A short diversion

We knew it would happen eventually. We worked around it a bit with a cunning plan – I warmed up the oil and the wood in the house, then oiled some small bits of wood out in the garage, then brought them back into the house to dry, but positioned them directly under the whole house fan in the laundry.

Doing that allowed me to put up the lights in the main room that sit over the hallway – which has improved the lighting situation in the dining area and the kitchen pretty markedly. It also meant that I could put down the trim strip that goes between the bathroom and the hall (I’ve not actually installed that yet, I had to cut the screws short so that they won’t go into the pipework in the floor).

IMG_20210103_145357

I finally managed to locate the enthusiasm to start working on the trim again yesterday. It’s tough because we want the house to be done, but I think we’re both pretty much in need of a break from doing the house. It’s close though, it’s within spitting distance of being done. And we are making progress, but it’s much slower.

In a way I think that’s probably much healthier. But it is dragging it out too; which is kind of frustrating. It’s that balance between not making the process utterly hateful because you’re forcing yourself to do it whatever you feel, but also not just letting it drag on interminably. Not least because we have other things we want to do with our lives! But. All that said, we’re taking a short diversion for another part of the project.

We’re going to borrow a friend’s trailer today and clear some of the rubbish from the garden. We’ve been studiously ignoring the pile of old naily wood – the offcuts from our salvage pile – for months. Hidden under a tarp in the corner of the garden they’ve avoided too much scrutiny because they’re out of the way. Well, today they’re going to go away. So, too, will the old metal sink, the broken UPS and the broken sump pump from under the house. All of those can go find a new home at the hazardous waste place, or the tip.

And then we’re going to go and get an enormous pile of drywall and insulation. The time has come to insulate and drywall the garage. In theory (in theory) Rebecca should be mobile. Since putting the new flange on the diff and reattaching the prop shaft I’ve managed to get the battery somewhat charged. And so in theory (she said optimistically) she should be able to move with some fresh petrol. I did tighten all the fuel line joints because when I did my quick test that the electrics are working and “how much petrol do you have in you” turn on she decided to spray everything with stale petrol – sort of a resentful “you left me in the dark for years and now you want me to move!” event. But I think I’ve got them all tightened up. The carb also leaked, but that seems to have stopped having absorbed some of that stale fuel into the dry seals.

So hopefully – we can move her outside and inside at will (well, sort of. The 12v battery is very sickly, but hopefully with a jump starter, that should work). So that will mean that we have a dry, heatable space in which we can oil some bits of wood.

In other news, Christmas was very nice – peaceful. We did get to see Kathryn’s mom and her partner which was lovely. Isolating was definitely worth it – and actually, it was quite refreshing not to have to think about COVID for a bit.

It’s the first time, I think in 5 years, that we’ve had our own tree. Of course, we didn’t realise until after we were isolating that the bulk of our Christmas decorations are still in the storage unit. It’s not like we have a ton of them anyway, but there was some angst from me because we didn’t have a robin for the top of the tree. I’ve always had a robin for the top of the tree – it’s a family tradition – so Kathryn managed to crochet one double-quick, because she’s lovely and wonderful :)

We also made some paper chains for the tree, and then borrowed some lights because our little section of stars, and the later found little section of copper LED lights was a little scant on the glowyness.

IMG_20201223_163857

Since I’ve not been working on the house all the time, I’ve been partaking of my hobbies some more – and am slowly gathering the bits and pieces to build a Mycroft AI to replace our google home. This has meant doing some 3D printing – which has been entertaining. I’ve also been editing some stuffs for TE, and generally footling around in the way that I (used to) do. That has been quite pleasant.

Obviously, watching a bunch of neofascists attempt to subvert the process of a democratic election and stage a coup has been ‘somewhat of an uncomfortable week’. And knowing that my passport is very nearly expired is… concerning. When I mentioned it at work there it all seemed a bit uncomfortable, but a couple of people expressed concern.¬†Which is something.

