Friday, December 31, 2010

Screwed Up

Over the Thanksgiving holiday when my PR and RR were here giving me real-man pointers, I was embarrassed by the fact that I was severely deficient in my screwdriver collection. Come to think of it, I'm fairly deficient in a lot of things, but let's not go there. There have been many occasions where we've needed screwdrivers of various lengths, widths, and flavors, and just didn't have them. It is during those moments when you realize that man cannot live on white bread alone... whatever that means.

Anyway, PR didn't make issue of it because he was just being kind, but deep in the back of his mind I'm sure he was thinking, "You #*$#* sissy, get some tools, will you?" How could I not take action?

So when I was over at LaValley's, I picked up a screwdriver set, and it wasn't that painful, i.e., not that expensive. I love when that happens. Now I have a screwdriver for every occasion, and the next time PR or RR is over, or when my Mentor or JH and his magic bag of tools stops by, when they ask me if I have a narrow long-necked flat-head screwdriver or a short necked Philip's head, I can say, "Why of course I do." (I don't know what they are called)

I can't wait.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Not So Soft, After All

Isn't it funny how things work out? Just on the heels of complaining that I'm getting soft from lack of activity, and suddenly we get two feet of snow and I'm out there sweating bullets shoveling and hauling wood.

Not that I'm complaining, I'm not. It was awesome getting the snow, and I feel like we need more, but I am out of shape, and it took a bit before I was breathing normally shoveling the white stuff. You can see how people have heart attacks doing that sort of thing.

It was a workout, to say the least, but in a good way. Plus, now that I've burned a few calories, I can go have a few extra cookies after lunch.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Getting Soft

Since Winter is upon us and there aren't as many outdoor activities, I'm finding that I'm getting soft as I sit around doing nothing. Combine that with all of the holiday eating and the fact that we haven't had a really strenuous karate class for about three weeks, and I'm starting to feel like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Something's gotta give.

In all honesty, I could do some working out at home, it's just that I've been laid up with this death-cold and haven't really felt inspired, but time for making excuses must come to an end. I could always go out and split some wood, but I did not prepare adequately for the holidays. I should have cut wood blocks and stacked them in the woods. Then I would have had some wood to split over the Winter.

As my kids always tell me, should've, could've, would've, but didn't.

Oh well, live and learn. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Betsy Ray for the pic.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wimping Out On the Oil

I was ready to change the oil on our new Fit and went to Gerrish to get the official Honda filter, though I opted for oil at Autozone, where I got yet another filter with the oil change special. So now I have oil, two filters, and extra gaskets for the drain plug, I’m all set.

However, as I look at all that snow on the ground and think about laying in it while I get covered in oil, I decided to take it into our mechanic to have it changed. Sure, I’ll pay about twice what it takes to do it myself ($35 vs $17), plus I’ll miss out on the satisfaction of using my own two hands, not to mention losing real-man points in doing a real-man’s job, but sometimes you just have to let someone else do the job.

For all it’s worth, many of my real-man role models take their cars in to change the oil, so I don’t feel so bad. Justification? Sure, but sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, especially a real-man in training.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Firing Up the Chainsaw

I have all sorts of obsessive issues with our chainsaw and lawnmower, and now, of course, our weed whacker. The experts keep telling me that modern gas is bad for them, and some say to drain the gas to keep your carburetor healthy, and others say emptying your tank will lead to rust.

I will say this, it can lead to a waste of gas. I’ve been told not to use gas that’s more than 30 days old, but a friend of mine who’s a logger says he’s used oil that’s a year old.

Maybe degradation of your carb is inevitable, but I’d like to minimize this effect, so with this in mind, CH, my sensei in karate, who also happens to be a logger, but a hardcore one who climbs trees with chainsaws strapped to his waist, said the best thing to do is just fire the machines up regularly, which I’m going to do.

That is, of course, until I get some new advice. Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Excavator Thoughts

I know it’s long after the fact, but I just wanted to share some thoughts on DC Excavating. For the record, they did a great job, came when they said, and put the darn septic tank in. They were the most professional and gave us the most thorough and timely estimate for the job.

Then, two years passed before we were ready to start work. Again, they were ready to do the job and professional about everything, even though they deserved to be skeptical about us. When the time came, they showed up and started working on the job.

One complication was that since two years had passed, life was different, and things had changed. First off, the price of materials had gone up, so they had to revise our estimate. Secondly, we changed the plans, which would require more materials and time, and therefore cost.

Fair enough, though the new estimate came in about $2000 higher. I realized they needed a lot more pipe and insulation because we changed the location of the tank, but it seemed excessive. Then again, we’d put off doing this for two years, and just wanted to get it done.

I spoke with my Mentor, and he said that the original price for the system was really low, under $5000, which I was told was unheard of for a septic system, though anything over a hundred dollars makes me sweat. They were also going to do a job that I assumed I was going to have to do, and wasn’t looking forward to. This was cutting a hold in the concrete foundation so the septic pipe could enter the house. I was not looking forward to that one.

