Friday, August 27, 2010

Calling All Martha Stewarts

Now that we've gone to all this trouble and expense in putting a new roof on both houses, we have a conundrum. We don't think the gray roof works with the purple house, though we like the purple.

Our next decision will be to decide what color to paint the house, as well as the barn. Bear in mind that we are deep in the woods, so we are leaning towards earthier tones. I.e., white and yellow go well with a gray roof, but they are more fitting in a suburban setting on a nice tree-lined street.

In the woods, however, they might not work as well. So, maybe something more along the lines of red, blue, or gray.

Whatever be the case, we'd love to hear everyone and anyone's opinion, so please come out and speak up. Tell us what color you think would work best. We'd appreciate your feedback.

Until then, thanks for reading.

FEBP Keystone

To the untrained eye, it looks like just a board laying on a surface, but to a real man in training, it is so much more.

In fact, as JH said, it's a "keystone," the first step in the FEBP, and a monumental achievement for the likes of yours truly.

JH came over the other day and we set about getting the door re-framed. The first, and perhaps most challenging, was to get the initial sill plate down. This involved taking a PT board and attaching it to the floor joists below with 4 inch screws. This involved a little trial and error in pinpointing the joists, but to JH's credit, and to a lesser degree me, we found them after only one failed attempt. After the first one was located, we measured out 16 inches on center and found the rest. I love when that happens.

In an example of bad planning on my part, I had not yet removed the nails from the siding after I had removed the shingles, so that took some time, but after it was done, we went to work. Once the sill was secured, we were business and had earned a moment of self-congratulations because it was a fairly significant first step.

In other words, we now have until next year to finish this thing... just kidding. If that happens, I guarantee you that I'll be sleeping in the car.

Now that the keystone is in, we can make the frame, and then get to work on that door. Should be interesting, for lack of a better term. Thankfully, JH won't be going on vacation until the third week of September, so I get him for two more Thursdays, thus increasing the odds that this will get done sooner rather than later.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sink and Being a Real Man

In a move that is sure win me the approval of my Mentor and JH, I actually dove and attempted to fix the sink, and it wasn't that bad. We've been having leak problems, not in the sense that there is a constant leak, which is bad, as I've learned because it can fry your pump, but more so that when the sink is turned on, somewhere water is leaking down into the cabinet. It's a drag because we use the sink so much and get mold and rot, and eventually carpenter ants.

My original plan was to hire a plumber or ask JH what he thought, but then decided, "What the heck, I'll give it a go." This was not an easy decision.

I went under and think I've located the problem. Whether or not I fixed it is another question. The leak may originate from two locations. The faucet has a gasket that was off a little, potentially allowing water to seep in during use. The seal is not great, I must confess, and may require replacing the unit, even though we just replaced it about a year and a half ago. I bought a decent unit, a Delta, but didn't go high end. So I was frugal, but not to a fault, which is my usual MO.

Anyway, it could stem from the entire sink, which is not very solid and tends to bend and give. Whatever be the case, the leak has been stemmed somewhat, though I'm still seeing a little water. Not sure where it's coming from, but I'll investigate. We are also having garbage disposal issues, and my need to replace it.

I also put some teflon tape on the connections, and voila, I was done. Regardless of whether or not I fixed the darn thing, I went for it and didn't let fear prevent me from acting like a real man. I love when that happens.

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

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Front End Beautification Project (FEBP)

In the spirit of the federal government, especially when it comes to military campaigns, I've decided to give our new project the recognition that it deserves. This, of course, entails an official moniker: the Front End Beautification Project (FEBP). I hope JH and my Mentor approve. We held focus groups across the country in order to arrive at that designation.

The project will involve finishing the dormers and then the daunting task of translocating that door. The new framing should be fairly straightforward, it's the removing of the door from the framing that worries me. It was easy doing framing on the barn because I could most of it with a sledge hammer and reciprocating saw. This time around, I have to omit the sledge, which means we'll have to employ finesse and grace. We could be flirting with disaster.

