Friday, December 9, 2011

Life Imitates Art

We watched a couple of the Pink Panther movies with the kids, and they sure loved them. Actually, what they really loved was Clouseau, and he wasn’t as prominent of a figure in the first Pink Panther movie, and was definitely not as bumbling and funny. It was the Return of the Pink Panther that the kids really loved, though I recall one of my favorites was Strikes Again. Either way, in the Return, there is a cool scene where the jewel thief sneaks into a museum and steals the Pink Panther diamond. In order to pull this off, he has to escape all sorts of traps and alarms, and this really inspired the kids.

What they ended up doing was setting all these traps around the house with trip wires. They were very clever about it, using electronic sirens and buzzers with insulators that would slip out when we walked through the wire. I actually contributed to the mix by suggesting they tie a thread to a jar of marbles and placing it on a metal tray. When the trap gets set off, the marbles roll around the metal, making a raucous noise. It’s cool that they were so creative about it, but I set the traps off about two dozen times a day. This, as you might have guessed, amuses the kids to no end.

Oh well, you reap what you sow, right? Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sinks and Baths

We ordered and received the toilets for the barn, but that’s only part of the picture. KB said to order the sinks and a bathtub, as well. I guess those are important, as well. One interesting note about the downstairs bathroom: when we were in Florida, the house that we stayed in had a small bathroom that was nearly identical to what we had in mind, but with an interesting twist.

We had originally envisioned a small bathroom with a door on one end, a wall mount sink on the side which you would have to walk around to get to the toilet. What the Florida house had was a bathroom with a sliding door on the side that allowed for a full size pedestal sink on one end and a toilet on the other. I’m not a huge fan of sliding doors, but you could always put in a regular door, and this would allow for much more space.

The bathroom is already framed out, but nothing a reciprocating saw and sledge hammer can’t handle. Did I mention that I like framing?

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Signs of Winter

For me, one of the true symbollic acts to signal the advent of winter is removing the screens and installing the storm windows. Then you’ve really taken steps to prepare for the cold weather. What’s nice about it is the windows let in much more light without the screens, though our windows were a bit dirty.

With this in mind, I set about doing something I’ve never really done before, and that was washing the windows. Now I did this before we left thinking that it would be too cold to wash windows upon our return from our trip. This was incorrect thinking, but how could I have known that before we left? Either way, it was a bit of a scramble to wash the windows in the midst of preparing for the journey, all by my lonesome, no less. I tried to be practical about the whole thing, so I only washed the outside because once it got really cold, I couldn’t really do that. Plus, washing the outside was a little easier since I could splash and spill water and not have to worry about furniture, floors, etc.

The storm windows presented a bit of a challenge, because we have two sets of glass to clean, and two sets of surfaces, both inside and out. Just thinking about it makes me want to ignore it, but I persevered and got it done, at least on the outside. I still have to clean the inside, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Sometimes ambition can work against you.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Looking at the Bright Side

It’s a total bummer that we had to delay our departure due to illness, but it was a no brainer. It’s not fun traveling when you’re sick, heck, nothing’s really fun when you’re sick, and the extra few days really helped us to get back on our feet and feel better. We made the right decision, though it delayed our reunion with mom, whom we miss terribly, none more than yours truly.

On the bright side, however, the delay affored me more time to finish what I originally set out to do, which was to complete that darn woodpile, and complete it I did. Not wanting to squander a golden opportunity, I went to work immediately and told myself that I wasn’t going to stop until it was done. I lucked out with good weather, cool and dry, though it rained one afternoon and I went out and split anyway. How’s that for being a hardcore Vermonter?

Now the pile is done, sort of. I still need to cover it with a tarp before the snow comes, but one thing at a time. Let me relish the sweet afterglow of accomplishment.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Broken Toilets

This is kind of a bummer that actually has a happy ending. You have to appreciate these moments. We ordered our toilets online and got free shipping, which is nice because it would have required a truck of some sorts, and yet it’s strange to think that they would deliver a toilet by FedEx. They each weigh about 100 lbs.

The site, National Builders Supply, is a great site. We got a good price on a toilet that is not always easy to find, a Toto. Plus, as I mentioned, we get free shipping. Anyway, I think we may have ordered from them in the past, and what I recall is that they sternly warn you to check the delivery for damages before signing the receipt. The problem is, the FedEx guy isn’t going to sit there and wait while you cut open the boxes and pull out the toilets to inspect them. The guy basically unloaded the boxes and left.

Last time I ignored this and it worked out fine, but this time around, when I opened the box, one of the lids to the toilet was cracked in half. Total bummer. I immediately called NBS and they said Toto would replace it for free. So I called Toto, and sure enough, they said they’d send me a new one, no questions asked. Whew! Dodged a bullet there.

I love when that happens. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I set my sights on finishing one goal before we left, and that was to complete year two of the woodpile before our departure. It seemed so plausible because I had a huge pile that was split and ready to stack, and the pile was at least 60% done. Then again, 40% of five cords is still a fair amount of wood, two cords to be precise, and before I knew it, my split pile was depleted and there was still a large gap in the stack.

