Building "off-grid"

- Winter Sabbatical -

A sabbatical, as the word is commonly used today, is a break - typically from a career, and for a specified amount of time.  Most often the term refers to someone like a university professor or similar academic figure that wants to do some research and publish any significant findings.  Obviously I'm using the term loosely here, perhaps altogether inappropriately to the most anal reader, but that's their problem.

November 2008 - March 2009:  So yes, I'm taking a break from the project for the winter...for a number of reasons.  This is a voluntary break (depending on who you ask), in part to pursue some other projects, which is why "sabbatical" seemed to fit.  The 'order' of these things is difficult to describe by timeline alone, but their respective schedules definitely influenced one another and overlap wasn't really an option.  That said, I'll just list them in chronological order:  Started remodeling a friend's 2nd floor, went to Mexico to help with a roofing project at an orphanage, left hip joint replacement and right hip joint replacement.

Remodeling:  A friend of mine lives in a house with an unusual addition.  It's not so much unusual in the "add on when you have money" sense, which I'm sure was common throughout America as settlers spread from east to west.  This one was unusual because the upper portion of the "L" addition was never opened up.  So basically they had a L-shaped house with an I-shaped upstairs.  This friend really needed the space for her family, but didn't have the resources to pursue this option.  It was more a time and skill issue than anything else, and while I don't claim any skills beyond amatuerish, I did have some time to offer.  It was a bigger job than I originally assessed, and involved many frustrations with regard to the original (non-standard) construction practices, but the room is now open, floored and ready for wiring, insulation, etc.  I only had a certain amount of time to commit to the project, so hopefully the remaining 'finish' tasks will be handled by someone else soon.

Orphanage:  (background):  A family friend, Jack, has a relationship with a man in Juarez that operates a number of ministries.  Jack met this man, Josue (ho-sway), 15+ years ago when he took a group of church youth to Juarez on a short-term mission trip.  Since then Jack has visited at least once or twice a year, usually to help with some construction need he's heard about.  Josue mainly pastors a church and operates an orphanage/school that offers truly great opportunities to local, underprivileged kids.  However, in addition, he spends some time several hours (drive) south of Juarez in a farming community near the industrial city of Torreón, Coahuila.  There is a great deal of need in these financially depressed areas, so Josue is often asked or even seeks out opportunities to help.  For instance, he has gotten many roofs put on many churches, and has even set up a small factory to employ several of the locals.

When my dad first mentioned Jack and Josue, and the way they handle these trips, I was immediately on board.  I had been on a 'structured' trip of this nature before, and felt that the over-organization created a 'detached' or kind of 'sterile' environment.  The 'less structured' trips my dad described seemed like the gritty, productive environment I would prefer.  Last April I found this to be true, and this December, while being a little different from April's trip, proved just as productive.  April's trip was 10 days, mostly down near Torreón to put a roof on a church.  December's trip was a week in Juarez to put a half-roof over some dorm rooms attached to the orphanage.  So to make a short story very long, that's what we did.  My dad couldn't join us this time, but Jack, myself and a few local helpers finished the job a day or so early.

If you're interested in hearing more details about these ministries or the trips, please email me.  There's always a need down there, whether it's monetary resources or construction skills, and any help is welcome and appreciated.

Hip Surgery:  I guess this is pretty self-explanatory - my hips are shot - "advanced osteoarthritis".  In part, this occurred from being a "boy's boy" all my life...falling out of trees, off bikes, motorcycles, snowmobiles, skiing, etc. Another contributor was being overweight for the last 15 years or so, and beating the crap out of my joints while pursuing all the "boy's boy" activities.  Apparently you can trick your body into thinking you're 50-75 lbs. lighter for awhile, but, as I found out, it can catch up to you.  Ironically, the final straw was starting a work-out routine (again)...the mistake being moving off the treadmill to jog on the side of the road instead.  Long story short, I noticed the stiffness starting to get bad by late '05, but chalked it up to tight muscles.  It persisted, and I finally got an x-ray done during a routine physical last February ('08).  This sort of arthritis does not go away, and gets progessively worse, and the discomfort was starting to hinder my day-to-day activities, both work and play.  I was able to schedule the surgeries during a slow time in my industry, so I could concentrate on rehab without tremendous inconvenience.  I was also able to make sure of all the insurance coverages before commiting, which is always a relief.  The first surgery was January 6th, and the second is schedule for February 3rd.  I'm currently recovering from the first surgery, and simultaneously preparing for the second.  Rehab on the first hip is moving along nicely so far, and I'll update this page as things progress.

Hip Update:  The second surgery (right hip) got pushed out to Feb. 18th.  One week because I didn't feel ready for my left side to take all the burden of being the "strong" leg, and a 2nd week because of the surgeon's scheduling.  We're at the end of March now, and things are going very well.  I expect to be walking without a cane by mid-April, and without even a limp by the end of the month.

My House:  Expect to see things start back up on the house this spring.  Insulation may be next, but I also have to look at bracing the fly rafters around or under the balconies.

One thing I've learned (which took me way too long) is the importance of investing in good tools.  I've been using the heck out of the tools I had and the tools I've purchased since starting this project.  I should probably have spent the money up front, but I'm a habitual bargain hunter, which is hard to shake.  I recently burned out my trusty old Black & Decker circle saw, so I decided to pick up a set of cordless 36v DeWalt tools including a 7-1/4" circle saw, 1/2" hammer drill and heavy duty reciprocating saw (sawzall).  The need for cordless tools is obvious, and the motivation comes from the cheap crap I've already fried.  Tools off the back of a truck at the local VFW are never a good deal, no matter how cheap.  Skil and Black & Decker brand tools don't have the quality to stand up to much more than little garage projects.  I'm probably going to go with DeWalt from now on, and maybe Milwaukee.

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