Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I have finally finished the clerestory wall! Wooohooo! I ran all the trim and installed the base of the light fixtures yesterday. Did some touch up on the trim; filling nail holes etc. Oh, I do need to touch up a little paint on the wall where I smeared it putting up one light fixture but other than that, it's done. Now, I just need to insulate the wall on the right (against the attic) and sheath it once and install the ceiling fans (which I don't have and can't afford right now) and I can get rid of the scaffold.
This is just a close up of the windows. I built the picture frame trim down on the ground and then just carried it up in one piece and installed it on the windows. This was easier, given the circumstances of the windows, than taking it up there and nailing it up a piece at a time. The inside trim has the linseed oil/beeswax finish on it. This is all a select pine that has been stained with Olympics new, custom-color premium stains. I really like them. You don't have to use a wood conditioner on soft woods with these stains. You can see in this photo the beginnings of my light fixtures. More about those later. I'm still working on the globes.
On the exterior of the windows I wanted a finish that would hold up to more strenuous conditions so I used a Spar varnish. This is the best type of clear exterior wood finish that looks really great too. This type was rated as an interior version also, so it had very little odor. I expect these windows to be open a lot so I extended the Spar inside on the sashes too. The large overhangs on these windows don't allow much rain to get on the windows but it can happen and during the winter, these windows will receive a lot of harsh sunlight as they are south facing and work to absorb heat for the house.
Allen installed a temporary kitchen sink that he had salvaged out of an old house he has been working on. He loves these old cast sinks but I hate them. It will do for now though. So, the water is working in all the house now; kitchen sink, toilet. No shower yet though. I imagine that the kitchen will be the very last thing to go in so it will be pretty rough for a while.
I think I need to add to my water filtration system too. I have one separate sediment filter now but I think I may need a finer one to help cut down on what goes into the last filter. The filter cartridges in the main one are $100.00 each so I must help extend it's life as much as possible. They said the cartridges should last 3 years but with these heavy rains lately we were getting a lot of sediment out of the spring. We raised the foot valve below the pump to about 4 feet off of the bottom of the spring and I think this helped also. I also need to shock the water system once before we really start drinking it to make sure and flush out any bacteria. At times, the water has sat in the system for a few days without new water being pulled in and it got a little smelly at one point. We try to run the water a good bit every day just to keep things fresh.

I will try to post again soon; it seems like I have been very unorganized lately but I think I am getting back on track. I am kind of running out of things to do that don't require a lot of money so I have been trying to assess things and see what can come next.

Edit: Allen says I have to correct myself about the sink. It is not a cast iron sink but enameled steel. So there.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

We're Baaaaack!!

