Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's In The Way That You Use It

In honor of today being Eric Clapton's birthday I must, of course, use one of his songs for the post title. One of my more favorite of his songs actually but not one of his more commercially popular. And I have even heard him sing it in person, many years ago.
So, yesterday I got all the forms wrecked off the concrete and cleaned up the area. That's the only crappy thing about concrete; you have to tear down all that wood you just put together! But the slab and footing came out well with very little honeycomb to be seen. After getting things cleaned up I went around and gathered up all the 6" block I had scavenged over the last little while and carried it to the area. I laid out the walls and openings to figure out just how many blocks I am going to need to buy. Looks like I'll need to purchase about 10 to finish. Not too bad.
Now, I know a lot of you are wondering why I'm going ot lay block when I have this concrete slab now to build on. Well, I'll tell you. On the right side, near the garden, the concrete is about at grade, meaning the wood framing would be close to touching dirt on that side if I just framed right on top of the slab. You need to have your framing and siding about 8 inches above grade here because of the termite scourge. Those buggers will eat everything. I don't want dirt washing up on my siding and sheathing to give those guys a starting point. Plus, I want to be able to hose the chicken coop out at times and if my framing were done on the slab I would be soaking it every time I washed. So, I elevate the framing on this block and it solves all that. I can wash up on the concrete block to my heart's content. Now, the block will be mortared and pinned to the slab with rebar and then filled to allow me a solid surface to anchor my framing to. Considering that most of the block and rebar are free, this is not an expensive detail.

It rained all last night and drizzled most of today so I didn't work on the coop any. Instead, I did what I've been needing to do for a while and that was throw some more pottery! I got a good bit made and will be firing shortly, I hope. I've got to start making a bit more of an effort to market my work if I'm going to make a living at this stuff. Since I got no comments on the new pottery page I will assume either, 1. no one looked at it 2. anybody that did look at it thought it was okay Or, 3. everybody that looked at it thought it sucked horribly but is afraid to say anything to me. LOL!! Mainly, I was wondering if the black background in the photos looks too severe or does it highlight the work nicely?

Chigger has declared herself the Official Stick Wrangler and dutifully makes it a point to gather and harass all sticks, no matter their size, when we go walkabout. She's pretty good about carrying them all the way up to the house but I need to teach her to deposit them in the burn pile or the kindling box.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mole In A Hole

You may have to click on this photo to enlarge it enough to see what I have done here. I've mentioned in the past that I have quite the population of moles here on my property. I don't want to kill them as they eat grubs that later turn into all sorts of nasty things such as Japanese beetles. I don't have much of an issue at all with Japanese beetles because, I believe, I let the moles do their thing. However, they have sometimes posed a little problem in some areas of the garden. This past year they rooted so much in the strawberry patch that they killed a few of my plants. Ever mindful of their benefits however I do not want to use force against them. While I was contemplating what to do I happened across an article in a self-sufficiency book that showed this method of mole deterrence. Now, usually, I just walk on their tunnels, as you can see the little mounds easily, and this causes the mole to dig deeper and as a result, doesn't come near the roots of your plants or upset the plants. Moles do not generally eat roots as many people suspect. They are just rooting after grubs and if they expose the plants roots to air (like in their tunnels) it can dry the plant out and kill it. However, I really didn't want to walk on my strawberries so I was greatly relieved to see that this solution you see in the photo seems to have worked. You simply take a glass soda bottle, after you enjoy the contents, and bury it up to the top in the bed where your plants are. Leave about 1 inch or so sticking up. You have to bury them about every 6 to 8 feet to cover a large area. I put 3 in my strawberry bed. Now, the theory is that the wind blowing across the top of the empty bottles produces a vibration within the bottle that the moles do not enjoy and they leave the area. You know how you can blow across the mouth of a bottle and it makes that noise? If standing near the bottles I can't hear anything myself but it seems to have worked. No mole tunnels as far as I can see and if I press on the soil I don't feel any hollow spots. It beats buying traps or those whirly-gigs that are supposed to do the same thing. Or killing the moles!

