Sunday, May 31, 2009

Insulation: Day 6

No pictures today. Sorry. It was all business. Started at 2:45; finished at 6:30. Slammed 50 bags through the hose. If we're not half done the attic, we are pretty close.

Troy was hot and uncomfortable in the attic. I was rather comfortable in the by-now-mostly insulated shop. The day was not that hot, actually, but very sunny and Troy was feeling it working under the dark grey shingles.

He was also running the still and that slowed us down some as we had to stop and check it every 30 minutes. Every half hour doesn't seem that often, but it is.

This week we will probably not make a lot of building progress as we will be cleaning up in preparation for some company. I still hope to get in a little painting as the window trim is sitting bare right now. It depends a lot on the weather, so who knows!

Life's an adventure where you don't get to read ahead,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Insulapalooza: Day 2

We put in a good day today, if not the marathon I had at times suspected it would be. We got another late start as it is hard to get going on a holiday morning when you've been up late the night before...ah, that little step in the preparation stage: get enough sleep.

But by 10 we were in the shop getting things started. It was a blessing to not have to set everything up as we were able to leave everything when we finished yesterday. The kind boys at Home Depot had no trouble with us keeping the machine for two days. And he assured Troy that he'd make sure enough got ordered this week and a shrink wrapped pallet would be waiting for him. That's what I'm talking about!

We started with the 5 or 6 slots left on the south wall and then proceeded to the attic. (You can see that was when he got serious about his mask.)

Troy had bought a remote control power switch so we could hook it up to a light, and he could shut off the light (from the attic) to let me know if I needed to stop the machine. It did not work at all. So we tried our 2-way radios and they worked pretty well even with the machine going, the fan running and earplugs in. It helped that he really didn't need me to stop much.

Before we started blowing insulation, Troy tried to mark the desired height on a couple places on the trusses using some spray paint. This is also when he glibly decided to raise it from 16" to 18".

When I asked if he had any idea of how much more insulation that is going to be...2" over a 70' x 30' area, he figured 2 pallets. Two more pallets. Oh, big sigh. That's two extra Sundays, as far as I figure it.

Well, however much we end up doing, we got the machine started again and did a solid hour of it from noon to 1. Troy discovered it took about 2 minutes for it to be too dusty to see his height markings. But I guess he has something to double check things by when it settles down.

When I stopped things for lunch, Troy was only too happy to get out of his hunched position in the attic. Standing stooped over trying to manoeuvre around the trusses and only being able to step on the skinny edge of a 2x4 turns out to be not very comfortable. And, apparently, it's dusty:
Probably not the most flattering pic I've ever taken of my hubby.

We took a long break and then got going again by 5 or so. We pounded out the last 30 bags in less than an hour and a half. Although neither of us get any breaks, it sure is nice to just keep knocking it out. And when we finished, there was not one single bag of insulation left in the shop. Woo hoo, good riddance to you!

We then packed up the truck with the blower and hose and retired to good wet shower.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Insulapalooza: Day 1

Day 1 of our Memorial Weekend Insulapalooza got to a late start. We had lunch after church with some friends who were back in town for the day. That was very nice.

And then we sat in the car for a bit when we got home, talking and resting from our big lunch. (My habits are rubbing off on Troy.)

But, finally, by 3:30 or so, we were getting started on the business at hand. My part started with stacking up the pallet Troy bought last week and literally threw out of the truck.

Troy got the last of the holes drilled on the south wall while I was doing that. Then he said he was ready and ran up the ladder.

I didn't start the machine because he didn't have his mask on. He got "suited up" and then he ran up the ladder to start.

I go to press the on button of the power bar we're using and realize the power bar hasn't been taped to the side of the machine.

Troy comes down to help but I wave him off and try to sign to him that he needs to find an extension cord with power. (Because the power strip is going to need to have some juice.) Troy thinks I mumble in general and he can't hear half of what I do, but with both of us wearing earplugs and masks the problem is much much worse!

We finally get it all set up, and we are actually ready to start now. Poor Troy is up on the ladder again. (I am much more sympathetic since my own time up on a ladder.) He didn't get a chance to sit much today, and didn't move the ladder while leaving the hose unattended either. Despite that, we still had the hose get away twice today. Too much excitement.

We managed to get a pallet done (42 bags) and have 68 more bags we could do tomorrow if we get right on it. One motivation will be to spray the attic in the morning before it has much of a chance to heat up. Even in the main room, Troy was very warm today up by the ceiling. Unfortunately, he did not give me the sight of a bare-chested hot and sweaty man. Wouldn't that have looked sweet with his suspenders.