Hey! We are up and running again! We had a thunderstorm here about Monday, I guess, and it zapped the computer even though we have a surge protector and all that. I know I am a moron for not having hard copies of a lot of stuff and I lost most everything. Most of my house photos, files, documents, etc. Anyway, it took a couple of days to get our programs loaded back up after we got the computer back but I am posting again! Quite a bit has been happening at the house. I have finished painting the bedroom and clerestory wall after much touch up. This is a real sagey (sp.?) color. I like it and think it will look good with the natural wood trim. I will start running trim tomorrow as a matter of fact. It's some really nice pine I had leftover from a job so I won't have to buy any of that for a while.
We have set the toilet but have encountered a problem with that. Here, Allen is removing the center of the toilet flange. It's made to pop out like that; they make it in there so that debris does not get thrown down your drain during construction. The toilet is left over from one of Allen's jobs and it's practically brand new. It's been several years since that job and we both forgot why the owners didn't want it. Well, we found out after hooking it up. There is a slight crack in the upper part of the bowl, so it leaks! But, I have various products for repairing porcelain and ceramics so I drained the toilet, let it dry and then patched the crack with a glazing material that you don't have to fire. Should work fine but it has to cure for at least 10 hours so it will be tomorrow before I know if it is OK. But that's what you get when you use reclaimed material. Most of the time stuff is in great shape but sometimes you do have an issue to deal with like that. Some people won't accept anything but perfect stuff but it doesn't bother me. The crack is on the side away from the door and under the seat, so no one will probably see it anyway.
Here we have put the wax ring on, note the kind that has the little plastic ring built in. Allen thinks these are better than just the wax. I know this is just riveting information but I don't have photos of much else! If you have never installed a toilet before though, this might come in handy someday because you never know.......
Allen secured the brass bolts in the toilet flange and then placed the toilet carefully down over them. It helps here if you have someone (me!) guide the bolts up through the holes in the toilet bottom because he was mostly concerned with getting the wax ring in the right spot. Then you press down evenly on the toilet to squish the toilet down over the wax ring. Allen just sits on it backwards; that mashes it down pretty good. Then you put the washers and nuts on the bolts and carefully tighten to snug the toilet down. I grouted under the toilet instead of just caulking because the slate, being natural stone and therefore of varying thickness, left a little bigger gap between the toilet and floor than say, VCT or linoleum would.
Well, hopefully my next post will be a little more exciting or at least more aesthetically pleasing. I am about to start setting light fixtures on the clerestory wall and I am going to be making these myself so you all have to help me and tell me if they look stupid or not. I'll show you what I'm thinking of doing; it's one of the best recycling projects I've come up with. Anybody out there drink a lot of wine?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Houston, We Have A Problem....

Our computer has collapsed; not sure if it is fatal yet. So.... it may be a time before I am able to post again. I'll get back as soon as possible. Lots of stuff going on at the house. Toilet installation, painting, trim work etc. Still laid off from work also. Hope to see ya'll soon!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Crop Circle!

Okay, so mine is not as big and fancy as those other ones.... but they are laid down in the same direction, sorta. And it was real mysterious.....ooh, no footprints!!! and it was pretty muddy in the garden. Something (I suspect a raccoon) came in and just torn the crap out of these 2 cornstalks. Seriously, I couldn't find any prints or anything to indicate what did it. Fortunately it has not returned but I need to complete my fence soon.
Otherwise the garden is doing pretty good. The okra is way up and starting to bloom. Way too many squash. I knew better than to plant 6 hills of yellow and 5 zucchini. I hope to have some watermelons this year though! They are in the back next to the corn. I used composted cow manure and seaweed this year and it seems to be working well. The seaweed is supposed to help the soil retain moisture through very dry periods. Hhhmm,, maybe. I watered some during the drought but not excessively. I have also managed to grow eggplant this year too! I have never been successful at that before and am quite excited. Allen hates it but I love it. He said he never understood why I couldn't grow in in years past because he always watered it for me....if you know what I mean. He better have been joking. Here are a few things I just picked; yellow squash, of course, 8-ball zucchini (great stuffed), my eggplant! I have been getting loads of Lemon Boy tomatoes, a red tomato ( not sure what kind), green beans and my cucumbers are finally starting to go.
Hey, lots of you like puzzles and trying to identify strange objects so here's one for you. Can any of you tell me what these are? I love to collect them but don't think I'll be stringing any on a necklace to wear. They make some even bigger that I want!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Since The Last Time

I've been quite busy on several projects since I last posted. I believe I mentioned that I completed the final finish on the living room rafters and ceiling. I'll try to get photos of that soon. I spent most of Monday trying to gather material for the house. I was partially successful. I did get enough to install the slate floor in the bathroom though and am very happy with the result. Please excuse the photos however; the color is way off. I have the window in here temporarily boarded up and so the bathroom doesn't get good light.
Well, first Allen installed the Durock over the plywood subfloor. It is 1/2" cement board and he glued it and screwed it down in about a 12" grid pattern. This gives you a very stable surface to adhere the tile to because with stone or ceramic tile ( anything you would grout), you don't want any movement in the floor when it's walked on. We kind of had to piece it as we were being real conservative in buying material so we put that area, in the upper left hand corner, where it will be under the sink.