Also, I have redone my pottery page on the blog here. Ya'll look at it and tell me what you think. And be honest; I can take it! Seriously, if you see something that might could be improved, let me know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

You Plant Your Fields

My little seedlings are finally starting to get a move on in the growth department. These are mostly varieties that I ordered from Southern Exposure. I am very impressed with their seed quality. These just busted forth quite exuberantly only a few days after I planted them and soon outgrew the smaller starter holes in the tray below. My seeds from Baker Creek and a few others have sprouted but took much longer and just haven't shown the life, I guess you'd say, of these others. Now, some of these other seeds are from a couple of years ago and a couple I messed up by planting too deep but the Southern Exposure seeds just seem much more robust.
We are still getting a few frosts now and again and our traditional planting dates for hot weather crops are not until mid-April. Many of the older folks here plant right after Good Friday. So, knowing these would never make it in the teeny starter slots I transferred these to individual peat pots until I can get them in the ground. I have started zucchini, crookneck yellow squash, 2 types of cucumber, Amish Paste, Black Cherry, Moneymaker and Yellow Pear tomatoes, Black Diamond watermelons, Edisto 57 melons (cantaloupe), a Santa Claus melon, eggplant and pepperocini peppers. I also started some dill and some little mini, decorative pumpkins, just for fun. I will direct sow green beans, corn, okra, purple hull peas and probably some other stuff that escapes my memory at the time.

I hope I did not sound presumptuous or holier-than-thou in that last post/rant. I don't mean to appear to think I'm all that and a bag of chips too. Compared to some other folks doing 'green', I'm a horrible slacker. I know I have a long way to go but I'm working on it. What bothers me is not that people don't live like I do. Everybody is different and everybody has the right to live as they choose. What pains me is when I see friends and family, or even people that are not close friends, who are obviously unhappy and unhealthy but do not seem to realize the source of their trouble. They work long hours on sometimes 2 jobs to uphold a standard of living that basically amounts to eating, sleeping, watching TV and shopping for worthless crap on their few off days. Or, they work long hours to avoid their spouse. They feel bad physically and bad about themselves because they can't seem to lose weight but they don't seem to realize that melted cheese is not a vegetable and that cases of diet soda won't cancel out all the other crap you eat. In fact, many studies done have shown they will actually make you gain weight, not to mention wreck your blood sugar levels. They complain about having to take so many prescription meds and will believe anything a doctor tells them but make fun of me because I use baking soda instead of chemical laden toothpaste. And what astounds me most of all is they will question me and see how I live, that I don't take drugs, that I don't need to lose 50-60 lbs. or more (although I admit I could lose 10), that I'm not burdened by untold amounts of debt and then STILL smugly scoff at me for planting my own food or not having the latest Crackberry or Ipod or whatever the shit they have.
And most painful of all is that they are teaching their children the exact same habits and lifestyles, almost guaranteeing their future unhappiness also. They claim they have no time for outdoors or planting or anything of that sort and I suppose if they are at the mall all the time or chauffeuring their children to way too many activities, they don't. I don't buy that however. When I was a kid we grew a large garden and raised much of our own meat and we, the kids, had to do a lot of the work. But we still had time for extracurricular activities and fun time with friends. In high school my sister was in the band and my two brothers and I were all the annual staff photographer. I got to go swimming at the fancy city pool with girlfriends. However, I had to finish weeding and watering sometimes before I could go. But we were not secluded farm children that never socialized with society. Hell, we even dated some! Well, my siblings did; for the most part I couldn't buy a date in high school. But anyway...the idea of not having time or kids not having any other life is ridiculous, but I guess what it boils down to is that people make time for what they want.
On the rare occasions that I see my family they all look tired and wore out. Other people and friends seem stressed and upset and it just makes me feel bad for them. To live a more simple life is just that,... simple. It's not rocket science. But I guess the lure and habit of rampant consumerism is more than a lot of people can avoid. And, as some of you pointed out, most people just don't stop and think. They don't realize they don't have to live that way. As one of the boys I worked with told me once, 'it's not debt unless you can't make the payment'. That is their way of thinking. But you can't really say anything to people about stuff like that. It's their choice. But I do feel bad knowing that people I care about are going to continue to suffer ill health, work related stress and rising debt and they won't look around and see what is going on.
But ya'll don't worry about me, seriously. I like being different; always have. In fact, I have a overwhelming urge to dread my hair or pierce my nose in defiance of normalcy and to proclaim my hippidom!!. Tattoos are cliche' now but I could come up with something different. Wear bones in my hair? lol!!! Maybe Jack and I could start running around the homestead in little grass skirts and nothing else!! Ha!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Food For Thought

I'm ecstatic that I am now able to build a very good salad from what I either grow or forage here. Except for those tomatoes. But that will be soon! Well, okay, and the feta cheese but I'm looking into that also. Anyway, the greens are from here! My lettuce, onions and foraged watercress that grows in abundance in all the local springs, including mine. I should have some carrots soon and I could add chard or broccoli if I so desired.

