Friday, May 28, 2010

Doggie Dreams And Grandpa Aspirations

Sara and Kevin were just up for a visit and brought a new doggie bed for Cleo. She really likes it. When she's not using it the cats like lounging on it also.

"Hmm, what's that wonderful smell, am I dreaming?"

Dream on! The lovely aroma was coming from a brisket that Kevin smoked for about twelve hours. Mmmm-managed to choke down a few ounces of it..

They also came bearing news:

I'm not excited in the least. However there was the strange light headed feeling I felt that afternoon when I went to a sweat. It was probably just too hot!

New Motto: "What happens at Grandpa's Stays at Grandpa's!"

Jo-Ann and I have been helping a friend of ours demo a house. For which we got some great deals on used building materials. Some dis-assembly required.

Between that and painting my Brother's rental house, we haven't had much time to work on the garden or green house. When we checked last night things were sprouting all over. We'll be thinning within the week. Can't wait for the Hakuri Turnips. They taste like very mild radishes. Maybe the end of June..

Speaking of outstanding in the field, here's a picture that Kevin composed of the tractor in the West pasture:

I really like the saturated colours.

Hope your having a great Friday and looking forward to a relaxing weekend.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Where's the Long Johns, Dear?

What's the matter with this picture? It is the end of May right? And just when I was going to change to summer tires..

Oh well, It can't last. And the lettuce was looking a little heat stressed. Good day to keep my hands warm hovering over the keyboard on my laptop keyboard..

If I can find my snowshoes I might go out to the green house and see if I can continue the trimming.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Down and Dirty

We managed to get most of the plants that were starting to get too big for their britches into the ground yesterday. The cabbages we planted in tires beneath geotextile which helps keep the weeding to zilch and still lets the water in and measurably increases the soil temperature. The top tire is covered with tinfoil which acts as a reflector. The tire acts as a wind break, it's weight also holds the geotextile down. The bottom two tires provide the growing soil and thermal heat-sink. The half inch plastic tube in the center is for drip irrigation or sprinklers depending on the plant. We put plastic lids on the top on cold days and overnight at least until late June. For extra thermal gain we place one gallon plastic jugs that are painted black and filled with water in side over night. Mini Green houses.
We had to trudge on through a few sprinkles before finally admitting defeat and retiring to the green house to listen to the sound of the rain on the roof and watch it nourish the ground. Apparently it works better with some applause and encouragement.

Today came with heavy thundershowers. Just before it happened I had crawled up on the roof and spread roofing mastic over all the nail holes I could find. Just in the nick of time.

The dogs were barking at the sky. And then hunkering down in the house - not frightened at all, Dad, really. We just want to hang around for reassuring pats to make sure your not too scared. And maybe sleep under the computer desks, just 'cuz that's a nice comfy spot, and, in the odd chance that the roof really does collapse it would probably be the safest place to be. Doggie duck and cover..

It's lightened up a lot now and the air has a wonderful heady smell. Clouds rolling up the Eastern hills. Slipping over the bright green Poplar and lifting a grey veil over the darker Pine and Spruce forest. It freshens up the land. The grass and leaves turning emerald before our eyes.

Of course with the thunder and lightening comes the power outage. The lights only went out for about five minutes so we didn't even bother to switch over to the emergency system.

It's raining too hard to do any work in the garden so we are scurry flunging the joint in preparation for taking a couple of days off.

A builder friend of mine offered me the opportunity to get twenty sheets of 5/8ths plywood, and about the same in 3/8ths O.S.B. plus roofing shingles and vinyl siding from a house he is tearing down. For fire sale prices. Some dis-assembly required, so that looks like next weeks project. Score! That will take care of the floor in the Green House. Maybe even the siding. He might even have a handle of some 2 " Styrofoam to complete the floor insulation.

Even with today's clouds and rain the green house temperature was a soothing 28C. Not too bad.

Forecast is for sun tomorrow so perhaps we can finish the planting and get back to trimming and painting the greenhouse.

You know you've been working a lot when you look forward to doing house cleaning!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Just a little trim..

I remembered that I had a stash of denim pine stacked up in the storage barn. Denim Pine is just a euphemism for bug killed pine. It was perfect for trimming out the windows in the green house. I also used some barn-wood, a weathered pine, from the door we cut out of the equipment shed.
The blue pine is nice but I really like the weathered old barn wood. It has beautiful rich deep brown colours. And I love the price. And am tickled that another part of the homestead gets to have a new life instead of being tossed away.
This is a close up of the barn-wood knot in the top pane. Could it be the eye of the green house deity? What ever, I am a firm believer that the Big Guy does nice knots!

