Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Too Many Projects/Gravel Found

I've found that with the overwhelming number of projects that need to be done and so little time to get to all of them, you have to take each moment as a small victory. Take, for instance, my quest to find gravel. I think I may have found it, and somehow that just made my day. We are having drainage problems on the house. The rain that runs off the roof hits the ground and splashes back onto the house, causing a great deal of rot. The obvious solution would be to simply install rain gutters, but they seem unsightly and may not be practical. Marty never installed them, and she's a guru, so I'm guessing there was a reason for that.

Either way, there are several places to get gravel out here, but the rocks are all gray. Not to be too much of a dork about it, but Marty used red rocks and they look a lot better, they go with the brick path and seem to blend with the house and plants. So I went on a mission to find them, checking with several quarries, none of which had the rocks I was looking for. I was struck, however, by how cheap they are. I guess they're just rocks, after all.

Well, my journey brought me to Longacres Nursery, and there they were, red rocks, by the bag. I actually had a hard time distinguishing the color, they were covered with dirt (funny thing about rocks, wouldn't you say?) but they had a box of samples and they looked pretty good to me, i.e. red! So I bought some, and will put them out today. Of course, it's raining outside, contrary to the forecast.

I've moved about two cords of the woodpile, and it's one of those seemingly insurmountable jobs that you can't ponder too much or else you'll go crazy. The worst part of it is moving the pile, it takes about twenty trips with the wheel barrow to move one cord, and then you have to stack. I like the stacking part, but would prefer it if we had a good stretch of dry, sunny days so I can not worry about the dry wood getting wet.

I also finally took a good look at the peeling paint on the back of the house, and I hear Jack Castle's words ringing in my head, "Take care of your house and show people how much you love it." The stain on the back, south facing, had been peeling for months, if not for a year, and I put it off because it's really something I'd never done before. Finally I bit the bullet and sanded off the chips and restained, and it went smoothly, except for the fact that I realized how much work really needs to be done. I think the entire south face needs to be redone, but I may too late this year and will have to wait until spring. It's a gargantuan task, and I have to paint the windows and trim, as well. Not an easy job, but one that needs to be done show my love...

I'm still pondering my ambitious plan to redo the front facade. I may have to wait on that, as well, since it will involve painting and the weather is getting poor. So many projects, so little time. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I'm faced with the unenviable task of having to relocate seven cords of wood. The distance is only about 150 feet, but it might was well be a mile away because I'm doing it all with a wheelbarrow and my hands. It's a bummer, but it's one of those things that has to be done and there's no sense in whining about it, though I want to whine, more than anything, I just want to whine.

We are in the process of having a septic system designed and constructed on the barn, and of course the septic system is slated to go right where our wood pile is. Total bummer, but it has to be done, so yesterday I started moving it, one cord at a time. And then, of course, it started to rain, getting our beautiful dry wood all wet. I was more bummed about that, but just seeing it start to unfold makes it okay. I'll keep at it today.

Thus far the clapboards have held up, but I'm not sure what that even means. The damage that occurs with water damage is slow and silent, so nothing is apparent. Either way, I'm still wary of letting it get soaked, so my concerns have led me to search for gravel. I just learned that gravel is what you use to prevent, or at least minimize, the splash on the side of your house. It's actually a cool idea, except that Marty used some sort of specialized red gravel and I can't seem to find it. The easiest thing would be to just give Marty a call, but I feel like we need some closure here, and I don't want to contact them unless it's urgent. Besides, it's probably not easy for them, not to mention a pain in the ass when I come calling. The search begins, yet another adventure in home improvement.

We lost electricity two nights ago and were forced to go to bed around 7:00. I actually got a really good night's sleep, though I still felt tired by the next afternoon. I shut the toilets off so as to not deplete the pressure tank, but for some reason when I turned them back on, the valve started leaking. At first I was worried the wax seal was compromised, which in retrospect made no sense since we didn't touch the thing, but later found out, through some detective work, that it was the intake valve. Of course, I'm not sure how to fix that.

I need to paint the south side of the house, as well, but I'm not sure if it's a bad time with Fall approaching, pardon my ignorance. I should just go out there and paint, damnit. Why am I such a pussy?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Getting Too Ambitious?

Wow, I finally finished (sort of) the clapboards, and learned a great deal, maybe even getting too cocky along the way. Putting on the boards this time around was much more straightforward, having done it before, and nailing them in went pretty quickly, though I still wrestle with those damn corner boards. Life would have been so much simpler if they'd used standard board width, but perhaps there's a reason for why they did it. Either way, it requires a table saw, which I don't have, or asking the lumber yard to rip it for me, which they don't want to do.

The weather has been on my side, so I can't complain, though we're supposed to get a week of rain, so that's a bummer. I also have to move the wood pile, which is a monumental job, but one I have to deal with. Total bummer. Still toying with the idea of my chainsaw, and looking ahead to next year and where I'll get it. We'll see. I did get a stroke of good fortune and found the numbers of loggers that I thought I'd lost, so I'll get in touch with them.

Anyway, I really struggled with the corner boards, they broke my back. I couldn't seem to get them to align perfectly, which might not seem like a big deal, but you can really see the imperfection, and I'm not a trained eye. To an expert it must look like shit. Then again, consider the source of the work. I'm still learning.

After all is said and done, I decided to get cocky and actually move on to the next big project, even though there is still plenty to do. I still have to paint the south face of the house, as well as the trim, and move the plants on the perimeter away at least a couple of feet. Also have to look into the gravel, another big job.

