Sunday, July 31, 2011

Frame of mind

The other day  I turned to John and asked him what his favorite tool is. To clarify, a tool we currently own. I mean, once we have a welder that will obviously be my favorite, but we don't have one yet. He thought for a minute, and said the chainsaw. It was a lot of fun using the chainsaw to dissect the tree we took down.  My favorite is the new framing nailer we just bought.
That's right...We are learning to frame! YAY! We are framing the shop! But before into details about that, I think it has been long enough for this story to be funny.

The Story of How We Got 100 Salvaged 2 x 4's for Super Cheap.  You know how part of what we want to do is use recycled materials as much as possible, so we spend a good amount of time on craigslist. One day about  2 months ago we find an ad for 100 2 x 4's and jump on it. It is a little far away but we decide we can make a trip of it. So off we go in Johns little truck with a rack over the bed. And we loaded it up. Overloaded it. We drive to the ferry and on the way hear a thumping noise and think we have a flat tire. We get out and look, no flat. Huh, we say, that's funny. We keep going. By the time the ferry docks and we roll out the thump has gotten much worse.  We get about 2 miles from the ferry dock ( we have 40 to go) and the thump is very loud, consistent , and scary.  I pull over, john gets out and we do this song and dance where he runs beside the car while I drive and he tries to see what is thumping. We do this dance at least three times. Hilarious. Oh, and it is now 9:30 on a Saturday night. Oh, and we are starving. We decide we can make it if I drive on the shoulder and do not go over 15 MPH.  Off we go. We get about 1 more mile and BOOM! The entire Wheel COMES OFF THE CAR and bounces down the road. Just shears right off. Needless to say, we joined AAA and got towed. Now we are stuck at nearly 11 at night 65 miles from where we live and we have to get back to close up the chickens. Car rental places are closed, the buses don't run that late or the next day. We end up taking a cab from Bainbridge to Quilcene. ( this means something to some of our readers) Moral of the story? Sometimes it costs a lot to save money.

Back to framing. As usual, we got a rocky start. The J bolts were placed in the foundation for 2 x 6 walls. That means that after we put down the treated sill, the J bolts were directly in the way of the soleplate going down. We decided to use a 2 x 6 soleplate and then do the rest of the framing with our hard won cheap 2 x 4's.  This further complicated the matter because that means we would need to build a nest on the floor so that the 2 x 4's would sit flush with the edge of the soleplate.  To FURTHER complicate the matter, our foundation floor slopes by 2 inches for drainage purposes.  The best way to frame a house, or in this case the shop, is to build one wall at a time on the floor and then lift it up into place.  I have been reading all of these house building books like mad, and they say you can build it in place, but it is much harder to get plumb walls. So, per usual, we devised a system. The system includes shims and wood stacks on the floor and drilling 2 inch holes in the soleplate. I was nervous about starting and I think I read too much. I got it in my head that this was going to be really hard. And it was confusing at first, but once we started I relaxed and realised that framing is really alot of fun. It starts looking like something and it moves quick. Especially with the awesome Porter Cable pneumatic nailer. It's all about your frame of mind.
Here is a picture of two of the walls we have up now:

We chose to start with the easy walls, obviously. The wall I am holding has no windows, and the adjacent wall only has one. It looks so darn simple in the picture, but I swear there was a day learning curve! The framing nailer is amazing ( yes, it is a very dangerous tool, but we have respect for it and use the safety features). I did not want to buy it and called John from the store, saying it was too expensive and I thought I should just buy a framing hammer.  I am so glad he talked me into buying it!

Also ..........

We have a House Foundation!
here it is getting poured over the radiant tubes! There are many reasons why I love this picture, (one of them being my 5 year old sense of humor) but mostly I like how you can see where the concrete is smooth in the right corner and the texture of it coming out as well as the tubes going under. Coming soon... pictures of the smoothed finished stained ending.

And now, a new table in our lives. We found this palette and sanded and oiled it. Lovely huh? It must have brought something from Brazil.

Stay tuned for more framey- goodness. Please let us know if you want more actual building details and I will happily elaborate.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Butt, there are so many cucumbers!

