Sunday, June 30, 2013

Porch and Garage

I designed the house with a massive covered porch. Actually a combination carport and porch. It runs the entire length of the southern side of the structure so it's 64 feet long and 12 feet deep. Totally awesome. Or, it will be. At the moment it's an absolute mess because it's full of stuff we just dumped there for storage until we could get stuff organized. 

I didn't take pictures of the entire porch, but suffice it to say, the whole thing looked much like this. Wood, boxes, parts and equipment all jumbled together in a big mess.

Carport full of "stuff"
And the garage looks like this:

Just jammed in there

Dumped every which way

Impossible to find or use anything
Oh! The shame! Actually, this is what happens when you have to store your stuff before you're actually done with the storage area. But it's now time to drywall the garage and that means all this stuff has to come out. And when it's put back, it'll be organized so that Chris has a functioning workshop. So that we can do more building projects! Yeah!

So far, this is the progress we've made. And it feels great. The porch has been cleaned off and set up for work space / storage space. The garage is partly emptied and the stuff is now organized on the porch (as opposed to just thrown into the space).

Floor space!
Middle of porch is functional
Sitting area is actually usable
We can actually sit out on the porch without threading our way through boxes and debris! Hooray! We'll keep working on clearing out the garage so we can put up the drywall. That's a major step, a gateway project if you will, that enables us to start finish work on the exterior (space to set up saws, tools, protected space for staining and cutting) as well as make progress on inside stuff (doorways, trim, closets!). And we'll be sure to take time to sit and enjoy the non-working end of the porch as well.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Now that's a garden!

We're working on clearing and filling the future big garden but there is no way that space will be ready for plants this year. Heck, given how much fill I'm going to have to add coupled with the state that soil will likely be in (read, not fertile), it will likely be two years before it's ready for a crop. I'll spend this year getting it flat and next year amending the soil. And that's okay - I'm not in a hurry. I did however want some darn tomatoes this year. And basil. Basil is a key summer ingredient around here. 

So we decided to build a small box garden. Just big enough for six tomato plants. Plus two small container gardens for basil. Six basil plants will just barely provide enough, but it'll do for this year.

We got some landscape timbers, picked a spot, and knocked it together fairly quickly.

Chris's explaining posture (remember?)  
Dry fitting
We bored holes in the timbers and used rebar to pin them together and into the ground. A few big nails here and there kept the layers together too.

Big nails for the layers

Rebar for the corners
We filled the box with a combination of ground soil, potting soil, and 10-10-10 fertilizer to bring it up to snuff. Then I added tomato starts and some marigolds, put the basil containers on either end, and voila! instant garden.

Growing well
Had a few miscalculations. No gutters on the house yet so it's getting too much rain runoff from the roof. Should have moved it further out. But since the gutters will be up before summer is over, I just rigged a cover (not shown) that deflects most of the runoff. Not pretty, but it's working. I've also got a bit more shade on the west end of the box than I'd expected. Full southern exposure but one big tree is casting afternoon shade so the last plant in the row is a bit stunted. Oh well, it's only for this year anyway.

I can hardly wait for fresh tomatoes. I didn't wait on the basil. As soon as the plants had a good bush I snipped them back and made pesto. Ate it that night with fresh-baked bread and lettuce "stolen" from my Dad's garden. Awesome!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Look how cute!

We went to the Round Lake Antique Festival this past weekend and found this little cutie.

An old kitchen trash can that I'm going to put in the downstairs bathroom. Love the little feet!

The interior can has a handle and you lift the whole thing out to dump the trash. Love a covered trash can in the guest bath. I just think it looks a little neater. Particularly since we don't have any cabinetry in there where you can normally hide the can.
Foot pedal lifts lid
It works great and just needs a little cleaning up. Great find!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Traveling - DC

Attended a wedding in DC and decided to head down the week before so we could do the tourist bit. Didn't want to pay DC hotel prices for the entire week (definitely stayed in the wedding hotel for the weekend though) so we got a campsite at Greenbelt State Park. Only a few miles from the metro so we could ride into the city each day. Love the metro!

The only time we saw sunshine
It rained every single night (and most days). The tent leaked. There was a tornado. We still had fun.