My medicinal herb garden is really getting cranked up. I want to add some more to this, as I do every year. In this photo you can see catnip, lemonbalm, mountain mint, echinacea, lavender and feverfew is over to the side, just out of the frame. You would also see bee balm but in a fit of cleaning I mistook the clump for early mountain mint and yanked it up! I'm a moron. Mountain mint is rampant here and must be controlled or it is very invasive. Fortunately, bee balm grows wild and I can find another clump. *Sigh*

Broccoli harvest continues. I have had some trouble with my cabbage though. After all that time of babying those damn things over the winter, they have now all gone to seed without making a head. I cooked the leaves anyway and Jack said they were good but I was not impressed. I have one row of very young ones that may still do; I hope so, but that is another lesson for me either way.

I also have a few young broccoli that are starting to come on well. I'm hoping that as my older ones die back these will start producing. The young cabbage are in the background, btw.

Raspberries are shooting up quite well now. I can't wait for these jewels! I added two more this past week so I have six plants now, I think. They all got a good dose of composted cow manure and wood ashes this spring as did the strawberries.
I haven't been particularly enthused about posting as of late. I guess I've been a little discouraged although not due to any of my great readers of course! I know ya'll that like to read here would read anything I wrote, for the most part. And I will continue to write. I guess it's just that lately I've become more acutely aware of how little most people really give a shit about their health and what is foisted upon them by conventional society. I mean, I know people that garden a lot and I know a few that raise chickens. I know a few that are members of environmental groups and who actively recycle and such and these are all great things but I don't know that I know any that try to bring the whole concept into play.
I just don't have much in common with most people. I don't have kids that take up the majority of my time. I don't really care about having any either, to tell the truth. I don't have a job I hate that takes up most of my time. I find the religion of most around here unproductive and apathetic. I don't watch television and can't carry on a conversation about the popular shows. This is a good thing in my book. I know there are many people who are trying to live more simply, healthfully and meaningfully but I don't seem to meet them often. I read their blogs! But they are far away. It has struck me more often than not that perhaps I'm more of a nut job than I previously thought. My family is so far removed from my lifestyle that we just really don't communicate anymore. I have actually had a couple of people get literally angry at me because I will not shop at Wal-Mart. It's very discouraging to me that such attitudes exist. It's discouraging to me that people smirk and make faces when I won't eat processed food or plain white bread. It's discouraging to me that people who claim to be Christians get all quiet and wander off when you suggest literal ways to give to the poor or help victims of catastrophes. They are very excited to talk about what God is going to do for them however.
So, I'm just down I guess. I'm no freakin' saint I guarantee, and I'm not claiming to be, but I will honestly try to back up my talk with action. I guess that is what I try to show with this blog. I fail a lot. I eat a Wendy's hamburger once in a while. I still don't make my own laundry soap! Aarghh! lol!! But it is not brain surgery to live a more simple, relaxed life where you actually pay attention to what is going on, rather than just 'busying' yourself through your time here. But I don't find a lot of people who even seem to care to try, yet they will readily complain about being bored all the time or burnt out from stress. I mean, what gives?? Have we addled our brains that much with prescription drugs and processed foods? Or have I got it all wrong? Is my lifestyle unrealistic?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Smooth Operator

I am very, very tired tonight but I did want to get up a few photos of what we have been working on in regards to the ongoing chicken coop saga. I tried to get some mud yesterday but they were too busy so we had to set up for today. This morning it was threatening rain but I didn't want to reschedule; didn't know when things would be dry again. So, I kept it coming and turns out it didn't rain at all. It was, at least, nice and cloudy so we were not having to work in the hot sun. Here my help was taking pictures instead of pulling that mud down! Ha! Just kidding! Jack did a real good job of helping me pour even though he had never done such work before. He caught on real well.

Seriously, there wasn't much time for picture taking so the next chance Jack got was as I began to finish the stuff. The large float there is called a bull float. You push and pull it across to smooth the surface and then move over to the perpendicular side to cross over your strokes. This works down any high spots and helps level the mud before you float it off by hand.

Obviously, the bull float is great when you are pouring an area larger than you can reach from the sides. After the mud has set some you can put a knee board out on the wet concrete, to distribute your weight, and kneel on it to reach the center.

And here you can see a little of the footing for the tool shed. We really worked hard because they sent me a little extra concrete. I ordered 2 yards but the plant loaded around 2 1/2 yards or maybe even a little more. The driver had a yard and a half left over from one pour and they added another yard to make sure I had enough. We poured everything I could think of. We filled concrete block around the house, set one fence post, dumped some on where the floor of the tool shed is going to be and finally the driver just dumped the rest on one part of my driveway that is bad to wash. That is another reason I like to order from a plant if I can; you will often get a little more than what you order. I figured it to be around 1 1/2 yards but you can't order a half a yard, so I went with 2. The driver was real nice and suggested the driveway thing because he said he would hate to take it back to dump on the plant yard when I could use it somewhere.

