Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Thanksgiving Day Project

Three piles of leaves, all piled up pretty. There didn't seem to be any sense in raking the lawn more than once, so we just let it all fall before we started. These leaves are in a compost pile now. Most of them. Some of them I just raked into the woods. :)
Andy and Mindy and the boys are in Utah for Thanksgiving, but all of the other West siblings and their parents are in Chester. The project for the day was to fill the woodshed - and it's all done. It was a good job for the day - everybody helped, everybody who wanted to got to drive the tractor, and we have almost 2 cords of wood tucked away in our shed. We also extended the front of the shed by two feet for more protection from the elements. Bring on the snow!
The work crew, with the full woodshed behind us. It is a good feeling to have the winter's heat all set aside and prepared.
So... I don't know why Chris looks so ridiculous, but here was our table for Thanksgiving. We borrowed two long tables from some friends, added a sheet of melamine to the middle, and ended up with a table nearly 8' square. It left lots of room for a great centerpiece, and plenty of food to make the rounds as well. A lovely meal, and we certainly have a lot to be thankful for. I mean... for which to be thankful.
We will not be together for Christmas this year, so... in the spirit of family togetherness, we held a vote, put on some Christmas tunes, cut a tree, and we all opened one present from each other. It made for a wonderful day and a good memory. And we all promised not to feel bummed if our presents feel small this year on the real Christmas day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Woodshed

Why lift with your knees when you can lift with hydraulics? We are getting ready for winter here, so most of the progress this week was focused on either cleaning the house to prepare for holiday company, or cleaning up the yard to prepare for snow and cold. The woodshed was moved away from the house - to put it on a better foundation, to better expose it to light, and to simplify the area around the house.
This kindling pile will probably last us all winter. We split this from left overs and scraps of ship lap exterior boards and tongue and groove interior boards.
The woodshed in its final location. At least for a few years. It gets plenty of sunlight, but that's moot, really. By the time the wood gets to this shed, it will have already dried properly in the sun and wind for a year or two.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Stone Walls

We have done some stone work outside recently - this wall is on the West side of the house, right outside the kitchen windows. It is about three feet from the house, and will become a planting bed of some kind.
Last spring we made a mental checklist of things that would make the next winter easier. A woodshed was at the top of the list. Digging under an ice and snow covered tarp for wood every weekend was not always pleasant, and the wood wasn't always as dry as it could have been. This shed will hold about a year's supply of wood; just under two cords. It is built from leftover 2x8s and sheathing boards from the house, and placed on top of a 4'x13' pallet that came with the roofing. When we move it into its final position, I will have a few more pictures.
This is another wall that has seen some progress. We scraped away a lot of soil to get to this point, and the grades will carry water away from the house. The far end of the wall will circle around a patio - possibly stone of some kind, possibly just a nice circle of lawn. The close end of the wall needs to have a drainage line plumbed under it before we finish the wall and the grading.
We were not the first people to use our piece of the planet. An old, debris-covered stone wall was uncovered this week up near the driveway entrance. I wonder who built it, and how long ago? We added a few rocks to this wall, and it adds a welcoming touch to the entrance.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Pantry Shelves

I have rededicated myself to the blog, and will actively post weekly again. Sorry about the lapse. :)

We worked on the garden over the last few weeks. There are eight trailer loads of packed leaves on the garden, along with 50 lbs. of pelletized urea. We tilled it under on Saturday, 10/31. Every year the soil will get better, and we look forward to aiding that natural process.
The tilled garden, seen from near the house. Only the kale remains.
We built shelves for the utility/storage/pantry downstairs. Most of them are flat, but one 36" section is built to facilitate the efficient rotation of cans. For the rotating can section, we used 3/4" plywood for the sides, 1/2" plywood for the shelves themselves, aluminum drywall trim as the shelf stopper, and ripped 2x4s at an angle for the back end. All four shelves are built the same, but the top slanting shelf is adjustable, so it will accomodate anything from a 2 5/8" soup can to a 4 3/8" fruit can. We used a router to cut the shelf supports in the sides, and 1/2" metal screws to attatch the drywall trim.
This is a very pretty time of year in New England. This is oak and honeysuckle in a windowbox.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Faces

