Sunday, November 12, 2017

one quick sketch

Daytime temperatures have been ranging from 15-40F this week - quite a shocking plummet from ~70F one week prior. I set up one of the bucket de-icers a few days ago; I think this may be a record for how early in the season I've done that.

At noon today it was 32F, not windy, and brightly sunny. I went outside with the cats - who zipped around maniacally and were probably quite warm - and Piper - who almost immediately turned around and stood at the door, waiting for it to open in the correct direction. I opened the door and she headed straight for her couch, which I must admit, does look rather appealing:

In the time it took to open the door for Piper and take this picture, both cats raced back inside, did a lap around the house, and then raced back outside again. Wheee!

My energy level is somewhere between the cats' and Piper's. I went back outside with one little pan of black watercolor paint, a waterbrush, and a little sketchbook. I tilted back in a chaise (which felt exactly like having an icepack on my back which was fine with me) and I painted this quick sketch looking up into a red oak:

My fingers were soon numb, so Moxie and Della and I came inside. They are already cozily asleep in pools of sunshine. I'm going to back outside to set up the second, slightly more complicated, bucket de-icer. Which will pretty much guarantee a return of warmer weather.
Here's hoping!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

in partes tres

The builders are away on another job this week, and I am using the time - and the quiet - to tackle other things and generally recharge. So this seems a good time for a little Construction Project 2017 report.

The whole project is actually divided - like Caesar's Gaul* - into three parts. Thinking of it this way helps me to keep the Overwhelm at bay. After all, Caesar supposedly dictated his commentary while riding his horse and conquering Gaul...I'm just trying to keep a roof over my head. Easy-peasy, right?
Even if the project is big enough to have Three Parts.

(There are also a few "small jobs" associated with the larger three, but progress on those separate items just feels like a big bonus.)


Part One - and the impetus for all the rest - is a necessity: repairing the roof. At a minimum, this meant removing two existing layers of shingles and the heavy tarpaper beneath, and putting down a new layer of wimpy modern tarpaper and a new layer of shingles. Instead, I went the extra mile and chose metal roofing instead of new shingles. Greater material costs and more skill required to do the job properly, weighed against anticipated longer roof-life and less (some say zero) concern about moss growth or ice-damming.

After the old roofing was removed, a layer of weatherproof plywood (the green you can see in the picture below) was added to create an even surface. Can you see the carefully fitted patchwork of boards in the original roof? This is my kind of building method, based on probable necessity and certain thrift. Most of my little house was built, from the studs to the roof, with previously-used lumber. Perhaps it was salvaged from the original farmhouse; I've always thought so.

The original roof boards were almost all in excellent shape; little replacement was needed. The light spot in the center of the image above is a new patch, where a large branch from a white pine had come straight down like a spear during a huge ice storm in...2008? 2010? Hang on, I'll find a snap.

Right through a one-inch-thick board.
That was quite a night.
The hole had been "temporarily" patched with metal the day after the storm, but it didn't leak so it stayed that way. I knew I'd be redoing the whole roof sooner or later.

Well, eventually.

Part I, current status: the house is 100% reroofed.


Now here comes an example of a "small job" related to the roof: the relocation of the Poultry Palace, built onto the southeast corner of the house a couple of decades ago by professional carpenters. I had hoped to be remove it either intact or in wall sections, and add it to one of the goat barns. The chickens spend most of their time in the goat barn anyway, and it would be a little easier for chores.

By the way, if you want to see how small your house really is,
put a couple of humans on the roof.

This was one of those "no problem" jobs that turned into a rather large-scale undertaking with four people and a tractor all working hard.
Mostly the tractor and operator. 

It turned out differently than expected, but the result is good. Or will be when it's done. Because now that is another "small" job. I'll try to get to it soon, but it's not a priority compared to the Big Three.


