Since the smoke is gone (for the moment)

Well, the wildfires certainly changed things for a while here. The air outside was, essentially, toxic; so that was nice. One of these things that really bring home the fact that climate change, combined with a couple of centuries of not engaging in controlled burning of the forests (unlike the people who lived in these bits of the US before the colonizers who managed the forests carefully with controlled burns) have led to disastrous fires. And thanks to weather patterns we got a good dose of smoke.

That did put somewhat of a crimp in the plans to do the outside of the house, but I must admit I’ve not been deeply productive this week. Or, as I keep reminding myself and others when they say they haven’t done something:

I’ve not been that productive the last few days of this pandemic.

Yesterday was pretty good – but today – I have to give myself some credit for trying and I also have to remind myself that sometimes things take time but you don’t make notable progress. Which is largely how today’s been. So in the task management list, yesterday I spent some time outside and finished the front and the lower section of the south side of the house; the back of the house is also done except around the back door…

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This just leaves the North end (for which we need to have another day of planing wood, the two gables, and around the back door). I also laser cut both the house number and the backplates for the two lights that go over the corridors.

All this trim (and the panels underneath) need another coat of paint, but then finally the outside will actually be done.

Last week we also got all the tiles up in the kitchen – they need grouting still, which was going to be today’s activity, but instead I got sucked into a couple of other jobs…

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This has (thankfully) fixed the paranoia about splashing stuff on the kitchen walls. It will also fix the paranoia about water running down the back of the cupboard by the sink, which was a terrifying possibility.

And yesterday, we finally moved from having to hold the dishwasher open with a brick to holding it open with… the proper panel being attached to the front. This turned into a muuuuuch bigger job than I expected. I’d assumed that I’d just throw the mounting plate onto the door front and we would at that point have a hidden dishwasher, but the combination of the dishwasher being positioned very high (to clear the drain pipe behind it – which has to be in a stupid place because of the way the floor foundations were poured compared to the walls), and the positioning of the front door panel meant that the panel fouled the dishwasher’s power connection cover panel as it opened.

After several hours of beating it – and my head – with a hammer, I came up with the alternate option of cutting a different, replacement cover panel and attaching that (we won’t talk about how). My panel doesn’t screw into the same places their one did… which has the advantage that the door gains 2mm, which means that it now clears everything as it opens.

So anyhow, today was spent dealing with the roost in the coop – the droppings board was positioned such that it wasn’t quiiiite catching the majority of droppings. This was slightly annoying.

The quick and easy solution (which is what I did) was to pull it off, extend it slightly, change the angle, and put it back on. And the chickens don’t seem to mind.

I also tweaked the run slightly. There was a patch where the wire mesh rodent barrier that runs under the entire run stuck up – just outside the door – and despite being pinned to the run, the chickens had managed to drop enough crap between it and the run to force it out. Then, we worried they might catch their little toes on it as they tried to forage when we let them out.

They kept hopping around it, which made us nervous. So I grabbed an offcut of the house trim and put that across, sandwiching the mesh between layers of wood.

The morning’s also been slightly slowed by the fact that — despite our best efforts, one of the chickens appears to have roundworm. Ironically, the list of “what you should do to treat roundworm” is essentially everything we do. Apparently, we should just monitor the situation and see if there’s any sign of any of them losing weight. But despite our planned deep bedding method, we’ve gone back to scooping the poo every morning (and sometimes midway through the day).

I think it’s Astrid, although both her and Mymble seem to have a greater proportion of liquid faeces than I’d like. They’re still eating, though, and seem happy. And per the reference book at the urban farm place (1) it’s very common and (2) you shouldn’t treat it with worming medicine unless they become unwell.

So we’re just reduced to paranoidly watching them.

Today’s other activity was attempting to fix the Dyson fan that I got as “broken”.

It appears to have multiple faults – which I’m thinking probably all stemmed from one fault – that is that there’s a design flaw where the cable can rub on the bearing used to turn the fan body. In our case, the rubbing eventually wore the insulation away allowing a short. Now I’m not sure of the order of events, but so far, we’ve got a capacitor that’s completely missing (presumed vapourised); two blown fuses and the insulation failure.

I’ve replaced the capacitor – which taught me that if I do build the OpenInverter I’ll be needing a magnifying lamp, because that was…a challenge, and it’s freaking untidy.

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Annoyingly, the voltage regulator I bought is the wrong package, so if I do end up using it I’ll need to knock up a bunch of flyleads. But hey.

More annoyingly, I somehow forgot to check the fuses on it when I was looking at it last time – and so had to order fuses today. I also have a bunch of diodes that I’ve grabbed in-case any of the ones on the board have died. All the ones I checked today appeared to be behaving though.

So, I didn’t get very far with that.

I also took the opportunity to order the switch for my bench power supply. I accidentally trod on the switch (it reeked of cigarette smoke, despite my best efforts to clean it, so it was sat wrapped on the floor of the storage unit). Replacing it isn’t hard, but it’s annoying because it worked fine until I snapped it.

