Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day at Maple Leaf Gardens

We had a nice quiet day for Christmas this year.

We went to the Christmas Eve service (and there was none this morning) so we had no where to go. Which was very nice considering the wet windy weather. Miserable, if you have to be out in it. But we did not.

I was knitting and blogging. Peggy was trying out her first crocheted plarn bag. Warren was manning the remotes. Troy was out doing his thing in the shop. (He's getting dangerously close to finishing the taping of the drywall, and has been priming/painting in spots where he's already moving stuff in.)

When we had enough of doing next to nothing, Peggy got us going on our popcorn project. I had mentioned that I wanted to shell some of the copious popcorn we had so I could bring some to my sister tomorrow. Troy had mentioned he just needed to grab the sheller out of the garage. (Doing it by hand is possible but not very handy or comfortable. Last time I did some I wore leather gloves and still got a couple blisters.) And we had a lot of corn to do: two Rubbermaid tubs full.

It turned into a three-person job. They rotated duties, but in this pic, Troy (center) is feeding the cobs into the sheller and turning the crank to do the actual shelling. Warren dealing with the emptied cobs and finishing the shelling on cobs the sheller didn't complete. (It was made for fieldcorn and didn't really like the smaller cobs.)
Peggy is holding a cob against the sheller to try to improve the shelling of the smaller cobs.

(I took a video of the sheller in action and if I get somewhere I can use a fast-speed connection sometime soon, I'll upload it. Make sure to check out all the popcorn flying out the top too--we had a lot of sweeping up to do!)

Troy had built a wooden box to mount the sheller onto (this was way back when we lived in the last house). It's since been repurposed as a kindling box, but we emptied it out, cleaned it out, and got it set up again for the sheller.
By the time we had emptied the two tubs of corncobs, we had 31.5" x 10.5" x 6" of corn in the box. That's almost 2000 cubic inches of corn which is just about a US bushel if my online converter worked right.

If you want to see it in a more familiarly sized tub (I'm assuming), here it is after we poured it back into the [14 gal] Rubbermaid tub:
So all of you who have been invited often to our house, I will give a word of caution: you may be put to work! For surely, how many of you put your Christmas guests to work? We are shameless.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Proof of Concept

This is a photograph of a momentous occasion. It may look somewhat anticlimactic. So, what is this momentous thing we are looking at?

You are looking at the "furnace" that heats my 30' x 70' x 12' shop. 2,100 square feet. 25,000 cubic feet. This should strike you as improbable, if not impossible. Think about how big your furnace is. Look at mine again.

This is a cheapo two speed electric heater like you could buy at Wal-Mart for around twenty bucks. On low, it uses 1,000 watts. On high is uses 1,500 watts. This is about the same as the average hand held hair dryer. In the recent very cold weather (like down into the single digits Farenheit), this little heater, set on low, kept my shop between 45 and 50F. 1,000 watts of heating power have kept my shop very comfortable.

This is the same as saying, I could have ten 100 watt lightbulbs plugged in, and my shop would stay comfortably heated. This is about an order of magnitude less than any other shop that I have seen.

Just by comparison, one kilowatt (one thousand watts) = 3,412 BTU/hr. A typical home furnace could range between 80,000 BTU and 120,000 BTU's as their maximum rate of heat output per hour. Of course, most furnaces don't run 100% of the time. So, if your furnace runs 1/3 of the time, and it's at the small end of the scale, that would compare like so:

80,ooo/3 = 26,667 BTU's per hour. or

(26,667 BTU/hr) x (1,000 watts/3,412BTU/hr) = 7.816 kilowatts

Thus, your average house with a small furnace will use energy at a rate of almost 8 times what my shop does.

In money terms, I pay seven cents per kilowatt hour. So, that looks like:

1kw x .07 x 24hrs x 30 days = $50.40 to heat my shop for a whole month, in the middle of winter, using electricity. If I could find a natural gas or propane heater small enough, it would be less than that by a substantial margin.

I have planned and saved and worked and worked, and worked some more to achieve this. On paper, I knew it should work. In reality, one has doubts of course. There are still a few loose ends to tie up in the shop that will improve thermal performance even more, but I am already ecstatically happy at the proof achieved so far. And very relieved.

Of course, we will have phase two when we get the house done up to similar specifications. Now, the house presents a few obstacles that may prevent us from attaining quite the same level of energy efficiency and independence. Most notably, all those windows. Hey, maybe we'll have to plug TWO heaters in to keep the house toasty. And of course, we want the house to be well above 50, more like 70'ish.

Yet, I feel fully confident that the wood stove and/or the oil stove will keep the house toasty on a tiny fraction of the energy we currently use. There are other people who have built similar superinsulated houses that heat the house for an entire canadian (Ontario) winter with the firewood that fits in the back of a pickup truck.