But, at the end of the day we can only be where we are.

Oh, btw. I had my first shot of COVID vaccine. It was uneventful.

Trundling Christmaswards

So we’re isolating (still). I can’t remember if we were doing our 14 days of isolation when I wrote my last post, but anyhoo, that’s what we’re doing. Seeing no-one. Leaving for nothing. The plan is that come day 14 we’ll be safe to see Sherry and Terry – so we will (unlike many people this year) have xmas with family. I feel very, very lucky to at least be able to safely see some of our family this year.

Even if I can’t get back to the UK to see my mum and my sister. That’s really tough. Particularly since the UK seems to be spiraling back down in the virus management with the advent of this new, more virulent strain. It’s almost like having some idiot running the country who doesn’t understand or believe in science, and can’t even keep his lies straight, is in some way a bad thing.

Of course, to be fair our mango mussolini does keep things just trundling worse and worse, so all in all….

Anyhow, that’s not a very cheery topic, so instead let’s move on to what we’ve been up to.

Which is, to a greater or lesser extent much less than you might expect. I’ve made a real effort not to turn this 2 weeks of being at home into some extreme-DIY-renovation event. I’ve really tried to… chill, somewhat.

So we’ve done stuff, but not loads. We’ve made some progress on smaller jobs. I mean, part of this is just that because we’re in isolation we have to work with what we have here.

We did plan for this, to some extent, so we bought Christmas lights ahead of isolation and, ta-da:

IMG_20201213_170023

We have also laser-cut the numbers for our house and put them up.

We finally got around to tidying and sorting the office – which had got completely out of hand with various big-things that were taking up space unnecessarily. Sorting that has produced a much more usable room (again) and we’ve actually managed to get all the books in the house onto bookshelves. And almost unheard of event.

IMG_20201213_170357

We also actually have door frame trim installed on our bathroom. Not the trim that goes up against the wall – at least some of that requires oiling. But we do have the door shut installed on the bathroom – which means that we’ve stepped up from merely having a door to having a door that closes.

Pretty fancy, huh.

And in other exciting news – we have a coat closet! It took a while but we laser cut supports and bought a chunk of oak dowel which allowed us to fix the dowel in place with something that means that our coat closet has details that speak to the rest of the house. No one else will care but us.

What else? Well… I spent an enjoyable cold day in the garage and got Rebecca’s diff flange changed. HellifIknow whether the preload is right anymore (probably not). The new flange, it turned out, was slightly different to the old flange. Well, I mean, it was very different, that was the point… but it was also different in a way that I didn’t expect. That meant that the ‘undo the nut X turns, then do it up again X turns’ didn’t work. Buuuuut – either I’m close enough for jazz, or I’m not. We’ll only know by driving it (or disassembling the back axle completely – which is the only way to properly set the preload – and also will be what’s required if I’ve got the preload set wrong).

IMG_20201217_153858

This means that — in theory — Rebecca should start and drive.

I’m waiting to find out if the battery will hold enough of a charge for that even to be a possibility. It’s trickle charging right now – and has been for a couple of days. It started in the region of 1 volt, which is only 11 volts short of where it should have been…

Then today, we tried to install our pantry. Unfortunately it turns out that back in May – when we ordered the pantry shelving they sent the wrong unit. We didn’t check at the time (I know, I know, we should have). So now we’re waiting to hear if they’re willing to exchange it. I’m not sure where we stand on the ebay refund policy if they don’t…

But that’s left me feeling pretty miffed. I was quite excited about the prospect of us finally having our tins and things like our flour in a cupboard where we could actually see them; and as Kathryn pointed out it will mean that we can free up the small green shelves to go and be in the corridor (because now we don’t need the coatrack, but do need the shelves that are attached to the coatrack, but if we could use the green shelves for that purpose….)

I mean, it’s partly that and partly that I accidentally put the bits of wood in the wrong way up and that means they don’t fit nearly as well as they did. I mean, I put the first bit in, thought it was a bit tight so swapped it for the other bit – and – that got stuck. So then I concluded discretion was the better part of valour and just fixed it where it sat.

