Sunday, May 30, 2010

Beginning Framing of Dormer

With all the work we've been doing preparing for the farmer's market, I haven't had as much time to work on the barn, which is a bummer because I am under a time constraint. I need to get those dormers done in a reasonable time, i.e., before the roofers give me a hard time. Then again, they got their money, what do they care?

I did finish framing one of the dormers-note the before and after (the lower pic is the after), not to mention the new fascia. Now that it is framed, I can Tyvek the beast and get the windows in, which we have. On the subject of Tyvek, I was worried that I might have to buy a huge roll (they're 9 feet high) to finish the wrapping, but of course, in steps my Mentor to suggest that I look into finding smaller rolls. Sure enough, they had smaller, cheaper (yay!) ones at Home Depot, so I didn't need to get the big rolls. That's why every real-man in training needs a mentor.

I am tempted to put the siding on now that I'm all set up on that end, but need, of course, to get more supplies, like shiplap pine. Fortunately, now that Britton's has been saved from insolvency by Bethel Mills, I can get wood nearby. I'm thinking I'll do that, because once the standing seam roof is in, I think standing up there will be harder. No more roof jacks, that's for sure. Speaking of roof jacks, now that I've got them, suddenly everyone I know has them and told me I shouldn't have bought them and could have borrowed them, instead. Where were you when I needed you most?

Life can be so unfair, but I'm not complaining.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Real Men at Work

Boy, just as I was thinking that I was on my way to being a real man, I watched a bunch of loggers clear a hill and realized there is still work that needs to be done.

Our neighbor is clearing perhaps hundreds of trees off his land, and he brought in a logging company to do the job. Being the nice person that he is, JH contacted us to tell us that they were beginning and if we wanted to watch. We had seen them delivering the equipment, and it was pretty impressive stuff, but nothing compared to actually seeing it in action.

They basically had a five-man crew. On guy ran the cutter, which is a big tractor with claws to grip the tree while a saw cuts it cleanly off at the base. Another tractor picks up the fallen trees and drags them to the clearing, where a third machine lays them on a platform and cuts them with this massive circular saw. Finally, there was this incredible chipper that literally ground up entire trees, some of which were at least 2 feet in diameter, and filled the back of an 18-wheeler. There was also this guy who was the rover who trimmed the logs with a massive chainsaw that made mine look like a toy, albeit a manly toy, but a toy nonetheless. It really brought to light how forests are clear cut, amazing stuff.

N couldn't get enough, it was better than TV, and I have to confess, it was pretty cool. A was a little tepid to whole thing because I think the noise and gas fumes were getting to her, but she was still impressed, just a little less so.

We could have stayed there all day, and N was bummed when we had to go eat, but I'd learned that they will be there all next week, so we have something else to look forward to. I still can't get over how quickly and efficiently they cut down those trees.

And I know one thing, when those loggers go out to eat, they sure as heck didn't spend too much time at the salad bar. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some firewood to cut.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Firewood Insecurity

With most of the woodpile now cut up into blocks (7 cords), I can set my sites on several new goals. First, moving that woodpile over to the splitting area, splitting it, and then stacking it. They say wood warms you two times, but that's a gross understatement if there ever was one. And, of course, I need to get another truckload of tree length so I can keep my chainsaw busy. Boy, you just can't beat a chainsaw as a manly toy. Loud, dangerous, and uses gasoline. What more can you ask for?

On the subject of log length wood, I contacted our wood source and haven't heard back from him, which kind of makes an OCD type like myself a bit uneasy. I'm not really comfortable until the pile of wood is sitting in our yard. Then, I can obsess over something else.

Until then, thanks for reading.

More Roof Brackets, Fascia Done (sort of)

After consulting with my Mentor, who reassured me that putting nails through the roof was standard practice, especially in light of the fact that we were replacing the roof anyway with a standing seam, I went ahead and put in the roof brackets. I needed two more and our good friend CF said he had plenty and not to buy anymore but borrow them from him. Sounds good to me, though they are not exorbitantly expensive. These things add up, however, and being frugal is just in my genes. For the record, as my Mentor knows, I suffer for it.

