Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Benson

This is our resident sled-master, Benson. The video was too big for the time I had at the library yesterday, but I definitely think Benson deserves his own post for this one. He did great!

We practiced once with a log, but apparently he's really good with a sled, and he had no trouble at all tracking a perfect line.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Color Swatches

We tried a new color on the wall during a recent committee meeting, but I don't think we're really sold on the red, either. It was a very happy red, though, so maybe it will come back into favor before we choose. Karen is trying to pout, but I don't think she totally pulled it off.
We tried the same red in Chris and Karen's bathroom, but quickly ruled it out. As you can see, we are trying on some blues and greens there now. Blue just seems like such a natural bathroom color. The natural wood in the bathroom will be whitewashed/pickled soon, so the final color will be paired with a white, not the tan of the pine. If you look closely, you can see the exhaust fan in the opposite wall. It doesn't blend in yet, but it will when we're done. With so much wood in a bathroom, Chris wanted a beefy fan. This one pulls 150 cfm, and does a good job of exhausting moisture.
Chris and Karen's bedroom with more color choices on the wall. Karen is thinking a brownish-reddish-brickish-spicy color would look pleasant here. On the high wall here, she wants to hang a quilt. That will absorb some sound, and should look really good - of course, it will also eliminate the option of Christopher's lofty bivouac.
What to do when it's 15 degrees below zero? Go camping! Chris and some scouts went camping during the record cold we had a week or two ago. Eli fit nicely in the stock pot, but he didn't want to sleep outside with his crazy uncle.

Why won't the chimney pull the smoke out of the stove? Oooohhh, it's plugged. Hmmm... this was the first time we cleaned it on Saturday. Yes, the first time. We have 22' of chimney pipe, and apparently our fires are burning too cool and allowing creosote to form, which drops to the bottom of the pipe and onto a shelf above the firebox. The cool fires are caused a few ways - burning too slowly by limiting the air, burning green wood, or burning wet wood. We thought that the sap in softwoods caused creosote, but apparently that isn't the case. Green hardwood will cause more creosote than seasoned softwood. We originally burned a mix of both soft and hard woods, but have lately switched to straight hardwood since it burns so much hotter. And that is why pine gets such a bad rep. Pine doesn't make more creosote, it just burns at a temperature that allows it to form. Lesson learned.
The second time we cleaned the stove. A pretty nasty pile of creosote dropped out of the pipe after we smacked the pipe a few times. Andy climbed up on the roof and dropped a cherry log down the chimney to dislodge anything the vibrations missed, but by then we had the pipe about 95% cleaned out. Use a brush on your chimney pipes if you like, but we like smackin' 'em. Yes, we will buy a real chimney sweep brush to do this properly in the future. We also picked up a magnetic chimney thermometer from Lehman's. That will allow us to monitor pipe temps so we can keep the fire burning above the temp at which creosote forms.
Cleaned out and cranking on Saturday evening. It's great to have heat like this, though we recognize that it isn't free. There is a lot of time spent in cutting, splitting, stacking, moving, burning wood, and maintaining the stove takes its time also. Worth it? We think so, but it's not a panacea.
Eli is kind of photogenic, and it's hard not to take pictures of him all the time. He and Benson were out sledding with Uncle Chris one afternoon when this was taken.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Paint Swatches

For those of you who enjoy life in states outside the northeast, here are a few recent pictures from Western Mass.

Every December for as long as they can remember, Andy and Chris' family converge at Auntie's house near Leominster for Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. Apparently there was a storm during the day of this year's Christmas get-together, but we all decided to make the 2-hr drive regardless. We had a great drive - everything is all hushed and muffled with that much snow on the ground. The road conditions were pretty poor, but that made things all the more adventurous.
This is what the car looked like when we arrived. The Swedes sure do build a good car for weather like this.
Karen busied herself on Saturday sanding and applying some poly acrylic to the railing to the loft. She likes to pose, too. You can see one of the color choices in the background there, but don't expect to see it again. It lost steam fairly quickly in the committee, and at final tally, only managed a 25% approval rating.
Here is the paint swatch in the kitchen. Unfortunately... or fortunately, I suppose... this color fared even worse, and ended up with no votes at all. Some described it as too sugary, too sherbety, and one committee member even said the color made her feel like she needed to brush her teeth. Hmmm... not good feedback for Behr. We'll keep looking, but both of these walls will end up some shade of green or another.
We finally finished the last two feet of wall in Chris and Karen's room. And yes, we practiced workplace safety at all times. The ladder is on a chair which is on the dining room table, and that rests squarely on the floor. With the rafters in place, we trimmed the sheathing boards to fit around them. For the space between the rafters, we cut boards to size and used the pocket jig to provide mounting holes into the rafters. Pocket holes are basically a fancy way to toe-nail. Toe-nailing here would never meet the WAF.
A bit more paint on the wall, and a bit of sunshine on the floor.
Like I said... she likes the camera. Though just between you and me, I suspect she kind of has a thing for the cameraman, too. Just sayin'. She was applying the poly acrylic at this point, and seemed pretty pleased with her progress.
Ever wonder what the snow looks like when it falls off a tin roof? Mindy probably won't park her car here anymore. Andy shoveled it out on Sunday morning, and we have moved things around so we don't need to be in the line of fire.
The 6" of snow we had on Saturday night made a pretty sight on Sunday morning. Church was postponed until 3 in the afternoon to give people a chance to 'dig out', and we had a good time getting the snow all straightened away.
A few weeks ago, we had a faulty connection in the tractor somewhere, so we shoveled the driveway by hand. Yes, all 800' of it. We are thrilled to have the tractor doing its part now, and were very happy with how much easier it is than shoveling. I know, hard to believe.
Between the bucket on the front and the blade in the back, our little tractor is a very useful tool. With some practice over the next few months, this process will get more efficient, but even so, it's fun to move snow!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Drywall Progress

