On Thursday, we loaded the back of my pickup with enough supplies to allow us to camp out in our new home, which we have dubbed our Perfect Prepper Property. On Friday morning, we set off early so that we could get to the lawyer’s office on time for the closing. Thankfully, we left half an hour of “extra” time in our driving schedule. Turned out that we needed it and got there three minutes after 2 p.m., which was the official start time.
After sitting around a large conference room table in face masks while people compulsively rubbed their hands with sanitizer, we all signed a few documents, the notary did her thing, we took possession of the keys, and the house was ours. It was a quick, painless ending to a search that took more than two years and included us visiting Montana, Idaho, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, in pretty much that order. We also looked online at Pennsylvania, Vermont and Maine, but never visited property in those states.
We Fight the Mice
On the way to the property, we stopped and got mouse traps because our realtor, who did the walk through, said there were mouse droppings in the kitchen and bathroom. Once we got there, it was clear that the mice had been pretty much everywhere. There were droppings on every sink and countertop and they liked a corner of the stairway, which was thick in mouse poop. This is one of many things that can happen when you have a vacant house.
My wife, who takes cleanliness seriously, spent the entire weekend cleaning. She had brought a small vacuum cleaner, but I am sure she wished she had the big one with the hose. Meanwhile, I set out eight mouse traps baited with peanut butter. We caught five the first night and the other three traps had been visited and licked clean. It looks like we are in for a long battle. I’d like to use poison, but my wife does not want to because one day the cat will live in the house. I may have to build a simple bucket trap.
Keep in mind that we are in a house that is empty except for what we could fit in the back of a pickup truck. We have lawn chairs in the living room and an inflatable mattress in the bedroom. Even in this weather, the mountain nights get chilly! The house is heated by a wood stove, but who expected we would need it in the summer? Actually, I think it was the combination of dropping temperatures and rain that chilled us. Thankfully, it warmed up and the sun came out on Saturday.
Changing the Locks
After a breakfast of fried eggs over corned beef hash, I got to work changing the locks. Including the deck doors, I replaced five locksets with new ones from a brand I know and trust. Unfortunately, my more robust locks needed a wider hole for the deadbolt to go from the cylinder to the faceplate, which meant I had to re-drill five holes. Then the holes the deadbolt slides into on the door frame were not deep enough, so I had to drill them deeper and replace the strike plate with a heavy duty model that used longer screws. Luckily, these came with the locks. This should make it tougher to kick in the door.
I can only hope that the cheap locks means there is no problem with breaking and entering in that area. I know people in rural areas tend to say “Heck, we leave our doors unlocked all the time!” but I don’t see us doing that.
For now, I’m not worried about break-ins. The house has been empty — nothing to steal since it doesn’t have copper pipes — and it still looks empty because we hid everything away in a closet with a tightly fitted door before we left to keep the mice out of it. We also tucked all the food away inside the fridge – even things like crackers that don’t need to be refrigerated – too keep the mice out of there.
Changing the Safe Combination
I am a lucky man because the house came with a “free” gun safe. It was free simply because it was too big and heavy to be moved without breaking down a wall. But who wants a safe with the last owner’s combination?
I had come prepared. After watching numerous videos on how to change the combination on an S&G combination lock, I had ordered the required tool on eBay. I carefully followed the directions, and in less than 10 minutes, I had disassembled the safe door, accessed the back of the combination lock, and using the tool, changed the combination. I made one small mistake and had to backtrack to correct it, but that was easy. Next, I tested the new combination three or four times with the door open. Finally, I got up the nerve and closed the door, locking it. The combination worked – Whew! I tried it a few more times before putting the two guns I brought with us and a couple ammo cans in there.
I had an AR-15 and a 10/22 with me . Why? Because if I could only have two guns, these are the two I would want. Plus, I grabbed an ammo can of 2,500 rounds of .22LR. I prefer to use CCI MiniMags, but the basic stuff in boxes of 500 will usually get the job done. I also had 12 loaded Magpul 5.56 magazines for the AR, and a case of 5.56 . By stashing them under the pickup truck box, they took no room away from the other items we needed to pack.
Stupid Little Stuff
When you live in a house a day or two, you notice little annoying things that you would have done differently. For us, the biggest issue was light switch location. The only think we can think is that the former owner was either left handed or just put the light switches in the easiest place with the shortest run of wire required. Stupid way to save money, if you ask me.
For example, there is one room where you open the door, which has hinges of the left. You would expect the light switch to be on your right for easy accessibility. But no. The switch is on the left, behind the door. You literally have to walk into the room, close the door and fumble around behind it to turn on the lights. I’m going to have to figure out if I can install some kind of motion sensor or voice activated switch to turn on the light. That will be easier than cutting into the wall and running the wires over the door and down the other side.
The same thing when you come in the basement door. He must have ordered a left-hand door when he should have ordered a right-hand door.
The house is also fairly dark because there are 40 watt bulbs in many of the fixtures, and cheap fluorescent bulbs (the curly kind that screw in sockets, not the long tubes) in the rest. It makes us wonder if the former owner ever sat down to read a book or newspaper. It is too dark for us to do so comfortably. We’re planning to replace most of the existing bulbs with LEDs. We’ll make the light super bright and then install dimmer switches so we can dim them if we need to.
Starting the “To Do” List
We have some other changes, upgrades, improvements and add-ons we want to do, and the best time to do them is while the house is still empty.
There is some painting on the to-do list, and its easier to paint when you don’t have to move furniture. Also on the list are: replace the fixture over the spot where the dining room table will go, change out the window and window trim on the kitchen window, and get internet access.
Many of the to-do items are focused on the outside. My list includes install motion detecting LED lights for the exterior, site and build a chicken coop, decide where the raised garden beds should be and start building them, determine where to put the compost pile, figure out where to plant the berries (I have a good idea already) and where to site the fruit trees, get sufficient fire wood supplies, order a truckload of gravel for the driveway, and set up our firing range. Of course, we have to move before we can do much of this.
Our Final Night
On Saturday night, we trapped some more mice. One of them flopped around, dragging the trap with him. I had to get up out of bed, grab the trap, take it outside and whack him. Then I reset the trap. By the end of the weekend, it was mice 0, Pete 8. I left the traps loaded. We just have to get back there before they start to smell.
We left on Sunday for the long drive home and brought back as many empty boxes as we could. I have a feeling that we are going to be filling them up over and over again.