Progress outside, if not much inside

For ‘reasons’ we have been really pushing to try and get the rainscreen up on the house. Our rainscreen (as has probably been mentioned by me before) is cheap shop-grade plain-face t1-11* which will get battens over it so that unless you are paying proper attention it’ll look like board and batten. As usual with us, we’re dressing something not terribly pricey to look much nicer than it is. And complicated, because we can save on materials by making us do the installation work.

Anyhow, the back of the house and some of the other bits are running up against the “do not leave your vapour barrier exposed longer than” periods of time – hence the massive push to get the back covered. This despite the fact that the weather has been hot, sunny and dry. Also despite the fact that at times it’s painfully frustrating. We at best can manage a rate of about 1 board an hour, which seems ridiculously slow – given it’s just a 4’x8′ board that we cut down to 4′ by 82″, then stick on the wall using screws it sounds like it should be fairly easy…

But first up most of the boards overlap a window, or a door. And the header of our building isn’t flat, and the roofline wanders up and down just a bit. And there’s the whole entertaining m’larkey of the scheme that we’re using to prevent insect ingress into the small void behind the panels (which is for airflow). Those exterior boards are separated from the wall and the vapour barrier by a 3/8″ “furring” strip, at the top and bottom of which runs mesh. Metal mesh. Which is springy, and difficult to wedge a board over. I mean, the entire point is that it’s all a snug fit to make it less of a haven for small crawly creatures. But all in all as we’re trying to hold a heavy board up, with reasonably accurate cutouts for windows…while squishing mesh, screwing it to the wall and not breaking the windows. It turns out it’s “tricky”.

So basically, one board an hour. Ish. Slightly longer, usually. Sometimes with much swearing. Sometimes with some despairing. Recently, I’ve been trying for some equanimity by reciting the mantra that the “test fit” is a “test fit” and I should not expect it to fit.

Because no matter how hard I try to accurately cut and measure, there’s almost invariably a few mil here or there that need to be shaved off. Which means getting the board up, positioned, marked, back down, trimmed, retested, then when it’s right painting all the cut edges.

Anyhow, so long-story long. Big push. We’ve still got the south face to do, but we wrapped that relatively recently, so it’s less pressing. At least a bit.

We spent some (quite grumpy time, if I recall correctly) on the weekend getting the North gable done.

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We then spent Sunday/Monday/Tuesday getting the East side of the house done…

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Which really does feel like quite an achievement. And we’re very pleased with how it’s coming together.

Please take the time to ooh and ahh over our lovely rainscreen. Which just needs priming now. Then battens. Then more priming. Then painting.

Oh, and note that we quietly trimmed the downspout so that it fits (and is positioned between vertical and the special version of vertical that is the end of the house).

People keep asking us when we’ll be in, and if we’ll speed up now *x* has happened, or *y* is ready. And I kind of want to wail when they do, because it’s just the two of us, part time, and it has become apparent that we are effectively building a house. In fact, it’s actually, in many ways, harder than building it from scratch, because we have to work within the bounds of someone else’s mistakes, and someone else’s lazy decisions.

But anyhow, the rainscreen job is somewhat more towards completion.

We’ve also connected up one of the bathroom vents. Although I realize that I’ve not cut out enough of the wood around it (because our roofers didn’t cut a big enough hole for the vents when they moved them – or more accurately, the cut a big enough hole, but positioned the vents right up against the wood). I trimmed one side, and thought I’d done enough, but when I looked yesterday I realised there’s not enough clearance on the lowest side of the hole either. But regardless, it’s actually connected to a bathroom fan which, if it had power, could blow humid air out of the bathroom (if it had walls, and functional plumbing) into the outside world. Woo.

I’m also beginning to settle myself with the idea that we should tweak the furnace outlet to be an outlet by itself, and make the lights in that room a separate circuit. Thus avoiding the whole 14/2 gauge 12/2 gauge potential inspection debacle. I’ve picked up a two-gang switch box which will make that happen more easily.