With only a day left before leaving, it’s doubtful that I’ll get it done, but at least I tried, and that’s the important thing. Besides, I have all winter and spring to finish it, though if it were done, I could have focused on other important tasks, like working on my tan.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Toilets and Sinks

We ordered our new toilets for the barn, and went with what we’d purchased in the past. At least for me, there are two issues in making these choices: selecting a toilet (there are so many choices it’s madness), and then getting it home. KB offered to pick them up with his truck, but I’ve found the better way is to order them online and have them delivered, especially if you can score free shipping. Such was the case this time around.

Many places seem to be offering free shipping, I’m guessing to attract customers during these difficult economic times. Toilets are pretty big and heavy, so it’s a bonus for us. We went with Toto, just because that’s what we got in the past, and they get good reviews. Plus, this simplifies what could be an overly complicated situation where choosing a unit from literally hundreds of choices can bog a person like me down. No thank you. It’s done and over, now we just await their arrival.

Of course, we still have to choose sinks and, gulp, a bathtub, so we’re not out of the woods quite yet. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to engindeniz for the pic.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Building More Walls

If you can believe this, we may have finished framing the walls for the upstairs. First it required that we come up with a plan, which is never easy for the likes of us, but it helps getting some expert advice from KB. He’s done a lot of houses, even his own, so he can give lots of practical advice. The layout of the upstairs is complicated by the fact that with no dormers, we lose a lot of head room as you get to the periphery of the room. You have to factor this in when you design toilets and sinks so you don’t bump your head. Not a problem for a short person like me, but for anyone over 5’10”, it will be an issue.

We designed the upstairs to have the main bathroom, a laundry room, and a small office/sewing room. It came out nicely, I think, and the other half can be an big open spaced bedroom, maybe with a loft feel. I always liked that chalet feel. With KB at the helm, we went to work. I helped out with a fair amount of the upstairs, and things really moved along. The framing is done, and the best part was when I had to leave, KB was more than able to take it from there. He even gave me jobs to do on my own, like cutting out some of the framing. Can’t let the man down, can I?

KB said the next thing will be to purchase toilets, sinks, and even a bath tub. This means going out and choosing a fixture, then buying it. Never an easy process for me, but you do what you gotta do. I think we ordered our upstairs toilet online, with free shipping, so we may go that route once again.

As for sinks and tubs, a trip to Home Depot is in the stars. Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

So Long Burn Pile

After what seemed like years, we finally burned that burn pile, and it’s so satisfying to see all that wood gone. Plus, we have a nice charred section of the yard to remind us of our hard work. Most of all, it’s nice to get rid of that ugly stack of scrap wood, it almost seemed destined to become a compost pile or small forest ecosystem. It made mowing the lawn a big of a challenge.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Raking It In

I thought I was getting a free pass this year on the raking because we got this crazy early snow. I really hadn’t done much in the raking department, which for the record is my least favorite thing to do, no question about it. With the snow, suddenly it was all out of sight, out of mind.

Well, as you might have guessed, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky, and sure enough, all of the snow is melting, revealing a cover of... you guessed it, leaves. Part of me wants to just leave it until next spring, which is what a lot of people do. Another part of me thinks I’ll regret this course of action.

I usually do one final mowing in concentric squares that progressively blow the leaves out into the woods, but all it takes is a good windstorm to blow all of my hard work back into my face.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Almost Done with Woodpile

Just when it seems like the woodpile will never get done, things seem to move along and suddenly there’s hope. I would say we’ve reached the 50% mark, if not more. In fact, we are getting closer to being done with one row, and once that’s done, it’s all downhill from there.

That is, of course, until next year. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Walled In

As I mentioned, KB came over and started framing the bathroom downstairs but wasn’t going to finish it until next week. Say no more, I’m ready, willing and able... two out of three ain’t bad. The wood is there, all I need to do is cut it up, figure out how the spacing will be, and then nail it in. I even got the thumbs up from KB. Hey, I could get used to this.

I was looking at how he did it, and being the experienced professional that he is, I think he built the frame first, then nailed it into place. When I framed the windows, I did it the hard way, partially because I had no choice, but it was more my style to do it slow and methodically. Plus, when I measure out pieces and nail them together, it never seems to go according to plan.

This should be interesting. Since I’m pressed for time, I first cut the boards to size. Next I’ll nail them together, and then put the wall into place.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Keith Syvinski for the pic.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More Kindling

I sort of had a sense that over time, this barn project would yield some kindling, and sure enough, after KB had made the stairwell and framed the bathroom, there was tons of the stuff, and it’s only just begun. I know, this feeds into my firewood OCD, but in the end, it’s a practical obsession, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

I just need to cut the wood into more manageable pieces, then split it into small bits. I can’t wait.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Progress Being Made

Wow, we should go away more often. Progress on the barn has been made, in a big way. I spoke with KB before we left and he said he could work on the barn while I was away. He had mentioned the idea of building a stairwell, which not only would make working the barn easier, but would make at least me feel as if things were getting done. I hinted that we would all be happy to see a staircase.

Well, sure enough, when we got back from our trip to DC, there was a stairwell in the barn. Amazing, I tip my hat to KB. Then again, he’s a professional, he’s doing what he does best. The kids are thrilled because now, for the first time, they can see the second floor of the barn, though I don’t want them playing around up there too much, it still worries me. Also, we can use the ladder for other purposes, like building a soffit. Yahoo... I think.