Over the course of our build, we have noticed many knots in the wood that, once in awhile, really appear to be looking at us. Not all of these knots ended up in the house, and not all of them are still visible now. But below are a few of the "faces" that are in our house. Maybe you will find them when you come to visit. :)

This is the Chinese dragon.
This is the devil-man. He seems to be friendly enough, though I wouldn't try to double-cross him.
This is the flying Grover, complete with goggles and cape.
This is the ghoul.
This is the ostrich. Apparently he has a woodchip in his left eye, and that has been giving him some trouble.
We made a birdhouse a few weeks ago to cover the top of the septic vent pipe. This house is a bit more appealing than green and white PVC. It also has a familiar shape to it. We used left-over scraps from the interior walls to build it, and some small pieces of leftover roofing to close up the top. It is a scale model of the house - 1' = 1/2". We dressed up the post below it, also, but not in time for this snapshot.
The garden has really come alive! The corn is 8' tall now, and even though not every stalk will produce an ear, it sure is pretty. We will have lots of stalks for decoration this fall.
Some work has been done on the stone wall in front of the house. The curve out toward the East is done, and we have scraped enough dirt away to begin the second wall and patio. We used a garden hose to lay out the curve for the second wall, and now there are stakes in place where we will tie a leveling string. The patio will be on the SE corner (on the right of this picture), and will be about 15' in diameter. Mostly round, possibly elliptical.
Mindy planned a 'girl's night out' at our place last week. We set up a movie screen between two trees, borrowed the projector from church, and with some speakers and a lovely Harman Kardon receiver from craigslist, we were all set.
Apparently watching Princess Bride under the stars and bundled up in quilts makes for quite a good time. I am sure we will do this again. And maybe the boys will be invited next time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Finished Main Floor

We spent 48 man-hours sanding the main floor and the treads on both stairways. Dust was everywhere! In every room, every crack, on every piece of furniture... everywhere.
Chris' head after using the belt sander for a few minutes.
Karen working on the stairs to the basement. We still have a few ballisters to put into place... we keep forgetting about those.
Once the floors had been totally vacuumed and wiped clean, we used rags to apply the 50/50 mix of raw dark tung oil and mineral spirits. Mason jars worked pretty well as the impromptu container of choice, but they did get slippery.
More oil application, though at this angle it is harder to see the change in color.
After sanding, before the polyurethane.
While Chris was at Scout Camp last week, Karen and Jenn Baird polyurethaned the floor. Karen put on one coat every night for four consecutive nights, and Jenn was there for a couple nights, too. Lots of protection, and it really changes the way the house feels.
The dinning room after the two coats of oil was applied.
The dining room again, but after the poly. The first coat of poly was applied with brushes, and the consecutive coats were applied with 9" short nap rollers.
The view from the kitchen, looking through the dining room and into the living room.
Same view, but after the poly. Are we seeing a pattern here?
A random picture of the living room before we put all the furniture back in place. It was very empty and quiet while Andy, Mindy and the boys were on vacation!
Sunday morning sunlight coming in the East windows in the living room. Sometime around 7 am.
Chris and Karen's empty bedroom, with 7 am sunlight streaming through to the floor.
Tuckered out and just taking a moment respite before we clean all the furniture and put it back into place.
The living room from the stairway to the loft. With a few things back in place, it really feels like a finished home. It's as if people should be living here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Chain Gang

