Wednesday, December 24, 2014

nearly wordless wednesday

 Christmas Eve, 10 AM

The view from the goat barn, 6 PM 

Same view as above,
with Campion tugging on my coattail.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

walls and windows

For nearly two months I've been looking everywhere - salvage yards, lumber yards, re-stores, building supply places - for a gable window solution. Last Saturday I visited an odd place where I have bought windows in the past; it's a field with a scattering of tractor-trailer containers filled with a crazy assortment of materials, ranging at any given time from hot tubs to stockade fencing. 

It's not really easy to get to. The drive is a half hour over mostly rough road. The final section is dirt. I was relieved to find it had been plowed.

And after weeks and weeks of futile searching for just one window -

just one - is that too much to ask? -

in five minutes, I had found two.

I don't know what to call either of these shapes, but here are pictures:

Since either window seemed miraculously likely to fit the gable,
and since each window had its own interesting qualities,
I bought both - with the agreement that one would be returned.

Tuesday morning, I asked the carpenter to place each window in the gable. I took pictures from inside and outside, and from the parlor looking toward the porch. Here is the first window:

Not bad!
And here is the second:

I asked the carpenter to raise this one two inches, and...

we have a winner.

Let the framing begin!

It's important that the entire wall looks balanced both outside and inside, and the wall is now a different shape from each side.
In the image below, you can see it clearly;
that horizontal edge above the arch is the center section of the ceiling, built on the collarties of the screenporch roof.

Framed, insulated...

and the interior very neatly done.

The black shape outside the window in the image above is the protective material going on between the OSB and the pine sheathing outside.

There were many, many decisions along the way.
There always are, and it doesn't rattle me; this is not my first rodeo.
But it sure helps when you have a carpenter who likes a challenge,
can toss rapid-fire ideas back and forth, and can both explain his own ideas and envision yours.

No structural changes were made to the original porch,
but there were many places where a decision was needed about the most suitable way to adjust the new to meet the original.
I like this image, because it reflects about six of those decisions:

By the end of last week, more than half the exterior carpentry was done. The electrician returned to add an exterior outlet on the south wall. I was uneasy about its appearance until I had the happy thought of eventually planting a pretty shrub where that tarp-covered woodpile is, on the right in the picture below. I'm very glad to have the outlet, but I don't want my eye drawn to it every time I look at the house.


When the carpenter and his assistant arrived this morning, the west wall was waiting for its pine sheathing. I went out to buy insulating foam to apply around the windows and slider before adding jambs (next week), and when I returned, the west wall was done:

 Here is the south wall, which is the view from the barn:

And here is the east wall, with the slider:

There's still much to be done,
and the carpenter will be back next week.
Building window jambs and sills, the door jamb, and a high shelf running the full length of the gable wall,
will probably take another day.

And then, all the finish work.
A lot of the interior finishing may be done by me (very slowly if I can manage it physically), strictly as a matter of economy. Much of it will be tedious, and most of it will not be easy; urethaning the walls and ceiling, and sanding and finishing the floor are good examples. Lots of work. Some of it may wait til Spring.

And of course in the Spring there will also be the exterior finishing, now prevented by Winter temperatures.

Building all the windowboxes (nasturtiums! lettuces! geraniums?) will probably have to wait as well. Kind of a frill, I suppose, but I am determined to have windowboxes.

Tomorrow I will do the insulation around the window frames, while waiting for a call from the fellow who might have the lumber I want for the jambs. And I will gradually clean up all the construction detritus both on and off the porch - I've been filling a bag for the dump each week and filling the kindling box with scrap, but there still seems to be a layer/heap of stuff everywhere I look, and I don't want it under snow.

Soon, when the porch is tidied up, maybe I will unfold a lawn chair and sit for a while, in the room I envisioned in early November.
Less than two months ago.
Isn't that amazing?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

a little more light


We made it.
Happy Solstice to you!

In recent weeks, I have been in what seems like constant - if slow - motion. Each night as I've stumbled through the evening chores in the dark despite my best efforts to be finished before dark, I've thought:

"Tomorrow I really need to rest my bones for a few hours. I will just do the chores, and then relax in the recliner in the parlor for a couple of hours, and rest my back. Meditate.


Listen to an audiobook. Possibly do a bit of knitting.
It will be wonderful.

Yes, tomorrow after chores I will just fill the woodbox, stoke the fire, and rest in the recliner. All the aches and kinks can slowly unwind themselves at least a little bit. 
It will be so refreshing.

This is not my woodpile.
It is my friend's woodpile.
I have woodpile envy.