Progress was also made on the downstairs bathroom. He started framing in the walls, which look great, though it is a small bathroom. All we need is a place to do our business. Nothing fancy, right? The real bathroom will be upstairs.

Either way, it’s great to see things moving along. Who knows where he’ll go from there. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finishing the Floor

KB has other projects ongoing, so he couldn’t make it back until this past week, which was when we were away, so I took it upon myself, with his blessing, of course, to finish what I could on my own. KB and I got about 60% of it done the previous week, but again, I had to go, as did he. We discussed this matter and I told him the only way this project was going to get done is if it can be done without me. As much as I’d love to be the hands that completes this barn, it’s way over my head, not just in time, but in experience and knowledge. I just don’t know what to do.

KB, on the other hand, can do it with his eyes closed, it’s just that he’s a busy guy. I figure I can fill in the blanks when I can. So, I went for it. All of the lumber was there, I just needed to get nails and sub-floor glue, or liquid nails. I don’t have the manly caulking gun that KB has, but mine will do. I watched KB do his thing and absorbed his wisdom. The only tools I really needed were a circular saw and a framing hammer, which isn’t as fun or efficient as a nail gun, but you do what you gotta do.

It wasn’t so bad, and kind of nice working by myself up there. When I’m in the presence of a pro, I get big-time self conscious, partly because I’m clueless, but also because I work so slowly. When I’m alone, I can take my time, and take my time I did. It took me at least twice as long on my own to do what he and I did in about a day, but is that so unreasonable? Laying down a floor is a bit like framing, which I like, so it was fine. By the time we were ready to leave for DC, I finished the floor. I couldn’t believe it.

I just hope I didn’t screw things up. Then again, KB will let me know. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


While we were working on the barn, KB mentioned that the next thing we may want to focus on, rather than framing walls, was to build a stairwell. I’m all for that. It would definitely make life easier, especially when we’re working on the second floor. Plus, it would allow the kids, for the first time, to spend some time on the second story. We forbade them from going up there because of the safety issues. Then again, for all I know, they snuck up there when we weren’t around. That’s probably what I would have done.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Woodpile at About 50%

We’re about halfway done with year 2 of the woodpile, and thanks a bunch to my in-laws, PR and RR, for all the work they did. They were on a mission, and they split a bunch of wood blocks. There was a fairly substantial pile of split wood that I finally got around to, but in the end, I’ve found that a big pile of wood doesn’t necessarily translate into a big dent in the stacked pile. I stacked what they had done, and it made a difference, but there’s still a long way to go. Then again, what else is new?

I started splitting more blocks, but my bad shoulder started acting up, and had to stop. On a positive note, but bad elbow seems to have mended, so now I only have pain on side of my body.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Working on the Barn

I contacted KB and he showed up to work on the barn. Granted, he said he could do two days last week and we ended up only doing one, but at this point, I’ll take what I can get. He’s very enthusiastic and gung ho about this project, and he has alluded to making lots of progress over the next year, but we’ll see. For now, we’re happy things are moving along.

The first order of business was to put a new floor in the second story. He said the previous floor was too thin, and even I could see that it was buckling and uneven. He mentioned that when it’s like that, the flooring won’t go on evenly, like tiles or wood, even linoleum, so the plan was to put 3/4 inch plywood over it.

The truck arrived from LaValley’s and delivered a bunch of wood. From my wealth of experience, I could recognize the framing material in addition to the plywood, so I could see the KB was planning ahead. The idea is to frame the walls and then the bathroom downstairs after the floor is done.

He said it would go faster if he had a helper, and he could bring along one, or if I had the time, I could do it. It worked out that I had time, also because the kids are recovering from colds, so we could blow off tennis. I told KB, however, that the goal is to get this barn done, even I’m not around, and he’s fine with that. The take home message is that if someone can help him, the faster it will go. Say no more.

I helped out as best I could, helping him unload the wood (there was a ton of it), sweeping, applying glue. I even got to nail the boards in with the nail gun, which scares me. Watch those hands and feet. We got a little over halfway done when I finally had to go to take the kids to an activity. KB stayed behind and worked for another hour, but I think the brunt of the two man work is done.

In fact, I’m toying with the idea of carrying on what we started and getting it as far along as I can. KB can’t come back until later this week, and we might not be around, so if I can knock off a bunch of it, then less work for him and we can move onto the next big stage, whatever that is.

It’s exciting that things are moving forward, though the idea of nailing in those floorboards by hand is a bit daunting after using that nail gun. Oh well, that’s what framing hammers are for.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Clean Sweep

My friend asked if I had the poles needed to sweep a chimney, and I said I did, but I hadn’t used them yet. It’s getting cool outside and we’ve been burning wood, and I haven’t had the chimney swept. I don’t know if you can sweep the chimney when it’s being used, or if it needs adequate time to cool off before you can do it. I figure with pros, they can do just about anything, but I guess it’s easier before you really start using the stove full time.

With this in mind, I finally bit the bullet and swept the chimney. I’d done this once in the past, but my brush was too small, and I didn’t get it right. I found a brush the right size, but was concerned that it would get stuck in the flue. This small anxiety paralyzed me to the point of inaction, as usual.

Winter is right around the corner, however, making the time to take action imminent. We had the market to attend to, and there were unseasonably cold and freezing temperatures in the forecast, so I just went and did it. I love when I do that. It worked fine, the brush didn’t get stuck, and now the chimney is reasonably clean.