So lots of bitty bits, nothing actually finished, but various important things achieved.

Oh, and I got bitten, twice, by a spider while harvesting tomatoes a few days ago. It hurts. I am unimpressed.

Queen of the Highway

So, having put a tow-hitch on Raven, the time came to test it out because despite this rather… unfortunate note:

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It turned out that when I called, the person who placed our order was in fact able to find it. Which mean that…. our doors were ready. So we rented a trailer and I flew down to Portland for a socially distant collection. I have to say Raven handled the whole trailer experience very well.

We then got down to the delightful job of oiling the doors – with our smelly despite being low VOC, 100% plant based, biodegradable oil. The doors looked pretty spiffy outside:

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And even more spiffy when we put them on their runners inside:

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There’s still a lot of trim work to do, obviously. The doors currently have a block of two bits of trim to make up for the fact that the trim at the left side is missing and so is the trim at the right. But our bathroom for the first time in 3 years has a door. Still no window, but a door.

The second bathroom is actually closed off from the main bedroom, and our laundry room is shut! It’s fascinating to me how different the house feels (again), with these additions. The bathroom being a room – not a space only separated by walls but with big openings in – well… it’s much cozier. The door at the end of the main room is the most impactful though, for me. It – interestingly – both manages to make the end of the room feel much more solid – and sort of shortens the room, but at the same time makes it (somewhat deceptively) feel like there’s a proper room the other side (rather than, as there actually is, just a laundry cupboard).

As I’ve wittered about at length, I find it a perpetually intriguing thing how small changes to our space have really big impacts (for me, at least), on the way the space feels.

One think I’m really looking forward to (hopefully this week) is the impact that the teal/green tiles will have when we put them up as the back splash for the kitchen counters.

In exterior news; the south end now has the mid-wall trim piece covering the join between the roof truss covering panels and the wall panels. We have, today, planed a whole bunch of strips which we’ll have to cut down to make the trim for the south wall – then paint and put up. That same process has worked pretty well on other faces, so we’ve managed to get the front of the house more-or-less done:

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Today has actually been a crazily busy day. We did our market shopping (currently, with COVID-19 we’re going every other week, with only one of us going in, and grabbing fairly much fruit and a few other bits and bobs). Trying to support local business while at the same time avoiding making others sick with potential work-related-plague, or alternatively making us sick and carrying it from wherever we’ve caught it to my — or Kathryn’s — work makes for a kind of difficult balance.

Anyhow, we then hung all three doors when we got home, then planed wood, and then harvested an insane amount of food. I can’t express how lucky we are, how privileged we are to have both the time and money to grow our own food. It’s been really exciting this year – and at times overwhelming – to see our garden (into which we have put a lot of both compost and effort) being incredibly productive.

And while it’s quite a time-suck (because we don’t just need to do at least some maintenance, a lot of watering, and try and keep on top of the insects; we also have to do something with all the food we’ve grown) – it has led to us eating incredibly well this year.

This year we’ve actually had enough Tomatoes that we can both eat and prep them. So tonight, while it’s getting terrifingly late, we are waiting for the toms to cool down having been cut up:

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…and roasted with garlic and herbs so we can make a roasted tomato sauce.

From our own, home grown tomatoes (grown from seeds we saved).

It’s, to coin a phrase, fuckin’ A.

And now… I must away to deal with roasted tomatoes.

I’m not sure

It has been a while since I’ve updated, I guess. Not ages, but a while. We’ve been plodding onwards with the many jobs big and small which need to be completed. We planed a bunch of trim panels for the board and batten around the outside, cut them to length and Kathryn primed and painted them. Then we cut more we have been working through painting them.

Yesterday we started putting them up and were able to do most of the back with the batch we’d got done (I didn’t cut some of the short bits until later – so they haven’t been fully painted, and there’s a funky bit around the back door which we had a bit of a discussion about how we’re going to do it yesterday and I think we’ve got a plan).

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As is often the case with big (and sometimes with small) changes, it’s fascinating how much it changes the feel of the house. It feels more cottagey and traditional – and although we were going for a modern take on board and batten siding:

What we actually seem to have created with our somewhat larger spacing is something a bit more like a modern take on mock-tudor. Our neighbours will, no doubt, be surprised by yet another transformation taking place.

We also now have the tiles to cover the main area floor. Having lived with the microcement for a while we’ve both concluded it just isn’t working out. I think if you’re a talented, experienced concrete worker you could probably get it better, but for us it’s just not smooth enough, and the colour seems to sit in the surface, so polishing it isn’t going to work. Which leads to – well, okay, we need to cover it – and that’s going to be either carpet, wood or tile. Tile actually improves the effectiveness of the heated floor rather than impeding it, and we like the look of natural tile – so we ordered a ton of slate tile which arrived last week and we lugged it from its pallet to storage.

