31 March 2006

Hard Work

I had a long day at the office, which ended with a meeting that went until past 5:30. Eventually I loaded myself into the car and headed home.

The Boy was working on his homework, and neither of us were very hungry. He sat at the table typing on the computer, and I started hauling boards. We got a pile of them inside, and then I started cutting them to length for the loft wall. Got those all stained and up (with The Boy's help: for some of them I couldn't get my ladder exactly where I wanted it, so I nailed the bottom of the board and he nailed the top!).

I got brave and put boards on the wall between kitchen and living room, too (just the tiny wall beside the fridge). Now, of course, I'm worn out and ready to sleep.

I managed not to fall off the ladder tonight. The night before last I missed the bottom rung and landed rather ungracefully in a pile of cut lumber. I have bruises on my backside to attest to this adventure, but no other damage, not even to the boards, believe it or not. :)

29 March 2006

The start of the living room

Since I've decided I truly do like the light walnut stain, it seemed like today might be a good time to try out some boards in the main living area. Besides, I wasn't in the mood to move the electrical outlet in the bathroom (which has to be done before I can finish the one remaining wall in there).

Given that I felt like getting something accomplished, I unloaded a pile of boards from the trailer and The Boy helped me get them in the house. We had a quick dinner, then The Boy got his bike out and went to ride through mud puddles while I cut boards to the proper length for the loft wall. He came inside and read poetry to me (kid poems, the really funny kind about gerbils reproducing at an incredible rate, or making a pizza as big as the sun) while I stained boards and put them up. I usually stain the full 12' boards and then cut them, but tonight I felt like doing things in the reverse order. I also used a new stain pad for the first time today: they are much easier to use than a cotton rag, and I have decided they are worth the price. The pad holds more stain and spreads it more evenly than a folded or wadded cloth can manage.

I will bet that I'm the only person in my county who spent much of the evening listening to poetry and climbing up and down a ladder. It was nice having The Boy read while I stained a few boards then went and nailed them in place (I figure they might as well finish drying while nailed to the wall rather than somewhere underfoot). I did miss the bottom rung of the ladder once tonight, and landed rather ungracefully on my backside amidst a pile of cut boards. No significant damage resulted, though - The Boy came and moved things out of the way and helped me back to my feet, and I just carried on ... although I was more careful where I placed my feet after that.

Anyway, we now have a bit of an idea how the living room will look when it is divided from the loft a little more. If all goes well, I hope to finish the other half tomorrow night, then we'll really have a good feel for the shape of our living space. The Boy's room looks much more like a separate room from upstairs now, too.

We've had great sunshine the last few days (3.8 kwH came in from the solar panels on Monday) and we were able to use no more power than what the Sun gave us for two days in a row, which was pretty cool. It's neat when you can run your whole house off the power of the sun - although until I upsize my system and add another set of panels and/or wind power, that will likely be the exception rather than the rule, especially in winter when the heating system has to run and we need more artificial light as it gets dark earlier. We do have the generator running tonight to top up the batteries (we got much less sunshine today), but it's been a pretty good week for sunshine, and that's good for a lot of reasons!

28 March 2006

New Residents

Being a barn cat at Apple Jack Creek appears to be a dangerous occupation. Diesel has not returned, and we miss her very much. Shadow is doing fine though, and we have acquired three new kittens to add to the mouse crew. Here they are, with The Boy. We haven't quite settled on names for everyone yet...suggestions?

We have had great sunshine the past few days - we have held steady on the battery power, meaning we are using almost exactly the same as we are gaining from the sun. This is great - free power! No fossil fuels burned to light our house! I suspect the warmer weather is helping significantly ... we don't have to run the heat pumps as much.

Oh, it's time to go read Harry Potter to The Boy ...

27 March 2006

One prodigal returns

Shadowcat returned this morning!

The Boy called me just before leaving for the bus to let me know. Perhaps Diesel will reappear today too ... that would be wonderful. :)

Just had to post that.

