Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ay, Que Bueno!

The shop has power!  It's amazing!  You just flip a switch, and lights come on!  There are outlets in the walls which you can plug tools into, and they'll turn on!  It;s magical.  For the last year and a half we've lived in a tangle of extension cords originating from either our temporary power pole, or at one point our neighbor's house, and today we wrapped those cords up!

This month has been a bit of a scramble.  In order to get power we had to have the shop wired, dig a trench from the transformer, have the power company come out to run the wires, fill in the trench, insulate the shop's walls and ceiling, and finally cover up the insulation with real, painted walls and a ceiling.  Getting all of that done before the holidays, in addition to all that holiday gifting and mailing stuff and our standard farm-caretaker stuff, has left us with less spare time than usual.  Hence our sparse blogging lately.  Sorry about that.

During all that rushed progress, we've made some interesting choices.  For the walls of the shop we decided on OSB.  That's "Oriented Strand Board", or "the poor man's plywood".  It's not pretty, but it's cheap, and we're getting to the point in this project where our pre-decided budget is looming closely.  There were some problems using full sheets of OSB in a shop with studs which weren't spaced properly for full sheets of OSB.  Also, we needed to leave gaps between each sheet for possible expansion from painting, which meant putting battens over all of the seams, and on the gable ends that made for some awkward angles and impossible gaps.  It was a real learning process.

The real kicker though, was our choice for a ceiling material.  I went searching for a good material at the salvage yards in Seattle, hoping something would jump out at me.  At Earthwise I found a large stack of corrugated metal which had been taken off of someone's car port.  Thinking it would make for an interesting aesthetic choice, and finding the price more than reasonable, I bought the whole stack.  There were four different colors, but they seemed to work well together.  As it turns out, corrugated metal is a horrible material choice for a ceiling.  It is absolutely unforgiving in regards to corners and any deviation from squareness, and is a VERY cumbersome and heavy material for two people to be maneuvering up and down ladders.

Our shoulders hurt.  Our necks hurts.  Our arms and legs are a little sore too.  Lesson learned.  And no, we're not done.  We got enough up for our electrician to come out, but there's another couple of hours of work left.  It will look pretty cool when it's done, but it was certainly not the smartest way to go about things.

All that said, we still have power!  Things are trucking along!  After new years we'll be ready for our final inspection on the shop, and from there we get to start building catch tables and shelves and storage spaces for all of our tools.  I can't wait!  An organized wood shop is going to revolutionize life at Mellish Fields West!  To get an idea of how we feel about it, crank this up and imagine us dancing around to it in an insulated, electrified, walled and ceilinged shop:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

When you build a house you buy the front door first, right?

Sometimes, Craigslist really comes through. Sometimes there is a huge fail and disappointment, but every now and then you feel like you won the lottery. Sometimes, you yourself are the crazy Craigslsit person.

I am sure you all know Craigslist, but maybe you haven't used it enough to understand the balance. If you want to get a deal from Craigslist you have to be on it daily. If you find something, you have to call right then. It will be gone in an hour if it is worth getting.  I once lost a cast iron bathtub for $40 by 10 minutes. And the post had only been up for 15.  

Part of my old job was to shop for furniture for the theaters when we were unable to build something due to time or budget. Consequently, I know all the antique, thrift, junk shops in and around Seattle. I am also well versed in buying things on Craigslist.  And I have been that crazy person.  I once called a lady to tell her that there were three more chairs, just like the one she was selling, down the street from her house at the Goodwill. I was very enthusiastically explaining that she could have three more of the chair she did not want. Then she would have a full set! There was dead silence on the phone. Then, "do you want to buy my chair or not?" I stammered , "no. I want you to get the full set." She hung up on me.  I just wanted the chairs to be together.

Let me just tell you, I really love furniture. Love it. Love the mid-century modern style the most, but anything funky and bright colored will do.  Mid-century Modern has clean lines and bright colors, textured fabrics and ranges of wood tones. Art Deco also holds a very near and dear place in my heart. Once again, Art deco is about clean lines and geometry, but it is also playful and grand. There is nothing simple about Art Deco while there is something simple about Mid-century Modern.