This week has brought us multiplying cucumbers. Crazy cucumbers. We have pickled nearly 3 gallons of pickles, given some away to a friends wedding dinner, and still we are harvesting a dozen a day. They are threatening to take over a melon patch and I decided that should the need for a machete arise, the melons would be victorious.

We finished the radiant heat and got an inspection. We passed and the inspector even gave me some hints about being careful during the pour so we don't puncture the tubes.  We were supposed to do the pour today, but the Pacific Northwest is up to its old tricks and today it rained. Again. Those of you reading this who live in the Pacific Northwest know what I am talking about. For everyone else, this summer has sucked. Hard. A local weatherman counted the number of minutes we have made it  over 80 degrees. His calculation; 78 minutes. All Year.  Enough said. That being said, it has been a rough summer for builders and gardeners.  So now the house foundation gets poured on Wednesday. Frankly, the house foundation even getting done this year is gravy so I am happy whenever it happens.

The shop is starting to sputter to life. We got the area around it cleaned up and leveled out again. We got the tree we took down all cleaned up and .... Actually, this is not what I want to talk about. John rants on here much more often than I  and I want to talk about the charade our government in putting on regarding the "debt ceiling".  It is been on my mind more and more as the August 2nd deadline looms and I am sick of it. You know how many times we have raised the debt ceiling? 74. Of that 74, 10 of them have happened since 2001.  All of them on Bush's watch. Did the Republicans put up a fight? Nope. The American public never even heard the word "debt ceiling".  But now they are playing partisan politics that is putting all of us in danger.   Here is what CNN Money had to say about it,

Ultimately, if lawmakers fail to raise the ceiling this year, they will have two choices, both awful.
They could either cut spending or raise taxes by several hundred billion dollars just to get through Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year. Or they could acknowledge that the country would be unable to pay what it owes in full and the United States could effectively default on some of its obligations.
The first option would be impossible to execute without serious economic repercussions.
And the second option could cripple the economy and send world markets into a tailspin.

And all of this is over a debate that is a total farce.  They always raise the debt ceiling.

You should probably just read the whole article.....

I am pasting this article because I believe that is representing the facts, not the politics, of the situation.  

The politics are as follows; The Republicans just want Obama to sign an agreement that would make this debate happen all over again a year from now. At Election time.  Obama is patiently trying to educate the public, stand his ground to a house full of newly elected Tea-Party members, and not let our economy tank.  Maybe he won't sign in because of the election timing. I don't know. I hope he is refusing to sign it because it cuts spending drastically to social services, education, medicare, welfare, and keeps corporate tax rates and tax cuts for the rich. Nothing is trickling down and if I hear one more news anchor calling the rich "job creators" then I will barf.  Here is the Huffington Post on Obama;  

Under the Obama proposal, non-security discretionary spending would be cut to levels that would save $770 billion by 2023. In addition, there would be cuts to mandatory spending with the goal of achieving $360 billion in savings in that same time frame. The tax system would be simplified and the savings would be used to pay for lower corporate rates. In addition, the income tax rates on the highest earners (families making over $250,000 a year) would revert to pre-George W. Bush rates.

I am sure it will not come as a surprise that John and I are left leaning.  But this past two weeks has left me feeling just sick. The amount of drama that this partisan debate has created without offering us any real solutions to our financial problems. We are in serious trouble.  Not over this fictitious debt ceiling, but over the level of debt we have acculmulted, the way we have lived far beyond our means for so long, economically and ecologically.  

I think we need more than anything to revive American manufacturing. Lets start with green technology. Lets build solar panels and find a way for our cars to run on Hydrogen.  If we were able to get out in front of the green technology movement then we could sell our inventions to the rest of the world when it becomes crunch time with oil depletion. I think the hardest thing for the world to understand, for all of us, is that we are going to have to do more with A LOT less.  Into the foreseeable future. 

And if you made it this far, you get to see how many cucumbers we have. So many they weighed my pants down. 
And here are the finished Radiant tubes

And here are some of our pickles

Monday, July 18, 2011


We are currently in the midst of an EXPLOSION of productivity!  We are OVERFLOWING with getting-stuff-doneness!  We are DIRTY, SUNBURNT and SWEATY!  We are experiencing BACK PAIN!  Now it's time for some WHISKEY and HOMEGROWN VEGGIES!  