The goal will be to finish the FEBP before the frost sets in. Otherwise, it's going to be a cold winter. This should be within the realm of possibilities, though if things don't go according to plan, there will be certain individuals who will not be amused, even if it's the fault of the dumplings.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Too Good to Be True

What a bummer. I thought we were home free with the track lighting, and there was a world of opportunity in replacing those darn lights, but we were once again denied. I get a sense that MG didn't go mainstream when she built and decorated this house. In other words, things like materials and fixtures were not purchased at Home Depot, but rather were custom built or procured at specialty shops. Case in point, these lights. I went to HD and they have an entire wall of track lights, but they all have a slightly bigger insert and don't fit into our track.

Now I have to go out in search of the right size, which is difficult when you have no free time. Also, I need to bring the light with us in order to make sure I get the right thing, because as I've learned first hand, it's a drag when you get something home and it's the wrong thing.

I did in fact bring the light to HD and used it as a reference for the new one. The pointed out that the insert was slightly big, but it was probably not a problem, which of course was wrong. In all fairness, he was up front and open about this fact, I was just too eager to believe that a solution was so easily at hand. Live and learn.

For now, the search continues. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Ready, Set... Go!

Boy, if I could find the time to just replace the final clapboard, then I'll be ready to paint. I caulked the vertical seams on the side boards, and we're ready to go. Our goal is to make the front of our house beautiful once again, and before the cold weather sets in.

Set your timers and let the games begin.

Thanks for reading and thanks to Daino_16 for the pic.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More Simple Solutions

We've had this dilemma for quite some time, and it took the keen observational skills of none other than JH to help us realize that a simple solution lay right in front of us.

Our house suffers a bit from being too dark, and I wonder some times if the previous owner had a thing for being in the dark. It's fitting if it's true, she is a rather somber individual, but that's beside the point.

The kitchen in particular is dark, with dark walls, dark wood cabinets, and an overall lack of bright lights. There are track lights that aren't the nicest things and don't really illuminate the place. We've wanted to replace them for some time but assumed that it required professional help.

Well, the other day JH was looking at it, and deduced that they could simply be removed and replaced. He even reached up and loosened the thing, then pulled it out. The guy is like Superman, though he might want to avoid the red tights.

Now we can maybe get new lights. Of course, I have to find a place that sells them, which could take another ten years, but at least there is hope, and I'll take it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Simple Solutions

We have hose issues, and something had to be done. This really came to light a few months back when I set fire to the woods (nearly burning down the entire forest) and our darn hose was too knotted up and short to put it out. I ended up filling buckets with water and pouring them over the coals. It sounds kind of funny in retrospect, but believe me when I tell you there was nothing funny about it.

It was really scary.

In order to help with the mess that become of our hose, I got a hose caddy . You know, the thing that winds up the hose so it can be used more efficiently. I even got one that kind of looks nice and can be used as a seat, as well as some extra hose, though I avoided the Martha Stewart brand. My Mentor would approve.

Of course, being too busy to deal with it, I got it and left it in yard to collect dust. Thankfully, N has inherited a penchant for engineering, and he took it upon himself to figure the thing out. To his credit, he looked at the instructions and put the thing together, though not without a few hitches. Can you see how nicely organized our hose looks now?

Also, with his unending curiosity and love of experimentation, he decided to explore all facets of the machine, sticking tubes in assorted holes and seeing what everything did. I still am not sure where he was going with this one.

Either way, I admire his lack of fear in trying things out and exploring. As long as he's not hurting himself and not breaking things (well, maybe breaking a few things), everything is all right.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

New POV on Garden

I'm still not enamored with gardening, but after voicing my frustration and disdain, I can objectively see the merits of growing your own food. I guess a better way of saying it is when R and the kids grow food. I just do the heavy lifting.

I'm saying this because not only are we thrilled in the aftermath of catching that darn woodchuck (granted, there are many more where he came from), but the garden is producing some nice stuff. We didn't get too many green or soy beans because the varmint ate them all, but the tomatoes are starting to turn red, and soon there will be corn and cucumbers, and eventually squash.

I don't know if I'll ever really love gardening, but like everything in life, you can't love every moment in the quest for satisfaction and fulfillment. This fact is pounded into my head every day.

