Sunday, November 17, 2013

Living Room Update

From my experience, there are two magical moments in a room reno: When the drywall goes up and you have that first real-life experience of the physical feel of the room, and when the first coat of primer goes on and those walls suddenly looked finished.

Today I got the primer on the new walls in the living room. :D Big smiley face.

But let us back up. We tore the room apart on the last day of December and through January worked on getting it sealed and all the cracks insulated. Yes, there were big cracks in and between the wall boards. In early February, Troy installed a new front door which made a huge difference. By the end of the month we were installing new windows. In early March we reinforced the ceiling joists. Then Troy started the framing.

Then spring came and summer and we got busy with other stuff. But in late August and early September, Troy picked it back up (the threat of cold weather becoming ever more looming) and got the framing done.
Northeast corner
East wall
South wall
Then it was time for drywall. Troy and I did some together and then Troy's dad came for a day (or two?) and they finished it up. Boom! a room.
Panoramic view from northeast corner to southwest
Northeast corner
Southeast corner
Southwest corner
Northwest corner
The pictures are a little ahead of the story since you can see that the mudding is done in them. Before that could happen, we had to blow insulation in. We did that a few weeks ago on one Sunday. What a difference compared to the weeks of Sundays it took to insulate the shop. Troy just finished the mudding/sanding this afternoon and then I was up with a paintbrush and roller.

Primer. Boom! now you sense what the finished room will feel like.
Panoramic view from northeast corner to south wall.
(The freaky blue streaks are artifacts from the overhead light.)
Northeast corner
Southeast corner
Southwest corner
Northwest corner
I decided to prime the ugly wall in the last photo as well, but couldn't do it today. It's not the finished wall and we don't know what will happen there (plumbing and electric has to happen upstairs first), but even primer will look better than what's there.

Looking around the room before I cleaned up the paint supplies it looked very finished to me. But I realized that to a lot of people this would still be considered the "depths" of construction--there's no flooring, no ceiling, no trim, and an unfinished wall. But we are going to finish the painting, hook up the electrical (Troy's working on it as I type) and move in the furniture. The rest will come later.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pictoral Orchard Update

For years Troy has promised his fruit trees would overrun us with fruit. Hasn't happened yet, but this may be the year the trees make him an honest man:

This was a bush he got at Menards this spring. He's working on propagating some bushes on his own, but they won't be bearing fruit for a while.

Honeycrisp apples:
The other apples that I never remember:
(First year they've produced any fruit too.)


Columnar apple variety:
If you're wondering what all that white stuff is on the trees, it's a very fine clay Troy sprays on the trees (with water) to deter bugs.

And the bees have been happy too:

Thursday, May 02, 2013

A Few Pics, Just Because

I went for a short walk through the yard this evening and captured the following pics.
If you can tell me what this is, please do.
I planted it last year as a bulb, but can't remember what it is.

"Three sisters"

Pear blossom (see the bug?)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Things continue around the homestead.  We do not lack for work.  The living room continues to be remodeled.   I have 85 little blueberry sticks rooting in a heated frame outside.  There are two kinds of tomatoes started indoors next to the heater and under compact fluorescent lights. I hope to get the snow peas planted this weekend. We finally wore out our last wheelbarrow, so I picked up another new one from Menards yesterday.

As I assembled it in the living room, Christina asked, "That's not my birthday present right???"  I assured her it was not.

We are starting to split some wood for next winter.  We burned a lot this year, so we are somewhat behind for next year. My son Isaac will most likely not be visiting us this summer, since he is trying to get a summer job in a veterinary practice.  That's pretty much a requirement to get into vet school.  The consequence to that is we don't have a hired man to split most of our firewood now.  Humph...

I am more or less ready for the arrival of two packages of bees in the next two or three weeks.  You may expect regular reports from the apiary.

We have tons of blossoms just ready to pop open in our orchard.  If we are lucky, and don't get a killing frost like last year, we should have our first good harvest of apples and peaches.

In the past, I have mentioned the state of the economy, and the sorry state of our debt and banking system.  It is with sadness that I see further unravelling of the banking/debt fiasco.  More and more people are catching on to the grave and precarious condition of our economy.

John Titus is a lawyer. He has primarily done patent law. But he has also taken a very keen interest in the financial bailouts of Wall Street. He recognized that the official messages from Washington and the mainstream media were leaving gaping chunks of information out of the story of the banking crisis of 2008.

So much of the financial crisis has been spin doctored into generalities and conceptual problems. For example, “Credit was too cheap and available.” “There was too much leverage in the housing and mortgage backed securities markets.” It was just errant market forces. Capitalism run amok. Not so much...

In reality, the financial crisis of 2008, which is still utterly unresolved, was caused by fraud. Mr. Titus does a very good job of unpacking that—explaining in minute detail, exactly what happened, and is still happening.  He made a movie about it, "Bailouts".  It is a comedy, and a tragedy, all at the same time.