Part Two of the construction project is an extension of the roofing. Literally. I asked the builder to extend the roof so it continues 12 feet past the east end of the house, supported on a post at each outer corner. No walls, no floor. (I think this may be called a "portico," but if you have another word for it, please share.) Here, a Winter's-worth of firewood can be stored conveniently close to the back door. Piper, Moxie, Della, and I will have an option for getting fresh air at any time, night or day, without getting soaked in rain or swimming through deep snow.

Part II, current status: structural ~80%, roof 100%.

Piper loves it already!

This Winter, I may put up a clothesline.
If I can find one to reclaim, there may be a porch swing.
There may be a potting bench and...
an outdoor sink with freezeproof taps.

Which brings us to Part Three...and the end of this progress report.

Part III will begin when the carpenter returns next week.

And oh my gosh.
Part III is going to be a doozy.

*Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur.
"All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third." 
- Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

sunday snapshots

It's still totally dark outside at 6:25AM, and I'm hearing wind-driven rain hitting the house. But here are a few pictures from yesterday, which was a perfect Autumn day.



Thursday, October 26, 2017


In the past two days, we have had more than eight inches of rainfall. There have been interludes of drizzle, mizzle, and mist, but for the most part it's been hours of relentless rain, all day and all night.

Beech. There isn't a moment when I don't find it beautiful.

A large materials delivery was scheduled to arrive this morning, so I found my raincoat and went out to move my vehicle to clear the way. Just in that few minutes, I got soaked to the skin.

While the driver was making trips back and forth from his big truck to the top of my driveway in a nifty three-wheeled forklift, I held an umbrella over my camera and took a few snaps.

It was in weather like this - waiting for the rain to stop and rushing out to do a bit of gardening whenever possible - that I planted the saved candy roaster squash seeds in the Very Raised Bed. They had a late start - I think it was early July! But the plants did their best, and have been providing late-season food for bees and perfuming the October air with blossoms. I think the 2016 plants cross-pollinated, as these seeds have produced interesting and varied results!

I must harvest soon.

VRB, winding down.

And, when the rain stops and the muddy ground dries,
work can continue on Very Raised Bed II.
It won't be as high as the first,
and my goal is to have this bed ready for Autumn planting.
My Occasional Helper is ready to pitch in.
I am hopeful it can happen.
Weather permitting!

VRB2. A good start.

Tomorrow - Friday - the forecast is Not Raining. The builders will be back, and it's going to be a very busy day. I believe my job will be staying out of their way.

The Saturday forecast is also clear, and I'm hoping to take Piper for a long ramble by the pond that day, before the rain returns on Sunday and Monday.

And that will be my week, over in the blink of an eye!
How about you?


Sunday, October 22, 2017

sunday snapshots

Sock in the works:

Sock in the works
on a tiny air mattress:

Sock in the works
on a tiny air mattress
in a huge stock tank.

With knitter.

With knitter
with hobbit feet!

A totally gorgeous day.

Since I could barely move this morning, I filled the stock tank with hot water while I tottered around doing the morning feeding. Then spent hours soaking, listening to Hugh Fraser narrate an Agatha Christie book, and knitting. Feeding Piper treats. Watching Moxie and Della pop up from the ferns than plunge back in with a suddenness that did not bode well for chipmunks or mice.

I'm still in pretty rough shape, but will probably be able to get to sleep tonight, thank goodness. And it certainly was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

Hope your weekend was wonderful :)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

ginger beer for supper

Tsuga enjoying a black birch sapling, delivered fresh to the paddock.

Thursday and Friday were perfect days for outdoor work. And it's great to have a builder who is happy to add little bits and pieces to his work plan as time permits. Thursday, for example, when my Occasional Helper was here removing fenceposts for relocation, Builder Matt didn't mind taking a few minutes to use his front end loader to lift out a couple of posts that wouldn't budge.

Yesterday, when the tractor was going to be idle for a while, I asked if Matt would park it by a pile of wood and stone that has been a thorn in my side for a few years. It's one of the most frustrating kinds of mess: the ones created and left by previous hired workers. Part of this one was my fault, because I had covered some firewood with what I thought was a tarp but which turned out to be a "pool cover" that disintegrated, shedding fragments of plastic which rendered the wood unburnable. But while I was figuring out what to do with that pile, a barn-builder with a skidder pushed thousands of pounds of old foundation stones into it.