I cannot recommend this method highly enough for anyone considering building or remodeling. It is not that complicated. It is not that expensive. It has a relatively short payback period for most situations. It does not wear out or require expensive maintenance like heat pumps. It requires no maintenance or upkeep whatsoever. It requires no special attention or skills from the homeowner to "operate". It, effectively, has no moving parts. Compared to the stock market, this looks like an absolutely sure deal. Plus, it saves "after tax" dollars, which, depending on your tax bracket, makes the savings look 15-35% better than the raw number. The government hasn't quite found a way to tax you on money you don't earn and don't spend, yet.

If I am correct in predicting that all energy costs will become very volatile over the next decade or so, and I am further correct in predicting that the general trend will be for higher fuel cost trends (higher highs and higher lows), this technology will only get more financially attractive, not less. I would also expect that as consumers become keenly aware of their monthly energy costs, it will become an excellent real estate investment that will more than pay itself back if you sell such a house.

This has a second corollary that, if I am correct about the energy forecast, the economy may take 10-15 years to "recover" from it's present state. So, anything you can do to control your unavoidable costs, like heating and cooling, will only help you stretch your budget when you are faced with relatively static or falling income, but ever increasing expenses.

The cost of insulation and framing for a new, stick built house, hovers around 15%, give or take quite a bit depending on where you live in the country, and how hungry your contractor is at the moment. So, on a $125,000 house, we would pay $18,750 for framing and insulating a conventional house, and almost exactly double that for a superinsulated house, or $37,500. But really, we're interesting in the economics of the additional $18,750. If financed on a fixed 5.5% 15 year mortgage, that would raise your monthly mortgage payment by $180.55.

If you live anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line, your savings in heating costs alone, along with a much smaller furnace, should pay for its own way the first year. If you live south of the Mason-Dixon line, savings may not be quite as impressive, but your cooling AND heating costs, will very nearly pay for its own way the first year. If you like the house cool in the summer, you will probably break even.

You have basically traded an energy expense for a mortgaged framing/insulation expense. Further, this mortgage has a finite life of 15 years in this example. After 15 years, the expense goes away entirely, while the energy savings goes on for the life of the structure, saving enormous piles of money, energy and environmental damage while adding to equity value of the house. A green lifestyle that pays you back in money. What's not to like?

Finest regards,

troy and christina

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Has Arrived at Maple Leaf Gardens

The “nesting” has continued and Troy put a lot of work into rearranging the entry way. The coats are behaving on a bar; the offending coat rack has been consumed by fire.

I came in afterward and cleaned and cleaned (but don’t picture it too clean—there’s still no eating off the floor or anything), and got so carried away I fished out some Christmas decorations and dressed up the room.

Feels good. It’s been so long, unwrapping the ornaments was like finding old friends. Or more like meeting old friends you thought were dead. Speaking of which, a few of the nicer gold balls did die in what we will just call the incident of 2009 and say no more of it. (Except that I hope it is the incident, as in the only one this year!)

That was yesterday during the afternoon. In the evening we reached a major milestone and moved the biodiesel processing into the shop. Troy prepared things by making sure all the drums were empty and clearing the biodiesel area in the shop.

The weather prepared things by lightly raining and sleeting on and off the whole time. But rain does mean milder temperatures and we survived our exposure.

We started by lifting the first drum and its wheeled stand and carrying it all the way from the garage to the shop. The next one we tried to push on the wheels—snow, water and ice on the ground notwithstanding. That worked reasonably well and that’s the method we stuck with.

Troy started his first batch of biodiesel in the shop today and is very excited by it. (Ok, not dancing excited, but “Yes, it’s nice to be able to produce biodiesel in the winter” excited.)

This has also led us to decide to burn the oil stove in the kitchen as much as we want. (It’s for heat, not cooking.) Troy can continue to make more, unlike last year when what we could store was all we could use over the winter. Running that stove makes a tremendous difference in the comfort of the house so this decision is making us very happy.

Today, we used the space newly available in the garage to stack up the metal siding. Troy has given up on getting all of it up “before” winter (now that it’s already arrived) so it needed to come out of the weather. We will still try to finish at least the south side when we have a nice enough day. The Tyvec on that side is the most weathered and could use some covering up.

That’s what’s happening around here.

Have a good week!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Red, the Heat Loving Rabbit

I've written before about our rabbit, Red, who didn't get the memo that rabbits don't like heat.

Previously she had confined herself to the corner behind the stove.

Today she started sitting in my spot.
I can't really blame her for wanting to sit there (because it's a really nice spot) but I'm a little worried by the look in her eye. Even asleep (she sleeps with her eyes open), I can see that she's not planning on giving it back, or even looking to share.

Good thing I'm still bigger than she is.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

My Glasses Fling

This morning I decided that for once I would bring in wood now rather than later. It wasn't snowing when I got up and was actually light out, so why wait until after work when it's dark and who knows how much snow/sleet might be falling?