So we’re inching forward, albeit not at anywhere near the rate we’d like.

* Plywood with a faux grain on it. Plain face means that it’s once continuous face, you can get T1-11 that looks vaguely like tongue-and-groove slotted together**.
** If you squint hard enough.

Finally…

So, after about two years I’ve finally built my keyboard. By which I mean, from a pile of keys and a circuit board and a case, and some keycaps I’ve assembled it.

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It’s not quite my dad’s first keyboard which he wirewrapped and built by hand. But it’s nice to type on something that I know is mine. It’s a bit more clattery than the mac’s keyboard – I could get some little rings to stop the clatter, but it makes me feel quite…nostalgic.

It’s still missing…err… 6 keycaps. That’s because when I ordered the keycaps I wasn’t 100% sure what layout I wanted. When I did decide it was too late to order the rest (because it was a massdrop run). I’m waiting (optimistically) for them to do another run – because I really like the look of the keyboard, but I’ve got two keytops with the wrong slope (Page Up / Page Down) and I’ve had to use blanks for Control / Alt / Cmd on the bottom row because I wanted a different size than is in my keycap set.

It does feel nice though. Now we just need to finish the house and then I’ll build the desktop that’s going to replace my aged (10 year old) laptop (which today let out a confusing and unpleasant wailing noise). And hopefully that’ll have the dual benefit of having a machine with a bit of umph, and also having getting me to stop dinking quite so much.

It’s been nice though – I broke out my Solder / SMD rework station (unnecessary, really, but it’s the only USian soldering iron I have).

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I’m also working on upgrading the media server to a new harddisk and a new OS. Because that’s a relaxing thing to do the day after my colonoscopy*.

Anyhow, I should get back to it… and tidy up the 800 boxes I’ve got out to make today happen so far.

* Benign polyps, they think. But it left me with a need to be near a loo today. Which I’m thankful that I realised before I left for the house for the day.

It continues to astound me how crazy it is

So, the US healthcare ‘system’.

Tomorrow I’m going for a colonoscopy. Because of my dad’s early colon cancer and his subsequent death, I am a ‘high risk’ person for colon cancer (yay).

So, my doctor wants me to have a colonoscopy.

Now getting the appointment was about the same level of hassle as in the NHS – but then, because it’s the US healthcare system there’s the added bonus of money. So first I have a discussion about how much it might cost. Then I prepare myself for that. Then, I get a letter telling me to pre-pay; only it doesn’t have a piece of required information on it for their online payment system.

So I call – and it turns out I don’t have to pay… they think… I mean, they have to actually bill the insurance company after the procedure to find out whether it’s going to cost anything (because the ‘system’ does not have a stable output for a given input). And also, if they don’t find anything (fingers crossed ever so much) it’s “preventative” – and thus completely covered – but if they do, it’s a treatment – and thus not completely covered – and there will be a fee.

Which is insane. If I go in for a screening and they find nothing and I’m healthy, it’s ‘free’, but if I’m actually sick then I have to pay for it? What now?

*sigh*

Anyhow, so today I can’t eat. I have jelly (jello) which curiously comes as a powder, not cubes, here. And is crazily expensive (and the shop only appeared to have actual brand-name jelly). And pretty much the only flavours I could have were lemon and lime (because all the other ones have Red-40, which is a dye I’m also not allowed today).

I am currently enjoying a delicious cup of stock. And then in a couple of hours I get to be put off gatorade by having it mixed with laxative. So much fun.

I’m beginning to go off this getting older m’larkey.

Fabulous / Frustrating

Let’s get the fabulous out of the way first, because it’s brief but very good news. We sold our land – contracts exchanged, recorded and paperwork completed, money in the bank. We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop having had several offers from people that flaked out, or people who ran screaming from Thurston County, when this offer came in it looked too good to be true. And they didn’t run screaming, and they paid, so now it’s off our hands.

Which is an enormous relief.

The frustrating is, as you would expect, the house.

