Final planning

We have spent the past 9 months exhaustively planning this house and finally the light at the end of the tunnel is almost here. The design is done, the quotes have been tendered and received, the design fees have been paid (almost), the development permit approved, and we are just waiting on the appraisal from the bank and stamped drawings from the engineer. Initially the planning process was fun, but about three months ago we had pretty much had enough of it.And now, well, we have definitely had enough of it.

I keep thinking to myself “haven’t we talked about this house long enough??” But there are so many important little details that go into the planning and building of a house. I may have had a small idea of this before, but really this whole process shines a completely different light on the importance of Planning. When moving into and renovating an old house, you learn to live with and work with the idiosyncrasies and nuances of an old house (nothing being level, that weird door, baseboards not quite lining up, that one awkward window that looks onto nothing, and so on), but when building a house, you really don’t want to start off with any of those weird things. I am very detail oriented and like to research things to the n-th degree, much the chagrin of my wife from time to time – except in this process. My anal-retentiveness has finally come in handy!

If you are planning to build a house, and are not detail oriented then you need to learn to be one. Otherwise you are liable to get a home that may be close to what you had asked for but not entirely what you had expected. I cannot tell you how many little mishaps, potential mistake, errors and omissions we have already caught and corrected. It is crazy to me at times, but really there are so many aspects that even the people you are paying to know about all of it may miss some of these details or do it the way they always have done it (even if you specifically say you want something else). So it’s all on you. You’re the only one there to make sure that it is done how you actually want it. Which means you have to research and know enough to at least ask the questions that will lead to ensuring that you will get what you want.

I have learned now to tell our team that when we want something, I ask to confirm that it was done, and then follow-up to make sure. I’m certain that the various people working on the house will be completely sick of me pestering them by the end, but I don’t care. I want to make sure that our house turns out as we have intended it to.

And if there is something that I don’t know about then I ask someone who does know to check it. And then double-check it and then triple-check it. Incredibly, on triple-checks we have still caught errors.

In the end, all of this stuff is just on paper. We actually haven’t even done anything yet. So we will see what the actual build process goes like. I’m hoping (wishful thinking perhaps) that because of the significant focus on the details in the planning stages that maybe, just maybe, the build process will go smooth. But this hope is not going to allow me to assume anything. At all. Ever. IMG_2699

It is done.

We were left with no choice for the little chicken. Yes, we could have called up a “real” farmer to do it. But that would be a cop-out. As I said before, we needed to do this ourselves. We came out here to learn about food and see where our food came from. This was going to be an experience we were going to have at one point in our future, so why avoid the inevitable? So Saturday morning we started reading about how to cull a chicken. Well, let me tell you, there is much dispute about the best way to do so. There are more ways than one, and all of them are terrible. I won’t go into the gruesome details, but reading about it made my stomach turn. All I cared about was that it would be fast and would not cause any undue suffering to the chicken. One of the resources I came across in our little personal library of country life/gardening/raising chickens was The Encyclopedia of Country Living. There was a whole section titled “killing chickens.” I had to laugh, although it was quite morbid, but killing chickens was clearly not considered a big deal to the author at all. She recommended killing chickens who were late layers, slow layers, too broody, didn’t lay often enough, were sick, were old and definitely those that were egg eaters. We also came across a very “interesting” YouTube video that Treehugger.com posted. In this video, the lady kills an older chicken, but does it with a fair bit of compassion for the animal. The actual killing part is quite horrific to watch, but everything before and after was very good (and highly informative). There was this strange inconsistencey in my mind while watching the video – like, she seems too nice to be able to do that, or something – I’m not sure how to explain it. The video also went onto show how to process the bird (the nice word for gutting and making it into food). So armed with some knowledge we set out to do something we’d dreaded doing. We picked up our little chicken, thanked her for all of the eggs she’d provided us, said our good-byes, and then just like that it was done. The actual moment of the axe swinging down and that “oh my God” realization was terribly overwhelming with the weight and emotion of what I had just done rushing over me. But after a few moments, I composed myself and we went about the rest of the job. We got a bucket of hot water and took to plucking her feathers. Strangely, when this was complete (which was as easy as the book and video had said) our hen, that only a few minutes before had been scratching around eating grass, had transformed into “chicken.” In fact she looked like any other chicken that I’ve bought from the supermarket dozens of times before. She had suddenly become… food. Well, not quite yet. We still had to “process” her. My wife, Darcie, the pretty, sweet and gentle lady that she is, did this task. Who knew she was a natural? This part of the process was actually fascinating. Both of us had taken human anatomy in University that had labs with cadavers (the nice word for real human body parts) so this was just really interesting to see everything. I’m sure a lot of people would think this might be the worst part, but to us, it was interesting and, although it was gross, it also wasn’t that gross at all. And then there it was, a ready to roast chicken. We bagged her up and into the freezer she went. For the rest of the day and for about a week following, both of us felt pretty horrible about it though. I actually woke up a few times in the night with the vision of my axe swinging and her dying. I thought about it a lot, although I didn’t want to think about it at all. But now, I feel better about it. Both of us feel that it was a right of passage. Not something we wanted to do. Not something we enjoyed. And not something that I want to do again (although I’m sure it will only be a matter of time). But it was something we did and something that we had to do to learn about ourselves and about where our food actually comes from. We feel a sense of accomplishment that we did what was best for the chicken, for ourselves, and that we did it together.