Monday, March 18, 2013

Weeeeeee have a kitchen!

It's not finished, but it's usable, and the rest is touch-up.

With all four walls configured the way we wanted, doors and window, and the bead board installed everywhere, wiring/plumbing/heating/lighting figured out, it was finally time to make the space pretty.

Paint and organization.

Turns out the bead board only looks really good when it's brushed, and it needs two coats even when using the expensive and thick paint-and-primer-in-one new fangled latex.  Read:  lots of brushing, tired hands and arms.

And then the shelves, shelves, shelves.

I hate cabinets.  Things get lost in them, you can't see what you're looking for, they're too deep, they shrink a room...

No matter how social the home kitchen is getting nowadays, it's still at its core a work space, where tools should be easily reached, and well organized.  I go in for shallow shelves, hooks for specific tools, where you can see and grab anything you need while you're working, and that's where we're headed here.

Shelves above the counter next to the sink for every day plates/bowls/cups/mugs etc.

Shelves in the future reading corner for cook books and other food related reading materials.  

Using the simple hungarian shelf design, tweaked with tapered verticals, and shrinking shelf sizes as they near the ceiling.

That bright reflection of the setting sun is from the uninstalled copper counter top leaning against the wall.

After a $2,500 quote for butcher block counters, we looked for alternatives.  Alexe really likes how the copper check out counter I put in the BTC has aged, so we decided to flank the sink in the same material here.  (Everything to the right of the stove will be wood, a warmer, more relaxed space where a stool can be pulled up and homework can be done across from whomever is cooking.) 

That piece of copper is big and thick, and somehow Clay at Valley Sheet Metal only charged us $108 for it, formed and everything.

Kapow.  Don't mind the dirty dishes in the sink.

The pantry.

While the dish shelves are oak and stained/urethaned, the book and pantry shelves are simply pine, sanded and profiled around the edges with a router. 

Pretty, no?  

And in between all of these little, but very fulfilling steps, there've been good times with the family.

My handsome boy, who the other day while we watched a rugby game as a family, (first sporting event we've ever sat down and watched on a screen,) he asked us if the purple letters on the yellow wall at the far end of the field said rugby.  They did.

The rock star.

On a family walk, the kids started picking flowers, then delivering them to the houses of all our friends. Since they know everyone, it meant we stopped at almost every house we came near.  Luckily most folks weren't home, and they were left surprise piles of flowers and weeds on their door mats.

Annaliese had her annual pediatric checkup last week.  I took her up to Oxford for a quick appointment, (zero wait but an hour for the urine test, blood test, eye exam, etc.,) and we packed all of our Oxford errands into the same afternoon.

First: Healthy as a horse, height: 91st percentile, weight: 61st percentile, body mass: 31st.  She may need glasses in the next couple years, (won't that be adorable!) so we'll keep. an. eye. on. that.

We did the box store run for things we can't avoid the box stores for, and then we headed to the furniture store to continue a long running hunt for a new couch or two.  

This was one of the funnest times I've spent with my little girl.  

It started with the bean bag.  Then she tried every other piece of furniture, in a very size-able show room.  I tried most of them with her.

We didn't find the comfy couches we're looking for, but this adventure was enough to wash away the brain fog that box stores give me.

Friday evening we headed over to our friends' house with a big bag of crawfish and a cooler of beer, and while the kids raced around with their friends, we kicked back and enjoyed an end of the week un-wind.

This girl may be a cool hipster, with her designer glasses, flannel, and Crappie Festival t-shirt, (mine, actually, she's stopped wearing her own clothes,) but those are ice cubes in her beer...

And that's a whole lot of enthusiasm at the tire swing.

Ah, the kitchen,  It's amazing how much time we immediately started spending in the kitchen the moment it was usable.  The new fridge is in place and looks great. I'm sure it'll turn up in some future picture.

I was finally able to break out my birthday present, the Cuisinart and the case of peanuts, and make my own peanut butter.  (Bit of a stickler for peanut butter without sugar or random oils in it, impossible to find around here, so my girl bought me the tool and the raw materials to make my own!)

In the last few days we've made banana bread, cookies, nachos, beef stew, tasty salads, grilled cheese with cabot extra sharp cheddar, waffles and pancakes, and all sorts of other favorites that we've gone without for lack of an inspiring kitchen space. I was even reminded that we'd been out of spirutein for a while, and now that's been remedied.

Yes, I still have a bit of ceiling to paint, a few doors to build, but this is the first space in the house that feels right, right enough for forever.

That line puts me in mind of all the tasty cheeses in the fridge...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Back from a week in the grave, or in a coffin...

In the quest to build our forever farm-world, there are a thousand little steps, one of which I've been avoiding/dreading since we started.  The radiant floor heat requires water lines to be run under the floorboards, attached with continuous aluminum flashing, and then covered with a thick layer of insulation over a shiny reflective sheet.

Doing this for the second floor, working on a ladder in the future kitchen, was not fun.

Doing the same step under the original section of the house, over 1,000 square ft, in a crawl space that ranges from half-crouch-crawl (not high enough to get your knees under yourself) to lower than coffin height, where you need to turn your head to the side to squeeze under each joist, was going to be miserable.

And it was.

But in line with the mantra around here of do what is right, not what would be easier or faster, the house needed to have warm floors throughout.  

Ten days ago I sent a good friend in town a text message, asking him if he might consider helping me on this hellish project.  A minute later he called, and said sure.

Which meant last Monday morning, at 8:30, we were both suited up in dust masks and head lamps, and started dragging air compressors, 1,200 linear feet of 3/4 inch pex tubing, the same amount of aluminum flashing, reflective barrier, and fiberglass insulation, under the house.

Four nine-hour days later, we came blinking into the light, sore all over, barely any skin left on our backs, wired up the thermostats, and turned on the radiant heat for the first time.