We’re really down to things that I can only do with Kathryn there, because they’re up in the air*, which led to me doing bitty little things which are unrewarding and made it feel kinda like I’d not really achieved anything.

I did put the rainscreen up around the meter box:

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Which is one of those things that takes ages to cut (because of the fiddly, fiddly shape), but doesn’t really require both of us there. It was just about reachable with just me there – but it is missing a few screws from the very top. Hopefully we won’t have an enormously windy day, although the rest of the screws are fairly well embedded.

I masked off the remaining four windows ready to be treated with danish oil. I will probably oil them on Monday…

I popped in the last bit of insulation in the lower sections of the lounge wall – which means that bit is ready for inspection…

I painted the ceiling of our porch black – it’s actually going to be mostly hidden behind another layer of board, which will also be black**, but I wanted a coat of paint on it. And I’ve cut in and fitted the light fitting box…

I also spent some time fixing a problem that I realised too late to have spent an irritating sum of cash on. While two of the bathroom fans we have (ironically the cheaper ones) will fit between the ceiling joists in the main bathroom****; the fan we actually bought for that bathroom, it turns out, won’t.

So after some debate I realised the simplest solution is to just trade the 3/4 bathroom one for the other bathroom one – that way we actually get the nicer, quieter, but larger fan in our 3/4 (en-suite) bathroom. Which would be great, but it screws up the floor of the mini-attic space above. Which is, of course, irritating. It also necessitates cutting out some more floor for the vent – because it’s a 4″ vent, not a 3″ vent. And it means the 3″ vent cap (which we had for the wall) is now useless, as is the oval 4″ to round 3″ adaptor that is specific to the fan that we bought. Grr.

The other problem with this was it meant I needed to move an outlet wire.

Which it must be said turned out to have enough extra length. So that was good, if somewhat frustrating overall.

So while today has been great in some parts it’s been a bit frustrating in others, and while we’re waiting for the under floor heating stuff, and until I go get the cedar for the trim it’s hard for me to feel useful and like I’m making progress.

* Up in the air junior birdman woman song style.
** Because we have a whole funky dunky lighting thing involving semi-hidden LED lights that glow down from the top of the porch***.
*** Why? Because we like making things deeply over complicated and hard, why else?
**** Which are closer together because it’s our main attic and it may be the case that we own a lot of books.

Carving through the granite

Sometimes I’m somewhat frustrated by the glacial pace of our progress. I have to remind myself that for the most part, it’s just the two of us. Kathryn’s mom has been helping us by painting the backs of the rainscreen panels – which saves us a lot of time because we can just prime/paint the cuts we make to fit around windows and such.

But it’s taken us 3 days to get the front and the north side (not even including the gable) done.

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Part of this is because we care about the finish and so spend quite a lot of time debating and tweaking and trying to get the lines right.

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Part of it is learning – most rainscreens are made with far higher quality stuff than we can afford. This is shop-grade T1-11. So although it’s made the same as the APA rated sheathing it’s failed quality control. To try and get it such that it won’t fall apart we want to protect it and fix it firmly, while still allowing it to function as a rainscreen.

It’s fiddly – to try and reduce insect ingress we’ve got this mesh that needs to be fixed between the screen and the housewrap; getting than in place while getting the furring strips that hold the rainscreen out from the building on and lined up right is tricky.

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But the final result is pretty pleasing.

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There are many sins that will need to be covered with the trim strips. We’d much prefer to have much better quality materials, with joints that actually fit together really well, and have this section be flat (and actually, we love the colour of the ply). But none of those things are remotely within budget.

Still, it – like many things – is a good learning experience.

We’ve also been gradually picking at the final list of wiring jobs (which is mainly runs to / from lights from switches).

I know we’ll get there, it’s just when that’s bothering me.

