Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Kitch, please!

Most parts of this building process took way longer than my optimistic estimate, but the kitchen took WAY longer and it's still not quite done.  It's been about a year and a half now, off and on.  There were a few plumbing and wiring changes to the original plan, but the most time-consuming part has been the cabinets.  They’re simple plywood cabinets mixed in with some metal cabinets salvaged by my friend Sven from the old hospital that we just spray-painted.

Here’s a snapshot of a 3-D drawing.  I poured concrete countertops in place using specially made countertop forms from an online sourceHere’s a link to another house-building blog showing a similar process.  I did a much cheaper version, using regular high-strength concrete and 14 ga. wire. You can get these locally at about one-tenth of the cost of mail-ordered specialty countertop mud.  We had some locally available countertop mud, but this was also several times more expensive.  I understand the mud we used was not as workable, sandable and otherwise forgiving as the custom stuff but I would do it the same way again to save those hundreds.  It helps to have a little experience finishing concrete and to add to it by watching youtube.

 Here is the underlayment ready to attach forms.  You can see I put 2X4 falsework under the cantilevered sections and open spans to support the concrete until it cures.
And here is the concrete as it is right now, nearly finished. It needs a bit more shaping and then I'm planning to seal it.  If you want to do this yourself you might want to order a kit like this or this.  Or something like this acrylic sealer with a wax on top.  The simplest finish I found was just to use beeswax, but that is not very durable.  This is a pretty nice article explaining the different choices for sealing indoor concrete.  It doesn't look like we'll have countertops for Christmas, but hey, maybe New Years!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

These past couple seasons

The past few months' progress have been mostly in the trim department.  The first rooms to get finished were our bedrooms.

Once we were moved in to our own rooms (whoop whoop) it was time to hurry up and prepare for cold weather.  Last winter caught us very unprepared for record-breaking cold temperatures.  We ran out of firewood by the end of February and I could not keep up by simply going out with a sled and cutting dead trees.  We had to get creative, burning scraps from our carpenter neighbor, pallets from anyone getting rid of them, or whatever else we could find.

This winter was way different, thank God and hard work!  First of all we built a decent 5-cord woodshed and filled it (in addition to our old shed).  Here you can see the sheds and two of our resident moles showing off their snow-ships.

The other key to coziness was a pair of propane wall heaters.  This one is in the utility room.

Installing these meant connecting to the existing gas plumbing, and connecting that to a big tank out in the yard. We were in a bit of a race to get the rest of the trench dug before the ground got hard, and then we had thigh-deep snow to clear out of the way by the time the propane company came to deliver a tank in early December.  The other difficult part of this process was chiseling a hole through the foundation for the downstairs heater's vent.  These stoves are "direct-vent" heaters, meaning you mount them on an outside wall and the fresh combustion air and exhaust are vented straight out the back.  Looking back it might have been smart to install a more-efficient central propane heating system, even though we still intend to use a masonry wood stove as our main heat.

Even though this February was the coldest on record, the spring at the bottom of the hill kept pouring its water out day and night.  The day this photo was taken the high temperature got up to -2, and that dark stuff at the bottom is moving ground water.  As handy as this abundance of wild water is, we found after having it tested that it was just hard enough to ruin our water heater and just acidic enough to eat up metal parts of the plumbing.  It had already been noted that it was difficult to wash hair and glassware with this water, and that dissolved iron left the toilet and bathtub impossible to keep white.  So after months of research I ordered a water softener and calcite tank from a company in Ohio and hooked it up.  We now have hot running soft water.  Sound the trumpets.

So as the road starts to break up we're back to putting up trim.  This week the mud room is coming together complete with coat rack, and trim for the little door to the fairy room.

 The kids built this room in the wall as we were putting up drywall.

 There's still plenty of snow up in these hills, but April promises some changes.  Here's hoping these promises don't fool us like they did last year!