Anyway, we ran into complication after complication such that we finally had to revise our plan one final time and put the septic tank in its original position. This meant that all the extra pipe and insulation were not going to be needed, which I assumed would bring down the price. Plus, since we weren’t laying the tank in the back, it would mean less work.

Now granted, we struggled with where to put the septic tank pipe, and DC and JF were helpful in giving us advice and suggestions. They ended up cutting 3 holes when in fact we only needed one of them, so there was extra work in filling them in.

My only thought was that the end price was not that much lower. I realize supplies went up in price, but it seemed like a lot less work time and definitely less in supplies such that I figured it would make a bigger dent in the original estimate, but the final price was not much lower than the estimate, though it was lower.

In many ways I can’t complain, they did a great job, finished in a few days, and were very professional about it. Also, the overall price was a fraction of what septic systems usually cost, but that stems from the fact that it was a small system and we have good soil.

I guess I’m just voicing my confusion, and in the end, can’t fault DC and associates, they did the job and now we’re ready to move on. Then again, when you’re working with contractors, you are at their mercy and can’t really make issue of their claims because they’re the pros, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Possible Electrician

We've solidified our plumber on the barn project, and had an electrician who stopped by and knows my Mentor and was willing to do the job, but that was a year and a half ago, and I've never really spoken to the electrician since then.

So, I'm guessing that means anythings possible. I'm saying this because I've met several electricians in this town recently, all of whom are licensed and do freelance work, so they would be for hire. I like the idea of someone local and maybe even someone I know, but that does not always work out for the best.

Either way, I have some names in mind. We'll see where this one goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Emiliano Spada for the pic.

Not Much Going On

So sorry for my absence, but we haven't been doing too much on the home front because it has been too cold/snowy/rainy or we've been sick as dogs, so we end up laying around and not getting much of anything done. In fact, I'm still sick, and I must be going on week 4 by now, but enough of my sobbing.

We are still in the process of working on the barn. Now that the septic is in, and I have some thoughts about Dan Clay Excavating which I'll share later, but now we need to connect with plumber, order the supplies, and start plumbing. I'm not sure if we need framed walls to do all that stuff, but I'm assuming he'll let us know all about that.

First and foremost, and my Mentor is going to laugh about this one, is we have to come up with a plan for the bathrooms, something we slacked off on in the beginning and suffered dearly for it. Once we have a layout, B can give us a sense of what is possible and what is not, then give us a list of things we'll need to buy. Once we've got them, I'm guessing we'll start installing them, which is a crazy thought.

That will segue into the electrical, which lead to siding, and then internal framing and the floor. Yikes, do we even want to go there? Of course we do.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to melissa ricquier for the pic.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Clapboards in the Winter

It’s cold and snowy out there, but I still plan on doing some outdoor activities as part of real-man training. Two things come to mind. First, the clapboards on the FEBP. Since I don’t need to paint them, they’re already primed, all it would require is cutting them and nailing them in. I’m ready. Then, in the Spring, I’ll paint them, though we’re still undecided on the color of the house.

The second project is that pile of wood. The chainsaw is primed and ready for work since I used it to cut that beast of a maple log. I’ve been storing it in the basement, so it’s not too cold, and now I’d like to cut up some of those trees. Part of my goal here is to have really dry wood, but maybe I’m just being too OCD about the whole thing.

With that in mind, maybe I’ll let the wood sit there and deal with it next year. We’ll see.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Maple Slabs

Just wanted to mention that we have these beautiful maple slabs and they should make for nice counter tops. Thanks again to CT, what a great guy. The slabs are 2 inches thick and about 10 feet long. With 9 boards, that's about 90 linear feet of wood that would cost an arm and a leg at a mill.

Hard to imagine.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Milling Logs

As luck would have it, the one day that CT and I decided to mill the logs, we finally got some snow, which of course turned into freezing rain and sleet. I wasn’t sure if CT was up for doing it, but like all real men, he wasn’t going to let bad weather stop him from running a saw mill. To add to the joy, he said he had a splitting headache and because of it couldn’t sleep the previous night. Who cares about a little pain?

Well, I was still (and still am, for that matter), sick as a dog, but I couldn’t be too much of a wimp in front of CT, he wouldn’t stand for that. Besides, with Winter practically here, at some point he has to put the mill and the excavator into storage. BTW, CT has a virtual treasure trove of grown-up male toys. He’s got an excavator, a 10-ton dump truck, a one ton, a saw mill, a tractor and a splitter. The guy is stocked, and what is truly amazing is that he actually built the mill, which is a band saw, and the splitter with his dad. Crazy. I was thinking PR would appreciate the work that went into that.

The first thing was to determine which logs were going to work. Our initial assessment, which was confirmation of what the logger DS said, was that only one of the maple logs was going to be useful, and the other two were rotting too much. However, to his credit, CT was willing to cut the others and at least have a look. The cutting took awhile because the maple is so incredibly hard, but eventually we worked our way through them and ended up with nearly ten beauiful slabs of 2 inch thick maple board. They are all about 16-20 inches wide, so if I rip them into 12 inch boards, we have some pretty nice pieces of wood, perfect for counter tops in the kitchen of the barn. I can’t even imagine how much all that would cost if you bought it through a lumber yard, I’m grateful to CT.