For the remainder of the project I was on my own! Allen got me started and then went to mow but I wanted to do this myself anyway. I have never installed stone flooring before. So, I got all my slate together and found the pattern. Fortunately, I had presence of mind enough to save this diagram from 8 years ago that comes on all boxes of tile that call for a certain pattern. Now, most real stone setters would probably laugh their butt off at how I did this but I felt it was this easiest way for me. I have no idea of the "proper" way to set stone but that leaves you free to create your own system. Yeah. Ok.....
Next, I just laid out the whole pattern in the room, making sure to center it both ways. I was so lucky that it just worked out right. I had about 1 1/4" margin on either side (against the wall). It fit perfectly long ways. It was like the tile was just made for the room and I had just exactly enough! I drew a control line down one side to keep that straight and checked it for square every so often. There is some humoring in here and there with this. You want it square off your walls for the most part because that is where it will show up. I kept a 1/4" grout joint throughout.

Once I had the entire room laid out and situated like I wanted, I would remove a small section at a time and lay down my thin set with a 1/4" notched trowel, then reset the tiles. Once they are back in place you can float them around some to get them exactly where you want them and make sure that they are pressed down to about the same height. You don't want to press hard on the tiles, their weight will be enough to secure them to the thin set. Also, make sure your floor is very clean before you lay the tiles down because if there is even a small speck of rock or something under one and you step on it, you can break the tile. Obviously, when you set tile in sections like this you have to pay careful attention to which areas you have set and do not get on them!

I had to make several cuts around the toilet flange but that's easy. Make sure that at least some stone or tile is under the flange ( but don't get in the way of your screw holes) so that it is resting on top of the flooring.

I let this cure for almost 48 hours I guess before I grouted it. You could do it after 24 hours but that's just what worked out for me. I finally picked my grout color; what a pain, and mixed that up. I just flopped it out on the floor and then used a rubber grout float to squish it in the joints. Never use a metal float or something like that 'cause you will scratch the stone and drag it diagonally across the joints to screed off the excess. I let it sit for about 15 minutes and then went back with the first wipe down. With very clean water and a big sponge, wipe the excess grout off the tiles. I wiped it 3 times I think, letting it sit until it was starting to form a haze in between each time. At this point, it should be fairly clean but if you keep wiping you are just wiping grout out of your joints. It's going to form a haze but the grout has to cure. I'll go back tomorrow and clean it thoroughly. I thought it came out really well.
I got the paint for the bedroom today so I'll be working on that tomorrow and can soon start to trim out the windows there! Things are going great but I still haven't heard much about when I will go back to work. I love having this much time but I am anxious to start work also for the money. It won't be long that I will need some big bucks to buy material with.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Southern Rain

We are still getting a good bit of rain every day it seems like down here. Plants are going nuts everywhere. The title of this post is a old Cowboy Junkies song. If I were smart enough I could put a link in so that you could hear part of the song but as it is, you'll just have to Google them if you want to. Great band though. The song starts out with the husband saying, "looks like a storm cloud coming, honey, guess we'll have to stay in bed today". It goes on about other stuff and then she ends the song saying you'll never catch her complaining about too much southern rain. I wouldn't either.
I don't think I have shown a picture of the exterior of the house in a while. Not much has changed there. All of the block that is going to be laid is there though. Charles came this past week and finished that up. This photo looks kind of messy though; I need to do a good clean-up. Lots is happening on the inside of the house though. I finished the ceiling, hallelujah!!!! We are going to be installing the slate floor in the bathroom on Sunday. More walls are primed and ready for finish paint.
The pump house is much further along but not quite finished. I still need to roof it and put a door on. At some point it will get a floor too. I am going to build 2 small retaining walls on either side of the trail leading up to the door also and backfill all that so most of the concrete you see here will be covered up. The pump and tank continue to work great in this location. It is better we moved all this down here as it turns out because this equipment is louder than we thought it would be and if it stayed under the house you would definitely be hearing all that.
Hopefully, the slate floor will go well tomorrow and I'll try to get some more inside photos up.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Slow Go

