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!”

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