But my big plan involves the north face, or front, of the house. I want to rip out all the shingles that surround the door and replace them with clapboards. Part of it is because the front really needs to be attended to in terms of rain exposure. I want to cover the plywood, make sure there's no rot, and then do the water and ice shield thing. It gets so much water.

The other reason is that it's sort of ugly. The shingles seem to clash with the clapboards, and I'm sure there's a reason they did it, maybe even an necessity, but I'll give it a go. I can always replace the shingles if it doesn't work, or suffer greatly for my brazenness. It wouldn't be the first time.

And then, of course, there's the barn. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Well, as anyone who knows me might have guessed, I've got chainsaws on the brain and have been scouring for information about chainsaws. Unfortunately, the info is overwhelming, and I have a hard time making heads or tails of it all. I do think I'm going to end up spending about $400 for one, which is pretty substantial, but I'm thinking the way to go is to cut our own darn wood. It just has to happen, I'm looking for log lengths over here.

I'm having trouble a little with the clapboard issue, I'm in need of ripping wood to do the corner boards and the previous owners just had to go and be a pain in the ass and use some damn unusual width of board that you can't just go and buy. So I'm stuck with trying to find the right width, or I'll end up ripping the boards myself. Paul thinks I should get a table saw, but that's just how he thinks. He's a tool guy.

In the meantime, what to do? I keep trying to cut small pieces that will line up and they always fall short, it's incredibly frustrating. I've given up, it's a complete waste of time, but I've got to deal with this situation. I'm thinking I'm going to rip the damn things, what a pain.

I've been given a break over the past few days because there has been no rain, so I've got to seize the moment, but everything seems to force to a halt. I'm always in need of going to Home Depot or Britton's, and time is precious. Okay, enough whining.

Gotta run. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Chainsaw De-Virginized

I used a chainsaw for the first time in my life, and it wasn't so bad, though those things still scare me. Balloon Gary gave me a small chainsaw awhile back, and I figured it would sit and gather dust, but Bob (my father-in law) was itching to fire it up, so he did. I ran over to Mike's and got the stuff, and Bob fiddled with it and got it running. Pretty amazing, he did a series of fine adjustments and got it to work, and then went to work. He cut up a bunch of small, fallen trees, and I took it in hand and used it, too. Didn't feel too bad. The one thing that really struck me about it was that it was light. When I used Homestead Gary's chainsaw, it was so heavy I couldn't imagine using it for any longer duration. And Gary's on the smaller side, though not a skinny weakling.

Of course, after using the saw, I got pumped and started shopping around for a serious chainsaw, and the information was a little overwhelming, but not too bad. I came to a few conclusions. First off, I need a reasonably substantial saw to cut wood, on the order of maybe five cords a year. I'll also need all the safety equipment, including helmet, chaps, and steel toe boots. Finally, I need to get one that I can handle, i.e., not too heavy. So I'll have to make a trip to Joe's and check it out.

They say to buy one where they service them, but I'm not sure why since a service place with service it no matter what, right? The logic defies me a bit, but I'm green. I'd like to support he local fauna, however, and they are always good for advice and I can hold the machines, though the store intimidates the hell out of me.

I got further along on the clapboards, did up the black felt stage, then stopped when the clouds rolled in, there was a prediction of rain. I should be able to finish this week, hopefully, and then it's time to go to my next project, replacing the ugly shingles with clapboards. Maybe I'm getting too ambitious, but I think it needs to be done. Also, I need to paint the trim and paint the south facing side of the house. The paint is taking a beating from the sun.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Weekend

The weekend is here, and boy is Fall in the air. I've been given a break on the weather, and feel I have to seize the moment and get to work on those clapboards. I've also got to get started on that wood pile and move it over. What a pain. A good excuse to fry the lawn, though.

Also dealing with hazardous waste. Since moving to the country, I've become more conscientious about garbage, and hazardous waste is a big pain. Today is waste pickup, and I've got to jet up to Thetford for the pickup, which is a total pain, but better to deal with it.

Maybe going to look at the barn to see how Paul has sized things up. Will hopefully paint the croquet rack, as well. Is there ever enough time? Hardly.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Prepping for Winter

I can't believe it, but I've got to move the wood piles. It dawned on me that the wood is in the way of the septic system, and though there's space, we probably need more. I asked Todd Hill but of course he blew me off. Still waiting.

The weather has been perfect, very much a New England Fall, and we have started burning wood. The wood from last year is nice and dry and burns like kindling, it's awesome, and you can really feel the difference. I managed to discard the clapboards and waste at the dump, was worried what I was going to do with the junk, but it was easy. Like everything, fear of action prevented me from just doing what was in essence very simple. Ah, the joy of action.

Today I plan on fixing clapboards, but I've got to cut more plywood and replace it, then seal it with Vycor. So much to do, and I've got to make supper for the family. It ain't easy, but nobody said it would be.

Spent the late afternoon mowing the lawn like crazy, and Bob even said the property looked so, so give ourselves a thumbs up there.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Moving Forward at the Speed of Molasses

I don't know where the time goes. It seems like by the end of the day, I've gotten nothing done, and there's so much to do. Big weekend coming up with the in-laws, and there's a lot of home improvement that needs doing. Not sure if I can pull it off while they're visiting, but I'd like to. At the very least get some of it done.

The weather has been beautiful, it really feels like Fall, and it seems in such contrast to the turbulent storm that is our world today. Not sure how the current events are going to effect our little pocket of paradise here in Vermont, but we shall see.