This is the finished slab. Or at least, finished after I decided I had had enough. Actually, it is quite slick and I was pleased with the results. My left hand may not function tomorrow, but I got a pretty finish. A friend commented that the chickens were not going to care what the slab looked like but of course, you all know that is not the point with me. Yes, I am screwed in the head. I care what it looks like but a slick finish is much easier to clean. I said those damn chickens better care!! They better ooh and aah over it and rub their little feathers over it and compliment me weekly on their beautiful digs.
I'm not sure if I mentioned in my other post but the slab is slanted 1/4" per foot to one side so that water will easier drain off after cleaning.
Well, bedtime for me!! and gonna take it kinda easy tomorrow.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stinkin' Up The Great Outdoors

Seems like everything we've been doing lately requires a good bit of sweat. It's good, decent manual labor though. It's always nicer when you are doing it for yourself rather than a company, in my opinion.

We did take a little break and go fishing Friday however. Seeing as how I live only about 10 miles form a beautiful lake, it's a shame not to go drown some worms on occasion. And that's about all we managed to do. Didn't even get one bite. Oh, I did manage to get really sunburned.

More poo was brought in this weekend and I tilled it all in while Jack continued to dig post holes for the new garden/chicken coop fence. I'm very anxious to start planting but this needs to sit for awhile and let that manure break down some more. We are going to try to get a little footing ready for the tool shed part of the chicken complex so we can pour tomorrow. I don't have any mud set up as of yet but often times if you call in the morning they can get a truck to you at some point.
So, lots of work going on here! I hope you all are having fun and getting some stuff done.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sometime In The Morning

I'm very glad I no longer have to get up at 4:30 a.m. for work anymore but I have to admit, I did often enjoy watching the sun come up over our jobs. I like the morning time but only after some light is appearing! Often times our jobs would be out away from the city with woods around and it was very peaceful, even for a construction site.
Mornings here can't be beat however. I enjoy sitting outside in the warmer seasons with a cup of hot tea to enjoy the freshness of a new day beginning. I can often hear the creek running and all the birds are singing. I think the light quality at that time of day also triggers something calm in our brains. It's a different type of light than what exists later in the day.
Well, just a quick post this morning and I am off to plant some onions and see what else I can get into. Chigger also enjoys a walk to the creek most mornings! Hope everyone has a good, peaceful day.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Progress

I piddled around yesterday enough to get the forms lined (straightened), the vapor barrier in and started on the rebar. I think I've mentioned this before but a vapor barrier underneath concrete is very important if there is ever going to be any enclosed structure on top of the concrete. If you don't have it you can get sweating on top of the slab and, inside a structure, this is not good. Also, I always put my stakes and kickers about every 3 to 4 feet down the form. Any further apart and you tend to get bows in the form. If I were using actual beamsides or forms (plywood backed by 2x4's) I would not need kickers on such a short form. Always kick both sides of all corners too. I used the turnbuckles for my kickers because, 1. I had them and didn't have 2x's and 2. the form had a little wiggle to it so I could pull it out with the turnbuckles.
I just scrounged out what #4 rebar I had and threw that in there. I think it's on about 16" centers. This slab really didn't need much but you do want to have some steel in any slab or sidewalk. Heavy wire mesh would have been fine also. I'm hoping to pour Monday or Tuesday.

The flowers are really kicking in here. Things are real starting to grow and blossom.

The broccoli has gone gangbusters! I picked a large mess for supper the other night and it continues to produce these shoots just all over the plant. I am curious to see how long they will do this. I guess until it gets pretty warm. And so far, knock on wood, I've not had any problems with pests.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Forming

Ed was correct in his assumption that I would be pouring concrete soon. This is the formwork for the future chicken coop. Or the Taj MaCoop, as Woody put it. Now, I know some of you are looking at this and thinking, that's a helluva thick slab for a chicken coop. Well, it's not so much. See, none of my land is flat. None. Not 10 square feet anywhere. It's all gently rolling hills or steep inclines. I picked the flattest part I could find around the garden but it still meant a 12 inch elevation change in 12 feet. But, that is easily remedied with a concrete slab.
I wanted it connected to the garden for a variety of reasons. At certain times, when there are no tomatoes, the chickens can be let right into the garden to patrol for bugs etc. Scraps from the garden are easily thrown to the chickens and chicken poop is easily gathered and taken over to the garden. Plus, I already have electricity and water at the garden and it won't take much to trench the power down to the coop, although I would like to maybe install some solar lights. And, last but not least, I already have shock wire run around the garden and it won't take much to incorporate the coop with this. The coop will also be known as ChickenTraz.

