Monday, December 22, 2008

The Boys' Bathroom

Signs of the season. We had our first big snow of the year this past weekend, and everything is beautifully white. The sleds, unfortunately, are buried underneath the snow somewhere. Perhaps we'll have a short thaw so they can be recovered before spring.
Andy spent some time in the boys' bathroom this week, framing in tricky bits and putting up drywall. Between the stairs and the plumbing, there is a lot of time-consuming work here.
Same view as the previous photo, but a little further along. With some good tape and mud, this will look really good soon. We put up a bit more drywall after this shot, and only have a few more night's work in here before we can start to finish off the surface.
The other side of the shower. The supply for the shower head is visible here, and will be plumbed directly through the wall.
Between the two weekend days, we had just about 18" of snow. On the right side of the house, above the living room, you can see where a large section of snow slid off the roof. When rain falls off the house, it drops straight down once it clears the edge of the tin. Snow is a totally different story. Snow gathers mass and inertia, and hits the ground about 10' from the house - exactly where the roof pitch would put it if the roof continued all the way to the ground. There is quite a 'wumph' when it hits, so we will definitely not be parking any cars alongside the kitchen windows!
We didn't clear the snow on Saturday, but three out of four cars drive through the snow just fine. The Miata knows when it is out of its element, and stays parked safely at the top.
Over the stone wall and into the clearing. The trails through the woods are gorgeous this time of year, and the hemlocks in particular really add to the scenery.
This is what the cars look like after tromping through a foot of snow. Sometimes we go up the hill a little sideways, with all four wheels spinning. Totally accidental, of course. Safety first!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Ice Storm

First off: the local library doesn't trust its patrons with a right-click, so I am unable to adjust the order of these pictures. If they don't comprise a flowing narrative, please forgive me.

For those of you not in the Northeast, we had a major ice storm last week. The worst ice storm in decades, they say. We lost power at our house for only three days, but some people in our area are still out of power, and may not have it back by Christmas. The utility companies have said they basically have to rebuild their entire distribution grid. Lots of work for everybody, that's for sure.

Andy took the day off work when he saw all the ice. Smart move. It would have been a long, slow drive. Andy and Mindy went for a walk with the boys down to the brook, which was really moving with all the rain that had fallen. There is a video of this section of the brook at the end of this post.

Dory had a great time hopping around down by the brook. She is always happy to bound around.

The brook was pretty swollen, and approached both banks. It didn't overflow like it has in years past, but it was still an impressive sight.

Andy's artsy shot through some ice and over the stone wall to the house in the background. We missed most of the major ice by about 100' of elevation. Just a little higher and we might have had lots of trees down like some neighbors had. In the sunlight on Saturday and Sunday, the sparkling ice was incredible, though. Not something you see very often.

Andy and Chris fiddled around outside on Saturday. We straightened up the back of the house, cleared some parking spaces, and cut a lot of kindling. We should have kindling for at least a month or two.
What to do when the girls are out shopping? Take things apart on the dining room table. :) The generator saw a lot of use this past weekend with the power out, and it was making a rough squealing noise. It turned out to be a bearing in the genset, which will be replaced under warranty this week.
Ethan was awfully excited to see the generator. We ran it a few hours a day to run the refrigerator and the Christmas tree lights. Candles provided enough light and ambiance for the house, and the wood stove kept us plenty warm.
Eli fell asleep next to Dory one night by the wood stove. Cozy as can be.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Vestibule

I know, I know... the Christmas tree has nothing to do with building the house, but the outside shots show a little glimpse of what it is like to arrive at the house at night, with the glow of the wood and the doll-house like view of the inside.