It’s really disappointing to have to redo the floor, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and redo something. It’s also a pain because we didn’t leave space around the doors, so they can’t be tiled around. That is a whole different kettle of fish, which we have thoughts about how to tackle, but some of that is dependent on the thickness of the adhesive and tile combined.

At any rate, all the tile’s sat at the back of the house and we ordered our tile adhesive which is ready to collect today… so that’s another big project to get going on and get off the list. That’s reserved for days when it’s too hot to be outside for long stretches, or when it’s raining, although actually even though it’s been hot we’ve been managing to keep working through the day of late. It’s not been as hot as it was a couple of weeks back which has made it more manageable.

I also took it upon myself to chase our door company and… astonishingly, our doors have all arrived. From the discussion it sounds like they actually arrived a while back but the guy forgot to call us – or somehow the message got lost. Anyhow, we need to go down and collect them and then we can have actual doors. In our house. Which is quite exciting and also means we should be able to get on with installing trim around the pocket doors. That just leaves the cupboard, attic and bedroom doors to do. Heh.

The doors being ready does mean that this:

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Will come into its own as while we could put three doors on the roofrack, I think that would be pushing it for the 120 mile drive back from Portland. So instead we’ll push it by putting a trailer on our hitch for the first time ever.

All in all it’s slow but steady progress.

Sun, sand and glaciers

COVID-19 notwithstanding, we decided that a couple of days of us not working on the house, not working in the garden and perhaps not being in Olympia was a good idea. We’d debated going camping, but left it too late to book a site that was sufficiently socially distant for our tastes (our tastes essentially being that no-one else is within about a 10 mile radius of us).

When I’ve been at work the social distancing is mainly for their safety, since Kathryn’s not at work right now her contact with peeps is pretty minimal. But since I’ve been not-at-work for a couple of weeks, this was mainly for our and my patient’s safety – because I don’t want to ferry plague back from other people to my, potentially sick-but-not-necessarily-with-COVID, patients.

So, instead we packed up our car with a coolbox containing lunch, took our coffee and tea in insulated cups and headed firstly out to the coast – and then on our second day of holiday – to Mount Ranier.

Our very first attempt was Westhaven State Park which is a beach over by Westport. Being a bit of a mizzly day it wasn’t too busy until you got down to the bit of the beach which was where the surfers like to hang out. Even there we were able to maintain distance, but it was a bit busier than we liked. So we poked at the map and found Griffiths-Priday State Park. Not far from the very popular town of Ocean Shores, which has reportedly been fairly much fully booked up with people who aren’t as concerned about COVID as we are.

We decided to give it a go, and what an excellent decision that was. It’s much closer to a wild beach with a large expanse of dunes and we meandered around barely seeing anyone that wasn’t a bird. The mist rolled in and out, the waves running up on the sandy beach. It was wonderfully peaceful and a lovely wild space to be away from other people for a bit.

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Sitting there and listening to the sea, watching the birds, hearing the wind in the grass; it just reminds you how beautiful the world is. And letting the water roll over your feet, feeling the sand slipping out from beneath you and back into the water is just such a centring experience.

Dinner was fish and chips (no malt vinegar though; I clearly need to get a bottle to carry for such events) from a restaurant that handily was doing drive-through ordering then kerbside pickup.

Yesterday we decided to head to the mountains. By sheer coincidence it happened to be one of the National Park’s free days – so we loaded up again and headed to Mount Ranier. One primary discovery from yesterday; we’re both hideously unfit. While working on the house has, I’m fairly certain, improved both of us’s upper body strength, our general stamina for ‘walking up a big hill’ has not improved.

But, it being a popular national park you can cheat and drive a big chunk of the way up ;)

We’d actually selected what was supposed to be a lightly trafficed route, but the sunshine and the free day and the fact no-one can go anywhere thanks to COVID mean that it wasn’t that quiet (although, it may be that it’s quieter than other routes…?). It also turned out that the combination of ‘moderate’ difficulty combined with almost no shade at all was… not ideal on such a hot day.

So we abandoned the plan and instead went on the Moraine Trail, which it turned out was an excellent plan because there was almost no-one on the short out-and-back trail which takes you to the foot of the terrifyingly disappearing Nisqually Glacier. It’s stunningly beautiful up there, and the mountain kindly let us get a really good view before mist and clouds suddenly descended covering the peak.

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It’s funny, because it’s one of those highly deceptive trails which – being unmaintained and over in a valley, makes it feel like you’ve hiked out to the absolute middle of no-where, when in fact you’re just a half hour walk from one of the tarmac’d paths in the Paradise area of the park that’s incredibly heavily trafficed.

We meandered up the trail and gazed up a the much diminished but still amazing glacier, then down the hill to attempt to find a spot for our snack. Which… ended up with me shrieking, leaping up and dropping my snack (which we then picked up and packed out, because we’re not arseholes); thanks to an ant deciding to take a bite of my arm.