Wasn't sure where to buy more stain, but went with the smaller, more local-ish store, Foggs, over Home Depot. We wanted to blade afterwords and are still in search of the famed Lebanon bike trail, but we'll get there. I'm going to try to finish the front clapboards this week, and work on my next big home improvement project, replacing the ugly shingles on our front porch. It'll take some creativity and thought, so stay tuned. I don't want to get too cocky, that always bites me back.

The barn is starting to move forward and I need to get in touch with Todd Hill, no word from him. Also need to move our firewood to make space for the septic system. So much to do.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One Step At A Time

My disorganized nature in conjunction with my ignorance cause me a lot of angst, not to mention time and money. There seems to always be a multitude of things I need for home improvement, and I end up making forty trips to get each individual item. It doesn't help being so clueless. When you start from ground zero, you've got a lot of ground to make up, and there are a million and one tools out there that you've never even heard of but suddenly find you can't live without, and then you have to find the store that carries it.

I'm finding a rhythm, however, and it's satisfying to learn so much. AND, I'm building up my tool arsenal, one more step to being a real man. It may be long and inefficient, but I can't seem to work any other way. Also, it contributes to mess being so impressionable. Gary will tell me that the best Cat's Claws are the ones made in Japan, so I'll hold out on buying one until I find the right one. Also, not every place has what I need, or are sold out, or I've forgotten my list and didn't buy a necessary item. It's crazy, I tell you.

I am finding that I am warming up to places I didn't much like before. Home Depot isn't high up there on reliable customer service, but they are nice and they try, even if they are clueless. It's the effort that counts, right? Well, sort of. I don't dislike Lavalley's as much, they have better prices than Britton's, though they lack the patriarch and are not warm and fuzzy. They get the job done, are probably used to dealing with people in the know. Britton's is my favorite, but they let me down by blowing off my request to rip that plywood. Even still, I try to support them. And Fogg's is good for paint. Again, I'm impressionable.

I've mowed about 30% of the lawn, hope to get it done today, and finish the trip on the shelves. There's no way I'll get to staining it, but at least I can complete it unstained and raise it up. Working on the clapboards on the other side of the facade, feeling more confident but not yet competely capable.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Morning

We managed to get a few things done yesterday, in spite of the poor weather. I've come to realize that in Vermont, as in all of New England, you can't let a little bad weather stop you from doing not only what you have to do, but what you want to do.

I think I'm done priming clapboards, at least for now. I do need more stain, however, if I plan on finishing the exterior walls, which have take a long time. I still need to do the following - finish staining the clapboards, paint the corner boards white, check the clapboards on the other side, which I believe may be in worse condition, put a finish coat on my shelf unit, paint the croquet stand, etc.

I don't know where to begin. I made a kitty litter tray and a food tray, though I figured that I'd put a finish coat on the food tray. I spent all day staining my new shelf and will have to put a satin finish on it, and hopefully it'll be a dry day. I also want to mow the lawn.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, and still have other things I need to do, so I'm going to sign off and get some other things done.

Until then, thanks for reading.

PS Ruth's parents are coming this Thursday, so I need to get a lot done before they get here. Bob also likes to stack wood, so I'm thinking I'll relocate a wood pile, which is a royal pain, but if he has fun, it's well worth it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fishing and Birthdays

We went to Tori's birthday at Dewey's Mill Pond yesterday, and it was a very low key but fun party. The kids really enjoyed it, and the truth is, it really was a fairly humble affair, very much in line with life in Vermont. I had wanted to get some fishing stuff together for the kids for a long time but in typical fashion, didn't know where to begin (I know, it's fairly simple, but not for me) so naturally I just shut down and blew it off. Of course, as time passed, I regretted my inaction.

With the birthday at hand, I resolved to make it over to Steve's bait shop to get together a tackle box. I'd never been there, and figured that it wasn't necessarily cheaper than Walmart or Kmart, but I'd get something that I'd never in a million years get at those stores-personal attention and service, not to mention the all important advice.

Steve's is local, as well, and fairly non-descript, so you'd miss it if you weren't paying attention. Even after we'd found the sign, we weren't sure where we were. The store is part of his house, and he doesn't go to great lengths to advertise. The door is even locked. We knocked and he answered the door, a super friendly and gregarious man whom I bonded with immediately over the Dodgers.

I used to fish a lot as a kid with my dad, I loved it even though we never really knew what we were doing. We fished solely in salt water, off piers, but there's something special, especially for kids, about fishing in fresh water. It's just a very soulful experience. I told Steve our situation-we had a broken rod, and we needed just the basic startup kit to go fishing for a novice and young kids. He hooked us up with all we needed, dispensing advice, which at our level didn't require a lot, and providing us with the basics-tackle box, weights, hooks and some bobbers. Nothing fancy, and no sales pitch to get us more than what we needed.

He was nice to the kids, something I appreciate, and showed the live bait, which they got a huge kick out of. Audrey and Nicholas (especially) really love checking out all the gadgets that people use for the sport, and what attracts fish seems to attract curious minds, as well.

He even went out of his way to find us an old dusty rod to replace Audrey's broken one, something I appreciated, and he only charged us a buck. I came away with a good feeling a resolve to go there whenever our fishing needs came up.

Now that we were stocked up for the big hunt, we needed a birthday present, which I'm sorry to say we were sadly unprepared. There aren't too many places in Hartford or Hartland to find presents, and W Leb was not an option. Our choices boiled down to the Vermont Store (Laros) or Phat Hat. We went to Laros, got her a stuffed cat, tried free samples, and each got a maple shortbread cookie. That's a really fun store, and even though they are geared towards tourists, it's a fun place to go for locals wanting to give local presents. And the people are so nice, very much in the local tradition.