Anyway, I got into my grubbies (as we affectionately call them), grabbed the wheelbarrow and headed to the wood stack. While I was untying the tarp and flipping it back so I could get at the wood, a rogue gust of wind flicked the tarp which caught my glasses and sent them flying. Like, poof they were just gone.

I immediately started to look. On the wood pile. Behind the woodpile. On the tarp. Under the pallets. You get the idea: everywhere. Then I go around to where I can get over the fence and start looking in the cornfield. I mean those things were gone fast so I thought they might have really flown.

But I didn't find them. Then I start looking in crazy places: maybe they're hanging in the fence. Or maybe they're up in the tree. I think these things have to be easy to see even without my glasses on; I mean there's a fresh layer of snow everywhere. Coloured things usually stand out against a white background.

AT THE SAME TIME (as they say in knitting patterns), I was kicking myself, and pretty hard. I had thought about wearing my "work" glasses, but decided to wear the new ones. You know, the ones with the progressive lenses (no-line bifocals). Any other pair and I might not have worried about them too much--I mean I have six to eight sitting on my dresser at any given time that I could wear. But these are my new ones, the only progressive ones. The ones that would be costly to replace (even for me, an eye-care professional). Kicking, kicking, kicking.

After more than 10 minutes, I gave up. Loaded up the wheelbarrow with wood and headed to the house where I unloaded it and then put on my work glasses (kick, kick) so I could see.

Back out to the wood pile for another load and another kick look. I couldn't give up on it.

So I look in all the same places, and a few more nooks and crannies. With every step in my big snow boots, I am expecting to hear a big CRUNCH. And although that would be bad, the up-side would be that I would have found them. (Plus, I have the skills to fix them but need to actually have them in hand to do so!)

Another 10 minutes, and with great relief, I finally found them in the cornfield--on my third pass. The were standing in the snow, the temples very politely holding the lenses up off of the ground. No damage.


Lesson of the day: use the right tool for the job (including the right glasses).

PS: Tonight when we got home (around 6:30), the shop where we park was a balmy 48 degrees (F). The living room was a very chilly 47 degrees (F). It's amazing how your expectations influence how warm or cool a temperature feels!

Monday, December 07, 2009


I have to say if I were pregnant, the baby would be coming any day now. That is to say, I've been nesting like crazy. Troy got this all started. (Hmm...I guess that would be true of the pregnancy scenario too, but I digress...)

So how did it start? Troy wanted to insulate the kitchen. He wanted to start with the windows--the worst heat sinks in the house. So he cut foam insulation to make oh-so-attractive window inserts.

So je ne sais trash is, I believe, the phrase you're all waiting for me to say. (Troy instructed me to add that many great ideas are mocked and derided early in their development before being adopted by a few and then assumed by all. Think, for example, personal computers.)

So anyway, the kitchen will be warmer; the house will be ever less enticing to thieves (I assume). What this has to do with nesting is that in order to do this Troy had to clear away all the junk that has been sitting around in that corner of the kitchen. He managed to find new homes for most of it, and as far as I'm concerned it just disappeared.

So I am looking at a blank wall in the kitchen and thinking, "Wow, I could really put that to work." First step was to move the shelf serving as a pantry in the entry way to that corner of the kitchen. Reorganize, dust clean (let's be honest) and move everything on the shelf and throw in the canning stuff that had been piled up in the other "dumpy" corner of the kitchen. (I mean, have you ever heard of storing food in the kitchen? Very novel ideas I have these days.)

Step two was to turn the table 90 degrees so that it runs along the [now insulated] window wall instead of coming into the room. And sweep the floor. That alone made the kitchen feel like we could square dance in the middle of it.

It was quite amazing.

It was also a little disconcerting because the floor slopes madly away from the center of the room. (The porch they built that part of the kitchen on is sinking.) It wasn't really noticeable when there was just a pile of junk there, but now the black shelf could be dubbed the Tower of Pisa, it tilts so wildly. Troy and I both felt a bit like we were walking on a ship, but we've gotten our sea-legs since then and hardly notice it now.

Next step is to tackle the entry way. Moved the shoe shelf to where the food shelf was. Put up a rod to hang coats on. Remove old crappy space-hog of a coat rack that we inherited with the house. That will make such an improvement. I can't believe we put up with it this long, but it was there, and it had coats on it, and inertia is a hard thing to overcome!

And now that we're parking in the shop and coming in through the back door, we'll be putting some coat hooks back there too. We're just considering it all a sort of dress rehearsal as we wait to finish the house. Right now we can punch holes anywhere in the wall without real consequences and try out any arrangement we like. (Or should I say any arrangement we have the energy to implement.)

If I really get going on this, we might even have some Christmas decorations out this year. Can you imagine?

PS: Fun random tidbit: The other day Troy was working in the shop and one of the mousetraps he has out was in his way. So he put it on the hood of the pickup to keep it out of the way. Next time he walked into his guessed...he had caught a mouse! On the hood. Would not have thought that was the place to trap them!

