Friday, August 29, 2008

Under Pressure

Washing that is. I have been painting Tom's Endako house in preparation for selling it to a friend of ours. It had one red bedroom, one orange and the living room had a hand painted( and not a straight one) transition between the dining area and living room. Two coats of slightly grey tinted primer to help hide the red and orange and a coat of high quality off white latex sprayed and then rollered on, and the place is looking a lot better. Tomorrow one last coat and I'll be finished.

In between painting I have been pressure washing the garage in preparation for spraying on water proofing on the bottom foot inside and out and then installing mouse and bird stops between the battons. And then, if weather permits, putting a couple of coats of opaque hunter green latex stain on it. And If I am extremely lucky, weather wise, a couple of coats of primer and paint on the trim.

Just a word of caution if your reading this and thinking pressure washing is the way to clean up your siding before a paint job. Note that I am using a specialized nozzle, working on an old board and batten siding job and being very careful. Inadvertently touching a pressure washing stream against wood siding or trim can damage it severely. If I just wanted to clean siding I would use the pressure washer just to spray a mixture of T.S.P., bleach, and water on it to clean any dirt and kill mildew and mold. Hand scrubbing, not using a pressure nozzle, to remove the dirt. My siding was pretty gone but some judicious, and I did mention, careful, use of the pressure washer got me back to near new wood. Wood that will readily accept stain. If it ever dries out. I will sweep the siding, once it dries, with a very stiff broom to get rid of any loose wood fibers the pressure washing raised.

I like painting. It's a great lesson for me. A story built on simple truths. Any painting job is 80% preparation and 20% actual painting. It's that way with a lot of life's little projects. Preparation is vitally important if I want the project to turn out. I don't know how many time I have seen paint slathered on walls that haven't been properly preped and the outcome is terrible. Simple things like washing a wall with TSP before painting, especially if there are smokers in the house. Filling pin holes. Paint wasn't designed to be used as body filler. Proper masking using quality( yes there is a difference) masking tape. Using a quality primer tinted slightly grey if the colour transition is great, instead of just trying to put on more coats of paint. Using fabric softener to clean water based paint off of brushes and roller. Paint over drips and sags wont make it look any better. Simple things that make the difference between a quality job and one that looks like it was done by Mr. Bean and a stick of dynamite.

Mr Bean Try To Paint His House - Funny bloopers are a click away
A buddy of mine spends every day painting professionally. We have discussed a fundamental problem with painting. It doesn't get a lot of respect.

Painting is like sex. Everyone does it at least now and then. The problem is some people think that means they can do it for money.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Re Tread

Xena blew out her left front paw pad while chasing after Jo-Ann.

Jo was going to visit a neighbor and had put Xena in the house to prevent her chasing after the van. Xena has a very bad habit of running after vehicles coming and leaving he yard. After Jo-Ann had left I went in the house and let Xena out to come and help with the garage renos. She saw some cows in the yard and looked at me, I told her to leave them alone, a command she knows and follows. When I turned around after a few minutes she was gone. Vanished. What had happend was Jo-Ann was driving slowly down the, wet from the rain, driveway and I guess Xena heard her and took off after her. By the time I Jumped in the truck and went after her Jo-Ann had her in the truck and was coming back up the hill. Blood stains all over the upholstery from where Xena had ripped her pad. No vet's on Tuesdays so we bandaged her up and put one of Jo-Anns socks on her paw. Today we have an appointment with the Vet in Burns. I am sure she will be fine.

"And there I was buddy, doing at least a 100 around the corner..."

We spent the rest of the day resting. With one of us, and two cats, eating chicken treats.

Xena seems to be getting around O.K. albeit with a limp. When Jo-Ann took her out this morning she wanted to limp after the cows.

My first reaction was anger. A weird reaction to someone I love getting hurt. "What did you do!" I guess it's just fear. But it didn't last with the hang dog look on her face.

"C'mon Dad, your not still mad at me are you?..."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Garage Band

Spent a day cleaning up the construction debris around the garage reno. Pulling nails. I got to use a weird tool I purchased a couple of months ago. Some of the rafter pulins were six and eight inch peeled logs and when I pulled a couple of pounds of spikes from them I needed to cut them to length for the fireplace. The logs were too big for the radial slide saw so out came the electric chain saw. It worked great. It had a 16 inch bar and doesn't make a lot of noise - and no pull start. Just plug it in and press the button. It takes regular chain oil. Hard to beat for small cutting jobs around the place. No need to haul out the 24 inch Sthil to cut a couple of sticks of firewood. One of these days I am going to invest in a buck saw. Actually it looks like it wouldn't be to hard to make a decent one. Probably just as fast as getting out a chain saw for the little jobs.