They wrapped it in a box, and we hit the pond. The party, as I mentioned, was low key and fun. Just fishing, cake and pizza. It was hot, and we fished for a couple of hours, the kids tormented assorted fish and frogs, and it was done.

After fishing, we were slated to chase Gary's balloon, but we had some time. We headed over to the Ottaquechee School and tried out our new inline skates, then off for the chase. I hadn't chased for Gary in months, but I was more than happy to help him out when I could. What started out as a potentially challenging chase actually turned out fairly easy, the winds calmed down and all went well. The kids got to ride in the truck, and on the way back they got to sit in the basket. A fun evening.

We couldn't wait to get back to our kittens, and we fed them, and it was an nice end to a busy but rewarding day in the Green Mountains.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Assorted Home Improvment and the Tunbridge Fair

Boy, it sure doesn't take much to lose track of your time and let things slide. I've been trying to focus on getting Audrey's portfolio and curriculum together, so I've let everything slide, and in the process have gotten nothing accomplished. Have also had to deal with all the parenting things and the social issues. It ain't easy.

One Wednesday night I went out drinking with my real men friends in South Royalton. There's a cool manly bar there called Crossroads that is filled with real men and students, probably from the nearby VT Law School, an interesting mix. The guy who owns the place is clearly a hunter, and his trophies adorn the walls. They have a wings and beer special, and the place is a favorite of Paul's, but I have to confess that it's a long way to go for a beer. I'd only been there once and was counting on my fried memory to get me back there. I drove along route 14 for miles and had two things going through my head-I hope to hell I can find this place, and it's a #&@^% way to go for a beer.

I found it, was only about 20 minutes late, and it was fun, though I managed to sneak in a non-alcoholic beer by going up the bar rather than ordering it through the bartender. I poured it into a glass as to appear like a real man. It fun, Gordy was there and he and Paul both are incredibly knowledgeable about building. I hate to be so annoying but ask many questions.

Since the past couple of days had brought us poor weather, my home improvement endeavors had come to a halt. The clapboards are finished and all I need to do is apply a second and perhaps third coat of stain. I've caulked the seams and done all that good stuff, but doubt if it's ready for the full onslaught of the weather.

The deck has been giving us problems from the get go, and replacing all the cedar is an expensive proposition. The biggest issue is that it leaks into the bulkhead, and the source seems to be the trap door. Too many cracks, and every time it rains I can see pools of water on the floor. I am attempting to seal the deck before Winter hits, covering it with a tarp is not an option, so we'll see. Have caulking gun, will travel. I ripped a few boards out, and they're history, though I'll probably pull out the nails, seal the holes, and just lay the boards over it. The poor man's way to do it.

I just wish the rain would stop.

And then there's the fair. We joined our friend Gary for the Tunbridge Fair, he used to a public defender out there, a fact that I still find interesting considering he's a Jewish lawyer from Yonkers and his wife is Japanese. How did they ever end up in rural town like Tunbridge? He's a local, though, and knows a lot of the local people, so I figured it would be fun to go with him.

He knew the back way to go, and we parked near the animals, which is the complete opposite of the previous year that we went. We barely made it to the animals, but stuck with the rides, instead. I think Gary likes the farm animal part because he can appreciate the value in it from a community as well as education POV. The kids were not as interested, and mainly wanted to go on the rides. The animals section definitely has more of the local flavor, and a lot of them knew Gary.

I was completely at a loss over how they evaluate the animals, they all looked healthy and robust to me, but I'm a city boy and a cow's a cow. We walked through the barns and saw everything, the kids enjoyed it but their minds were set on other things.

We watched a pot-bellied pig race, which was a scream, and then off to the ferris wheel and other assorted rides. The kids section was manageable, and it was there that we saw all our home school brethren, who were out in full force. Not just home schoolers, mind you, but many of them. It was nice to see them, and I met a few more. The rides were mellow and Audrey and Nicholas loved them, they couldn't get enough. The unlimited ride pass was the way to go, and they went over and over again. I worried that Nicholas might have some issues, but he was fine, and even went on some of the rides himself. He even rode the motorcycle with a babe on back, he looked like Marlon Brando.

And they went on the ferris wheel sans parents. They are growing so fast. Dinner consisted of two corn dogs each with a strawberry smoothie (a bit of fruit). Thankfully for lunch I gave them enough fruit to justify the corn dogs for dinner, and then it was off for more rides. In the end, that was what it was all about. The kids had fun, and by night fall it was time for us to go. I was worried that I couldn't find my way back, but it was pretty simple and straightforward, and we made it home to pick up Ruth with no problems. It was fun.

I'm finding that if I want to keep up this blogging, I'm going to have to do it at night. It's only way this will work. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Almost There

This home improvement gig sure does take a lot of time. I feel bad that I have to twist the ear of all my friends, and I know they get sick of it, but man am I learning a lot. Hope I don't burn too many bridges with my incessant inquiries.

I'm getting there with the clapboards. At the very least the front looks a lot better, maybe like a real house? I applied the green poison, poor-man's pressure treatment, and then nailed the plywood and covered it with the ice and water shield. That stuff is a bear to apply, it's so damn sticky and of course I got too ambitious and tried to put on bigger and bigger pieces, but managed to not lose a single piece. It stuck like hell, however, and bit of grass and dirt came along for the ride. Oh well, I'm not PD, not yet, at least.

