Saturday, July 31, 2010

The joys of fixing mistakes in cement.

I made a mistake when I designed the cement floor of the 30 x 70 shop.  This is not really surprising since I am almost  a rank amateur.  And even the pro's slip up and have to take remedial action once in a while.

I had this great idea for the slab at the "garage" end of the shop.  Vehicles, especially in the winter, bring in ice and snow and water and generally make a mess.  My idea was to put a drain in the floor and slope the cement toward the drain.  Poof, self cleaning floor.  The water would magically take care of itself.  And it does that admirably.

The problem is, there is about 15" of cement floor that sticks out past the big roll-up garage door.  Since it is outside, yet slopes toward the drain, which is inside, it funnels rain water inside the building.  Every time it rains or snows, this moisture migrates inside and gets the sill plates and drywall wet immediately adjacent to the door.

Drywall can't stand much water, and wood framing isn't improved by getting repeatedly wet either, even though it is pressure treated to resist rot and so on.

This simply will not do.  So, how shall we fix this little error in judgement?

Shave a little bit of the cement off, to make it drain away  to the outside, where it belongs.  They make a special, diamond coated cement blade that you install on a circular saw, like so:

And, since I have a 16 year old son who needs money for college:

We made a deal.  Here is the result.  A bunch of slots cut in the cement.  We made a wedge shaped jig for the saw to run on, to control the depth of the slot.  So instead of sloping to the inside at 1/2" per foot, it now slopes to the outside at 3/4" per foot.  We will have to remove all the little cement bits between every kerf.

Fortunately, I happen to own an electric jackhammer.  Here's a little video clip of the bits flying off under the ministrations of the beast.  It is the heaviest "portable" tool I own.

It's too bad our little Nikon CoolPix camera doesn't record any sound with the video clips, since the jackhammer makes the most satisfying chunkchunkchunkchunkchunkchunkchunkchunkchunkchunk sound.  While it was handy to have the jackhammer, a plain old six dollar hammer and a two dollar chisel would have done the same thing in a couple of hours (instead of 20 minutes). 

Here it is after removing all the bits.  You can sort of make out that it now slopes away from the building instead of into the building.

Here's a close up.  We (by we, I mean my 16 year old son) did some grinding to knock off the high spots so I can run a snow shovel over this part without snagging the rough surface too much.  This is before the treatment with the grinder so it looks a bit rough.
It has now rained several times, and the shop has remained satisfyingly dry.  If we keep our framing dry, replace the roof every 25-30 years, replace the siding every fifty years or so, we have every reason to think this superinsulated, ultra-energy-conserving building will still be saving energy 100-200 years from now.  It is incumbent upon us to stop thinking about what  a building or house will cost to purchase or build and live in for 5 years, or even 20 years.  We must start thinking about lifetime energy use for heating and cooling, and the cost of energy to replace a building (embodied energy).

After all, the resources do not belong to me, or to you, they belong to the Master and Creator of the universe.  I am just a steward.

Finest regards,


Monday, July 26, 2010

The Great Cleanup Turns into Transformation

Does this look like our living room? Well, it doesn't look like the living room we had but it's what we've got now!

We had some very generous-hearted friends come by tonight and help us out. We moved a lot of stuff, and then after they left, Troy, Isaac and I got crackin! (As the old egg commercials used to say.)

A piece of what the old living room looked like:

And the shelves:
"The shelves" indeed. Full of tools and almost random supplies. It's what a lot of people focused on when they visited us. They couldn't believe I could live with those shelves. In my living room.
I told them I just thought of them as bookshelves. That I ignored them.

But wow, when they were moved into the shop tonight, what a big room we had again!! After some serious cleanup (our plaster ceiling does like to fall), we moved some furniture around. The same corner now houses our TV, etc. (Mary, you'll be glad to hear we purged the Xbox and all accouterments and the VCR.)
We discovered that the rabbit at one time made a snack of the TV power cord. Troy declared we couldn't plug it in. I looked joyful and asked if that meant we got to get a new TV now!! Troy got out the black tape and after applying it, said "Now we can plug it in." It's not the solution I was looking for.

But we're getting a new TV anyway. (We did not run out tonight to buy it however tempting it was...probably tomorrow.)

The woodstove corner even looked quite bare:
I've simply stored all the things necessary in winter behind the stove itself. They certainly take up a lot less room that way.