What. A. Jumbled. Mess.

Since the new fenceline will run right through the center of that mess, yesterday I took a deep cleansing breath and began dismantling it. I pulled out individual pieces of wood, tried to brush off every bit of plastic into a rubbish container (on the left in the picture below), then added the wood to the tractor bucket (on the right, below). Whenever I came to a rock buried in the pile, I pulled it loose, picked it up and carried it to a corner of the fence.

Then, when Matt had a free moment, he drove his tractor  about 30 feet to unload the wood. I had outlined a space with sections of a white birch that had been too decayed for stovewood when the tree was taken down two years ago. It was a big tree, and even decayed sections were heavy. But it was worth the effort, because just like that (imagine finger-snapping there) I've got the base of my second Very Raised Bed. VRB2 was very much a backburnered project, due to the intensity of labor required. Having a tractor available to make one part of the process much easier was an opportunity not to be squandered.

I carried quite a few rocks, and filled the bucket with wood twice, but Matt eventually needed his tractor for the main job. I'm probably only halfway through the pile but it's a good start. I have to admit that after a couple of hours, it was really clear to me why I don't attempt this kind of thing anymore. Between the wood and the stones and later wrestling alone with rolled sections of 6-foot fence to temporarily block off a 50-foot opening so the cats can go outside this weekend...

I feel a lot like this squash leaf, but with less color:

It's been a productive week, and lots of good work has been done by the builders, with lots more to come. This is really a three-part project - not counting the little things that come up along the way, or the planned "20 minute" task that took nearly four hours and all hands on deck. I've got more research and decision-making ahead this weekend, but today I made my usual Saturday morning trip to the dump and the library, and that may be IT. I am exhausted, and all I want to do this afternoon is sip cold ginger beer and watch the cats climb through piles of roofing detritus while the autumn sun shines gently through the trees.

I hope your weekend is off to a great start!
Is anyone going to Rhinebeck? Usually right about now I'd be feeling a twinge of wish-I-could-be-there, but right now if I was magically transported to Rhinebeck I would probably be flat out on the ground, moving only enough to eat fried artichokes while watching sheepdog demonstrations.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

roof, day two

You may be asking, "What happened to Day One?"
and that would be a very reasonable question.
The answer is, I fell asleep immediately after supper.
It wasn't even dark yet.

I don't know why I was so tired! Unlike the porch job, when I opted to do all the clean-up myself and reclaimed lots of lumber for smaller projects, this time there will be no reusable materials. None at all. Strange but true. So I had the full clean-up rolled into the estimate for the job.

Which means that - apart from frequent discussions with Carpenter Matt about which way I prefer to do some particular thing which will impact the way other particular things will be done farther down the line - I have nothing to do.

Getting the lowdown on combining new and original materials.
Is the perspective puzzling?
Matt is on the roof of the Poultry Palace and I'm on the ladder at the gable peak of the house.

I'm not even doing my own outdoor projects, despite great weather. Instead I've been spending most of the day in the house, hoping to be a comforting presence. I underestimated how much Moxie and Della were going to be upset by the noise and activity. Very very very upset. So I've been puttering a bit. Yesterday I made a big pot of baked beans, and also (finally!) wove the ends in on a knitted sleeveless sweater I plan to donate to the hospice shop. Knitting detour snapshot:

I wanted to make this popular pattern - called Shalom - for ages, and it was fun and turned out very comfy and nice. But when I put it on, it also turned out to be "not me." I hope someone buys it for a few dollars at the hospice thrift shop and enjoys it for years!

End of knitting detour.
Back to the roofing project.

Like the cats, the goats aren't happy about the kerfuffle. But with the weather so nice, they can wander and snooze in the sun and go to the farther end of the Upper West Side and feel more relaxed. Or so I thought until I found this in the clubhouse under the stilt barn. It's possible the herd is planning an escape!

I hope they bring me back something nice.