Oh, in good news, after 3 attempts the toilet we ordered from Wayfair has arrived…. intact! :)

And that’s (nearly) a wrap

So we’ve continued our quest to wrap the entire building in plastic (ugh). The weather was overcast today which meant it was a perfect day for us to finish the wrap. Yesterday we did the front (in the shade), but were unable to even consider doing the south facing side of the house because it was so freaking hot in the sun. Today, thanks to an overcast day we were able to bring the scaffolding out and…

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Ta-da!

Yes, that’s one end of the house wrapped. Just the North end’s gable left…

We’ve also started toying with paint colours. Irritatingly, here a ‘tester’ pot of paint is about 500ml, unlike in the UK where you can get a tester pot that is literally enough to paint about 0.25 sq m.

It wouldn’t be quite so irritating, but they’re about $15 a pop. Which given we like to try quite a few different colours… well. We tried three, and don’t really like any of them. Tomorrow we’re going to spring for another two…

We’ve also finished the main attic floor (which means we can get on with more framing).

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And got all the joists in for the laundry/bathroom attic floor…

It’s all adding up to slow but steady progress. I’ve also been working on the outlet wiring and tomorrow plan to have a deeply enjoyable morning of drilling holes for the final bits of earthquake proofing.

We’ve also been putting oil on the interior window frames – and they’re looking pretty spiffy.

It’s not really feeling like the end is in sight, but at least maybe we’re passing the middle? And bits of it feel pretty good. The windows being in is a big one – and when we finally finish the wrap (hopefully this weekend), that’ll feel damn good. We’ve also discovered we can use “shop” grade material for our rainscreen – which drops the cost without being too damaging to the final finish.

One slight fly in the ointment at the moment* is that the grass at the back of the house is flowering/seeding which is killing my allergies – but we’re still waiting on the new battery (and blade) for the lawnmower (ordered a week ago, still no shipping notification), and our strimmer is out of strimming string. All of which made today a long torment.

I’m somewhat wary of how tomorrow will go too.

* Not as bad as a mouse dropping in the yoghurt

Sloooooooow down

Things have slowed down somewhat. We burned the candle at both ends (and possibly in the middle) – managing to get one of the picture windows into the bedroom:

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And then the next day hoped to get the wrap up for the final window.

Only the next day I had a bit of a sore throat and didn’t quite feel right. After about 5 hours I was suddenly was hit by a wave of tiredness and feeling awful. We managed to get the tricky bit of the wrap done, but didn’t finish the front… Kathryn was lovely and tidied up, watered the garden and ferried me home. But the next day I was done. It started off like a cold, but spiralled into nausea and fevers and utter exhaustion. After 3 days of laying on the sofa, sleeping and watching TV (I was so tired it took me 4 goes to make it through a Star Wars film – I just had to keep stopping and sleeping), I gave in and accepted that I was not, under any circumstances, going to make it in to work on Friday.

That day passed in a wave of tiredness – but with bonus excitement. I could stand up, I put clothes on (instead of PJs), and didn’t actually need to sleep through the day, just napped a bit in the morning.

Then Saturday we went for gold – with a trip up to Seattle to collect stuff that we’d put holds on at Second Use.

There was an expected traffic apocalypse on i5* on Saturday, so we took a very relaxed drive up the peninsula, and then hopped on a ferry. It was longer, but super pretty.

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And when we got there – we managed to collect actual marble tiles!

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For $20 :)

We *think* there’s enough to do the bathroom floor. Although wastage on hex tiles? Hrm.

Also: a sink, light fittings, and arranged to collect a bath on Monday…

It wasn’t exactly resting, but it was a pretty chilled day. We also got to try out the DC rapid charging up in Seattle – and it worked fine this time (unlike our last traumatic trip).

I was still knackered by the end of the day though, and even today I’m struggling. I’m not sure if it’s a cold, or allergies, or what. But I’m so tired…

Despite that, on Sunday we went for it – installing the final window. And although it took us about twice as long as normal, that last window slotted into place.

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We have ALL OUR WINDOWS IN!

And yesterday after collecting the bath…

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We have now returned to a couple of other jobs – the attic floor and the plumbing and the electrics. I realised I’d made a mistake when I was plumbing the vent for the bathroom. I’d tried to make it so that it didn’t run through the attic space – which worked, but was long, because we wanted to have as much attic floor available as possible.