We went into Prince George on Sunday to roam around the Home Depot. I love the one in PG. At the Coast, even on a Sunday, you can't get within a quarter mile of the door and the place is packed. Here, hardly anyone in comparisson, and the staff come looking for you to see if you need any help.

We bought 40 litres of Behr solid stain for the Garage and storage shed. Hopefully I will find a couple of days that will be warm enough to paint. It has been going near zero the last couple of days and September is usually the rainy season here. Although it may have started early as it has been raining for the last four days. I will be harvesting the garden in a week or so. Maybe leaving in some turnips for winter.

We also ordered a new energy efficient window for the one in the kitchen that has lost its seal. The new window is rated R7. It has always amazed me that we build R22 insulated homes and stick R2 windows in them. I think every window in the place here will eventually get replaced. We have 10 4X4 windows that I have been trying to keep going with caulk, paint and foam spray, but their days are limited. I think every window in this country needs to have some sort of energy efficient coverings. So far we have been using plastic shrink covering which helps a lot. But the main thing is getting the cracks around the windows well sealed with spray foam - that made a huge difference in the West side windows. The new window won't be here until around "6 to 8 weeks for delivery", so maybe Thanksgiving.

I also bought a 12 inch Rigid compound sliding miter saw, a premium 100 tooth blade for fine cross cuts. and miter saw utility vehicle. Honest, thats what they call a miter saw stand with wheels. What a nifty piece of technology. It all folds up like a transformer. Jo-Ann wants to be the first to use it, and to insure that, has offered to help me put it together. Jo-Ann has a secret strength that comes in handy: reading instructions. She wanted to help with the board cutting but we were using an old rickity slide saw that needed to be propped up with lumber, without a safety guard and a on/off trigger that couldn't be relied on. And we were never able to get it to cut square as the stops were worn out. This new one will be a lot safer. Oh, and did I mention: more power. Woo Hoo.

I just realized that I am going to have to put soffits in or the bird and bats are going to be able to fly right up the insulation stops and into the attic of the garage. Oh well, that will help solve the problem of what to do with the exposed beams on the long side of the garage. When I started this project I sure didn't have a clear idea of how much work it would be. Of course, as we made the renos, the usage changed to shop/garage.

When we were in Prince we did a lot of comparison shopping for insulation and sheet goods. Looks like r22 pink fibre glass and 7/16" OSB are the clear winners. The OSB at $7.60 was half the price of Spruce Plywood, and as it will only be used inside the shop, it will be plenty skookum.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tin Lid

We managed to get the tin on the roof. Just in time. Today we're having torrential rains, as a matter of fact the weather network has issued a weather warning. It did feel good to pop in the last roofing screw - moments before the rain started in earnest.

Today we put windows in one of Tom's houses in Endako. Tomorrow some computer work, and then tyvek and a window in the refurbished garage/shop.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Big Guy Does Nice Skys

How's this for the end of a great day.

Garage Update

Back at the garage today. We got all the strapping installed. Put up the insulation barriers, put up the 2X6 and 2X4 trim, and cut in a side door opening. Tomorrow, weather permitting we go for roofing felt and tin. Given the weather that is supposed to be on the way a water proof room would be a good thing. And then comes inside strapping, insulation, garage door, concrete floor and Stain. Oh and some heat.

It is starting to come together. Now I will have to make a decision about putting up plywood or drywall on the inside. My preference would be plywood, but dollar wise, drywall is cheaper.
Am still trying to come up with a game plan for the door on the front that will lead to the "attic" storage. Right now I am thinking of making a framed in set of hinged doors just like a normal door except two of them, and smaller. The trick is in the finishing against the board and batten siding.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fecund Zucchini

We got a lotta fecund zucchini.

