Sunday, August 28, 2011

Servitude Sunday: Pipe Dreams

Troy has become quite motivated to work on the kitchen as he has felt the push of autumn. It started with all the work he directed Isaac to do, and now that he is gone Troy has been doing his own work.

I thought maybe I should do my part. I told Troy this week that I was his to direct for two hours each Sunday. Fully recognizing it's not a lot, it's also a lot more than I have been doing so we would start there. Troy immediately got a focused look in his eyes and I could tell he was envisioning all the stuff he could have me help with.

This week in particular it came down to putting down some subfloor or taking out some pipes in the basement. We split it down the middle by buying the plywood for the subfloor but actually working on the pipes.

Troy has been roughing in the plumbing drain and propane line for the kitchen and the old pipes in the basement were in his way. So I spent my first Sunday of servitude holding pipes above my head while Troy cut them apart with angle grinder. Then I would carry them out to the scrap metal pile. There were quite a few pipes and I carried out figuratively tonnes of brass, steel and copper pipe.

We finally had enough of the pipes lining the ceiling out that we could tackle this mess:
Those are some big pipes in a rat's nest configuration right above the boiler. Troy started the first cut and then the water came gushing out. We put a bucket under it and waited. We emptied it several times and then went and ate supper while it continued to drain.

Troy ended up cutting this apart without me and I think he got tired of waiting and just let some water run onto the floor because it was pretty wet when I went back down. By that time, Troy had the boiler disconnected from the electric as well and was ready to haul it out. He was so excited to get it out of there!

We managed to drag it up the stairs and have kicked it to the curb (so to speak).
Troy is planning to take it and the rest of the scrap to the scrap metal place this week and maybe we can get some "money money money" from all that crap!! Even if we don't, we have quite a bit more room to move in the basement and Troy can continuing running the plumbing lines. Both are good things.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blood Red Moon and Other Bad Omens

While driving home late-ish tonight, I was astounded by a huge blood red moon hanging in the sky. I think that is in part an effect of the moon being close to the horizon so I was hurrying home so I could try catch it in a photograph.

I dashed in the house, put on a jacket (because the nights are surprisingly cool again!), grabbed the camera and ran outside. Fortunately for me I had a little flashlight on. (Back story: I usually prefer to make my way in the dark--I know my own house and own property enough to get around. Troy prefers a flashlight, anytime, every time. We go back and forth on this, but tonight I had a flashlight.)

As I was about to cross some weeds to climb onto a stump in the fence row to get a clear view of the moon, my flashlight flashed across something and I stopped. Fortunately in time.
This little spider (not so little actually) was hanging in the air on its little (not so little actually) web.
The main part of the web was not quite two feet across and the spider was hanging above the height of my belly button.
I almost walked into that! gives me the heeby jeebies!
But, fortunately I stopped in time. The web was not damaged. The spider was not disturbed. I was not heeby jeebied.

As a side note, the spider did not seem to object to being the centre of attention. Perhaps it knew that if anything, the light would draw a bigger dinner. And fortunately a couple of the pictures turned out because none of the moon pictures came out at all.

Sweet dreams!

Empowerment of the regular folks through the blogosphere.

I was listening to one of my regular podcasts (the Survival Podcast), and Jack the host revisited a topic that surfaced last June.  A nice couple in Oak Park, Michigan had to replace their sewer pipe going out to the street.  Since the yard was torn up anyway, they decided to put in 5 raised beds and grow some nice veggies instead of boring old grass again.  They even called the code enforcement dept and asked if it was ok.  They hired somebody to build them some nice raised beds.  Look at the pictures, there's nothing unattractive about this.  They spent significant time, effort and money to make it look nice and be in compliance.

When she called code enforcement, the response was basically, "I'm not sure.  The code doesn't say anything about vegetables, just that it has to be "suitable plants and vegetation" or something to that effect.  Their thoughts were, "Hey, tomatoes and basil and other nice looking herbs and so on, should be plenty suitable."  The city thought otherwise, and eventually issued them a citation and then took them to court. 

As a Libertarian, I would like to allow my neighbors to grow anything they want, anywhere on their property, so long as they don't hurt me or my property value.  So, done nicely, some raised beds with fresh organic veggies would make me happy.  And, I have a whole orchard and garden in my front and side yard, so this is not just a theoretical discussion for me.

The prosecuting attorney told them in no uncertain terms, that they were definitely going to be prosecuted and, made an example of.  The couple elected to have a jury trial, thinking it would be hard to find 12 people who would find tomato plants and basil and oregano, to be heinous and against the law.