Bring on cold, we’re ready to burn. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Meeting with Our Umpteenth Contractor

So KB came over and looked at the barn, and I think things will start moving along now that we’ve got a professional on the scene. This, of course, means paying professional wages, but at least things will get done in a professional manner, i.e., it won’t depend on me. As much as I love the idea of getting my hands dirty in the finishing of this barn, I just don’t have time and my sporadic schedule means that I can’t be there for the time needed.

I’m hoping this works out, because KB’s our friend and we trust him, but also we want to see this project be completed. I think it’ll happen, but I’ve said this before, so stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Svilen Milev for the pic.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stood Up and Seeking Professional Help

It’s time I got a little professional help, in more ways than one. BL was supposed to come over and work on the plumbing, and he bailed out on us. Bailed out hard. I spoke with him two weeks ago, and we scheduled a day for him to come. He was all for it, and I marked it on the calendar.

The day before, I called him and left a message, and he didn’t call back. I then called him the day he was supposed to come, and again, he didn’t call back. At that point, it was clear that he was just not into it, and we were going to have to look elsewhere. Fair enough. Fortunately, we live in an area where contractors grow on trees.

I called our friend, KB, and asked if this was something he had time to do. He came over and checked it out, and said it was a good time because he was in between projects, and things could get busy in the coming months. We figure that something’s gotta happen, and the sooner the better, so I told him we’d like to have him frame out the bathroom and then install the pipes into the septic. I hope it works out, because it if it does, then progress is being made.

KB’s a professional, so he’s going to make professional wages, but it’s better to pay a little more and get something accomplished than save money and get nothing done, right? As my Mentor always says, you get what you pay for.

Plus, KB’s our friend, and in addition to the knowledge on every aspect of building a house, he’s got every tool in the book, so other aspects of this barn project will benefit from his presence, which means just about everything.

Stay tuned for more, this should be good, and thanks for reading, and thanks to A B for the pic.

Seeding and Blueberry Maintenance

As part of my vow to keep up on the blueberries, I did the semi-annual maintenance that was recommended to us by the people in the know, mainly CS, grower extraordinaire.

There are two things they told me to do. First off, add acidic fertilizer, then add soil acidifier. With pine mulch on top of that, it sure seems like a lot of acid, so I’m only adding the acidifier in the spring, and I’ll add fertilizer spring and autumn. I added the fertilizer, topped it off with fresh mulch, and we’re good to go.

I then seeded the lawn with some conservation mix, with N helping out. He likes to spread the seeds, it’s sort of fun, and I figure if we can spend some quality time doing real man’s work, then all the better. Besides, we might as well take advantage of the time’s he wants to help out, because once he gets to those turbulent teen years, he’s not going to want to have anything to do with us, except, of course, when he needs money, food, or the car.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wood - A Family Affair

A couple of weeks back R’s family came for a visit and we managed to get them to help out with the yard work. It helps that the guys were eager to sink their teeth into some real man’s work, especially her brother. I still have several cords of wood that are cut into blocks but need to be split, and both PR and RR were more than happy to jump in. I didn’t even have to ask, they just went for it.

PR in particular was a go-getter, and he must have split at least a cord and a half, maybe two cords. He and N then went about stacking, so the pile is growing. I am firmly convinced that we’ll get the year-2 pile finished before the snow, especially once my elbow heals. Even if it doesn’t, what’s a little pain amongst real men (in training)?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Finishing the Front

We’re moving at a snail’s pace on the front, but at least it’s moving. Not unlike traffic in LA, eventually you’ll get to where you’re going. I would say the front is about 95% done. I just need to get that one piece of trim in below the door, and voila, we have a front porch, sort of. Not so much a porch as a front door, but it has porch-y qualities.

I put the trim in around the door, but there were gaps in between the door and window trim. Originally their were pieces that were flush in between so it looked like one continuous frame, but my brilliant idea was to put in pieces that were recessed a bit, giving it a more dramatic effect. I’m all for more drama in our lives. The problem is, cutting a piece that fits perfectly inside is difficult, but ripping a 7 foot piece that is 1 inch wide is pretty much impossible, especially in my hands. Plus, the table saw scares me.

What I ended up doing was ripping the pieces a little bit small so they would fit in, and then filling the gaps with copious amounts of vinyl caulk. After it dried, I painted it, and it actually looked pretty good. I’m definitely better at doing a sloppy job at first and then going back and making it look prettier. Sometimes this works, other times you only get one chance.

Going back and cleaning it up reminds me a lot of writing, you just get the first draft down and then re-write and edit it until it reads nicely. Amazing how that works.

One last piece of trim to put in, and I think I’ll be finally done with that front step. Hard to believe.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Leaving JH (and his MBoTs) Hanging

I had to bail out on JH last week, though the weather was a contributing factor. With the return to dumplings and the rush to get our school material in to the state, working on the barn had to take a back seat. For the past several weeks I had bailed out on him, though in all fairness, the guy is busy with a ton of stuff himself. Besides working full time, his family owns a cottage over on a lake that took a serious hit from Irene, so he has plenty of work cleaning up and repairing that.

