Friday, April 29, 2011

Moving the Kindling

This may seem like a trivial matter, but in my mind, it’s a big step. I moved the kindling box to the wood splitting area, thus clearing out a large object from the barn. This is significant because it means that we’re taking control of the matter by making the kindling ourselves instead of scrambling to find wood scraps at lumber yards.

It’s also important because we’re starting to move stuff out of the barn, clearing the way for its completion. This may be some time off, but you gotta start somewhere, right?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Making Progress

I’ve noticed that when I start to cut up the log pile, it seems like no matter how many logs I cut, the pile does not get any smaller. If anything, it seems to grow. However, there is a critical juncture, maybe after about 15% of the pile has been cut, that it actually seems like there is progress being made. I think I’ve passed that juncture, and then some. In fact, I may even be about 25% done. Of course, that’s just cutting the wood into blocks. I still have to move it, split it, and stack it, but I’ve got all Summer for that, right?

The plan is still the same. Get this year’s wood all ready to go, and then take my time getting next year’s wood together. If possible, I’d like to get it all done ASAP, but there are so many projects in the pipes, I can’t afford to focus on one thing. Prioritization is the key.

I’ll tell you one thing, heating with wood doesn’t make life easy. I still have to contact our logger friend TB to get our next load.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


People tease me that I have OCD when it comes to firewood, and I don’t deny this for a second. Something about wood and trees that really captures my attention. When the wood is all cut and stacked up, I love the way it looks, and sometimes, dare I say, I look at it with a bit of affection, which is not completely unreasonable in light of the fact that it represents a lot of time and hard work.

Best of all, after all the effort to prepare it, we simply tear it down and burn it. You have to love this process, and once the snow and ice melt, it’s time to start rebuilding the wood pile. This, of course, includes cutting up a load of tree length wood then hauling it to the splitting zone.

It’s an amazing amount of work, but a process that we’ve chosen to embrace. We could employ more machinery, but I like the workout, and it’s better for the environment. Plus, if we chose an easier route, I’d have less to whine about in this blog.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Possible Barn Solution

As I mentioned, the barn has been slow going, but we may have happened upon a partial solution, and if works it, it means that the project will move along at not only a quicker pace, but a more competent and capable one, as well.

Our good friend HH is a former contractor, and she mentioned that if I needed a hand in working on the barn, to give her a call. I assumed that in addition to the friendly assistance, there would be a professional angle, as well, though money never came up. Like all of us, she would benefit from the income. Now I don’t know what her rate is, but part of the reason I’m doing a lot of the work is to save money, so if she charges standard contractor fees, it won’t work out.

However, if she is just looking to make some dough and would accept a lower rate, then this could work out beautifully. Not only is she experienced, but she has the wisdom and insight to lead the project, and she has the tools, being a professional and all. She’s got a nail gun, as well as one of those things that shoots nails into concrete, which we will need.

The point is, if could afford her and she were to come on board, it would move the project forward at a much greater clip. This, of course, would mean that we could get the barn finished and R’s parents could move in ASAP. Hey, you never know.

Either way, we’ll see how this goes. This is nice because HH is our friend and her kids are our kid’s friends, and we might be able to help her out with some income while she’s in-between jobs and I could get the help I need to accomplish something that clearly I am incapable of accomplishing.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hex Wrench

I learned something new about hex wrenches. It’s not something I put a lot of thought into, and it only comes from experience. What I’ve found is that it’s better to have the separate pieces versus having them together in one single unit. Of course, I learned this the hard way.

I need a 5/16 wrench to fix A’s bike, and I have an old set with the separate pieces but had lost track of that size. I went to Aubuchon to get just one hex wrench, and they didn’t have the size I wanted, so I was faced with having to get a set. I chose the single unit with all the sizes because I figured I could keep track of them better, and the guy told me that single units are not that cheap.

When I tried to fix her bike, however, it was too long, and I had to find an alternate solution. Single hex wrenches have a short side to them that is lost on the single unit, so I realized I would have been better off with just the 5/16 wrench, if they’d had it. I was bummed, but learned a lesson, which was not to buy tools at Aubuchon, but go where the big boys go.

I have to be philosophical about it all and realize that there is value to the lesson learned. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Cutting Wood and Next of Kindling

I broke out the chainsaw from hibernation and did some of my first wood cutting, and it sure felt good. We have about seven cords to cut, and then I need to order more for the pile. I’m beginning to realize that we use about 5-6 cords a year, which is a fair amount of wood. I buy a seven cord load, so there is not a lot left over in the end. Then again, I’m still calculating our consumption.

