31 December 2005

Don't panic...

There won't be any news for a week or so!

We have gone to the Island to visit the family, and hopefully there'll be lots of interesting news to report on our return.

I did buy a toilet, how's that for exciting? :) It's out at the house, awaiting installation.

More later on this same station!

27 December 2005

Power! Real power!

I was out at the acreage today to feed and water the cats, and Solar Dude was there just finishing up some work. The batteries are in their battery box now, and they are being charged from the solar panels! There is one outlet on the super duper power central thingie (inverter and all other controlling devices), and today I actually saw it power a drill for a moment. How exciting! How cool!

Everything else is still the same mess that construction sites tend to be, but we are making progress and that is very exciting.

Power! Yippee!

25 December 2005

Merry Christmas from Apple Jack Creek

Merry, merry Christmas to everyone!

I was feeling kind of sorry for myself, being without a real "home of my own", especially as we are now really 'in between' - the cabin has been more or less emptied out to allow for washing all the laundry and sparing all the supplies from freezing, and the house isn't liveable yet. Then I remembered the people in the path of the hurricanes, who are spending the holidays in tents, knowing that all the things they had with memories attached to them are gone forever. My stuff is just in a storage unit - and in fact, I got my big Christmas bucket out, and we put our own stockings out and some of our decorations are on the shelves at Union Guy's house. We are really very fortuntate.

Of course, it is still a very stressful time, and I really don't ever, ever want to go through this again ... but with the help of the work crew, we are now officially closed in, some of the insulation is in place (we had to leave some gaps until the wiring inspection is done, but we are ready for that too!), the big monstrous black thing which controls the power (the inverter and all it's associated gadgetry) is mounted on the wall, and Plumber Man tells me that we should, if all goes well, have heat by the end of next week. The chimney is in for my woodburning stove (that's what the round thing is), the roof is all finished, right up to the peak at the front, and the pine doors for my interior doorways have been brought inside - they are even more beautiful than I had expected! Wow!

Clearly, it is the season of miracles.

Blessings on every hand that helped to make this happen!

Peace on earth starts in each home. May you have a peaceful day today!

20 December 2005

Two thirds of a roof!

The guys worked hard again - on the weekend, Union Guy and Solar Dude did a bunch more work on the electrical, and yesterday, the Crew of Usual Suspects got more of the roof done. The east side of the roof has chimneys that had to be installed, and that meant cutting pieces out of the tin roofing, so it took quite a bit longer. Plus, everything on the second side has to be matched up to what you did on the first side. The roof should all be on by lunch time today, though! They are out working again this morning. Union Guy will stay for the afternoon and do more on the electrical - he really hopes to get power up and running soon. :) I hear all my interior doors are indoors now too: apparently just unpacking them took two hours (not hauling them anywhere, it took two hours to get them *out* of the packaging that they were shipped in!). Union Guy says they are beautiful, which is good, I paid extra for them. :)

The Boy has his Christmas concert at school tonight, so after school he and Union Guy get to go out for dinner (yes, there are a few places to go out for dinner within reasonable driving distance of Apple Jack Creek), then we'll all meet up at the school and hear the Chimney Sweep sing his song (that's the theme for his class ... I have a feeling that Santa gets stuck in a chimney somewhere along the way.)

Further updates (with pictures!) tomorrow!

17 December 2005

Half a roof!

Half a roof is actually a really, really big step forward!

In the chilly -18 C weather, the guys got up on the roof, peeled off the tarp that was keeping the worst of the snow out of the house, and started putting the metal on. In this action shot, you can see how the roofing felt (it isn't felt, it's more like tar paper, but that's what they call it) gets put on first, then the metal piece goes over that. The metal is screwed down to the strapping, and as the pieces link together at the overlaps, that's pretty much all you have to do.
On Monday, they'll go back and finish the other side (there are some cutouts for vents and things so that'll take a bit longer) and hopefully get the exterior door on as well. Then ... voila ... we have a closed in house! In time for Christmas!
I have been singing "All I want for Christmas is a roof on my house", so it seems that wishes really do come true.

My deepest and most heartfelt thanks to the crew who worked to make this happen: Contractor Man (bless you, bless you, bless you), Contractor Man's Assistant (may you always have plenty of tea and milk), and Union Guy (there just aren't enough words to express my gratitude for this, and everything else).

The only constant is change

Plans, of course, have changed again.

Contractor Man has done these types of metal roofs before, but we have a hugely steep slope, and he wasn't feeling like doing imitations of mountain goats if it could be avoided.

However, as things went on ... and on ... and on ....

It finally seemed that climbing up there to put sheathing on would be as much work as climbing up there to put the metal on! So, today, as I write this, the guys are out at my place in -18 C weather putting up the metal roof. Actually, I think they were going to finish the interior stairs and hang the exterior door in the hopes that things would warm up a bit by afternoon, and then they'd climb up on the roof.

Me, I'm in town, nice and warm, and surrounded by kids. Union Guy's kids are here, and The Boy is sleeping in (he certainly needs it, there's been a lot of chaos in his life lately, but that is a separate story). I'm being called to read books, so I better go!

14 December 2005


I'm working on cultivating equanimity in the face of continually changing circumstances.

This morning, Roofer Man tells me the soonest he can get my roof on is the second week of January.

I start thinking. I look into little ATCO Trailer rental units that have heaters. I think, you know, this is silly. I need a roof on my house. What if we put sheathing on and then the metal goes over that? Once the sheathing is on, we are closed in, we can get power hooked up, heat, water, everything. Insulation. Inspections. Money from the bank. Lots of good things.