Before I get comfortable, I'll just have to talk with the carpenter about the exterior walls. But before speaking with the carpenter, I have to call the store about the missing handles for the sliding doors, and find someone who knows the whereabouts of the salvage place two towns over. Oh, and the sills! I must call around to see if any of the local sawmills are sawing hardwoods right now.

And pick up another load of insulation 
 and bring it up to the porch.

so the car will be empty and I can pick up a load of hay and use the Hayboggan (seen above) to give each bale a ride to the goat barn. Oh! And when the car is empty again, I must take a couple of hours to drive down to the valley and pick up the goats' minerals which finally came in and which I meant to pick up yesterday and the day before. And I haven't been to the valley for a couple of months, so while I'm there, I need to buy groceries and..."

And that's the way it's gone, every day.
Just one necessary thing after another
and then it's dark again.

Even at my now-slow pace, there have been many small but satisfying accomplishments and lots of very joyful moments. While I was installing the de-icer in the goats' big new water bucket yesterday and thinking about putting a windbreak across the front of a West-facing shelter before we get more snow, I realized something:

LeShodu loves to use this newest platform as a Command Post,
but soon it will just be a nice Snack Bar,
as demonstrated here by Lily and Campion.
Sorry, Shodu.

no matter what isn't done "before winter" this year, I am simply not going to give myself a hard time about it. Because I have been doing my best, pretty continuously, for months, and that's got to be good enough.

But that said, how happy I am to know: there will be a little more light each day now! Soon the shadows won't be quite so long at 2:30 in the afternoon. Soon evening chores won't seem to begin about four hours after morning chores are finished. 
And soon I'll be perusing gorgeous seed catalogs
and making notes for Garden 2015.


Good morning.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

a package and Piper

I've probably mentioned how much I enjoy finding packages in my letterbox. Well, this was my lucky day!

A package arrived from faraway I-really-want-to-visit Shetland, sent by the lovely Louise Scollay of KnitBritish. Remember WIPCrackAway? I got so caught up in the fun of the knitalong, I genuinely forgot there would be a giveaway drawing at the end. It was quite a surprise when I recently got a message on ravelry saying I was one of the winners.

A winner!
Of yarn!
And here it is!

This is Navia Uno, from the Faroe Islands - in case Shetland wasn't exotically remote enough for a New Englander - and contains two wools I haven't knit with (Faroese and Shetland) and in a new-to-me color!
Even the construction of the yarn is interesting; I don't know if you can tell by emiggening the pictures, but there's a core of wooliness wrapped in a thinner spiral of fiber.

It's pretty exciting to suddenly find myself the possessor of two skeins of yarn quite different from my "usual"...what to make, what to make?

Piper also loves packages,
and she likes to give packages a little taste-test.
But she doesn't touch yarn.

Piper put her head right next to the open package,
then stood perfectly still.
I didn't say a word, because I know
Piper has amazing self-control.
Also, she is easily distr- 

It really was a squirrel.

So Piper didn't even notice that, in addition to yarn,
Louise had very kindly answered my recipe request for "tablet"
(which she had mentioned on twitter recently,
and which looked like some kind of excellent fudge,
so naturally I asked for a recipe).
Well, not only do I now have an authentic tablet recipe...
I have a charming booklet of all sorts of recipes!

Well, one sort, really.
The best sort.

Thank you so much, Louise!
Your package really made my day  :)

And then, I made Piper's day.

Because a dog who wants very much to taste yarn
and does not...
deserves a run in the woods.

Don't you agree?

And I just dozed off in the middle of loading images.
It's not even 8 PM.
Looks like a very early night!

Monday, December 15, 2014

yipes stripes

Actual Knitting Content!
This is the story of my most recent knitting project, finished the night before work recommenced on the porch. 

High on the thrilling success of my first knitalong adventure, I joined a Random Rummage CraftaLong set up by the lovely podcaster Chrissy at Stitched Together. This began with a "rummage" through existing stash, then choosing a project to suit the randomly-selected yarn.

My stash includes several weights and fibers - cotton, alpaca, cashmere, wool - but mostly in small quantities, so the project might have been anything from a dishcloth to a scarf. But my "rummage" (using a stash list and a random number generator) turned up a skein of dark brown merino in fingering-weight. So the obvious project was:
More Socks!

Piper helped a lot with these socks. She enjoys knitting,
and will often stand next to my chair with her head on my knee:

"It's Quality Control! Someone has to count those stitches!"

The dark brown yarn turned out to be really difficult on my aging eyes. Being an experienced knitter and all, I knew there were stitches somewhere below my needles, but I certainly could not distinguish between them. All my tricks - light-colored needles, a bright light, embiggening glasses - helped only to a limited extent. So as relief for my eyes, I began adding stripes of other colors, using yarn left over from previous socks.
You may even recognize some of these colors:

Does it look odd to see yarn in a coffeepot?
Here comes a Knitting Tip!

