Monday, October 26, 2015


A variety of stuff going on.

Sewing a woobie for Mom
We're working not the baseboards in the house. This seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time. It was a bit tricky to design as we need to cover the seam between the rough concrete of the footer and the smooth concrete of the floor. When we installed the walls, we centered them on the sill and that left a seam about 2 inches past the drywall that was really unsightly. We figured out a 3 layer baseboard treatment that we liked and we're now in the process of routing the boards, staining, and installing.
Many, many linear feet of trim
It hasn't been all serious work - Chris decided to try his hand at a stone arch.

Cute, but looks a bit haphazard

Trying to fix things
Unfortunately the arch didn't hold and collapsed into the ditch. He's now on attempt number 2.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


We had a small gathering of the family the other day. Beautiful fall weather made for a very pleasant visit. First we climbed up to my parent's camp. No comments on getting lost and having to bush-whack our way through the woods.
At camp 
Me and Mom 
Matt and Mom
 Then we went to our house and more of the family showed up.
Bailey and Matt
We decided it was a perfect opportunity for a group photo. Have you ever tried to get 7 adults and 3 wee children to gather for a self-timer photo? Argh.
Testing the self-timer
It's much like herding cats.
Running in circles
 But we finally managed it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sealing the floor (again)

We originally sealed the concrete floors during the construction phase of building. It was great! No walls, just a clear slab that made it easy to apply the cleaner, wash it off with a power hose, and then apply the sealant. 

Unfortunately it then rained for six weeks straight. I'll give that sealant credit - it tried. Water beaded up for a long time. But eventually it just couldn't take it and failed. And the surface of the concrete roughened a bit making it hard to mop and easy for dirt to catch in the surface crannies. Nothing horrendous, but frustrating when you're trying to keep the floor looking decent.

Re-sealing the floor meant moving everything off it. Ugh.

Cooper doesn't like us moving her couch
Emptied out the living room, dining room, and kitchen
Everything got taken out. Even the kitchen island and cabinets. And it all had to go somewhere.
My Room *sigh*
And the porch is full again
Then we applied the cleaner/degreaser, scrubbed vigorously, and mopped with lots and lots of water. The water washing bit is why we decided to do this now - we're about to install baseboards and didn't want to get them coated in chemicals and water.
It's fun - really
It actually went quite well. Application was straightforward and we put on two full coats. Then we had to wait 72 hours (!) before we put back any furniture or rugs. We were able to walk on it and it was obvious with every passing hour that the finish was getting harder and more durable. How could we tell? It kept getting more slippery. I now have to be very careful walking around in socks and the animals act like they're on ice.

We chose a low-lustre finish with no color to it. We didn't want to acid stain as I am a scaredy cat who fears that it'll look really bad. I've seen too many bad DIY jobs and once it's done and you hate it, you're screwed.  Plus most of the stains leaned toward some shade of brown and I'd rather have the natural concrete grey. Besides, it'll just get covered up with rugs.
Can't really tell can ya?
You can see some shine in this shot
All-in-all, a good experience and one I hope not to repeat for years to come. Now you'll have to excuse me, I've got to go buy some no-slip rug pads.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

What's been going on (or miscellaneous stuff)

We've been working on a variety of projects that needed finishing up or that will continue for a long time and just needed a bit of progress.

Firewood is always a biggie and we've actually been working on it since March. We now have 680 (136 feet long times 5 feet high) square feet of wood versus the 648 (162 x 4) we put up last year. I realize that this isn't how anyone else in the entire world calculates wood volume but it seems to fit with our stacking methods. This way we don't have to worry about carefully keeping dimensions consistent we just measure when we're done. Close enough is good enough.

The garden and CSA have been keeping me busy with preserving and cooking. My cucumber patch produced prodigiously this year and I've been putting up sweet pickles and even succumbed to the lure of a new dill pickle recipe (I stink at making dills). I also cooked down and froze pizza sauce pucks (an idea I got here), made peach jam, picked and froze blueberries, and struggled to keep up with all the fresh veggies from the CSA. Let's hear it for lo mein and quiche for using up lots of produce.

