Friday, January 25, 2008

Over Before You Know It

I'm not sure if this is an actual title to a song but I know that it is some of the lyrics to a favorite song of mine by Natalie Merchant. This week in Birmingham, not far from our job, a rival construction company had a man killed on the job when a large pipe fell on him and crushed him. Of course, when something like that happens it gets around pretty fast. Deaths don't happen a lot on construction sites nowadays but I have known of several since I've been in the business. There have been some deaths with my company, on our sites, but it has always been a subcontractor, not one of our boys. Our lunch time conversations sometimes turn to the morbid but it is a reality that we keep in the back of our heads. You have to constantly be on the look out for hazards but if it ever comes, we'll probably never see it until it's too late. Just the other day we were talking about stuff like this and we all agreed that the worst place or situation to "buy the farm" would be while you are in the Port-A-Pottie. I mean, when you are in there you are essentially blind. You really can't tell what is going on around you and they always put those things pretty close to the actual work. Nothing sends chills racing up your spine quicker than to be in there, doing your business, and to hear a back-up alarm very close to you from one of the pieces of machinery. I mean, if we have to leave this world on a job site please let it be doing something somewhat dignified; you know, saving a buddy from death or injury, something. Not squashed while you are trying to take a dump.
The photo is from our Christmas lunch but it is only part of the crew. This is probably the best bunch of guys I have ever worked with. We have all gotten along really well and had a great time. We have had several guys sent to other jobs already and today we had two more leave as our job is beginning to wind down. I suspect that I will be next to leave. I am usually a little sad when jobs end if I have been there for a while. You go through so much together on these jobs that you either end up hating each other or become great friends. We all thought we were going to die of heat strokes when the job started and now we are all freezing our butts off together. It has been very cold this week. I was working grouting handrail posts in today and one of the men that works with a subcontractor brought his little propane heater over and set it up right next to me so I could warm for a while. Of course, I could not stay in that spot for long but it was sweet anyway.
I plan to run some trim at the house this weekend and maybe work on enclosing the spring. I am still having a little bit of a problem with murkiness in the water from storm run off. We'll see what happens and hopefully I will show you my new washer and dryer too!
Be safe!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Move Over

I think I have mentioned several times how happy I am with my shower but even Grendal loves it too. She gets very impatient for me to get out and will stick her head in and whack on the curtain with her paws. She wants to lick the water off the walls for some reason. I don't know. She has plenty of fresh spring water in her bowl, which she drinks, but she likes this. If I could just get her to clean the shower somehow...
She loves to lay in the patches of sunlight around the house too. I figure she may be adding somewhat to the heating of the house because she is dark colored and very large so her thermal mass is significant. When I mentioned this theory to Allen, he said that molecules produce more heat when they are agitated so therefore I should let Grendal soak up a lot of the sunlight and then kick her in the ass. That should agitate her pretty good and she would release a lot of heat. I said I did not think much of that theory. Seriously, Allen doesn't kick my cat but he likes to talk bad about her. Grendal is enjoying the house very much though. She plays a lot more than she used to.

I have been working on the kitchen some lately; mainly trying to get it more organized. I put up some temporary countertops and a wall shelf for dishes. I've run some more window trim and OH! Man! I almost forgot!!! I bought a new washer and dryer! They are beautiful! They are GE Energy Star models. Wonderful appliances. I will post about them soon. I know you are on the edge of your seat! But they are very nice and work so quickly; it's amazing.

The phone company came out this week and ran my cable for phone and internet, etc. it is not completely hooked up but it's getting close. Hopefully I will soon be posting from actually inside my house!! That will be so cool.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Frequent Visitors

I took this pic up at the old apartment where Allen now has his office and the computer. I was standing maybe 30 yards from these deer. They were all does but that one was a really good size. I have counted as many as 9 at one time in this area. Fred has been putting a little corn for them. I have heard from some of the guys at work that their food sources are going quickly this year due to the severe drought. They say that deer will normally wait until about February to browse the acorns and such but that all the acorns have already been eaten this year. There seems to be plenty still to eat in our area but I don't know much about deer and their habits. This bunch looked very healthy. I do remember years back when you could only hunt does on certain days but now, due to the population, you can take a doe a day here. My house is just down the hill so these make the rounds down there too. I don't leave any food for them though because I don't want them to associate my place with eating! They got all my azaleas as it is.

We got a little snow today and everybody down here is going nuts. It is embarrassing. We all seem to remember much more snow as kids but I'm not sure if that is true or just nostalgia. I know it rarely snows here anymore; at least anything that amounts to covering the ground.

The house is very cozy today although I have discovered a slight leak in my propane tank. I am not quite satisfied with the heating of the house though as the bathroom remains kind of chilly so I am investigating alternative ways of heating. I had the idea of a wood burning heater in the basement and perhaps even devising a way to heat my water with the wood. I have seen this done at a earth sheltered house near here. They say it works very well. It's nothing very pressing though and will probably be a project for next winter.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happiness Is A Warm Toilet