Thankfully it turned out not to be a truly vicious ant, nor a swarm or herd or whatever it is of ants. But Kathryn swiped off the other one after I’d managed to remove the one from my foot and the one that was attempting to go up my leg. After that we decided to maybe continue our walk…

…and after climbing back up to the main path we headed across to the Stevens Canyon Road for a brief peek, before heading down the mountain, stopping for a brief look at Narada falls (which incredibly wasn’t too busy). Then down the mountain for takeaway dinner (which we tookaway to the carpark outside the restaurant). Turns out there’s a Nepalese food restaurant (and also a Ukranian one, actually) not far from the park entrance, so we tried that… which was okay. Not amazing, but not bad for tourist trap munchies.

And then home.

And now we’re back to regularly scheduled house stuff :)

It seems counterintutive, but we were nearly sunk by the sink.

Sorry.

So we got the counter on. Getting the counter on wasn’t terrible. We had to maneuver the dishwasher in and out a few times because the level wasn’t set quite right; so it would have fouled the bottom of the counter. But after a few trips (and it’s on rollers), it was in and seems to be at the right height.

Then we had to play ‘what looks right’ to get the countertop on. Because the wall’s not straight; and so the cabinets don’t sit perfectly; nor does the cooker.

But eventually we reached a consensus between all the warring angles and we decided we were happy with the position.

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So then it was time to install the sink.

We got the template, positioned it carefully, drew around it, drilled some starter holes and set to with a multipurpose blade in the jigsaw. Did it go well? No, it f’kin did not.

The screws we’d put in to hold the metal to the wood – well, let’s just say they got in the way. Then the blade decided to go off for a wander at a jaunty angle. Then nothing we had would cut through the screws which were riiiight where we needed to go*

Finally, using a combination of the reciprocating demo-saw, a bunch of new jigsaw blades, and a fine agglomeration of swearing we got the hole cut. Then we test fitted the sink – placing some wood blocks to stop it being difficult to get out**, we dropped it in. It fit perfectly***.

We attached the clips (per the instructions), coated the edges with silicone sealant and popped the sink in the hole.

Whereupon it instantly became apparent that the clips now fouled the edge of the hole and would quite definitely not go in the hole. Eventually, after a rapid assessment of the deteriorating situation we realised that even were we to pop it out and cut the hole bigger – which would be a challenge to do as once the clips are on there’s approximately 2-3mm between ‘correct size to get the sink through’ and ‘oh, the sink has fallen through the hole’ because the clips almost, but not quite, protrude at the side of the sink**** – the clips were too short to actually clip the damn sink to our worksurface as they’re less than an inch and a half long, and our work surface is an inch and a half thick. Plus a the front and back 3/4″ for the top surface of the cabinet.

So after some rapid assessment we opted for yanking the clips off again, throwing in a bit more sealant and putting the sink in. It turned out that actually, the wood blocks we’d put which held the sink just out of the hole (making it easier for us to remove it after test fitting) had hidden another problem; the pieces of metal that hold the clips in actually fouled the hole too.

The supplied template is woefully wrong.

We bent them a bit and managed to shove the sink into the hole.

It looks nice now – and hopefully the amount of sealant there is enough to both seal it and hold the damn thing in.

Then came the discovery that the drains supplied with the sink have necks that are about 3cm longer than the old sink. Whiiiiiich, it turned out, is a problem because where the drain enters the wall was somewhat marginal height wise anyway. And it turns out, the easiest and best route ends up with the new drain pipe being in the way of the drain – a plan which obviously wasn’t going to work.

It took a lot of pondering, staring, holding up bits of pipe, and in the end some rather weird routing – but… eventually I landed on this:

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Which seems to work.

And so, at long last, we have a proper kitchen sink. The tap is actually attached and no longer spins at the slightest provocation. It no longer has to be twisted to allow you to have it on cold.

It’s quite nice.

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* Or so we thought.

** A mistake.

*** Spoiler alert: It didn’t.

**** WTF?!

The garden

So, one thing I’ve not talked about loads is the garden. We’ve worked bloody hard on transforming an unloved, uncared for patch of barely alive grass and dandelions into something that’s not only giving to us, but is adding to the biodiversity, and providing food for (some) wildlife. I mean, it would provide food for more wildlife, but we’d actually like to eat it ourselves, so we’re pretty keen to keep deer out.

It’s one of those things that we seem to do that I’m unsure if it aids in selling – as this is definitely not our forever home we do think about that, but then very little we do is really targeted at selling. I mean, we have an awareness that one day we’d like to sell.

But gardening is something we both seem to be driven to do – and enjoy doing. And trying to improve the land we’re custodians of, and giving wild critters somewhere to be in our generally monoculture (grass) built environments. It’s selfish, too, because we want to grow food, and we want to enjoy pretty flowers, and I love watching the birds and insects fluttering around the place.

But it also has some grounding in trying to make the world a better place.

Anyhow, so back when we moved in the garden at the back was a scrubby patch of grass, three plum trees, a lilac bush (next to the house) and the umbrella tree.