So they’re upside down. Which is fiiine. Except the edges are now gappy. Which probably means I should attack it with some clear caulk just to make it less obviously gappy. But then it’s also in the back of a cupboard that will – one day – have shelving in it*.

*Along with lemon soaked paper napkins.

Apparently I can’t heat the planet

So it seems that despite climate change and the impending destruction of civilisation and the immense insecurity of food approaching, I took it upon myself to try and head the entire planet. Not, it must be said, a serious directed effort. I tried to make some attempt to keep the heat in the garage void. But not though an effort that was sufficient.

See now, I wanted to oil some wood. For which, as we’ve previously discussed, the garage needs to be warm. And given that it’s winter that means that the garage would be heatable. Not — y’know — generally warm or anything. Not until it’s finished. Then I’m hoping that it will be more-or-less heatable (because I intend to use part of it as an officey space). No. But right now it would be handy to be able to get the temperature up to the working temperature of the oil we use on the trim in the house.

Unfortunately, despite my beautiful artwork with drapery:

IMG_20201209_110213

Well…after a full day of pumping the all-of-a-killowatt that maxes out US outlets (bleh) into the space I’d hit the heady heights of 12 degress C. Only…about 10 degrees below what’s required.

So new plan is that we’re going to have to insulate the garage. If we’re insulating, we may as well put wiring and drywall up. Pain in the bottom though that is, it just makes more sense than any of the other alternative routes.

Which means pausing on the house.

Which is not what I want to do.

We have one other possible option – which is to ask family who have some space in Oly that they’re not using that frequently right now whether we can use their garage which miiiight be heatable? Or already somewhat heated? I mean, ours is detached and sports a ridge vent; so getting the heat to stay in there is essentially impossible.

This is, I think, one of those cases where I’m used to the UK where I can pull 3kW out of a wall socket and heat a poorly insulated space; and you just can’t do that on 110V @ 15A max. I’ve tried.

So… that means another permit. Bleh.

I think we just need a permit for the power outlets and lights, though.

And I *think* we can ignore the need for a separate panel if we’re willing to just have two circuits. Which I am. I think. And possibly a run of network cable (we’ll run it, but I don’t know if I need it yet, but I’ve a ton of it so I might as well.

Sooo, that’s a medium size project. Rebecca needs to be mobile first, so that’s up before we do that.

In other eggtremely eggciting news that got us quite eggsuberant… Our chooks have started laying. Well, two of them have. We’re pretty sure it’s Mymble and Pippi.

We’ve now had 7 eggs from them (although 4 are waiting to be omelette tomorrow).

And yes, I did spend the entirety of the first day they laid telling them how clever they are*.

In other less positive news, I think I’m giving up on fixing the dyson fan. I’m sure that it is possible, and I could play ‘draw out the circuit’ followed by ‘scare it with test equipment’, and if I was back in the UK and John was okay with me tapping his skills I would be more inclined. But I think we’re pretty much at my limit of knowledge right now; and I’m not that enthused about it. I also suspect I can sell it for as much as I paid for it, and it allowed me to practice my soldering and break out my rework gun, which was part of the point. It’s not like I have to list it with the statement that I’ve replaced a bunch of bits and it’s still not working.

So… meh to it not working, but I’m okay with it.

What I did fix, however, was the CD player.

This is terribly pleasing, especially since it goes “mmmmm, nummy CD” when you press close, and then returns it with a “Aaaah, your CD, m’lady” type speed.

This wasn’t the first power-on. I did that in the garage and checked that it both turned on (without going bang) and spun a disk. But this was the first power on where I had it plugged into an amplifier.

Hitachi DA-1000

And it works! All those custom chips in there. All those discrete components… They all worked. It does run warm, unsurprisingly. I mean, it’s the bleeding edge of technology for the time. About $900 of hifi equipment in 1982. Roughly.