With the brackets in (note the green rope-for my harness), I now needed something that would extend the platform up the root and allow me to work higher up. An extra ladder would have worked perfectly, but I don't have an extra ladder. I had to make this crazy elaborate set up just to get onto the platform which involved one ladder flush with the roof and a second ladder just to get up to that one. I could have borrowed a ladder, there are plenty out there, and our good friend and neighbor K&BJ offered his (they have several, they're farmers), but I figured I could come up with a solution that was simpler, cheaper, and definitely much less safe.

So I built one. I figured it doesn't have to be perfect because it is not holding up my total weight since it will be laying flat against the roof. It works pretty well, and in a pinch, I can still borrow one, but for now, this works fine. In fact, I don't know if you noticed this, but not only are the windows gone from the dormers, but so is most of the fascia. Of course, taking the stuff off is the easy part, now I have to cut, stain and install the new fascia, which is a bit of a bummer, especially with the heat really starting to kick in and the multitude of wasps nests that are in the dormer, but that just adds to the fun, and only increases my cache amongst real men. For the record, I've been stung enough times by wasps and hornets to know that they don't hurt that bad, but somehow, when they start flying around my head, I can't help but panic, which is a bad thing to do when you're standing on the roof of a house.

And on the subject of fascia, all of the fascia on the ground level is done. Putting those last pieces at the apex of the gable was not easy, because they had to line up. Oh well, nothing a little wood filler can't fix. All that's left is, you guessed it, the fascia on the dormers, my favorite subject to whine and obsess over. I'm going to kind of miss it when it's all done... yeah right.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Roof Brackets and House Wrapped

After fiddling around a bit on the roof, I now realize I need a change in tactic in tackling those dormers, which for the record are the bane of my existence. I originally had planned on using a ladder to access the dormers to replace fascia, wrap, install siding, etc. However, after implementing this plan, I realized it was sadly deficient. First off, my darn ladder isn't long enough. If I hook it to the roof, I can't reach it from below, and when I extend it from the ground, it won't reach high enough. More importantly, when I did extend it from the ground and tried to do some work, I found it way too stressful working up at 20 feet with just inches to spare in foot space. Not a good working situation.

I resolved to build a platform and then work from there, except this brought up a few problems of its own. First off, finding the brackets. I thought they were called roof jacks, and called around to find some and nobody had them. I called reliable sources and they told me to try lumber yards or mills. Finally, I learned they are called roof brackets, not jacks. People thought I was looking to build a scaffolding on the roof, when in fact all I wanted were brackets that would hold up a piece of wood. It turns out that they can easily be found, but Home Depot seemed the easiest and most accessible.

I also decided that I wanted to get a body harness to hold me up if I fell. When you're on the ground, the rood doesn't seem so high, but when you're up there, it sure as heck looks high. I get nervous up there. It's one thing to just stand still at a high place, but another to be yanking boards and ripping nails out. Too precarious for me. If I at least had a rope attached to a tree or something on the other side, I'd feel a little better. Just a little bit.

Again, finding a harness is not easy. No hardware store I contacted had one, and again, trusty old Home Depot came through. For the record, the harness was even harder to find. HD had one that came with a complete safety kit, rope and all. It came in a handy bucket, how can you beat that?

So now I'm ready to go. One bright note, this past Thu JH came over and we tackled one of the things that's been really bugging me - finishing the wrap on the house. The gable sides are not easy, and when GS came over, we had a bear of a time doing one end, which inspired me to try and ignore the other end. I figured with JH's help, we could tackle the beast, and we pulled it off. I should say that JH did most of the work, he went up on the ladder and stapled while I stood on the ground and unrolled the Tyvek. He said he enjoyed it.

Now the wrapping is done (note the before and after) for the most part. I still have to deal with those dormers, but let me enjoy my small victories while I can.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Doors In, Fascia Coming Together

In what can be construed as nothing short of a miracle, we (JH and I) have managed to get all the doors in on the first floor. That's 4, count 'em, 4 doors. Doors are a little trickier than windows because not only are they much heavier, but you really have to get them in right. Otherwise, the darn door won't close properly. It's good that JH is there to instruct, because left to my own devices, I'd just stick the things in the RO and hold them in with glue and scotch tape.

