Saturday, November 19, 2011

Second Coat

... and after

Over the last couple of months I've been slowly working away at giving the house a second and final coat of paint (technically stain, but seems like paint in practical terms) and I'm rounding the corner literally and figuratively on the project.

In September I decided to start at the porch and then work around the back of the house, figuring that I'd cover the cooler parts of the house while it was still warm and then be painting the sunnier sides as the fall progresses. This has turned out to be a wise tactic as we are now in late November and all that's left is part of the south-facing wall.

Progress has been in fits and starts. Hurricane Irene was the first unexpected event that redirected much of our time and attention to helping others over the course of a couple of weeks. Then came teaching an intense two-week course at Yestermorrow, followed last but not least, by a brief stay in the hospital resulting from a cat bite.

Nonetheless, I've been making progress as time and weather have allowed and in this respect, I think we've been quite lucky. The stain requires 40 degrees or above for application, so I've been able to work with very few exceptions right up through the fall.

Our original plan --which we are working to complete-- was to have all the clapboard primed by the factory, then apply a first coat of primer before the clapboard was installed, and then finishing up with a final coat when the siding was in place. Although the house has generally looked finished for a good while now, much of the rafter tails hadn't even been primed, much less painted, and all the nail holes and clapboard butt-joints were rough.

It feels good to know that we're seeing this part of the project through to insure the quality and durability of the siding.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

House Number

The house numbers are something I made years ago to go on the old garage that we've managed to hang onto through all the transitions of building the house and taking down the old structure. For a while I thought it'd be fun to have one of those blue enameled french street numbers, but I think I like our home made edition.

You can see the numbers on the gable of garage from four or five years ago. We were extracting honey.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


A quarter cord of wood stacked on the porch

Our 2-cord supply near the driveway

All our wood is cut to 12" to fit our wood stove

We've been readying our wood supply the last few weeks in anticipation of heating for the winter.

Amongst the issues we've weighed is where to store the wood. The seemingly easiest solution would be out the garden-end of the house since it's close to the door thats close to the stove, but the issue there is that this part of the house perimeter is heavily impacted by roof snow build-up. In the end we decided to store our wood out near the driveway and plan to load up portions of wood on the porch a few times over the winter.

We had some firewood leftover from the yurt wood supply and last week I cut all these formerly 16" pieces down to 12" so they'll fit into the wood stove with some ease. Since this is also the driest wood we have we stored it for first use on the porch. As it happens, it is almost exactly 1/4 of a cord. We've been joking between us that maybe this is all we'll need for the winter. Its going to be fascinating to see what we actually do use. Our take away from last winter was something like 2-3 pieces of cordwood per day when it was pretty cold in February.

Since we are unsure of how much wood we will actually need, we purchased two cords with the expectation that we'll get through with one cord and have a second cord dried and ready for next year.

Although the cold has yet to really start there was a few days a week or so ago and we noticed lots of chimneys with smoke coming out. With good management of the windows, we've been completely comfortable.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cookin' in the Kitchen

Canning on the kitchen stove

Our scale

The end product

"Now I'll get to see if the kitchen works for canning."

So said Nancy as she began a long day of canning sour cherries and pickled zucchini. With our garden starting to produce, the annual canning and preserving ritual begins. This work is highly reliant on the stove and the kitchen work space. We managed in the yurt for years with a tiny little gas stove and a 3 1/2' wide counter, so clearly our new kitchen would be adequate, but would it all feel like it works well?

I'm glad to say after a few hours of sterilizing, boiling, warming and more boiling the verdict was yes, it works well. Our stove is obviously a good bit larger then our old one and the front-right burner is specifically a large-ring high-BTU unit intended for powerful output. When we are canning we are continually replenishing and reheating the large canning pot with water and it takes a lot of umph from the stove to keep it at a boil. Often in the past we'd be waiting some portion of the time just for the canning pot to get up to a boil again.


A collection of spurdles and rye

We have a small collection of spurdles that are now hanging in our kitchen. Some of the rye that we planted in the yard has formed its tassels and I was inspired to put them together.

What's a spurdle you ask? Why its a Scottish stirring stick of course! I believe they are typically used for porridge, but we use them for lots of things. Nancy got a bit of a spurdle collecting bug and now we've received a few different ones. The one second from the left was hand turned by our neighbor John Riley.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

House Warming

Look closely at Teri's card...

Yesterday a pile of folks showed up to visit, have a little food and look around. It was a great afternoon and the weather cleared up with a little time to do some mowing and arranging outside. It was a wonderful celebration.