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Oh, and there was a thicket of brambles right at the back. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a picture before we got our arborist to attack the trees which had clearly had absolutely no maintenance recently, and quite possible for their entire life; and also to hack back the brambles.

You can kinda see them in the background of this picture which was the only picture on the listing when we got the house.

Anyhow, we’ve worked on it lots. We’ve built raised beds, we’ve dug turf, we’ve lasagne mulched. Kathryn’s mom came and weeded and mulched our front garden and helped us make more beds…

And sometimes the transformation is quite striking.

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And it’s amazingly productive. I mean it’s a weird year weather wise (aren’t they all now, HT: Climate change). But we just pulled over 3kg of veg from our garden in one day’s harvest:

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And that’s not hugely unusual. Last week we had something like 30 courgettes. We’ve also had artichokes, broccoli, radish, raspberries, strawberries, peas, beans, a variety of herbs, our tomatoes are setting on the vine and our sweetcorn is growing inches every day; it’s got tassels and silks, so we should actually get corn (Kathryn’s been hand pollinating them). We’ve got Jerusalem Artichokes, cabbages, brussel sprouts, leeks, onions… oh and 2 plums (there may be more? We can only see two… between our three plum trees. I think the birds got them all).

It’s quite joyous watching it grow and delightful to actually get to eat some of it.

We might get some kiwi’s next year, and if we can keep the deer out we’ll get Aronia berries. We might also yet Jostaberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants….

Anyhow. It’s been hard work, but it’s very lovely now it’s in.

Chooks, Worktops and the floor

Somewhat disjointed progress, since we’ve been working on multiple unconnected things.

Let’s start with the floofy ones. We got some chickens after a couple of false starts – turns out a lot of people with chickens are terrible at contacting you. Also, for some reason, our wanting to buy chickens coincided with other people having a thoroughly miserable time. One person’s partner had multiple migraines, another person’s dog died…

We also had to put up the run (the coop build I’ve wittered about already, but we did paint it). A large amount of treated lumber, some swearing at hardware cloth (thank you Sarah!) and some of our spare chicken wire later and we have something that has very little relation to right angles or verticality, but does ‘follow the contours of the land‘* and also seemed appropriate for containing small dinosaurs.

In the end, after we managed to navigate the disasters we seemed to be causing in other people’s lives, and actually found someone really nice to sell us them, Pippi (Longstocking, obvs) and Mymble (as in Tove Jansson’s moomin books) came to join the fam’. Mymble is slightly suspect for being a boy and we’re not allowed roosters in the city, but they said they’d trade them out if they turn out to be a roo, Pippi seems fairly certain to be a girl.

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They’re both Swedish Flower Hens, which are a landrace** breed (they basically Darwin’d themselves into existence on Swedish farms). That, unsurprisingly, means they don’t have niceties like feather patterns or colouration that disinguishes which sex they are. You just have to look at them and go “well, you don’t look like you have a huge comb” and “your feet and legs aren’t too big” and pray that’s a girl chicken, not a boy. We’d actually hoped to get a third chook but wanted a different breed, and it turned out that they only had one other chicken of a similar age and they’re looking quite roostery.

Still, we’re going to check in on them in a few more days and hopefully that little birdling will not be looking more roostery; otherwise we might go looking somewhere else. We did look at one other person’s birds, but weren’t happy with the condition of their feet (fearing scaly leg mites***), so took a pass on them.

Pippi and Mymble seem to be settling in fine, they’re clearly geniuses of the bird world having worked out the water feeding nipples more or less independently (we showed one of them, once, right when we moved them) and the ladder into the coop with minimal intervention and just the one day of ‘using Kate as an adventure playground and roost, rather than going into the coop’.

Readers, please note: only my left shoulder is approved as a chicken roost by Pippi and Mymble; my right shoulder is terribly, terribly unsuitable.

Sadly? Fortunately?… No video exists of this experience which mainly had me giggling as it became rapidly apparent that I was not going to win on persuading them in to the coop by myself.

That was day 3 of ‘putting chickens to bed’. Day 4, they just went in, all on their own. Same on day 5. We just have to pootle out and shut the door.

The other main job we’ve been working on is the kitchen worktops. Having decided that “thousands of dollars” was a ridiculous amount to pay for kitchen worktops, but also that having built one side that was 3m long, and therefore realising we were unlikely to get leftovers from someone else’s project that would do the job either — we’d been hunting for a solution that would come in more at a price point we were willing to pay.

Eventually we settled on zinc worktops (which should patina up nicely). First we asked someone about making them – and they gave us just as ridiculous a quote as everyone else for every other material. And none of these quotes included installation, so far as I could tell. So we decided to try and do it ourselves.

So we ordered a roll of zinc. Well, three, actually. Two for the counters, one for the cooker backsplash. We also ordered a large quantity of 3/4″ plywood – two layers of which (glued and screwed together) would make roughly a standard thickness counter. Well, the gluing didn’t go quite as well as hoped – I’d opted for construction adhesive initially because then – I’d hoped – we could use it for both jobs (not the ideal glue I’ll admit, but kind of an average for both).