Also, in typical real man fashion, CT was not willing to call it a day until the job was completely finished. Usually, when I start doing something, as time ticks away, I just want it to be done, and start cutting corners and getting sloppy as the end is in sight. I”ve noticed with working with guys like my Mentor, PR, and JH and his magic bag of tools, when you begin a job, you work through it until it’s done. Wow, talk about inspiration.

I figured that we would cut the slabs and leave them on the ground and at some point I’d come over and haul them to our house, but CT started loading them into his 3/4 ton truck and brought them over. Even at that point, to make it easier on him, I said to just leave them on the ground in front of the barn, but he insisted on carrying them into the barn to protect them from the elements. This way, they would properly dry, and won’t freeze together in one massive block. He even showed me the proper way to space them so that they’ll breathe. What a guy, I’m grateful.

Now we have the wood. The pine logs are still uncut, but they’ll have to wait until Spring, but I’m not complaining.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fluorescent Mania

I don’t know if this is a Vermont phenomenon, because this state is very eco-friendly and has all sorts of tax incentives to embrace green energy, but fluorescent bulbs are dirt cheap over here. $0.99 a pop, and they are making all sorts of alternatives to the incandescent bulbs. I got a flood bulb and they are making them look like regular bulbs, kind of.

Sure, in certain instances only an incandescent will do, but the more lights you can replace, the better. Right? Plus, you can put higher output bulbs which actually use less juice, which is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for reading.

Electrical Madman

Now that I’ve been inspired by PR and JH and his magic bag of tools, I decided to get crazy and do some electrical work myself. I’m so into it that I even have a bag devoted exclusively electrical tools and supplies, it’s the smaller one next to my real-man tool bag. I’m like a walking version of LaValley’s Building and Supply.

Anyway, I had a problem with the switch to the outside patio light. We were doing some painting and I removed the face plate, and left it off for a couple of years. I’m not sure why, but people asked if there was a problem with the electrical system and why I hadn't put it back on. I finally decided the time had come to put the plate back on, but of course I screwed it up and used the wrong screw, which was way too long. I ended up screwing it in too hard to the point where I couldn’t get it out. The rivet that held it in came loose and suddenly the screw wouldn’t come out.

I was going to have to remove the entire switch, which would entail killing the breaker, which in turn would require figuring out which breaker controlled the light. So many hurdles to overcome.

I found the breaker, and figured I could keep track of the wires by replacing them one at time. In other words, I would loosen on connection and immediately connect it to the new switch. Now this is the part you’re going to love. I got the new switch all hooked up and realized I put it on backwards.

My first thought was (after deciding I couldn’t wait for JH to save the day or for the next visit from in in-laws) that it might not matter. I thought I'd heard RR say (why don't I pay better attention?) that hooking wires backwards in certain instance didn’t matter as long as a circuit was completed. However, I wasn’t sure if this applied to switches, and it was easy enough to unhook the switch, flip it over and reattach the wires.

I did that, but this time around did not keep track of what wires went where, and I was suddenly faced with a switch in one hand three wires that all look the same. For the record, there were two blacks (the switch turns on two lights) and no white wires, it was gray. I sat for a few minutes before I finally deduced which wires were which, and I went for it.

I hooked it up, turned on the breaker, and voila. Let there be light. I couldn’t believe it, I did an electrical job, and neither PR or JH was there to hold my hand, which I would have preferred, but it wasn’t an option.

Now we have a new switch. I just have to put a plate on this loose wire (it was for speakers) and then the wall will once again look normal, sort of.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

I Can Run, But I Can’t Hide

I was so thrilled to have those darn logs off the property, that I almost didn’t care what happened to them. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the guy whose property I unloaded them on does care. In fact, I saw him the other day at the library and he said, “Hey, you big loser, what’s up with those logs you left in my front yard?” I tried to play dumb and say, “What logs?” That, however was not going to fly.

He mentioned that it was best to mill them before it snows, so the sooner, the better. I’m thinking next weekend I’ll go over there and we’ll cut some boards. I have no idea what I’m doing or what I’m getting myself into, but what the heck else is new in my life? Besides, when life is familiar and predictable, where’s the adventure?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Suffering From My Ignorance

Between PR and JH and his magic bag of tools, I was primed and ready to jump in head first and install the porch lights. I had the trim squares cut and ready, and I even cut out the holes in the sheathing and had the electrical boxes installed.

It was the wiring, however, that threw me for a loop. I figured that each light would correspond with one wire, each with a hot, cold and ground wire. Well, when I went to check it out, one of the lights had two sets of wires. I immediately broke out into a cold sweat and my brain ceased to function. Why the heck were there two wires? I should have asked PR when he was here.

Naturally, I went into default mode and ignored it, hoping it would go away, or at least until JH and his magic bag of tools showed up. Fortunately, the moment arrived only a couple of days later. I helped facilitate the process by getting everything set up, and JH came in and cleaned up.