Canning sweet pickles
Everything in the fridge lo mein
We continue to work on laying the stone patio. This is a project that will take a very long time to complete so we just keep chipping away at it. It helps to be using huge stones. Unfortunately they are also usually thick - we managed to partially split this one and it's still massive.

At least it covers a lot of area
While all the furniture was out of the house for the great floor re-seal I took advantage of the space to do some planning on the mudroom. We intend to do built in cupboards and boot benches and all that nifty stuff. Pinterest has been a huge help here and has given us lots of ideas.
Storage behind, boot bench in front
Varying depths for cupboards
Cooper has been her usual helpful self. She keeps occupied while we're doing boring stuff like floors and trim...
One focused dog
What she's focused on
So very close...
...but she's always willing to lend a paw to help out. I laid out a down comforter to look for spots that needed repair and she got involved immediately.
Am I helping?
I've also been working through my project stash in an attempt to actually get a few things done before starting new projects. Each Sunday I pull out three things that need finishing touches or small amounts of time (mending in particular) and try to get them done before the next Sunday. I've managed to get quite a few nagging projects out of the pile and put away. Doesn't always work (I knit very, very slowly), but it does focus my attention.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Window trim

We've been living without window trim for 3 years. First we had to cut down the trees that would form our trim. Next we had to wait until the portable sawmill could arrive to cut the trees into boards. Then we had to wait for the wood to air dry. Finally! It was ready. 

Here are the naked windows:

Living room - bare! 
Kitchen - naked!
First, Chris planed down a few boards and we tried different sizes to see what style we liked. Once we had that, we stained a few boards different colors - a semi-solid black and a red mahogany. The semi-solid black matches the stair risers (seen here) while the red mahogany matches the living room half wall (here).
Black with a classic oak sill board 
Red mahogany with red mahogany sill board 
We liked both of them quite a bit but ultimately decided that the red mahogany tied the two sides of the room together. And it would tie in the kitchen as well. So, red mahogany it was.

Except, I really liked the black! So I decided that My Room was separate enough to have something different. And black trim went up in there.
Ahhh, black trim!
We kept the classic oak color on the interior boards of all windows and will do the same for the door facing. That way the house maintains some color consistency. And, of course, these colors repeat throughout the house.
I really like the two-tone effect
 The trim made a huge difference in how the windows looked.
The look huge now!
I asked Chris to build a couple of spice racks into the East wall windows. They don't get any sunlight so storage conditions are good and they are so wonderfully handy right next to the stove (but away from the heat). I keep all my cooking spices there now (baking spices are kept in the island).
Note the spice racks
 The living room windows, already very large, now look enormous. And quite attractive.
Nicely framed
The deep sill boards let me keep plants or nicknacks on the window. Or, you know, let the cat nap there without fear of falling off.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer food

The vegetables have been incredible this year. Not my own - they taste good but are hardly prolific. The CSA's veggies though, those are awesome. Since I have my own kale, lettuces, green pepper, jalapeño pepper, and tomatoes I've been able to ignore these on the farm stand. Instead I've been getting Swiss Chard, zucchini, spring onions, beets, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant just to name a few. And I've been making the tastiest dinners! Quiche with radishes, kohlrabi, chard, kale, onions, and (of course) a bit of bacon. Lo Mein with lots of greens, bok choy,  and savory veggies (and a bit of pork). Stir fry rice with greens (again), kohlrabi, radishes, and sweet peas. Pasta dishes with light cream sauce and tons of veggies. Pizza! I don't bother with red sauce in the summer; all my pizzas are green - EVOO, garlic, and spring onions to start. Then herbs - basil, oregano, rosemary - with chopped kale, chard, collards. Top it with tomato slices and the smallest amount of fresh mozzarella. Oh. My.