Even still, he said he’s ready to begin working on our projects, it’s just that we are busy on my end. What the heck else is new? This past week, we had vowed to work on the barn, and sure enough, I had a ton of stuff to do. Even with all that, however, I stayed the course and told JH we could meet. Then, the weather actually worked in my favor, and it rained. With the poor weather, we decided to put it off for another week, and see how it goes. He also mentioned that he changed his schedule and could now work on Fridays, so that might work out well.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Making Contact.... Again

I finally got in touch with BL about the plumbing and he said he was going to call me about getting together... yeah, right. In all fairness, I haven’t been as on the ball about this as I could be, so I can’t fault him. Either way, we set up a day in the coming weeks to get together and put in those pipes. I’m still not sure what exactly it will entail, but he seems pretty relaxed about the whole thing, and said it would be easy. Fair enough, I believe him.

This should be interesting. Once we have pipes in, we can think about putting in plumbing and all sorts of good stuff. Me and JH (and his MBoTs) could have our work cut out for us, but that’s what real men thrive on, right? Or at least, in my case, real men in trainging.

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

Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting Level

Inspired by HH, I went out and got a 2 ft. level. It makes a huge difference when working on the soffit, because my 8 inch doesn't do the trick, and the 4 ft. is way too big. I don't want to have all these redundant tools, but this one is really useful. Plus, it only cost about $6 at Home Depot. Enough said.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Next of Kindling

It’s that time of year again, and it should be interesting to see how much wood we go through this year. We may have our wood all cut and split, but let’s not forget about kindling. Can’t get that old fire going without the stuff. In the past, I’ve gone to Britton’s and hoarded the scrap wood, and it was fruitful like you wouldn’t believe. Now they don’t seem to have a scrap box, and in the end, they probably thought I was crazy for grabbing the stuff up. At LaValley’s, when I asked, they tried to take me into the alley and flog me with a 2X4.

Either way, I got so much of the stuff last year, and this year there is none. I have wood from assorted projects, and I have pine logs up the wazoo. It doesn’t do much good lying around outside, however, and at some point I need to start splitting the stuff and store it in the basement. Winter will be here before you know it, and we don’t want to get left out in the cold... no pun intended.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soffit Progress

Not to sound like a broken record (too late?), but because we didn’t have to spend our days in dumpling hell, I was able to spend a day working on the barn. It was a miserable task, but it sure felt good to get it all done. I have to install a soffit on the back end, and before I do that, I have to install something for the soffit to nail into. I was told that normally you cut the joists so that the soffit attaches directly to that, but no such luck in this instance. Like the front, I was going to have to install a strip of wood spanning the entire distance.

It is easy enough nailing strapping onto the sheathing, but you also have to install it onto the fascia, and because these boards are nailed into the joists, it’s best not to nail the strapping onto the fascia boards because you might knock them out. Does this make any sense?

What this entails is screwing the strapping into the fascia, and even this wouldn’t be so horrible, except that I can’t screw in long pieces of strapping because the joists reach down to low. So, I had to cut about 45 individual pieces of strapping about 14 inches long to fit in between every single joist. To add to the fun, I don’t have a cordless drill, the one I have is a piece of junk, so I had to do all this with an extremely long extension cord.

In the end, I got it done, and it was one of the tasks I was dreading enough that I simply avoided it and hoped it would go away. Then again, that’s how I feel about a lot of things. Next up, cutting the soffit to size and drilling about a million holes in the boards for ventilation. Will the fun ever stop?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Great Weekend Before the Great Weekend

The weekend before the big visit I had a very productive couple of days on the home improvement front, and it all stemmed from one thing - no dumpling making. I can’t stress this fact enough. We missed last week because of the weather, so we had all the dumplings that we’d made all ready to go. This freed us from dumpling hell all weekend, and I was able to get some stuff done around the house.

First off, the lawn. Besides dumplings, it’s been hard to mow the lawn because the weather has been crazy. With all that rain, the lawn is growing wild, and we finally got a break in the weather to coincide from dumpling liberation. Plus, it cooled off a bit. Mowing the lawn in the scorching heat is almost unbearable.

I was also finally able to return to attending to the woodpile. I would say it’s about 20% done. Mind you, this is next year’s wood, so it’s not a rush, but the sooner the better. I made some kindling, as well, of which we had none before this weekend.

So things are moving along, and I’m confident once the dreaded dumplings are done, we’ll be more productive and efficient.

Until then, thanks for reading.

White Out

After thinking it over and consulting with half the population of Vermont, I finally decided to paint the front step, the same one I went to great lengths to get a nice piece of stainable wood so it would look natural. I think in the hands of a seasoned professional with an eye for aesthetics, it would have worked beautifully, but with me, it just didn’t seem to work. I love the look of natural wood, it’s just that somehow it wasn’t meshing.

Painting it white seems to give it more unity, and it will protect the wood a bit more. It’s also beneficial in the hands of a rank amateur as myself because when I paint the clapboards and trim, I inevitably spill paint on the step. Now I can simply paint over my mistakes with white paint. I do much better when I can go back and edit, rather than doing it right the first time. Or, like framing, I can do a sloppy job the first time, and it doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s sturdy, sort of.