He actually explained to me why there were two wires going into one light, and suddenly it all made perfect sense when you think of electricity as a circuit. In fact, JH was really nice about explaining it, but in the back of his mind he was probably thinking, “Man, were you born stupid, or did your parents beat you with a stupid stick?” If I could have overcome that one barrier, I could have done it, I could have been a contender, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Fortunately, there are people like my Mentor or PR, and of course, JH and his magic bag of tools to come in and save the day. Next time, however, I’ll be ready.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Front Door Insulation

I finally managed to glue in the foam insulation on the front door, and like everything else in life, it wasn’t that bad, and I wondered what took me so long to do it. Part of the problem is my neurosis. The tube of glue says, “WARNING: contains polyethylene glycol, use in well-ventilated space.” The vestibule is not well ventilated, and I can’t really work with the door open, so I worried about exposing everyone to toxic fumes.

At some point, however, I decided to heck with it, this has got to be done.

It turns out that the glue wasn’t that bad, at all, and it doesn’t take much. I glued the foam, and even used some fireproof spray foam to seal the electrical boxed for the patio lights. My original plan was to spray expandable foam in the gaps and then insulate with fiberglass, but I have some serious issues with that foam. The spray nozzles always clog, or in my case, it breaks. I was so bummed. Every time I work with the stuff, it’s a pain in the neck, and this time was no different. I ended up caulking the gap, instead, and didn’t deal with the foam.

Hopefully my Mentor, PR, or JH won’t disapprove, but if they do, it wouldn’t be the first time, nor would it be the last.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Firewood Done... For Now

Okay, more news on the firewood front. I tend to talk a lot about wood because it's one of the few things I actually know how to deal with. That, and making brownies. Either way, we've got two years stacked, and I can relax a little before I start working on year three, which I will cut into blocks and maybe, if I have time, split and stack in the woods. We have already gone through about half of this year's wood, so it's highly likely that we'll dip into next years wood before the weather warms up.

Also, I just wanted to mention that wood that I am burning that has been drying for two years still sizzles, which makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong. Why can't I get dry wood? My solution is to dry it even longer, but if anyone has any advice, please do tell.

Thanks for reading.

Home Improvement for the Holidays

During the holidays, home improvement becomes a family affair, and I can't tell you how cool this is. Things that I've put off doing because I am totally clueless (which pretty much includes everything) get finished and things that are broken get fixed, especially electronic items. Yet another reason to wish that our family would visit more often, but don't get me started.

First off, the FEBP, which is moving at a snail's pace. Electrical work just scares me, though guys like JH or PR are fearless when it comes to wires. JH came over and did an amazing job of wiring up most of the front door lights, but there was still the issue of the overhead light and the switch.

Well, PR looked at it and said, "Let's get to work." My first reaction was to think, "Shouldn't we put it off until next year?" The first thing to do was to get the proper tools, which included wire cutting accessories and assorted pliers. Once these were procured, PR went to work, and didn't stop or hesitate until the job was done. It was pretty amazing to watch, and not a hint of doubt or trepidation. He managed to fish the wired through a small hole to hook up the overhead light, and replaced the switch box to accommodate an additional switch. When I looked at all those wires coming out of the wall, I almost fainted.

PR also fixed the seal on the front door, and then RR took a look at our TV, which no longer works because it fell of the shelf and hit the floor like a rock. RR wanted examine it, so he took the thing apart and figured out what might be the problem. Talk about going for it, he just dismantled the TV and had a good look, no hesitation. He thought it might need a new circuit board, and said he might even have on at home and would bring it the next time they visited. I can tell you one thing, the TV will not be fixed (at least not by me) by the next time they visit. Pretty impressive stuff.

Sometimes I think we should have a TV show, The Family Home Improvement Show. I would simply be a clueless observer, of course.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Volt Meter

When I was kid, my dad had a voltmeter that I loved to play with to check batteries and light bulbs. I'd been told by JH that they were useful (of course he has one in his magic bag of tools), and I toyed with the idea of getting one, when lo and behold, when we had family over, we had an occasion to get one.

RR and PR were fixing the kid's electric motor, and RR mentioned a voltmeter would be useful. Say no more. PR and I ran over to Aubuchon and got one (actually, it's a multimeter), and we used it extensively over the course of the weekend. The kids got a huge kick out of it, too, so it was a win-win situation. I love when that happens.

We now know which batteries still have charge in them, which as any kid will tell you, is extremely useful information. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

PR to the Rescue

I'm in awe of my brother in law, PR. The guy is a home improvement master, he should wear a cape and red tights. He is fearless, and inspires me to follow in his brave footsteps, or at least be less of a spineless jellyfish.

He was here for a few days and his impact was significant. No job is too big or demanding for him to tackle, and he jumps in like it was nothing. It's pretty amazing to watch, and watch I did. First off, he fixed the kitchen light. The upper bulb kept going out, and dismantled it and saw it was a loose connection with a rivet that requires soldering. Fortunately, I had asked RR to bring his soldering iron to help fix one of the kid's toys, so PR used that to fix the light.