PPS: Fun extra: In case the opening paragraph made you wonder what I might look like pregnant, here's a pic from Halloween a few years ago:

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Inside Parking, and How I Made My Honey Happy

Great news: We are currently parking inside the shop. The three vehicles are parked in a row. (Actually, I think the tractor is back there somewhere too.) We just have to think about who's leaving first in the morning and make sure they're first in line! With the recent cold weather, including a little ice and snow, I am very happy to not be scraping the windows.

Ever been on a ferry? Remember that first time? when you are directed into your line by a nice parking attendant and he waves you forward, and then more and then more. And you're thinking, "There's no way...I'm going to hit that car in front of me." But he just keeps waving you forward until you're inches from the car in front of you. (Because of course they have to pack them in to make as much money as possible and move as many cars as possible.) Remember that?

Well, that's kind of how this feels:
except I don't have a parking attendant waving me forward and telling me when to stop.

But so far so good...knock on wood.

And how did I make my honey happy? Today I managed to put in a second shift on the shop and we got the weather stripping put up around the big overhead door. Troy's been waiting to put that back up for a long time.

This afternoon between 3 and 6 we got the siding trim cut and put around the opening. And then this evening we went back out and got the weather stripping up. This is something better done on a "moderate" day so that the stripping is put up when it is neither too cold nor too hot. It can expand and contract with the temperature quite a bit.

We couldn't change the weather, so Troy put the stripping in the warm living room all day and then we brought it out one piece at a time to mount it. You do what you can. And I have to say, even though the weather wasn't "moderate," it wasn't half bad being out there. If it's not windy and not raining, the temperature can get pretty cold before it really bothers you.

The long hours of darkness, however, have really cut into my ability to take pictures of anything we do. It's frustrating that every time I think to take a picture, it's already dark out!

Meanwhile I'll leave you with the latest pic I have of our progress on the siding:

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Moving Mud

It's been a wet month, but Troy has managed to make progress on back filling dirt around the shop. The south and east sides are pretty much done.

A couple days ago, Troy got the bulk of the work on the north side done. It's tight back there and it was a lot of shovel and wheelbarrow work. We're going to have to get back there soon (I presume soon) for siding, though, so it had to be done.

He has dirt in place on the west side, but it still needs the hand work.
Apparently I can get to that any time I'm bored at home, or if I felt I needed a workout. So far, I've kept myself busy with other things. Strange.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Siding Commences

That's starting to look like a building, isn't it?!

Yes, we have started putting up siding. I should backdate this post because we actually started a good week and a half ago. Got most of what you see up on the wall, and then the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend--working between hosting family and working--we put up the one [very tricky] piece around the window.

It's been going well and we are learning how to do yet another job together. They say you should be learning all your life, right? If you're ever looking for new ways to learn, just try doing a job with someone else. One thing you'll definitely learn is that there are at least a hundred ways of doing almost anything.
If the rain holds off, we'll try to put in another couple hours tonight. (Well, I say, "If the rain holds off..." Troy might be counting on working in the rain. He's much tougher than I am in that way.)

I must remember, however, much colder weather is coming...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

And So It Begins

This seems a very small package for all the worry about its arrival. (Not to mention the money spent!)

Still don't know what it is? It's the siding for the shop. Apparently enough 3x12' sheets to cover the whole thing.

But like I said, it looks like a very small package.

It arrived yesterday, today we'll start siding and then I guess we'll find out, won't we?!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Down...

One less hole in my ceilings/floors/walls. (This is the stovepipe running through the ceiling of our bedroom in case you don't remember.)

I'm enjoying the lack of cold air streaming down, and was confident enough to vacuum dust the desk, dresser, bedside table. It feels good!

Monday, November 16, 2009

England has gone off the deep end...rant

A lot of peculiar things have been going on in jolly old England for quite some time. They have become the poster child for Nanny States. For example, it is now difficult and risky to babysit your friend's or neighbor's or co-worker's child. In this example, two women happened to be police officers, and they happened to work different shifts. As friends, they decided to help each other out by watching each other's children. No money changed hands. I watch yours, you watch mine, we're friends, we're police officers, I trust you, it's convenient, it saves us both money and it's convenient for everyone involved. What's not to like.

The problem is, it's against the law. In England, there are rather a lot of legal restrictions in place to regulate exactly who can do child minding, as they say, and who cannot. There are very specific rules about how much napping and what sort of curriculum is appropriate for what age, and so on. These women did not qualify. They were not certified. There was no documentation for how napping was scheduled, etc etc etc. Once discovered, they were informed that they were law breakers and to cease and desist immediately or face the consequences, and possible implications for their jobs. They are currently under review.

Second, the English leadership is violently opposed to private gun ownership, which we'll mention later. But now they believe the average citizen can no longer be trusted with large sharpened objects, like knives and swords.

