Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The porches.

It took a while for my vision of what this house can be to form, but a few weeks back it jelled, and lots of porches was a critical component of the grand scheme.

Monday evening I stripped the siding to prepare for the tie-in to the sides of the house and removed the porch/awning thing that was in place.

Tuesday I had all the materials delivered, but lost most of the day to other things.  I spent the evening, with a headlamp, attaching the supports on the house side.  I enjoy doing this stuff by myself, the peaceful time alone in my head, the solo sense of accomplishment, but there are times when an extra set of hands would make things a little easier.  This project has brought several to light.  Mounting a 12 foot long 2x12 to the side of a house, and making it perfectly level, is one of them.  A handy pivot-mount I threw together made this feasible, but the boards were still heavy on a ladder by myself, while juggling sa nail gun.

Wednesday morning I had all my supplies in place, the house side prepped, two kids with nowhere to go, and Alexe off for a very busy last-day-before-Thanksgiving at the store.  The kids and I were outside, bundled and ready to go, before 8 am.  At this point, after the slow, boring concrete work, all the components were here, and all I had to do was assemble.  It was like Christmas morning.

Moving the first 6x6 cypress post, 10 ft long, put the previous lifting in perspective.  These suckers are heavy, need to be hoisted into position, and then tied to diagonals mounted on stakes to hold them in place. 

Eventually they get bolted in place at the bottom bracket, but I didn't want to lock these first two in place until I had the corner completed, and all my angles perfect.  It meant lots of temporary braces.

The kids were champs.  They kept me company, staying outside of the danger zone, and I took periodic breaks to attend the dinner parties they were putting on.  The food, serving plates, and utensils were all locally sourced from a 50 foot radius of the work area.  The stories that went with each meal, the menu descriptions, and the strict rules about where to sit and hw to pretend-eat, were very hard to take without smiling, but Annaliese was very serious about her restaurant/pancake party/soup kitchen.  Caspian worked as forager and sous chef.  And disgruntled patron.

Finally hoisting that cross member in place was satisfying.  It completed the first box, and locked everything in place.  From there the rest of the porch had something to grow from, and things picked up.

Again, getting that 11 ft 2x12, true dimensions, of cypress, up that ladder and in position, made the previous heavy lifting seem like a cakewalk.  I received the messages from my legs as I walked up the ladder holding this thing in the middle, and similar messages from my arms when I lifted it to set on the notches cut into the vertical posts, but having no other options, I ignored all the whining.  I had to lash the piece to a cross member I temporarily put in place for this purpose, to hold it while I went to each end, confirmed the positioning, and bolted this in place.

It wasn't exactly lighting, but after the first box was formed, the next few sections went up more quickly.

By the end of Wednesday, before heading in to start on the Thanksgiving pies, I had completed the front section.  

On Thanksgiving morning, while Alexe cooked the turkey and the kids collected decorations for the table, I put up the next section, a bit more difficult, as it reaches beyond the edge of the house by eight feet and turns the corner.

Waiting on a final piece of cypress from the mill, I went ahead and filled in the floor joists for the front section.

Hmmm.  Since this picture on Friday, the framing is completed around the next two sections of the house, and the cedar decking, which has taken two full days to install 2/3s of it, (8 hour+ days sitting/kneeling/bent at the waist pre-drilling every hole, and screwing down the 1" cedar boards with 3" long deck screws,) has been a bit of a drag. However, I should have that wrapped late tomorrow, and start on the next set of verticals to support the roof.  

Thanksgiving week.

Annaliese's school was closed for the full Thanksgiving week.  Caspian's learning center was closed from Wed. to Friday.  It made for a long week of child-friendly activities, something that in some respects is far easier at the farm, and yet with all the renovation work that is ongoing, and the unmoved components of our life that are still at the blue house, more challenging.

Some days the kids lament not being at the blue house, and on several occasions they have chastised me for ruining the new house.  (Taking out the shag carpeting, or the "soft floor", has earned me many reprimands, and the other day Caspian spent the whole ride to school talking about how I was ruining the house by taking off the pretty white siding.)