This year we planted two tires. A couple of tiny wee seeds in all that black amended soil. contained within a stout rubber barrier. What could go wrong? The jolly green garden bully has taken over. Reaching menacingly towards the spaghetti squash. Threatening the onions. Eyeballing the cabbages. We've heard rumblings at night, like it is getting organized, marching, holding rallys . No doubt it will soon get a flag, and march on the house. Total domination.

We were warned. There were subtle admonishments. But did we listen? NO. Thinking that it was hard to get stuff to really grow in this climate we totally forgot about the magic of tire gardening and drip irrigation. Next year-- one tire.

We are in trouble. We are franticaly researching what turns out to be a common problem: zucchini uprisings. In an attempt to keep it in it's place we've tried it steamed, and fried with garlic and butter. Wonderful thick emerald rounds, pan fried with oyster sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil. Pretty much my favorite so far.

This is our friend Rhoda contemplating the evening repast of garden fresh veggies. She really enjoys her zucchini.

Jo-Ann is promising zucchini bread and cake. Perhaps some chutney.

What's your favorite way of dispatching the rampaging zuk?

If your having a zucchini shortage in your area, I am not sure what Canada Post charges for zucchini shipments, but it has to be reasonable.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Raze the Roof

In preparation for raising the roof on the old garage. There was an old pole tied precariously to the garage with some soft fencing wire. The pole was the roost for a couple of old TV antennas, and it always made me nervous when I walked by it.

For good reason, it turns out. I noticed how shaky the pole was when I used the arial lift to take the antennas down. We didn't waste any time getting some straps on it and securing it with the excavator. There was nothing really holding it up. When I cut the wires attaching it to the garage the pole just flopped over and Tom managed to bring it safely to the ground, securely attached to the excavator bucket. The bottom four feet of the pole was an ant's nest. Interestingly, there wasn't any sign of them from the outside. I hit the broken bottom four foot section with my claw hammer trying to pick it up and it split in two.

I sure feel a lot better with that thing gone. Lord knows how it stayed up with some of the winds we have around here.

Tom managed to pluck the old rotten roof boards off with the excavator, with me using a two by four to remove the ones on the far side that he couldn't see.

It took a fair bit of work to square the old structure up and frame it in for an 11' X 8' insulated garage door. The beams on the sides are built with 2X8 and 2X6's. That stiffened the walls considerably even without the trusses.

Xena learned how to crawl up a ladder to get to some stageing at the side of the garage. Once there she wasn't sure how to get down so decided to exchange a smooch for a lift down to the ground. Fair deal.

We have the trusses up, and the next step is strapping and roof felt and a metal roof and then frame in a walk in door and tyvek the inside in preparation for studding and insulation. I wanted to use spray foam but it is very expensive and not available locally, so I will use R40 batt insulation. I am considering Roxul, a Canadian made fire proof product made from melted Basalt.

When we built the trusses we made a five foot by 26 foot storage loft that will be accessed by the outside door on the front of the building. I will put 14 inches of loose fill insulation on the ceiling. Should be super insulated enough that I can heat it with a candle. And a wood heater.

Once the roof is one and door installed I will wait for a low wind day to stain the outside hunter green, with the trim white or a tawny deer colour, like the top of the House.

I want to pour a cement slab for the floor and am considering plumbing it with pex for a future in slab solar water heating system. A good training system for one I have in mind for the main house.

It has been blistering hot for the last week. Well by blistering I mean 29C (84F). Hot for this hill side, when you consider last Sunday it was below 10C when we got up. I am sun burnt in places I didn't know it was possible to sunburn. I have been wearing gloves while handling the rough lumber and my hands look really weird, white from the wrist down.

I am very interested in the 100 mile diet idea. We've been having quite a few 100 mile meals lately now that the retired garden is in full swing. The garage rebuild so far has used 100 mile construction material. The wood for the board and batten siding was salvage from our place where it was originaly milled, and the dimension lumber is from a local mill. I get a real thrill being able to re-use and re-purpose material.

We are taking the weekend off from construction. I am reminded of something Jo-Ann said a while back: " at least when we were working we had two days off a week.." We have company this weekend and today I am smoking about 14 pounds of chicken thighs until our mouths can't stand it anymore.

And being grateful that my Sweetie Pie keeps a bottle of Aloe Vera gel cooling in the fridge..

