Monday, January 26, 2009

What to See

Ok, we don't make recommendations very often, but during a break Sunday we watched some Make TV (I think that's what it was called) with some AMAZING stuff on it.

Have you seen Reuben Margolin's wave sculptures? Completely mind-blowing. All the movement is mechanical (pulleys, strings, motors, etc) and absolutely no computers, chips, processors or the like. And the guy works almost exclusively with salvaged junk (which he carts home on his rickshaw bike). I haven't actually seen these videos (not having high-speed), but if they have half the impact of what was on TV, they're totally worth it. Click here to see for yourself.

The rest of the show was full of other interesting things as well. Like a treadmill bike (seriously--it travelled around like a bicycle, but you're running on a treadmill) and a clip about a converting a shopping cart into a chair: despite how bad that may sound, it looked great.

Hope you enjoy...I just had to share,

News Bulletin

We interrupt this blog for this breaking news.

We have reports of parking in the shop. Despite the long wait making these reports unlikely, we have been able to confirm that the labour of a local homeowner has made possible the parking of vehicles in his shop. The homeowner's wife was overjoyed to drive off this morning without the sweeping of copious amounts of snow or the scraping of stubborn ice. This news is so breaking we were unable to send a photographer to the site.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Drywall, Anyone?

So we were busy today. Troy did a bunch of prep work to maximize my helping time. (I had allotted him 2 hours today!) By 5:00, I was out helping to put up some drywall. The goal was to get the pile off the floor onto the walls so that we could move the tractor further in and then start parking some other stuff in there. And this time, whatever didn’t make it up on the walls would get moved out of the way no matter what.

We had started the south wall the other day, and tonight got that finished up to the powder room (about half done). That was 6 sheets of drywall.
Then we had to move all of this crap—
—from the north wall to the south wall so that we could start on the north wall. (Things are so efficient sometimes…) The lower sheets went on pretty easy
but then we ran into this:
Do you see how the stud and the edge of the drywall don’t really run along the same line? We double checked the measurements (each sure the end we measured was right), and all the numbers were "right." So maybe the stud was crooked. In any case, we took the piece back down (it was only tacked up), cut it to match the stud and went from there. We got a couple more pieces up and then called it a night. Sorry I didn’t get pics, but when we decided to quit, I made a beeline for the woodstove. (The torpedo heater helped, but was no match for the cold temperatures that have descended on us again.) Before I ran in, however, we did move the remaining three sheets to make way for the tractor, so that is done.

Working with spot lights can be difficult, what with the dark shadows that seem to always be in your way. But sometimes they yield a site you’d never get otherwise: I was surprised by this great shot of Troy’s new drywall gun:
It looks more than a little threatening in the shadows!

The other thing I started on was marking all the studs with little yellow triangles on the floor. (Cause once they're covered by drywall they're gone for good!) I was doing this “between” other jobs or when waiting for Troy, so only got about half of them marked.

All for tonight!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Come into My Kitchen

Troy tells me the other day that he is just itching to tackle the kitchen...this summer. Although the whole house is a mess and functioning just well enough to live here, the kitchen is functioning the worst. It is by far the biggest heat sink, having lots of single pane windows and no insulation, and half of it being built out onto a former concrete porch. It's also hard to get stuff accomplished when it sucks up a lot of extra time just to prepare and eat food. (Troy's also looking ahead to having a bigger garden this year and just how we are going to process all that produce...) Plus if we get the kitchen in ok shape, maybe we could entertain a little better/more often. Everyone always hangs out in the kitchen at parties, anyway, right? Perhaps they won't even notice the condition of the rest of the house...we could hope...

Troy is getting this started now because until this past Wednesday we didn't even have accurate measurements of the room, let alone drawings, plans, or any clear ideas of what we were going to do with all that space. (Besides revel in it, of course.) So Wednesday we measured. Thursday I got an accurate outline of the room drawn. And today I spent all day (after sleeping in late, let me be honest) cutting out scale kitchen items on graph paper, and looking through a dozen and a half of kitchen magazines Wendy lent to me. (Thank you, Wendy!)

Besides the usual things one wants in a kitchen (like cupboards, counters, appliances), the one thing I had been stuck on is that I wanted a booth for everyday casual seating/eating. Troy wants a kitchen with room to process large amounts of food; loads of storage; and a nice eating area with a view outside.