Before the trial could happen, the city of Oak Park got their telecom and computer network melted to the ground by the tens of thousands of calls and emails, virtually all of which were opposed to the city's actions.  They backed down, and dropped all the petty and vindictive strategies they were pursuing against this family.

Which brings me to my point.  If you love freedom, and you love liberty, and you think we still have private property and the rights that go along with that, and you become aware of some other example of a town, city, village, Homeowner's Association, etc, trying to ram some ridiculous and out of date standard down somebody's throat for growing some veggies in the front yard...


The internet, and especially the blogosphere, has created a highly aware, and highly responsive community of people who just don't tolerate abusive and petty government.  If you run across an example of inappropriate government at any level, telling people they can't grow food (nicely) in their own yard, front OR back, send an email to and put something like this in the subject line:

government interfering with gardeners again in _________________

He will put the word out, and then we will put the word out.  It turns out that small government at least, is responsive when tens of thousands of people start shouting at them and publicizing their petty tyrannical ways.

Hopefully, we will never have to do that again, but I am somewhat cynical about that.

Power to the People!

Go plant some sweet corn in your front yard as an act of protest.  Well, wait till next spring.

Finest regards,


Monday, August 15, 2011

Process update and an example of how not to run your state...

Welcome visitors!

Hopefully your late summer has been just as great as ours.  The oppressive heat is gone for now, humidity levels dropped a bit.  The garden is looking great (13+ foot tall corn, seriously...), ripe tomatoes.  The new kiwi vines are looking very vigorous.

We are making headway on the kitchen again.  We had a string of things that virtually stopped progress for a while, all good things mind you, but stopped nevertheless.

Now that we have that out of the way again, progress picks up with renewed vigor and determination.  We just about have the old kitchen floor leveled out.  Prior to our ministrations, there was a 3" difference in elevation between the high spot and the low spot.  It felt like walking on a ship's deck that was pitching and rolling. 

I also have all the supplies to rough in the propane line and the plumbing drain and supply lines.  Then comes 6 mil polyethylene vapor barrier, 5/8" drywall, wads and gobs of blown in cellulose insulation, cabinetry and appliances.  I am very hopeful to have the drywall and insulation done before it gets seriously cold out.  It will be odd, considering the floor was too cold to stand on last winter, and this winter should be toasty warm.

I ran across two compelling things today, about how not to run your state government.  The first is a blog from a small business person, who has finally had it with Kalifornia and is moving to a state that isn't trying to punish the entrepeneur with punitive taxes and regulations.  She figures she will keep 10% more of her income in her pocket by moving to Texas, which will allow her to hire another person and maybe even cut her hours a little.

You could read her interesting story here: Leaving California

It turns out, she is not alone.  Droves of businesses are fleeing the state due to high taxes and regulations.  Little friendly reminder to all you governors and state legislators who read my blog, if you tax us enough, and make life difficult enough through ever more legislation, we will leave your state and go somewhere that is more business friendly.  Small businesses (as defined by less than 500 employees) provide roughly 2/3 of all the jobs in this country. 

This site claims Kalifornia has lost 25% of all its manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2007.  Kalifornia claims to not track this data, but I find that shockingly improbable.

Read all the details here: Sending businesses packing from California

This is the unavoidable consequence of spending too much money at the state level.  I am once again, and still, a proponent of small government.

I know this seems like advanced rocket science to state legislators, based on the number of states that are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, but the math really does work out better in the end if you spend less than you make, all the time.

Finest regards,


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Very First Fruit

After several years of carefully tending his fruit trees, Troy has gotten his very first edible fruit:
Although he offered it to me, I gave him the honor of eating it:
He said it was "average." Not exactly glowing praise. I noticed, however, that it was a free stone peach and that makes it very good for canning (which is our primary interest)...and you can always add more sugar. ;)

One of the peach trees is just loaded with fruit:
These are Harken Peaches.

The other peach tree with fruit is the Frost Peach:
They are much less red (as you can see) and do not have that irresistible sun-kissed look about them.

One apple tree (Empire) has a couple apples, but they are small and bug-spotted and don't look very appealing. I don't think we'll get any apples this year.

As for the rest of the garden, the only thing blooming now that the glads are done are the hibiscus bushes.
The pink blooms are gorgeous and huge. (Larger than my niece's face, as I told her.) This one bush has both pink blooms and white ones with a dark red center. Is that normal?

They both are putting out a incredible number of buds. You may not be able to make them all out, but this bloom, for example,
has seven more buds waiting right behind it. It's a good thing, because they don't last much more than a day once they're open.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is Remodeling Your House the Key to Not Developing Alzheimer's?