So, forming the slab here wasn't much problem but I did have to fill the interior in order to have only a 3 inch thick slab to pour. This involved wheelbarrowing a lot of dirt and gravel but that's good exercise. However, if you do this, you MUST tamp the fill so that it won't collapse on you later and have your slab crack. And that dirt will settle, I assure you. So, that is what this contraption is above; a motorized tamp. One of those little handle doolollies ain't going to do it. These big tamps are way cool. Due to Allen and I being in the business, we just happen to have one residing here all the time. It doesn't get a lot of use but is very handy to have. The things are extremely heavy, as you might guess, and when running that thick plate on the bottom vibrates, causing the tamp to well, tamp, and actually move forward. You can barely pull one of these things but when running it moves along on it's on.

It's kinda hard to see in this photo but I left a small turndown around the perimeter of the slab for a footing. You must have this so that the edge of the concrete turns down to contact undisturbed earth. This is kind of a mini version of what we call a monolithic slab. Meaning the slab and footing are poured at the same time. My little footing turndown is only about 5-6 inches wide at the bottom.

I dug the right hand side down just as low as I could, and still have the slab be above grade but that still gave me about 11 inches on the other end. The slab is 12'x8' and it slopes 1/4" per foot in the short direction. This is to allow drainage when I hose the slab off for cleaning. I know most people would not go to the trouble of pouring concrete just for a chicken coop but I have my reasons. 1. I am just partial to concrete; it lasts. You will never have to redo it. 2. No predators will be allowed access to my chickens. They are for my meals, not theirs and I prefer not to kill predators. I think it is better to just not allow them the opportunity. 3. Concrete is easily cleaned and a clean coop is essential. 4. With the rising cost of lumber, concrete is a good deal. The local batch plant used to charge an outrageous minimum on concrete; 5 yards. I suspected with the recent falling economy that maybe they haven't been doing as much business and might have changed their policy. I called them and what do you know? they said they would work me a deal for just 2 yards. How about that? If I have decided to floor the coop in plywood I would have to use pressure treated, probably 3/4 inch, and it would have cost about what 1 yard of concrete is going to run me. With 2 yards, I can also pour a small footing for the tool shed I want to build connected to the coop.
So, I'll be back later to show how I finished my preps for pouring this slab. Oh, and I meant to say I did not buy any lumber to do the formwork. It was all constructed of scrap material I had laying around. Basically just old 2x4's and stuff. Unless it is going to be pretty architectural concrete that is really going to show, I almost never buy form material.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On Building

Whatever good things we build end up building us. So, maybe by the time I finish this place I'm building I will be a halfway decent person. I think building is good for one's being. For one thing, it's amazing how much a wooden post can humble a person. Think you're pretty smart, eh? Try to get them all plumb and in line... Or, lest Jack think I'm picking on him, build that box but make sure it's square. Seems pretty simple right? Well, it is fairly, after years of doing it. After explaining my procedure for running a line of posts, it dawned on me that I have, in essence, spent the last 17 years learning how to plumb a post and build a square box. It basically boils down to that. Ah, but once you learn those two items, oh the things you can build.

I think many of the ills of people today are the result of not getting their hands dirty anymore. To build builds you up. Few people have any desire or confidence to get out and try to make something. Is it just coincidence that depression, insecurity, ill health, obesity, and apathy are rampant in our country? As an occasional teacher of the crafts I have often been amazed at how happy it has made some people just to build a little flower box or learn to cut a board correctly (and to the exact measurement you were intending). To build gives so much confidence. You say, I can do this! Look! If I did that, I might could build something bigger.

I have often written here about how timid and insecure I was before I began working construction. I also held many arrogant and narrow-minded opinions regarding those who chose to work blue collar rather than get a college education. When I look back now to my much younger days I am somewhat amused at that girl and those attitudes. What rough but exciting roads she went down and found herself learning so much more standing in mud and scorching sun, rather than in a classroom. It is only fitting I did not receive this land at an earlier time. I was not ready back then. I could not have built these things I build now, even halfway through my construction career. Not that I didn't know how to put pieces of wood together but because I didn't know how to put a life together. Building taught me what was important in life. When you have to do it yourself you begin to get very picky about what really matters. I have to pour this concrete myself, so do I really need 100 more square feet of house? Do I really need a dining room that will only be used on holidays? Isn't someone who will help me dig holes all day long more of a treasure than someone who would just pay someone else to do it? And to be safe and warm and dry in my little house with that person is worth more than all the McMansions and Hollywood 'pads' in the world.