Mud. Lots o' mud. That's how things are going now, with progress being made in the kitchen, two bathrooms, a bedroom, and a hallway. With more progress being thought about in another bedroom and another bathroom. Yes, it seems like it will never end.

This is the South wall in the loft. There is a 3-bent bedroom on the other side of the wall where Andy and Mindy are living for now. This wall continues from the peak to the basement, so there is a considerable amount of surface area here.
We installed two medicine cabinets in Chris and Karen's bathroom. They are surface mounted, but will eventually be replaced with flush mounted built in cabinets. The wall they are on is 4.5" deep, so the permanent cabinets should be big enough for all sorts of things.
At 10:30 am, the sunlight matches directly with the orientation of the house, and the light from the window parallels the grooves on the floor. Plus, it's pretty. :)
This is Andy and Mindy's bedroom at the moment. What, doesn't everybody keep tablesaws in their bedroom? We spent some time working here on Friday and Saturday, and have made a bit of progress with the last of the insulation and a bit of drywall. The South wall also has 16' of window sill installed, along with drywall below the sill. Consensus hasn't yet been reached about the wall above the sill. The possibilities include bookshelves, sheetrock, bare wood, and several combinations of each.
We anchored the final pieces of insulation to the foundation with 4" tapcon screws through some 2x4s that we ripped in thirds. With the rigid foam stuck tight against the concrete, the air spaces that would cause moisture accumulation are eliminated.
The boys' bathroom under the stairs has seen some attention, and with some sanding and another skim coat or two will be ready for painting.
The same bathroom, but on the vanity side of things.
This is the view from within Andy and Mindy's room. As you can see, there is lots of light coming through the egress windows on the South wall. The craft room in the background is much darker because it is so closed off, but every room with southern exposure is very bright. The doorjams are secured, and the double french doors are primed, but not yet installed. We will put those up after all the woodworking tools are cleared out of the room.
Another view of the South wall, showing the window sill and the sheetrock below it. There are some 2x4s stacked on the sill that are as twisty as can be. We made the mistake of leaving them flat on the concrete floor for too long, and they have all twisted beyond the point of being usable.
The snowshoes all hung on the wall... thanks, Mom and Dad!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Vestibule Supports

So... this post is pretty weak sauce, but it's better than missing the whole week, right?

Mindy gets credit for most of the pictures this week, since Chris left his camera somewhere over the holidays. Mindy likes to take pictures of her boys. :)

While the sleds were buried under the snow a week or so ago, Mindy and the boys improvised and found a place to slide on their own. Incidentally, you can see the supports we put up to strengthen the vestibule roof.
Another view of the slide. Also visible here is the back side of the woodpile. We are pretty curious about the heating needs for the house, and we figure we have between 1 and 2 cords of wood stacked back here. We seem to light a fire in the later afternoon/early evening most days, and that keeps the house plenty warm. We open a window when we clear 80 degrees, but 70-75 feels awfully nice when it's single digits outside.
New pajamas on Christmas Eve! I don't think the boys understood the pose, but we thought it was funny. Benson didn't.
Thank you, Mom and Dad! We have seven pairs of snow shoes hanging in the mudroom now thanks to Andy and Chris' parents. They'll take some getting used to, and we are all looking forward to a really big snow so we can try them out.
The boys enjoy watching car videos on Chris' computer. On a work related note, you can see the sheathing boards cut and placed on the windowsills in the background. The boards had just come in from outside, so we let them dry (shrink) for a few days before we nailed them down.
Like I said. Weak sauce. We'll have more up early next week, because we actually have made some good progress on the downstairs that we're excited to share.