The black paper/felt was actually just as hard to use, only because the theme of your home's exterior is barrier. You want to protect it from moisture as much as possible, and a huge factor are seams, or lack thereof. Less seams is better. In fact, ideally you'd like to cover your house in one single, big sheet of whatever you're applying, which of course is impossible, so you apply as big a piece as possible and overlay to reduce seepage onto the wood. It's fairly intuitive once you start doing it, but there is oh-so much to consider. It really takes patience and insight.

Once I had the black paper on it, I was about 65% of the way there. Now all I need to do is apply clapboards, which will be another drama in and of itself. I've stained several of them and they are ready to roll. Should be interesting, and I can't wait for it to be done. As difficult as this has been for me, it's been a learning and rewarding experience, and I'm looking forward to doing the other side, sort of.

It's just that I've never really done this much home improvement.

Still hoping to mow the lawn, and as always, looking for some more wood. I saw a pile on route 5 and called the guy but never heard from him. Every time I go by GS's I drool over all the firewood that he has in front of his house, and he never once even hints at selling me some, even though he must have some sense that I'm looking for it. I'm thinking that I have to give up on that one and give it a rest.

So much home improvement, so little time. And my wife's parents are on their way. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Here Comes Sunshine

Ah, the rain has finally ended. I was surprised how much rain came down, all night, no less. I had to scramble to protect our house from the splashes, which of course opens up a whole new avenue of home improvement needs. I'm ready.

Being the fickle SOB that I am, I have warmed up to LaValley's and cooled off a bit to Britton's, for a few reasons. I still think that they aren't that friendly at Lavalley's, they just seem cold and distant, but again, that's true of about almost every hardware/lumber store I've been to. They're just used to dealing with people who know what they're doing, which therefore excludes me. Even still, it's hard for a Flatlander to enjoy himself when he feels like such a loser.

What I learned is that LaValley's has everything I need and so much more, and they are actually cheaper than the other guys. I got a bundle of cedar clapboards for less, and they have a greater variety of sizes, and they seem to be in better condition. Sure, they people were not friendly, but after much effort (it helped having my partner, Nicholas, who is as cute as a button, with me) managed to squeak out a smile from the girl behind the register. And best of all, they had what I needed, something my two standby's could not claim. So I'll probably be going there more.

I couldn't find the wood preservative for the life of me. Fogg's was sold out, and Britton's doesn't carry it, ever. He said if I knew what I needed he could order a million gallons of it for me, but I probably only needed a quart, if that. Enter LaValley's. Not only did they have it, but it wasn't that expensive, though like Balloon Gary says, you have to get over frugality and spend some money on your house to get quality. I love that guy.

How did Britton's let me down? I bought a piece of plywood and it was massive, they only sell big pieces and I couldn't buy a half piece. Naturally it wouldn't fit in my car so I asked them to cut it down and then I'd get it the next day, but they flaked on me and I had to buy the big piece-Paul brought it over. Thanks, Paul.

Maybe it's a good thing because I had to deal with something that I wanted to avoid-ripping the wood myself. I have anxiety about using my rotary saw because I can't seem to always cut straight, and this is for the house and I can't mess around. Anway, I did it, and it worked out fine, and I feel like a man. So maybe I should thank Britton's. Thanks.

There's so much good cheer now that I can't believe it. Will work on that this morning, no rain and breezy, perfect for drying toxic chemicals.

Also need to get toner for our printer, and mow the lawn to make our yard look beautiful. Yesterday I drove by a pile of hardwood that had been blocked up and I assumed it was the state's, but found out it belonged to some guy named Jim Punger. I left a message if he wanted to get rid of it, or even sell it, and if he agrees, I might get a couple of cords out of it. We'll see, though it amounts to more work.

Finally I need to move one of my wood piles for the in-laws. Bob likes to stack wood, so I'll break up one of my cords for him to re-stack. It's a long story, but well worth the effort.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Value of the Mentor

I can't express adequately how lucky I feel to have a friend like GL, and wonder what I did to be worthy of his friendship. Even in lieu of my current failures to assist him with flying balloons, he's still always ready to come to our assistance. He really is like a true father figure, and he says he loves to be a problem solver. His confidence is incredibly comforting, especially for a loser like myself. I'm still in awe of how he takes over a situation. Wow.

Anyway, the clapboard drama continues, and it's the limbo effect that gets to me the most. The repair just sits there until I can get the stuff I need, which I partially accomplished. PD recommended using something called Cuprinol on the frame, then using Fire and Ice on the plywood that covers it, not that I have any clue what they are. All I know is they are to protect from water. I found the F&I at Foggs, where I got to see my buddy Rhett and we talked about our blackberry harvest. I love that guy. They were sold out of the Cup, however, so I only accomplished half my goal and can't finish the boards. Plus, it's supposed to rain today, total bummer, so I'm hoping to at least get the stuff at Britton's, where hopefully I'll see my other patriarch, Harry (Rhett's the other) and get some advice. I love this home improvement stuff, if only it didn't take so much time.

I was disappointed in the guy at the Britton's, however. He blew me off and didn't cut my wood like he said he would, so PD ended up bringing me a whole 4X8 slap of plywood. How the hell am I supposed to rip this? I know, everyone thinks it's no big deal, but he said he'd do it and probably was just giving me lip service. Such is the life of a Flatlander living in paradise.

For today, I'd like to keep it simple but I always get bogged down with too many things to do. I'd like to mow the lawn, as well. The kids have indicated that it is now allowable to mow the backyard, so I'm going to begin the process of manicuring the grounds to make them presentable. I yanked out a bunch of goldenrod the other day and it's just sitting there rotting on the grass.

