I Have A Lot of Making Up to Do Next Arbor Day.

Just remembered I have bar league volleyball tomorrow so I will hammer out one more blog post tonight and skip tomorrow’s update.

I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Trees are a major part of the economy around here. I love trees and nature, so long as they stay the hell off of my lawn. Now I didn’t just have three trees in my yard, I had twenty three, a quarter of which have a parasitic bug in them killing them. These were no ordinary 8′ tall Oaks these things were absolute monster pines…. and I had to kill every one of them. Here is a google maps before tree eradication photo. 

And here is one more before of the Biggest one occupying my front yard.

But how to get rid of these monsters? This front one is enveloped in telephone and cable lines, surely the public utilities will offer me some assistance! Not a chance. Surely I will hire a tree serv- over $3000 you say? Sheeeeiiiit… Screw it, I’m doing it with some help.

I called in some favors to family friends and managed to get a hold of two very important pieces of equipment, a mini excavator, and a 60′ man lift. Since these pines trees are so wide and grouped up on top of each other there was no real safe way to just take the chainsaw and insure that they would drop anywhere near a safe zone. What my father and I ended up doing was climbing into the bucket with the chainsaw and limbing these things starting from the bottom to the top. One man would cut, while the other held onto the branch and dropped it away from the base of the man lift. When it got windy I ended up getting super seasick, not because the bucket was moving, but because of how much the trees themselves swayed.

The tall tree in front could only be limbed to this height because we ran out of boom. The tree was near 80′ tall. Once the trees were sufficiently limbed we had to bring these bad mother bitches down. The way we accomplished that was by taking the lift back up the trees, tying a 200′ long rope to them, lowering the boom, driving the boom away, having one man start sawing the base of the tree, while the rest of us pulled on the rope the direction we wanted them to fall. For the larger trees we tied the rope onto a 3/4 ton diesel truck and gave them a good firm tug.

We left the three pines that were near the house for last in order to act as a shield for the house. and continued to drop more and more pines.

Fast forward a few days and trees

Comparison shot to the google maps one I put at the beginning of the post:

With no trees covering 3/4 of it you can see how truly dilapidated my garage is.

The cement pad is from the tin shed that used to be hidden in the trees.

The amount of branches from these trees was incredible. We have a 12′ long dump trailer with sides around 4′ tall and it took 12 total loads in branches alone for all of the trees, and another five loads of just logs. It is amazing how simple this whole process looks when you just snap a couple of pictures, but in reality removing these trees took up three entire weekends and I had the help of a mini excavator one day to load up the majority of the wood and brush.

Disposal was the easy part. I just drove all of the wood to my parents house. They have 10 acres of land and an outdoor wood boiler. The brush will be burnt this spring or fall when there has been a large amount of rain.

The Things I Do In My Basement

So it was mid March, I was now a home owner, and I was broke because I had put down a large amount of money for my down payment. I was excited to move in to the new place and wanted to live here for a while before I started the main renovations. The cheapest place to start was the basement.

The room to the left of the dresser was the old coal room. Lucky for me this house was equipped with a furnace from the early 1960’s that was converted from running fuel oil(diesel) to natural gas. Oh…wait…. that sounds super inefficient for some reason. Turns out that for every dollar I spent I was getting about 33 cents worth of heat. This thing had to go, but due to me not having any money(come on we covered this earlier) it had to stay for the time being. That coal room on the other hand….

No need for that to exist anymore. The wall came down super easy, it was bucketing the cement out that was the worst part. Definitely got a good exercise for the glutes. After all of the crap was cleaned out I cemented in the new holes in the floor from where the walls used to be and pressure washed all of the walls to get rid of the coal residue.

So walls out, walls washed, new hot water heater purchased to replace the one from the 1970’s, let’s get drunk and paint some walls.

Turns out PVA drywall primer works awesome for lightening up a room. The water heater install kind of sucked because I am by no means a pro solderer and the pipes I was attempting to tie into were old soft copper. I can not wait to rip out all of the plumbing in this house because it goes through galvanized pipe, soft copper, rigid copper, and pvc. Thank god for pex piping. It is going to be wonderful to run this place with clean easily manipulated water lines.

Stay tuned because my next update will document the arduous tree removal process that took place over a period of three weeks.

An Introduction.

I’m going to start this blog off by introducing myself.

My name is Joe LaFreniere(I pronounce it Laugh Wren Ear but telemarketers and bill collectors have much more interesting variations on it). I grew up in a small town and graduated with 65 other people. I made the hilarious and costly mistake of thinking that I wanted to educate other people’s children. I continued to make this mistake until I student taught fifth and sixth grade children at a middle school where the faculty and administration had no drive to do anything except teach to the statewide assessment test. Instead of dropping out immediately I signed up for classes for an additional year but didn’t attend them because I didn’t want to tell my parents that I was unhappy and had zero interest in finishing out my degree. Stupid, huh?

Like many of my generation I moved back into the bedroom I held as a teenager. I even took up my old middle school, high school and summer break job, working with my father doing construction work. It was not the ideal situation.

Due to no fault of their own I could no longer stand living with my parents. Being 23, depressed, working for your dad all day, and having a relationship with your parents that was identical to the one we had when I was 16 was infuriating for me and for them as well. It is hard to work for a man from whom there is no escape. A normal person can be pissed off at their boss, go home, relax, and let some steam off. Not me. I would be working outside on a hot day, sweating, tearing shingles off of a roof and then get in an argument with my dad over something completely trivial. Then after work was over and I was supposed to go home and relax I would have to look at the stupid bastard across the dinner table.

I had had enough of being a boomeranger and began seriously looking for a house or a rental in December of 2010. I had three major benefits from living in a small town: my old man was friends with the most hated man in the town(he owns a large number of rental properties but is by no means a slum lord), my friend’s father was President of the local bank, and thanks to the housing crisis I had a near endless amount of houses I could buy for under $25,000.

In February of 2010 the most hated man in town introduced me to some of the nicest people I have ever met. They were an older couple who had been holding onto their mother / mother-in-laws house for quite a few years. The wife had tried several times to clean out the place and ready it for sale, but every time she did she was overcome by emotion and couldn’t bring herself to do it. Her daughter and son in law ended up care taking the place for close to five years. During this period of time they had received and rejected several offers on the house because they didn’t  want to see the house they had so many memories in go to someone they weren’t fond of. For some reason they liked me enough to accept my offer of $16,000 plus covering full closing costs(around $17,750). I later found out that they had been offered a considerable amount more but still chose to sell the place to me. There is more to write here, but it is starting to sound like a humble brag, so I will move on. Thank You, Margaret and Joe.

Financing through the small town bank was incredibly easy. Most places ask for 2 years worth of proof of income, w2’s, and other information. I simply walked in with a month’s worth of pay stubs on LaFreniere Construction letterhead that I had printed out myself and was approved for an $18,000 loan within a week. There are some benefits to being a townie.

I was all moved in on March 14th, 2011, and that is when the home remodeling nightmare and or adventure began. I will try hard to catch up to my current progress but it will take some time, so please bear with me. Thanks for reading and I hope you learn something, are inspired to start a project you’ve been putting off, or at the very least are entertained by the silly words I put here for you to read.