Next, he took on the wiring that JH had started. He replaced the electrical box, rewired it and hooked up the upper light in the vestibule. He ran into some problems with a severed wire, a situation that would have made me throw in the towel, but he persevered, and had wires coming out of every wall in the house. He managed to fix it, and now the front porch lights are ready to go.

Finally, he fixed the front door. He probably could have installed all of the siding on the barn if he'd have stayed longer. The guy is amazing. Now, if only we could get him to stay longer, then we'd have an entire shopping mall built by next summer.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Home Improvement Progress

JH came over and we (I should say he, I just watched and handed him tools) got the wiring done, but there wasn't time to get the lights put in, nor did we have all the equipment. For the record, the store did not have the switches we needed, so I need to go elsewhere.

In the meantime, the front is ready to be wired and the lights installed. I ran into an electrician at the library and he gave some advice about how to do the lights. He said what they do is use a pine board to frame the light, then put the clapboards around that. Say no more, sounds good to me.

I just need to find some wood, cut a hole, and then I'm in business. I could even put the board in without the light, but we'll see how that goes. I do, however, forsee that this could be finished and done before the new year. How crazy would that be?

Then again, crazier things have happened. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

FEBP Actual Steps

This is old news for some, but I'm trying to chronicle this in proper order, so excuse the redundancy.

We managed to finally get the front step in, and I had some help getting it done. N in particular likes to help out by nailing and hammering and especially painting. A likes to help with the painting, as well. It makes for a fun day getting things done, and the kids learn the value of lending a hand, namely in the form of a happy dad.

With the step in, I could caulk the seam and put in some flashing. I decided to use shims under the step, essentially making for a double shim pitch, which worked out beautifully. It was not as apparent as I'd thought it would be, and now we can be sure to encourage water to fall away from the house.

With the step screwed in, I could put in the trim, after it was painted by my fabulous assistants, of course, and then begin thinking about putting in the clapboards as well as the lights. The lights will require wiring so that could be out of my league, but I can definitely do siding.

I'll wait for JH or PR to work with electricity. Until then, thanks for reading.

Going, going, gone...

This will probably not be the last that you will hear about these logs, but at least for now, they are gone. I can't believe it.

The process of having them carted off has been such a pain in my you-know-what that I almost don't even care what happens to them at this point... almost.

As I mentioned, I contacted CI about them, and he said he'd mill them if I could get them over there. Easier said than done. He did recommend calling his neighbor, DS, who is a logger and has a truck and a small trailer. I called and left a message, and the actually returned my call. He said I was lucky to have reached him because he is out for most of the day. He came over with his trailer and saw, and was I ever happy to see him.

He said some of the logs were too long and that they'd need to be cut. I was worried that my saw would get pinched, and he looked at me and shook his head, indicating that he thought I was a big sissy, and brought out his massive chainsaw. He told me that in 40 years of logging, he'd never got his saw pinched, and I believed it. He cut the logs like they were Popsicle sticks, loaded them into his trailer, and carted them off.

I told him I'd follow him to where they were going, but he knows CI, and said don't bother. Then they were gone. I can't tell you how happy this makes me. AND, DS is local, meaning he's a neighbor, and he can sell me log length hard wood in smaller increments than what I'm buying.

Life is good. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Log Progress

I had this amazing revelation about the whole log mess, and it might work out, after all.

During all this time that I've been fretting over what to do with these logs, I'd forgotten all about CI. I figured he was out of the picture because the guy is busy trying to build his homestead, he doesn't need more work on his plate.

Either way, I figured I'd give him a call, because the logs are in a good place now, and he wouldn't need bring his excavator. I spoke with him and he was totally cool. He said he'd be happy to mill the wood, and that he was sorry he'd forgotten, but that he didn't have a way to move the logs.

In other words, I was going to have to find a way. He did, however, suggest a friend, who I'll call. At least I've found someone willing to cut the logs into boards, so I'm about 35% there. All I need is a 10 ton truck. Piece of cake.

We'll see where this one goes. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Michaela Kobyakov for the pic.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

FEBP Decisions

The FEBP is moving along nicely, and we are well on the way to finishing the step. In fact, we could possibly start putting in clapboards in the next week or so, but that could be getting too crazy, even for me.

I installed the wood board for the step, and that went fairly well. I was worried about getting enough pitch, and ended up erring on the side of caution and giving it more pitch than I might have needed. I accomplished this by putting shims under the plywood, which I then put I&W shield over, then puts shims over that.

I thought the pitch would be too crazy, though it sure as heck would shift the water away from the house, but it wasn't so bad. In fact, it looked good, and I'm glad I took that approach. I secured the board with galvanized screws, then caulked the heck out of the gap, which wasn't too bad. I then put flashing (aluminum foil tape) over the caulk, and then laid the Tyvek over that.

Is that crazy, or what? I think the setup does a fairly good job of taking into account that dreaded drop of water. Think like a droplet, like they say.