Then I'd like to tackle the clapboards. I'm embarrassed by this, but I didn't know I could do bevel cuts on my miter saw. That thing kicks butt, I'm so impressed with it. PD asked me what kind I got, and when I told him a Craftsman, his scorn was palpable, but of course he was nice about it. Either way, I'm sure true contractors would not touch a Craftsman, but I love that saw. It does everything I need, and more. Either way, I needed bevel cuts for the corner boards, and wasn't sure how to pull it off. I tried doing bevel cuts on the picnic table using a rotary saw and it was a complete disaster. If only I'd known, or better yet, at least tried. Stupid me.

It's raining right now, bummer, but again, I can't let it stop me. I'll need to go to the dump, as well. We've got tons of recycling, and then I have to get my damn Cuprinol. I'm thinking I can apply it if it's only drizzling, then by tomorrow morning I'll begin replacing the clapboards. Did I mention the cedar claps cost an arm and a leg? MG said they used cedar, but she's full of shit, they are spruce, much cheaper. I bought cedar and will stick with it. I'm thinking they'll be more durable on the lower levels, exposed to all that water, but the cost is painful, and to make it worse, I can't apply them evenly for aesthetic reasons. A complete pain in the arse. So I have to cut and stagger them for appearances. Wow, being a homeowner ain't easy.

The bookshelf is still languishing on the floor. Staining and finishing is in its future.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Consequences of Cluelessness

As much as I love Britton's, it's not always the best store when you're clueless, like myself. I just realized that when I bought cedar clapboards the other day, they weren't cedar, and I paid top dollar for something that wasn't. They were spruce. Luckily, I only got about twenty feet, but it's still a lot. In all fairness, they would probably give me my money back, they are very cool in that way, but you pay the price if you are clueless. It's because they send you out to the shed and expect you to get it right, i.e., they don't hold your hand. My mistake, and now I know.

What I also know is that cedar clapboards are expensive. I bought a bundle and when she rang up $100, I was floored. Little did I know that it's a very good price. Paul told me that he pays $3/foot, where I'm getting about $1.80/foot, so I shouldn't complain. Even still, I hate when I'm stupid, and I'm always stupid.

My friend Gary (the other Gary) was commenting on how I'm being thrown to the lions in terms of home improvement, and in a way, it's true. I'm dealing with way more than I bargained for, but it's good. The best lessons are the one's you learn the hard way. Thankfully we live in Vermont, surrounded by do-it-yourself real men who are not only good at what they do, but are always willing to lend a big helping hand. It's the New England way, fiercely independent, but always neighborly and helpful. I love that.

Now that I'm a clapboard expert, I decided to pull off a few more and make sure the plywood was not thrashed. One thing I've learned is that it's difficult, if not impossible for me, to salvage clapboards that I've removed. They just seem to get really thrashed, and as I remove them in increasing numbers all can think of are the dollars going up in smoke, at $1.82/foot. Ouch. Mind you, I'm trying my best to be gentle, hoping, perhaps naively so, that by using finesse and touch, I can reuse these things, but no such luck. I've been successful a few times, but for the most part, it's goodbye clapboards. Once I'd given up hope, however, it was much easier to remove them, and in certain instances I simply ripped the damn things off. I'm beginning the process of staining the new ones, they smell great, BTW, and it's a long road ahead. I may still use the spruce ones, maybe in low impact areas, but like Balloon Gary (my mentor) says, it's your house, you're planning on living there for awhile, don't skimp and get the good stuff. Now if only I can convince Ruth of this.

It rained last night, pretty hard, actually, and I can't really complain because we've had such nice, dry weather, simply beautiful. The rain didn't help my pursuit of the perfect clapboard, however, and I had to scramble to just protect the dry siding from the rain. One thing that I've noticed and will ultimately guide me in our next home improvement endeavor is that the problem we are facing is a universal one-water coming down the slanted roof and splashing back on the house. The solution? Gravel. I spoke with Homesteader Gary and he said he has the same problem, as I'm sure all of Vermont and New Hampshire have, and he advised me on where to go. Yet another adventure for Fred.

The reason that I loathe water splashing on the house is twofold. One, you get rot. And two, when the wood is wet and rotted, you get carpenter ants. And carpenter ants we have. Two thing I've learned about them is that not to many people know very much about them, and the know even less about how to deal with them. Even the two Gary's were at a loss for an explanation, other than the fact that you don't want them and had sure as hell better deal with them. For now, on the advice of Balloon Gary, I will leave the clapboards off, let the wood dry, and spray for the little buggers. Total bummer, I just want to finish it and be done with it, but such is life.

Speaking of clapboards, I'm doing things to the house that I've never done, and it scares me. I'm actually cutting out sections of the plywood facing, whatever it's called, and it's not for the faint of heart. Balloon Gary was there to hold my hand, I couldn't have done without him, but it still makes me uneasy. The thing that's a pain is that I've got to repair the damn thing, now. Does it never end?

There are some silver linings, however. I was sealing our deck yesterday and managed to get the second coat on just in time to let it dry before the deluge, and you know what? It beaded water like a dream, I was impressed. Also, our picnic table is weathering the storm nicely, though it's only been a few months, but I can celebrate the small victories. Sometimes that's all you got.

Will mow out all the grass, we've decided the time has come to shave it all off, in preparation for Ruth's parents visit. Many things to do, not to mention being a parent.