We originally were going to paint everything white but now I am leaning on just varathaning the wood trim - it's just too nice to cover with re-cycled semi gloss latex. Here's the view from out of the windows. That's gotta help the plants grow don't you think?

Speaking of which, were taking today off of green house construction to put the plantings into the tire garden that your seeing in the bottom pane.

When we wrapped up work at eight thirty we got to come into the house laden with the heady aroma of Soup Sunday. Today's variation was the filling Hamburger Soup from a cook book my Daughter and Son in law made from old family recipes. Soup and home made crusty brown bread. Mmmmm.

Looking forward to Meatless Mondays supper. I was thinking of stir fried zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, bok choi with a curried Tofu. Not a hundred mile dinner by a long shot. But soon. Hope springs eternal in a gardeners heart!

My wish is that your heart is filled with the wonder of today.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In the Pink

I changed my mind about using 12" insulation as it would have taken a lot of extra re-structuring. Instead we split the insulation down the middle and used that. Even on a cloudy day the green house gets nice and toasty.

After the fiberglass itchiness was over we added 6 mil vapor barrier and then started a lesson on applying standard sheets of O.S.B. to non standard lumber in a building that is not square and two foot and 16 inch centers are only an approximation.

The lift made ceiling installation a lot easier. There was one incident, however, where one worker dropped the lift on another workers head. No names will be mentioned but I was glad I was wearing my "safety hat". I shouldn't mention the other worker as she is being investigated by the W.C.B. (Who Clonked artB.) for unsafe work site practices... sure, sure it was an accident..nobody plans on accidentally tripping the mechanism's brake..

The big lesson learned was to leave plenty of room on one edge of the sheet-goods and count on the trim work to cover. Either that or start using a jig saw to fit every single piece.

Certain members of the work crew managed to sustain themselves with cool drinks and chunks of cheese. And black ju-jubes for dessert.

Any way it's Soup Sunday and were still debating what that will be. Perhaps the perennial favorite, hamburger. The bread is kneading and we have time to complete the OSB and start window trim.

Hope your having a restful weekend. And no one clonks you on the head unnecessarily..

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm whacked!

Weed whacked that is. My neighbor dropped by yesterday with two tractors equipped with brush hogs so green house construction came to a halt. The brush hogs are like lawn mowers on steroids - able to whack down a three inch thick tree. And it did yesterday for about twelve hours. The tractor I was using had a melt down - probably caused by cutting uphill on the steep parts of the terrain. I now know how steep you can go in a tractor and not fall over backwards. Pretty steep! But I am sure it feels a lot steeper when I was sitting in the drivers seat. I haven't been on a tractor since I was 12 and helping with haying. So, yes, it was fun! There are about 12 billion ants out in the fields waking up this morning wondering what the heck happened to their roofs.

The fields looked wonderful after the trimming. Almost like a golf course.

It should really make a difference in grass growth now that it's not competing with the rose bushes and small pine and spruce. I noticed an interesting thing while weed whacking: the brush and trees were thickest closest to the forest edges and thinned out as it spreads into the fields. Makes sense, I suppose, but it struck me at the time. Sometimes literally- when the two tractors got too close to each other.

Here's a slide show of the Green house construction from the outside to date.... and, yes, that IS snow in one frame!

I am not sure whether the broken down tractor will get fixed to continue the brush cutting today or I will have a day off to continue with insulation installation. Could be an itchy situation.

The two dogs followed us around all day. In the evening they collapsed on the living room floor in front of the fire and slept like logs with just one feeble interlude to bark at some coyotes.." a good thing for you we're so tired..'

I'll keep you posted. And hope your having a serene day. Or at least an interesting one.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Spark of Progress

The carpenters finished the blocking required to provide nailing edges for the osb.

Late last night the electrician managed to get the place wired up for lighting and wall and ceiling outlets. While I was looking at an old explosion proof fixture that I had been stumbling over for five years it dawned on me that it would make a great outside entrance fixture. It even had a screw in photocell adapter that is now turning off the 3.5 watt chicken spa light during the day. Got to conserve that power!

Today is installing insulation. Just itching to get at that job.. And then comes vapor barrier, O.S.B. and painting. I want to get it done this week as it's getting close to time to put the re-tired garden in place.

Jo-Ann snapped some interesting photo's of Boose the Chicken Spa Cat, who is now Mistress of the Green house who scaled the walls and investigated the ceiling joists. She seemed satisfied with what she saw..

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Let the Sunshine in.