We saw weird art:

Oddly, this wasn't a Far Side model
 We saw installation art designed to make a point:

The National Mall - was that trash?
No. It was bones.
Over three weekends, volunteers laid out "bones" representing the people killed through genocide. Unfortunately the volunteers cleaning up weren't able to specify which genocide it represented. And how incredibly sad that there are so many to pick from that we didn't immediately just know.

We saw great woodworking:

In the West Wing of National Gallery
 We saw really big doors:

Do they even open???
And we saw family, had beer, and ate really good food.

Beer flight!
 We also got an idea or two for some art at home:

Get the welder out Honey!
Had a good time and enjoyed seeing Chris's family.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Erosion control

As previously mentioned, snow melt in the spring can really do a number on your roads. To correct the swamp that our driveway becomes during mud season we installed a culvert. Works great in normal years. But in really heavy snow years, like this past one, the spring melt simply overwhelms the ground's ability to absorb water and you get this primordial ooze that eats boots, cars, and small animals. 

So we decided to create a low spot. Actually we decided to enhance a naturally occurring low spot so that it could gather water and more slowly feed the culverts and ditches designed to manage the flow.

We started here:

This spot is just to the right of the driveway, on the upper slope. There is a naturally occurring ridge here that drops off on the other side.

The other side
We wanted to open this up so that it could handle more water before flowing out to the culvert.

Entrance to culvert
The culvert is clearly visible from the driveway which is why I'd prettied it up. More gussying is needed as it's now overgrown with beech leaves (those things grow like weeds).

While we had the excavator here we asked him to do a big of digging in there - we couldn't get in with the tractor because it's too soupy. 

Jurassic Park?
A bit of work with the bucket and he'd broadened the low area and dug down to clay. It immediately starting filling.

Pretty ugly at this point
It took about half a day for the water level to rise this much. Since this is not actually a pond - we didn't install a liner or anything - the water will continue to leach into the ground and as the winter thaw and spring rains subside, the area will dry out. That's okay. The main point was that it would be deep enough and wide enough to handle a variety of water levels.

Filling up
The culvert entrance is off stage right. Water is already flowing to it and we will build a rock wall to help control silt that will want to travel into it.

Speaking of silt...all that great soil - I mean, really great multiple years of naturally composted soil - will be put to good use.

There is another pile this big behind me!
It will be used to fill in the low area left by the old camp. And that area has already been designated my future garden site. Looks like I've already made a good start on amending the soil. Woot!

It will be low no more

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Traveling - The Vineyard

We took a break from working on the house to do a bit of traveling. Got a good deal on a place in Martha's Vineyard and headed down with Dad and Matt. This was just mid-May so not everything was open for the season yet, but that gave us a glimpse at what all goes into getting a "summer place" up and running. The answer? An amazing number of workers doing an incredible amount of old fashioned work - fixing fences, repairing cedar shingles and roofs, hauling out old stuff and putting in new. A regular bee hive of activity and it was cool to see. The views were pretty darn good too!

From the ferry ride in
Edgartown by the Chappaquiddick ferry 
On the balcony

Sunshine, wine, and Matt
Gay Head Cliff's

Edgartown lighthouse
In addition to wandering around and seeing the sights (mainly beaches, lighthouses, art galleries, and nifty homes) we got some house related ideas and gorged on seafood.

I loved this driveway design. And although brick wouldn't work for our place, we do have rocks. Lots and lots of big Adirondack rocks. So I'm thinking this would be great for the southern side of the house where we don't typically drive but need to sometimes. Grass verge next to the porch to catch sand and dirt before stepping up on the porch, with stone tracks for tractor/truck/car loading, grass in between and on the opposite side before dropping down the big hill. Hmmm, pretty nifty thought.

Incredible driveway design
Chris seemed to think we needed a big lounging guy in the yard, but I told him that's why we have a hammock.
Goofing off
A gate at Mytoi garden really caught my eye. We need something to keep the deer out of the future garden. The sides of this gate are actually bamboo feed through a hole-pierced bar. Simple, good looking in a rustic kind of way, and effective.
Gate at Mytoi garden

Close up!
Seafood is, as you would imagine, widely available and lots of restaurants have signature dishes. We ate at plenty of those but for lunch we went straight to the source. The fish markets are great and they'll cook up some catch of the day for you. We had the two-for-one mussels special and it was incredible and fed all four of us. Easily.