Ha! Gotcha to smile,

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Toolbelt Kind of Day

The day started early (for me on a Saturday) with some roofing at church. I was one of the few with an actual toolbelt on, but I believe in dressing the part. Plus it is very handy.

We got the roof done in fairly short order. Quite a different experience than doing the shop roof with Troy. At the height of activity today, we had 3 coil guns going and almost a dozen people working like busy bees. It's always fun working with people you kind of know but don't talk to much. And then when we were done we were served awesome tacos for lunch. How great is that!

Then when I got home, I figured I'd work on the paint/scraping. You know, I had the toolbelt out anyway... Plus I was home just in time for the area to be in the shade.

Troy had moved the ladder for me so I was able to scrape more of the peak. We have to reposition it one more time (over the power line) so I can reach the lower far right corner.

Meanwhile, I managed to lower and move the ladder myself so I could reach the window trim. I know you're supposed to work top down, but I can't always follow the rules.

I got the trim scraped and you can see that there is not much paint left. The wood looks pretty good in most places. There were two joints where the old caulk just pealed away and I thought Troy would want to caulk the joints in the long horizontal piece on the top. (As I've said before, where caulk is concerned Troy pretty much thinks more is more.)

Then I decided I couldn't wait for Troy all the time and would have to try it out myself. Where better to practise my caulking skills than on a window 20 feet in the air. Who's going to see that? (Not to mention the caulk on the horizontal piece is only visible by the wasps in their nest and I don't really care what they think. With any luck and a little work, they'll be dead soon anyway.)

So I go inside and find the caulking gun and some indoor/outdoor silicone door and window caulk. Sounds good right? I am working on a window. I am outside. It doesn't say "paintable" but it's all I see. And the window's 20 feet up, right? So I use it anyway. ("Get 'er done" is apparently my motto for the day.)

The good news is that it will keep the water out. The bad news is that I've confirmed it is not "paintable." And I only saw the clear silicone. If I had only kept looking and found the white this wouldn't have been so bad. But we will press on and see just how bad it looks (from 20' below) after I do the first coat of primer. I didn't get to that today because I wasn't sure how long I had to wait for the caulk to dry.

We're not expecting rain til Tuesday, but with Insul-a-palooza this weekend, I'm not sure I'll be able to get that first coat on before Wednesday. I'm not freaking out over it, though. It's not like the paint that was there was really doing much.

All for now!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It is Started

The ladder's up along the house and you know what that means: I'm finally getting back to the painting. And none too soon.

The paint on this triangle section (east side) is in terrible shape. You can click on the pictures for a larger view if you need some proof of my opinion. I had already scraped the top part by the vent when I took this pic but you can see all the white of the worn away paint elsewhere.

I got a nice day as far as weather. The day was a little hotter than I expected and I didn't apply sunscreen quite as thoroughly as I should have so I'm a little red in places. It was a good reminder to hit this project pretty steadily because I sure do not want to be doing it in July's heat! Fortunately by 2:00 or so the peak is mostly in the shade and it is more comfortable.

Stage 1 mostly done

The bugs, however, are bad at any hour. There's a wasp nest I can't quite reach right at the very peak. I get a little nervous when I see the three of them colluding on how they can get rid of the interloper (me). I don't have a lot of options for retaliation or defence 20 feet up on a ladder. The spiders are mad because I'm wrecking all their webs. And the flies just like to land on my ankles and make me jumpy.

Once Troy moves the ladder for me again so I can reach the right side I can hopefully complete the scraping (stage 1). We'll have some repairs to do (caulking for instance) but all of the shingles are intact, at least. And then I'll be looking at two coats of primer and the two coats of paint...big sigh. I find even the thought of it exhausting. I need blinders so I only look at the part of the project immediately in front of me.

And then I have 4 more peaks to do and all the window trims. (Look at the above pic. I've scraped off the top of the window but all the paint coming off the sides is coming off quite voluntarily. But I can fix that right: it just takes some work and time.

And by the end of all this standing on ladders I am going to have some amazing calf muscles!!

A Convenient Excuse for Some Lovely Pictures (Garden Update)

Being well past the time for the tulips and dafs which were lovely this year, the irises have started to burst open in the sun and warmer weather of the last couple days.

We have lilac/purple ones which Wendy donated and helped me to plant last spring along the driveway.
The grass really wants to take over, but I'll work on that slowly.