And another look at the furniture setup:
The couch is away from the wall and we actually have access to all the windows. What a relief!! (Bad news: I can now see how much the windows need to be washed. Good news: I can reach them to wash!! Better news: my mom is coming Friday and will probably wash them for me!! ;-)

Before we even started on the living room, I tacked the foyer. We had emptied the right shelf of stuff that belonged in the shop, and then I rearranged the "sporting goods" (such that we have), and would you look at that--there's actually a floor under those shelves!
We also rehabilitated the chairs. They're pretty sturdy but it took a lot of scrubbing by Isaac to make them usable again. It'll be nice to have a place to sit for putting on/removing shoes. Plus the extra seating for company, of course.

Phew, all for now! Time for bed.

Big Birthday

Happy Birthday, Troy!

Today's the day Troy turns fifty, the big 5 - 0.

We're celebrating with an open house this Sunday (August 1st), so if you're in the area and feel you know Troy well enough to stop in, then by all means, stop in! 3 - 6. Maybe we'll see you then.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Storing up the Surplus

We have started the job of storing up all the produce the garden will yield. Although I've done my fair share of eating it straight from the garden too.

I did my first canning of the season this morning. I was rather resistant to starting all that again. Once I got to it, I did feel very out of practice and probably only remembered 2 of the 10 tips and tricks I learned last year. (That means it's only going to get easier as I relearn them, right?)

About three hours of work produced six jars of pickles and two jars of pickled beets:
That seems like a lot of time to me, but like I said, it should get better...

Later I dealt with what was still left of last year's produce: popcorn. I gave you video of us processing it last Christmas, and it has sat in that rubbermaid tub ever since! (Well, we've eaten a lot of it.)

One bad thing was that it still had a lot of chaff and bits of corn silk so I took it all outside and winnowed it in the wind. That got rid of most of the chaff and we shouldn't have such messy counters when we make popcorn now. (The air popper can really blow that stuff around!) Eating corn silk is not so nice either.

After the winnowing, I gathered up a bunch of the containers Troy collects and filled them with popping corn.
And look at that, I even found a "What's Poppin'" tin.

We put the popcorn on a new shelf in the shop, the beginning of our food storage out there. With the basement being so damp, it does not work well for food storage. So out to the dry cool shop it goes! It feels a little strange to keep food in the shop, but then I realized it's no stranger than keeping a table saw in the dining room.

In addition to canning and pickling, Troy is hot to trot to dry food this year. He has been working on a homebuilt dehydrator, not being willing to spend the $300 they're asking for a lesser model:
He put the finishing touches on it this weekend having built the screen shelves some time ago.

It uses light bulbs to build up the requisite heat and a fan mounted in the base to push air through.

Here are the carrots he put in yesterday afternoon or evening:
Those were "regular" sized carrot slices and now, the next afternoon, they are tiny little pieces, and still drying. (I think we're going to be eating a lot of soup this winter!)

That's all I have for you today. Eat well!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Dat da DAAAH!

(That's a trumpet fanfare, in case that's not obvious.)

For the last screw on the corner trim pieces
was driven home tonight:

We put up the last two this evening. On the last one--our very last piece, that is--we made our first mistake in measuring/cutting that really cost us. (We made one earlier, but managed to reuse the piece elsewhere.) We only had four corner trim pieces, and there are exactly four corners, so no extras. Although we couldn't cut the piece again to make it longer (har har), we recovered and I will be surprised if you will be able to tell. (And there's no prize for finding it, so don't bother looking for it and pointing it out when you're here.)

The shop is looking very trim now and I give you a few views:

(Looks imposing from this angle, doesn't it?!)

And don't we look happy about it:

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A Walk Through the Garden

We're starting to see results from our work in the garden.

Troy planted a different variety of cucumber hoping that it would be better for canning. I got a whole sink full of them yesterday:
They are shorter than last year's, but just as fat--I'm still going to have to cut them into spears before pickling. I probably have enough there to do a batch, and have some dill from my sister that needs to be used, but I couldn't get up the energy to do them yet.

The first tomato is starting to look conspicuously orange:
Not quite ready to eat yet, but Troy's kind of hoping it'll be before July 4. Just an arbitrary date to say you had very early tomatoes. (He's a little competitive that way.) We don't have too many other tomatoes yet, but I never heard someone compare when the fifth tomato was ready so I guess after the first, it doesn't really matter!

Troy has hog wire up along the tomatoes and I have been training them. So far so good.

The ancho peppers are coming along as well. I was surprised to see two of them pretty much ready to go:
These'll be dried. They're hot, but not as much as jalapenos (for comparison). Which is fine with me!

Finally, it was very interesting to observe the ants using Troy's row marking string as a super highway:
It seems they love it. Hundreds of ants going back and forth, touching antennae every time they pass each other.

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