What have we been up to, you ask?

We have a shop foundation!

We're installing radiant heat tubes!

Where once there was a tree, now there is no tree!

We're, uh, still working on this one...

Stay Tuned..... Things are getting real.....

P.S. Thanks to Stef, Opal, Berry and Stacey for the recent help and company!  You're all real troopers for helping us with such half-assed, misguided plans!  Next time, we're gonna nail it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Greenhouse is BOOMING!

Oh Snap! It is ON! 

Check this out:
                                                                 One Month Ago                                      

                                                                 One Week Ago

 In front are the tomatoes and right behind them, pumpkins,cucumbers, and watermelons. To the side,  watermelons and cantaloupes.

This is probably not going to shock anyone but I have developed quite a love for gardening. I love being around the plants, love seeing them take off, I often find myself talking or singing to them. And I seem to have several very predictable moments in gardening life. My first predictable moment is exciting since I don't plant in neat rows and fail to label my starts. This is the A-ha moment when the plants show me what they are.  My next predictable moment is also exciting. I count every little flower, then every little fruit.  Then one day I stop counting and start panicking.  I am hoping this will ease with time and experience. I have never tried to really keep a garden going for daily food. I have always gardened with exotics in mind. I can't resist trying to grow a pepper I have never heard of, or 15 different heirloom varieties of Tomatoes.  I hope that once I have things growing all the time, this roller coaster I seem to jump on will level itself out and I will learn to plant a reasonable amount. 

Lets take Cucumbers for example. I have already picked and pickled only slightly less than I think we will eat this year. Luckily, I have less cucumber plants than I originally thought. I thought that I had planted 35 Cucumber plants but it was actually only 21. The others turned out to be melons of some kind.  I also seem to have planted 7 pumpkins that are ferociously competitive and I keep having to whack at them with a machete. Seriously. 
The Tomato plants survived their encounter with aphids with ease. I just blasted them with a water hose for a couple days in a row and the offending aphids fell off and never came back. In fact, it is starting to look like a tomato forest.  I firmly believe that tomatoes are the one thing you can just never have too much of.  Everyone loves them so you can easily give them to people and they are so happy about it. ( Unlike zucchinis... those are so prolific around here I swear you have to lock your car doors in September or people will just leave a bag full in there) Tomatoes can easily, freeze easily, and dry easily, offering many different uses through out the winter. 

But the plants I am so excited about are the melons. For watermelons I have planted Moon and Stars and Small Shining light.  The first is navy blue with yellow dots that look like stars and the second is nearly black and small and bright red in the center.  I literally can not wait. As my Mom says, the best season is watermelon season. I am curious as to how many of our readers put salt on their watermelon. Anybody? Is that just a southern thing?

The other melons include various types of Cantaloupe including a French heirloom Charentais that has gotten really big but only seems to have male flowers. I also planted a Japanese melon called Sakata Sweet that seems to be doing really well.  Those of you in the area, get ready for some melons. There are alot. 

Green beans, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, beets, and eggplants are all doing well too. The exciting peppers I mentioned earlier; flop. They are all little and yellowy and puny.   Also a flop, Okra. It is still the same size after nearly a month in the ground.  

Other things of note this week..... We passed our inspections!!!!!!!  We have a plumber coming out on Monday to  show us how to lay the Radiant Heating tubes. We have a day to do that, then another inspection, then we pour!!!  But..... We made the first cut!!!

Stayed tuned for more pictures of foundation work!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Goodness

I try to avoid reposting stuff here, but I had to pass this along.  An amazing example of bureaucracy stifling positive, progressive ideas.  A minor passion of mine since the great Yome debate.  Resident of Michigan or not, this deserves a strongly worded letter....

Click on this here:

The Very Definition Of Stupidity

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pipes Pipes Pipes Pipes..... dootdootdo... TREBUCHET!

We have Pipes! Pipes going in, pipes going out, pipes being laid, pipes standing up, Hot pipes, Cold  pipes. You name a pipe, we have it.  Here they are.