Either way, I’m glad that’s been decided. I think the front step is about 95% finished, and it only took about a year. That’s 7 in dog years.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Addressing the Cold

I had this brilliant plan to keep the two front facing rooms warmer, and I have no clue if they’ll work, but they sure sound good in theory. The guest room and our bedroom are much colder than the rooms on the back of the house, for a number of reasons. First off, the back faces south, so it gets a lot of sunshine. Second, the back is directly above the stove, so it gets heated the most. And finally, and I could be wrong about this, but the back wall is better insulated.

The reason I think this last point is true is because the front rooms are doghouse dormers that have knee-walls that are part of the slant of the roof. I know there’s insulation in there, but also know that a roof must allow cold air to vent through it in order to work properly. For anyone in the know (my Mentor, JH and his magic bag of tools, PR, etc.) this is important because it keeps the attic cold.

In this knee wall, there is a book shelf in each room, and the bottom shelf has no backing, so it is essentially exposed to the roof. I keep assorted clothes on this shelf, including underwear or shirts, and I’ve noticed that when I put them on in the Winter, it’s like putting ice cubes on. They’re freezing.

Through a rigid process of deduction, I concluded that this is contributing to the cold in the rooms. My plan, of course, is to seal up that hole. I’m not sure why it wasn’t done in the first place, so I could be screwing things up, but it’s worth a try. I need more projects to feed this blog.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Raja R for the pic.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Deer Fence?

We installed a deer fence way back when to stop the deer from decimating our garden, and it worked for a few years. Now that the gardening season is coming to a close, R is less stringent about keeping the garden sealed, so a deer wandered in and started snacking.

It saw us and tried to run, but felt trapped inside the garden. The gate was open, but the animal was in a panic and wasn't thinking straight. Instead of exiting through the door, it simply jumped over the deer fence. We were all watching it, and after it happened, N said, "Dad, the deer just jumped over the deer fence."

So much for that. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to ARL for the outstanding pic.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Working on the Roof

I’ve about finished the other side of the back dormer, and I would say it’s about 75% complete, enough to where if I left it at that, it would be no worse of than before I started working on it. The flashing is in along the edge, so it’s more water protected than before, it’s just that some of the clapboards took a beating and need to be replaced. The problem is, the ones that got destroyed are at the top of the roof, where the dormer meets the apex of the house.

Not only is this the hardest and scariest section to be standing on, but it’s also where the darn hornets have made their nest. I’ve also concluded that my setup is not that good, and I don’t feel safe up there, so I’m going to have to come up with another solution. I may be able to get the other ladder over the vent pipe after all, it just will take a little patience and maneuvering. I feel more comfortable when the ladder is hooked over the roof, it’s a lot less scary.

For now, we’ll see how much I’ll get done. I’m somewhat complacent with the fact that the flashing is in, though I don’t want to flake out and let this project die a slow death.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Decked Out

As per HH’s advice, I treated the wood on our deck and am in the process of fixing the hatch door. She told me that even though cedar resists rot, it still should be protected against water. I’m guessing that a stain or water sealant was in order, but which one? As it turns out, I have a silicone based water sealant that I used on the front step, and lots of it. I love when that happens.

I got some cedar deck boards to fix the hatch door but figured I’d treat the wood before assembling it, and then I treated the rest of the deck. I’m hoping this will protect it, because that deck really takes a beating from rain, snow, and sun. On the other hand, the cedar boards were not as expensive as I had originally thought, not that I want to replace the whole thing, but if it came down to that, it wouldn’t be as horrendously painful as I imagined.

For now, I think it looks pretty good. Once that door is finished, we are ready to move on with our lives. Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Real Man’s Work

During the storm a tree actually fell onto our driveway. I knew it was coming down at some point because not only was it dead, but it was leaning against a big pine and I could tell that it was just a question of time. Sure enough, when the rains came, we saw it lying across the driveway. Fortunately, we didn’t have to be anywhere, and noticed it when we were going for our walk.

This, of course, gave me a chance to do some real-man’s work. I had to dust off my chainsaw, which I had prepared for Winter storage by running the tank dry and putting it in the basement. The day before I got some fresh gas, and kept it handy just in case of such an event. How’s that for foresight?

I added the oil and filled up the tank, and then walked down the driveway and started cutting. The wood is old hemlock so the saw cut through it like butter, though I screwed up and cut through to the dirt, which is the kiss of death for the sharpness of your chain. Oh well, time to break out the Dremmel sharpener.

What was great about it was that as I was cutting, at least a dozen trucks drove by and I got to show them that actual real-man’s work gets done over at our house... not that isn’t obvious, of course.

I might even be able to use the wood for kindling, but that’s yet another project, for another time.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Done With The Garden

When I say done, I don’t just mean for this season, I mean for good. I'm talking a big no thank-you. I just don’t have the green thumb thing going, and at some point, we just give up on the whole idea. When our crops finally do ripen, we usually don’t make the most of it because by that time, we’re so burned out on trying to battle weeds and critters that all we want is for Fall to arrive. Then again, come next Spring, we may sing a different tune. It's been known to happen.

People talk about their love for gardening and how they love to spend time out there, but I can’t say I completely relate. I love being outside and working, but the whole gardening thing just doesn’t speak to my sensibilities, or should I say our sensibilities. Some people just do it better than we can, and maybe it’s better to just pay them for their talents.