So, I told all this to Union Guy, who called Contractor Man, who says this sounds reasonable. He is going to check with Roofing Company People and confirm that sheathing is ok with this kind of roof (well, we know it's ok, the question is do we have to put additional strapping on top of it or can it just go straight on the wood).

Contractor Man (God bless him) is available to put sheathing on the roof starting Monday. This week, he's bringing me stairs (no more climbing ladders to get to the loft!) and installing my exterior door (the cats will be annoyed that they can't sleep in the insulation piles anymore).

That's our update - we are warm, weather is still good, we actually stayed in town the last five nights ... it's gonna be a shock being home!

10 December 2005

Oh, the power, the power!!

The solar panels are installed! They are generating power! Of course it isn't actually *going* anywhere, but hey. This is Solar Dude demonstrating the lovely solar panels. Aren't they cool? They are 150 watt isophoton 24 volt modules, so together they will generate approximately 600 watts per hour of electricity (under ideal circumstances). They are connected to the house with a big chunk of cable that cost $439, believe it or not. We got awesome batteries - there was a mixup in the order/supply process that resulted in 40% more storage capacity for the same price (Surrette, 1156 ah batteries for those who understand these things). They are stunningly heavy, though, four batteries at 318 lbs each had to be lowered into the crawlspace. Carefully. Slowly. Very, very gently. In the end, the system can handle 3.4 kilowatts of electricity per day. What that means is that with compact fluorescent bulbs in my light fixtures, a natural gas stove and a super efficient (and insanely expensive) refrigerator, I can live like I'm connected to the grid. Well, I do have to pay attention to my power usage, and run the generator every so often to top up the batteries, but it's not like we have to use oil lamps for lighting or anything. :)

So today's adventure was working on the wiring some more ... Solar Neighbour came out again and helped get the circuits all sorted out, and Union Guy rearranged his day so that he could help as well. Apparently Shadowcat thought that he should help too, he kept climbing into my lap as I was stripping wires and hooking up outlets. Yup, you read that right ... *I* was hooking up electrical outlets. Solar Neighbour is a good teacher - I spent most of the day wiring up outlets, and at the end of the day I started on light switches. By the time we headed back to the Big City, we had pretty much everything done - there's some small stuff yet to do, but the bulk of the work is finished. Huge thanks to our neighbour, who has rearranged his days to come and help and has done a lot of the work! Thanks, neighbour!

07 December 2005

Warm winter days

It's supposed to stay warm for the next couple of weeks ... which is good, because we need Roofing Man to finish up the big job he's working on (and he can't do that if it is super cold with nasty winds and blowing snow) so that he can come and put *our* roof on!

So far, it's looking promising ... just please don't sing White Christmas too loudly, ok?

02 December 2005

Chilly, but ok

Just a quick post for those who may have checked our weather - last night was very chilly (-21ish) but we did okay.

When I got home last night we moved some furniture: took The Boy's bed down, and put a mat on the floor in that space, moved the heater over to that area, and hung a curtain between the "bedroom" end and the "kitchen" end. The kitchen end is where the window stays open (to allow fresh air in so that we don't suffocate from the kerosene heater burning up all the oxygen), but even a tiny crack makes a significant draft in such a small space.

The new arrangement worked well, and two bodies in one bed (with all the blankets from two beds on one bed!) was nice and comfortable. I only woke up when the wind started whistling through the window opening, but even then, I wasn't cold. Yay!

01 December 2005

A really, really big tent.

We are now well past my "worst case scenario" for dates. I have to say it, Dad, you were right. It'll be almost Christmas before we are in. We were *this* close, and then that roof mixup happened....

On Tuesday, Contractor Man and Union Guy put a couple of big tarps on the roof, so I guess that makes me the proud owner of a really, really big tent. With solid walls.
Hmm, a soft top house? It makes working inside much more pleasant, and keeps the snow out so we can continue to work without a roof, but ya can't live in it.

The mixup with the roofing materials has caused serious problems: the roofer was available in a fairly tight timeframe - and he showed up as scheduled, only to find out that the roofing wasn't what was needed, and of course, we couldn't get replacement roofing that same day. Now that we have the replacement roofing, our roofer is busy on another job. He says he should be available in two weeks.

Yes, I know. Two weeks in December is a long, long time to be in a small shed.

I did look at other options, but they are insanely expensive: a winterized camper van is $100 a night, an ATCO trailer with a furnace is $2200 a month. So, the plan is to snug up the shed a little more. First, we'll get some floor covering down: I have a really nice rag rug type thing that I got at Rona a couple weekends ago for $25. I'm going to spread one of those emergency blankets on the floor and put the rug on top of it, and that should warm up the floor by the beds (there's quite the chill coming from under the beds, so this should solve that problem). Then, on the weekend, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and peel off the paneling and put insulation in the walls. We are just losing too much heat - the kerosene heater can keep the space warm, but we're heating the world as well and need to keep a bit more of it inside if it's gonna be minus 20. Which it is.

Unfortunately, not having a roof on the house delays a lot of other jobs too, but the solar power system is going to be installed (up to the point where moisture-sensitive components arrive) this weekend. Natural gas should be hooked up and metered by the end of this week (it's all hooked up, actually, and Plumber Man has requested an inspection I believe, so we're nearly there). Once that is done we can run the generator off of natural gas, so we'll not have to worry about running out of gasoline.

So, yes, there are delays, and yes, it's disappointing, and yes, it's cold. But you know, I'd rather have these complications and headaches than the kinds of complications and headaches that have been part of my life in the past.

I just got back from a trip to WalMart with long underwear for me and for The Boy, and a few new wool socks. Hot water bottles in bed at night make a world of difference. We'll be all right.