Piper is the only one not troubled, and I really think her increased hearing loss is working in her favor this time. Even the compressor for the nail gun doesn't disrupt her nap schedule. She walked with me to collect the mail today and we had this view from the Lower West Side:

Which contrasted pretty nicely with the view at the house: 

But isn't this a clever system? Starting by using the plywood roofing sheets to protect the exterior walls while sliding the old roofing materials to the ground. And covering the ground with heavy packing wrap recycled from the lumberyard to later gather everything for appropriate disposal.
I think these fellows have done this before.

On to Day Three!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

in the works

Guess who's coming back.

Last year I decided that 2017 must be The Year of the Roof.
My insurance company concurs.

After the very successful porch renovation project almost exactly three years ago - can you believe it? I had to check the date twice, but I started taking down the screenwalls in November 2014! - I definitely wanted the same Excellent Carpenter for this next major job.

Stepping back to 2014 for a moment:

my first carpenter/handyperson had to stop partway into the porch reno project due to the onset of severe carpal tunnel issues. (Happy ending: after months of waiting for an appointment, he ultimately had surgery and was completely relieved of all pain! Huzzah!) And meanwhile I was unbelievably lucky to find the Excellent Carpenter who was willing to step in and get the porch buttoned up in a very short timeframe.
And beautifully.


Okay, back to 2017.

When we spoke in March, the carpenter told me his first available slot would be sometime in October, and I said, "Please pencil me in. No, use INK." And as good as his word, he came out on the 5th to discuss details, as there is actually more to this project than replacing shingles or even replacing the roof. I've been doing a lot of planning and pricing and pondering and running around ever since. There have been unrelated complications: my vehicle was in the shop three separate days; medical issues (human, canine, feline, and caprine); and my Occasional Helper and I have had mostly out-of-sync schedules. Also, migraines. Oh well.

But after that meeting on the 5th, and some back-and-forth on the phone, and a follow-up visit at 7AM on this past Friday for final measurements, enough decisions have been made to Get On With Things. Tomorrow evening at 4:45 the carpenter and I are going to meet at my Town Hall (the Building Inspector has only 2 office hours/week) and apply to pull a Permit so work can begin on Tuesday.


Unless there's a problem with getting the Permit. There shouldn't be. But I mentioned the time so you can send good vibes if you happen to think of it. 5PM Eastern time. Thanks.

"Pull a permit" odd expression, isn't it? For filling out a form, presenting a plan that complies with local codes, and writing a check to the town? Tell me, do you need permission to replace, remodel, build anything over a certain size, where you live? If so, what is that process called? Are you also pulling something?

So, on we go. There will be lots of process/progress updates on this somewhat scarily major project. Hopefully beginning Tuesday!

Meanwhile, looking back on a moment of calm, Friday evening:

 Actually, it was more like two hours of calm.
In a stocktank filled with hot water.
Spa 2.0


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

rather wordy wednesday

New England asters!

Well, you know what this means...

1) Found the camera!
2) It is now Autumn!

Autumn is not a sad time for me, though I understand why many see it that way.
I feel it more as a beginning than an ending.

There's certainly plenty going on in the plant world.
Some plants are just beginning to blossom for the first time:

Others, like this Queen Anne's Lace,
are already investing most of their energy in the future:

Plants influence my daily activities in many ways. Collecting seeds. Arranging for the goats' food supply. Watching the candy roaster squash grow, and planning where to store them if they make it to storing size.

A new experiment: biting insects arrive before the jewelweed in the Spring, so next year I'm hoping jewelweed in the form of ice cubes will provide similar itch-relief as the fresh plants. Do me a favor? Next Spring, when I mention the blackflies and mosquitoes, please remind me that I did this. It is entirely possible I will forget what those little brown blocks are, tucked away in the freezer.

Speaking of the freezer, early Autumn is also the gastronomically interesting time when I try to identify and eat everything left in the chest freezer - lots of soups and berries this year - prior to defrosting and cleaning.

 All in preparation season!

I love Autumn.