Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh, Deer

I really enjoy our neighbors the deer.  I've been following the growth of three fawn this season from our resident doe, watching the antlers grow on the bucks and even followed the death and subsequent consumption of one young'un by coyotes, eagles and a turkey vulture.  Since there is no hunting in Kingston, our deer are particularly fearless and will graze peacefully around MFW paying no mind to us, our power tools or the pneumatic nail gun which sounds remarkably like a shotgun.  They go about their lackadaisical way, yards away, with only the occasional curious glance.

The problem arises when they start eating our fruit trees.  This summer they have decimated our cherry, peach and plum tree.  They ate all five of our apples!  Curiously, they have no intentions toward the fig.  Since all of these tress are recent transplants, we never intended on a harvest, but I've been concerned that they won't have all of the nutrients they'll need to store for the winter if this goes on.

Today I bought a deer repellent spray.  And... it's horrible!  It's essentially reconstituted porcupine blood in a spray bottle.  It smells horrendous!  It clogged, er, clotted up instantly, requiring two cleanings just to spray our six trees!  And god forbid the wind changes while you're applying this gore, as it did today, you wind up looking like an extra from a horror movie.  Alright, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I do have an unacceptable amount of porcupine blood on me and my clothes, and the smell is nauseating.  It also leaves me wondering if we might not be trading our deer visits for an opportunity to get to know our resident black bear better than we might like.

Do you have deer issues?  Do you put up barricades instead?  Does hair from a barber shop really do the trick?  We need a new method.  I will NOT be reapplying this ghastly stuff.

Now, we really strive to keep all of the content here at Mellish Fields West original and topical, but come on, isn't this cute?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bicycles of the Sea!

We're coming up to the end of our post-nuptual staycation.  For the last week or so we've been putting our life back together, cleaning things up, making up for lost chicken time, pickling, drying tomatoes, snapping beans and making soups from wedding leftovers.  It's been great! 

The wedding was pretty inexpensive, what with our do-it-yourself attitude and helpful friends and family.  In addition, we recieved some money from said friends and family;  possibly out of pity after seeing our rural lifestyle (although politely hidding it!) and most certainly out of love.  We debated a while about how best to use the money.  Ofcourse it would be helpful in the home building, but I don't think anyone would be super excited to hear that their gift to us went into buying 10D framing nails, or 50' extension chords.  We also didn't want it to be something completely extravagent or superfluous.  I am happy to announce that we have found an exciting solution...

Now first, it's a little ridiculous to live a mile away from the Puget Sound and not have any way to exploit it as a mode of transportation, recreation or grocery shopping.  Just the other day we went out on our neighbor Dane's boat to help him pull in a crab pot and BAM!  Free crab!  Sustainably harvested!  Between the happy dungeness roaming around under there and the salmon runs happening right now, it dawned on us that locavores and omnivores like us really need to get in on this action.  Boats, however, are expensive to maintain and moor, and run on fossil fuels unless you're a really good sailor.

Sea kayaks on the other hand..... they're the bicycles of the sea!

These lovely boats were on craigslist for a very reasonable price from a very friendly couple.  We picked them up yesterday and dropped them into Tarboo Lake today to try them out.  They're amazingly awesome.  Christy's has a purple dragon on it, which she is very excited about, and mine has a cup holder and fishing rod holder, which I intend to get a lot of use out of.  The Port of Kingston, a 2 mile bike ride from MFW, has a facility for storing kayaks, so we wont need to tow them around whenever we want to drop them in.  I've done some research about how best to crab and fish from a kayak, and can't wait to give it a shot!  And then there's all the camping we can be doing on the tiny, isolated islands of Puget Sound... we could even kayak to Canada!  A whole new world has opened to us!

Back in the other, more real world, we'll be resuming work on the shop in a couple of days, and you can look forward to hearing about our attempts to figure out bird blocking, roof sheathing and door hanging.  Hoorah!