Many friends and family were here. In particular it was great to have Joe and Adam back to celebrate what we all helped create. I wish we could finish building our house more often so we could have an excuse to gather together our friends and neighbors like this more frequently.

Our friends Jeanne and Craig thoughtfully offered a blessing of salt, wine, and bread inspired from a scene in "Its a Wonderful Life":
Bread- that this house may never know hunger
Salt - that life may always have flavor
Wine - that joy and prosperity may reign forever

Among the treats and great food, Nancy tried out a recent discovery called switchel, which used to be served a refreshing drink on farms in the days before gatorade-type drinks. Its super yummy and I'm hooked...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Solstice etc..

The house about 10 minutes after noon on the summer solstice

It has been a year since I first noticed how the roof shadow at the summer solstice lines up ever so neatly just after noon to reveal only the sun part of the sunburst on the south face of the house. This little event is a delight for me and today I was out there again taking pictures to document the moment.

Insulator lamps hanging from track over the dining room table

I recently made a couple more of the hanging insulator lamps. You may remember the one I made that hangs over our tub. My idea for the lights over the kitchen table was to have a series of lamps that will all hang at different heights and are made from insulators of different shapes. I'm pretty happy with the effect. The lights are dimmable, so the light can be quite intimate and candle-like.

The new motion detector light switch for the mudroom/pantry closet

This image shows the detection range of the switch (in blue). At some point it might make sense to move it so it is pointing towards the door so it registers movement right away, rather then after you start to move into the room

In other news, I replaced the conventional light switch in our kitchen/mudroom closet with a motion detector switch so we don't have to manually turn on the light every time we go into the closet. My previous plan was to install a push-button switch that would have been activated by the door itself, but that would have required a bunch of wall and trim deconstruction. The motion-activated switch was an easy and quick solution and it works really well. If you open the door and don't step in, nothing happens, but as soon as you move into the room the light comes on.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Done Enough!

So, yes, the house is "done enough" and we'd like to extend an invitation to any of our long-time blog followers. If you plan to come and need directions, email us at decthree (at) rcn (dot) com.

In fact the house isn't really done, but it's at a place where we want to celebrate all the hard work and all the people who've helped along the way. We've long been looking forward to having this get-together!

See you then!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Island

Our new old island

The hold-all box. We keep oils and such in there

The maple work surface and cherry shelf on the stainless base

It's always been our plan to build a kitchen island to round out the space and utility of the room and give the area a gathering point. Up till now it has felt a little too spacious because there has been that central piece missing. So it was something of a coincidence that my sister called us up and asked if we'd be interested in borrowing their old kitchen island for the indefinite future as they work on selling their current home and make plans to build a new house.

We jumped on the idea because although we fully intend to create an island when the time comes, its not currently at the top of our list since the kitchen is functional enough without it and things like shelves, screen doors, and places to store our clothes are a bit more pressing.

So, I went over earlier this week and picked it up and my 4 year old niece Solveig helped me load all the parts into the car.

It is turning out to be a really great addition to our home and I said to Randy on the phone after we'd got it in place that our motivation to go ahead and build our island just decreased by about seventy-five percent. It matches the wood types we have in our kitchen: a maple countertop/cutting surface, and a cherry shelf that matches the cherry cabinets. It fills out the general area of the kitchen really nicely and answers to what was a significant missing element in our overall plan.

Randy had this island put together after asking a restaurant supply house if they had a metal base that might work as an island and Liza found the cutting board at a yard sale, although it was a little to short to fill the full length of the base, so they had their friend Johnny built them a hold-all box to fill out that remaining space, along with the cherry shelf down below. I would never have thought to put in a box like that, but its great. It keeps the stuff you use all the time right in the middle of things and keeps the work/eating area of the cutting board clear.

The island also gives our groovy industrial stools something to gravitate around. They fit together well with the style of the the island.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bathroom Vanity

The hinged mirror door closed. Note the "hanging" tilt to the mirror

Note the outlet in the right-hand side of the cabinet. The electrical cords run down and under the removeable wooden shelf and up to the chargers, keeping things neat.

Early on in the project as I was edging out the sheetrock opening

We were away on vacation for a couple of weeks and a project I had started before we left only got finished yesterday, namely the mirror vanity in the second floor bathroom.

We had sheetrocked over this area and planned to come back at some point and build a vanity in the wall cavity with an openable mirror mounted on the opening.

For a couple of months we had this great old mirror hanging there and I enjoyed how the mirror hung slightly off the wall at an angle. When I began this little project I wanted to maintain the look of a hanging mirror, rather then have it lay perfectly flat against the wall. This took some tricky hinge work to make happen, but it came together well and achieved the look I was going for. Nancy and I picked this mirror up off the street in North Adams, Massachusetts at least 10 years ago and have had it hanging around since. With a little paint and clean-up it's got a nice stately feel.