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

Interesting Proposition

We've gotten to know the young family who runs the local market, and boy are they a capable pair. She (SI) is an organic gardener who does a fabulous job running the market (she's also the mother of a young child) and he (CI) is a licensed electrician who knows everything about everything in this world, not unlike a lot of people in this town. He's well versed in agriculture and building and cars.

Best of all, he is in possession of some serious heavy equipment. They are building their own house and are in the process of clearing the land. Not only are they doing that, but they built their own portable saw mill and are cutting their own boards.

I asked him if he was interested in the logs behind our barn, and he said sure. I want to cut the maple tree for boards that we may use for kitchen counters (how Martha Stewart is that?), but the others need to go.

If that isn't enough, CI mentioned the possibility of digging the septic system ourselves. He said you can buy the tank and with an excavator and backhoe, you can do it yourself for a fraction of what professionals charge. Of course, only if you have the heavy equipment lying around the house. They are building their own septic system, which apparently is allowable in Vermont.

He said he's dig ours if we wanted to. An interesting proposition if there ever was one. It would be a lot cheaper, though I'm not sure where to go with this one. Our septic design is fairly simple, so it wouldn't cost as much in the first place, but working with a friend would be simpler.

We shall see.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Michal Zacharzewski for the pic.

The Disappearance of Our Contractor

I've gotten some negative reports on our contractor, and he's yet to return my calls. In other words, here we go again. On the other hand, this could work out fortuitously because now we want to do the work ourselves. That is, of course, with the help of JH and his amazing bag of tools.

Our goal is to get that front door finished before Winter so that our house can return to looking normal. The front has been a mess for some time now. Our plan, as many of you know, is to extend the doorway and thereby shorten the porch.

In grand scheme of things, it doesn't seem that complicated. It's just framing. Sure, removing the door will be a task, but nothing a reciprocating saw can't handle. If we can locate the fastening screws, those can be removed without much damage. The nails, however, might need to be cut. One thing at a time, however.

I spoke with JM last night and he said we could leave the cement board as it is and simply frame over it. His main concern was that the new framing be secured to some part of the structural frame. I'm guessing he means the floor joists, or beams. I'm not sure what they're called.

So it will boil down to getting the lumber, thinking about where it will go, and then framing the thing. We can located the joists/beams because we have access to the basement. Once the rough outline of the frame is in, then the rest of it can be installed, and then door can be removed. The door part is what makes me anxious.

I also need to do some research into what sort of exterior flooring to use (decking, perhaps?) and how to seal the outside section so no water can get into the basement. Once the frame and door are in, the inside section is not as urgent because it will be sealed from the weather.

Wow, sounds easy, but it never works out that way. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

't buy good help in this town
won't return calls
will do it with JH, he's a believer, so am I

Divide and Conquer

This amazes me to no end, but we managed to catch a woodchuck alive. I was literally floored when I saw it. Thanks to D&CH for their trap, and WM for his advice on how to use it. WM is a former professional trapper who gave me a death trap to catch woodchucks. He also said he'd heard bananas, of all things, were good for baiting woodchucks. This, of course, makes perfect sense because bananas are native to Vermont.

Anyway, when we first got the trap, I had my doubts. These humane ways to catch animals don't always seem to work, but we had nothing to lose other than more cabbage. I put a banana in the trap and left it near where we thought the animal was getting in. After several days of checking, I figured it wasn't going to work and kind of forgot about it.

Also, being the lazy bum that I am, I didn't bother moving the thing, so it sat there for several days, if a couple of weeks. Every day, however, I told myself to get that thing out of there and give it back to the H's.

Well, yesterday, R and the kids went down to the garden to get some tomatoes, which seem to be doing well, and I joined them. We didn't even bother looking at the trap, and while the kids were picking veggies, I glanced at the trap and couldn't believe my eyes. There was a hairy beast inside.

We all ran over and looked, and sure enough, there was a woodchuck trapped inside. He could have been in there for days for all we knew. He was bummed, and a little testy. The kids put some green beans in the cage in case he was hungry. How's that being held captive.

I got some gloves and put the cage in our wheelbarrow. I then lined the trunk of the car and put the cage in. We then drove about 5 miles away near river and let him go in the woods. I was a little worried he'd attack us and brought along a baseball bat, just in case. Not that I was prepared to use it, but you just never know.