Oh, and wedding pictures?  We're sorting those out.  You'll see some soon, if you want.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

And We're Back!

And we're so damn married!  Thanks of course to everyone who came out to Mellish Fields West, and thanks to our blog audience who has waited patiently for a new update.  Now, where to begin?

In the week and a half leading up to the wedding, we had a couple of work parties, and people THREW DOWN.  Actually, it mostly involved the hoisting of things into the air, so I suppose people THREW UP.  Eh.... well, people were EXTREMELY HELPFUL, one way or the other.

The ridge beam of the shop made it's way off the ground much easier than we had thought it would.  Here it is barely condensed into under two minutes!

Once that was done, Matt and Alex taught us some nice tricks for cutting rafters and left us with a template.  It took Christy and me about a day to get them all cut and attached.  A day that involved a lot of ladder climbing, over-the-head nail driving, and lumber carrying.  It got us to thinking about marketing a Homesteader's Full Body Workout  DVD Collection and, possibly, a weekend retreat program.  "Up, two, three, four, and catch this rafter! and down, two, three, four...... Now grab that pneumatic nail gun, ladies, we're gonna tone those triceps!"  It's just a thought.

Anyways, we need to buy 4 more 2X8s to finish the job.  We wasted two of them trying to make our first rafter (from a few posts ago) and two more from the stack were too warped to use.    I think we have a solid day's worth of work left to get our gable ends framed, and then we start sheathing the roof.  I think we may be done with this shop in the next month or so!

Oh yeah, and remember that satellite dish?  The one that's been sitting on the ground at MFW since March?  The one James Green and I repelled off the roof of a local airport?  The one we've occassionally made vague references about having a plan for?  Well it's up!  It took two solid tries, a lot of improvising and the help of some good friends, but it now has a new home over the entrance to our garden.  We've since planted some hops at the base, which will grow over the dish every summer for shade, and die off in the winter.  A perfect perennial for our needs!

Here you can see the art deco, 1930s chandelier I bought for Christy as a wedding present.  It only lived in the satellite dish pagoda for a couple of days, not being rated for outdoor use.  We have some plans for it later on, in the house we're gonna get around to building.

It was kind of amazing having the wedding at MFW, because for the first time we had an excuse to clean  everything up and decorate all over the place.  We had never seen it look so clean or festive!  I'll post some more pictures up once I get them.

It's good to be back, blogosphere.  Let the misadventures resume!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Yeah, I Know....

Our blogging has been weak.  Sorry about that.  We're, uh, getting married tomorrow.  Very soon we'll have a bunch of time to fill you in on all the crazy cool progress that's happened.  The rafters are up!  Our satellite dish pagoda is up!  Pictures!  Soon!

-Mr. and Mrs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How Not To Frame a Roof

A new edition of Homesteading Tips I Wouldn't Necessarily Take From Us:

We hit MFW early this morning, after studying various building books, ready to build the gable ends of our shop's roof.  We had a plan!  Seriously!  Or, well, at least an idea of what a plan might look like.

Now, I've made some roofs.  I totally improvised the roof systems for our tool shed, chicken coop and greenhouse.  I'm happy to report that all of those roofs are still in their upright and locked positions.  The woodshop, however, is our first permitted building, subject to governmental scrutiny.  As fun as it would be to convince an inspector that I've created yet another brilliant roof system, we have to play this one by the book.

That book?  We don't own it.  Never even flipped through it.  The International Residential Code.  Instead of making up a whole new roof system, we now find ourselves in the position of having to make up what we think other people expect our roof system to look like.  That process involves a lot of staring at mysterious metal brackets, measuring different aspects of our building, adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying various combinations of those measurements, and trying to remember a lot of high school mathematics.  And calling an architect.  And deciphering  a lot of abbreviations.  USS28 vs SSU26?  I'm supposed to know that those are?  We ended up coming up with our own plan of attack.