With that in mind, we’ve finished harvesting the garden and R has left the gate open to let nature run its course. Despite a load of effort, we really didn’t have a bounty of a harvest. The tomatoes are still plodding along, and the corn was about four inches long, though for the record, it was really good. We have cucumbers, but I don’t feel that inspired to pickle, though the kids are bugging me to do it. They enjoy the process because yours truly ends up doing most of the prep and cleanup.

We’re not sure what we’ll do next year, we always seem inspired come Spring, but I personally wouldn’t be heartbroken if we just planted some flowers and let things unfold as they will.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Daino_16 for the pic.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Doing What I Can

I had all these grandiose plans to get things done around the house, but with Hurricane Irene looming, I instead set about clearing the yard of possible projectile objects and mowing the lawn. I recently changed the blade on the mower, which always gives me a bit of anxiety, so it's good to run it few times to know that the thing isn't going to fly off. Scary thought.

Also, since Sunday was slated to be crazy in terms of weather, we had to finish up the dumplings by Saturday, which is a day before we usually do it, thus complicating our lives even more. In addition to stocking up on rations and water, I had to not only make and cook dumplings, but clean up all the pots and pans, as well. Then, I moved all potentially dangerous stuff into the barn, which included my ladder setup on the roof as well as various power tools.

I then mowed the lawn, which badly needed it, and picked up some lumber at a friend's house who said he had plenty and gave it to me free. Thanks M.

Now we sit and wait. The weather is supposed to be nice after the hurricane, so hopefully I'll have the wherewithal to keep my feet moving.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Andrea Kratzenberg for the pic.

Moving On to the Eastside

With the hurricane looming, I've decided to leave well enough alone and move to the other side of the house. I still need to finish painting some of clapboards on the west side of the dormer, but we're talking 30 minutes of work, tops, and the boards are primed. The important part, sealing the side of the house from water, is finished, so I can in good conscience start on the other side. Plus, the work can be finished with just our extension ladder, so I don't need to borrow one from KJ.

With that in mind, I moved the ladders to the east side of the dormer and was ready to start ripping out clapboards to get that flashing underneath, but then decided that rather than get too involved, to break things down in anticipation of the storm. Kind of a bummer, because I was feeling inspired, and now it's going to take some doing to get back on track. Momentum is a funny thing in that way. I think if I'm more careful this time around, I won't have to do as much siding replacement and painting.

I also ran into a complication with the ladders. We have a 28ft extension ladder that goes up about 1/3 of the way, which falls way too short, so I use another ladder that hooks to the roof. The difficulty of this is that I have to borrow someone's ladder. On the east side, there is a vent pipe sticking out, so I can't hook the ladder to the roof. I thought about getting the pipe through the steps of the ladder, but that would be a chore. So I came up with an alternative plan, which was met with much skepticism by the likes of JM and CF. I was going to build an extension with 2X4s and rest it on top of the extension ladder. I figure 8 ft. would be plenty, and then I wouldn't need to hook the ladder over the top.

JM thought I was flirting with disaster, but in the end, I came up with a solution to my solution - I will tie a rope to the top of the wooden extension, and then secure that to a tree or window on the other side of the house. That way, the extension won't slide down the face, taking me with it. I think it will work. For good measure, I could always secure a harness, as well, and might do that, though it's a pain hooking up every time. Better safe than sorry, right?

Just a final note, I think the long term plan for the dormer will involve replacing many of the clapboards and possibly installing a piece of trim, but it's water tight for now.

This should be interesting. Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

About 75% Finished With One Side

Progress is slow in these parts, but things are moving along. I finally went up on the roof and nailed in the clapboards, thus securing the flashing. As always when dealing with clapboards, I ended up cracking and destroying a few, so they needed to be replaced. This entailed getting the clapboards, and then cutting them to size and installing them. Not always easy to do when you’re standing on the roof and hornets are flying around your head.

Part of the problem was nailing through two piece of flashing, which required some force. I employed the advice of my father in law, RR, and held the nails steady with a pair of plyers as I gave them a good whack. It worked out well. Now the new boards are in, the flashing is secured, and I think it’s fairly protected from the weather. Now I could probably leave it as it is for the Winter, but I figured that since I’m all set up up there, I might was well paint the trim and the clapboards. Just what I need, something else to put off and weigh me down.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

All Hands on Deck

Our deck is pretty fried, though my Mentor doesn’t think it’s bad as I make it out to be, and he would know. I need to fix that hatch door, however, and like everything in my life, I’ve been putting it off. Part of my dilemma is the cost of materials. The deck is cedar, and that stuff is expensive. To replace the deck would cost hundreds of dollars, and that makes me anxious. However, to just fix the door would be a fraction of that cost.

I finally investigated the matter and found that cedar deck boards are not that expensive, at least I don’t think they’re that expensive. About $1/foot, so to replace the door would cost about $50. True, the entire deck would set us back, but that’s not necessary at this point.

I went to Britton’s and got the wood, and I think I’ll be able to pull this off before Winter... yeah, right. HH did tell me that cedar resists rot, but still needs to be treated, so I’ll attend to that this time around. I think I have the stuff to use, the same stuff I used on the front step. It’s a silicone based water proofer that is water based, so not as nasty as some of the products out there. I was going to use it on the picnic table, if I ever get around to fixing that.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Paint It White

After all my efforts to have a nicely stained front step, with a natural wood look, I've finally decided to paint it white, of all things. Had I done this in first place, I probably could have used a cheaper piece of wood, but the step is nice, and will be more durable because of it.

