Something we all forget when we are designing our non-standard lifestyles is that we may sell our house or land, or someone other than us might have to take over the upkeep, or that we may get spacey and forget what we knew last year. I'm making an owner's manual for my house and life, with stuff about how often to change the filters (and where I keep the new filters,) how to maintain the power systems (with the manuals for the technology,) where pipes are buried (with pictures!) what the plants are, and what they need, and which parts are edible.
We have all heard horror stories about "I sold my house, and they mowed down all the baby trees I planted, they thought they were weeds" or "Oh lord, WHY was this wired this way? or "This place HAS to have cleanouts, but where? And how DO you shut off the gas or the main breakers?" I think the solution to this is a book of the house and property.
I got the idea from some high end builders who are doing this for the houses they build, they take pictures of the pipes as they are installed, and of the power runs in the wall before they put the sheetrock on, and include a set of blueprints, with notes for what what was altered during construction, and so on. They say that not only the new owners are thrilled, but the next buyers are, and some repair people charge less if the book is there, as they don't have to figure it all out from scratch.
And as we get older, or ill, or stressed, we forget things. I had an appliance apart the other day, have done it before, was REALLY glad when I put it back together I had written inside it with sharpie where the wires go, because I thought "oh, I'll remember that!" as I pulled them off. And earlier this week I was careful to watch my drill as I drilled a screw into a wall of this rental that has a power outlet in it, but the wires could be anywhere near it (trust me, I have opened up the walls here, could be anywhere within a foot of that outlet, some horrifying wiring here) so I was prepared for that screw to hit a power line. This could have been avoided if I had a schematic (or admittedly, if the construction was better, but that's a different issue!) And I DID hit a buried wire with my tractor here, and had to power down the whole house (there apparently is no shut off at the meter either) because nothing in the breaker box was labeled anything that looked relevant ("Amy's room" I HATE when people label breakers that way, Amy hasn't lived here for at least 10 years, I have no CLUE what room was hers!)
If you have animals, notes on their care, so if you leave someone else to take care of them they will know how (and you don't always have the option of whether you leave them or not, something like a car wreck can leave things having to be done suddenly by people you didn't talk to about it.) What tool you use to get the snow off the solar panels (before someone puts a rake through the panel face,) what faucets to open for winter so the pipes don't break, and which ones you left open last fall. The things we are used to knowing we don't think about, until it's needed information, then we REALLY wish it was written down someplace. A log of when maintenance was done last is useful too.
It's an interesting concept, you get a manual with a toaster when you buy it, why not with the most complex thing you will ever buy or build in your life?
Do you have a manual for your house or land? Is it written in such a way that others can understand it? Is it all in one place that's easy to find? Questions worth thinking on....
Edit: My mom says "and not in a computer that other's can't get into without a password!" Wise mom!!
Mine is in process. It will be a while. Large structure and LOTS to do...including answering several of those questions for myself. I'm labelling as I go though,
Louisville, KY - Zone 6b (near border of 6a), Heat Zone 7, Urban habitat
"Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, nihil deerit." [If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need] Marcus Tullius Cicero in Ad Familiares IX, 4, to Varro.
A similar concept - though not usually including the construction indoo, used to be standard, in pretty much all middle and upper income families, and especially with castles and such. It's a practice I think needs to be brought back, and having purchased this place, so recently (1 1/2yrs ago), their is much about it - like wiring, several plumbing issues, and lack of a septic clean out - that doesn't make sense, to us. Things like keeping track of filters, chimney cleaning, and other important maintenance info would have been great. Thankfully, the builders/owners of this place did at least keep their receipts, spare parts, and many business cards of their subcontractors, as well as owners manuals. I consider us lucky to have it.
The only thing...more expensive than education is ignorance.~Ben Franklin
Pearl- what a great idea! I wouldn't have considered adding how to use plant instructions.
My mother does a version of this. She has all her receipts for major repairs/systems, warranty docs, etc in a binder. She gives the binder to the next owner (she may remove the receipts). A typed description of what was done for each. When it comes time to sell, it's really impressive to potential purchasers, the real estate agent, inspectors, etc. She also leaves written instructions on how the pump works, where shutoffs are, etc. All plant tags are saved in a folder, and she is bugging me to do a labeled diagram of where things are planted as well.
My dads house... well, I wish the previous owners had done this. So many questions, and the original owners are long dead.
When I eventually manage to buy - stupid COVID!- I hope I am organized enough to something even vaguely similar.
Pearl, you mention a great point about photographing the insides of walls before drywall goes up. When we were building the house we live in now (ok, actually a contractor built it, but we designed the floor plan), I took copious pictures during construction. As in I took pictures daily for most days of construction, and sometimes took pictures morning, noon, and afternoon. My pictures covered every conceivable aspect of the house including different angles of the same point. All said, I took well over a thousand pictures throughout construction.
I did this partly because I was sentimental, but I also wanted to have a photographic record of every phase of construction. I know where wires and pipes run. I know where twisted pieces of lumber are. By being so fastidious, I caught several errors before they got “baked in.”
Just as a general piece of advice to anyone building a home, carefully inspect it on a regular basis.
The present house has less oddities than the last one, that one had a lot of power switches that didn't appear to do anything, and some light switches were in very odd places, it took us months to find the front outside light switch, it was in the living-room in the middle of a wall behind a curtain. at the opposite end of the house from the door.
For this house the only odd thing is really the heating, the plumbing is strange and you need to fill it in two places and have a torch so you can read the pressure gauge. There's some machinery in the barn (old milking equipment, an old walk in fridge, a grain crusher several augers, automatic muck raking system) that we have no idea about and neither does the person we bought it from. Putting up curtain rails means the slowest drilling ever. carefully carefully with the power off as we have no idea where the cables run, and no cable finder has been able to find them, (though the sockets work so they are there!) drilling 2 inches into the wall we're still in the plaster so they may be buried very deep. We also have around 15 keys they have labels but they refer to things like barn door 2 or cow door and since the barns doors are not numbered, it doesn't really help, I suspect that several of the keys no longer have locks that go with them.
As to breakers someone has handily written "kitchen" "bryggers" on the switches, but we have discovered that while the kitchen fuse does indeed do the kitchen, it also does some in the dining room, old master bedroom and living room, whereas the bryggers also does one in the kitchen and 2 in the livingroom... To make it more interesting the house has 3 x230V and 1x400V fuses plus a main breaker, and the barn has 2x 400V and it must also have at least 1 230 but we have no idea where that may be. the fuse box out in the barn only has the 400v in it and the house fuses do not turn off the 230 circuits in the barn.. There is a way to turn it off by turning off the power to the entire place. We're not sure where the barn drains empty to, possibly the old pee tank but maybe not, who knows! and I suspect the washing machine may also empty into that, since it's suspiciously on the wrong side of the house from the septic and the drain leads out the wrong way.
There's nothing really domestic to write down other than electrics (which we don't know) and heating.(remember to turn on BOTH pumps) houses are not sold with appliances and none of ours are strange in any way if someone needed to house sit. We are about to bury a water pipe out to the field so that will need recording where it runs, I checked very carefully with the sellers that there were no existing pipes around the place.
As for plants I don't really record anything, I assume people can recognise the plants they want and will tear out anything else. Fruit tree types would be a good thing to record, but I can't say I even do that for myself! so far I know we have an mid season eating apple, a early eating pear, a greengage, 2 plums of different types, a sweet cherry tree, purple gooseberries (sweet), red and black currents, curiously tasteless raspberries and a ton of feral strawberries. I think the only way to label trees would be with those little signs arboretums use. no matter where I write it down I'll lose it!
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