Now that the step is installed, I'll put in the trim, and then it's time for clapboards. I don't think I'll be able to paint it this season, but the boards are primed, so I can leave them until next year. I'm kind of excited.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Still Splitting

Okay, our wood is now about 90% done, and even if I quit at this point, we would be fine for this Winter, but in my ideal situation, I'd have two years cut and split, and then have a third sitting and waiting in the woods

Is this getting old yet? Have we already passed that point? Sorry about that. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to John Hughes for the pic.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Still Need to Cut Lawn

I realize this is a bit of a waste of time, but I need to run the lawnmower dry before I store it for the Winter. Same with the chainsaw, though I can cut wood well into Winter. At least that's what real men do... I think. My sensei says the saw runs better in the cold, anyway, and he's a logger.

Either way, I'm wrestling with this lawn, mainly because it's covered with leaves, as well. The leaves make it hard because they're a pain to rake, and they clog up the mower. Wah, wah, wah. Can I whine a little more? I should get a flock of sheep, that would solve my problems. Then again, it would introduce a whole new set of them.

I'll get to it soon enough, I think. I'd like to store the lawnmower properly this year, something I haven't always done in the past. Help keep the carburator healthy.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Michal Zacharzewski for the pic.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ski Racks

In terms of small projects, I did manage to finish the wall racks for our skis. Now we are ready to start the ski season with right frame of mind. I lightly stained the wood just for effect, and the final step will be to secure it to the wall, which may require some stud finding, or at the very least, employing some drywall anchors. Molly bolts, as I've been told.

I will say this, as frivolous as this project may seem, I do think it will keep the mudroom a little more orderly, and this will go a long way in making it a more harmonious Winter. Plus, it makes us feel like we live in a Swiss ski chalet. How can you beat that?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chainsaw Beckoning Me

I am gradually chipping away at the pile of wood blocks out back, and it is possible that before the snow takes over, I'll finish splitting it and be ready to cut some more logs. The problem is, I had to fuel up the chainsaw to cut that maple log, and now it has gas in it. Also, I have a full gas can. Losing the gallon of gas is not the end of the world, though I might as well finish it.

The bigger issue is emptying the chainsaw tank, something that was recommended to me by the guys at Joe's Equipment. I could easily use of that gallon cutting the pile of tree-length out front, it's really question of time and getting it done before Winter comes down hard on us. According to the forecast, we may have mild weather up to Thanksgiving, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Small Steps (no pun intended) on the FEBP

I finally took out that long board that I'm going to use for the front step and cut it to size, then stained/treated it. I went with the Cabot silicone based waterproofing, which is a new product and not yet time tested, but it is water based, which I liked, and comes in clear stains.

My biggest worry was screwing up the cutting, because it's such a big piece, and if I blew it, then I wasn't sure what to do with the thing. I think I got it right, it fits, after all. I need to secure it with screws, but before I get too crazy with that, I'll need to measure out some trim, and make some flashing. I figure before I secure the board, at least I should have everything ready so that I can get it all done before it starts to rain. The way it is now, if it does rain and get wet, I can lift the board off and let it dry underneath.

Still not sure if I should put spacers under the board, though I did find a potential solution, though it would require some searching as well as more work, but what else is new?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Good Experience Thus Far With Dan Clay

I am curious to see what our final bill will come out to, but I just want to say that it's been a good experience thus far with Dan Clay, and I would highly recommend him. By far the most professional of all the excavators that we've dealt with. They returned calls ASAP, gave us timely written estimates, spelled out what needed to be done, and were up front and at the ready in terms of scheduling. I enjoyed and appreciated working with JF, his work partner.

They came when they said they'd come, and got the job done in a timely manner. They also were open to whatever changes or designs we wanted, even giving us suggestions and ideas as to how we could save some money. In the end, and I'm guessing this is standard MO, they did some final grooming, laid down some grass seeds, and put hay over that. Kind of a nice touch, though probably not so necessary, since it's late in the season and we kind of liked having a big dirt field. Also, they cleared out the area behind the barn and seeded that, so the barn has a bit of backyard, which is really nice.

For a person like me who has money anxieties, it was much appreciated. We also need some work done on the driveway, so if that ever happens, we'll definitely be calling Dan Clay.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Front Door Issue

I noticed that when we installed the front door in its new location, it did not seem to create a perfect seal to block out drafts. There was a small gap between the frame and door, and was not a big issue but will become one in the Winter. The goal here is to seal that gap. I also noticed that the door in the mudroom doesn't match up perfectly either, so it could be a limitation of the construction.

My first inclination was to just put weather stripping in the space and close it up, but my brother in law, PR, said the right was was to remove the current stripping and re-install it closer to the door. This sounds simple enough, but closer inspection to the door told me that it wasn't so simple.

Truth be told, I'm not quite sure how it should be done, and I sit there and scratch my head as to how to remove that thing and move it. For the record, I tried the weather stripping and it didn't really work, which really bummed me out.

I think in the process of man-handling that door, we may have tweaked the frame or door a bit and now they don't match up that well. Bummer. I'm still thinking of solutions, but am confident that I'll figure something out, and hopefully before the temperature drops below zero degrees.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Interior Alternatives

As far as the wainscoting goes, I sure am learning a lot about interior paints. Actually, way more than I wanted to. Latex, oil, primers, low VOC, no VOC. The list goes one. So far, there is only one thing I'm sure of, and that is that everyone's got a different story to tell. It's amazing how people see things so differently, and being the neurotic, anal-retentive OCD sufferer, I don't do well with so much information. Too many darn choices.