Now the question is, when?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Woodpile Grows and TB Calls

Finally got back into splitting and stacking wood, which I really enjoy, as does N. It’s a great way to get something accomplished and hang with my son doing a manly activity. How can you beat that? I’m almost finished relocating the wood blocks, and once that’s done, we’re all set and ready for our next truckload.

There is quite a bit of wood that still needs to be split, and it could take me months to get it all done, but that’s not a problem as long as we have enough to keep us warm over the Winter. The plan is to finishing stacking the second year, and then whatever is left over I’ll stack in the woods uncovered. Then, when Spring arrives, we can just move the split wood over to the dry pile. How’s that for planning? What’s great about it is that it speaks volumes to my firewood OCD.

Also on the wood front, I finally heard from TB, the logger. He hadn’t returned my call for about a week, and he’s generally very professional and reliable, so I figured he was on vacation. Then again, loggers don’t go on vacation during the busy Summer/Fall months, there’s too much to do. Either way, I was ready to start looking for alternates when he finally called and left a message. We were still on, and he said he could get me the wood before Winter, which I had said would be fine. One less thing to worry about.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Almost Done With the Front

Things are cruising long on the home front (literally and figuratively), and though progress is slow, it’s progress, nonetheless. The front entry has been stalled for the past year, and I decided to just bear down and try to finish it. Part of the delay stemmed from the fact that we are going to change the color of the house, and I figured it wasn’t worth it to paint it now and then paint it later. The question is, when are we going to paint it, and what color?

So, I just went for it. I needed to caulk the seams before I could paint, but once that was done, I could begin. Painting short clapboards is a chore when you’re trying not to paint the trim, and I’m a sloppy person, so I’m going to have to re-paint the trim, anyway. Not a bad thing.

I would say the entry is about 90% finished. All I need is finish the trim around the door, and we’re on our way. There is some debate as to whether I should pain the step white. I originally liked the natural wood look, and even went out of my way to get a nice piece of lumber for that purpose, but when I look at it, I think it would look better if it matched the trim. A white step doesn’t seem practical, but what’s practicality got to do with anything?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Got My Paint

My Mentor is going to roll his eyes on this one, but I went to LaValley’s and got more stain for the house, but left my old stain can there. I brought it with me for a color reference when I got a new can, and it was only about 1/4 full, but when I got the new can, I forgot the old one. Part of the problem was that we needed clapboards, as well, and that was on my mind. The reason that is was on my mind is because the boards usually come in 16 foot lengths, which is way too long for our sedan, especially with two kids in the backseat. They will cut the boards to size, but that requires getting someone to help you, which is a chore at LaValley’s because they are not warm and fuzzy over there, and I need warm and fuzzy.

I did luck out and find them in 5 foot bundles of ten, which fit perfectly in the front seat, so much so that I bought two. Now I can fix the clapboards that I destroyed trying to get that stinking flashing in, but don’t get me started.

Anyway, my original point is that it wasn’t worth a trip out to LaValley’s to get a 1/4 full can of paint, but I was so mad that I’d forgotten it there. I was using it, after all. Since we were heading out to get dumpling wrappers and bike grips, I figured a quick stop wouldn’t be the end of the world. So we went, and I got my paint, and now I feel much better.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Painting and Flashing

I finally got around to two projects on the main house, painting the front entry and flashing the dormers. The dormers need to be attended to before Winter, because you don’t want water damage, while the front could be put off for another year, it’s really an aesthetic issue. The problem is, it’s much easier to paint the front because it doesn’t involve getting on the darn roof, which I hate to do, mainly because of all those darn wasps.

I managed to start painting the front, but it takes time because I have to be careful of the trim, which is white, as opposed to the siding, which is purple. I made a mess of it all, and will have to go back and paint the trim white again. It’s taking shape, however. BTW, I forgot to mention that I needed to seal the edges of the siding with vinyl caulk, as well.

The roof was trickier. I had to borrow a ladder from KN to hook over the apex of the roof, and then break out all of our ladders just to get up there. Installing the flashing was a bit of a pain, and I was hoping to avoid removing the clapboards because that never turns out well, but I couldn’t slide the metal up the roof. It kept getting stuck on something, and eventually I had to remove some boards to get it in. I thrashed the flashing a little, but it will work fine, and I’m not going to worry about it.

Of course, now I need to replace boards, and while I’m up there, do some painting. Total bummer, but it needs to be done. This will delay the completion of this project considerably. I’m toying with the idea of removing the wasps nest before I continue, and it’s a huge one. I have nothing against them, but when you’re on the roof and they’re swirling around you constantly, it can be dangerous, and I’d just as soon not have them there. Time to break out the hose. At least it’s cooling off.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Mouse House

I was stacking wood and fixing the cover on the woodpile when I happened upon a mouse nest. There were even little mice in there. They were babies, and they didn’t know what to make of me and just sat and stared. I showed the kids and then covered them back up and left it at that. I’m guessing their almost old enough to leave, which they’ll hopefully do soon before I need to use the wood, or before the cats find them.

I love these nature moments, it makes you appreciate life in the wilds of Vermont. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to aneczka bazant for the pic.