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Unfortunately, the smaller of the two didn’t bond together well – so we ended up throwing a gallon of wood glue into split between the two boards and then clamping them together a second time – which needed a whole ‘nother day to dry. That mean that we didn’t get to start with the easier, shorter worktop for wrapping the zinc, because it was still drying.

Instead the first glue and fold we did was on the long worktop.

So the gluing – we definitely don’t have enough weight or big enough clamps (can’t reach the actual board from the edge with the overlap required to cover the sides and the underside). That is definitely the case. Also, we worked out after we did it the way we should have got the metal sheet positioned, because it didn’t land where we wanted it to, not at all. Also, we should have done this the other way up – using the offcuts from the plywood to support the metal sheet, then dumping the heavy wood onto the metal. That way, the wood would have added it’s weight to the piled on piece of stuff making the contact adhesive stick. Instead, it was just our pressure and then piling paint tins, blocks, bricks, bits of random wood. The gluing worked…ish, and the positioning should work, but it’s not… generous.

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Also, folding it is a thousand nightmares. We don’t have a nice jig, nor fancy metal folding machinery, just a rubber mallet and our arms. The first fold – the one on the back that we don’t care about – is not great. Partly because it took a couple of attempts to settle on ‘just beat the sh*t out of it with a rubber mallet’ as the “best” technique. I’d tried applying gentle force with a bit of wood running back and forth along the length of it (nope). I’d tried hitting it with a hammer using a bit of wood as a protector (works, but dents it a lot). I’d tried swearing at it vigorously (not effective, but therapeutic). But both of us whaling on it – taking turns – with the rubber mallet and working outwards from the centre? That seems to work.

I mean, it’s not a nice pin sharp corner with smooth verticals.

That is definitely not what it is.

But it’s looking okay.

Unfortunately, even with our temporary shade (Kathryn’s cunning plan of stringing the tarp between the house and the garage), the gap at the side of the house is very warm and catches sun all morning. In the afternoon it’s just hot there, though, but well shaded. Hopefully we can get the big one done tomorrow (today it’s going to be way too hot for sure at 31°C); and get the smaller one glued. I’m also wondering if we can use some of the offcuts we have around to make the backing board to wrap the zinc around for behind the cooker (because I forgot to order that when I bought the big sheets for the counter).

So that’s slow, but definite progress.

We still haven’t chosen handles for the kitchen cupboards.

Which leads us to the floor. The floor is a constant source of concern. The microcement topping we used didn’t come out smooth – now how much of this is applicator error, and how much is not is a question we’re going to have to resolve when we do the bathroom. But it came out with a suedey texture which is actually really nice to look at, and feels pretty good… but it holds dirt really well. Add to that, that without surface sealing (which we were told wasn’t necessary in light duty areas) you can only lightly clean it with water. Add a cleaning compound or rub at it, and the colour changes, permanently. We have a nice streak by the back door where a slug found its way in that demonstrates that quite well.

So thaaaaat’s not going to work long (or even medium) term. It’s becoming increasingly problematic, so we think (maybe) we’re going to try and polish it and then seal it. Which is quietly terrifying.

The theory being that if we fuck it up we’d have to do something else with it anyway. That may end up being tiling the bloody thing with slate (because the colour we went for is effectively slate, and looks really nice), getting someone else to pour a resin floor (lazy, easy), or painting it (meh)… Either way, it’s a pain in the arse.

So at some point we’re going to have to do a test patch, probably in the cupboard somewhere. Then it’ll be renting a floor sander and wishing that we’d done this before we moved in (but we didn’t know… and really, didn’t have time).

Meh.

The main big project over the next few weeks however, is the trim. Which I keep saying but we’re not getting to, but is actually true. I’m off work for a couple of weeks and apart from us going to spend a little time walking out in the wilds, we’re mainly going to be putting a concerted effort into getting the outside of the house finished. So… err, hopefully that will be a big job done :)

*Definitely not an excuse for “we just threw it on the ground”.

**I have learned more about chickens than I ever knew in the past few weeks. Mainly from Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow, but also from rando blog posts on t’internet.

*** It’s amazing what you can learn.

Another project

So, I’ve taken a bit of a break from the house for a minute. This is because we saw a rat in our woodpile. This is… not something that we felt positive about. We’re aware that Oly has a rat…issue. Apparently we’ve arrived at around the time the city has got big enough and dense enough to start supporting a significant rat population. Hence our house’s previous existence as a service station on the rat highway (now subject to a bypass).

We hadn’t seen any rat action under the house since we dried it out down there and also made it so we weren’t pumping warm, moist air into the void (the lack of maintenance from the previous owner extended to the dryer vent just venting under the house). We also blocked off one of the routes in (next to the sewer pipe) with a mixture of rocks and pebbles, which apparently is not a thing they love. There are, however, snap-traps under the house for the purpose of preventing rat-ingress.