I'm still in shock that we caught the bugger. I'm sure there are more, and our garden is still under assault, but when your gardening spirit has been crushed natural forces, you'll take whatever bone Mother Nature will throw you.

Now we have to set the trap and put it in the garden to catch the rest of the family. I hope the H's don't need it back anytime soon.

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

Second Floor Door

I guess I've never really given it much thought, it is a little strange to refer to a door as a second floor door. How puts a exterior door on the second floor?

I'm sure plenty of people do, and it opens up the possibility of one day building a nice second floor deck, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. It also kind of looks like a big window.

Just getting the door up on the second floor was a bit of chore, but nothing too big for JH and his amazing set of tools. We managed to get the door up there the week before, and then it came time install. Putting doors in is a bit of a challenge, more so than windows, because if you put it in wrong, the door won't open and close properly. Funny how that works.

I'd framed the door RO and we were ready to go. JH screwed in some boards on the outside to prevent the door from falling completely through. This also helps line the door up so it is flush with the wall.

I jumped the gun a bit and caulked the frame before making sure the door fit properly, and sure enough, it did not. I had to rip out the bottom framing boards (all my hard work for not) and then re-caulk. Then we rammed the darn thing in, and it fit.

Then the fun part began. We had to shim left and right, top and bottom until the gaps were even and the door functioned properly. Let me tell you, this is a real challenge. When you make an adjustment on one side, things get messed up on the other side. Coupled with the fact that we had to be concerned about the door falling, and it can be a delicate process.

We finally got the door in, and as we fastened it, it seemed to progressively work better and better. I love when that happens.

And then it was done. The barn is pretty much sealed to the weather. I still need to install the soffit, which could take years, but at least with the new roof and all the doors and windows, it will stay dry inside.

Thanks to JH and his amazing bag of tools. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Almost Done with Dormers

One dormer down, one to go. Wow, I sure seem to write a lot about dormers. Them and dumplings. Go figure.

I was a little worried about working on the new roof, but it hasn't been that bad. Talk to me after I try to clean the chimney, however.

The dormers took a beating after the roofers came, so I had to replace the trim and some of the clapboards. In all fairness, the side boards needed replacing in a bad way, so I am being forced into doing what had to be done. The clapboards are primed with white paint, so they don't match the ones that are already there.

Replacing clapboards is a bear of a job, but even more so when you're standing on the roof. But, after breaking my fair share, I've managed to replace them on one of the dormers. I even think I've figured out how to loosen them without destroying them, but they're so fragile, it's hard to avoid.

After replacing the trim and clapboards, I caulked the vertical seams, and I can move onto the next one. After all the caulking is done, I'll paint them, and voila! We'll be ready to paint them again, this time with the new color. Now common sense says to wait on painting the sideboards until I'm ready to put on the new color, but who knows when that's going to happen, and until then, we want our house to look nice for all the deer and woodchucks that pass through.

I'm hoping to get the second dormer done this week, then I can go up there and paint, because until the new paint is on, it has that unfinished look. As a contractor once said, "Take care of your house and show people that you love it." Or was that my Mentor that said that?

Thanks for reading.

Changing the Oil

I had made an appointment to have our car checked out and the wheels rotated, and figured I might was well have them change the oil, as well. We have problems with performance, and the exhaust pipe has been rattling where it connects to the catalytic converter. Our regular mechanic was talking about replacing the converter, which would cost several hundred dollars. Ouch.

We figured we'd get a second opinion, and learned recently of Meunier Towing, who not only get rave reviews about the work they do, but that they're also trustworthy, they're local, and they can get good deals on cars. What more can you ask for?

At some point, however, I decided to change the oil. This is a pain on our car because it's so small. I have to jack the thing up and then crawl underneath while it's lifted off the ground. This, needless to say, makes me a bit uneasy, because if the jack were to fail, it would literally crush me, or at the very least, hurt a lot. Another problem is that you have to use a bit of force to loosen the drain plug and the filter, which makes the car rock, and this ain't fun when it's balanced on a tiny scissor jack. Maybe I should invest in a floor jack. What would R have to say about that?

It's fairly cheap to have your oil changed, and at times not really worth it to do it yourself, but that's not how real men think, is it? Besides, you can't beat getting your clothes soaked in motor oil to feel like a real man.