But I’d forgotten that there’s a vent fan duct that also needs to run through that space. So, there’s absolutely no point in trying to avoid the attic, so I lopped the zig-zag section out of the pipe, and made up a new simpler, shorter one. Kathryn got more flooring down, and it meant that we could put the pipe through a hole in the floor, rather than having to do some weird long slit, too.

Kathryn’s dad also arrived to help us get the bath into the house. See, it turned out that the cast iron bath we’ve chosen is… heavy enough that the folks at Second Use declared it as being one that needed the fork-lift to get it into the pickup. And getting it out of the pickup was clearly not going to be a two person job. With three of us, it turned into just a very challenging problem. We flipped it end over end, tipped it, walked it, and eventually managed to kind of lever it into the house… It’s really heavy, but we slapped a lot of extra supports in that section of the house, so it should be okay.

What is (unsurprisingly) difficult is that being a vintage bath(tub) – and having no overflow we’re finding it tricky to locate a US bath(tub) drain that’ll fit. Since over here they generally have an overflow with a flappy little flippy thing to work the built in pop-up plug for the drain. I’m trying to find a pop-up drain that’ll work… but the size also seems a little obscure.

We’re also thinking we it might be advisable to add an ’emergency’ drain to the floor…given the absence of overflow.

We just need toilets now. More tricky, because that bathroom is a 14″ rough-in. And we’ve decided we like the look of unibody toilets. Feh.

* They were closing the motorway Northbound and reducing lanes Southbound. In Seattle. One of the busiest stretches.

Cream crackered

So yesterday we got window number five in. That end of the building is also partially wrapped, which is nice:

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It’s slightly irritating that the gas meter (which is as near to the front of the house as they’d allow) lands up right under the window. Partly because it’s an ugly thing right under the window, and partly because we’d like to have the enclosing fence in front of the meter, but obviously PSE would be unthrilled by that. So we need to work that out. We’d also like the fence there because it would mean we could put our rainwater capture tank just behind the fence, right at the front of the house, where it’s essentially invisible from the house. Buuuuut, no. So that also needs a plan alteration. It has also come to my attention that I’ll need a socket for the pump for the rain water capture system… which I’d not considered or planned for.

Poot.

Anyhow.

The window is in, the side is partially wrapped, all of these are good things.

Today I took a day ‘off’ and worked on the garden. Part of this is because of the dear. Oh, no, I mean deer. As in “Oh, deer”.

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We’d heard a hint that deer don’t like fishing line strung across at knee-ish height because they feel it but can’t see it. The theory went that they can’t see the thing and so won’t attempt to jump it.

Apparently, however, they’ll step over the damn thing and eat the plant.

Or all the plants.

Our fruit bush planting took a deer related munching, so today I made up a temporary fruit cage, and I have plans to make a fully fledged fruit cage, but that requires more time and energy than I have today. Also, more chicken wire than I bought. And a discussion with Kathryn about how big to make it.

I expect I caused much entertainment to anyone watching as I danced around with the bloody chickenwire as I unrolled it, and it re-rolled itself. And much cursing and pulling at it was had. And I attempted to semi-flatten it out and install it over my head and it would collapse or tangle itself up.

I suppose, if I design it right, I could make the fruitcage disassembleable and sectional.

Hrm.

Anyhow, I also threw together a second raised bed (because I may have had a seed/bean buying incident).

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We just need to steal more soil to fill it. I’m thinking I might start digging the trench that’ll carry the rainwater back from the front of the house (it follows the line of the old soakaway pipe from the back of the house), so I can steal that good quality(ish) soil for the bed. I can also dig some more of the trench around the front of the house. That might work :-/

All the soil that’s left from the pit is really lousy clay with stones. I put some in there to hold down the card, but it’s not really what we want for the veg bed.

I also, having changed the faulty relay on the mower yesterday, put it to work. Sorta.