So that’s all good. But when we wandered over to the compost pile a while back, we noticed… a rat. Which prompted a rather more urgent building of the chicken coop, for which the wood was being saved. This lumber had been pulled out of the house with the original intention that it’d go back in, but having de-smelled the house we decided we didn’t really want that grotty lumber making up our nice new clean walls – and also, it was quite often split or holed…which made deciding not to use it for that much easier.

Unfortunately, that meant it sat outside under cover for… years.

About 2 and a half of ’em.

Fortunately, it actually doesn’t look terrible, because we were pretty good at keeping it dry. And uncovering it revealed that I think that the rat was just using it to access a hole it’d made; it doesn’t look like they’ve tried to make a nest there.

So I ran out to Hardel and got some 4×4 cedar chunks, some concrete mix, some hardware cloth and some utility grade siding. Annoyingly they only had shiplap, but it’s amazing what you can cover with trim.

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That same day I dug out the patch where the coop was going, threw the poles in the ground with some concrete, and buried the hardware cloth.

Then over the last 3 days or so I’ve built a coop – which I’d planned out roughly, but not knowing exactly what wood was there, I didn’t want to be too specific about which lengths of wood I should use. That did, of course, lead to some rather…interesting decisions (some would call them ‘mistakes’) when cutting as I tried to model in 3D the final result. Fortunately, it’s amazing what you can cover with trim.

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It does still need a coat of paint, although I’ve thrown some primer down on the inside. Unfortunately, our only ‘spare’ paintbrush is basically a solid lump. It’s sufficient for painting the inside, because I don’t think the chickens are going to be deeply concerned about the quality of paint finish, but won’t work for the outside I don’t think. Pleasingly, we managed to use literally all the trim wood, and nearly all of the 2x4s.

It also needs some locks (the doors are currently screwed closed, which is a short term solution), and a latch for the egg box. Especially since we saw raccoons, I don’t want to find them in our coop.

Oh, and I keep forgetting, but it does also need a roof. That means getting hold of some of the finishing strips for the metal roofing, which is a bit tricky. It also means buying some non-deforming metal shears.

In a little job on the house I put up the plywood in what will be our pantry, which is pleasing. I need to cut some pieces to be the base, and the back; then we can mount our pull out pantry. There is about 2 sq ft of wasted space… but in the entire house, that’s the only area we can’t use… which isn’t too bad since a lot of that space was scattered around in the old layout. Originally I planned to make a custom pull out for this, but the amount of time / reward for it doesn’t seem worth it…

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Soon, /so?on/, adverb. Meaning at some vague point in the future.

Wow, it’s been a while since I did a house update. Progress has been slow, in part because of the weather, in part because of [other things going on in the world that are more pressing] and in part because I’m not always super efficient. I know it looks that way, but I’m not.

So, mainly there’s been a lot of work in the garden. I’d like to pretend that the house has been first and foremost on the project list, but it definitely hasn’t. The weather has been alternately vastly too hot to spend ages outside or alternatively, very wet. Neither of these has resulted in a rapid rate of progress, although this morning I finally got back to moving the infinite pile of rocks from our construction driveway and have managed to clear to only a meter or so from the garage (not across the full width, sadly, but a chunk of it).

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This may seem like an odd thing to be working on right now, but the cunning part of this plan is that if I can get to a point where Rebecca can move in and out of the garage, albeit with me pushing, then I can actually break out the table saw. Now while I can cut the trim for the house with the circular saw, the table saw will be a hell of a lot easier and quicker. And the damn rocks need to move anyway; I’m fairly much sick of the sight of them. It’s abundantly clear that we’re going to have quite a few rocks left over, so working out what we’re going to do with them is becoming more pressing. We’ve got more beds we can edge with them, so that’s a possibility for some.

Send your thoughts on a postcard to “Kate’s rock dilemma, BBC Bristol, PO Box 111…”

Anyhow, clearing the rocks means that I’m most of the way down the north side of the house with the rock-gap, which should stop our house having any chance to get damp. The underfloor heating I’m sure helps with that, because the point that would be wettest, in the winter, is the joint between the floor and the wall, which has the potential to get sprayed with water when it rains. That is dried out by the heating, anyhow. But, making it so there’s not grass able to hold water right next to the house; and so that the water is more likely to drain quickly should improve that further. Thankfully, the house hasn’t shown a tendency to dampness as of yet, despite the lack of maintenance it had been subjected to. And I think our rainscreen seems to be doing its job pretty well.

To head back to the garden, however… It was progressing well until a deer managed to find its way in. We’d done a pretty good job of preventing ingress/egress of deer, with our 7′ tall monstrosity of a temporary fence, but a while back one managed to get in a gap between our house and our rearward neighbour. We’d not fenced a short section that had the original, only 4′ tall, fence on the basis that we didn’t think deer could get to it anyway being as it’s up by the neighbour’s house. It turns out they can, they did, and they came to eat. Kathryn chased it off that time and we tacked up another section of fence to try and prevent it coming back – which worked for a while.