I’ve also started cutting some pine, with the intention of using it for kindling. Besides the actual hard wood for the fire, we go through tons of kindling. I generally use leftover pine scrap from whatever building project is going on, and there has been enough to get us through the Winter. Also, I raid the scrap box of the local lumber yard and take whatever they’re going to burn anyway, but it’s a bit of a scramble, and it entails asking the lumber guys to take their garbage. I guess they don’t care, but it’s a little awkward.

Either way, we’ve got tons of pine lying around the property, and it’s easy enough to cut it into blocks and split the pieces into kindling. I can grab it whenever I feel like it, and it seems like the real-man way to get kindling. Then again, kiln-dried pine isn’t fill with pine-boring beetle grubs.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Toilet Fixature

I love moments when I pull of a “McGyver,” because not only are they few and far in-between, but I can win points with my Mentor. For those of you who don't know McGyver, it was a show that I watched as a kid where a guy got out of dangerous situations by fabricating weapons or tools with scotch tape and some bobby pins.

We were having some issues with our high-end toilet, but weren’t exactly sure what was going on. I tend to use the downstairs bathroom, so when issues arise, I’m the last to know. R and the kids all mentioned that there were some “moments” that cropped up when flushing. The toilet worked, so naturally I just ignored it until the real problem surfaced.

Well, sure enough, along came a problem. The toilet didn’t flush anymore, and I had to go investigate. This entailed opening the back hood and dipping my hand it. It turns out that the plug, or what they call the flapper, had broken off the chain, and was no longer attached to the lever. It required a new flapper, but what were supposed to do in the meantime? It would have been a pain to reach back there every time we needed to flush, and then reach down into the water to lift it up. Boy, we sure take toilets for granted, don’t we?

Anyway, I came up with an idea. The chain broke off a rubber loop on the flapper. What I did was stick a safety pin through the rubber (it was toast, anyway), and then attach the chain to the pin. Voila, our toilet worked.

I was so proud of myself that I wanted to tell the guys at the plumbing supply about it, but then held back because they would have probably thought I was just being a big dork. I did win points with R and the kids, however, and that’s all that matters.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ambitious Possibilities for the Driveway

I spoke with our friend MMB who lives nearby and is another example of a super capable Vermonter and home improvement guru, the kind that raises his family on a farm and is self-sufficient and can build a house in a few days with just a screwdriver and hammer. He mentioned that he had driveway issues as well and fixed it himself, with the help of a few tons of rock and a tractor.

This, of course, got me to thinking that maybe I can do some patchwork repair on our driveway myself. I don’t know what the extent of his project was, but from what I can gather, it cost one order of magnitude less than the prices I’ve been getting.

The limitations, of course, are getting the stones to our house, and then applying them to the driveway. He mentioned renting a tractor, but I’m wondering if I could do it with a wheelbarrow. I know a couple of possibilities for a tractor, but that’s a lot to ask of a neighbor. I’m not sure if I’m ready to go there.

The problem is, unlike most projects I begin, I can’t dawdle on this one like I do with every other project I take on. Once it’s started, I need to finish it ASAP, if not immediately, because we need to use our driveway.

Oh well, something to ponder. I will say this - if I were to take up this challenge, it sure would make for a great story on this blog.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Room Down

Can it really be so? I finished painting the trim in one room, which means that I’m about 3% complete. How cool is that? It’s good to be moving along, because we have a long road ahead of us. Plus, it’s good to know that it’s doable, that some progress, albeit small, is being made. My biggest problem is just taking the first step and getting started. My second biggest problem is finishing, but I’m working on that.

My plan is to simply move along the wall and paint the trim. From the guest room, which has gradually become A’s bedroom, I’ll move to the bathroom, and then to the school room, which is slated to be N’s new bedroom. Then it’s on to the kid’s room, which we think will turn into the new school room/sewing/guest room, and from there, to the master bedroom. We need new carpet in several of these rooms, as well, and in the master, the not-so-lovely pink wall paper will one day soon come down.

This may take years to accomplish, but at the thousand mile journey begins with the first step, right? Plus, since I’m using no VOX paint, I can do it year-round, so no worries or hurries.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Back to the Barn

We have to stop dawdling with the barn and get the show on the road. There are a few priorities that we must get done, sooner than later. First, we need to design the bathrooms and get the plumber out here to put in the pipes. We also need to put in the soffit and the siding. If we can pull these things off, the next thing will be electricity, and then insulation and then the floor.

I will probably have to consult with my Mentor, or my brother in law, PR, about the order of things. There will be trim to cut and install, as well as interior walls to knock out and put in. I may very well have to break out the table saw, because there will be a lot of cutting involved.

The whole thing makes me anxious, but that’s when real men take action, right? Until then, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Spring may very well be in the air, but Winter is holding for on dear life, because there is still a fair amount of snow on the ground. For the record, we are probably well behind the curve when it comes to the white stuff. It seems that everywhere you go around here, the snow has melted, but we are nestled in the woods and it’s much cooler, so it simply won’t melt.