One can buy truly lovely ceramic or wooden(!) "yarn bowls" to keep a working ball of yarn from rolling away, but I've always taken the low-budget route. First I used a deep mixing bowl, then I tried a teapot. Then I came upon the best idea yet: a clear coffeepot with a flip-up lid and a big, easy-to-grip handle. I've picked these up at tag sales for a dollar or two each. They keep the yarn clean, and the convenient handle is very helpful for a person who knits in several locations, indoors and outdoors.

This beautiful Cinnamon Queen hen (sadly no longer with us, but she had a long and very happy life) used to hop up on my lawn chair whenever she saw me knitting outdoors, and watch the ball of yarn bob around in a bowl as I worked.
Very intent, she was!
"It's Quality Control!
That dog knows nothing about gauge!"

Did you know that a curious hen can suddenly reach into a yarn bowl and pluck your whole ball of yarn out and toss it onto the ground? It's true. With a glass coffeepot, a hen can enjoy the entertainment value of watching the ball jerkily unroll as the knitting progresses, and that's it.

These socks turned into a lot of fun.
I just made it up as I went along,
trying new things, ripping back, then trying something else.

All the ripping back was made painless by the use of lifelines.
I never could have gotten those brown stitches back on the needles without the dental floss lifelines!

When the power went out at Thanksgiving,
I did the heelflaps by candlelight.

 I think these socks will be a lot of fun to wear.

Here's a link to the ravelry project page,
in case anyone is interested in the yarny details.


Well, the Monday sun will soon be up,
and the Gable Resolution will be undertaken again.
Thank you all for your very interesting and helpful comments!
Much appreciated!
Stay tuned  :)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

porch, day three

Yesterday, when the carpenters and electrician had gone -
oh, did I mention the electrician?
It seemed sensible to add outlets while walls are open - 
I spent a good half hour just tidying up.
At one point, I was sweeping snow into a dustpan.
It was surreal.
But a lot of snow had been tracked in and packed down.
It had not melted on the cold porch,
but it would have made pools when the sun came out again.

Friday morning, before chores,
I stepped out to admire the overall progress.
The ceiling insulation was all in place, and most of the ceiling boards.
The kneewalls were wired, ready for insulating.

I looked at the time...

the carpenters weren't due for at least an hour.

The goats weren't calling for Room Service.

So, what the heck.

I started insulating the kneewalls.
When the carpenters arrived, I had only one little space left to fill,
but I quickly got out of the way and let them get to work.
It was good timing; my back was protesting all the leaning.
But gosh, it felt good to do a tiny bit of the work!

Today the remainder of the ceiling was covered,
and careful work began on the interior walls.
(You can left-click to embiggen these snaps, if interested.)
That's all native white pine, locally harvested and milled.
Hand-selected and driven home on the roof of that tireless workhorse,
the Little Green Sportswagon.

How I love wood.

It was a pretty good day!

Now the carpenters will be off til Tuesday,
which gives me time to resolve the gable question.
It's a pesky problem.
Feel free to weigh in with a comment -
I'd love to hear your opinions!


All along, even when the first builder was here,
finding an option for the gable was a major priority.
I do not want to close it in.
But every effort to find windows, old or new,
to fill even a part of the space - 
like a rectangle or square in the center,
or a transom across the bottom -
has been futile.
So far.

As you can see in the image below,
the tip of the peak has already been cut off by the new ceiling,
and it looks very different, but still okay.
And simply closing in the whole thing would look nice -
more wood!
What could be better?

Well, glass. Glass would be better.
Because I would really miss that view into the canopy.

Even from inside the adjacent parlor,
looking south into the porch and seeing that bit of sky and trees
makes a big difference in how the room feels.
And on the porch, the difference is huge.
It's like the difference between a nice room
and a nice space, I suppose.

A custom-built window to fit the entire gable is not a great option.
Even if I could justify the expense,
it would take weeks to have a window made.

The carpenter suggested a functional compromise:
closing in the peak with pine "for now"
so he can finish the interior construction,
but leaving the outside of the gable tar-papered for protection
until I find a permanent window to install.
Maybe next Spring.
I told the carpenter that, rather than closing it in,
I would probably be happier with clear plastic 
stapled across the gable opening until I find a window.
He looked as if I had slapped him.
That's probably how I looked when he suggested closing it in.
I think we will all be keeping our eyes open this weekend,
looking for window options.

Other, easier weekend tasks:
making a decision on windowsill depth (fun!)
and a couple of trips to pick up more insulation,
to be installed between the floor joists.
This is going to be one cozy room.

Little by little!

Wishing you a delightful weekend!