It’s always a good reminder how what once was bleeding edge becomes essentially zero value. It is a curiosity piece. Still, I enjoy it.

And I am, it must be said, quite happy to have managed to fix something.

Also, contrary to step 2 in the service instructions, you don’t need to remove the little plastic lugs. Oh, and it seems that if you try and use my temperature controlled soldering iron in a room at 8-9C, it gets very unhappy. I’m hoping it will be okay when I turn it on in a warmer environment. Handily I had my non-temperature controlled one, and dealing entirely with big through-hole components, it was just fine.

Interestingly, my guess is this is one of the last non-updated models they produced. The Hitachi DA-1000 comes in two flavours, DA-1000 (the original) and DA-1000R (the revised version). Mine has all the mods that are suggested in the many service manual updates – changing the voltage of the audio output to the modern standard, and some other bits and pieces…

Buuuut. The kit I bought (which I got refunded on because it arrived so late that I’d given up, and the original sender hadn’t provided shipping info) and which it turned out had been crushed in the mail so that one of the new capacitors was dead, didn’t have all the capacitors in that mine needs. I’m guessing this is because one of the boards appears to have components marked with an R, which I think is related to the revision.

Not sure, but I certainly ran out of capacitors well before finishing. Mainly 100uF 16V ones, but there were a couple of others…

Anyway, I left the originals in place – really the ones I was most concerned about were the power supply ones which did seem to have maybe had some leakage. At any rate, it went from not working when supplied to working after my interventions. So I’m taking that as a win.

I’m now playing with my 3D printer – I’m tempted by the idea of building the mycroft AI after Google’s yet-again-ethical-debacle. It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the fact that I don’t want these companies surveilling me, because I don’t trust them.

Soon I shall be living in a cave, if I’m not careful.

*For doing what their bodies require.

The floor’s (been) done (a while)

Lordy, lordy. How time flies when fascists are trying to destroy democracy.

So on we trundle, with the ‘president’ ranting incoherently on facebook (“something something whine whine unfair whine whine I won whine whine I’m not a loser, how dare you say that *pathetic noises*”, or words to that effect), and we wait with bated breath for the centrist inadequacy to begin. I’d hoped that Biden would be dragged to the left by the progressive wing of the party. That hope is somewhat fading.

I suspect our current timeline for USexit is not unreasonable, but hey; we’ll see how much he gives in to the fascist-criminals, and how the election goes in two years, I guess. Still assuming a year 4 departure unless things improve markedly.

I’ve been taking a bit of a breather from the house. Not stopping entirely, because that way lies a house that’s unfinished years later. No. But I have been more…

…relaxed about it.

I mean, I did finish tiling the floor first.

There was some ‘excitement’ during that process when I discovered a very slow leak from the heating system (actually from the expansion vessel joint).

While I was tiling I made it into the boiler ‘cupboard’ (it has no doors yet); and realised that one of the valves looked like some kind of unfortunate cookie monster incident had occurred:

IMG_20201109_155141

It turned out that it was dripping down – hitting the circulation pump, running across and off that, then dropping onto that valve. It wasn’t actually making it to the floor.

This was – as you’d imagine – quite annoying. Not least because it waited months to start doing this by which time I’d stopped angsting about it leaking. And now I’ll have to have a whole new period of angsting about my plumbing. Feh.

Still, we’ve only had a few minor issues – the radiator in the bathroom needed tightening up (which we spotted pretty much as soon as it was filled), one of the fresh water manifolds needed a bit of tighten (that I think worked loose over time, so I’m going to keep an eye on that. Flipping “apollo” brand pex shite); and the temporary sink – the tap joint leaked a little – but that I think again worked loose from the tap only being loosely attached.

Other than that, I’ve been pretty pleased with the plumbing so far. Hopefully it’ll stay okay.

Anyhow, so, we did finally finish the floor.