We got the remaining panels up on Friday.

That's plastic paneling on the top and West side.
It's really starting to get warm in the place. 21C last night at 7 P.M. After a day that had a lot of cloud in it.

I have a bunch of r40 insulation, 12 inches thick that I want to put in the ceiling. The ceiling joists are only 8 inches thick so I have devised an offshoot of a suspended ceiling that will allow me to use the full r4o in the ceiling. Basically hanging 2X4's on stringers from the existing joists which will allow ventilation along the top of the insulation.

That's todays project. But first comes site clean up by the labor gang. Then call in the carpenter. Then the electrician has his go before turning it back to the carpenter who will put up the inside O.S.B. siding before he notifies the painter. The painter has a mad plan of gluing aluminum foil to the walls to aid in light reflection. It will be interesting - and a few days before that happens. I probably need a general contractor - but I have a suspicion that's the Gurls job.

Let's see the line up again.:

Laborer, Carpenter, Electrician, Carpenter, Painter, Electrician, Carpenter, Laborer, Plumber and finally- Gardner.

I will hold off on the outside siding and window framing until later in the summer as I will soon have to get the re-tired garden going. Not to mention the equipment shed.

And somewhere in there - a fold up chair and a guy with a silly grin on his face and a watch cat purring in his lap, watching the cucumbers grow!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Joining the Blue Man Band.

Or bands of blue, but that doesn't mean I am learning to play a new instrument or turning into a 10 foot tall, carbon fibre boned Navi. Although my bones have been doing a bit of aching lately and could probably do with the assist.

Just trying to solve the dissolving glove fingertip problem.

Plasti-Goop to the rescue. Field trials begin today.

We managed another three window sections yesterday. Working through a blizzard.

The main double paned glass is now just about in, with the exception of a corner that is looking for some narrower glass. May have to borrow some from the garden shed and replace them with a bigger window.

Today I will be putting clear plastic panels on the knee wall above the windows. And maybe adding a barge board to the front. So far it's clear sunny and 5C. I think I will enjoy the almost tropical conditions..

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

My Eyes are Glassing Over

We are starting to install the South facing windows in the green house. The knee wall above the eight foot section poses some issues. Rich, thanks for the links to agreat site for farm buiding plans. I may just end up putting up fiberglass panels across the whole knee wall.
Any way two new sliding double glazed panels made it in late yesterday.

More to install today. It's an interesting challenge to maximize the glass but keep the structure strong.
On a related issue. I would sure like to find a pair of gloves that were comfortable, but didn't wear out in a week. I love those high tech "Mechanic" gloves made out of stretchy material and leather. Super comfortable. I have tried many different types. Slow learner here. One great pair had L.E.D. lights built in. Unfortunately they just don't stand up - despite the advertising, they just wear out in a few days. Usually right at the finger tips.

On one of my favorite working glove, an all leather construction by Watson Gloves, I have taken to using the Home Handyman's secret weapon - Duct tape. Thanks to a suggestion by wife, Jo-Ann, via the venerable handyman supreme: Red Green.
I am going to buy a brand new set of stretchy gloves and dip the fingers in some liquid plastic designed to put a covering on tools and see if that will be an improvement. For twenty to thirty bucks a pop a pair of gloves should last more than a week. Indicative of so much of our stuff - designed for looks, get it sold - who cares if it wears out two days after use. Maybe that part is built in. We don't own anything anymore - we just rent it. Part of our consumer heritage.

Hope your having a great day and you can take time out to smell the chicken crap.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Red is the new Green

Progress continues on the green house. We now have glass and storm doors on the East

and West ends.

Today we will start working on the puzzle of the South side. How to structure the wall so that it can handle the snow load and still allow the maximum amount of light in. I still have to brainiac a method of covering the windows when it gets really cold and dark. I will put plastic over all the windows on the inside - but when it gets 20 below they will need some additional protection. The non glass walls and ceiling will be insulated with a foot of pink fibreglass. Thermal mass will come from a dozen, flat black painted, 45 gallon drums of water - and tires filled with soil.

Fortunately I still have at least a couple of months before that part of the project needs to be completed.

At five this morning the snow was really coming down. Or so Jo-Ann tells me. When I got up at a more civilized hour all the grass was covered with snow. Now it has changed to a cold rainy drizzle. Perfect weather for working inside on the green house.

We have a resident crow that is tormenting the dogs. Flying lazy, taunting, circles overhead just out of reach, which get's Xena and sidekick, Cleo frantically running around in the same circles. I swear that crow is having the most fun. "Hah, you dogs, I fly in your general direction! You cannot touch me!"