Here is the initial plan I came up with. Let's call it Plan 1A:
[Clicking on the pics in this post should give you a full scale view.]

Some general notes:
1. You will notice some extra room behind the refrigerator and north counters. Right now that is hidden behind drywall and not being used at all. We are thinking that we will put in a broom closet behind the fridge (accessible from the east), and above the counter, we may use that space for an appliance garage. (Eew, fancy, fancy, I know!)
2. We will be taking out all existing windows, and in this plan would put in twin double-hung windows at the end of the booth (so we could watch all the pretty birdies, and Troy could still shoot squirrels while eating his dinner).
3. We have cleverly added 6.5 feet of pantry space (floor to ceiling) by using what is now empty space around the chimney on the east wall.
4. There would be upper cupboards above the north and west counters; but not the peninsula.
5. This layout has 14.75 linear feet of counter space. It has 9.25 linear feet of upper cupboards.

The next plan is Plan 1B, so called because the only change was to try out a "corner" sink (and I'm not even sure the sink would fit exactly in the corner like that, but that's what I assumed for now):
Notes on Plan 1B:
Besides notes 1-4 from above, all of which apply, I can add that
5. This layout has 15.5 linear feet of counter space. It has 10 linear feet of upper cupboards.
So this plan does yield a little more work and storage place, but only one person is ever going to be at that sink at one time. Since there are only two of us and we have a dishwasher, perhaps this would be acceptable.

On to Plan 2:
Definitely a more contemporary look, following the overwhelming trend to have an island. (But I will refrain from completely revealing my biases until you have had a chance to air your views.)

1. The space behind the fridge/counter is used in the same way.
2. I lose my booth; replacing it with a partial booth. The feel changes, but the seating is more accessible. (I.e. four people can sit there and no one is locked in.) I forgot to draw in the chairs, but you can imagine them on the sides of the table without a bench. Yes, I'm sure you can.
3. The only window would now be centered in front of the sink, following a very old tradition. If you want details, you could also imagine an archway topped by half cupboards over the window, and then the same design echoed over the stove.
4. I have completely lost the desk workspace and china cabinet that was in the SE corner.
5. On the up side, the room works as a whole in this design. I'm sure it would feel much larger. (Of course it has less in it--see note 4.)
6. Now the really up side: this layout has 14.75 linear feet of counter space, plus the 3'x5' island. It has 13 linear feet of upper cupboards plus the ~5 feet of half cupboards above the stove and sink. That's a lot of stinking counters and cupboards!

So take a look, if you have some time. Which plan do you like? What would you change? How do you like your island, or do you love your peninsula instead? Would you not visit me because booths make you claustrophobic? Please spout off in the comment section or by other means, and click through the poll as well.

In any case, I am confident that any of these plans will beat the 6 feet of counter and 9 feet of upper cupboards we have right now. And having the fridge and dishwasher in the kitchen proper would not be bad either.

Alright, I am kitchened out right now so I will say good night!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Cold was It?

Please stop me if this sounds like complaining because that is not my intent, but I feel compelled to share how things are...

So it's been cold lately. I've never had actual negative (F) temperatures since living in the States, but I've seen them now! It's not as bad this week as last, and I've learned to bundle up, and haven't had my car break down and been stranded on the side of the road or anything, so life is fine.

But the other day, I got brave and looked at the living room thermometer when I first got home from work: 42. That's with the oil stove going in the kitchen, but obviously the woodstove had gone out long ago. But don't panic: with Troy's super-duper fire starter I had a fire going quickly and within 30 minutes the temp was up 20 degrees. That's amazing to me.

But the real kicker of this post was what I found in the dishwasher on an evening a few days later. Troy had run the machine that morning or night before, and I was emptying it. To keep the top shelf items from dripping on the lower items, I of course empty the dishwasher from bottom up. When I get to the top shelf, I empty everything except the gladware containers. These, I flip upside down so that the water which has collected in the lip can drip out while I'm putting the other items away, so that when I come back to get them, they are relatively water free and ready to go into the drawer. Ok, now that I've set this all up: I'm flipping the gladware containers and notice one of them is "not like the others."

Do you see it?

The water in the lip of this one container has completely frozen solid. Not slushy, not ice flakes, but just solid ice that would not come out!

Just thought I'd share!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fixing the tractor.