The initial information was that we had to go oil based on the primer and then latex on the paint because the wood has a dark stain on it. Others have told me that you can just put a latex coat over it and then paint. However, two sources that are reliable mentioned that oil can seep through a latex primer, especially if it's a light color. I'm going with that information.

This necessitates something that will seal the wood, and of course oil works best with oil. My Mentor mentioned that there should be some latex products out there that will fit the bill, and to do some investigating. Yikes!

I called around, and again, everyone has told me something different. I finally called a few companies, and have thus far arrived at the following plan.

Rustoleum makes a line of primers call Zissner, and one in particular is called Smart Prime. It is a latex primer that seals and is supposed to do the job. One that is on, I'd go with a low VOC or no VOC paint. With VOC, lower is better, none is best. Benjamin Moore makes a paint called Natura that is better for the environment and has no VOC. Say no more. I've also learned that there are even organic paints made with all natural ingredients, but it gets crazy when you do the searches, and at some point you just have to make a choice. I'm also leaning to B Moore's exterior latex stain (Arborcoat) as an alternative to Cabot's oil based stain.

So I did, and that's where it stands, at least for today. Things could change by the afternoon, however, so stay tuned. Until then, thanks for reading.

Dealing With Logs

One week later and the logs are still sitting there. I do have faith that something will happen to them, it must. They are in the way of where I want them to deliver the siding, so they can't sit there forever.

At the very least, I'll cut the wood up and toss it into the woods, but again, I'd like to have the boards. I spoke to Wright's Mill and he said that he's cut as few as two logs, and no matter what, you still end up saving money. The easier you make it for them, the more money you save. Say no more.

I was going to ask Dan Clay to move them, but they finished the job quickly and took the excavator away. I may have to ask CH to help, but the guy is so busy. I am still trying to contact the logger down the road.

Something will happen, the sooner the better. This should be interesting. Until then, thanks for reading.

Fringe Benefits of the New Septic System

We had to do some quick thinking when the excavators were here, but we managed to come out the other end fairly unscathed. We were just glad that it was done, and now that it is, not only do we have a septic system ready to go, but we have a new playground to frolic in. They cleared away a large swath of the yard in order to get that system done, and in the process, cleared away a fairly tenacious plot of milkweed, goldenrod, and raspberries.

It's actually really nice back there, and I think they plan on seeding it with grass, so it will make a nice yard to go with the finished barn. Whatever be the case, the big dirt plot meant it was time to break out the bikes and do some off road riding.

It's a good thing the weather warmed up. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Septic Ideas

Since we did a fairly drastic change in our floor plan and had to do an about face on where the septic tank will be, it goes without saying that the whole scenario filled me with anxiety. How the heck were we going to pull this off now?

At least for now, the septic pipe has been laid and is now eagerly awaiting a grand union with a toilet and sink... or two, or three!

Truth be told, I wasn't that stressed, because I knew we could work something out (nothing a reciprocating saw and a hammer can't fix), but I was also just relieved to get some big challenges out of the way, namely the septic system and those darn logs (still dealing with those).

B the plumber (I still don't know his last name) came over and we talked, and he is so calm and relaxed, maybe just confident, that any concerns I had were put to rest. He even suggested something that I was thinking about, which was to shift the bathroom plan and make a small 1/2 bath next to the kitchen, just in case you're doing the dishes and beckons, and then put the bigger bathroom upstairs. This gives us much many more options for the design.

Now that the septic system is in, we have the wonderful task of coming up with a design, which based on past experience, should only take about a year. Of course, we'll need some feedback on the design from my in-laws, who will be visiting over the holidays and can chime in on what they'd like to see. This is everyone's golden opportunity to design a bathroom from the ground up, so everyone should give it some thought.

A family affair. How can you beat that?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Close to Attending to Front Step

I've been given a sign that I should get on this darn front step, and it comes in the form of nice weather. Actually, the weather has been lousy, but warmer. This means I can stain or paint in the great outdoors.

With this in mind, I'm hoping to get to that front step this week. I just got the waterproofing stain. It's the blue jug, a silicone based product that is oil-free from Cabot. I hope it works, because I'm going to use it on our picnic table (if it's safe) as well. The other can is our oil-free external siding stain, which I hope will replace the oil based weathering stain. Are we eco-conscious, or what?

Anyway, all I need to do (as if it were so simple) is cut the board to size and screw it in. Best of all, this is something A&N can help me with because they like to staple in the shims. A family affair.

I won't say too much because overly-committing myself to anything only leads to trouble.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I still haven't glued in the blueboard? Yikes, Winter is here.

Thanks for reading.

Getting Organized

In light of having so many projects ongoing, it is difficult to justify adding yet another one to the mix, but when you're training to be a real man, you can't let practical matters like time get in the way of doing things.

With this in mind, I made a rack to hold our skis up in the mudroom. Winter is usually this wrestling match with our ski equipment, especially with two types of skis and now hockey equipment, it is amazing that it even fits in the room. The skis are usually piled up in one corner, and getting them involves digging through the debris and untangling various straps and poles. Not a huge deal, but not the most organized look and feel.

