one, to remind me. 
I'm certainly thankful we had the dead river birch just across the river that was leaning ever so precariously toward the house taken down, a few weeks back.  I can rest easier knowing we won't find that tree in the bedroom when we arrive. 
Looking forward to getting back up there very soon... 
Riverwood Chalet - January, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Small House is Beautiful

I discovered this video trailer for a documentary in the works called Small House is Beautiful, which explores the tiny house movement.  The folks behind the film appear to be actively raising funds to complete the project.  As the owner of a small house, that I plan to someday make my full time residence, I am captivated by the movement and look forward to seeing what becomes of this film. Perhaps some progressive city planners and elected officials would see value in encouraging the development of more small and affordable housing, especially given the demand that is clearly out there.  You only have to see what's happened in Ocean Springs, MS in the wake of Katrina to see the possibilities.   

Okay, now for some eye candy...I had to include this photo of a small house I found on the Tiny House Blog that I MUST see in person someday. It's precious!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A little small house envy is okay...Right?

Okay, so I've been oohing and aahing over several small houses tonight, and this one posted on Small House Bliss just takes my breath away...I really like the setting and the juxtaposition of the rooflines.  Like! Like! Like!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Tiny House Talk blog post

Thanks to Alex @tinyhousetalk for the post about the chalet.  See it here:


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Solar-Power Envy

We're in Blowing Rock this weekend at our little A-Frame on the Middle Fork of the New River, and being a lazy Sunday morning I visited a favorite site: Tiny House Talk.  I saw this image of an A-Frame with a tiny PV panel that caught my attention:

I've been trying to figure out how we might make our A-Frame more energy-efficient, and would love to add a PV system, but given the house faces southwest and the pitch of the roof -- I've almost given up on the idea until I saw this application.  Now,  I will have to confer with my brother who runs a PV installation company in Check, VA, to pick his brain about the capacity of a panel system like the one above.  Since we have propane gas logs in the living room, which pretty much heats the entire main level without the need to use the AIR-CON unit, I only need enough power for everything else.  The only caveat I would add is that I'm finding the best heat source for the lower level is a space heater and one small wall heater.  Although there is an AIR-CON unit designated for each floor, I found last winter that enjoyment of the lower & main levels were impacted by the rumbling intermittent noise of operation.  [Useful for providing heat, just noisier than is ideal.]  Plus, I think they used just as much if not more power as the space heater.  So, that said, it would be great if a PV panel could provide enough energy to run a space heater on the lower level, some lights, refrigerator, hot water heater, and stove.   

So, I'll need to consult the expert in the family on what exactly a panel like this (above) could honestly be providing that particular house.  I'm not entirely sure where we could install it on the front of our A-Frame without impeding some of the light, but I'm definitely open to exploring this further and making the sacrifice in the name of energy-efficiency...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Middle Fork Greenway coming soon?

Last weekend we met with Anne & Bill from the Middle Fork Greenway Task Force.  This is the group actively working to connect Boone and Blowing Rock by a greenway/trail, that will allow people to enjoy nature and the outdoors along the Middle Fork River.  As outdoor enthusiasts, lovers of nature, and owners of a home that sits on the Middle Fork River, we are very interested in how this project proceeds.  Follow this link to learn more, and see the proposed plan to link the two communities. 

Here's an article that appeared in the Blowing Rocket newspaper in August, 2013 about the unveiling of the the master plan for the Greenway.

This image indicates how the trail might look in the area between the Tanger Outlets and Roaring River Road, as it winds behind the water treatment building on 321.

Random image, but how I assume it may look one day.

The proposed plan as it stands today, and options on where those involved think the trail might be positioned, should they receive the support of property owners along the way. 


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Week of 4th of July, 2013. Vacation, at last.

July 1st.  I drove over this portion of the New River on my way to drop mom off in Independence, VA on Saturday.  It looked like such fun, and Keith loves to canoe, so we trekked over (less than an hour) to this access, just past the New River State Park.  Note:  The chalet sits on a portion of the New River called the Middle Fork of the South Fork of the New River. 
The view downstream.  The river showed signs of the recent heavy rains, but was incredibly peaceful.  We did the 3.5 mile trip. 

The view upstream.

A slow day...Bad for them, but great for us!

June 29.  The beds are bursting!  The rose campion is an explosion of fuscia, and the day lilies are soon to make their debut. 

June 29.  Still trying to pull the guest bedroom together....Found this mirror at Curiosity last weekend, and finally brought the white metal headboard up this trip. 
July 2. Valle Crucis.  Took Marguerite and Barbara to see the Mast General Store on our way to antique shop in Elk Park.

Keith and Marguerite.  Barrels of candy.  A dangerous combination.
July 2,  On our way back from Elk Park we stopped off at this overlook on 221. 
The freshly painted phone booth and the newly installed purple butterfly bush.  We finished this the weekend before last, as it was on our list to do during the community work week, but got rained out. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

First Official Community Work Weekend

This weekend was the first official community work weekend at the Roaring River Chalets.  Unfortunately Mother Nature was less than cooperative, delivering a good bit of rain to much of the state.  We did however, manage to make a dent in one project, and that was cleaning out the former water fall.  We removed much of the old pool liner while standing shin high in murky, foul-smelling water, and intermittent rain.  Needless to say this was a tricky endeavor given the slope of the hill and the saturated soil that kept threatening to give way while we toiled.  We managed to leave it better than we found it with the help of a few Boone Farmer's Market plants (columbine, corral bells, jacobs ladder, and some lily pad looking perrenial), and barberry and hostas we were able to transplant from other parts of the property.  
We also turned some attention to our own little homesteads.  On one of our runs to Lowe's we found elephant ears on sale for 75% off, of which we proceeded to fill our basket for spots back in Durham, as well as the area between our two houses that we now call "the courtyard".  Suffice it to say it was a rewarding weekend.  For one, perrenials we had planted last spring were now coming up in the beds in front of ours and Barbara's chalets; two, we managed to accomplish a productive spring clean; and three, there is nothing more renewing for the spirit and mind than falling asleep to the sound of the river just outside your window. 
Keith & Barbara while doing some last minute tidying up on Sunday, before heading downtown for some shopping, then back to Durham. 

The former waterfall, no longer an eyesore upon arrival. 

The view from 321.  I've snapped a lot of photos around the property, but never from this vantage point.

The view from 321 of the common area looking upstream.  Riverwood is in the center of the photo.

The common area from 321.

The old phone booth that sits across from our chalet reminds me of a guard house I recall seeing at Buckingham Palace in London.  This little house, by contrast, has seen better days.  I love the way the moss has grown on the roof.  Keith is planning to give it a new coat of paint in the weeks ahead, and there is talk of adding some mail cubbies inside for use by the homeowners. 

The old phone book cover and where the phone must have once been mounted.

The entry gate, now electrified, and the village sign.

The newly christened "courtyard." 

I had to throw this one in because the angle was interesting.  Riverwood to the left, and Creekside Nest to the right.