Hope your having a great day!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Meatless Monday

Goes with Soup Sunday. Perhaps you don't have a freezer like ours. Packages of indeterminate age - Well - less than a year old. All kinds of stuff that would be wonderful in soups and stews. Hence Soup Sundays. We gather any left overs, scrounge through the freezer and Yum! Delicious, nutritious, and nothing goes to waste. Far too often freezers just get used as a temporary cold storage to freezer burn stuff before it gets tossed. Of course your mileage may differ.

Meatless Monday was something we coined to have at least one day a week where we forgo animal protein. Tonight's repast will be a stir fry with firm tofu and some Bok Choi. I am going to plant some this summer and see what we can come up with. That's the cabbage, not the tofu. Jeez is it even possible to make that?

I am developing a software application that will help keep track of freezer items. It would probably work great on an I-phone. I got the idea from talking with people who run recovery houses. They have the "what's in the freezer", problem in spades. Think twenty or more souls in a house, and the freezer space required. I think I will call it Freazy. As it will be a free and easy app. And help me practice with the Visual Studio suite.

The farmer next door dropped by today and we repaired some of the West fence line in preparation for his herd showing up around June. He want's to wait till then as the ground right now just doesn't have a lot of moisture in it and he want's to give the grass a head start before a hundred head of cattle starts munching on it. This week he will be bringing up a tractor with a brush cutter on it that I can use to whack back all the rose bushes that are encroaching on the fields. The West Field has to have at least five acres that are covered with the stuff. Not to mention the small evergreen popping up everywhere.

Progress continues with the Green house. I only seem to be getting a door or window installed per day. Much slower than I thought I would be. But, bit by bit, it's coming together.

Still really cold. The sun is out, and looking out the window, if you ignore the thermometer, it appears to be be warm. However a quick trip outside into reality land with the wind blowing in the 5C air and the chill gets pretty cool.

Maybe my neighbor is right: don't take the long johns off until June 1.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

I Can See Clearly Now..

More correctly, my vision is improving.

The first of many windows went into the Red Shed as it transmogrifys into the Green House. The windows previous life was half of a double glazed sliding door. I made a frame for it out of salvaged rough 1 by 8's ripped to seven inches. It extends out past the original siding because the siding material to come is going to be log slabs. It will give it the Log Cabin Green house look.
Here's the "before" outside:

And the after:

It was amazing how much light just that one window brings in:

Today we'll be installing an insulated storm door along side the window and then start on the South side with the remaining window mosaic.

The design has been changing as my ideas get impacted by reality. Instead of the whole South side being glass it will only be eight feet high or so. This is due to how the building was structured. But eight feet by twenty feet of glass window should give us plenty of light. A glass door on both ends will provide ventilation in addition to the ventilated windows on the South side

Were also thinking of a garden viewing platform off of the South side facing the re-tired garden and an earth berm on the North side to provide thermal mass and insulation. Thanks, Rich for the suggestion. Now that I have a method of building window frames the project should speed up a bit. Most of the windows are already framed aluminum so it's just a matter of figuring out the best position for them and roughing them in.

I am flashing all the windows with tarpaper and aluminum. Aluminum flashing is formed into a pan on the bottom of the windows to help drain any moisture that penetrated the vapor barrier outside.

The Gurls were very interested in an old gas fired oven that was removed and sitting on some pallets just outside the door.

An enterprising mouse had built a nest inside of chewed up paper. It had also packed in about ten pounds of freeze dried macaroni and noodles from a ton of survival rations that was left behind by the previous owners. A real packrat magnet as attested to by the hundred pounds of packrat crap that was removed. Thanks Bubba! What a stash that mouse had accumulated - food for life. I thought the mouse was long gone but Xena kept insisting that it was still there - and she was right as it was hiding in the burners under the top flap. It got away and now probably has a big story to tell it's buddies.

Around dusk yesterday we saw four deer, a mamma bear and two cubs, and a rather large Male Black bear, all within a couple of hundred yards of each other in the Eastern field. A new record. It was starting to sleet and they didn't seem to mind at all as they nibbled on fresh greens and the bears devastated a couple of ant nests for dessert.

There is snow on the mountain across from our Southern valley and any sun that does poke through the wet cloud cover is momentary and startling. A lone, early arriving, hummingbird looked pretty cold as it fluffed its iridescent coat up for maximum warmth and contemplates another gurgle of sugar water from the red feeder swinging in the wind. Last night was a mixture of snow and rain. Impetus to get the green house in operation.

Hope your having a wonderful weekend.