Mindy likes to put the Christmas tree up on the weekend after Thanksgiving, so that is the Skyline tradition now. No, we didn't cut the tree from our land. Our trees are all forest growth, so they're either 70' tall and scraggly, or they're 3' tall and thin as a whisp. We could grow some just for Christmas, but those will all be a few years out. This tree came from a local tree farm, a cut your own place just up the road.A little further away, and a lot more fuzzy. Night shots are difficult without a tripod, and it's apparent that Chris didn't use one for this picture.
Getting ready for snow. One of the ag tires for the tractor needed to be inflated, so Chris took it to a shop to have the bead reset, and Andy bought a compressor on craigslist. Yes, we go there again. :) Ahh, it's good to be back. The front tires are set at 30 psi, and they're both on the tractor now, ready for the first snow. It's a little tractor, and we expect to have a lot of fun clearing the first good snowfall. After that... it may get pretty tedious.
We finished the North wall of siding on Saturday, complete with a motley selection of boards. Function over form, right? Besides, this is the back of the house, and aside from the blog, doesn't see much action right now. In a few years when the garage is in, and the bbq pit is done, the back of the house will be its own destination. Until then, it's the place where we pile everything that will one day fit in the garage.
Speaking of a garage, we decided that we needed somewhere to store our tools and spare parts and such. A full on garage is out of the question for this year, so we designed an addition to the house, one that will keep the weather off a few things over the next few months. Brian helped us finish the last bits on the North wall, and then stuck around to help design and install part of the vestibule. We chose the North side of the house, and will use the flat area just outside the craft room window. It's protected from the weather already, so with a roof overhead we hope it will really be a decent spot.
This isn't the final structure, but it's a solid start. We have a few more boards to put up for strength, some for looks, and some for convenience. It covers a 10' x 12' area.
A more distant view, but taken at the same time, so no further along in the process. Benson is familiarizing himself with the tractor. He thinks he's big enough to drive it. We think he's the right size to drive it, but we're not going to let him loose on it quite yet.
Benson helped nail the roof on the vestibule, and had a good time up there on the slant. He said he had a really good view from 12' feet off the ground. We really like the red of the finished boards, but these natural boards certainly have their own beauty, too. They will all be grey by the time spring comes around.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The South Wall of Siding

Andy installed the ballisters on the stairs to the loft this week. We haven't fully committed to a plan for the end of the railing or the top of the posts that support it. We're working on it. Sort of. It came up about a month ago, but we haven't discussed it in awhile.
Mindy had some fun at Ikea last week, so the boy's room is pretty well sorted. There is plenty of room for books, toys, and three little boys.
Robb and Colin, a father and son siding team, came out with some other friends on Saturday again. It's fun to get together with good people and do good work. This was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so we had lots of turkey and pie for lunch.
This is one of the retaining walls that help the house to settle into the ground. There are two more much like this one on the other side of the house. The windows on the half wall are pretty low to the ground, and we wonder if we'll need to shovel snow away from them during the winter.
Harold Gushue came out on Saturday, too. At 91, he's the oldest helper we've had out here. He even brought his grandfather's hammer to use on the house. Harold built a cottage on an island off the coast of Canada a long time ago, so this was all old hat to him. The view from the cherry tree. Maybe I should have taken this picture at night - then you wouldn't be able to tell that we'd run out of painted boards! I think we'll run out of primed boards before we're totally wrapped up, but they'll be ok for the next few months. By the end of the day we had boards past the windows on this wall. The East wall isn't in any of these pictures, but it's about 75% done. With as much help as we've had, it has been great to work on multiple walls at the same time. Ladders really become the bottleneck at that point.
The parting view from Saturday afternoon. With the siding up, it really looks like home now.

Words cannot describe the joy we feel when we come home to the house. With smoke curling up from the chimney, the lights of the Christmas tree in the central dining room window, and that beautiful red wall settled into the hill, it's an amazing thing to behold.

We truly appreciate every moment that has gone into this project, both our own and from all of our friends and family who have helped over the last year or so.

We love it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The First Siding Party

Eli put himself to sleep one night. He really enjoys feeling like one of the boys wearing "ear nobs". Chris and Andy were putting up sheathing boards in the boy's room that night, and with a hammer drill and a circular saw just a few feet away, this was the only sure way to get some rest!Apparently we didn't take a picture of the finished room, but you get the idea. The sheathing boards now extend up to the floor joists, and there are just a few pieces left to finish in between the joists and along the South wall. Speaking of the South wall - the sheetrock is in place on the lower half of the wall, and the window sill is installed. The sill is 18" of 3/4" poplar. It should hold up pretty well to the abuse a boy's room will see. We can't say the same for the window. That glass seems destined to meet a soccer ball within the next few months.
We cleaned up the dining room a bit - which means more boxes are piled in other rooms. Not very much is actually 'put away' yet, but at least is out of the sight. A bare floor gives your eyes some breathing room, so to speak.
The current state of the living room. The twin rocking chairs are in a cozy spot in front of the fire.
This armwah (it looks way cooler spelled that way) used to be a TV hutch in Andy and Mindy's house, but now it's a game closet. It's about 2" too wide to fit between those posts, so it isn't quite backed against the wall. There still seems to be plenty of room, though, and for now, it's a good spot to keep all the games.
Roger said he's been wanting to put stairs here since he first saw the doorway, and he finally got his chance. He and a bunch of other friends came by on Saturday to help with siding. When the ladders became the bottleneck, we set to work building these stairs and working on the boy's room.
It was a cold, blustery day. At 8 am we were still well below 20 degrees, and with the wind, it didn't feel much over 5. The sunlight on the South wall made it tolerable, and the excitement of watching the siding go up was worth the chill.
We primed and painted these boards several months ago. They were stacked neatly under plastic, and in the humidity of the summer months they seemed to have stuck together quite well. They're scuffed and well-worn, but still brand new! We are very happy with the look, and the weathered appearance really makes it seem old already. Good old, not used up and worn out old. We'll add a trim piece to the corner one day.
This is how we ended things on Saturday afternoon. The West wall is done, and 25% of the North and South walls are done, too. The gable ends of the house really soak up the time.
The parting shot from the cherry tree. We live in a barn!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Move. The What?! Yes, the Move.