Most folks have heard and understand that Mortgage Backed Securities were many mortgages “bundled” together and then sold as a financial instrument/investment. Many of these underlying mortgages were unrealistic in terms of the ability of the homeowner to actually pay the payments. Further, the official valuations and assessments of house value were, in many cases, wildly optimistic. Thus, the housing bubble in a nutshell. At least, that's the official story.

While everything in the previous paragraph is true, it is still the tip of the iceberg. The big driving force behind the financial meltdown, was outright naked fraud. There are many examples of this. Bear Stearns, J.P. Morgan and others sold the same mortgages multiple times to different buyers. So, let's say BS securtized 5,000 mortgages, putting them all into a package, which we call a mortgage backed security. It's a type of bond, in which all of those assets are “bonded” together as collateral for the security. Conceptually, it's not a complicated thing.

Where things run horribly amok, is that BS put this group of mortgages together into a financial instrument, and then sold the security to more than one institution. The technical term for this is FLIM FLAM, or securities fraud. Literal actual fraud. You have perhaps heard of problems with banks foreclosing on a house, and then being unable to prove that the bank actually owns this house. The reason has to do with something called “wet ink” signatures.

Let's pretend that you (some institution) bought one of these mortgage backed securities. You gave BS the money, and BS gave you some documents. Those documents were supposed to transfer ownership of the underlying house mortgages to you. Hey, you bought them! But, since they sold the same mortgages to several different people (including you), they had to, ummmm, fake the documents multiple times. They literally forged documents and signatures to accomplish this fraud. A photocopy of a hundred dollar bill, is not as good as a real 100 dollar bill. A photocopy of your signature, is not really the same thing as your actual “wet ink” signature. You own jack shit. Yeah, fraud.

Ultimately everything worked out fine, because the TARP program just went in there and bought up all the “troubled assets” so the banking industry wouldn't crash and burn.

By “fine”, I mean the Federal Government just paid off most of the fraudulent mortgage backed securities with your taxpayer money. Then the banks paid it back (except, not really...) That is exactly how the mainstream media portrays this. In reality, it is the biggest theft in history. And it's not measured in billions of dollars stolen from you, the tax payer, it's trillions and trillions.

There are other variations of this scam, but they are all assuredly illegal. Nobody has really paid any significant price for all this illegality and fraud, because the Federal government is the fascist/plutocratic arm of the banksters (and other large corporate entities).
They stole from you. They are still stealing from you. The Fed is still “pumping in” 40 billion dollars a month to “stabilize” the banking system and inflate the value of the stock market to unrealistic levels. That's your money. You're going to have to pay that back. Yeah, that's theft from the taxpayers.

When they stop pumping all this fake money into the economy, the economy will crash. Then you and your family will get to suffer the consequences of that too. The longer they do the “free money out of thin air” trick, the worse the crash will be. The crash is a mathematical certainty. Only the timing and the severity are in question.

We have to put a stop to this, however painful that may be today. It will only be worse tomorrow.

Go watch this movie when it becomes generally available. Ask questions. Fire people. Lots of people.

a nice review of the movie:

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Joists, a Window, and Framing

It took about three weeks, but we have passed a milestone in the living room--we got the last of 10 ceiling joists up last weekend.

We "coupled" them to the existing joists which were in ok shape, but not wide enough to prevent sagging in the floor. It also seems that they didn't put the cross bracing in until after the joists had twisted and torqued out of shape.

Although we tried to adhere the new joist to the old with expanding foam and nails, some of the old joists were so twisted, the foam would have been completely useless. Troy stuffed scraps of wood between the old and new joists to give the new ones some support to keep them vertical.
It was certainly another example of how working on an old house is an adventure. Any time we thought we had the process figured out, the next joist would present another challenge. But we got it done, usually one or two joists in a session.

The good best news? As far as we can tell, this reinforcement has stopped the bedroom from rattling and shaking every time a truck goes by on the highway (and that's a lot). What a relief! We were hopeful that would happen, but you never know.

Another thing we finished since I've written here is the final window. It became rather drawn out. Troy ordered three windows for the living room. Eventually they came in. When we went to pick them up, the largest one was smashed.

We took home the other two and had them reorder the broken one, being very careful to check that the measurements were right and they were going to order the correct window. We don't know exactly what happened after that, but our best guess is that when we drove out of the yard, the guy at the gate scanned the wrong windows as delivered.

In any case, when Troy went to pick up the window they said was ready, it was the wrong window. Reorder again!!

Once we got the right window it was an adventure to install. Troy got things all set to go and then removed the old window. That's where is he got a surprise. I don't know the exact details, but part of the trim that is usually thinner where the window is was actually thicker. Or however you want to describe it, it results in the opening being smaller once the window is out. So Troy worked and worked with a planer and a chisel, and we went to put the window in. Wouldn't fit.
So he worked some more. And we went to put the window in. Wouldn't fit.

This went on til about 12:30 on a cold Wednesday night and then we were done for the night. The window wasn't done, but we were. So we left the new window propped (and secured) partially in the opening and went to bed.