And then we have the more burgundy ones that my sister Judy donated and helped me to plant along the south side of the house.
Only a few are open in each bed, but the rest are almost there.

The alliums came up early this year (I thought). They are in full bloom now, distracting from the now-bare stems of the tulips and dafs and barely keeping above the lilies which are thick as thieves.
Gertrude and Antonio are enjoying the colours and keeping a careful eye on all those who use the path between the garage in and house. Be careful Antonio doesn't peck off a button as you walk by: he can't get enough of bright or shiny things.

I had a nice surprise in the bed by the propane tank:
One of the dahlias from last year decided to come back. How nice! The perspective on this pic doesn't show it, but it's almost 2 feet tall already.

And finally, my spirea bush is really outdoing itself this year
I have noticed a lot of really full and vibrant spirea bushes in people's yard, but mine has never been able to keep up. I'd like to think it is due to my TLC, although I'm not sure you can call severe pruning tender loving care. But if it's what it needs, you gotta do it.

I will add that Troy has all eight fruit trees in the ground. I put on the last of the trunk protectors for him and used some scrap pieces to put around my poor stunted Red Bud and Crab Apple trees. I planted them about two years ago. They were the tiny starter trees you get from the Arbor Foundation and still are not more than 18" tall.

Perhaps now that Troy has some trees around them they will get a little more of the care that they deserve. Except the one which I discovered had been driven over by the tractor. I don't think it will live to benefit from Troy's TLC. But ever the optimist and believer in nature's ability to grow stuff, I put a trunk protector around what was left and will wait to see!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Insulation: Day 3

We managed Day 3 of insulation today. We blew in 48 bags of insulation, so just over a pallet. Troy returned the machine to the shop this evening and bought another pallet. We were down to 26 bags and have to prepare for "insul-a-palloza" this coming long weekend. If we can buy the insulation ahead of time, that would save a lot of driving back and forth over the weekend. I hope it works out to get the machine for two days.

Today when we started I got to unload the truck and set up the fans, blower, etc while Troy finished drilling the last few holes.
He had done most of the lower holes on the south side but didn't quite have them all done. (Something about planting apple trees in the rain.)

So the drill (and is it a fortner bit?) takes out the pucks of drywall but he stops short of the moisture barrier. For that, he goes back around and cuts them all out with his knife.

But doesn't cut all the way around. He leaves a little bit on the bottom of the holes to keep the flap attached. Because he's going to use that plastic again, you know. The moisture barrier must remain intact.

The result is that the holes end up looking like little mouths with their tongues hanging out. (My wall is taunting me.) And they are very hungry mouths.

And one feeding is not going to satisfy them. Can you see in the pic below all the empty mouths? This is a pic of the upper holes of the north wall. Yes, the wall we "finished" last week.

The insulation has since settled and we have to go back around and refill all of them. I think once we fill them the second time, I will be "helpful" and plug all those holes quick. Then we won't know if the insulation settles again. That is a good solution, don't you think?

Today we filled the lower holes along the entire south wall. Just the upper holes on that wall and much smaller east and west* walls to go. Well, that would be Phase I. Then Phase II would have to be done on all the upper holes to make up for any settling.

All for now, my body is begging for some sleepy time.

*The west wall still needs drywall; that would come first.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The first step to permaculture

We just received our order of fruit trees from Raintree nursery. Four peach trees and four apple trees. Permaculture is a concatenation of permanent agriculture. This is generally considered to include fruits, nuts, berries, bushes, trees, and garden plants that reseed or multiply, like strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, some species of onions and jerusalem artichokes. This would be in contrast to plants that you have to plant every year and are care intensive. The theory of permaculture is that once you have it going and balanced, you end up with a "food forest" that just keeps making food with little effort on your part. We'll see.

I initially decided to dig the 8 holes by hand, with a shovel. You don't need a humongous hole for a bare root tree, right? This lasted for one hole. You have to remove the grass, which saps nutrients and moisture from fruit trees when they most need it. The soil hadn't been worked in decades, etc. And hey, I HAVE a back hoe. So, I dropped the disk, hooked up the back hoe and was pleased that it worked perfectly right from the get-go. I would have gotten all the seven remaining holes done in an hour but then I saw this big bolt of vivid blue lightning and decided to pack it in after five holes. I'll finish up the rest in the next day or two.