Shadow, in her old age, is happy at the farm.  This pooch, resident of Vermont, Nashville, Virginia, DC, and MS, is 14 years old, and showing signs of her age.  She's sleeping more, leaking urine more, smells terrible much of the time, and her hearing is much diminished.  Still a great dog.

She and the pigs seem to get along.  I catch them communing like this every now and again.

Our good friends got a jump on the season, and the Sunday before Thanksgiving set up their Christmas light display.  Their house is on Main Street, and this light show is hooked up to a loud sound system that blasts Christmas music.  The lights flick on and off in time to the music.  

With Caspian in school until noon on Monday and Tuesday, I had some hang out time with my little girl.  This has turned into a rare occasion, as they're both home with me by noon each day, and I was tickled to see how grown up my little girl is.  While I was showering she set out our clothes for the day: matching outfits, which we added matching blue jackets to before heading out.

Monday afternoon we took a family trip to pick up the organic, free range turkeys the BTC sourced from the local Mennonite farm.  The farm was in full turkey harvest mode, and this trailer housed the next day's batch to be processed.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how healthy, clean, and calm these birds were.

The young Mennonite boy spent time swinging inside the trailer from the metal cage, feet knocking turkey heads. Caspian and Annaliese were charmed by the turkeys and the boy.

There was a big chicken component to the farm, and the kids got into the baby chicks.

With the many projects around the homestead, I find I stop at the hardware store every day.  The kids duck into these plastic dog houses every time they come with me, which is almost every day.  

(Today Caspian was with me, we stopped on our way back from school, heading to pick Annaliese up from the BTC, and Caspian dove straight into the big house.)

I've made two trips to the dump to offload things I've ripped out of the house here.  The $5 dumping fee, along with the amount of crap I can fit into the back of the truck when the cap is in place, and the nice man that runs the dump all by himself, make it a satisfying journey.  

On the last trip I stepped on an inner-tube thingy that is meant to be pulled behind a motorboat, and I took the tow rope off it. I stopped by the tire shed on my way out, and presto: 

Tire swing.

Leah and Chloe came over on Tuesday afternoon for a play date.  Annaliese and Caspian had been at their house on Sunday, affording Alexe and me a nice long walk out by the river.  (Note the snapped Fiskar loppers.  We're going to see how good that lifetime warranty is.)

It went over well, though coordinating a rotation with 4 kids under four, and enforcing it, was a bit of a challenge.  Alexe was feeling poorly, and we had picked her up from work and put her straight in bed earlier, so I had the joy of policing the full afternoon by myself.  

Most of Wednesday was taken up with porch construction.  On Tuesday I took delivery of my cypress order from the local mill, and had the dimensional lumber I'm using for floor joists delivered, but with Alexe being ill, and the friends over to play, I didn't get much done.  Weds, with Alexe at work and both kids home with me for the whole day, was another story.  See the porches post.

After Alexe came home from her Oxford deliveries, the kids were put to bed, and I came in from the porch project and put my headlamp up, I started in on the pies.  Alexe made an early night of it, and I pulled the last of the 10 pies out of the oven some time before 1 am.

To compensate for the terrible kitchen I was cooking in, and the one in the blue house I was missing, I found Wings episodes on Netflix to stream.  Talk about a soothing companion.

Breakfast, Thanksgiving morning.

The kids suited up and collected pine cones, acorns, and leaves from all around the farm, and helped Alexe decorate the table for dinner.  We ate, the four of us and Dixie, at noon.

Alexe was entirely responsible for cooking the 21 lb turkey, and she did a great job.  Tender, moist, and  super-tasty.

We took naps, ate pies, I tinkered on the porches, and when it was dark, we lit one of the many brush piles.  The kids were treated to glow sticks.

What I'm thankful for:

It was an impressive fire, big and fast burning, it took an hour and a half to burn down a condensed pile of logs.  A firetruck came out, and I met the young man halfway through the field, where he said, "oh, you're here, I figured you would be, have a happy Thanksgiving," and he headed back to the truck.

