Friday, January 27, 2012

Armchair Construction

Today we rotated our firewood stacks.  The driest wood moved from outside the door to inside the yurt, the next driest moved from the greenhouse to outside the door, and the wettest stuff moved from a tarp-covered pile to the greenhouse.  This is a dance we seem to do often.  An average piece of firewood has been stacked four times before it makes it to the wood stove.

Realizing the inefficiency of this system, Christy and I started talking about the wood shed we want to build at MFW.  The idea is to have somewhere to store three cords of wood, separated into three piles, with a covered chopping area.  That way we can be curing two season's worth of wood at a time, and never have to worry about chopping enough wood before the rain comes.  It's basically going to make life better.

Once I had a basic idea of how I want to design it, I built it in SketchUp.  If you're not familiar with SketchUp, it's a free program from google which lets you build 3D models. It's pretty easy to use, and has really helped us out in the early stages of designing projects.  Sometimes an idea can look great in your mind, but in actuality be either ugly, unnecessary or physically impossible.  Making a little model to look at can help you rethink your design, spot trouble areas or stop you from starting something unnecessary.  And it's free!  I recommend giving it a shot.

Here's what our wood shed looks like at this step:

We've also used the program to design our garden shed, brainstorm our home plans and configure the shop:

Speaking of the shop, we've been kicking some serious ass in there.  Almost all of our tools are set up, the welder is functioning, and things are getting organized!  There are only a couple of bench tops, the table saw and a fold-down welding table left to finish.  Once it's all done we'll have a full post on it (and maybe a video)...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We finally get to the SuperFun part!

Well, it has been what feels like forever, but we are finally finally organizing a woodshop! We are still in the middle of the infiltration pit debacle, but we are moving ahead and giving our tools a home.

We found some pretty awesome old metal kitchen cabinets and solid doors and decided that with these things we would establish a shop height.  With the door draped across the kitchen cabinets we ended up with a working height of 3 ft.  This is a perfect working height and now we can build everything else to fit.   Here is where we began:

The cabinets have some neat chrome details that fit our aesthetic really well.

The next thing we knew we wanted was a dedicated wall for hanging hand tools. This is a common disagreement between us. John wants to be able to see everything and I cannot stand visual clutter.  I do understand the wanting to see the tools though. You hang the tool and then trace around it in sharpie. One glance at the wall and you can instantly see what is missing.  We also wanted a place to store sheet goods. Full pieces of plywood and OSB. Laying them flat takes up too much space so a nook against a wall was the obvious solution. The next leap was making the outside of the sheet goods rack the home for our hanging hand tools.  It looks something like this:

You can see we built the nook into the desk work area so that all tools are together and in easy grabbing distance. And just behind all the hanging tools is a solid foot and a half of sheet good storage.

The next thing we wanted was a a easy place to store the dizzying array of screws we now own.  We do have a plethora of mason jars so we made a screw shelf.

We screwed the lids to the bottom of the shelf fro inside the lid. The jar screws into the lid. This is a very simple idea that is great for several reasons. You can see the kind of screw you are looking for and then you just twist the jar and the screws are already in a traveling container. All of the lids are the same size so you don't need to worry getting the right jar to the right lid.  I am planning on making one for bolts and nuts too. I am thinking that the washers and nuts can be in the same jar and placed right next to the appropriate size bolt.

The next find was this three tiered metal cart. It had no wheels and was pretty beat up, but for 5 bucks the price was right.

I added casters and cut off the top tier to make a rolling cart for the welder.  Once I added some wood strips to keep it square, I cut a hole in the new top tier and fit the gas cylinder down into it. The gas is strapped to the cart and the welder and the whole shebang can roll around the shop. Awesome. Now it is  time to make some metal stuff!

While it's not the best picture, you can see how the canister goes all the way to the bottom of the cart. I failed to get a picture of the perfect canister sized hole it sits in.

Now ( well, not right now. Right now we are snowed into the Yurt eating lamb roast and reading books) we are moving onto the back wall. The back wall is for the chop saw and it needs a long feed table, so we are putting it on the back wall with a table that spans the whole length. The saw itself will be on a cart (project number one for the welder)  so if you need to cut a piece that doesn't fit, you can wheel the saw to the middle of the shop, or even outside. Over the window will be a lumber rack for dimensional lumber. We are still working on this, but here is the work in progress.