And pesto! I grew lots of basil. Two seed packets that all came up plus a couple starts from the market. And I still needed more. We eat it fresh, it never has time to hit the freezer. Pesto pasta with green beans is fantastic. Pesto on pizza. Pesto on homemade bagels with a slice of tomato and fresh mozzarella that you broil just until heated through (I was particularly pleased with this one as everything but the cheese came from my own efforts); (plus it was yummy). I like to make my pesto with basil, arugula, and kale; mostly basil but the other greens give it a bit of spice and depth.

I harvested all of my jalapeño peppers today and got many more from my CSA share. Came right home and made candied jalapeños. Canned a few jars and kept the excess canning liquid to use this week on baked chicken breasts. It's a fantastic glaze and I'll make a nice pico de gallo to serve with it.

I've got visions of a summer vegetable risotto too. With fresh baked Italian bread. And summer greens in a light vinaigrette. There's not much better than the summer bounty and we're deep into it now.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Finishing the stairs

We've been working on the stairwell for quite a while now. We've had construction stairs since, oh, March of 2013 (we used a ladder before that) which have basically consisted of the permanent stringers with 2x8 boards resting on top. The treads have wobbled and gradually gotten less stable as the boards flexed and warped since they were unfinished.

But now! Now we have final treads and a beautiful end wall and lots of pictures. So bear with me.

We got the stairwell landing compass  and landing wall done and loved the look. Next up was the safety wall at the end of the landing.

We saved some of the damaged heartwood from the cherry trees we had sawn into boards; basically we left it as a 4x4 post figuring we'd end up doing something with it. 
Heart wood from old cherry
The crack up the center didn't go all the way through to the other side, but it needed to be kept from opening further. So Chris used an old trick to butterfly the wood together.

Cutting the channel
Filling it with a butterfly
Once that was done we applied poly to the post (it will naturally get more red as it ages - no need to stain it) and Chris set about installing it securely to the landing wall.

In Cooper's kennel
We used goat panel (love this stuff!) to create a door for the kennel under the landing. This is Cooper's safe spot and she loves it.
Posts and kennel door installed
Chris had to built a door cleat to keep the sliding door from pushing out from the bottom. There's no other latch on it though - it slides easily to the right to open.
Kennel with goat panel door
Once the end posts and kennel door were in place he started installing the stair treads. We acquired some flame birch from a friend of ours and the figuring was just gorgeous. But the boards weren't quite as thick as the 2x4 we'd used before - which meant the rise was just a bit off from what we wanted. So we used some of the white oak to create a spacer under the birch tread (stained to match the wall color). This had the added benefit of creating a greater gluing surface and of giving a bit of accent to each step - which you can see in the photo above. It's subtle, but pretty.

The hard part was figuring out how to clamp the tread down. The stringers are angled and we ended up screwing temporary clamp blocks in place.
First tread in place
We decided to wait to stain the boards until after they were installed. This gave Chris greater flexibility in custom fitting each tread.
Yup, the clamps are holding
We also used goat panel to form the safety wall at the stair landing. I painted it black and Chris build a frame for it out of cherry and dark-stained oak. I like the industrial/farm vibe of the panel and it has the added benefit of complying with safety building codes since you cannot fit a 4-inch diameter ball through the squares. If you're interested in doing something like this, be sure to check your local building codes to see what their spacing requirements are.

I love that back post's live edge
We also used a live edge for the top of the wall. Chris used two pieces of cherry and joined them to create that gorgeous look.
Very natural
As we got closer to the top of the stairwell we started running into wood-shortage issues. Some of the boards had flaws that wouldn't allow them to be used as a tread. Chris got creative on a few to take out the weak spots.
Our raven
A lot of creativity went into these stairs. From the inlaid compass with copper banding, the custom designed safety wall, and the gorgeous treads, it's completely individualized for our home.
This shows the figuring on the treads
Well worth the time and effort it took!
All done!