So now that we have cleared the kitchen floor, it's time to build on top of it again. When he's not melting lead, Isaac has been learning how to make sure your floor is level.

The first thing to do is to tie a piece of string tight across the floor at one side, making it the height you want the subfloor to sit on. In our case, this is the same height as the floor joists Troy put in on the newly poured concrete on the west side.

Here is the string on the south end of the kitchen:
Barely above the floorboards.

Here it is on the north end:
About 1.5" above the floor. This is right in front of the bathroom door. I only had to trip on it twice before it was mapped in my brain and I started automatically stepping over it. It's occurred to me that having your house in constantly new arrangements of disarray is very good for your brain. You're repeatedly being presented with new challenges and having to relearn things you thought you knew. I think this is even better than crossword puzzles (or dare I say, even knitting?!) for staving off Alzheimer's. Troy and I should do well in old age...

Anyway, back to the kitchen. After you have the master string in place, you put up new pieces of string perpendicular to the first over each floor joist in turn and fill in the gap with an appropriately sized shim.

Make sure you have a lot of shims in various heights.
Isaac made many shims from 1/16" to 1-1/4" by 1/16" increments.

They are then glued into place on top of the floor joists (which are under the floor boards, of course).
When the subfloor goes in, it will sit on the shims, still be supported by the floor joists, but be level.

Isaac has been getting quite a number of them done during the days and Troy does one or two in the evening.

It will be so exciting to have the subfloor down and have one continuous floor surface. It almost boggles my mind that that may happen soon. Small steps and milestones...I relish them all!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

What We Do on Sunny Sunday Afternoons

Troy and Isaac recently realized they could get a very big fresnel lens from an old rear-projection TV. (You know, the kind that nobody wants any more, especially if they're broken. The guy they got this one from said his wife wouldn't even let him keep it in the garage anymore; they had to go somewhere else to pick it up.)

And they realized they could use this lens to focus the power of the sun and burn just about anything...

Before application of concentrated solar power:
(These are lead wheel weights--fingers included for scale.)

The first video nicely shows the set up of the lens. Isaac built the frame for it. I will warn you that the end of the video is blurred and you may quit watching anytime it's not worth it to you. (Besides the set up, it also records the breaking of a bottle, the instantaneous scorching of lumber and the melting of an aluminum lid.)

This next video shows the melting of the lead shown in the pics above. I would encourage you to watch past the first part--I finally figure out that I need to focus the video while it's shooting. (It gets better, I promise.)

Here is the brick after it's had lead melted on it. The circle in the middle is melted brick, a/k/a glass.

For reference:
Lead melts at 400-500^C
Aluminum at 660^C
Bricks melt at 1,000^C

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Kitchen's Torn Apart...Time to Make a Plan

We had a good trip to Missouri last week visiting with family. (You can see I played around with the panoramic feature on my camera. If you look close (click pic to embiggen) you can see how it's stitched together from separate pictures.)

On the way home, I put on my construction hat and got Troy to list off everything we need to yet do in the kitchen so we could get a little organized and I would know what was going on. It was a long list.

Before winter sets in, we would like to:
1. rough in plumbing for sink, tap over stove, and island sink
2. put in propane line for stove
3. remove pipes from old boiler heat
4. level floor
5. put in subfloor
6. rough in wiring, including power for island (some of this is done)
7. install or at least rough in stove vent
8. put up vapour barrier
9. put up drywall
10. blow insulation into walls
11. put foam insulation on ceiling
12. drywall on ceiling
13. install tile on floor where the oil stove will go
14. install oil stove and new oil storage tank

After that we can (listed in no particular order):
15. final measure and order cabinets
16. install cabinets
17. install cabinet lights
18. remove paneling from wall
19. install counters (including island)
20. install broom closet behind fridge
21. build bench for booth
22. tile back splash
23. install wood flooring
24. install ceiling lights
25. trim window
26. run telephone wire

That will get us a functional kitchen with counters, floors, ceiling on one half, and lights. And it will include all the normal appliances in the kitchen--how exciting! We expect to live in a kitchen with unfinished interior walls and half a ceiling for a while. This will give Troy the access he'll need to wire and plumb the upstairs. We also are moving the door to the bathroom and probably won't finish the kitchen walls until we move the door (which won't be at least until we get the upstairs bathroom fully functional).

Troy is planning to build the bench seating for the booth so that may not get done for a while either as we can use our table and chairs in the corner without any loss of convenience.

That's the plan. (Let me know what we forgot!)

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