So, this brings me to our AMAZING Craigslist score! We got a Mid-Century Modern front door for the house! ( I'll wait while the screaming dies down)

Here it is!

I am so thrilled about it I can barely stand it! It is a thick translucent glass with an amber glow with an embedded rubber honeycomb web. It is a heavy, well-crafted door in perfect condition. And the guy selling it was practically giving it away.  This time, we totally won the Craigslist game.  Now we just build a house around it.

Coming very soon..... The shop gets interesting walls and a ceiling, we bottle blackberry wine, and electricity!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Christy brought an interesting article to my attention today.  It's from the Organic Consumers Association, and addresses brands which advertise themselves as progressive, small business, but are in fact owned by large conglomerates.  It specifically mentions Burt's Bees, a company who manufactures bee's wax products and proudly touts the alternative, environmental and humble practices of it's eccentric apiarist founder, Burt.  It turns out that Burt's Bees is actually owned by Clorox, a massive business which sells such harmful products as Liquid Plumber and Armor All.  Therefore, a portion of your hard earned money, which you imagined going to an eccentric hippy named Burt, is funding the environment-be-damned policies of one of the largest corporations in the country.

The article goes on to name Stoneyfield Farm, Horizon Organic, Odwalla, Santa Cruz Organic and Kashi as business which are discreetly owned by the mega-corporations they seem to be juxtaposed against.  Two brands which I frequent, Tom's of Maine and Cascadian Farms, turn out to be owned by Colgate and General Mills respectively.  This isn't really surprising, but it does speak of a larger and more sinister underlying issue.

As "green" has become more and more a part of our every day vocabulary as short hand for a lot of varied environmental issues, it's also become a strong and sneaky advertising tool.  During a board meeting at a company like Pepsi, someone may have said something along the lines of "consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental and health impacts of the products they buy, and are spending a smaller portion of their money on our products. Why fight it if we can use our monumental profits to buy out the enemy?"  In 2006, Pepsi bought Naked Juice for $450 million.  Organic? Natural? Corn Syrup? Plastic bottle?   Doesn't matter, now your money goes back to Pepsi either way.  

These "green" brands are appeasing consumers who have made an attempt to buy with their conscience.  In the process, they have distorted the conversation in a disturbing way.  These companies are telling us "Good for you, you're concerned about the current state of the world.  Look at how many green leafs and symbols are on this package of paper towels!  You're saving the world!".  In reality, these tactics both ease the conscience of troubled consumers, thereby ending the conversation, and make sure that these large companies still have a hold of their chosen market.

We can't buy our way out of the current position in the world.  Sure, you're buying recycled paper towels instead of the more traditional option offered by the same company, but it's still being processed in a large plant, wrapped in plastic and shipped half way across the country.  You could avoid all of this by using a rag, which you can wash and use again.  Simply because something is "green" doesn't mean that there isn't something "greener".  

In an interview by Robert Siegel on NPR tonight with Kalle Lasn of Adbusters, who was instrumental in starting the Occupy Wall Street movement, Kalle made an interesting point which I think ties in with this topic.  He talked about the fact that no actual legislation has been passed as a result of the recent public demonstrations.  Naturally.  As the demonstrators are saying, legislation is a tool of the wealthy and powerful.  However, when there was a grassroots movement organizing people to en masse close accounts from large banks which had recently created new surcharges for basic functions, and move their money to not-for-profit credit unions, there was an immediate response.  The banks almost immediately dropped those surcharges.  They were scared....

While we may not have a representative voice in our own government, us "consumers" are still a powerful voice to those who own that government.  It's our money that has been buying their jets, and their congressional votes.  Maybe the best way to really be politically involved, radical, environmentally-conscious and "green" is to be well-informed consumers.  It's time for some good, old-fashioned boycotts.  Let's vote with our money, if that's all they're going to listen to!

I guess I'm gonna have to learn to brush my teeth with Dr. Bronners....