Here's the skinny on the rest of it...

  • Our pipes are set and ready for inspection.
  • The Shop foundation is ready for inspection.  Both of these are scheduled to happen this coming Wednesday. 
  • After approval the pipes get covered and then insulation and re-bar are laid down on top of them
  • Another inspection scheduled for this coming Thursday for the house foundation with re-bar and insulation.
  • After approval, We ( meaning me and John ) tie radiant heating tubes to the re-bar
  • BOTH Foundations get poured! 
We are expecting this to be about another week or so.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, I have been having a blast.  I have been setting up drip irrigation outside and in the greenhouse and making sure it works the best possible way. (John here.  Only Christy would call a day of drip irrigation "having a blast"!)  I am waiting with bated breath for the go ahead to jump headfirst into the shop and want to have everything here be low-maintenance.

I also spent a lovely day teaching a workshop to a group of eight year old boys.  There is a wonderful farm and cidery nearby called Finnriver.   Their cider is seriously amazing and the people who run the farm are an inspiration in community. Anyway, they asked me to come and teach the boys to build a Trebuchet. You know, a Medieval catapult.  The workshop was hilarious and fun. The boys were really into it and did a great job. The best part of the day was at the end when they all picked it up and marched off into the woods to storm some other boys in a treehouse.   I was seriously amazed at the level of knowledge these kids had about physics and building. One asked me where my T-square was and when I showed him a trick for finding square without one, he was so excited and kept checking square with every step. They knew about counter-weighting and basic tool use. I was very impressed.
Here is our mostly finished product.

We also took off for fourth of July and went hiking in the Olympic Mountains, ate seafood and saw some fireworks.

It has been a fun week, but I am really looking forward to building again!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ya Dig?

Well, I've been playing contractor for the last week or so, as the foundations for both our shop and our house are being dug!

I experienced an unexpectedly strong emotional response to the process on the first day of excavation. There was an hour or so of talking through plans with Jerry, our concrete guy. We walked the site, measured boundaries and made a couple of last minute interpretations to an imprecise site plan. That made me nervous, because if an inspector came out and told me that I had to be 25' from a natural vegetation buffer instead of 15', I'd be totally responsible because I TOLD him to put it there.  I've since called to double check all of those details, and everything is where it should be.  Phew!

When the excavator started up an hour later, though, I damn near passed out.  I turned pale, started pacing and felt really dizzy.  For the last year, we've made a lot of changes to MFW, but they've all happened at our own pace and by our own hands.  When I saw somebody else digging huge chunks out of the ground, I felt like that process had suddenly flown out of my control!

I know it was the right thing to do, hiring somebody to do our foundations.  If we messed up doing it ourselves, because we've never done anything like it before, the whole house would be doomed.  Not to mention that the cost of renting the excavating and surveying equipment for as long as it would take us to do things right would cost almost as much money as we're spending on professional labor who can do it in a fraction of the time!  I've been telling myself this over and over.  The fact is, I'm just a little uncomfortable having a stranger working at OUR land, starting on OUR house.  Perhaps I need to loosen the reigns a little bit?  Do all owner-builders have this irrational sense of guardianship over their land and projects?

Either way, things are truckin' along.  Tuesday all of the pipes running through our slab are being set in place (again, by a professional...).  That has to be inspected, then covered up.  Next will be the insulation under the slab, then the rebar, then the tubing for our potential radiant heat.  Another inspection, and then..... the pour!  All in all, it's probably a week and a half until the Big Pour.  Then another half of a week to cure (I think) before we can start building the shop.  Once that process starts, it's going to be straight-up-madness getting the shop built and finished in time for us to start making things look nice for our wedding in August.  That means two things:

1. Blog posts may be short, but will have exciting pictures of lots of things happening!

2. Get ready for some work parties, all of our little worker bees!  There's gonna be a barn raising!

One more thing,
Special thanks this week to my lovely fiance for putting up with me during my foundation freak out.  I think I might feel so protective of MFW because it's a product of us, working together towards our dreams.  Now, our dreams are becoming that much more real!  I just wish they would slow down so I could see them coming...