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"We Glue and Screw Around Here": MIke Holmes

Spent the day doing some odd jobs around the place. Some maintenance. Infrastructure repairs. Well OK, fixing things. While I was putting up a roller blind for the East wall kitchen window I, once again, ran into one of the more puzzling and maddening aspects of basic fasteners: what good is a philips screw? Especially the combination ones that try and combine a philips with a slotted screw. What’s with that idea? They strip if you stare at them sideways. It takes two hands to drive them. As opposed to the Robertson square socketed screw. It works like a dream compared to any other type. It doesn’t strip, it can be used one handed even overhead and about the only place I wouldn’t use it would be if I were screwing something like a lid on a box that was going to be buried. Like an underground electrical box. The reason for that is that the square socket is hard to clean the dirt out of . The proper screw for that application is a standard slotted screw. The dirt would just slide out. An electrician named George Wadley taught me that over 30 years ago.

Actually the history behind the Robertson ( the best kept fastener secret outside of Canada) is fascinating. In the early 1900’s Robertson had invented a clearly superior screw, branched out to Europe, where his partners basically screwed him. Henry Ford tried them on his production line and saved hours of production time. He wanted to use the new screws but Robertson, feeling a little gun shy after his European shake down, refused the license. And the Robertson screw stayed in Canada, virtually unknown South of the border to this day. And why we get little packets of screws that come with the some assembly required items, that I throw away and replace with Robertsons just about every time.I do occasionally see Robertson screw knock-offs in American wood working magazines. Touted as something new. I guess the patent must have expired.

I am not sure what the take away lesson here is. Maybe that there are things I don’t know about that could save me a lot of effort. Or enrich my life. Like the old aphorism: “its not the things I know I don’t know that are the problem--it’s the things I don’t know I don’t know that will rock my world. Or screw me up..Or simply: I do have a loose screw, or two.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Flat Out Composting

Today I laid the last brick in the new compost pad. We've been learning a lot about composting lately and decided to move our current setup closer to the garden. The idea here is to have a level concrete pad that I can use to dump the composte to turn it. That will make more sense in a later Post when I show you the "re-tired" composter.

First we leveled the ground, spiked some salvaged railroad ties down with pieces of 1/2 inch rebar, added some clay, leveled that and then added some sand. This is my friend Dan ( who stopped by the Blomquist bread,breakfast and project place) leveling the sand and giving me an idea for a future sand garden. ( or is that even possible with four cats and a dog?)
Note all the 20 litre pails. That was Jo-Ann's contribution to the project.( and some future ones also) I have a trailer, but it leaks like a sieve so Jo-Ann came up with the idea of loading the pails with sand and transporting the filled pails in the trailer. It sure makes easier work of shifting a lot of sand, or gravel or whatever can fill a pail. And it uses another, ubiquitous local resource: used equipment oil pails. Fortunately the valley below us has nice washed sand a plenty.
After we added 2 X 2 concrete slabs we filled the cracks with some wet sand and voila: Xena has a new dance floor. And she will try to "dance" around the compost, ever so sneakilly. But to no avail, her compost muching designs thwarted by the re-tired composter.
Construction halted on account of a thunder shower. Composter tomorrow.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Clean up

Time to do some long over due maintenance on my 1845 Case uni loader. Which I have been referring to as a generic skid loader. But now I have the service manual so I know what it's official name is. It has been losing traction on the right side and tend to acts like a man with one leg shorter than the other, tending to pull to one side. My brother Tom came up and we disassembled it enough to notice that it had a broken centering shock absorber on the right hand control arm. Afterward I spent an hour or so de-greasing and cleaning out the machine in prep for some annual maintenance. I am talking about removing at least an inch of thick oily crud from the innards. I don't think it has ever been cleaned since it left the factory. I swear it was smiling when I finished.
To fill in the gap while my uni-loader is down for maintenance Tom brought up his new, did I mentioned, air conditioned' skid steer. You just know I am going to do some working with this thing while I have it here.

My old uni-loader looked so good when I was finished I am thinking of re-doing the paint job. Any way enough mechanical gobbly gook.

My point is - I have been thinking about sustainability lately, and something I feel isn't mentioned enough, maintenance. Jeez, deep thoughts from someone who spent an entire career in the maintenance business and felt I never passed on the lesson well enough to anyone who cared. I had an intuitive grasp of the importance of maintenance but a boss who proclaimed that "maintenance was a black hole people threw money at..". I believe it could have been that comment that started me thinking of making some other career choices.