This is partly a reaction to a murder a few years ago in England, committed with a sword.

Unfortunately, by definition, criminals don't obey the law. So it is a fairly large leap in logic to understand how taking away sharp pointy objects from law abiding citizens will reduce crime. Please go to your kitchen, gather all all the larger knives, and any knife that looks scary, and throw them away before they tempt you to go stab someone. And making it illegal to import swords is just silly. As any guard in any prison can tell you, a knife can be made out of practically any sort of metal, just by rubbing and rubbing and rubbing on a piece of cement to sharpen it. I'm pretty sure criminals in England know this as well.

Sadly, this has many ripple effects. For example, Boy Scouts in England are now effectively forbidden to carry pocket (folding) knives. Technically, if your parent carries the knife for you, to the meeting where there is a specific project that requires the use of said pocket knife, they could still touch one. I can't decide if this is more tragic, or more hilariously illustrative of the stupidity of the political leadership across the pond at the moment. Surely, there is some shred of common sense left among the English citizenry to overturn this ridiculous rule and FIRE the idiotic politicians who brought them to this dance in the first place. Scouts are not going around carving innocent people up with 2.5" pen knives. It is unlikely that they will ever do so. And if they do, the law assuredly will not stop them.

Finally, there is the matter of guns. England has gotten very very tough on guns. It is extremely difficult, approaching impossible to own a handgun that you would keep in your house. At least, legally. Long guns like shot guns are easier to own and have in your house, unloaded and securely locked away, if you register it and you hold your hat in your hand just the right way. You know, the way a slave does, asking for table scraps.

This effectively renders the gun useless in a self defense situation. If a bad guy or guys kicks your door in, you will probably have about ten seconds before being confronted. They will not politely wait while you go unlock the safe, remove the trigger lock, go unlock the other safe and get out the ammunition, load the weapon, etc. Even English bad guys are remarkably uncivilized about allowing you to prepare yourself for combat.

Suppose you just happened to have the shotgun out, and loaded when the bad guy breaks in. You had better just give up and hope for the best. If you shoot the bad guy, or guys, the government will most likely prosecute you for defending yourself and your family with that evil and violent gun. You will go to prison. Never mind that the bad guys had a long and violent history. Never mind that you and almost all of your neighbors had been robbed, many several times. Ignore the fact that the criminal you shot had already hurt people and would have undoubtedly go on to hurt more.

This really happened and the poor guy is rotting in prison with a life sentence.

It gets worse. Someone dumped a sawed off shotgun in this guy's back yard. Basically threw it over the fence. When he spotted the garbage bag and discovered the illegal weapon, he called the cops and told them we wanted to bring something in for them, thinking no doubt to do a good deed and get some street cred with the cops. So they set a meeting a couple of days later, he brings the gun in, unwraps it from the garbage bag, making sure to point it in a safe direction (at the wall) and then, after some brief questioning, they arrest him for possessing an illegal weapon and he is currently facing a mandatory sentence of five years. This, despite the official guideline that people in his situation should not be prosecuted.

If you live in England, and a really bad guy breaks into your house and starts assaulting you, or your wife, or your kids, I'm not sure what to tell you. Call the police I suppose, and hope your child survives more or less unmaimed. Hopefully the bad guy will not be intent on raping your wife or daughter, or you. Hopefully, he is not a sociopath who wants to beat you in the head with a baseball bat until your brains are visible.

May I suggest moving out of the country.

I would at least listen to the rationale for this policy if they could demonstrate that taking guns and knives away from law abiding citizens actually improves the violent crime statistics. It doesn't. It didn't in England and it didn't in Australia either. There is just no academically respected evidence that guns, or the availability of guns, causes crime, or violent crime, or an increase in crime, on the whole.

Particularly, the second article describes the meteoric increase in both violent crime and gun crime in England after the big gun ban. Criminals now have a pretty good idea that the homeowner is defenseless.

The gun banners, oops, I mean those in government that favor common sense regulation of fire arms for the benefit of everyone, are at a complete loss to explain the dramatic increase in crime now that guns have truly been taken off the streets.

They also conveniently ignore the Swiss anomaly. In Switzerland, there is compulsory participation in the military by all males at the age of 19 for a period of one year. Women may volunteer to participate. Upon completion of their one year of service, they still serve in a reserve capacity, not unlike the National Guard in the U.S. One of the consequences is that many many households in Switzerland have, not just guns, but automatic weapons. Yes, the dreaded and evil machine guns. Yet, the presence of all these guns does not incite the citizenry to go out and commit violence to their fellow citizens. Quite the contrary. Violent crime, and crime in general is unusually low. Violent criminals in Switzerland are faced with the very real possibility that they may confront a trained homeowner with a very destructive gun in his or her hands.