I will say this - getting that French Door in was a nightmare. It took us well over two hours just fiddling with that thing, shimming it left and right. It seemed as if we'd adjust one thing only to mess up another, and it took a lot of back and forth before the gaps were even. At some point I felt like saying, "Forget about it, nobody is going to use this door, anyway." But that's no way for a real man (or one in training) to talk, now is it? My Mentor would most assuredly agree.

So the first floor is almost done as far as doors and windows. Just one more window, which is on order. We still need to choose door knobs, which could take years. Once that final window is in, I need to finish the fascia and install a soffit, and the house is sealed, at least on the first floor. I have to confront the entire second floor, including the dormers, but I'll leave that for another time. Let me enjoy this moment while I can.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Great Karate Class

We've been having some decent karate classes lately, and the irony is, I've been so overwhelmed with life duties that I haven't been able to practice as much as I should, or for that matter, at all. It doesn't take much time, I've just been lazy and tired.

The past couple of classes more people have been showing up, including a wealth of senseis. MG from the VA has been coming and he's a great teacher because he gives a lot of explanation and background into the basic foundation of the moves. Coupled with MH, they are incredible teachers and a unique opportunity to learn. The students have been increasing, as well, and I'd still like to get the kids to go, but it could be too soon. They can't progress beyond a certain point until they are older, anyway, so maybe it's better to wait, but at some point they may never be interested. I just see a lot of the kids losing interest, and the teachers are aware of this.

Either way, class has been good, and with the nice weather, we've been training outside, which makes for a lighter and more enjoyable time, though we get nailed by the mosquitoes. Can't have it all. I've even become more philosophical about sparring, and at times even look forward to it, especially when I go against the black belts, who are no longer nice to me and do not ease up as much. In fact, the other day I got kicked in the face, and my first impulse was to get dramatic, but there's no room for that amongst real men.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to nikki bharwani for the pic.

size is growing

Frost Warning

In a great example of trying way too hard, we had a frost warning the other night, and it came out of nowhere. The weather has been amazing mild, warm even, and it really took us by surprise. Unfortunately, our garden and yard has been sprouting, so the frost might have hurt or even destroyed our blossoms.

Well, thinking I could actually do something about it, I set about rescuing our crab-apple tree by covering it. I was told that this help protect from frost because it apparently descends down over the plants.

The problem was, I misjudged the size of our tree, and thought it was much smaller. This is what resulted. Oh well, at least I ended up protecting about 25% of the leaves, or if I was an optimist, I'd say 33%.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oven Drama

Don't you hate when you try to fix something, and because you don't know what you're doing, you screw it up even more? That seems to be the story of my life.

Our oven light burned out a while back, and being the aspiring home improvement guru (or was it real man?) that I am, I figured it would be a breeze to fix. It's just a light bulb, right? Who cares if it's deep within a crawl space that only our kids could fit into.

The problem is, all I had to do is loosen a latch and remove the cover to replace the bulb. Of course, not realizing this, I tried to unscrew the entire housing, and ended up breaking the bulb. Not only that, but as the housing came out, the gasket frayed a little. Based on our previous experience with the front deck, my first thought was "asbestos." Damn, I just contaminated our oven. Quick, evacuate the premises!

In the end, it wasn't asbestos, at least that's what the geniuses told me at Sears, or should I say, that's what they read to me on their monitor. So while I was relieved, I still had to deal with that bulb. Because it was broken, I couldn't simply unscrew and replace it. And because the gasket was frayed, I assumed I'd have to pull the whole thing out and replace it. That meant the oven was out of commission until who knows when.

Enter my wife R, the fountain of sage wisdom, who suggested I just screw the housing back in and stuff the frayed edges back in. Wow, why didn't I think of that? After I did that, I was able to unscrew the broken bulb with some pliers, and we were back in business. Sure, the light still doesn't work, but I've often found that you're better off being working in the dark. That way you don't see the things you screwed up, or least they don't look as bad..