I just can't tell you how great it is to have a place that we built that is functional. I mean, so far, we have built a greenhouse and a huge fenced garden with no plants and a chicken coop with no chickens. To get the shop to a place where it is functional and helping us function SO much better, feels amazing. I can only imagine what moving into the house will feel like.  And when we do we will have a greenhouse and chicken coop waiting for us.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Gutters: they're the pits...

Final Inspection: postponed.

We thought we were ready to have the county come out and OK the shop.  The only thing we hadn't finished was putting up the gutters, but we figured we could knock that out in an hour or so.  That idea flew out the window when we started trying to figure out where to direct the water.  We know that we'll ultimately set up rain barrels, but reputable sources have told us to do that after the final.  Would a splash block work?  Or just aiming the water down hill and away from the foundation?  We called to clarify.

"Oh no.  Those won't work.  You'll need an infiltration pit."  But there's no infiltration pit for the shop on our stamped site plan.  "Oh, that's because we thought you would be running pipes underground from the shop to the main infiltration pit for the house."  But that's 75 feet away, and slightly uphill.  "We won't charge you a re-filing fee for that oversight of gravity" ..... Thanks.  It was a confusing back and forth.  Christy handled it better than I would have.

An infiltration pit, if you've never had the pleasure, is really just a hole in the ground, filled with gravel and covered with dirt.  It allows water the time to filter into the ground without pooling.  It's not that big of a hassle, and for our 400 sq. ft. shop, we only need a 40 sq. ft., 2 ft. deep pit.  Before we can do that, though, we need to have a soil test taken from the ground where the pit will go by a geologist (again) and brought to a lab at our expense.   More time and more money for something else we don't plan on using.

We tried to reason with the county and, as usual, it didn't really go well.  When we asked why it is that we can't use rain barrels, repurposing the water for the garden, preventing any runoff AND conserving municipal water, we were given a truly revealing answer:  We can't have a system involving rain barrels, because IF we sell the property, the next person might not use them correctly.

Take a second and chew on the logic.

It's not a matter of us building a safe, working house.  It doesn't matter if we develop smarter, better systems of living in and with our environment.  We have to build a house on the assumption that it will one day be sold to an idiot.  This logic pervades the whole inspection process.  It doesn't matter that no bank owns any portion of the land or house, or that we don't intend on selling it, or that anybody who would have any interested in buying a 5 acre homestead with no flushing toilet will probably be with-it enough to not unhook a rain barrel and leave water streaming at the corner of a foundation!  This is the argument we will have to address when we explain our plan for gray water use, and it doesn't really work.

We AREN'T building a fool-proof, automated house.  Living responsibly involves more work and more mindfulness than not.  It means keeping an eye on how much water you've collected, seeing how your compost is doing, occasionally emptying your toilet, separating your garbage and table scraps...  I can't guarantee that the hypothetical next guy will do any of this, but we're not building this house for him.  We're building it for US, damn it.

How hard do you think it would be to secede from a county?  Unincorporated Mellish Fields West?  It's kind of got a ring to it.  Short of that, we'll just have to play this game again and give the county what they want, then do things our way when they stop looking.

Stay tuned for some serious shop organizationing!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Year in Review In Pictures. (Featured in People magazine)

This was exactly a year ago this week. The only thing on the land was the greenhouse and a Yome. 

 Then we added a chicken coop and a Huge garden fence!

We ushered in spring and began to prepare to move into the Yome. Sold our practical car and got a land working Jeep! 

We Got derailed on the Yome and moved into this awesome Yurt instead, sidestepping a landmine named no electricity and no kitchen.

We got Engaged!
  And then threw an amazingly fun filled wedding on a gorgeous day on our land. We often talk about  how much fun the entire week was!

We took this clump of trees and turned into a woodshop....

 Slowly, and learning via books and our own wacky ideas....
 It became this!

We learned to grow too many cucumbers and also learned quite a bit about preserving.

We took some time and relaxed in the beauty that is Washington state
 We learned to care for Chickens and then how to raise Chicks
 We had many good friends over for holidays in the cozy winterized Yurt. We drank our homemade blackberry wine. ( a video vlog on that is coming sooooonnnnn!)
Here is the land as it is now, looking down from where the house will be one year from now. That is our goal for 2012. I was going to make a fancy 2012 to -do list, but it all falls under the category of learn to build a house, learn to build a homestead, keep having fun.
With the same amount of tenacity, determination and sheer crazy, maybe this plot of land......

  Will look something, not at all, like this:

Minus the mime being skewered by the unicorn. And with a roof and not made out of foam core.

Happy New Year to everyone! I sincerely hope your 2011 was as joy filled as mine and that all of our 2012's will be filled with as much learning.