I did, however, want to take the proper precautions, so I jacked the car up (with our new jack compliments of Meunier), set a jack stand under it, then placed a block of maple for extra security. I felt a little better after that.

In the past, I've had problems getting that darn drain plug off, and am still not sure what size wrench to use. I have several fixed head wrenches, but they are so small that I can't get enough torque to turn the bolt. A consequence, my Mentor (not to mention JH and my brother-in-law PR) would attribute to being exceedingly cheap in my tool selection.

I have this massive crescent wrench, but have had the problem of not tightening it enough and then stripping the bolt. What a bummer. I personally think the mechanics tightened the thing too tight so that I would have to bring it in to them. I think I need an impact wrench.

This time around, however, I managed to lift the car enough to where I could really get a good hold on that bolt, which unscrewed easily. I love when that happens.

Now to complicate matters, once the oil is drained, I have to remove the filter, which requires that I lower the car and jack it up on the other side so I can access it. You may have noticed that all we do around here is have fun.

I also replaced the air filter, which for the record, is an expensive piece of equipment, but necessary. The old one was filthy.

Now, if we can address that rattling, the car will be in good shape. Let's see what they can do.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Foxes by Daylight

They talk about keeping your cats in at night because of all the dangers, but I saw a fox chase our cat up a tree in broad daylight. I ran outside and threw sticks and logs at it, like that made any difference.

The thing was tiny, no bigger than the cats, and I wonder if they could have held their own against it. They were smart enough not to try, and once up the tree, our cat was safe. It does make you realize that it's a rough world out there, and as cruel and sadistic as our cats can be to mice and voles, they have their own problems to worry about.

In retrospect, I realize that there are signs all over that the fox has been around and is lurking, as evident by his poop. It's all over the place. I thought of using the friendly trap to try to get him. Place a piece of chicken in there and wait and see, but what do you do if you catch a skunk?

I'll have to ask DH, he's a pro at this. It's his trap, as well.

Ah, life in the country, never a dull moment. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to jason gray for the pic.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Front Entryway

It is amazing to me how you can look at a project and think that it will never get done, but by gradually persisting and continuing to tackle the problem, it will eventually get resolved.

Of course, this never happens to me. Case in point, the front entryway. This things has been in a state of arrest for almost a year, and there are certain individuals who are not happy about this fact. I understand completely, but some (many?) things are beyond the scope of my abilities and JH's tool kit. In all fairness, we were willing to give it a go, and kudos to JH for his willingness to even try. He's such a brave soul, he inspires me.

The end result, however, is that some serious framing will have to be done, so much so that it will require a professional. As JH and I were looking at it, the problem is pretty challenging. We need to change the pitch of the entry way so that water will not collect near the door, which is currently does, and will instead pitch to the ground. When it collects by the door, it seeps through the cracks and floods the basement. I've seen this firsthand and let me tell you, it ain't pretty.

Coupled with some rot on the floorboards, it looked pretty serious. So we had to call in the big guns. I contacted BM, and he came over to have a look. His assessment was quick and to the point. Either raise the door frame so you have enough room to change the pitch, or move the door forward and get rid of the porch.

Either approach will require ripping the door out of the frame and moving it, which is kind of serious stuff. Then again, being the framing machine that I am, I can see where he's going with this.

After talking it over with R, we've decided to move the door forward. This idea was sort of endorsed by BM because it was easier, might cost less, and also deals with the actual problem of water exposure on the front deck. It also gives us a tiny vestibule on the front door where we can keep our hats or scarves, which might be the only things that fit in that space.

We lose the porch, which is a bummer, but this situation has gone on long enough, and we're ready for a solution. A professional solution, that is.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Almost Ready to Give Up

We are losing, or have pretty much lost the battle against the woodchuck, and are prepared to throw in the towel. Either that, or try to kill the darn thing. I have the trap and am tempted to use it, if anything purely out of principle, though the sight of some little mammal caught in the jaws of death may be too much for this family to take.