Man, this is taking forever to put this oil and beeswax finish on. You can see in the above photo the difference in the color of the wood after the application. Part of this has just been put on; it does seem to lighten somewhat after it cures for a couple of days. The rafter tails have been stained but you can see that better in the next photo. You have to keep the oil/beeswax fairly warm also for easier application so that has been a challenge. At first I just heated a small amount in the microwave and carried it up the scaffold with me but then I remembered that I had an old, mini crock pot that I got at the thrift store for when I thought I was going to make some candles. I took it up the scaffold and ran an extension cord up there and just keep it full of the mixture. That works really well. Even though I am trying to apply the oil very sparingly, some of it still drips on me. My hands and arms are getting really soft from having this stuff on them so much.
This is a closer view of the stained and waxed rafter tails/rafters. I wanted the tails to look more like they were just another type of wood rather than having a heavy stain on them. I think it looks good. We'll see what the BFA says; I sent him photos this afternoon. I think he will hate it.

I'm not sure if you can make out what this is or not; it's not the best photo. I was trying to show the entire rafter tail, inside and out. I have gotten a lot of hits on this site for people looking for adding tails to rafters. I thought this shot might make it more obvious what we did. This is taken as I was looking up through the window. The main rafter (and what's really bearing the weight) ends inside the wall. The exterior tail is sort of capped over the end of the rafter and extends inside the house also. Now, this made the cost of each rafter just about double but, I don't have fascia or soffit board to buy since my tails are decorative so I save there. I could have just scabbed a fake tail on one side of the rafter but that doesn't look very pretty or substantial and is why most people cover it up with soffit.
I'm hoping the ceiling here will be done by the weekend and we should start the bathroom floor in the next day or two. Not much else happening. It has rained almost every day here for the past week I guess. The spring is up and I have squash out the wazzoo.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Watchful Eyes

This is Slim, my cherry tomato guardian. Can you see him? He's right in the center of the photo. I keep a cherry tomato plant on the patio right outside our little apartment and I came out one morning to see evidence of a tomato hormworm. Horrors!! I hate those things. It had eaten a couple of the ends off 2 limbs and pooped everywhere but as I scoured the plant from top to bottom, I couldn't find the worm anywhere. Then I saw Slim here, perched right next to one of the areas (and poop) where it seemed the nasty caterpillar had last been. I guess Slim had a good meal too. Anyway, he's been hanging around on the plant for the last couple of weeks so I try to make him feel welcome. Unfortunately, praying mantis will also eat beneficial bugs like honey bees but if he will eat tomato hornworms then he is fine in my book.

On the previous post I mentioned VOCs and Pablo asked what that was so I thought I'd provide a little information to all on that. This is a very simple definition I found.
VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are the fumes that you smell while you paint, and sometimes several days after. A VOC is an organic chemical that becomes a breathable gas at room temperature. Some examples are benzene, ethylene glycol, vinyl chloride and mercury.
VOCs in paint usually come from additives to the paint, such as fungicides, biocides, color, and spread ability agents. High levels of VOCs in paints can cause headaches, allergic reactions, and health problems in the very old, very young and in those with chronic illnesses.
Concerns about air pollution and hazardous waste have greatly reduced the use of oil-based paints which can release high amounts of VOCs and contain toxic solvents. Alkyd-based paints and latex paints are much safer, but some still have high levels of VOCs.