Just a quick anecdote, when I went to Home Depot to find out about carpenter ants, the guy told me that I'll need carpenter and poison. Brilliant, but very appropriate for Home Depot. In all fairness, the guys at Britton's were not any more insightful. Carpenter ants, the big mystery.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Home Improvement-A New Twist

Yesterday, in what was supposed to be a fairly straightforward exercise in home improvement turned out to be a complete rigmarole, not to mention a true test of my home improvement moxie. I was trying to replace clapboards on the front of the house and several things happened. Just like PD told me, I ended up cracking and breaking more clapboards that I had intended to, and in the process of cracking those, I cracked some more. I am, however, getting the hang of removing clapboards. It's all about finesse and feel, though the nails can be a bitch to remove.

The boards near the bottom were severely rotted and fell apart, and once removed, I discovered ants. Not a lot of them, but enough to cause concern. AND, the wood was wet and rotted, another concern. They had to be replaced, and suddenly a simple clapboard replacement scheme was evolving into a serious home improvement endeavor. So naturally I turned to one of my mentors for advice.

Now I seriously considered calling KB or PD on their cell, but they are working and busy, so I instead called my life-sensei, GL, just to ask some simple questions. GL has alluded to feeling neglected in the home improvement field, and he's incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, not to mention supremely confident and capable. He said water and ants were both a concern, and that he'd be right over to take a look. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I wasn't going to have face this alone.

GL showed up and the clouds parted in the sky. He's such the man, I feel no fear when he's around. He looked at the house and declared that we were going to have to cut out the wood, and I immediately shit in my pants. He was so nonchalant about it, that's what I love about the guy. He did say that it could wait another year and I could simply re-cover the face with new clapboards, but feeling empowered and like a man, I said screw it, let's do it, here and now.

So I got my rotary saw and proceeded to cut out a 1X4 section of the plywood face beneath the clapboard, I couldn't believe it. Sure enough, it revealed that the wood was rotting and there was some ant infestation, but not a lot. I probably saw at most twenty ants. But that is enough.

The interesting thing about living in New England is that they don't have termites, but they do have carpenter ants, which seem to me to be the same damn thing. They have to be dealt with or your house will crumble. We went inside and GL saw no water damage on the inside, the foundation seemed sound, and he felt it was not an urgent, dire situation. Of course, I was in a panicked state, but he was calm and cool, as always.

The conclusion was that I would need to remove most of the front clapboards and search for water damage and ants. I would need to address the ant issue, and make sure no more rot was occurring, and this alone was going to be a monumental task. Removing clapboards ain't easy. The corner boards (I just learned what these are called) were rotting, as well, and I needed to replace sections of them. At first I figured that I'd just cut a small section off and replace it whenever it needed it, figuring that this will be a regular thing, but instead I think I'll head off to Brittons and get the entire piece ripped for me. Eight feet, I hope it fits in my car. That's why I love Britton's, they always help out and don't make you feel like an asshole when they do, even if they think it. That means a lot to me.

So it's off to Britton's for plywood, ant killer, corner boards, clapboards, and some friendly advice. What more do I need? If and when I get this finished, it'll be a small miracle. I wanted to finish sealing the deck but had no time, so hopefully I'll get to it today. Also, I forgot to ask GL why our grass is dying, and what kind of paint to use on the corner boards, or rather if the paint in the basement was usable. So many questions, so little time.

And to top it all off, I still have to cook, clean, and home school the kids. Maybe it's a good thing I'm staying at home, today. My wife's parents have indicated a visit, so I'm thinking I may have to mow the backyard lawn, which GL was more than happy to share his thoughts on. We looked at the chimney and said it was very clean, though some buildup is occurring an I think I would still have it cleaned, and we cleaned the stove pipe. Getting ready for cold weather. GL did compliment me on my caulking job, not to mention my technique with the rotary saw. This means the world to me.

Today should be an interesting day, to say the least. With me luck, more later. Until then, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day Back

Even though I have plenty of wood this Winter, I'm still stressing out over how the heck I'm going to get wood for next year. This situation is getting ridiculous, I've talked to people I know who have paid top dollar for cord wood, and it worries me. They are even pre-buying for next year. I should relax and have faith in Mike, he's a good man, and in the end, if things change for the worse, there's always a way. Have to adopt a more Vermont attitude and get over my city-neurosis, there's always a way and whatever the world throws at you, you've got no choice other than to just deal with it. And whatever you do, don't whine.

Things are moving along with the barn. Todd Hill, a true Vermonter, was here a few weeks ago and we dug test pits and measured the land for the septic plan. I helped him out and I think I was reasonably competent, for a Flatlander, that is. Todd's a great guy and I really like helping him because he's always willing to give me advice outside of his job, and he's a very knowledgeable, down to earth guy. I need all the help I can get.

With Fall on the horizon, I decided that there were things I needed to take care of, and it was time to be a real man and do real man things. The deck, oh that deck. Our poor cedar wood deck, though I'm taking it on faith that it's real cedar wood, at least that's what Marty said (she's the previous owner of this house and woman extraordinaire) and I believe her for two reason-first, she's an honest and honorable woman, whom BTW I respect immensely, and secondly, she didn't mess around with this house and did things the right way, so I know she used quality ingredients. That I firmly believe, but I could be deluding myself.

The deck is thrashed, little did I know that wood should be protected to some degree because even cedar will give way to the elements. Todd Hill actually said that white cedar is much more affordable to replace, but affordable is relative. I built shelves out of native pine, the cheapest wood you can get, and Ruth still tore me a new asshole over the cost, so if I went with buying good hardwood, she would surely have me killed. So I'm contemplating what to do, and am considering using a lesser wood, maybe spruce, and then staining and finishing/sealing it, but we'll see.

