Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tracks in the snow

We walk the dog every morning. Some mornings we stick to our road and other times we venture onto our forest trails. The dry snow we've had lately combined with seriously cold temperatures means that the animal tracks are very clear - they're not melting and spreading during the day so you can more easily make out what they are. Unfortunately, they do not photograph well at all. So you're going to just  have to imagine them along with me.

We're excited to report that we have a pair of red fox. We haven't seen them - just their tracks. Smaller than coyote or dog and in a perfectly straight line. I haven't tried to find the den but have enjoyed walking along with them as they check out stumps for mice.

Speaking of mice, we can follow their trails too. Little hopping imprints with the occasional tail drag for cuteness. I followed one yesterday to where an owl ate well. I found a perfect outline of the owl's body in the snow - both wings fully outstretched, tail feathers fanned wide, body imprint where the force of his dive drove him into the snow. There was no mouse trail that led away from that imprint.

We also have many deer and their trails are getting deeper and clearer. They also like to follow our walking paths so we often don't even need to go far afield to see them. We were lucky enough to find where they had bedded down for the night - five deer beds melted into the snow. We rarely see the deer themselves but their sign is everywhere: nibbled tree bark and buds, pellets and urine stains, hoof prints that meander leisurely only to burst into wide running marks where they were apparently startled.

And of course we see our prints. Snowshoe tracks, boots, and dog prints everywhere. Long walks and short ones. It's great being out in the woods.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The downstairs closet

We planned a large closet between the bathroom and pantry doorways. We were going to just frame it in and throw on a door, but having a woodworker in the family means we got to be a bit more creative. We decided to build it more like a wardrobe. Spent some time designing it then got busy. And are still being busy - this thing is huge! Gonna take a little time to get it done but I figured I'd post an in-process picture or two.

The bottom of the unit is two drawers high and about two feet in height (and four feet wide - I said it was a big space, right?). I decided to stain it the same red that we used on the exterior siding - a nice deep semi-solid barn red would give us a great pop of color in an otherwise staid area.

Unfortunately the picture below makes it look like we picked a bright apple red. That's just the light spectrum we have in the garage.

It's not really this bright of a red
Ah! This shows the color much better. Oh wait. Now it looks magenta. Darn.

Hmm, a bit purple, isn't it?
Basically, you're going to have to believe me when I say the color is great and looks wonderful between the old courthouse doors. 
That's a bit more true to life!
We've been working on the top portion of the closet and hope to have that in place soon. It will have two cupboard doors divided by a wine rack in the center. Then Chris will get to work on building the drawers. Custom furniture takes longer to get in place but boy does it look nice once it's there.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Goals? What goals?

I've been seeing lots of blog posts about goals lately. Makes sense as it's the New Year. And we all know New Year and goals go together like toast and jelly (mmmm, jelly). So I've been taking some time to review what we have outstanding on the house and what we might like to get accomplished this year.

Since the house is far from finished, just saying "complete house build" is far too broad of a goal (and totally ridiculous). After all, according to my annual performance evaluation, goals should be specific, measurable, and actionable. So here we go, the Beech House goals for 2014, in no particular order:

1. Install closet space -  this means the linen/utility closet, the stairwell closet, and the upstairs wardrobes. We've already begun the stairwell closet and the linen/utility closet so we're off to a good start.

2. Create a functional mudroom with seasonal storage, dog crate, bench, and anything else I can think of that will fit and add function so I'm not constantly tripping over our winter boots.

3. Design and plant a potager. I had tomatoes and basil last year. Let's see if I can get a whole Italian meal going. While planning this one out I think I'll add designing the Eastside patio & grill area (since I intend for all of them to be connected).

4. Stain interior windows and add trim.

5. Finish the exterior siding, including window and door trim. Probably ought to paint the doors while we're at it.

6. Tile the Bridge and install walls and ceiling (oh boy, getting ambitious).

7. Finish painting the interior walls rather than waiting for baseboards and ceiling trim to be installed.

8. Install railings for real (we have safety railings up right now).

9. Finish the stairwell by adding permanent treads and a pretty landing.

10. Finish the downstairs bathroom sink cabinet.

11. Build and populate a chicken coop. Not sure if I want layers or meats at this point. I'm leaning toward meats since we're not sharing a beef cow this year and we'll need to fill the freezer with something.

Several of these goals are dependent on us getting our hardwood logs sawn into boards this summer. And all of them would go much easier if we got this next one done:

12. Build Chris's woodworking shop. A project that would smooth the way for pretty much all of the goals mentioned above.

Whew! I'm going to stop there. There are so many more things that need to be done, but ultimately, this house is a journey for us. And we're not in an all fired rush to get to the end of it. So we'll get started on these and see where we are by year's end.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter weather weirdness

Our weather has been completely bizarre. Below zero temperatures in December is not typical for us. Even reaching back into childhood memory (where the snow is always deep and the temperature chilly) I don't recall December being this cold. February, yes. December, not so much.

On the other hand, we got up this morning and the temperature was 45 degrees. The snow is melting off the roof and the HW solar panels will be clear for the first time in weeks. We may actually get some hot water from them! Hooray!

The driveway is holding up well so far. Temps are supposed to be back down to 3 degrees tonight so any standing water will freeze solid again. We've got ashes from the wood stove to spread and sand for out by the road.

Chris is working on the tractor (it's having some electrical issues that will hopefully be easily found and fixed) and I'm going to find a project or two for the day.

So nice and quiet on the property. Other than that ferocious wind in the trees...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The House from 2012 to 2013 and looking ahead to 2014

Much was done on the house and homestead in 2013 (can we call it a homestead if we don't have animals yet? How about "property" instead). I've documented the progress here on the blog, in pictures for our annual photo album, and in our special Christmas ornament year-in-review. But I think these two pictures show it best.

December 2012

December 2013
Of course these don't show the interior. In the first photo we didn't have insulation, plumbing, drywall, wiring, or anything else inside. Basically, it was just a shell. So much work went into getting from there to here!

2014 will focus on finishing the exterior siding and putting up some critical exterior buildings like a woodworking shop and a chicken coop (admittedly, the woodworking shop will be much more involved). Interior projects will focus on storage: closets, mudroom, pantry, wardrobes. We also want to install moldings and baseboard throughout. Oh, and did I mention the hardwood floor for the entire second floor? Or the tiling job for the Bridge? Hmm, I need to stop now. Think I need some coffee and a big sheet of paper so I can start making a to-do list.

Best wishes for a happy 2014!