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jenny Rollo for the pic.

Glimmers of Hope

A couple of weeks back I was beginning to feel despair over all that I had on my plate. Between the barn, the house, the yard, the garden, the wood, the cars, and let us not forget the children, I was being pulled in every imaginable direction.

Not that that has changed, but one thing suddenly changed my perspective and suddenly filled me with optimism.

I moved the lawn.

And just like that, suddenly the sun seemed to shine a bit brighter, and the world wasn't such a bad place. Amazing how one thing can change your perspective, and a reminder of how life is about the little things. Sure, it's still overcome with weeds, and may take years to recover, but who cares? For now, it looks good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to A&N for the pic.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Car Issues

I had a bunch of car problems that evolved into quite the drama, but I don't have the wherewithal to re-hash them in this blog. If you're interested, check out Parenting the Hard Way. Sorry about that, but thanks for reading.

Garden Master

Not wanting to limit my real man training to construction, I set out to do yardwork last weekend, and got a lot done. Not only that, but I was feeling somewhat despondent over how our yard was looking as the weeds were slowly taking over, but found that after a good, thorough mowing, it actually looked good. So much so that it filled me with a new sense of hope, and reminds you of how life is all about the little things.

I also finished repairing the deer fence around the garden, which is all the more important because our sprouts are beginning to burst forth from the soil, and I just saw a deer prowling around the garden, not to mention the dreaded woodchuck. Protective measures were in order.

And finally, I trimmed some shrubs around the garden that were completely out of control. Amazing what a pair a sheers can do for you. Had a bit of drama with the compost bins, but that's a story for another time.

Just for the record, to adequately acknowledge my Mentor's warning about letting the weeds run freely, I have decided that this year I'm not going to humor the kids and let the wildflowers go awry. Last year we let the yard go to heck because the kids loved playing with the flowers, but I really think we are suffering for it. The weeds are out of control, so this time around, no mercy. Besides, there are plenty of areas in the yard where the wildflowers are beautiful, so we don't need more on our lawn. I'll spare some of the lupines.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ariel da Silva Parreira for the pic.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fascia Maniac

As I've informed my mentor, I've become a fascia maniac. I actually put a fair amount of the stuff in the front and back. It will be the gable sides, however, that will break my heart, because they involve mitered and beveled cuts, which never go over very well.

In the meantime, I can stew in self-satisfaction for at least getting one thing done that was causing me anxiety and stress, kind of like everything in my life.

I do think a trip to the mill is in my future, need more rough cut wood. I can't believe this, but most of the rough cut wood that I'd had delivered last Summer is gone. When those 1X12 boards arrived, I thought to myself, what the heck am I going to do with those? There are so many, why did we get so much? And sure enough, it's all gone, and now I still need to do the fascia work on the dormers. Let's not even get into the soffit work, which will be an entirely new drama.

Today is Wednesday, and though I have a million things to do, I will focus on getting the ROs properly cut so I can be ready tomorrow for JH to arrive and we can install doors. This should be good, and at the very least, entertaining, depending on who you ask, and when.

Until then, thanks for reading.

That's what I am, a fascia maniac. So much so that I can't stop saying it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Informed by Roofers

As I may have mentioned, we'd been putting off the roofers for about six months, but according to them, we were locked into our price because we submitted the proper forms and they were going to come in the Spring. However, their arrival was dependent upon us paying the deposit, with which they would buy the supplies and then install.

Of course, when large amounts of money are involved, R and I tend to sweat it out. We stalled for about a month, and they were very patient. Part of the problem was that any trim or fascia (there's that word again) work had to be finished before they came, so that gave us an excuse.

However, just the other day, they called to inform us that the price of supplies was going up in a week or two, and that in order to guarantee our price, they needed the deposit and they'd hold the supplies until we were ready.

Of course, we fell in line and sent it in. For full disclosure, R sent in the deposit before the call, but it was still a relief, and got me to thinking, were they just yanking our chain to get us off our behinds? Were they tired of waiting and were worried we were getting cold feet? Whatever be the case, it's a moot issue, because it is work we want done, and we had sent the check in already.