This was a busy week at the homestead, and we have lots of friends to thank for the progress that was made. Thank you!

Robb came by two nights this week and installed some kitchen cabinets. He enjoyed using the pocket jig, and was impressed by how sturdy everything came out. We started installing the cabinets at the north end of the kitchen, with the cabinets snugged into the corner, then worked steadily south until we came to the gap for the stove. We left the remaining cabinets loose to give the plumber plenty of space to hook up the gas line to the stove.Karen cut a few boards to fit her bathroom, and decided to sand them before she put them in place. We had cleaned out the house a bit before this picture. It sure was handy to have the tools readily at hand on the workbench in the dining room, but it's really cool to have such an open floor space, too.
Dory really likes the orange chair. She curls right up in a ball. Andy is working on drywall, fitting pieces against the roofline near the peak of the house.
Karen with the Makita in the dining room. Within a few days, it will be unacceptable to run the circular saw in the dining room. Too bad. It makes for an awfully nice shop floor.
Don came by on Monday and Tuesday night this week. On Monday he applied the first coat of tung oil in the loft bedroom. On Tuesday, he applied the second coat. Sometime this coming week we'll begin the application of the carnuba wax.
This picture reminded me of Plato's cave. Andy was cutting drywall again. Yeah, he does that alot. He finished installing everything down to the basement, so it's one uniform plane for 3 1/2 stories.
Chris and Karen's tub is installed and working. I suppose we ought to sweep the floor, but after that... it's bath time. Sometimes a good hot soak is just what a body needs.
The power has been turned on upstairs, so most of the lights and outlets work now. Andy and Chris finished the chimney installation, including the 8' of chimney pipe outside the house and the necessary extended brackets. It looks very tall, but the draught should be ideal.So clean! Mindy did a lot of cleaning to prepare for the move. She went through an entire bottle of windex to take the sawdust off the windows. The house will never be this empty again.
Same view, but on Saturday morning. :) Full of stuff. You know how they say if you move in before the house is done, you'll never finish? Well, we believe that to be true, and we accept that it will remain so in our case. However, there are always more good things to do with your time than time to do them all. If a perfect house takes a back seat to something more worthwhile, them we're all for it.
A lot of friends helped us out with the move on Friday night. I know a lot of you reading this are also looking to build your own house, so let me point out what you may already know. There are friends, and then there are friends. Some friends will come by for an hour on a sunny afternoon and pound a few nails. And some friends won't quit until the work is done, regardless of the hour. We're blessed to have both kinds of friends, but some people in our lives really went the extra mile this week, and we look forward to serving them somehow in the future.
What to do with a working stove? Bake cookies! Karen is in the foreground unboxing kitchen supplies, Eli is stirring, Benson is trying to find baking powder, and Mindy is supervising the stirring. The range hood is not totally installed yet, but the stove works, the fridge works, and the sink works. Close enough for us. We'll finish the rest of it up later. No, really, we will. Before the garage, probably. Before the shop, though? Well, that's just crazy talk.
The living room has filled in a bit. The house has changed in very dramatic ways for us this week. It will never go back to what it was, and with the excitement of change there is always the sad tug of the memory of all the happy hours that brought us to this point.
We don't always work, you know. Eli and Chris played Mancala on Sunday afternoon.Mmmm... toasty. We lit the first fire on Sunday afternoon, and boy does it feel good! The chimney works beautifully, and there's nothing else quite like wood heat. It isn't really cold enough for a fire yet, but it was just too tempting sitting there empty.

We plan to work on the downstairs bedrooms this coming week, and expect to report good progress on that front when we write next.