Life rarely travels in a straight line. Humans are complex and quirky. The universe is complex and quirky. I often think, by human standards, God is complex and quirky. Thus, it is not surprising that his creatures and his creation are not entirely straightforward. If they were, life would be simpler, but no doubt boring.

So while I intended to press on with the vapor barrier and the drywall, which would lead to insulation and wiring and plumbing, I didn't do that. What happened in reality was that we got a little warm weather and the ground thawed out enough that I could push some dirt over to the entrance of the shop so that we could actually park vehicles out of the weather. I have patiently waited for this moment for two years.

The real problem revealed itself in the tractor. It started fine, but quit after about ten minutes. Not counting all the computerized nonsense on so-called modern cars, an engine really only needs 3 things to run. It needs sufficient compression, fuel and ignition. Compression is rarely the culprit unless the engine is totally worn out. Since it's a diesel, it can't really have ignition problems. That leaves fuel. Primitive engines are a joy to work on, mostly because diagnosis is so easy, and also because they don't have a bunch of parasitic useless electronic crap on them.

But I digress.

So, I check the fuel bowl and sure enough, it had junk at the bottom. Humph. I cleaned the sediment bowl, reprimed the system and it started right up. It ran beautifully for eight minutes, at which point it quit dead in its tracks. Visual inspection revealed more junk in the fuel bowl. Humph, again.

This happened, with minor variations, repeatedly. Eventually, I discovered that water got into my fuel tank and make copious quantities of rust and other nastiness and slime. Along the way, I had to fill, rinse and drain the fuel tank ten times. I also had to fix the primer pump, which had corroded from the water. I got really fast at cleaning/clearing the fuel bowl-fuel valve assembly. I could do it in three minutes flat. Then the tractor would run for six to ten minutes and clog up again. This was, to use the understatement of the decade, annoying.

I realized that I would never get all the junk out of the tank by just rinsing it out with fuel. That meant more serious work on the tractor.

Fortunately, by that time, I had moved enough dirt (eight minutes at a time, grrrrr) over to the shop entrance so that I could get the tractor in the shop. This is the first time I have been able to work on a vehicle while protected from the elements, in two years. Praise God for his rich blessings.

I ended up tearing the hood and dash off, unhooking all the electrical stuff from the dash and hood, taking the steering wheel off (which was rusted on solid), removing the fuel tank, pressure washing the tank, treating it with hot phosporic acid (that's naval jelly or rust remover to you non-chemistry types) and scrubbing the inside of the fuel tank with a scotchbrite pad tied to a curved stick. So that was pretty tedious, but effective. 98% of the rust and crud has been removed and the tank is all painted up shiny and nice. I will hopefully get the tractor back together tonight and get back on track.

Finest regards,


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Shop Parking

Parking in the shop? Could it be true? The fulfillment of my wintery wishes?

Well, let's consider....

First you see evidence of a "driveway" Troy built up to the shop entrance:
Then you see evidence of a garage door rising sans person attending (ie. a remote! a remote!)
It continues to rise, revealing...what is it? perhaps a cute little Corolla that needs some lovin?
NO! What you see revealed is a tractor, not a cute little Corolla.
My Corolla's priority rating has dropped below the fouled up tractor which needs more work. (Troy assures me he will write more on that later, so you will have to wait, faithful reader.) And apparentely the driveway is not wide enough to take advantage of the full width of the overhead door which would allow us to park both vehicles in the shop. My cute little Corolla will have to wait. Meanwhile Troy is only too happy to be able to work on the tractor in a covered and sheltered area instead of out in the elements.

As for other happenings pertaining to the shop:

1. Troy and Isaac finished up the Tyvek on the north end of the shop while I was home for Christmas.
2. Troy (or they?) installed the "man" door and the window on the south wall. There's one more to do on the north wall yet. Troy has remarked that the shop is seeming very dark lately with the addition of the two doors, a window in dire need of a cleaning, and the north window opening now covered with Tyvec.
3. You may have noticed the odd looking ramp things in the first picture (above) to the left of the driveway. They were not ramps to drive on, but were actually props to hold the insulation in place. In trying to completely insulate the foundation, the bit below the walls and above the ground needs to be patched in with strips of foam. Later they will be covered on top with some flashing and possibly covered in front with a foam with a faux rock front.

All for now,

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