Still, it makes you wonder...

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Composting Nightmare

As if I needed more drama in my life, but I had this awful composting experience. My fault, of course. I've learned firsthand over the years that composting takes some degree of effort, especially when dealing with food. There are certain things they encourage you to avoid, like meats and dairy, and certain steps you should take to the make the experience more enjoyable, or should I say, less unpleasant. Of course, I ignore all these directives.

While we don't put a lot of meat in the compost, we put some, as well as bits of cheese and a stray piece of bread or two. Our two bins were getting full, so I ordered a new on from the folks over at solid waste management, and now were were set to be composting masters.

My goal is to rotate the compost between the bins to allow for aeration and mixing, since it's really hard to mix compost inside of the bin. There's just not a lot of space.

Our old bin was looking good, the compost actually looked like soil, and no smell. The second bin, however, was another story. I should have known something was wrong when I saw all those flies around it. Very out of character. When I opened it up and mixed it around, not only did the smell practically knock me off my feet, but the view will haunt me for the next few years. We are talking raw sewage, and fly (and their offspring) city. Disgusting.

I'd forgotten my initial plan of mixing in straw between the layers. I had been just tossing in food all Winter, and now it was a mess. I went to work and mixed the slop, throwing in handfuls of straw. My goal is to transfer it to the new bin and let it sit for another year. The old bin is ready to spread, which I'll do in the Fall, and then we'll have one empty bin for the coming year.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lawn Revelations

I realized that the key to making your lawn look good is cutting it short enough, but not too short. This has been alluded to me by several people in the know, but sometimes things don't really sink in until you actually put them into practice. As some of you may well know by now, we've been having lawncare woes over here. Weeds have taken over, and I acknowledge having blood on my hands on this one because I let the weeds get out of control, and now they own the place. The broad leaf weeds are indestructible without the use poisons, which are not an option, so my tact was to try to encourage the good stuff instead by seeding and fertilizing.

The front lawn is looking decent, where I focused my efforts, and maybe this fall, I can devote more time to the back. In the meantime, my approach has been to cut the grass long, which I read encourages grass while discouraging weeds, which prosper with flowers which seed and spread. So, I set the lawnmower to high and cut away.

The problem is, when you cut the grass long, it looks like nothing has been done to it. It still looks sloppy and not nicely coiffed. So I decided to forget about my strategy and cut it like I used to, short (but not too short) and sweet.

And you know what? It made all the difference. Now, despite the weeds, the grass actually looks halfway decent. I think even my Mentor would approve.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to ARL and NRL for the pic.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Staining Fascia and More Framing

Well, we finally decided on a stain for the exterior of the barn, and not a day too soon. I need to stain the fascia (I sure use that word a lot) before installing it, because as I've been told by people in the know, never stain/paint just one side of the boards, or else they'll warp. I guess I could treat the would on one side with anything, since nobody will see it anyway, and then treat the face with whatever we want, but that's way too much to think about.

After much discussion, R and I decided on a weathering stain that contains some gray pigment for a weathering effect. The goal is to get a gray tint to go with our charcoal gray roof, whose installation is causing me some degree of grief because I have finish replacing the fascia before they can do it, but what else is new?

Because the weather has been so unpredictable, I had to move indoors into the barn, which is actually nice because I have no worries about rain and can keep working. So my current plan is to stain inside the barn, then replace the fascia as it it's finished. Piece of cake, right?

JH came by last week to install more doors, and wouldn't you know it, but I made the RO too darn small this time around. We're talking millimeters, but enough to force me to re-frame. We tried sanding the RO so the door would fit, and it managed to slide in, but we had to really force it in, giving us no room for shimming. I had to make an executive decision, so we opted to revisit the issue when the holes are enlarged. Bummer.

One thing I've learned is that the stain we're using, Cabot, is different in NH and Vermont. How crazy is that? I bought it at first at LaValley's, and used it up quickly. I bought more at Fogg's in Norwich, and when I got it home, noticed the labels were identical, but the catalog numbers were slightly off. One of 3244, the other was 6244. Of course, in character, I panicked, even though they looked the same.