My apologies for straying off course, but the political climate in the U.S. is starting to look a lot like the political climate in England. And if you want to be recognized as a responsible adult by your government, capable of supervising small children, cutting up vegetables with a sharp knife without becoming a homicidal maniac, and owning firearms in a responsible manner, for the good of everyone, do not go the way of England.

Please go live a happy, self reliant and independent life, without the nanny state to protect you from everything, whilst you still can.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Bit of Catching Up

What have we been up to? The blogging's been sparse and it's hard to think back on what's been getting done. (For surely, we've been getting something done!)

One thing Troy's been working on a little every day is filling in the hole around the chimney in our bedroom:
(Can you see the whiter white of the fill in?)

My co-workers still talk about the time when I could lay in bed and see the stars through the roof. Troy pretty quickly patched up the roof, but the ceiling's had a big hole ever since. I've resented all the heat that we've lost and all the dust that comes floating down. (The bedroom is by far the dustiest room in the house and that's saying a lot!)

Anyway, the gap is closing in and will soon be finished off with some sheet metal. Can I get a "woo hoo"?
Thank you.

Troy and I together finished off the Tyvec on the upper portions of the east and west walls.
The east wall was done on a Wednesday evening.

And the west wall was done on a fine Sunday afternoon.

We're very close to ready for the siding Troy's ordered.

Troy's also done more tractor and shovel work to spread dirt between the shop and the house.
It'll still need some more to fill in a trough that's still there, but step by step it's getting there.

And then I came home to this:
Now, Class, can any one tell me what's wrong with this stove?
Yes, you in the back trying to hide behind the person in front of to hazard a guess?
It doesn't have a pipe?
Why, yes, that's right. There's no stovepipe.

I was sitting at work at 3:30 this afternoon already telling my co-workers, "In five hours, I'll be sitting at home in front of a nice warm fire." I was looking forward to it all afternoon. (You may dream at work about Hawaii or Caribbean cruises or even Colorado ski slopes, but I just need my small square footage in front of the woodstove.)

But no, I walk into the living room and see a stove with missing appendages. (Nothing to do then but to make some popcorn and crawl into bed which is where I'm writing this right now!)

Troy eventually got home and explained that he was cleaning the pipe and took this portion out to clean off the rust (from when the top blew off and we had a lot of rain and snow falling into the pipe) and repaint it. This is very good in the big picture, and frankly it's not really cold this week, but the small child in me just wants to lay on the floor in a tantrum and yell, "Make me warm!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Art Decor

Despite the house being a total wreck, I still look forward to the day when I can decorate. Hang lamps, paint, make floor rugs, and all the rest. I try really really hard not to start buying stuff already for many good reasons.

But then I see something like this:
It's a shade for a single-bulb hanging lamp.
It's plastic, and need I say, orange!?

It would look great over the kitchen table, don't you think? I love it. I love it right now. I'm not sure I'll love it in the kitchen I'll have have in...oh...let's say...five years. (I do seem to be gathering a collection of odd kitchen bits in orange though.)

This was found in an antique shop that seemed to specialize in the 70s. (There was a lot of fabulous furniture there too--included a plush bubble chair with speakers mounted right inside. Ooh, I could just hear all the high-fidelity sound I could get sitting there!)

They only have a couple of these shades. (The other colours they had were purple and wood grain--ew on the fake wood grain.) These are shades that are still in their original boxes and for some reason didn't sell in the 70s. I can't imagine!

I have the number so I can call this shop and buy it by phone. BUT if you really really agree that I need to have this lampshade, please call me on my cel and let me know before I leave town. (And, especially I mean YOU, honey!)

Price: $95.

Worth it? You decide.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flashing (The Kind You Do With Your Clothes On)

Earlier this week I offered to help Troy with the flashing on Sunday. He was a little confused since it wasn't really a two-person job and he hadn't asked me to help. When I explained that I was just offering some assistance to make the job go faster, he got right on board.

So today while he was finishing up the cement board on one of the fiddly corners by the garage door
(northeast corner finished)

I was set up on the sheet metal break. After appropriate training, I proceeded on my own. And here, if I show you how it goes, then you can just fly through your training should you ever be called to run your own sheet metal break.

We start with a roll of veeeeerrrry thin aluminum.
(The hammer is just keeping it from rolling off the work surface, essentially just a fancy paperweight.)

Step 1: Mark the length. We're using a square purely to keep things neat. It doesn't really make it function better, but we live in a world that likes straight lines at 90 degree angles. So we try to comply.
(The screw is the marking pen. The aluminum is so soft you can easily mark it with the point.)

Step 2: Cut the strip to length. Use an old pair of scissors.

Step 3: Lay the strip onto the sheet metal break.

Step 4: Position the clamp bar at the fold line:

It's a little hard to see the bar in that pic, so here's a better view:
It's the thin pointed edge that you want to have right on the fold line.

Step 5: Clamp the bar and aluminum sheet exactly in place. (Not only does the world like straight and 90^, it also likes even and level. Again, we try to comply.)

