Once again, I’ve neglected my blog. My new job, the pressures of getting all our work done this summer, and the rest of life has kept me away.
Events: We’ve taken to swimming in the Creek. During the warmth of early June (which hasn’t returned since…) the Creek temperature rose to 65°F, and swimming was actually quite nice. I’m hoping we’ll get a few more warm days before fall so we can swim out there again.
Projects: I’ve made no progress at all on the new shed, but have repaired the bridge and got our digital antenna installed on the roof. I also replaced our chimney cap with the variety our chimney sweep prefers. Things left to do: Build the shed!, repair the glycol line that keeps the septic pipe thawed, fix and insulate the sewage treatment plant discharge pipe, reinforce the shed roofs, obtain and chop two more cords of firewood, install a heat shield behind the wood stove, get curtains for the two large downstairs windows and the sliding glass doors, and (finally) consider hiring a plumbing and heating company to replace and upgrade our system.
Books: I’ve read quite a few. Here’s a summary judgement on each:
- McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Volume 26: Enjoyable fictions, interesting format, no real standouts for me.
- The Rest is Noise: Fantastic look at the music and history of the 20th century. Alex Ross is one of my favorite New Yorker writers and this book doesn’t disappoint.
- Ambitious Brew: Interesting history of beer brewing in the United States. It dispels many of the classic beer myths (the most classic being that the big super-brewers ruined American beer, only to be “saved” by the micros), and tells a great story. Prost!
- Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A very enjoyable book with a very memorable female lead. Vida has a great abbreviated and expressive way of writing that was refreshing.
- The Echo Maker: I’ve been looking forward to this one for so long, that I think the reading of it couldn’t be anything but a disappointment. I enjoyed it as a meditation on brain injury, but I felt like the characters were a little overwrought and stiff.
The rest: Andrea continues to progress toward her goal of running the Equinox Marathon. She’s out running sixteen miles (16 miles!) right now. I’m super proud of her. Meanwhile, I’ve been bicycling to work almost every day (13 miles round-trip) and the two of us are working toward doing 100 push ups in six weeks. Maybe by the next photo of me in the Creek, I’ll be ripped.
I managed to get a couple projects done this weekend, most notably, a new set of entry stairs for the house. The old stairs were a bit too steep, and the plywood treads were starting to delaminate. I built a new set from 2×12 and 2×6 lumber. The math works like this. You measure the distance from the top surface to the ground and subtract the thickness of material used for the stair treads. The basic rule to help determine the number of stairs for your distance is that the sum of the rise and run for each stair should be around 17". Since I used 2×6’s for the treads, with a small gap in between, the run of each step is 11¼". The distance from the deck to the ground divided by six (one more step than we had before) yielded a rise of 6¼", (6¼ + 11¼ is as close as I can get to 17). Once you’ve got the rise and run numbers, it’s easy to mark out the steps on the 2×12 using a square, remembering to subtract the tread overhang from the run you’re cutting out of the stringers (each notch in my stairs was 6¼" × 10¼" because I have a 1" overhang on each step). Finishing off the stringers means cutting off the top perpendicular to the top tread, and cutting off the bottom so the first rise is the same as the others minus the thickness of the treads. A couple hangers on the deck, a couple concrete piers buried in the ground, and we’ve got a new way into the house.
All hand tools, no electricity was used.
In the month or so since I’ve written, the Creek settled down to it’s usual level, the road mostly dried out, and the leaves are out on the trees. We’ve been flush with birds (see my yard list for a complete list), including some ducks on the slough and a pair of red-tailed hawks nesting in a tree next to the back cabin. But summer means work, and that’s what we’ve been doing this Memorial Day weekend.
The list of projects is very long, and we’ve already started on the first large job: building a new shed to replace the “leaning” shed that was next to the red cabin. It wasn’t particularly stable, wasn’t completely water-tight, and wasn’t convenient to get to. I spent the last few days removing the siding, and yesterday afternoon finally pulled it down. It didn’t come down as easily as I’d hoped (the lower photo shows me pulling it with the 4-wheeler), and after all the work it took to get the siding off, I’m dreading the work it’ll take to disassemble the roof and move everything out of the way.
The next step will be to get a bunch of gravel to fill in the low spot between the driveway turnaround and the new gravel pad the shed will sit on. I’m picturing a 2x6 base supported by 4x6 rails resting on concrete piers or cribbing, ¾" plywood floor, 2x4 rough cut framed walls, and a sliding barn door for entry. I’m not sure what I’ll side it with, but ½" plywood, tar paper and then rough cut bevel siding would be a nice choice. I guess an alternative would be to let in diagonal bracing into the walls and forego the plywood, but plywood will do a better job of keeping the building solid if we need to level or move it later. Once the old building is cleared away, I’ll make up a set of plans and see who can mill and deliver the lumber to us.
We got our ATV last week, and it’s already come in very handy. I pulled a log up from the Creek with the winch, we used it to pull down the shed, and Andrea went and got the Sunday newspaper. Once our plow shows up, we’ll get another dump truck load of wood chips for the dog yard, and it’ll get some heavy use moving gravel around in the driveway and for the pad the shed will sit on. We bought it for training dogs in the fall, and for clearing snow, but I expect it’ll get a lot of use this summer too.
Other smaller projects include fixing the planking on the bridge, repairing leaks and cleaning the gutters, redoing the discharge pipe from the sewage treatment plant, and shoring up the roof supports on the other sheds. Once the ground thaws, we’re thinking about building a second dog yard on the west side of the house. This time I’ll dig the post holes by hand. The gas powered auger we used last fall was fast, but not something I ever want to use again if I can help it. We had hoped to build an arctic entryway onto the house and wrap a new deck around it, but I doubt there’s enough time in the summer for that project. We’ll see.
Time to make breakfast, bake some bread and get back out there. Happy holiday!
I’m sitting here on the couch watching baseball (Yankees v. Red Sox again) admiring the view out all our large windows. It was supposed to be cloudy today, but thus far it’s been clear and sunny. Makes me feel a bit guilty to be sitting here.
The panoramic image from where I’m sitting was stitched together using hugin. Despite making no effort to control the exposure on my little point-and-shoot camera and a pretty casual shooting technique, hugin really made it easy. You load the images into the program, select control points between adjacent photos, and it warps and manipulates the images so they fit together. If you click on the image to view the full size version, you can see some of the blurring and idiosyncrasies, but for very little effort, I think the results are quite impressive.
From left to right, you can see the front door and east window which looks out over the deck and the Creek. On the south wall is a bookshelf in the corner, the kitchen table and large south facing window overlooking the dog yard, DVD cabinet, TV and stereo, and the sliding glass doors that lead out to the deck. Piper is sitting in front of the door looking outside. The west wall has a second bookshelf, a side table (which is blocked by my laptop next to me), another large window overlooking Dog Island and the slough. To the right of the window is our heater and the baby gate that blocks off the stairs. The corner of the blue wall behind me shows up on the right of the image.
Might have to give this tool a try outside…