First, we decided on the final height of our ridge beam, based on the slope of our roof.  A mock ridge beam was erected on one gable end.  Our first rafter was clamped to the fake ridge beam and held in place with cleats to the corner of the gable end wall.  With one of us at each point, we moved it around until we thought we could trace our plumb and bird's mouth cuts.  We took the rafter down, made our cuts and propped it back up.

I'll spare you all the details.  Let's just say it didn't work.  To make a long, long, long story short, the second and third times didn't work either.  We tried more bracing, a new fake ridge beam and more cleats than a foot locker.

The fourth time did not work.

One valuable skill we've really honed over the last year is knowing when we're too frustrated and burnt out to come up with any new, good ideas.  We took a lunch break to our local watering hole, the Main Street Ale House.  As it turns out, the bartender's boyfriend is a house framer who, due to an unfortunate firework accident, has limited use of one hand and a lot of down time.  Since what we need is experienced guidance, not muscle, we thought we could get him to come out and tell us what we're doing wrong.  He's been bored lately and is totally into it.  Everyone wins!  Now let's see if we can get our gable ends up before Saturday.

Why before Saturday, you ask?  Because we're having a work party!

Our ridge beam is structural, and therefore big and heavy.  It's going to take a good, old fashioned community of muscle to hoist this 4 X 13 X 20' beam into the air.  So far we have a few friends coming out.  If you're in the area, we'd love some more company!  BBQing will follow.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion.....

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Really Pretty Plumb

Today we feel like Master Framers. Seriously.

We got all four walls finished last night after finally making a door decision. We has issues with our ideas about doors. We scored these totally awesome french doors on craigslist, for free, about a year ago and I was very excited to use them. We failed to tell the guy doing the foundation and so the opening was slightly smaller than we wanted it to be. Oops. The next problem was with the height of the doors. Part of their charm is the fact that they are 94" tall. This raised problems with the height of the walls and the cap plate that has to go all the way around and tie all the walls together. John and I hatched a plan that would put the header above the cap plate, but it would nearly certainly not pass inspection. We thought about cutting the doors, but they are mostly glass and cutting would have compromised the integrity. So, we bought new doors that fit and are already pre-hung. But not before we spent two days trying to get the free doors to work.

With that settled we were able to get all the walls framed out last night. So today we arrived ready to plumb and align the walls and then install the cap plate. We had in ingenious little system to align the walls. It looked like this:

  Look real hard at the photo and you can see a green string. (Or click on the photo and it gets bigger) We put up blocks on each corner and in the very center. Then we strung a string across the blocks. When the string was touching the middle block the wall was plumb. Voila.

Once all the walls were plumb and the cap plates in place, tying all the walls together and making sure to always overlap the joints, it was time to sheath. We somehow thought this was going to just FLY up. I think we thought that because it seemed like such an easy task compared with learning to frame. You know, just nail up 4x8's. Done. It was not that easy. We messed up somewhere in the framing ( to be analyzed at a later date) and so the ends did not end on studs, as we thought they would.  So each piece had to be held up in place, leveled and marked, and then taken down and cut to a custom length. After a few we got into a really nice rhythm and did succeed in getting half of the 4x8's in place. It really shored up  the walls and the shop is really starting to look like a building! Yay! Here we are at the half-way point.

Tomorrow we will put the second set up and then we get to think about the ridge beam and rafters. Now, THAT is going to be fun.  Also, our wedding will be happening very very soon on the property and we have to figure out how to make it look like less of a construction site.  We still have failed to take picture of our finished house foundation but, I swear, it is coming!

Thursday, August 4, 2011



This is what we are now doing with our cucumbers.....

Also, we sold our first box of produce to a local farmstand.  That's right. We sold some cucumbers. And then we made little men out of the ones that were too big.

Next time... Wood shop gets sheathing, and house foundation gets furniture on it. What!?