Lots of pictures this week. Time goes by all too quickly, and a lot has transpired since the last post. We have had an unusual number of cool, wet days here in New England this June. The silver lining is that we haven't had to worry about watering the garden for awhile. The lawn gets a little long in between the dry days, so we have been able to rake up some clippings for next year's garden. I suppose if you really want to stretch the concept, that's a blessing, too.
Benson has had a good time learning to use the lawnmower. He would prefer a model with powered wheels, but this is what we have for now. It's light enough that he can start it, run it, and haul it up most of the slopes all on his own.
This is what Benson would rather be doing instead of mowing! We have been scraping away some material from the front of the house as we prepare for a stone wall and some flower beds. The rear blade is great for snow, but it doesn't push down into hardpacked sand and dirt very well without some additional weight. Andy and Chris are providing ballast in this picture. Some things you just can't ask your wives to do. :)
Andy and Chris were both translated a few weeks ago. Feet first, apparently. They came back when they remembered that the house wasn't finished yet.
Happiness is a pile of rocks on a Saturday afternoon.
Working on the chain gang. It took some cajoling to get all three boys to agree to pose for this one, and in the end I think only Eli really pulled off a somewhat convincing scowl. Chris can hardly do anything without a smile, so he's not one to quibble.
A different view of the garden than usual. This also shows a new turn-around spot that we built at the edge of the lawn. We have only used it a few times, but when the parking spots in the back are full, this will be handy.
This stone is now part of the retaining wall at the edge of the garden. The hole is one of the bore holes from the blasting for the foundation. We still have detonation cord all around the house, and we keep digging up more as we build the stone wall in front.
Piles of material. Straw/grass clippings on the left, semi-composted grass and moss in the middle, and branches/brush on the right. Eventually these will be mixed and composted, and will all be spread around the garden area.
The first layer of stones is just visible here in front of the house.
Progress on the wall. We used a water level and a long string between stakes to keep things level from the house.
Further along on the wall.
Chris and Benson put up some towel hooks in Chris and Karen's bathroom.
Mindy scraped away some more dirt from the front of the house. Within about 8' of the house, it's all sand that was backfilled after the foundation was poured. Any farther away than that and we get into untouched dirt. The dirt has roots and rocks (I know, in western Mass, can you believe it?), so we have had to make multiple passes with the tractor blade to keep pulling away material. The rototiller has been handy here, too. The tines really churn up the hard packed dirt, and then we can pull it away with the tractor.
Benson used the bucket to backfill the stone wall with dirt for the planting bed.
With Andy, Mindy and the boys out to UT for three weeks on vacation, Chris and Karen are busy on the inside. While they are gone, we will sand, oil, and seal the floors on the main floor. First step? Move all the furniture somewhere else. We don't have all that much, but it sure seemed to fill up the loft.
Sanding party! Some friends came over to help us work on the floor, so we put all the willing hands to work. The railing and stairs to the downstairs are sanded, and by the end of the night, all of the walls and ballisters were taped in preparation for the tung oil.
Karen sanded the floor in our bedroom, and moved into the living room. The floors were fully sanded before we moved in, but have built up a burnished feel as we have lived here for a few months. We want to take off that hard protection so the tung oil soaks into the wood evenly and thoroughly.
Janice worked some of the kitchen area. Her dad did most of the work here, but you only get to see his shoes here.
The sanders. From left to right: Karen, Chris, Cori, Jenny, Janice, Emma, Dave, Brian, Jenn, and Carol. Whew! Never a dull moment when you're friends of the Wests.
Chris and Brian formed a transition piece to fit between the kitchen floor and the mudroom tile. A router might have worked well to curve the wood properly. Or perhaps the tablesaw. Maybe a plane and some elbow grease. In the end, though, the tool of choice was a belt sander and 36 grit paper. This will be oiled and sealed to match the floor. Meanwhile, the fridge was being struck by lightning.
One more shot of the garden. We have eaten some swiss chard and some peas so far this year. From the hillside, we have had 9 raspberries. More peas will be ready soon, and we look forward to finding ways to eat everything we have grown.