I’m not necessarily complaining, this makes the house cooler on those scorching days in summer, and I’ll take that any day. Besides, we can always encourage things along. I went out and shoveled snow off the wood pile, and the recent rains pretty much cleared it off, so we are ready to rock and roll. I also found that in the woods, there were several blocks that still needed to be split, so I can start the long process of splitting and stacking.

Once the woodpile is cut and moved, I can contact our man TB and order another truckload of wood. The roads are posted until mid-May, but it’s not a bad idea to let him know that you still exist and would like some wood at some point before next Winter.

And finally, there is the need to start cleaning up the yard and getting the grass ready for the annual assault on weeds, debris, and the dreaded voles. As the snow recedes, I can see that they’ve been doing their dirty work, I just hope it’s not too extensive like in previous years where they literally destroyed the lawn. In lieu of this, I could have sworn that I saw some tiny blades of grass pushing up from where I seeded. Wishful thinking, perhaps? It wouldn’t be the first time.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fixing the Bed

We have an old platform bed that I bought back in the days when I first moved to NYC. It served it’s purpose for me, but for whatever reason, it has followed me all the way to Vermont. It’s not even that nice, and personally I think we should think about discarding it, but it’s not so easy. How do you get rid of a platform bed?

Either way, it is in the guest room and I was trying to move it and the sideboard split along the length of the wood. It made moving it impossible, and made me wonder if it was time to turn the thing into kindling. Then I had the idea of mending the split by screwing in metal reinforcing plates. It was easy enough, and now the wood is strong enough to lift.

The plates cost a few bucks, and it took about ten minutes to finish, with the help of my fearless helper, N. Now we not only have a bed that’s working fine, but I don’t have to deal with the hassles of trying to get rid of it... yet.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pottery Plans

It turns out that we might not need this pottery shelf, after all. I think it looks good in the corner, and it adds to the room, but the idea of having to clean and dust all these little pieces of clay is a bit overwhelming, and the collection continues to grow.

With this in mind, R had the brilliant idea, seconded by everyone in the house, to start thinking of using our pottery stuff to decorate the yard and garden. This can also inspire us in terms of future creations. The beauty of this is that we can make all sorts of cool stuff, and the sky is the limit. This doesn’t always make life easier, because the reality is, it’s much easier to have someone tell you what to do. That’s what TV is for. However, it’s also good training in making decisions and realizing whatever comes of it is not the end of the world.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Windows Almost Done

The painting is moving along at a snail’s pace, but moving, nonetheless. I try to squeeze in some painting each day, but sometimes it ends up being just about half an hour before I have to jet off and be somewhere or cook a meal. How does Martha Stewart do it? Or better yet, how does she expect the average working class stiff, her bread and butter, to do it?

As it stands, the dormer windows with their half-moon panes make it particularly challenging, but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel, sort of. The windows may be done (there are only two, after all), but there is still the issue of the door and baseboard trim. The baseboards will be tricky because the carpet goes up above the bottom, so I need to somehow pull the carpet down to paint it, but then hold the carpet down until the paint dries.

From the looks of it, I’m guessing they boards were painted before the carpet was installed, making it much easier. I think there is no getting around getting some paint on the carpet, but the bright side of this is that the carpet is awful and in need of replacing. A good time to paint, if ever there was one.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ready to Cut Wood

I am so ready to start in on the log pile, and yet the snow mocks me. I guess if I were a real man, I’d ignore the snow and just cut right through it, but somehow it gives me pause. The weather has been getting significantly warmer, so it really is just a matter of time, but that last lingering bit hangs on for dear life. Actually, we since we’re in a shaded area, we still have a quite a bit of snow, more than most areas around here.

I’m hoping that this will be the week that I can start cutting. Not only do I want to, but as we dip into next year’s pile, it makes me realize that I’m still underestimating our consumption. I hate when that happens. I may have to get on that log pile and shovel the snow to help move things along.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Driveway Concerns

This could very well be the year that we don’t make it out of our driveway. The warning signs have been there for the past couple of years, and of course we did nothing about it. We lucked out last Spring with the warm and dry weather, but this year there is so much snow that there is no getting around the mud. We are doomed.

With this in mind, I’m thinking we’re going to have to do something about it, which means re-surfacing our driveway. We had spoken to the guys who did our septic system, the same ones I feel inflated the cost a bit, and they gave us a whopping estimate to put down some hard pack. They wanted to do way more than we wanted, however. The entire driveway doesn’t need to be done, just the lower sections near the woods.

In an odd twist, I saw a women who was wearing an excavating shirt at BG’s and I asked her if they did driveways. She said yes and gave me her card, introducing herself. It dawned on me that she was the new library trustee BS, and I hadn’t met her because I missed the last meeting where she was introduced. What a small world it is.