Now, in the quest to make our mudroom look like a Swiss ski chalet, I made the racks. Now the question becomes, do I just put them up, or stain them first. I'm leaning to the latter, as I'm sure my Mentor would, as well, but we'll see.

Until then, thanks for reading.

to justify small projects when so many big ones needing attention, but at least something's geting done

Friday, November 5, 2010

More Septic Issues and Shifting Gears on Our Plan

This whole septic drama is getting a bit out of hand, and I realize that we really weren't properly prepared for this and could have done things so much differently. Along these lines, the excavator even said if you build three houses in a row, you build them differently every time because you are constantly learning from your mistakes.

That said, we now know that the most important thing before you even begin to build a house is deciding where your toilet is going to be. This will determine where the septic pipe will leave the house, and thus the location of your septic tank. Everything else about the house should come after that.

I know my Mentor is shaking his head and can't wait to say, "I hate to say I told you so, but... " which for the record, is simply not true, because I know that he loves to say "I told you so." Either way, we were warned from day 1 that we needed to figure out where the bathroom would be, and then indicate where we wanted the septic tank. We then proceeded to ignore these warnings and try to move forward.

Now we are suffering for our sins. The problem is (there's always a problem) that we had a design that the engineer worked with, and once the plan was finished and the design approved, we went ahead and changed it. This, of course, was because we hadn't planned properly. The original design had the septic outlet coming out the south side of the barn. This meant that the septic tank could be right next to the barn, which would then be adjacent to the leech field. A straight shot from beginning to end.

When we changed the plan, we wanted to put the tank more in the back of the barn, on the east face. This would enable us to put a bathroom in the back/middle of the barn, thus completing our preferred design. However, this also meant that the tank would be farther away, and as we've learned, we're operating on margins over here. Because of limitations on how deep the leech field can be, we don't have unlimited distances. The leech field is set, and the excavators work backwards from there.

To go that extra 50 feet would have meant that they would have decreased the pitch to the point where it was basically level and the flow would have been difficult. Plus, because there has to be a gradual incline, the pipe and tank would have been very close to the surface. This is why they had to get blueboard, which I'm wondering if they still need.

Anyway, the problems all started from bad planning, and now we know, the next time we design and build a house, which will hopefully be never, you have to start with the toilet and septic tank, and then go from there.

In light of these problems, and because the excavators were standing there waiting for an answer and we had to come up with one on the spot, we had to shift gears on our plan and move the bathroom. Now, we're going to just use a couple of trees out back, and leave a pile of leaves for toilet paper. Vermont living at its best.

Actually, we decided to take the path of least resistance and go back to the original plan. The septic tank is now adjacent to the barn, just to the south, and the pipe exiting the barn is located on the south wall, as pictured here.

Sure, it isn't optimal, but we'll work around it and figure things out. We'll meet with the plumber as soon as possible and show him the new setup and hopefully get some answers. When R and I talked about it afterward, we were pretty sure that we didn't have a huge number of options given the space and layout of the land. Our final choice was probably the best one we had without using pumps and electricity, which we wanted to avoid.

All in all, it makes me wonder how houses ever get built. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Kitchen Aid

In the continuing adventures with JH (sans the plumber's crack) and his magic bag of tools, we managed to yank out the garbage disposal and put in a new pipe. Or rather, JH yanked out the disposal, and I stood next to him and handed him tools and offered moral support. Hey, don't discount the importance of support. As Winston Churchill said, "Men can move mountains with words." As long as the mountains are made of words, of course.

Either way, to complete the project, we needed to remove the disposal to figure out what sort of drain would fit in. Measurements had to be taken, and the proper fittings purchased. In retrospect, it took a fair amount of measuring, planning, and note taking in order to maximize efficiency, for which JH is the model of. I would have not only screwed things up on my own, but would have had to have made at least 3 trips back and forth to the hardware store.

Removing the disposal was a bit unpleasant, that thing is disgusting. Plus, the hose that attaches it to the drain was filled with all sorts of fun stuff. Once it was out, JH figured out what sort of drain we'd need to replace it, as well as the pipe fitting to connect the new drain to the existing drain. He even wrote things down, which is something I never do and suffer because of it.

We headed over to Aubuchon, and I have to confess, I was impressed with how much the woman new about plumbing. She answered all of JH's questions, and new exactly what we needed. I realize it's a bit sexist of me to assume she might not know so much, but maybe I was just jealous that the depth of her knowledge was superior to mine. Ouch!

We came back and had lunch, then JH strapped on his body armor and prepared for the battle. We had to cut the pipe a little, but for the most part, it fit perfectly, and we even had the proper pitch. I'm learning a lot about pitch with the whole septic system debacle.

JH tightened the pipes, and we ran some hot water and finished tightening the connections. No leaks thus far.

Now we have a nice clean underside of the sink. R was happy, and now we have one less worry for our septic system, at least on our house. The barn is another issue, but more on that later.

Until then, thanks for reading.