26 March 2006

A sad day.

When we pulled into the driveway today, something was lying in a pile off to the left. Closer investigation proved it to be the remains of Moke, our most curious cat - the one who would climb up any ladder that was left leaning against the house, and the one who was on best terms with the beagle. We have no idea what happened to her ... we were away for a couple of days, and by the time we got back ... well, there were crow footprints in the snow, but no blood anywhere. I have no idea what happened. She was near the car when we left, but I moved slowly so she'd have time to move away, and I don't think I got her with the tires.

The stranger thing is that Diesel and Shadowcat are nowhere to be found. They have just vanished without a trace.

It is very sad. We haven't even had them that long ... I feel like I must be a rotten caregiver to lose three cats with no evidence of what happened and only one left behind to bury! Never mind the one that got buried in the foundation only a few weeks after we got him!

I suppose that perhaps Diesel and Shadowcat may yet reappear ... but we are usually gone on the weekends, and when we get back they rush out to greet us. If they don't show up immediately, it's never more than a little while ... so, I am not very hopeful. I imagine their disappearance will remain a mystery as well. The Boy went out and looked for prints or other signs of life (or death, frankly) and found nothing at all. They are just ... gone.

I did get some work done inside today, at least - all but one of the bathroom walls are done. I do like the colour of the stain I've chosen, and I will use it in the rest of the house. Hmm, I'll have to stop and get some more of it tomorrow, I was at the bottom of the can today.

Oh, and I made pea soup on the stove today. It's so nice to be able to cook.

I'm very worn out from everything. I think I'll have some tea and read for a while.

22 March 2006

A little at a time

I try to do one thing towards finishing the house every day. I don't always manage, and sometimes it isn't anything very significant, but I do try.

Yesterday I brought some of the pine boards in from outside and set them to dry. (Like I said, sometimes it isn't anything very significant.)

Tonight I stained, cut the boards to length, and put them up in the bathroom. The 6" boards sure make fast work of covering the walls ... much quicker than the little 3" boards I had in my room. These are also much better quality - I haven't had to do much "strategic cutting" to eliminate knots or kerf marks. So, we now have about 1/3 of another wall completed. It's progress!

Time to have a shower and head to bed ... we can have more progress tomorrow.

21 March 2006

Finally, pictures!

Finally, pictures! This is The Boy on his birthday (and me, The Mom).
Union Guy and his kids made The Boy a cake ... we had three cakes in the space of two days, that's a lot of partying! The kids even decorated it themselves - there were a lot of sprinkles!

Here is a picture of one of the cakes: Union Guy baked, and I decorated ... I decided on a 'rural theme' to celebrate our first birthday at Apple Jack Creek.
We couldn't have a big birthday party, with our house under construction, but we did invite our Neighbours (The Cousins) to come for dinner. The Boy's new favourite meat is deer meat (which I can't just pick up at the grocery store ... and I've not yet taken up hunting). The neighbours were kind enough to donate some from their freezer, knowing it's his favourite - I have to say, it sure smells good (even as a vegetarian, I could tell!). In addition to the deer, we had ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, raw veggies and salad. It was quite the party! The Cousins were all invited to play piano in a music festival that evening, so they couldn't stay very long. We ate, the kids played, and then the musical ones got changed into their recital clothes (and we had some interesting hair adventures - lots of static electricity and not too many choices in terms of hair products!). They headed off to their adventures, and The Boy played with his presents. After it got dark, Union Guy and The Boy and I lit some firecrackers - there are some fun things you can do much more easily (and legally) in the country. :)

And here we have a picture of the loo, now with walls. Well, partial walls. The upper walls are still made of cardboard (Union Guy finally got tired of the lack of privacy and grabbed a stapler and some packing cardboard to make "walls"...). If you look closely, you'll see that the book on the back of the toilet is the Farmers Almanac. You have arrived in the country when there's a Farmer's Almanac provided for bathroom reading!

Pictures work!