Step 6: Placing a hand on each black handle, rotate the break up to fold the aluminum.
There's a mark on the right (circled in red) that tells you where to stop. Bring the break back down, then up to the mark, then down, then up again, and down. Yes three times.

Remove the clamps and bar, and you now have a piece of flashing instead of just a strip of aluminum:

And repeat...and repeat...and repeat...until you have a nice stack like this
and have gone through the last two rolls of aluminum and Troy tells you that that is probably just enough.

Here's a little shot of it installed:
If you can make out what all the pieces are, you can see that the flashing starts on the wall and then covers the joint with the cement board (which is over the foam as you may recall). The siding will, of course, cover the top of the flashing and the water will stay out of places it does not belong.

After Troy finished with the cement board, he got busy with the flashing I made:
This is the south wall when it was partially finished. By the time we ate supper, Troy had finished the south and west walls. By the time I got around to loading these pictures and writing this, he had almost all of it done. Yeah for Troy!

All that needs to be done yet is one final screw on the bottom of every joint between the separate pieces of flashing. Troy doesn't have the right screws on hand (gasketed siding screws, I believe he said) but we'll get to that another day.

And that was our day of flashing. No trench coat needed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Drying Popcorn

We are drying popcorn.
Lots and lots of popcorn.
Troy tells me there are about 50 cobs around the stove right now.

There are about 100 more in the shop that he was shucking last night.

He figures this is about half of what grew.

That's a lot of popcorn.

The difference from last year is that the cobs did not dry on the stalk. The weather's been so wet that Troy finally gave up on them drying outside and picked what he could. While he was shucking them, there was water pouring out from the skins.

Hence the cobs drying by the woodstove.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Canning Summary for 2009

Summary entry for my own records

2009 Canning Records:

Oct 7: 2 qt, 14 pt beets
Oct 6: 6 qt spiced apples
Oct 1: 4 pt applesauce

Sep 30: 4 qt dill pickles
Sep 23: 14 c frozen tomatoes
Sep 12: 12 hfpt spiced pear sauce
Sep 9: 1 qt, 3 pt pickled pears
Sep 9: 14 qt, 2 pt tomatoes
Sep 6: 4 qt, 1 hfpt apples
Sep 6: 12 pt pears
Sep 6: 12 qt dill pickles ETA: all spoiled!
Sep 4: 11 qt tomatoes

Aug 27: 4 pt kohlrabi
Aug 27: 4 qt, 18 pt, 1 hfpt carrots
Aug 21: 6 qt peaches
Aug 19: 3 qt dill pickles
Aug 12: 5 c strawberries (frozen)
Aug 12: 11 pt carrots
Aug 5: 9 qt dill pickles
Aug 1: 7 qt pickled beets
Aug 1: 16 pt beets

Jul 29: 5 qt, 2 pt gr beans
Jul 21: 7 qt gr beans

By Product:

Apple slices: 10 q 1 hfp
Applesauce: 4 p
Beets: 2 q 30 p
Carrots 4 q 29 p 1 hfp
Green beans: 12 q 2 p
Kohlrabi: 4 p
Peaches: 6 q
Pear sauce: 12 hfp
Pears: 12 p
Pickled beets: 7 q
Pickled Pears: 1 q 3 p
Pickles 28 q (12 q spoiled)
Strawberries (frozen) 5 c
Tomatoes (frozen): 14 c
Tomatoes: 25 q 2 p

Monday, October 05, 2009

Insulation: Day Eleven

or, "Marathon Ascending and Descending of a Ladder"
or, "How Calculus Relates to Insulation"

We had quite a day yesterday. The weather was wet; I wasn't knitting. And so we thought we do the last top-off of the insulation and be done with it.

I woke up feeling bad enough that I didn't go to church. But I was willing to give the insulation a try, hoping to be improved by the afternoon. Troy trotted off to church and picked up the machine and cellulose afterward. By the time he was home, had lunch, and had a nap it was about 4:00.

As he's getting his work clothes on he mentions that he got a different machine because he went to Menards this time. (Usually we go to Home Depot.) The machine is heavy enough he doesn't thing we can manually lift it out of the truck. I suggest we just leave it in the truck and use it there. Problem solved.

Then he mentions we're doing the dining room as well. "What!?" I don't like surprises. I don't care if it's only 15 minutes more work, I need to know ahead of time. I need to psyche myself up for these things. But I decide I don't have much choice and suggest that we just drive the truck outside the window and run the hose through an open window. That's Plan A, anyway; we'll see if we need a Plan B when we get there.

We never get there. After getting the shop more or less ready (moving everything away from the walls to make room for the ladder, setting up fans in the windows, repairing a fan that fell out of the window, etc), we turn the beast on. I notice right away that it is a lot dustier. In fact, it's spewing insulation fluff up out of the top of the machine. We soon realize this is because it's clogged. It won't blow anything out of the hose. We can't get it going. We can't adjust the feed rate. We are not impressed.