A failed copper sweat joint had to be replaced, and since then the system has been quietly humming along.

I could go on at length about how miserable the whole process was.  Honestly, as someone who doesn't often complain, I could fill half a book with whining about the horrendous, claustrophobic experience.

Instead, I want to thank Casey for doing this with me, maintaining a positive attitude throughout, long after I was completely fed up.  Good friends are worth a fortune.

Almost no pictures were taken last week, for obvious reasons.

However, the hiatus here was longer than last week, so there are plenty of other events to highlight.

Andres, photographer renting the apartment above the BTC and all around cool guy, (check out his book, "Some(w)Here",) wanted to photograph the butchering process of a rabbit.  The timing worked out well; the last two rabbits here had just finished up their bag of food, and I wasn't interested in buying them another one.

A family trip to the track.  Caspian has completely mastered the Skuut, and outpaces all of us.

Alexe has been working long hours at the store, covering shifts as the staff builds up, learning aspects of the store she has avoided up to this point, (she cooked breakfast and lunch yesterday as the head cook, and rocked it,) and training all new hires. It's nice to get her outside.

The kitchen.  Bead board ceiling going up.

The last of the kitchen french doors going in:

Family walk down to the pond.

We took a detour for a day and a half to take this old barn down at a friend's house.  It was a favor/have the scrap wood in exchange.  It turned out the barn was wired/insulated/sheetrocked, which made for much more work to take down and remove than was expected, and put it far into favor land.

The kids helped me for a little while, (Alexe was at work on this Sunday,) and spent later parts of the day hanging out inside with Denise and Rex (property owners) watching cartoons and eating cookies with hot chocolate.  I called Casey, and he came by to help for a couple hours.

This was a day later, after several runs to the dump.

Several of the floor joists and much of the siding will turn into fun accents around our house, and some of the rougher wood may be usable for raised beds in the garden.

An interlude for the boys to get haircuts.  Alexe was working, so the kids and I headed to Family Hairloom (haha) for Caspian's first professional haircut.

Caspian came out looking like an english school boy, the way his anglophile mama loves.  

I had the mop cut back, and Annaliese took lots of pictures, videos, and chatted with the ladies getting their hair dried.  Ever since Wade retired, we don't have a barber in town, so this salon is serving as our full service hair-cuttery.

The two remaining walls in the kitchen needed to be reconfigured.  This one needed to have the low window replaces with a high one, and the window/ac unit reversed.

kitchen lights are now rewired, with a three way switch on the majority of them, (one for every major acces point.)  Rigging up a three way switch takes more concentration than I expect, every time.

The porch can now complete its wrap and tie into the other side of this wall, the stairs down from the porch can be built, and the view from the window now looks out to the right of the magnolia tree, into the garden/orchard/chicken area.

A morning with Alexe home.

The final wall of the kitchen.  The window on the left is a pure addition, replacing a blank section of wall.

The window on the right, raised to match the window on the left, to give the greatest possible view for a taller person.  For the first time we can see out to the beautiful gnarly oak trees below the house.

Some Saturday, Alexe took Caspian to a birthday party, and Alexe and I went to the track/athletic fields for a father-daughter bike ride.  It was freezing.  This little girl was so thrilled to be on an adventure with just the two of us, she cheerfully talked about how cold she was as we raced around the track and then the tennis courts, and I had to insists we head back to the truck when her hands were turned red.

Sunday morning, family breakfast at the BTC.  Alexe used to avoid the store on her days off, feeling anxious, uncomfortable, guilty, etc., but since she's realized the store is hers, and she's plunged into the weeds to get to know it better, it's no longer an adversary.  The shift, though she's been away more, has been good all around.

Annaliese picks out her own outfits nowadays, and seems to know what she's doing.

And then the hellish week started, and when not at school, and when Alexe wasn't home, this is where the kids sat for four days, vegging while I was under the house.  I couldn't take the chance of them getting hurt, or fighting, while I was a 10 minute belly crawl away, let alone how poorly I would have handled any situation where their misbehavior added an unnecessary trip out.

Flash forward to Friday of that week, Casey was still helping me as we dug the trenches to take the kitchen and upstairs bathroom grey water down to the garden and orchard.

The ditch-witch is an amazing tool.

Saturday morning, the floors warm to the toes, the kitchen sink running and draining, the downstairs bathroom hooked up to the new hot water heater and providing endless hot showers, the body sore and completely drained, and Alexe starting her breakfast shift at 6:30, the kids and I had a slow start.

Coloring newspapers in bed with me...

When we did get up, after 8!, we did a yard cleanup and burned all the cardboard that had piled up during the week's project.

A boy and his dog:

Checking on the chickens.  I still haven't gotten around to finishing the roof on the chicken dome, but nothing has gotten in, and after one escape by the rooster that left him confused and anxious to get back inside to his ladies, there haven't been any problems.

And for the kitchen, the fun final steps are upon us.  I knocked out the final bead board trim work, and was able to move all the scraps upstairs to the bedroom, where I have a few sections of wall I'll finish out with what's left.  The oak sills for the three windows are cut and will get a clear coat, the counter to the left of the sink has been cut/glued/clamped, and will be covered in copper this week.  The shelves for the dishes (above the counter on the left) have been made, and the shelves will be clear coated (oak) and set on the white-painted verticals.  Walls and ceiling will be painted white.  The 11 cubic foot fridge is en-route, and will be set to the left of the wood stove.  (We decided our lifestyle shouldn't include a massive fridge, since we have a grocery store four blocks away, and shop every other day.)

We had a pancake party in our new kitchen last night, with a toasty fire, and it felt great.

After this past week, everything is uphill from here.  Or downhill.  -Easier- is the point.