I will update tonight.

20 March 2006

Still no photos...

Blogger is still having issues with photos, so no pictures yet. I will try again tomorrow.

It's wonderful having internet at home ... we've checked email, and The Boy has received all his birthday mail. :)

Going to go see if I can get my outgoing mail to behave properly ... computers are great, but they can also be a real pain.....

18 March 2006

Connected to the world

We are now connected to the world! We have satellite internet installed at home and, thanks to Union Guy's research, the cost was half of what I expected. The connection speed is noticeably slower than what I'm used to on cable, but it's way faster than dial up. The Boy will now be able to talk to me on MSN when he gets home from school, and I'll be able to update the blog from home rather than waiting until I am at Union Guy's place or making time for it on my lunch hour at work. Ahh, the luxuries of modern civilization.

In other news, I started working with the pine that I got from Kodiak Forest Products. Wow, is this stuff wonderful! It is sturdy and solid and handles like a dream. I've got 3000 lbs of 1x6 tongue and grooved pine sitting on Contractor Man's trailer outside under a tarp. The installation test is the bathroom: that's the next 'small space' in which I can test out stain colours and finishes and so on and decide if I'm happy with everything ... best to figure that out in a smaller space before I start on the main living area, I figure. Besides, it'll be really nice to have walls around the loo.

I got a new air nailer that handles 2" nails (Princess Auto, $30, works great). When the boards are up on the wall you don't see any of the nail heads, as the wood is thick enough that I can nail through the tongue, unlike that thin stuff I used in my bedroom. There's just no comparison with the 5/16th pine ... this fits together easily and has way fewer 'unusable' bits. I'd highly recommend it!

People ask me all the time why I went with wood instead of drywall. The primary reason is that I love the look and feel of the wood - it is warm and somehow grounding, good for the spirit. The installation does require more cutting and fitting than with drywall, but I think that in the end it requires about the same amount of effort to do either. Besides, I'd rather have sawdust than plaster dust, and once I stain and seal it, I'm done! No need to repaint in a few years. One of the other nice things about the wood is that I can actually handle the 1x6 boards myself ... a sheet of drywall is much too heavy for me to manage on my own.

The Boy helped out yesterday by putting stain on boards - we are using Watco Light Walnut, which is easy to apply with a cloth (a significant advantage for The Boy who finds brushes a bit awkward sometimes). We set up a couple of sawhorses, lift the 12' long boards up there and he wipes the stain on. He looks like a real construction guy in his Carhartt overalls and amazingly dirty white Sorels ... although the bright blue heavy duty rubber gloves do detract from the look to some extent. :)

The stain we are using is very light, but it warms up the pine a little and brings out the grain without making it seem dark. Oil stains are a bit of a hassle for cleanup, but nothing makes wood look as nice. I don't find it awkward to work with, either: you wipe it on with a cloth dipped in stain, let it dry (which doesn't take long), and then start using the boards. Once they are on the walls they'll get a topcoat of Verathane to seal the wood, and voila, we are done.

I see that photo uploads aren't working at the moment, I will try again later so you can see what we've been up to.

11 March 2006

More like home

Today really felt like a "day at home": I woke up early, but I knew I'd not go back to sleep so I just got out of bed and made myself a pot of coffee in the ancient percolator. I really like the blurping sound of the percolator pots ... it is the sound of the mornings of my childhood, in the days before drip pots and Starbucks. With the coffee on, I decided I was in the mood to try out the oven, so I mixed up a batch of peanut butter cookies, doing the best I could without a cookbook handy. They turned out all right - not as peanut buttery as they usually are, nor quite as sweet, but they tasted pretty good. I had one with my coffee for breakfast.
The Boy was still sleeping, so I got down to business and started on the plate rack. I got that built and mounted to the wall before he surfaced, and then spent the rest of the morning staining the pine plywood sheets for the ceiling while he did his chores. He helped me lift them on and off of the sawhorses in between his own jobs, and his help made working with the 4x8 sheets much easier. I wanted to get those out of the way so that I could begin the task of clearing up and reorganizing the main floor. I did get to that, and the house feels much more like a house than a construction zone. Well, it's still quite definitely a construction zone, but a more house-like one.