I will explain what I am building in these photos in the next post. The big box in the last 2 photos will be finished and then all torn down again!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hain't It Funny?

Hain't it funny....
One of life's little jokes
thought you'd gone for good......

So I know my blog has been a bit boring lately maybe. Just plants and stuff. Well, I have a funny story for ya'll tonight.
Jack and I decided last night to treat ourselves to dinner out at a restaurant near Birmingham. I was kinda leaning towards Chinese but he didn't feel like that, so we ended up going to another restaurant that served American fare. I had been there a number of times in the past but don't think we had ever gone together. So, we are eating and having an enjoyable time. We were discussing our plans for the chicken coop and garden; something we are both excited about. The restaurant was fairly busy but not crazy and we happened to be seated so that the salad bar was behind me and I faced the main dining area. So, we're eating and talking when suddenly, I seemed to sense, out of the corner of my eye, a familiar presence walk by. I looked up from my plate in time to see a tall man with silver hair headed towards the table behind us. I about choked on my food. As he turned to sit down, facing me, handsome blue eyes caught mine. It took a moment before recognition set in and then a bemused sparkle flashed in those eyes. He looked down quickly and I tried to regain my composure. I was in the middle of a sentence and I just went completely stupid. I had no idea what I had been saying. Fortunately for me, I often act stupid and bizarre so I suppose Jack didn't think much of it. Just another one of those fits.
I have honestly lost count of how many times I have run into the Switchman now. As I sat there in the restaurant I couldn't help but wonder what the odds were, not just this incident, but the sheer number at this point. It's certainly something I've never experienced before.
It is always nice to see the Switchman and I could tell from his amused glances that he was enjoying our somewhat unique serendipity, but I was still glad that I was with Jack. And I couldn't help but notice that while we were carrying on an animated conversation, as usual, over dinner, the Switchman and his date ate in mostly silence. But I suppose some people prefer that. Life is very odd sometimes.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Unstill Life

Our annual spring rains/ floods have come and gone this past week. Since I've been living here this has been a normal occurrence. Over the years I have been building and modifying the landscaping around the house to reduce the effects of the rains on the house and yard but I still have more work to do. The construction of the other half of the house would help greatly. Maybe one day. This wet season stream that flows under the drive is much reduced from the day before the picture was taken. Basically, I have a small creek that developes in my lower yard when it rains like this. Doesn't hurt anything though.

Chigger was helping me clean up debris from the rains. Well, really she was just running around with sticks in her mouth. She loves sticks. She will bring the sticks to me sometimes to put on the burn pile but if I could just teach her to put them there on her own that would be a great accomplishment!

The veggies in the coldframe are really doing well now with the warm weather. Of course, that is loose leaf lettuce on the left hand side growing so big. Next over, much smaller, is carrots and then further right of them is more lettuce just barely coming up. I'm going to try to keep a succession of plantings going as long as I can. At the far end is one chard plant, head lettuce and the beginnings of spinach. The days here are usually in the 60's now with nights in the 30's and 40's. I close the frame completely at night and prop it open in the day. On really warm days I open it like this.

The other crops are doing well also. Closest is young cabbage, then broccoli, older cabbage, garlic in the far right (tallest) and you can barely see young onions up there too. The raised bed across the walk is strawberries.

The broccoli are putting out tons of these little heads and they are so sweet and tasty! Each head is loaded with them. I do have 4 small broccoli plants also that, hopefully, will start producing when these older ones start pooping out.

I know I have been kinda quiet here and on your other blogs. I am just in a transition now I guess. I'm not sure of what I want to say or if I even have much to say. Well, of course I do, I just have been mulling many things over. If I am not going to go back into the mainstream workforce (and it looks as though I'm not) I must make some strong efforts here to complete some things and get many things operational. The garden, the chickens, my pottery. I must make a serious effort this year to begin producing much more of my food.
I must also make adjustments and concessions if I am going to have Jack a permanent part of my life. I am working on this. I have worked very, very hard for the last 20 years to make it on my own, to rely on myself and to trust in only myself. It is a very hard thing to open up now and allow a partner. Now, some might say, "oh, for the right person it wouldn't be!" Well, you try it. I don't care how much you care about someone, it is hard for someone like me to release total control of everything. And no, I don't think I'm a monstrous control freak, it's just this house and land is all I have and probably all I ever will have. It has consumed me the last few years. Been my whole objective and goal. But, I don't want it to swallow me up. It is, after all, just a house and what is a home without someone to share it with? Some people would be okay with keeping it to themselves, and I was beginning to think maybe that was best for me, but I like to share this space with him. Jack has taught me a great deal about sharing and patience. We have butted heads on a few occasions but we work it out and when we come to a solution we stick to it.
So, bear with me on my posting. I will be showing ya'll more projects and all that. I am still reading your blogs, just not saying much.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Finishing Touches