One of the things I am trying to accomplish with this house is to build an environment using all natural materials wherever possible. You know, untreated wood, stone, natural fabrics etc. I'm trying to severely limit the amount of plastic which will be in the house, which are another source of VOCs and other nasty things. Besides that, it has no soul. Carpet, plywood and some paints also emit formaldehyde, a carcinogen, so no carpet anywhere in the house. Now, I have used plywood but as of now there are just no other sources available in this area for an alternative product.
Most of my family laughs at me for being concerned about such things and actually taking these steps but just by coincidence, I'm the only one who does not take any prescription medications whatsoever, is not overweight, can work the hell out of most anybody and am often told that I look younger than I am..... if they don't see my gray hair! And I have a happy personality (most of the time.... hush Allen!) Now, whether this is due to just eating healthy and staying active or to avoiding these products I mentioned also, I don't know but, you know, it doesn't hurt. To me, if you are surrounded be natural, inviting furnishings you just feel better.
I am continuing to work on the ceiling finish and priming walls today. I will try to have more photos soon. I am trying to make good use of my time off but I always feel like I'm not doing enough. Allen has been working his butt off under the house leveling out the dirt so that we can pour a slab under there for my studio. I'll get photos of that too.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Under Pressure

Here is a different view of the clerestory wall and windows that I don't believe I have shown before. I took these while up on the scaffold I am using to sand and paint this wall and the ceiling. Lots of things are happening since I have so much time now to work on the house. I have primed almost all of the walls that got Sheetrock. I completely finished painting the bathroom and it's ready for flooring. More about that later. This wall is primed and ready for the final color. The title of this post refers to the extreme difficulty I have in picking colors. The BFA is of no help lately. He is very busy on real projects so I am mostly on my own with this now. I have only my concept of what he verbally described as wanting this room to look like, which is probably nothing like what he imagined. So, we'll all get over it. It's going to look good I think, at any rate.
I also cleaned the steel beam here and it's waiting it's final coat of wax. Lots of people ask me if this beam has been painted or if I'm going to paint it and I'm not. I left the mill scale, which is a natural, blackish coating that forms on the steel as it is rolled. I love the way it looks and a good coat of wax will keep the edges from rusting. I have installed the screens in these windows so that I can keep them open all the time now. Normally, you would not put the screens in until a house is completely done (they don't usually come with the window anyway) but these windows are not likely to have anyone messing around them. I think having them open helps a lot to vent the hot air in the house. I have a thermometer in the house and with no air conditioning, the house usually stays about 10-12 degrees cooler than the outside on a sunny day. Now, that's not too bad but on days when it reaches 95, that can get warm. I think with the addition of ceiling fans, it will be a little cooler or feel like it anyway. I plan on having air conditioning but it will probably have to be a window unit for a while.

This is just a close up of the rafter tails. I am using a natural polymerized linseed oil/beeswax finish on the rafters and plywood decking. It is a beautiful golden color, completely natural, biodegradable finish, VOC-free and smells wonderful. The beeswax gives it anti-static properties also so they claim surfaces finished with it won't attract dust. I had to order this stuff from New York and it was kind of expensive but I think its worth it for the health factor. By getting so much salvaged material for free etc. I feel I can splurge some on a few things like this. These rafters don't have anything on them in this photo. The tail part (spruce) of the rafter ( #2 yellow pine) is going to be stained a slightly darker color (which I started today) to accent them a little from the rafter. It took a long time to finish around each of these tails and make the Sheetrock look good.

This is not a very good shot but I was trying to show something of the bathroom. I am having to mix my own colors due to the fact that I was given various paint. You get it free but have to take what is available. Hey, but I'm not complaining! It's worked out really well. I was able to mix up just the right color in a kitchen and bath semi-gloss. The colors are not showing up well in these photos though. This is a light sand color that goes great with the slate floor and I will have white trim. I wanted to show the shower to show that you can finish Durock just like Sheetrock. It would be pretty pricey to tile the shower all the way to the ceiling so I am going to stop it about 18" from the top. You have to skim the Durock maybe a couple more times than Sheetrock but you can't tell where one leaves off. Here, I have cut in my corners and am about to roll the walls.
I did a little investigating on the VOC levels in paint as far as what is considered unhealthy and all. Anything above 150 grams per liter is generally considered not good. All paint, stain etc. now has this information on the label so I checked out the stuff I got and it was all around 60-85 grams/liter except the semi-gloss in the bathroom. It was 163 g/l but I figure I will just leave the windows open slightly until I'm sure the paint has dried to let everything air out good.
Tomorrow I plan to continue finishing the ceiling and rafters so maybe I will have photos of that soon. I think it looks great so far. I am very excited!!!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Dog Dish Cobbler