….until a few days ago when it decided that it would come for the all-you-can-eat-buffet. Eating the tops of our biggest tomatoes, peas, great chunks of beans, all our Aronia berries*, chunks of native plants, an entire squash plant…

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Now this is by far a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but this is also the first year we’ve grown so much from seed, so it was pretty annoying and upsetting. We think it came in through that same section where, it turned out, the short section of fence we’d put up had come down. I’m not sure if it was the deer that pulled the fence down though, because yesterday I got to watch the cute – but slightly worrying – passage of a family of raccoons across that fence.

Watching the smallest one wail and flail its forelegs and the [presumed] parents climb partially back over the fence and haul the small one over was, I’ll admit, terribly cute. But it’s also worrying as we don’t really want a family of raccoons making their home in our garden, or using it for object disassembly practice.

Anyhow, we fixed the fence back up – this time with some more sturdy screws, and sprayed some repells-all around (which is quite the scent), and are hoping that this resolves the problem. Frustratingly, we’d only just pruned the tomatoes extra shoots, so they were already under stress. We’ll have to see if they survive this new onslaught.

We also went to the Urban Farm and Garden place, who were having a handy sale, so we’ve now got a fig tree and a nice bay tree (to replace our failed bay tree), both of which should add to the mixture of shade/light in the garden. At the same time we also picked up a few new deer-off-putting plants. Deer don’t eat rosemary or lavender, apparently (and from our experience), and apparently don’t really like the smell of them. So we’ve planted a few more of them around our corn / tomato / squash bed. It’s all looking rather like our usual organic (chaotic) plantfest, which is quite delightful to me.

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Inside, we finally put up the picture rail in our office. This has been one of those jobs we’d been putting off for quite some time – not because it was hard in and of itself, but because it entailed moving lots of things. Again.

We finally sucked it up and did it, and then reassembled the room more tidily than before, and it’s looking pretty good.

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We’re still on the lookout for a 3-section barrister’s bookcase to match the 5 section one we have (to make two 4 section bookcases…), but that’s a thing that involves going out in the world in a pre-COVID wanderings way, so that’s not happening right now as I’m still trying to avoid being Typhoid Mary.

I’ve also been working on the trim – it has been slow going partly because I’m doing it in a very weird way (I should really be using the tablesaw but…. can’t get to it), and partly because I’m still struggling with motivation. But, ignoring that, we now have trim around our bedroom – not finished, but it’s present on 3 sides of the door. I just need to do some more measuring, planing and cutting and we could have it on all the other bits. It is tricky, though, because our local dinosaur has hatched its eggs, and is very unkeen on me walking repeatedly to and from the garage. And I don’t want it to leave.

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But, like I say, we’ve done some of the trim around the bedroom door, and we’ve also done some around the windows in the lounge/kitchen. Which is definite progress. I’m not entirely happy with it, but I’m not a finish woodworker. The whole point of the chair project was for me to learn the skills of making wood actually join together in a pretty way, not in a purely adequately functional way. So doing this is definitely outside the bounds of my comfort zone. But it looks okay, I’m happy enough with it. And I don’t think anyone else will notice the problems, particularly (except for our woodworking friends).

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In the kitchen, we’ve decided to go ahead and try for worksurfaces made from zinc, which should be an interesting challenge to bend to shape without any kind of jig. We’ll see how that goes. I was going to just buy enough for the small one, but the $100 of shipping means it makes more sense to do both as the total is under $600… It will also be the backsplash for the stove, so that’s exciting, too. Planning to order that in the next couple of days.

We are, of course, still debating handles for the kitchen. We found something, conceptually, that we like. But it didn’t come in the shape we wanted. That is a problem, because now we know what we want, but can’t have it. Feh.

*Super disappointing as we were planning to make Sloe gin this year, and we had a really, really good haul of them.

Today is one of those hard days

I’m not sure why. I mean, I could point to a billion things. I could point to the UK government endeavoring to make being trans illegal and life impossible for my many friends over there. I could point to the awful nature of the current administration in the US which is attempting to cause harm to immigrants they have (almost certainly illegally) detained. I could point to the fact that the history of systemic racism and inequality in the US has driven people of colour and their supporters out onto the streets in mass demonstrations which put their lives at risk from CV19 (but their lives are at risk from existing in the US — and many western nations — at the moment anyway). I could wave my hands in the general direction of the awful police brutality and violence being meted out by white supremacist cops and their supporters.

I can look at the news and see that god-awful-weasel of a man that’s currently occupying the White House having peaceful protestors tear-gassed and assaulted so he can do his best Mussolini impression in front of a church.

And this comes on the background awful of climate change and biodiversity loss which I keep wondering if I’m doing anywhere enough for, and knowing I’m not.

All of it makes the jobs I need to do to finish the house feel terribly pointless. And all of the awful is, probably, why I’m feeling pretty crap today. But understanding that doesn’t really help.