In the meantime, it needs help. The wood is falling apart, so I finished it with a penetrating sealer. I'm using (Kurt and Paul, please don't laugh) an all natural, soy-based sealer that I got on the Cape. It's non-toxic, if you can believe that. Not sure I do, but I'm going with the Ecoprocote Acri-soy sealer, anyway. I've been using their stuff and I like the non-toxic thing for stuff the kids will be around. I also need to work on the front porch steps, they are constantly doused with rain and are in need of repair.

I also am preparing for the big home improvement step-replacing clapboards. I primed the boards yesterday and will start the process of pulling the old one's off. We are supposed to get rain on Thursday so I need to start today. Could be interesing, always fun. A fun thing for the kids to watch their dad do.

Did loads of yardwork, in the prime of heat. It actually was a nice day because there was a steady wind and I wasn't too miserable. The lawn was a disaster, way to overgrown, and our poor Toro was working it's tail off, not to mention me. I managed to make it look somewhat reasonable, and have vowed to be more diligent about it.

I tried manicuring the blackberry bushes a bit, just so we can access them and walk around them, and today I will mow some more, trim some more bushes, and then set about removing as much goldenrod as I can. It prevents the other wild flowers from growing since it seems to take over.

Otherwise, life is good. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Berries and Assorted Yard Work

We have had a kick-butt season for berries, and we did absolutely nothing to promote it. Then again, that's not true. I did some serious battle with the Japanese Beatles, the little bastards. They were tenacious and unwavering in their virtual destruction of roses and berry leaves, but in the end, there are so many berry bushes that their impact is muted, thankfully. They are rather pesky pests, though, and I have to give them credit, they are survivors. They are smart like cockroaches, they sense when there is danger and bail out. You've got to appreciate that.

Either way, there are berries galore, and they keep coming. I've been told you can promote their production by doing a few things, but I've got to do more research. Then again, there are more than enough resources in our friends, who seem to know a lot about everything.

I did my first real bout of yard work last week before we took off. It's a funny thing about yards, the require maintenance. Nobody told me that. I just figured things took care of themselves, but the bushes and shrubs seem to be getting a bit out of hand, and left to their own devices, the berry bushes would take over the world. Though I like the raspberries, they have a certain invasive quality about them. They pretty much take over.

And don't even get me started on mowing the lawn. It's been such a rainy summer that I haven't had as much of a chance to mow the lawn, and it's grown a bit out of control. But maybe this week I have no excuse and need to get on it. Part of our lawn is actually dying a slow death, taken over by what I believe are wild strawberries.

Gotta run and prep for the deck cleaning. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Fall Plans

Wow, is it already September? I can't believe it, though I think we're in for a stretch of dry weather, so it's time to take care of house stuff. Yikes! When you're dealing with things as big as your house, the stakes are so much bigger, but you do what you gotta do.

I'm thankful that I've got my wood for the season, though I'm still a little stressed about next year. I know how stupid this sounds, but the wood situation is getting rough, and I know a few people who had a hard time finding it and had to pay to dollar. I'm set for this Winter, but what about next? The plan is to always have two seasons on hand, but it ain't easy, and would require having upwards of ten cords on hand. Not sure if that is doable, and I still want to find a self-made source, i.e., cutting it myself at bargain basement prices. I need a truck, and big one, or maybe even a small one would do.

Which brings me to my chainsaw. I still haven't gotten one, they still scare me, but it can't be avoided. I need to get one, and all roads seem to point to Husqavarna, if I spelled that right. My first thought was go cheap and small, but if I intend to cut any amount of wood in the future, I think I need to get the real deal. Besides, in terms of safety, I'm better off getting a good saw, not to mention all the safety equipment. I realize I may look stupid doing it, but you can't let ego get in the way of saving your body parts. This process will be an odyssey in itself, so stay tuned for more.

I did speak with Chip, my sensei, and he's interested in getting into the wood business, so he may be someone I'll turn to in the future, but first we've got to find some wood. I haven't written off the idea of getting log lengths and cutting it, but first I've got to get my chainsaw.

On other fronts, we've got a great forecast for the next week, and I've got no excuse but to get on house repair. The first thing will be to clean the deck. People always talk of getting a pressure nozzle but I'll do it the poor man's way, with a hose and a broom. If I can clean it in the morning and then let it dry all day, I can probably start sealing in the afternoon if it's dry and clear. The hard part will be to keep the kids off of it for a few days. Not an easy thing. I should work on the bulkhead door, as well, but one thing at a time, here, and I'll probably end up replacing the whole thing, anyway.

I also really need to get on those clapboards. My guess is that the first thing I should do is pre-stain the clapboard in the barn, then cut to size. The interesting part will be to get those clapboards off. Should I remove them first? Seems like it will leave it exposed, so I'll probably measure it out, cut and stain... no, I'll stain large pieces first, then cut and stain the edge. That will minimize the time of vulnerability. Can't forget to calk.

And let us not forget the corner panels. One of the biggest problems I face is knowing the nomenclature. Everything's got a name, and I know none of them. This makes it challenging when you go to the lumber yard of hardware store and makes it all the more critical to have the Harrys or the Rhetts there to hold my hand. Will work on that, as well, though I need to know if I have exterior latex white. Listen to me.

I did do a pretty good job on the picnic table, if I may say so myself, and I feel empowered. Lots of yard work, as well, in preparation for Fall. Can it be here, already? Hard to believe.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.