Alright. I don't have as many detail shots of the cork installation but I think there is enough to see what I did. It's not that complicated. I checked my room for square and I was within 1/4" overall so I didn't worry any more about that; I just started laying the stuff. First off, you must maintain a 1/2" gap all around between the flooring and the walls. I stuck 1/2" shim packs against the wall and cabinet base to hold the planks at the right distance. These are pulled out later. I works easier to snap the planks together long way and then snap that length into the preceding length, as I have pictured. Remember to stagger your joints. I simply used the drop from one end to start the next run. This is fine as long as your drops are at least 10 inches long.
The first plank lays flat on the floor and then you insert the next plank at and angle and press down, wiggling it a little. When it snaps in place it is very hard to see the joint.

So, you just keep working your way across the floor, making sure to maintain your 1/2" gap. The last plank is a little aggravating to get in but not impossible. It helps greatly to have a small pry bar so you can pry against the wall and snap the plank in place that way. Sorry I don't have photos; I think Jack was occupied with something else or napping or something.

I removed the plastic shim packs holding the 1/2" space and replaced in with 1/2" foam strips. Just little pieces about 4-5 inches long. Just enough to hold the flooring in place but it must be something that will allow the floor to expand and contract and foam works fine. I then installed the base trim all around, which of course, covers the gap and foam. And voila'! a finished floor!
I am quite happy with this cork. You can read more about it here. It is a 'green' material; very renewable, healthy for your home and looks great. Supposedly, the resin in natural cork also makes it fire and insect resistant.
This is a 6' x 8' area and it took 2 boxes plus 1 plank from the 3rd box. Each box costs about $63 and covers just under 22 square feet, if I remember correctly. This brand and type comes with a 25 year surface warranty and a limited lifetime structural warranty.

I have since moved my little upright freezer back into the pantry and installed a few other little hooks and hangers. I just need to seal the counter top and install the backsplashes and I'll be completely finished there. Seems like an awful lot of work for one little dang room.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Down Under

So, I'm goig to show ya'll the steps I went through before installing the cork flooring and explain why I did things this way. Basically, the cork is only about 1/2" thick and I intend to run it through the kitchen and out to where it will meet the hardwood flooring in the dining area. Although the cork seems to be rather resilient, I believe that traditional hardwood will be more durable, for me and my work boots, in the living room and dining area. Anyway, hardwood is 3/4" thick and I didn't want to have this 1/4" discrepancy between floor heights. Also, adding a layer of cement board would just help provide a very smooth and clean surface on which to run the cork. My plywood floors, having been down so long with no other flooring over them, are a little rough in some areas.

Using a 1/8" notched trowel I spread a layer of water based glue that is used to adhere vinyl tile, wood and/ or base trim. This stuff has a relatively short working time so I only spread enough for one piece of cement board at a time. I picked this glue up off a job a while back, not knowing if I would ever use it but seems it came in handy after all! They were going to throw it out even though it had never been opened. So, making sure I was staggering the cement board joints over the plywood subfloor joints, I just started laying in one corner, working my way out. These sheets come in 3' x 5' sizes, btw.
Make sure to stagger the joints of the cement board also. I then screwed the cement board down using 1" coarse threaded drywall screws, 12" on center both ways. Make sure that the screws sink beneath the surface well. You don't want to feel those screw heads because they can cause problems in your finish flooring later.

As you can see, the cement board makes a lot of dust, so I try not to even cut it in the basement, although I have on occasion. I continued to run the cement board up to the threshold of the pantry door. You could use 1/4" luan plywood I guess but the cement board will never delaminate on you and is very resistant to moisture.