The garden is about ready to put in. The tomato plants are getting several true leaves. The watermelon plants are looking vivacious. The muskmelon plants are all dying. This is odd, given that they are in the same no-soil mix, under the same lights, getting watered the same way, etc etc. Heirloom seeds are somewhat riskier than hybrid seed, but I am prepared to suffer some losses and may just purchase some prestarted plants at a garden center.

None of this should prevent us from blowing insulation again this weekend.

Finest regards,


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Insulation: Day 2

Today was our second insulation extravaganza. We put in 52 bags of insulation (1.25 pallets, if you're counting). But before that was all the preparation...

Today's prep actually started this morning when Troy went out to get the truck to go to church. There was still drywall in the bed! So I run upstairs to change, and Troy heads to the shop and we get all the drywall out of the truck and stacked on the floor. :sigh:

We still made it plenty early to church even with the stop at Home Depot to get the pallet of insulation and blower. With sheer repetition, Troy is forcing the Sunday staff to learn their job and they are slowly getting better at getting the pallet ready and everything loaded into our truck.

Not that they did a great job of loading today; check out how great the pallet looked by the time we got home:
Not exactly confidence-inspiring, but we made it home.

Before today, Troy had filled all the previous holes with his handy drywall plugs and a bunch of silicone to seal. And he also drilled all the remaining holes for the north wall. He figured if we had time to do more insulation than that, we could always blow it into the attic.

I'm pretty spoiled in that usually by the time I make it out to the shop, Troy has everything ready so we can just get to the job at hand. Today I made it out a little too quick and had to be there for the unloading of the insulation; getting extension cords for the fans, blower, etc.; shuffling the tractor and pickup around so they wouldn't be in our way, but wouldn't be out in the rain either; etc. etc etc. But I was on fire to get to work because we were toying with the idea of actually going to a movie tonight. If we really moved and kept at it, we could maybe make the 7:30 show.

With two pallets to use, I was able to build myself a nice "nest" of insulation to draw from:
Things went a little smoother today, as it should the second time around. We were talking with some friends Saturday night about how the insulation was going, who was doing what task, etc. I made the comment that I could just not quite keep up with Troy when I had to unload the insulation from the pickup, but that I hoped it would go better since we had them all unloaded this time.

This friend then very succinctly summarized the situation: "You mean while Troy is standing on a ladder holding a hose, you are getting the insulation from the truck, cutting the bags open, and feeding the blower?" Wow, when you put it that way, it just doesn't seem right does it!? (And of course, in fairness, Troy has offered to trade whenever I want, but I prefer to pick a job and then just learn to do it well, instead of flitting about here and there.)

Well, today it only got better. I look up at some point and Troy is sitting on the ladder. (Pretty cheeky.) Apparently even standing was too much for him.

And then later he got smart (read both smart like good idea, and smart like smart Alec): After he would move the hose to a new hole--when he knew it wouldn't need any attention--he would crawl down the ladder, move it over to the next position, and climb back up. I realized this took away the only time I had for even a small break. So while he's sitting on a ladder, I'm still cutting open bags and feeding the blower 25-lb bags all afternoon. And that is one hungry machine.

The topper was when he ran off into the house and came back with his winter coat. I was having no trouble staying warm, and was in fact contemplating removing my sweatshirt.

Anyway, back to the point of the post, we got the entire north wall done today. We did not proceed to the attic since we were still harboring hopes of a movie. After cleaning up, and looking at the clock, however, we decided to not make a run for it, but to stay home instead. I'm not sure what Troy's up to*, but I am enjoying my usual Sunday evening activities of blogging, eating popcorn (thanks, honey), and listening to music (substitute for my usual TV).

*oh wait, I remember: Troy is enjoying the fire I finally let him build. I came into the house rather hot and would not hear of a fire for quite a while!

Next week the plan is to move on with even more insulation. Btw, while Troy was sitting on the ladder, he figured out that we will use about 5 tons of insulation on the shop. That's a lot.

Sjoelen, anyone?

Friday, May 08, 2009

You're It

So I have a new strategy to keep myself motivated on firewood. I've made it competitive. I don't race against the clock. I don't compete for style points. I merely want to split whatever Troy is able to wrangle to the splitter before he has a chance to turn around.

So if he has time on Tuesday to chop and drop a load of wood, I have time on Wednesday to organize* it, split it, and stack it. HA! Beat that! [I say in my head.]

Now it's on Troy to keep this moving. I've done my part. HA!

Whatever it takes.


* By organize, I mean remove the wood from where I actually have to sit to operate the splitter which is where Troy likes to drop it. I don't want you to think I'm that compulsive. And btw I've outsmarted him this time because after I was done, I put the boxes I use to collect kindling right where I need to sit. So Troy would really have to work at it to put the wood there in my way.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Brief update...