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See, while the relay definitely seems to have been faulty – and replacing it does make the mower ‘work’, the ancient AGM battery in it is… uh, possibly somewhere after it’s last legs.

The motor does spin, and if you have short enough grass and walk very slowly around the garden, occasionally tilting the mower up so it can spin back up to speed when it’s encountered some long grass, it does cut. I imagine it was quite nice to use when it was new, because it’s super quiet.

It is, however, not terribly effective. I mean, it’s more effective than our cylinder mower. Well, it’s less effort for an equivalent level of effective.

I’m trying a few cycles of discharge and recharging to see if that helps, but I suspect it needs a new battery in addition to needing the new (and installed) relay. Which is irritating because Neuton do sell batteries – but they’re $100 apiece. Which I’d not really mind too much if I knew the mower worked. But I’m not absolutely convinced that the battery is going to be the last of its failings. It could probably also do with the blade sharpening…

So I’m not sure what we’ll do about that…

Less productive…

So yesterday I had a small plan for the morning – errand, B&Q Home Depot, fix lawn mower, maybe attach one of the exterior sockets.

What happened instead was:

Collect tyre (takes a while, the woman didn’t twig that the tyre stood on the rack was a package for several minutes, looked very confused when it said it was in the collection place until I said – “It is a tyre, so it should be pretty big…”).

Home Depot – meander round for hours trying to work out how best to manage the exterior sockets and the conduit that’s possibly required. I’m still unclear if it is required, but it only cost a few dollars and means I only have to install the sockets once. If I do it right. Stare at pipe for our rain-water capture system. Buy some… Get back to the house, unload, laugh like an idiot* because I realized that yes, I bought enough pipe to do the run from the (theoretical) storage tank to the (theoretical) pump but… I didn’t buy anything to connect those lengths of pipe together. Get back in the car, drive the 20 minutes back to home depot to buy those bits, a couple of other options for conduit (wrong choice), more drainage pipe (I realized that I should hook up the gutter at the front if we want to save enough to flush toilets too.

Then when Kathryn arrived and we went to start work she realized that we were lacking something else. I can’t remember what, so I ended up making a third trip. By the end of that I was feeling pretty grumpy with myself. Which made me grumpy. I know I shouldn’t be, I’m trying to work on letting the days when we don’t get as much as I’d like done wash over me and be gone, but I didn’t really feel like I’d made a huge number of things for me to do yesterday…

…But still, we managed to get two layers of house wrap on, which is a good thing.

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It means today we need to cut the window opening, add one more layer of house wrap and pop the window in, then we should be able to move on to doing the front windows. Which are, to be fair, some of the most difficult ones. They’re longer, heavier and require much more rebuilding (the bedroom) or working around the old header and framing (the office).

On which note, since I have washing up to do, and a shower to have, I should get on.

*Causing the guy doing roof work across the street to stare at me in alarm

Well, that was hot.

Not in the sense of hawt, obviously.

Just fucking hot.

So despite a predicted high of 28°C we’d made the plan to try and get the south window in yesterday. Allowing a good chunk of day for us to do it, we planned to arrive early to try and avoid the worst of the sun, and then spend the day getting the window in – which meant cutting the hole, wrapping that side of the building, flashing, putting the window in, then fixing it in.

Being a Sunday and not wanting to be deeply obnoxious, we didn’t want to get there really early.

So, off we went – and realized that the sun hits that side of the house full on well before 9. Probably before 8.

So, uh, that didn’t work.

But we carried on regardless – having to take breaks to hide in the shade every few minutes because it’s f’ckin hot cutting and hammering in the sun.

So just as a reminder…

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and now:

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It’s getting there.

But yesterday was slow. Damn slow. It was so hot it took us nearly 8 hours to put in the window and wrap that side, most of which was us sitting in the shade going ‘fuck, it’s hot’.

I was not built for this kind of weather.

Anyhow, we’re going to start wrapping the North side today, so off I jolly well trot.