After getting everything glued and screwed real good, I installed the plastic underlayment that the cork manufacturer recommends for a moisture barrier. It is basically 6 mil black poly. I shouldn't ever have a moisture issue, considering this floor is elevated and not on grade, but you do what they call for, for warranty sake. The red, moisture resistant tape they recommended was basically crap however. It wouldn't even stick to anything. The plastic has one sticky edge though, so it sticks itself together anyway. I lapped the pieces about 3 or 4 inches.
It wasn't too terribly bad to put all this down and after stopping to eat lunch, I then proceeded to install the flooring. Which I will show in the next post.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Barefoot Floors

Alright, so we finally had a good rainy day and I got to work inside on the pantry floor. I'm just going to show ya'll some quick pics today and then will do a more detailed post later of what all I actually did to install this stuff. This is cork flooring, by the way. Not sure if I had mentioned that before. It comes in planks that are 1' x 3' and about 1/2" thick. These planks lock together and the whole floor "floats". It is not nailed or glued down in any way. I was a little skeptical at first but once the planks lock in, the floor is virtually seamless. In fact, I really had to keep track of my joints because it is extremely hard to find them after the plank is in place.

I pooped out before I got the base trim run but hope to do that soon. It took about all day because I ran a 1/4" layer of tile board under this. I'll explain why and how later. I am very, very pleased with how this came out and can't wait to do the whole kitchen. It wasn't terribly hard to do either. The very last run against the wall was a little tricky to get it but not horribly so. The main thing is just to take your time and not get flustered.

This particular brand carries a 20 year warranty and comes prefinished, so when it's down, it's done. The title of this post refers to how it feels to walk on this stuff. It's wonderful. It feels great. I just sat on it for a while, looking. It is warm and feels good to stand on. Now, in 2 years I may hate the stuff or turns out it is too delicate, but so far it seems to be a good product. It's hard to get a good close-up detail shot but it is really beautiful to look at too.

Friday, March 04, 2011

I Won't Crap Out

Yes, that is a shit load of crap. Cow crap to be specific. So, we won't be crapping out or out of crap for some time. Not unless the shit hits the fan anyway and then we are probably going to be in deep shit or up shit creek, however you want to look at it. Actually, I prefer not to look at it or smell it either but it is good for the garden. Anyway, Jack finally got his shit together today and went over to the cow neighbor, who said they didn't give a shit if we got it, and loaded poor ol' Blue down (twice) with well, cow shit, for the garden. Jack is usually full of shit but today the truck was too. Afterward, he was really pooped.
Hehehee, okay, have ya'll had enough?

I'm pretty good at spreading shit, so I got this honor. As soon as the rain stops we are going to till this in and it will sit and compost some more for about 4 to 6 weeks. By planting time the shit should be straightened out. Hopefully, I will be able to grow a shit load of veggies now.

Chigger says, 'I'm staying out here; I'm not getting involved in that shit!' Actually, Chigger the Dog (as Jack says is her full title) knows that the garden is off limits to her. Her mole chasing habits would destroy my plantings.

I also spread this kelp meal over the garden to be tilled in with the other crap. I have used this stuff before and it really helps to add many nutrients to the soil. It is supposed to be sustainably harvested from areas of the sea that do not suffer from contamination. I try to use only natural fertilizers and make my own compost etc. but this soil here is very lean and I'm just trying to get it up to the point it will grow stuff halfway decently. After testing the soil last year I was actually not so surprised to see it was basically dirty colored sand.
I finally have my handy-dandy, homemade composter working and I will be showing that to you soon and hopefully, adding much needed 'black gold' of my own making.

Well, rain is coming in tonight and looks to be here for a couple of days, so my projects have moved inside. I hope to get the pantry floor installed this weekend and will be showing that to you soon also. I'll be very excited to be finished with that; thrilled shitless I guess you'd say.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Gates To The Garden

I just love the fact that title is actually a song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds! Ha!! So, at long last, here is the garden gates and the incredible pain-in-the-arse to do brick paver entry. Actually, the pavers would not have been such a pain had I paid better attention to what I was doing and not let it get out of square. I guess I was so excited about finally hanging the gates that I tried to rush through the other. That is never a good idea. I backed up though and did it right and now everything is square and straight and looks pretty good. The pavers are not entirely finished on the other side however. I need to finish that soon. I desperately needed to be able to close the garden up, what with food growing in there, so getting the gates hanging took priority after the majority of the brick was down.
I am fairly pleased the the gates but I am going to add a few more touches to them. I have some copper plates that I am going to do some stamping on and add and maybe a few other things. Not a lot, but a little more whimsy.
I also have to clean and seal the gates. I will show ya'll shortly how I made the hinges and hung them and how I did the brick area.

So many green things are springing forth from the ground! The weather has been so nice these past few weeks and I am just ecstatic to have been home, working on these things that make me happy rather than slaving away on some construction site. Not that I didn't enjoy my job but I enjoy building for me so much more!
I feel a lot of creative energy stirred up from this project too. I have many ideas for other things and a lot of enthusiasm to finish what I already have started. God forbid I jinx anything but I feel this is going to be a good year.