We've done all that we can at this point to stop that critter from getting in, and he keeps getting in. I can't believe it. It almost seems as if he's squeezing through the holes in the wire fence, at which point the game is over. If he can fit through the fence, then he can get in anywhere. We tried to use the humane trap but have managed only to catch flies. I really think we may have to get Draconian, or just pursue other hobbies.

I don't even like gardening.

Besides, with the Grateful Dumpling and all the other assorted projects, coupled with the brutally hot summer we've had, all roads seem to lead to getting a CSA share, or buying our produce at the farmer's market, where there is amazing stuff.

Sometimes you have to let others do what you simply cannot do yourself. I have to confess, however, that the corn and the tomatoes look good, so all is not lost... yet.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Peter Galbraith for the pic.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weed Whacker

I've upgraded a bit, kind of/sort of. When we first moved into this house, I went out and bought a cheap weed-whacker at Welch's in Woodstock. It was about $30 and electric, requiring about 100 feet of extension cord, of which I only had about 50. I used it sparingly but getting all that cord together, never mind using it, was a chore. I think the lawn around the edges of the house suffered, accordingly. Mind you, it worked when I used it, but at some point it almost seemed easier to cut the long grass with some scissors.

With the garden giving us problems and the all weeds taking over parts of the yard, I decided that we really needed a gas powered weeder. Nothing fancy, just something to use now and then, but even cheap weed-whackers are expensive, running you around $150. I spoke with JH and he said he uses a good Stihl one and that it is really worth it to spend the money and get a good one because the cheap ones will come back to haunt you.

What I was hearing was that R would kill me if I spent $200 on a weed-whacker, even if it had an electric can opener attachment.

I was pretty much resigned to keep the old electric one, and even figured out how to replace the cutting wire, which for the record is not easy and convenient, requiring that I removed the empty spool, disassemble it, and then manually spool the new wire with my hand. You really get what you pay for.

Of course, I never learn my lessons properly. I was at Britton's the other day and lo and behold, they had a gas powered trimmer on sale for $50. I couldn't believe it. I wrestled with it and even went back a couple of times before finally buying it. R wasn't thrilled about it, her logic being that we have a weeder that works, why buy another one? If only she understood the male psyche.

I don't think $75 for two weeders over 5 years is that bad, do you?

Then again, who really cares what I think?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to tey teyoo for the pic.

Dormer Time

The finishing of the roof means that there are assorted instances where I need to go in and clean up. The roofers explained to me that they needed to take out the trim and some of the clapboards in order to properly flash the roof against the sides of the dormers. I knew they were going to this, but it bummed R out to see the trim ripped out. Truth be told, the wood was damaged and rotting and needed to be replaced, so the current circumstances are a good impetus for me to get up there and replace them. Now if I could just find the time.


Then again, real men don't make excuses, they make houses. Right?


The first issue I had to deal with was how to get on the roof. Actually, getting on the roof is easy, but how to get up there without damaging the new roof was the conundrum. I didn't want to scratch the metal. Previously it was a piece of cake because I didn't really care what I did to the shingles, knowing that we were getting a new roof, anyway.

Now, I had to be careful. I got some mitts to put on the end of the ladder, and then put pipe insulation over bottom for protection. I must say, it worked out pretty well, and is even a little easier to work with than with the shingles, mainly because it slides so easily. I even got a thumbs up from JH, who is becoming my junior mentor in my real-man training. The guy knows everything, and if he doesn't know it, he knows someone who does. You can't beat that.


Anyway, I got up there and managed to repair one side of the dormer. I figure I'll rip off one side, replace the boards and then move to another corner. After all the wood is installed, I'll go back and paint. How's that for a plan?

One down, three to go. Best of all, because of the various stages of work, I can display before, during and after pics of the work being done. Bob Villa would be impressed.

One other amusing side-note is that I've been doing battle with wasps. They've taken up residence in the soffit (note the blue tape to cover the holes), and in order to work up there, I've had to seal up the entry/exit to their dens. Needless to say, they are not very happy about this, and as I try to cover the holes, they scramble outside and go on the attack.

Not wanting to use chemicals, I carry a fly swatter with me when I'm up there, and it must be quite a site when I'm swinging wildly at the wasps up there on the roof. It would be really funny if it wasn't so dangerous being up there. On days when N is helping me, I ask him to give me a warning and tell me when the wasps return, because they seem to run off and disappear and then come back for the sneak attack.