A second aspect of this little project was wiring in a receptacle in the cabinet that we could plug our re-chargeable toothbrushes into, rather then having them messily draped out in the room. I built a little raised shelf so the wires of the chargers run down out of the outlet and under the shelf with just a little wire coming up to the charger. This keeps the cabinet free of the wires as well. I'm pleased with how its all come together.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Quince Bush

Some of the first flowers on the quince in its new and final home

We are seeing the first flowers on our durable and patient quince bush outside the house. Those flowers are a promising indicator that despite some rough conditions and two relocations, the bush is still alive and healthy. I am very glad because this bush forms an important link to the longer history of the property, and it feels important to have some elements of where we now live that have carried through all the changes we've made.

When Nancy and I first started living in the yurt on the land where the house now sits there was the old garage and breezeway still standing from the original property that burned in the mid-nineteen-nineties. Along with those structures, there was this great old quince bush that had been planted and cared for by the original owners, and over the years it had continued to flourish. The quince has been a steady presence on this property for years and we've enjoyed it since we first moved here.

The yurt, the quince and the corner of the garage from the old days

When the foundation was dug for the house we asked the excavators to relocate the bush outside of the work zone, which they did. It was sort of plopped down out of the way and given a modicum of fill around it to keep the roots covered -which seemed adequate- and it managed to flower of the summer of 2010. The plan was to have it sit there until such time that we could place it back in the landscape around the completed house. Last fall Mac, our excavating contractor, moved the quince from its temporary location back into the center of things outside the south-facing kitchen window. It has since served as a nice screen between the house and the driveway and gives us a head start on our eventual landscaping.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


A framed Bread & Puppet poster outside the first floor bath

A oil-pastel of the yurt hanging in the stairway positioned essentially where the window view corresponds to the view in the image.
A close up of the yurt oil-pastel

The vanity in progress

We've started hanging bits of artwork here and there.

It is (for me at least) a somewhat cautious process of pulling things out and thinking about what might go well in any given spot. Its not like we've got a massive trove of great artwork, but we've got a few things and its fun to contemplate putting them up. I find when we do, it adds a sense of completion to an area or a place that is very satisfying.

I was a Fine Arts major in college and did a bunch of painting over the years. I've also done woodblock prints as well and it'll be fun to dig into some long-packed away work and see if there is anything that merits hanging on our walls. In actuality, I've given a lot of my best pieces to other people as gifts, so I doubt there is too much that I'd really feel that enthusiastic about hanging up.

Nancy was a Peace Corp volunteer in Papua New Guinea in the late eighties and acquired a number of really cool figures, masks, spears and other local craft that is also really fun to think about finding a home for in the house.

Unrelated to any of this I've been busy building a vanity in the second floor bathroom that will be housed behind the hanging mirror that we've had in place for the last couple of months. I want it to work so that the mirror still hangs off the wall at the slight downward angle that it does when it hangs from a nail. That is making the execution a little more complicated, but I think it'll work out pretty good once its all together.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A tale of two bulbs

A standard "Edison-base" lamp mount on the left and a "pin-base" lamp holder on the right.

Today we had our final visit from Efficiency Vermont which is the organization that encourages, measures, and rewards efforts towards energy efficiency in Vermont businesses and homes. Although we were attentive to meeting the required standards put forth to qualify for Energy Star rating and meet the requirements for the various incentives, I must admit I didn't actually hone in on what we needed to do to meet these points until fairly late in the game, basically confident in the knowledge that the standards to which we were building would far and away exceed their minimums.

Lighting was the one area that I struggled a bit with. In order to meet the standards set for our home we needed to have a minimum of 10 pin-based light fixtures in main living areas. "Pin-based" means what it implies, and ensures that the only lights that will work in it are florescent bulbs, guaranteeing reduced electrical consumption because you can't just throw in an incandescent bulb if you feel like it.

Early on Nancy and I went to a couple of lighting stores with "pin-based" fixtures in mind to look at the selection and were quite underwhelmed. I would say that maybe 1 or 2 percent of the available fixtures were of this type, usually housed in some neglected back alcove. As long time readers will recall, soon after this experience I became fixated on building my own light fixtures and discovered that I could build almost any light fixture with a pin-base, and so many of the lamps throughout the house now feature this type of lamp base.

Additionally, we purchased some LED recessed down-lights for the living room and a series of mini-florescent bulb-fixture combinations that are mounted in the track over our counters in the kitchen.