Troy gets fired up. Fired up enough that he takes everything back to Menards and says he's going to Home Depot for our regular machine. Then we're going to start again.

I pick the rest of our beets while he's gone, but then go back to bed. It's all I can manage.

He returns by about 7:30. I set up the new (much lighter) machine while Troy drives back to clean up a bag that flew off the truck a couple miles back. When we turn it on, this machine works. (Ok, so about half way through, we got this one clogged too. We go 10 times with no blockages, and today we get two. :sigh: But this one is cleared up in short order and then we don't have any more problems with it.)

We make it around the room, topping off each and every stud bay. It's now 10:15. We are dirty and tired. But determined. So we head off to the dining room, dragging the hose, blower, and some insulation with us.

Fifteen minutes later we have the dining room done and everything packed back into the truck. I am in bed by 10:38, watching the Steelers nearly blow a 28-0 lead.

Oh, what about the, "Marathon Ascending and Descending of a Ladder"? That is Troy. Each bay only took from 15 to 90 seconds to fill, but Troy had to move the ladder for each one. So he was bopping up and down the ladder all evening. He got quite warm. (Naturally, I was quite cold standing by an open window with not much to do--turning the machine on and off while occasionally putting in some more insulation.) I guess this is turn-about-is-fair play from the first days when he was sitting on the ladder while I was running around throwing insulation in as fast as I could.

And the "How Calculus Relates to Insulation"? So when we're about three-quarters done last night, Troy yells that we have do this twice. It's a little hard to communicate when we're both wearing dust masks and ear plugs, but I assume he means that bay. (I have no idea why but that is not my job to question.) Then I start to think maybe he means we have to do this whole topping off thing twice. I stew on that for a while. (Like I said, I need prep for these types of pronouncements. I was wondering if that was my "notice.")

Troy gets all the way around the room and then starts doing bays we've already done. When we have a break from the noise as he's adjusting the ladder, I can't keep quiet any longer. I ask, "How many times are we going to top this off?" And Troy says, "Once; why?" "Well, we've already filled those bays." Troy was happy to hear that--he had forgotten where we had started.

I then said that I thought I was going to have to explain how calculus works and the fact that no matter how many times we went around the room, he could always fit in just a little more. Less each time, but still more each and every time to the nth degree. He laughed and agreed and confirmed that we are done. (I'm sure those of you who know Troy are not surprised that I was worried he would want to do everything again. Sometimes I think it's my job to keep his thoroughness in check. But not this time.)

In any case, it's done now. I will be happy to not have it hanging over us anymore and to not hear that machine for a while.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Siding the Foundation

After getting the insulation wrapped around the shop's foundation, it was time to protect the foam from the elements. Troy had a particular product in mind that he had seen at Menard's last summer. When he went to get it, it was not to be found. When he asked, they said that it was a one-time offer they got from the supplier and they wouldn't be restocking it.


So Troy looked around and decided to go with some cement board siding. The boards are heavy and awkward enough that it was deemed a two-person job. We got the south and west sides done last Saturday evening.

Sunday we started again, but had barely started when Wendy and David showed up for a visit. After a few minutes of socializing, David took over my spot helping Troy and Wendy and I took Jan to the park. (Thank you, David.)

They got the first round down and even started the "roof" section before we stopped for dinner.

Troy and I got the rest done one evening this week. Well, there's some fiddly stuff to be done on the side with the garage door but Troy said he could handle that himself.
The board was attached with expanding foam insulation. It sets up pretty fast but not immediately so we had to prop the boards up until it dried. And then we used the wood to hold the slanted pieces down to prevent the foam from pushing the boards up off the foam.

Troy had a load of dirt delivered on Tuesday and started spreading it around. First some tractor work with the front end loader.
Then some hand work with a rake and shovel (done near the door; not this end yet). It's going to be so nice to level this area out. It was still deeply rutted from the cement trucks that drove in to pour the foundation last summer.

I had Wednesday off and Troy suggested I could fill some time spreading dirt if I was bored. That night he asked flippantly if I had done any dirt work.
"Oh, yes" I said, "It's all done."
"Really?" he played along. "Did it take you very long?"
"No time at all" I answered honestly.

(Sorry, honey, I'm no help at all!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Glory! Halleluia!

and I mean that in the most reverent way: I am done the east gable. Done scraping. Done priming. Done painting. I'll say it again, Glory! Halleluia!

Oh, did you want to see it? Well, heerrrreee it is:
And in context, here is the entire east wall:
Doesn't that look good?!! Oh, wait what is Troy doing?
What could he possibly be up to? What is Troy doing up on the ladder? Troy, this is my job...what are you doing to my paint?

Oh, wait, yes...Troy was given the honorific job of putting on the finishing touch:
Pretty sweet, right?

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