I frantically called Fogg's, and they told me that NH (LaValley's is in NH) has different VOC laws, so they had to modify the formula. The Vermont version is the original made by the company, but they had to change it for NH laws. Go Vermont. I sensed that I use less of the Vermont version, it's more like true oil stain, but that could be my bias.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 3, 2010

One Down, One Hundred To Go

Okay, now we're talking. I actually finished one of our goals and got the wood for one year split (about 5 cords, 5 more to go), stacked and drying. Of course, there is little room for complacency, because there are still dozens of other things that need to be done, but one thing at at time. Besides, the male ego is a frail thing, and needs constant re-affirmation and stroking. Allow me to enjoy this moment.

I do think the big pile of log-length wood is getting smaller, as well, though like all things in life, one thing leads to another. I've managed to cut and block up at least half that pile, I still need to transport the blocks (via wheel barrow) and then split them, so the fun never stops, but all we do around here is have fun.

I've also managed to get all the fascia off both gable ends of the house, and will now set about getting my feet on the roof and working on those darn dormers. I need to remove the fascia off them, get those windows out, reframe the ROs (listen to me, I think I'm Bob Vila), then Tyvek and put new windows in.

Oh, and did I mention that I need to put new fascia in all around the house? Piece of cake, I know I can get it done before the new year.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

No Rest For The Weary

We had a nice but busy Saturday, May 1st, Green Up day, of all things. In addition to doing our part to save the earth, or at least our community, I managed to work my tail off and chip away at the proverbial stone. I find that blocking the big picture out of your mind allows you to keep a grip on your sanity, for all that's worth.

After setting us up for Green Up, whereby I signed us up to clean our street (it's fierce competition, last year we got scooped, somebody else actually signed up to clean our road. The nerve), got the bags, and headed home. It was early, so we had other things to attend to.

First thing I did was proceed to cut the wood pile. I figure the log length stuff is about 50% cut, meaning the logs have been cut into blocks. They still need to be hauled over to the woods and split and stacked, but let's not go there. A good example of keeping the big picture out of your mind.

R busied herself with cleaning the consequences of our actions all week in the house, then set about working on the garden. The heat was excruciating, but she toiled away, preparing the soil for our little seedlings. Speaking of the garden, I need to repair that darn deer fence. I feel like Ben Cartwright-from Bonanza, for those who didn't grow up watching TV.

After cutting wood for a couple of hours, I went to work on the barn fascia, and actually got a fair amount done on the gable ends. With the exception of the dormers, almost all of it is off. Keep in mind, I still have to stain and re-install the stuff.

We ate lunch, then I went to finish the last of the gable fascia, and it was time to split some wood. However, earlier N had asked me to play some baseball with him, and of course, I told him I couldn't, I had too much to do. He didn't make a stink, but it came up again, and I thought to myself, how can I not spend some quality time playing ball with the kids. So I told him to get the gear, and we played about an hour of ball in the front. The beauty is, with just the two of us, he gets a ton of practice, and it's pretty low stress for me. I just have to throw the ball and field a grounder or two, so there's is limited movement involved. He, on the other hand, gets to practice his throwing, catching, and hitting, and though I'm not objective here, I personally think he's a natural.

After ball practice, it was time to split some wood and get that darn woodpile to 50%. By afternoon, the sun has moved to the point where the woods where I split the blocks is fairly shaded, so the heat (which was sizzling) wasn't so bad. I split for about two hours, then the obligations of parenthood settled in. What were we going to do for supper?

We'd had pizza the night before, so that wasn't an option. I figured with the warm weather and all, we should BBQ, so I set up our grill and we made burgers with our all natural local beef from Cloudland Farms, which I must confess, is outstanding. The kids love BBQ because they can burn all sorts of materials from the yard in the BBQ. Endless entertainment, as long as they don't set things on fire.

We had our customary s'mores, which again, we can make over the coals, then it was time to hit the sack, but not before spending some time with our good friend, Netflix. Sleep was a welcome conclusion to the day.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Katrina DeLourve for the pic.