Ok, so I took a little bit of liberty with that song title but it works anyway and does actually have something to do with this post. I don't actually have photos of the toilet ( I know you are disappointed) but I think you can imagine what I am talking about. I have been trying to observe the effects of the sun on the house lately and over the weekend I had a good chance to watch things. Yea, I had the weekend off finally! Anyway, I was a little surprised to realize that the sun does not start coming to into the house until about 9:00 a.m. Being down in a valley delays this and speeds the suns retreat in the afternoon. Not by much but some. Of course, the sun first enters through the east windows but moves quickly to the south facing ones. I basically have 2 rows of south windows; one high and one low. The clerestory windows sun the living room and the low ones in the kitchen and dining area sun the kitchen and parts of the living area. In the photo above you are seeing sun around 10:00 a.m. I am having one small problem though. If you look close at the sun in the lower corner there, you will see that it has a lot of shadow in it. I have 3 fairly large oak trees on the south side of the house and one of them ( the closest to the house) insists on keeping it's leaves as long as it possibly can so it is actually blocking about 50% of the sunlight coming through the clerestory windows. If you look up at the windows at the right time this is clearly visible but I could not get a decent photo of this. So....I may have to cut this tree. I have plenty more back there and actually might not have room for all of them when they begin to get bigger and spread out.
But back to the title of the post. By afternoon the sun is coming into the bathroom and bedroom windows, warming those rooms before going down for the evening. Just by chance, the sunlight falls directly on the toilet seat for a good amount of time and I have to say, that really feels nice. It's a small luxury but I have read about people who pay big bucks for toilets with heated seats and here I get mine for free! Of course, like all good things it doesn't seem to last long but it's nice while it's there.
As far as technicalities, the temps this weekend were in the 50's and the house regular maintains an inside temperature, in the daylight hours, of between 65-70 degrees with no additional heat source. I think if I install ceramic tile in the kitchen (walls and floor) this will help the temps stay up longer because the kitchen really gets a lot of sun. I still have not insulated the floor so this may help also, and installing siding on the house. The walls are not up to the best R-value yet. My power bill for this past month was $64. I was not real happy about that. I know it's that crappy hot water heater. I must start saving money for the solar water system. Also, it looks as though my yearly gas bill will probably average about $65-70 a month (although most of it will be used in the winter). Not really happy about that either so I am looking into some additional solar heating ideas. At any rate though, my house is beautiful and wonderful and I am very happy and thankful for it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stormy Weather

Well, this photo does not look all that stormy but we have really gotten some bad weather today and more is coming. They called a rain out today at work so you know it was bad. We always joke that we don't get rained out anymore unless they hear the tornado sirens go off. The lightning finally convinced them today.
Not much going on at the house. I think we may try to rough in for the washer and dryer this weekend and I am going to trim out some windows on the inside. The next big projects are going to be the exterior of the house. It looks awful on the outside and I have got to get something started there. I did find out this week that there will not be any construction costs for the phone company to run lines to my house though, so that is some good news. I guess I will have a land line but I am more concerned with getting Internet connections and maybe some TV. I haven't been able to watch CBS Sunday Morning lately. That is about the only show I much care to watch. Well, Antiques Roadshow too. Am I a nerd or what?
The water filter seems to still be working fine although I did have a brief period of dirty water about a week ago that I can't figure out. It was right after a very heavy rain so I suspect maybe it was from runoff into the spring. I am going to observe everything after this rain and see what happens. I guess the filter is backwashing itself. It is set to do it after midnight and I never hear it. I am tempted to get up during the night that it is scheduled and see if it is actually working.
Several people have asked if I have noticed if the house seems to be functioning as far as absorbing the heat from the sun during the day etc. I want to keep some records of temperatures inside the house to see what it is doing. The last weekend I was off I did notice that the heater did not run any during the day and the house was staying about 69-70 degrees. I believe this was with the outside temps being in the mid 50's. But does this occur in regular houses? Does anyone out there have to run their heat in the daylight hours under the same conditions? There is quite a bit of sunlight coming in the house at this point. If I can get a day off so that I am home during the day I will try to photograph some of this! We have been having warmer than normal temps this week (after that terrible cold the week before) so anything I would record now I don't think would really count. I do know that the underside of the house stays fairly warm now even when it is really cold outside. When I backfill that concrete wall it will get better still I believe.

Well, I'll try to have something a little more interesting next post. Right now my big excitement is to turn the stereo up and take a good hot shower. I have to say, that shower is worth the money and effort I put into it. Allen said the only problem with it is that you don't want to get out. Amen.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The House Is Rockin'

My decor is still a bit sparse but there is one important new addition to the house that you can see here. If you look up near the ceiling you will notice a small white rectangle on the left and right up near the rafters. These are my new Polk Audio stereo speakers. They are soooo cool. I tried to be very conservative in some areas and use reclaimed materials etc. when building the house but this was, in part, so that I could splurge on some few items and still keep a good budget. Now, these speakers are nowhere near the most expensive that I could have bought but they were not cheap. I don't care much for TV but I love music of all kinds and have always wanted I really killer stereo system. If you like music and don't have the speakers installed in the ceiling or walls, stop now and go buy them. They are worth it. I have enjoyed these things so much this week. I still don't have cable or Internet service yet (the utility company is estimating things now) so listening to music is my entertainment. In the mornings, I like to listen to NPR as I am getting ready for work. Clapton sounds incredible; it's like I have all new CD's! It's a good thing no one lives nearby. I really don't play it that loud but occasionally I will turn it up.

My postings have been a bit sparse lately too. We are working much overtime lately. Saturdays and Sundays. I think my last day off was New Year's Day. I'll make enough money to go pay cash for a washer and dryer (yea!!!) but I'm getting tired. During the recent cold spell, we were having to make 3 big concrete pours at work, one right after the other for 3 days. If you read Rurality, you know it got down around 7 and 8 degrees one morning down here. Not good for pouring concrete. The batch plants freeze up which means you are delayed pouring until it can warm up. We finally got mud around 11:00 a.m. But concrete doesn't set up fast in cold weather so you have to stay with it and put tents up over the pour and run heaters blah, blah, blah. Our poor finishers did not leave the job 2 nights until about 12 midnight. For some reason, I am never asked to stay on nights like that. Some carpenters will stay to saw cut the slab after the finishers are off of it. I think the men don't want me to have to go through that so they let me off.
Well, I must go to get some rest for work tomorrow. What day is this now??