It was an eventful week so we ended up not getting back to the window until Sunday! On Thursday, however, I remarked on just how cold it was. Troy pointed out that there was a gap more than an inch wide above the window...that's a lot of outside coming in! I had some foam to fix that and things weren't so bad for the next few days.

On Sunday we pulled the window back out again and Troy worked some more (and more) til he was really sure the window would fit. Then we stuck it in and this time it worked.

And finally, once the joists were done, Troy could start work on the framing:
He has the outline of the room laid out and the framework in place.
All I can think is that after framing comes drywall and then that means insulation...I need me some of that!! (And I can't believe I'm looking forward to insulating...)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Dusty, Dirty, and Smelly

That's what it's been like around here. But we've been getting work done.

A couple weeks ago, Troy and I worked on cleaning out the last of the insulation, dirt, and dust from the crooks and crannies of the walls. While I was working, I noticed this eerie hand print that showed up in the light.
Once things were cleaned off, Troy could fill in the cracks with expanding foam.
And some of the "cracks" were huge gaping holes. Especially on the south wall where some of the bays were completely open to the outside area under the porch roof. It is so satisfying to think of closing up those gaps. I'm also hopeful this will keep out the vast number of bugs that make their way in each fall. (I'm thinking of box elder bugs and "fake" ladybugs.)

We also did a bunch of work on the foundation area on the north wall. Troy found some termite damage and the rim joist had to be replaced. In order to do that we had to remove the concrete that was poured into each bay. It wasn't very robust concrete, but it still involved working a hammerdrill at eyelevel to clear it all out. Then Troy replaced the eaten wood with new pieces.

To help prevent further damage, Troy poured Borax into all the cracks around the perimeter of the room.
Once that was done, he sealed it all with expanding foam.
Troy has also replaced two of the three windows (the third window is becoming a saga, and it's still not in) and the front door.
We threw the old front door in between the kitchen and back room.
Hopefully it will keep some of the heat in the kitchen, and it's also a way to "try out" a door there. I think I want one there, but I worried it might make the room feel too closed in. But I think it'll be good.

Another thing Troy has done is move the woodstove:
It would have been too close to the new walls in its old location. When I first walked into the room with the stove in the new position, I didn't see how we were going to fit furniture in the room! It felt very small. I've since gotten used to it, and Troy tells me that the final position will likely be closer to the corner. For now, he wanted more room to work.
The first time Troy lit a fire in it, the new pipe billowed black smoke off it from the fresh paint. Since then, the smoke doesn't billow and it's not black, but it's still setting off the fire alarm in the bedroom upstairs. Pew!

Last night we knocked out all the cross bracing between the second-floor floor joists and ground off the remaining nails. We have some 2x12x20s that are going to go up to "back up" the existing joists. Wish us luck!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Further Work in the Living Room

After Isaac and I had our turn, the next day Troy joined in on the fun. I was out for errands in the morning, but came back to help out for the afternoon. By the time we quit, the ceiling was done and a lot of the walls were down too.
Looking SW (toward dining room)
Looking NW
On the outside walls there was a layer of 3/4" styofoam that was stuck to the plaster walls. The lathe and plaster had to come down, and then there was a lot of cellulose insulation, in some of the bays. Not enough to warm the room, but certainly plenty to make a mess. We have a mountain of garbage bags in the back waiting for future garbage days.
Looking SE
Looking NE
Apparently there was an outside door there at some point. It's the third one we've discovered (one in the kitchen and the one in the back room we opened up to use again).

I think this one supports my idea that the front of the house was built first and the rest was added on later because otherwise I can't imagine why you would put a door there. But my imagination may be limited. Oh wait, the best part about finding this door is that it is cardboard behind those 2x4s. And then there's siding. Yes between me and the out-of-doors was siding, cardboard, 3/4 syrofoam and paneling. That's just not enough in my book.

One guess on who installed the paneling:
We don't know who they are. I can only hope they lived here in the 70s because there's no other excuse for the paneling.

I just realized I'll never have paneling (like this stuff anyway) in my house again. This makes me happy.

A much more interesting find was this glass slide:
Troy knew that they were used in WWII to train people in identifying what were friendly aircraft or enemy aircraft. That way you knew whether to shoot them down.

Tom has been a big help this week as Troy has gone back to work and left Isaac to otherwise work alone. Tom and Isaac have cleared the rest of the lathe and plaster off the walls, cleaned and swept and cleaned some more, and Isaac caulked a lot of the cracks between the wall boards.

The plastic has had limited effect on the dust. Oh, I can believe in my head that it would have been worse without it, but it is bad. At first when we noticed the plastic blowing into the room (especially when we had the woodstove going), I thought this was a good thing--negative pressure, the dust won't blow out if the air is being sucked in. When we went to bed that night, we learned that all that "negative pressure" was caused by the warm air traveling through the hole in the ceiling around the stovepipe into our bedroom. Traveling with that warm air was a lot of dust. Everything is thickly coated, including the bed. It was horrible laying down the first night--every time you moved, the dust would get disturbed! The following day I covered the bed at least with a old flat sheet and that has helped.

It's all icky. But hopefully this is the worst of it for a while.

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