Brain issues

With the impending potential for either an overt fascist dictatorship to be in power in the US, or the democrats who will continue to be the centre-possibly-slightly-left and need SO MUCH PUSHING to get decent things done* alternative (but who many republicans seem to think are the reincarnation of a combo of Stalin, Lenin and Castro), I have to say my brain is reaching its capacity for existential angst.

And with it has come a resurgence of interest in some of my old hobbies. I think because I want something can have control over, and something that I can do with a tangible outcome. So little feels under any kind of control right now; and there is a degree of (very privileged, I admit) mental frustration at the fact that we’ve worked so very f’king hard on this house for 3 years, and it’s finally getting near to completion and we might have to leave.

As in, if that nectarine nazi is “re-elected” (for very small values of “re-elected”, given that he lost the popular vote last time and the republican party are doing everything possible to suppress votes stack the deck in favour of their amoral candidate this time) we will be leaving. How rapidly depends on how quickly things degenerate. And where we go to is still up in the air. Brexit has screwed the pooch on us moving where we’d like to go, unless by some miracle we can leave and be in Portugal by the end of December. And given we won’t know the outcome of the election for a while and it’s in the middle of November, that seems an unlikely course of events.

But the house is not done.

And it’s all internal pressure; it’s all in my head; but I feel like I have to keep pushing and pushing to try and get the whole house finished. Never mind how tired and fed up of working on it I am. Never mind that it’s unrealistic and impossible to imagine it being done by the end of the year, let alone by November 11th. Never mind that we took all of 20 minutes for ourselves yesterday, for our mental health (to watch Woke – which is excellent, btw). I’m still trying to take one day a week not to work on the house or be at work, but I am starting to feel the unyeilding pressure of events making me think I need to just work.

Which ironically leads me to find myself hunting for things I can fix… Which is made slightly more difficult by the fact that I don’t have a workbench, the actual time to invest in these projects, and a bunch of the stuff that would be useful is in storage. And also by the fact that a lot of the things I might need have to be shipped. So then I end up with an incomplete project waiting for bits to arrive which doesn’t fulfill my modern zero-wait-time zero-patience need for entertainment (see: bench multimeter (waiting batteries and holders), bench power supply (waiting switch), Dyson fan (waiting various components)); which leads to stupidity like buying a first generation, broken CD-player:


I have wanted a CD player for a while. We rarely buy CDs but occasionally we do, and I still have this vision of actually having the vinyl and the CDs in some sort of nice organisation, rather than still in boxes.

But anyhow; I’ve not wanted to spend on something I wasn’t that excited by. I mean, CD-players are kinda blah overall. Functional but not super interesting. But then I saw the first generation, motorized, vertical loading CD players and… well. I remember my dad getting a ridiculously expensive Marantz CD player back in about 1987 and it was insanely cool. But it wasn’t vertical-slot loading. But this thing is from 1983! It is ridiculous.

Also broken.


Aaaaand, of course, to fix it, I will undoubtably need stuff that comes from abroad. The belt (I’ve preordered that because it almost certainly needs replacing) is coming from Germany, and the companies that offer pre-made up kits of capacitors? Also in Germany.

Also, irritatingly, I’ve realised that unless it’s the R-variant (later, slightly extended dynamic range, the photo doesn’t show enough of the back to be sure); the service manual appears to only be available for free in German. Mein Deutche er nicht ser gut. I mean, I had (have?) a full and complete photocopy of the German MZ ETZ’s technical manual. Butttttt it had lots of pictures.

So we’ll see.

Hopefully I can fix it :)

Anyway. Today I need to get on with cutting bits of wood. So I’m going to go do that, and wait for something to arrive in the hopes that I might be able to fix something. It probably won’t really make me feel better, but like the bits of time when I’m scooping up poo from the chickens, it stops me thinking about the hideous human rights abuses, and the social progress being undone by people who think that the only people who should get to do anything are cis-het-white-men. And stops me worrying for a few minutes here and there about having to leave the home we worked so hard on before we get to enjoy it.

* to paraphrase the thing I saw a while ago, imagine sitting down in a restaurant and the wait staff arrive and say “Well, you can have this pile of mixed ground glass and shit, or a somewhat dull sandwich”

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…


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…


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.


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:


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:


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


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:


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:


…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.