In advance of the visit from Efficiency Vermont I knew we were in pretty good shape, but I was a little uncertain if groups of lights would count as "a light" or as individual units, so I made sure we had the required minimum, even by conservative measures.

In the end we passed the needed minimums just fine. The irony is that we would be using mostly florescents even if we weren't incentivized to do so and the light bulbs that fit pin-based lamps are actually more expensive than the Edison-based florescents that you frequently see for sale.

The expectation is that in a few years the pin-based requirement will be outdated because you will not be able to buy incandescents any longer, so there will be no need to require a special mounting base. I suspect that as the pin-based bulbs die out I will rebuild the fixtures so that we only need to have one type of bulb on hand.

You might be interested to know that we expect to receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $3000 in various incentives, rebates, and rewards for meeting the required guidelines. We will also be given what is known as a HERS rating, which stands for Home Energy Rating System and is a standardized number that allows comparison with other buildings and buildings in other regions. More about this later.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Photo Shoot

above photos: Teri Maher

Today was our big publicity day, such as it is. Our friend Teri came over to take some pictures of the house with the paint colors in place that she consulted with us about way back last fall. When she first came over there wasn't much for her to work with: unpainted sheetrock and only the vaguest of ideas of what we wanted on our part.

With the house fully painted and mostly complete, visitors often remark on the great colors and we have Teri to thank for this. We knew we wanted to be adventurous, but it was her that got us there.

Teri spent the afternoon here today taking pictures for her website and other publicity as she establishes her interior design company. I helped her by supplying furniture and various objet d'art that I thought might be useful. She has a great sense for this kind of thing and Nancy and I kept going "cool" at the various set ups she created.

Teri has a website which is just getting off the ground and can be found here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Our friend (and frequent blog commenter) Wendy sent us this great door knocker a few months ago. It took us a while to get the time to install it, but here it is. As beekeepers it's perfect. We are also seeing the bees out with the recent spring days, so the timing seems right. It's also just kinda fun and not too serious. Thanks Wendy!

I've been at work tidying up lingering items such as the rest of the track lighting in the kitchen, repairing a leaky water line to the garden stand pipe, building an integrated shelf and grow-light unit for a spring seedlings in the big living room window.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Basement

This is a protective storage case for our window screens. They've been leaned against a wall for the last year or so and I'm grateful and a little surprised they weren't damaged. I still need to make a door that will finish this little project off

Shelves for paint cans. Turns out I could have made another shelf for big cans

I added a shelf into this shelving unit and I plan to add yet another

With things in reasonable shape upstairs I've taken a deep breath and started work on the basement. In some respects it only makes sense, since it IS a part of the house, but it's a part we've mostly just brought to the most basic point of completion and then ignored. Consequently it's become a bit of a catch-all with no real organization.

My goal now is to relocate the table saw and chop saw down there and establish the basics of a workshop. I'm doing my best to avoid the temptation to just push stuff aside and move them in without any reorganization, so I've been spending time creating shelving for stuff and trying to sort out trash and putting like things together. I've made a bunch of progress. I'd also like to hook up the sink we previously had in the first floor bathroom as a garden/utility sink near the basement door.

Where I find I often get stumped is with wood storage. I try to move scrap wood on to the wooodstove burn pile as readily as I can, but longer stuff that I could use for future projects is harder to manage. How much should I keep? What sizes are best to hold on to? I'm way better at this then I used to be, but I still struggle with it. This evening Nancy had the idea of making hanging racks; I like this idea because it'll limit the amount I can store which will help with accumulation.

Anyway, the goal is to get myself set up with tools and such in the basement and then I'll recommence with woodworking projects.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vernal Equinox

March 24, 2011, at about 12:20pm, just after the vernal equinox

December 20, 2010 approximately 10:00 am on the winter solstice

September 21, 2010 approximately 12:00 pm at the autumnal equinox

June 21, 2010 approximately 12:00 pm at the summer solstice

The photo at the top rounds out a series of photos I've taken at the summer and winter solstice and the fall and spring equinox. You might recall that I got quite excited around the summer solstice last year when I found that within a few minutes of twelve noon on June 21, the only element of the decorative sun pattern on the south face of the house was the sun its self.

This discovery motivated me to document the four points of the seasonal rotation with a photo capturing the shading on the house. As expected the fall and spring equinox shading is pretty similar while the summer and winter solstice shadow contrasts greatly.

This information could come into play in the future if we ever decided we wanted to add shading over the windows in the warmer months to help keep the house cooler. I'm not sure if we'd ever get there but I guess we'll figure that out through experience.