I love Mississippi.

Neat, eh?

The kids kept their glow sticks for bath time, and insisted in having the lights turned out.

They slooowly got into their pjs and climbed into bed, somehow finding time to hang the gorilla between their beds.

The next morning I was back on the porch, another pie-breakfast in me, and Caspian came out to keep me company.  He asked me to go acorn hunting with him, and with Cat's in the Cradle in my head, I set my tools down, and we took a leisurely circuit around the farm to some of the big oaks, where we picked up many, many acorns.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Sunny Sunday.

Some days are just great.

We started the morning by suiting up and heading out to feed the pigs.  That turned into a stroll around the farm to check the bonfire that was still smoldering, and from there Caspian declared we needed to take a walk in the woods.  He led the way, up the hill through the oak trees.

Looking back towards the barn and the bonfire.

He led us up to the top of the ridge, back to the edge of our property, over the fence, and on into the city-owned woods.

It was sunny, crisp, and early, and everyone was feeling good.  After making it to the top of the hill first, Caspian continued to lead the way, and asked repeatedly if he was the strongest.  We told him yes.

This boy has been pretty whiney recently, and often demands that someone pick him up because he's too tired to complete a walk.  Not today.  He braved fences, steep inclines, thorny bushes, and vines without a single complaint or request for help.  He only asked for repeated confirmation of his strength and bravery, which we gave while doing our best to cover smiles.

The big sister was happy, with small bouts of frustration that she wasn't in charge of this particular family escapade.

Alexe was extremely proud of her little boy.

After pulling the forms off the porch footings, I started the process of bringing the soil back in to level out what will be a bricked ground level patio.  I'm very pleased with how these turned out.

The bevelled top that will remain above grade and visible above the bricks.  The brackets are firmly anchored in the steel-reinforced blocks, and in however many years, when the wood posts may need to be replaced, they can simply be unbolted, and new ones slotted in.  Everything we're doing here is with the long-view, finally.

After my welding class with Mickey on Wed., I took a swing at making a clam rake with my stick welder.  A scrap piece of rebar, and a clam rake head, both found in the scrap metal pile behind the workshop, worked out nicely.  

Alexe put a batch of sweet potatoes in the oven at 6:30 this morning, and by 10 the family was sitting down to second breakfast: hot delicious potatoes with melted Kate's butter, and some cold milk.  Alexe has a new local farmer who is providing the BTC with sweet potatoes, and she's excited by how pretty and tasty they are.  She has eaten many a sweet potato in her life, and said that this was the best one she had ever had.

Today was a church day, so after the long morning we changed into more presentable clothes, and headed into town.  Home again a little after noon, we played outside in the sun, delaying lunch and nap time.

Not long into the play time, Caspian started shedding clothes.  (The sticker on the bottom of his shoe is from children's church, a lesson that referenced Toy Story and an owner writing their name on the shoe of things that belong to him.  Weird lesson that made me feel a bit off, but the kids like stickers.)

Shy girl.  Imagine what she was like for the photographer that was in town for four days last week.

I'm really taken with my concrete work.  First forms I've built, and first concrete I've finished myself.  On the day of the pour we walked to town for a bbq dinner at DandDs, and I left it a little too long before coming back to work the top and round the top edge.  It stil happened in the dark, but it took a lot of elbow grease to draw the smooth layer up.

Eventually Caspian took everything off, and Annaliese changed, so we headed inside for lunch.  The kids never ended up taking a nap, I lit another bonfire in a different section of the property, the kids had a play date, Alexe and I went out to the river to take a very long walk, dinner was had, kids were bathed and put to bed, and Alexe and I curled up for a quiet evening and a very bad movie on her Saturday night.  (Her weekends are Sunday-Monday.)

Several of these concrete pillars will be used as buried supports for a couple things I have planned, but Alexe liked the look and feel of some of the taller ones, and I think they're destined to be random sitting spots.