I believe one of the more important tenants of sustainability is "making do" with what we have. That implies we must maintain our equipment, trousers, houses, planet. Somewhere in the '50's we became consumers of a disposable society. Keeping our jeans patched, superfluous to consumerism. We buy new jeans that "look" old, perhaps with patches pre-installed in some Chinese factory. We buy ( O.K. more accurately- rent) a "new" car every two years. Toothpaste, whatever, proclaims "New and Improved". Buy me. Feel better - improved. Throw that "old" un fulfilling crap away.

One thing I enjoy about our little piece of this planet are the signs of where the original homesteader "made do". The fingerprints of someone who could teach me a lot about "making do". I believe his name was Henry Viney. We're doing some research on his contribution to our present lives. Nothing was wasted. Used oil cans were flattened and re-purposed as shingles. Twenty gallon drums split to make a waterproof covers for the ridge on the original homestead cabin. Door handles made from self-forged reclaimed iron. Even the pole barns - made from local pine, beams hand adzed to a rough squarness.

When I was about ten I remember my father showing me how to make shoe laces from discarded leather boots, using only a notched stick and a razor blade. At the time I thought the lesson interesting but quaint. Convinced it had everything to do with being poor. I missed the point.

I think that maintenance, taking care of things, is at it's best, a spiritual excercise. From our trousers to our planet. It's all the same. The only difference, one of scale.

We stopped by a local reserve yesterday and watched the progress an Elder and some helpers were making carving canoes out of some large cottonwoods. I hope a skill that gets passed on. Recycling at a fundamental level.

Monday, August 04, 2008


This box arrived in the mail for Jo-Ann the other day.

You don't think I have anything to worry about do you?

Sara and Kevin and Lucy the baying dog left this morning for the 12 hour run to the Coast. They were loaded down with fresh eggs and some veg from the garden. I miss them already. They sure brought the good weather with them. It just might get to 26C today.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dog Days

My Daughter Sara and husband, Kevin arrived on Friday. RT & Rhoda and the family, Molly and Tommy stayed around to meet them and have a 100 mile supper. Local cured ham, Garden Veg with Local green house Begonias added for colour and zip. Like Sara says: "We start feasting with our eyes".
Last night was a half-smoked salmon Nicoise Salad ( ..don't have the french mark for the "c") Which was mostly local - the exception being the Olives - Which did come from the Local Safeway.

Hopefully RT & family will be back on the return trip. I don't know what it is with visitors. I can get them here once and then they just don't come back. Bad hosting? Putting them to work on the daily projects? I was pretty sure they were having fun. Stick a cordless Paslode nail gun in RT's hands and we reverted to 12 year olds building tree forts. Just a lotta fun.

Now don't try this one at home. We're trained twelve year olds. Although it looks like RT is sticking the nail gun in my back he was actually just walking by. I think. The Lumber storage barn is coming together, now it's time to shift some salvaged lumber in.
Rhoda, overcome with they heady testostorone laced atmosphere, or the remnants of old horse crap, begged to play with the power tools. Well, OK we forced her. But she did look like she was having fun:

Actually, come to think of it, only one of our friends has been here, done that, and not come back for more. With fuel costs being what they are these days and the Lower Mainland being a twelve hour drive away I was expecting less visitors, but to our delight, that hasn't been the case so far.

Today is Meat Day. We are trying out the new smoker. Kevin is the BBQ Sensei and spent hours last night preparing rubs and sauces for a large grass fed Brisket we are going to smoke for about seven hours and then slow cook on the barbeque for as long as we can stand it. He was up at 6 to get it in the smoker. He started out with apple chips.

As for today's projects, well there's always the chainsaw carb rebuild ( Firewood), installation of a 100 lb cat battery(Snow Removal), or perhaps knock the roof off of the garage. ( Truss Install) or put some lumber away in the new lumber racks (Wood storage, Yard Clean up)

It was 6c (42.8F) when we got up. A beautiful clear day that is warming rapidly, why as I type it's already 15c.(59F) . Last night's sky was a velvet panorama, crowded with stars and a milky way that stretched forever. I even saw two large shooting stars that seemed to hang in that glowing magic sky longer than I could hold my breath. The start of the Persids meteor shower.

And then I slept like a babe. I don't think I was the only one, either.