The problem is, N is so distracted that when the wasps do return, it's usually me who first notices them. When I look down to ask why he didn't warn me, he's often busy playing with rocks or bugs. Oh well, at least he's entertained.

I'm hoping to get all of the trim on the dormers done this week, if I can squeeze it in between life activities and the Grateful Dumpling. I will say this: boredom is never a theme in this household.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Stairway to Heaven

Or rather, stairway to the French Doors.

Since we got our beautiful new cooking stove (we love that thing), we've been able to cook the dumplings outside under the tent. The advantage of this is that we don't make a massive mess in the kitchen, a fact that makes R much happier. Cooking with that much grease can be a disaster. Also, it kind of makes the house smell like McDonald's, and you can never really completely get rid of all that grease. It's a bummer.

Now that we can cook outside, we can make all the mess we want, within reason. Plus, you just can't beat the great outdoors when it comes to cooking. It's like being on the open range, cooking up a buffalo for a bunch of cowboys.

Also, we don't have to tap into our supply of household propane, which I've learned is a negligible amount, but enough to give me anxiety. What else is new?

We set up the tent, hook up the tank, and cook away. It involves a little setup because we have to move all the cooking stuff outside, which includes the dumplings. Also, when the dumplings are cooked, we have to bring them back in. All this movement requires going in and out, and we've been using the French doors since this is the most direct route.

The problem is, the doors don't have steps. It seems as if MG may have intended to put a deck there, but never did. Consequently, there is about a 2 foot drop out the door, which can spell disaster when you're holding a tray full of dumplings.

So, N and I set about making some stairs. I bought some decking boards, which were on sale at Britton's, and then used rough cut 2X8 boards, mainly because I had them and they are cheap, to make the frame. I wrestled with the design before finally figuring out how to support the steps. What I essentially did was build concentric boxes and one on top of the other. Lateral face boards and the steps themselves would hold them in place.

Listen to me, like I know what I'm talking about.

I had to paint the wood first, however, and then cut them to the right size. Of course I screwed things up at first, which is standard procedure for me due to my inability to be organized and start with a plan. With some careful tweaking and the miter saw, I was finally able to get the pieces to fit properly, and then N and I set about nailing it together.

I used screws for part of the base, and then we used stainless steel nails for the deck. Those things are hard to nail in, especially through synthetic decking boards, but we did it. N did a great job, and suddenly, we had stairs.

How cool is that? Another project, completed and ready for my Mentors perusal, though he'll probably find a reason to bust my balls. Then again, what is a mentor is for?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to NRL and RIC for the pics.

Sneak Attack

I've come to the conclusion that gardening just isn't worth it, and you're better off buying a share at a CSA if you want fresh veggies. Between the weeds and the woodchucks, it's just too much time and effort for something for something that breaks your mental fortitude, and then some.

It seems that our woodchuck, or some creature, is back, and for the life of me I can't figure out how he's getting in. R thinks he's getting in through the holes in the fence, which is hard to imagine, but it makes perfect sense. There are no other signs of entry.

If that is the case, then the battle is lost. He can pretty much get in anywhere, so what's the point? I don't even like gardening.

The weeds are relentless, as well. No matter what you do, they take over, and I am in awe of people who have weedless gardens. It's pretty amazing.

So, we'll see what happens. We borrowed a humane trap from our good friends the H's, but are not too optimistic about our chances. I know it's a terrible pic, but I didn't feel like opening the gate and going into the garden, which is where the trap is located, to take the pic. Our garden is like Fort Knox and takes a few minutes just to enter. The things we go through for a few pieces of lettuce.

We also got a death trap from our friend WM, who used to be a professional trapper. He showed me how to set it up, and let me tell you, the thing is a little scary. As he warned me, whatever sort of creature puts its head through the trap will have its neck completely snapped. Yikes!

We're not sure how we feel about this, but it just may come down to killing the beast. We can't take much more of this. It's either him or us.

In the meantime, we'll keep ruminating on whether this whole gardening thing is worth the time and effort. At the present moment, I would say NOT!

Show me the way to the Kroger's produce section.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.