I did take a lot of pictures today, so that I could share the progress at Apple Jack Creek.

First of all, here are the kittens ... they are getting much bigger but still chase each other around and act adorable. I am hoping they will earn their keep in mice, but perhaps they intend to leverage their entertainment value in lieu of dead mice. We shall see.
The Boy was out today playing with the neighbour kids (the cousins). They made snow angels and had raced around, climbing and chasing. Here he is with the neighbour's dog, headed up the hill. I told you the snow looked pretty! This is what I see out my living room and kitchen windows ... I think it's lovely.
Today's big job was the kitchen. The plate rack is something I've wanted for a long time - I like the look of them, and I like having the plates so easily accessible. It's a bit of a luxury, I suppose - I mean, I could store more 'stuff' in the equivalent wall space of cabinetry, but this was something I really wanted. I've already asked for a new set of dishes for my birthday ... Ikea has a lovely set in blue that would look great on the wall. To make even more space, I lifted the microwave up onto the counter. It won't stay there, of course, it mounts over the stove as it has the exhaust fan built into it. At least now we have a bit more room to move around.
We finally brought the table down from upstairs, and now we can eat in the kitchen! This is a huge step forward: no more carrying plates and food from the kitchen to the loft, and The Boy can have his room to himself!

I also cleared up a bunch of the construction mess from the other end of the house (the living room). I moved the saw and sawhorses to the wall outside the bathroom (where the ceiling boards had been sitting), and then shuffled all the remaining bits and pieces of hardware and construction debris into a more efficient layout. If nothing else, I now have a better feel for the space, and what it will feel like to live in it.

This is me having lunch ... in my own kitchen. I made an omelette made with eggs from the neighbours' chickens, and sat at the kitchen table to enjoy it. Why does stuff taste better when you're at your own table?

09 March 2006

A kitchen! Really!

I just heard that we have a working kitchen sink, dishwasher and gas stove! Plumber Man is the hero of the day.

I'm stopping at the grocery store on my way home to get something that gets cooked in the oven! Using all my pots! Dirtying all the dishes!

How exciting!

04 March 2006

Second coat

Today's job was to put a second coat of stain/sealant on the bedroom walls, and do part of the ceiling in the bedroom as well. The Boy helped by staining the white ceiling boards, and he did a fine job. I sawed and nailed and stuffed insulation into the ceiling, and then started the long job of restaining the walls. It doesn't really look like I did much, but the walls are more even and a richer colour. There are a few drip marks - it's not a pefect job by any stretch of the imagination - but it'll do fine.

This cottage grade 5/16 thick pine is a real pain to work with. It buckles and bows and twists and skews making it nearly impossible to have smooth seams between boards. This was a test, to see how well this stuff worked out ... true, it's only $5-7 for 14 square feet, but it just doesn't look or feel very solid. The rest of the house is to be done with 3/4" thick 6" wide boards, I think they'll be a significant improvement.

I *still* have my cough ... I don't feel as rotten as I did, but I do cough a lot. It seems to be making the rounds, I'm not the only one. Friday I took half a dozen lemons and a bottle of honey in to work, so that all the other people I have infected could enjoy lemon and honey in hot water along with me.

Hmm, I think I should go get some of that now.

02 March 2006


Man, did we get snow. We got about 17 cm in 24 hours ... that's a lot of snow.

Sure looks beautiful. I'll try to take some pictures tonight.

Union Guy went out and worked at my house yesterday: he put up some more lights, including one exterior one. That was wonderful to have on when we came home from 4H at 8:30 - we could actually see to get the key in the lock!

Last night, I lay there in my bed, looking out the window at the stars. It's so dark out there that the sky is wonderfully clear.

I love living in the country.