We didn't blow insulation last weekend, mostly because my wife had other commitments, and I find it difficult to be in two places at once. That would be handy come to think of it...

Christina's mom came over for a visit, which we always enjoy. The both of them walked in the local fundraiser for AIDS. Christina was the top fundraiser (for a private individual, not a business) AGAIN for the 4th or 5th year. was hard to argue with postponing the insulation for a week. Also, it's not like I lacked for other things to do. I hacked up a few more tree trunks to make sure Christina doesn't run out of wood for the hydraulic splitter. I/we changed the brake fluid in the Dodge/cummins/truck and in her Toyota Corola. I disked up the garden and the pasture again. I have killed about 95% of the grass, which is good. I spread alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow) in the garden, which is nice, gentle, persistent, organic fertilizer. It's cheap too when you buy it by the 50 pound bag.

We will be back to blowing insulation this coming weekend, so progress will not be detered!

Finest regards,


Monday, May 04, 2009

Spring, Bet the Farm

Spring just makes you feel alive, doesn't it? I don't suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I certainly feel the long rhythm of the seasons. Without exception, when spring breaks out, I feel like taking on 27 new projects. Of course, being old and wise now, I somewhat restrain myself, I think.

Behavioral psychologists have pretty convincing evidence that our brains are wired in such a way as to get very high satisfaction and motivation from an activity that provides occasional rewards. The classic example is gambling with slot machines. You put your nickel in, pull the handle, busy/flashy/whizzy things happen, lose. But every 100-200 events, you hit the payoff, and this flood of nickels comes pouring out of the slot. This modality of reward is a far more powerful motivator than a small reward that happens every time you "pull the handle" of whatever activity we're discussing.

B.F. Skinner developed animal models where, for example, a pigeon pecks a lever, and a piece of grain pops out of a chute. After a brief training period where the pigeon learns that pecking the lever causes the food to appear in the chute, they change the formula so that the bird has to peck the lever 2-4 times to get the food reward. Once the bird understands the new formula, they keep increasing the number of pecks required to attain the food. Pigeons would routinely become capable of pecking the stupid lever 10,000 times to attain the reward. They were far more likely to peck the lever many times than the bird that got a tiny reward every time they pecked the lever.

The executive summary is that we humans, and lots of other creatures, like a little risk in our lives if there is a big flashy payoff that happens occasionally. This peculiarity turns out to manifest itself all over the place. If you get paid an hourly wage, they don't give you a ten dollar bill every hour, you get a big check at the end of a week.

Farming is hard work and risky. But occasionally, farmers (and gardeners) get the big payoff of a valuable harvest. People who stay in abusive relationships are thought to be "motivated" in this way. Sure, getting verbally or physically or emotionally abused sucks, but the abuser frequently feels high levels of guilt and then gives the "big payoff" with showy flowers, or highly emotional apologies, expensive gifts, etc.

Plants are also not immune to this phenomenon. There are species of pine tree that produce seed in pine cones that virtually never open up enough to drop their seeds and allow germination. Unless they experience fire. There's the big payoff. They plant a lot of seedlings at a time when the fire has removed 99% of the competition.

I keep a Venus fly trap carnivorous plant as a novelty. I enjoy and appreciate their unique methods of gaining nutrition. They rarely flower and make seed, preferring instead to use vegetative reproduction through the use of rhizomes. Push a rhizome over 4" and start a clone/sister plant. But on rare occasions, they decide to make blossoms and reproduce sexually. This is risky for the plant as it requires a lot of energy to make the stalk and the flowers. It can so deplete the plant of energy that it can kill the plant. But it also can introduce more genetic diversity into the plants descendants and give the potential to move much further away geographically. If a seed gets stuck to the foot of a fox, this could mean a move of 100's of yards, if not a mile or more. There it is again, the big payoff making up for the risk.

Here's a picture of what the big gamble looks like on my particular Venus Fly Trap:
So I suppose the analogy is, I as the gardener have increased my garden space by approximately 100 fold. The increased time and energy loss might kill me, but I might get the big huge payoff of home grown watermelons and cantaloupe as well as real tomatoes.

Our previous minister at some point made the theological point that if you are not stretching yourself spiritually by doing something uncomfortable or new (risky?) in your faith life, you're probably doing it wrong.

Go ahead, take a chance. Try something new.

Finest regards,


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