 The story of the wood we’re using for trim might be worth telling, so if you find a story about wood interesting here it is:
     I grew up in a pine forest south of Marquette, and being an introvert in a house with four siblings, I spent a lot of time out in those woods and got to know where just about each tree was
between our house and the swamp. There was one great white pine, taller than all the red pines, that my big brothers climbed a few times and said they could see Lake Superior.  Once I followed them up there but a branch broke about 12 feet up and I slid down the rough trunk scraping up my doughy belly and came away so intimidated that I never dared to climb up again. 
   Many years later, in 2007, I talked to my mother on the phone who told me someone was cutting those trees down and building a house.  At that moment it appeared my parents would lose much of their privacy and have houses and roads to look at where there once was wilderness.  As it turned out the new people were very careful in selecting which trees to cut, and offered us the stack of logs from the clearing to use.  So my friend Justin of Wilson Creek Woodsmithing ****links?**** came by and we spent a couple days milling those logs into 1-inch thick material for trim and flooring for this house.  That big white pine we made into 3-inch planks which I now intend to use for chunky stair treads (just now I’m wondering if my subconscious still wants to climb that tree.)
     After milling the wood we stacked it for years in the yard here, covered, off the ground and stickered (meaning stacked with small sticks of wood, stickers, in between the layers to allow air to flow through) so that they would dry out.  Years later when we finally wanted to use the wood I discovered the tarps covering the stacks had lost some of their integrity and the wood had started to rot. We were at first disappointed and then delighted after planing off the rough exterior to reveal clear wood with some subtle blue and grey colors.  I’m not sure if this is what you call spalted wood but spalted is one of those fun words that makes rotten sound good.  As my neighbor Rad says, “That’s not a flaw.  That’s a feature!”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fall is about to stand up

We have been working like ants getting the house finished this summer.  Painting, installing flooring downstairs, and building a decent woodshed- and then filling it with wood of course.

Now it's on to trim.  This week we're hanging doors and planing the boards we milled up back in 2007, as mentioned in one of the first posts of this blog.
Everybody's eager to move into their own rooms.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A trip out west

The train trip out west was excellent. Sleeping in those seats, however roomy, was difficult but other than that it was such a great way to see the country with the family and keep moving at the same time. If somebody needs to go pee, they get up and go. If you feel like talking to somebody, walk down to the observation car. Bring a guitar and you might get the chance to trade songs as I did with some kind folks.

One highlight of the trip out was rolling into Glacier National Park at sunset. The railway at this point departs from the highway. There was a pair of moose standing in a little lake watching the train go by. If you ever take this train, the Empire Builder, you might consider planning to stop a night or two in this fantastic park.

We are enjoying life in Bend. It has a lot in common with our hometown of Marquette, just with more people and less rain, and much smaller and fewer lakes and streams and much bigger mountains, some of them active volcanos. Tomorrow I'm playing at Crow's Feet Commons, a fancy bike shop with excellent local brews. I'm feeling right at home.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Will work for vacation

August is blowing by even faster than usual this time.  Mostly because I've made myself super busy in order to raise a little money so I can travel with my family out to visit my sister and her husband (my longtime music making friend Jared Smith) to welcome their new baby!  We're all very excited and it makes it easy to work like crazy during this season which is so prime for goofing around to know that we'll soon be on a train to Oregon.  We are still finding times to get down to the lake, even if it's just for an hour or two before bed time.

My Oregon family has found me a bunch of music dates out there, including accompaniment for some yoga classes where Nora teaches.  This is a new thing for me that I've often thought about.  Both yoga and music have been great ways to get outside of the confines of my head and get a fresh perspective on things.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mission Statement

I sometimes wonder why I chose the life of a musician, to major in music in college, to study song after song. But I do know that everywhere I look I see and hear reasons and logic that tell me that people are to be separated and compared, and put together in groups and so on, but in my heart I know that we are all one. Music is the most powerful tool I have known to cut through the labels and divisions our minds attach. My greatest goal in life is to allow this healing to be revealed in myself and everyone I encounter!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Recording dates

This house had its first job as a music studio last week, thanks to a visit from recording engineer Ryan Staples and his drumstick-wielding wife Stephanie Whiton.  Here are some photos.  I'm so grateful to have such kind and brilliant people come over:

Jason Moody

Aya Jane

Kerry Yost

Sven Gonstead

We spent one evening in Marquette to record some additional parts.  Here's Peter Gummerson adding a piano and other keyboard sounds in the chapel at St. Paul's Episcopal church.  We recorded about 10 songs and intend to add a few more soon and get them into some kind of listenable package sometime in the snowy season.

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