Okay, let me explain this one. As I have mentioned in a previous post, we live in a very small "apartment" right now and I only have a makeshift kitchen for now. Any baking has to be done in a toaster oven and even though it's a pretty good size toaster oven, most of my regular baking pans, dishes don't fit in it. Well, Allen was really wanting a blackberry cobbler since there are so many fresh blackberries for the picking right now. We eat very few sweets but I do sometimes make something for dessert, mainly for him. Since funds are very tight right now due to my being laid off, this was a good deal also because I didn't have to buy anything to do it. Anyway, I needed a good deep dish to bake it in, couldn't find any of my regular stuff that would fit, when I remembered that I had thrown several dog bowls and had never sold them. Hhhmm. Stoneware is perfect to bake in. This one was the perfect size. And no, they had never been used. So, I whipped up this cobbler and it came out just wonderful! Stoneware really cooks nice; everything really bakes very even. No overdone bottoms. In fact, when I start throwing again, I may start making a similar form just for cobblers etc.
We received a good bit of rain over the past weekend so the garden is really doing well. Last year I planted 2 lavender shrubs ( plants, whatever) and they are really taking off now. I think they liked the dry weather actually. I have already harvested several bundles like this one and they keep producing more. I have them all hanging in the apartment drying and they really smell great.
On house news, Allen has about finished the structure of the pumphouse; just need to put some kind of siding on it and finish roof. I have started painting in the bathroom and bedroom!! Once again, my boys came through and I received enough paint to start this next step. I have primed the bathroom, bedroom and clerestory wall and mixed the color I want for the bathroom. I'm still working on the color for the bedroom. I want to finish the bathroom first so the flooring can go down because that means the toilet is next!!! The tile for the shower is going to run me about $360.00 so unless I came work some deal there, installing that may be a while. Also, as soon as the clerestory wall is done (trim and everything) I can remove the scaffolding and frame the wall for the kitchen. There is still sooo much to do but actually starting some finish work is really picking my spirits up considerable.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Dawg Days

Yes, you have to make sure you pronounce "dog" correctly here in the South in you are going to use it in a phrase like that. Well, last weekend I attended a ritzy farmer's market in downtown Birmingham to try to make a little cash since I'm out of work right now. They have various crafters and artists there in addition to the farmers and in the past I have done fairly well selling my pottery but this weekend didn't go very well. I sold a few items but not near what I was hoping for. The place has sort of become the "in" spot (no pun intended) to take your dog to show off. They dress them up sometimes in all kinds of stuff.
This trio did at least get to sit in the shade for a little while. On other news, we have gotten some good rain for the past 3 days! It's wonderful. Allen and I went to a party this weekend that a friend of ours has out on 80 acres. It's a big outdoor thing, swimming in a pond, a huge potluck dinner, just goofing off. It rained like hell there Sunday but everybody was so happy to see the rain, lots of them were just walking around in it. This is the same place where they have the solar home tour that Rurality has written about. A lot of people describe it as an old hippie commune but it has been successful for over 30 years now. We toured some of the houses and learned more about solar water systems etc.

We did not get a lot done on the house this weekend but I am still laid off and will be working full force this week. A buddy of mine is bringing me a load of free paint today so I will start priming the walls! As soon as the bathroom is painted I can install the flooring, which means I can install the toilet! I need to order the water filter that I want so we can get the house online. Right now the water is only on at the garden. We completely filled the septic tank and I rescued a frog out of there. Not sure how he managed to get in the septic tank but I'm sure he was glad to get out.

They have wonderful organic veggies and fruits at this market but the fresh flowers seemed to sell well too. I did buy a few peaches from Chilton county (south of us). They have wonderful peaches down there and surprisingly enough, had a decent crop this year despite that late freeze.