Huge plates of mussels; discard box in middle
And I finally tried raw oysters. I love food. I love seafood. I never got the point of putting a slimy cold oyster into my mouth.

Definite look of trepidation
First one went down with lemon and cocktail sauce. Surprisingly non-slimy and a good mouth feel. But all I could taste was the condiments. So the second was straight. Was it good? Yes. Would I pay that much money per oyster anywhere but at the fish market where they caught them that day? No. These won't be on my restaurant got-to-have list any time soon.

 A good trip overall with some very cold weather and some great food.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Road maintenance

We have a long driveway. A very, very long driveway. And it feeds off a private road. A very, very long private road. Great for privacy; horrible for road maintenance. Add to this the fact that the driveway started life as a skidder trail (those honking big machines used to drag timber out of the forest during logging) and you can see that we have work ahead of us for years to come.

When we bought the property oh those many years ago we spent time and money improving the road. It worked and we've been able to drive in pretty consistently (the first year the road was so bad we had to bring materials onto the site with a wheelbarrow to get through the mud). Then while we were building last fall we hit some freeze/thaw cycles right when big, heavy trucks needed to come through. They toasted the road.

Just some of the damage
We couldn't fix it right away because we had to get through spring thaw (mud season) and wait for the weight restriction to be lifted from the main roads (limited to 4 tons during aforementioned mud season).

First we put in a new culvert at the main road. Actually, this time we paid for it to be done. Since we needed the excavator and dump trucks anyway, it made sense to have them do the work. 

Goes pretty quick when the equipment is this big. When Chris and I did the driveway culvert back in 2008, it took us all day and we got completely coated in mud (think face-plant comedy routine). Took these guys about an hour. And they were able to correct the grading at the entrance. Looks much better now.
New culvert at road
New grading
Then they started work on the road. They had to smooth it, dig drainage ditches next to it to eliminate sponging, and dig up and replace an old culvert that wasn't quite doing its job.
Repairing the old culvert
Then we had them bring in rocky fill so that we could begin laying a road base up by the house. The main driveway just needed smoothing and fines, so that went pretty quickly and we've done most of the smoothing work there ourselves. We've also started culling rocks from up by the house and moving them to the culvert entrance/exits and the ditches. That should help keep the proper shapes.

The house driveway was in bad shape (Remember when the Nat Grid truck got stuck?) so we needed to completely rebuild that road bed. Step one is some basic grading, which we did with our tractor.
Step two is to bring in some surprisingly rocky fill.
Big rocks!
This looked so wrong when he dumped it out. But those big rocks push to the edges of the road and help keep the dirt in place. If you just have sand or fines it washes away in the first big rain.

So we used the tractor again and slowly spread out the fill. Once it's in place it looks more reasonable but I still wouldn't want to drive a car over it. 
All spread out
We've got two more loads coming of decreasing rock mix. Fines on top will smooth it out and it should hold. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pantry lights

Last summer I was trolling the internet and found a ceiling light at IKEA that I just loved. Loved enough that I altered the lighting plan for the pantry by taking out the center ceiling fixture and changing the layout to accommodate two pendant type lights instead. In my imagination, they looked great and would provide nice ambient illumination for that room. As a reminder, the pantry is 12 x 14 and will act as storage, office, and craft/sewing room. Lot going on that room.

Roll forward six months and it's time to actually make an IKEA run (it's 2.5 hours away so you tend to plan a whole trip for it) and buy my lights! Except when we get down there, I hate them. They are too big. Too clumsy. Too darn wrong. Argh.

Now what?

Fortunately IKEA has a pretty darn good lighting selection and I found these that I liked just as much as the ones in my imagination.
Isn't that sweet?
Chris did the actual installation and they went up fairly quickly. Not a huge fan of IKEA instruction sheets - sometimes they assume a bit too much - but the lights went up just fine. (Still have a hot mess in the pantry with all the packing boxes).

Fine tuning the install
The only issue we had was with the drywall cutout for the fixture. It was a wee bit too wide and showed a gap on the second light.

Can you see the drywall gap on the far light?
So we had to take down the light, patch the drywall, touchup the paint, and then reinstall the light. DIY never goes quite as quickly as you think it will.

Now the lights are up and I can unpack at night! Hmmm, not sure that's really an improvement.