I’m just hoping that we make it through this Spring. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mike Thorn for the pic.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Many More To Go?

Well, I managed to paint one window, and I don’t think the job I did will instill my Mentor with any sense of awe. First off, I think I painted the top section of the window shut. We have what I think are double hung windows, which means that both top and bottom panes are moveable. We’ve literally never moved the top panes on most of them, so I’m not even sure if they do move. I tried moving some of them and they wouldn’t budge, though clearly the windows were not painted shut. The previous owners did a good job of making sure of that.

Enter me, who has neither the time or the patience to be careful as I need to be. Consequently, when I painted the top pane, I couldn’t really make sure the seams were clear once the paint dried. For the moving pain, it’s easy because all you have to do is continually open and close the window, which breaks the seam and frees the wood. I couldn’t do it with the top window, and you can tell.

It was, however, a learning experience. My Mentor gave me all sorts of advice about what sort of brush to use and how to use it properly, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to take the leap. I don’t, however, want to make a mess of the project, and even though I’m sloppy and disorganized, not to mention cheap, I want to do a good job. Like the house inspector said, show people that you love your house and are proud of it.

I will. Until then, thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Another Shelf?

I’m guessing that’s what was going through R’s mind when I broke out yet another shelf, my specialty. And as a copout, I didn’t use the router, I screwed them in the crude and easy way, mainly because I think I need to learn to use the router and practice using it in a clean and orderly fashion. In the interest of time, I went for the easy method, which in most instances is fine, just not as pretty. Then again, who needs pretty when you’re training to be a real man?

The purpose of the shelf is to house the photo albums that we’ve been assembling. The old shelf was not big enough to stack the books two-deep, so I needed deeper shelves. I could have simply put the shelf together and left it at that, but I decided to stain and finish it, as well. It’s a nicer touch and a step towards becoming a cabinet maker, perhaps.

I’m going to use the old shelf to house our pottery creations, or should I say the kid’s pottery creations. They are all over the house, and rather than simply find places to hide them, I figure we can put them on a shelf for everyone to see. At least this will help to preserve them and give them a place to call home.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Let the Painting Begin

R has been complaining about the trim throughout the house, or should I say expressing disdain, because she wishes that it was white instead of the blue-ish gray that it is. Naturally I felt like doing it myself rather than hiring (and paying for) a professional to do it. Painting, at least in my ignorant mind, is not rocket science. Plus, with the weather being so cold and snowy, I can’t do much outside, so indoor projects that will win me man points are always a bonus. The problems you run into are fumes and smell.

Recently, however, there has been a push within the paint industry to make more eco-friendly paints and stains, which means low-VOX and even better, no-VOX. VOX refers to volatile chemicals that are bad for us. This movement coincides with the eventual phasing out of oil-based paints. I know purists will lament this fact, but from a novice’s POV, I can’t tell the difference in quality, and I would much rather have a cleaner, healthier product.

Enter Benjamin Moore Natura paints. Now I’m sure there are all sorts of brands out there that have these attributes, but people in the know seem to gravitate to BM, and until something better comes along, that’s good enough for me. I went with the Natura semi-gloss white, no VOX interior latex. I’ve even done one window already, and no smell or fumes. It’s beautiful.

Now I can get some stuff done before the warm weather sets in. I love being efficient, especially when it makes R happy.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Getting Wood Serious

I may have just moved into the next phase of my woodworking prowess (not to mention my real man in training status) and got myself a router. Not quite sure what I’m supposed to do with it, but at least I’ve got one.

Actually, that’s not true. We have many shelving projects that are in the queue, and using a router vs. simply screwing the shelves in is the next step towards making what might be considered a finer piece of furniture. My Mentor would be proud. Then again, I’m not sure if I’m ready to transition from being a “framer” to a “cabinet maker.” I don’t know if I have the patience and stamina, but like the idea.

I also had an interesting experience at Home Depot, of all places. I’ve noticed that now and again, perhaps more frequently than in the past, I’ve had good customer service and advice at the place. Sure, you’re always going to get your clueless salesperson telling you the wrong advice, but lately I’ve received good information.

Case in point, this router. I was looking at all the routers and of course focused on the bargain brand (Ryobi, I love that brand) when the salesperson walked over and asked if I needed help. He struck up a conversation and I kind of scoffed at what he was saying before I realized he seemed to know what he was talking about. It turns out he had a professional wood working shop and had a lot of good advice about routers. He could have been pulling my leg, but he even said that the Ryobi was not a bad router for the money, and you could good deals on accessories.

In the end, we chatted for a bit (no pun intended), and he was very knowledgeable and helpful, not something you always expect at Home Depot, but again, that place is changing for the better.

Now, when I hear people downplaying the value of shopping at Home Depot, I have to beg to differ. I rather like that place.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.