IMG_20201118_193233

It’s all sealed and we actually have a floor we can clean and wash. It’s a vast improvement. So now we’re onto trim. Again.

Whiiiiich I’ve been taking somewhat of a slow approach to.

Part of that is simply the weather. It’s flipping chilly, and our garage is neither insulated nor drywalled. I realise now that we should have done that – wired it, insulated it and drywalled it – while it wasn’t useable during the seemingly endless wait for the door to be installed. We could probably have done it in a week or so of work; now it’s going to be a pain in the arse to move stuff, strip shelves off the wall, and then put it all back. Unfortunately, looking back at the period of time when it was mostly empty – we were pushing hard to get the house finished enough to be livable. So… perhaps I should let that one go :)

Buuuut. If we want it to be a more useable space, it’s going to need to be sorted.

Anyway, because it’s cold and the oil we use for the trim needs to stay at “70-80F” while it is applied and for the first few hours of drying, that means making a heatable space. So we’ve splashed out on a bunch of clips and about $60 in canvas dust-sheets. One of these has made a very lovely ceiling for a section of the garage…

IMG_20201201_154734

I’ve got some bits and pieces to cut that need the ends oiling; and I’ve cut the bits of wood for the pantry. Also the house numbers and some light brackets. I’m pondering whether to do the dining area bookshelf, too. So… next week or the week after I’ll hang the other dust cloths up and create a very inefficiently warm area to heat. If that works then I’ll rinse-and-repeat for some more bits of trim and the doors to the attic which should improve our heat efficiency in the house.

Buuuut. I’m actually planning to spend some time on Rebecca this coming week. All being well she’ll be going up on axle stands and I’ll change the flange on the differential. That being well I’ll put the prop-shaft back on and… she’ll actually be mobile. Still petrol drinking, but mobile. Which should allow me to demonstrate that the engine and gearbox work, thus hopefully making them saleable.

I’m also thinking I might spend some time on my CD player. Who knows.

It’s wild this ‘not working on the house 100% of the time’ m’larkey. Sometimes I just sit and listen to music. I might even splash out and get a teeny bit of walnut to fix the piano’s music stand and… (dun dun dun) try and get back into playing again.

I know.

Calm down.

Yesterday I spent a chunk of time upgrading the firmware in my SJCAM Go-Pro clone. I actually upgraded it, then applied some dubiously hacked Russian firmware to it. For those of you with an SJ8Pro I highly recommend it, the quality increase is quite astonishing.

Apparently I have hobbies and interests. Who knew?

Provisional positivity

So, the US election is… closer to over? Obviously the dumb as two rocks white supremacist orange super-spreader is still trying to contest the election. “But we cheated! Everywhere! We can’t have lost!”

No, you slimy barrel of rotting eels, people just really hate you that much that even though you cheated, even though you fucked up the post, even though you made it near impossible for BIPOC to get their votes in, they did it any-fucking-way.

You lost, now fuck off.

Anyhow. There’s a measure of relief which I felt the moment that the race was called in Pennsylvania. I know there’s still endless fuckery going to go on, and Trump will scorch and salt the Earth on the way out of office; I imagine he’s hoping that someone will grant him some kind of immunity from his crimes (although I’m not sure he really understands that what he’s done is criminal). But until him, the vampiric homophobe and his cadre of awful people are out of office and Biden/Harris are in place and actually governing I don’t think the snakes are leaving my stomach, and my shoulders will probably continue to occupy space up next to my ears.

I also am very much holding my breath on whether we’ll get progressives and the lefter-wing of the centerist dems pushing for some kind of actual consequences for the white supremacist autocrat administration; or whether we’ll get old-white-guy “that was very bad, don’t do it again” nonsense which will lead to white supremacy getting a tighter grip on the US than it already had.

At any rate, we’re currently working on the assumption that Biden/Harris actually do get to take office, and so we’re starting to plan out our next few years, and not fleeing the country. Which is nice.

And yes, we had (and have) stuff packed to leave.

Yes, it’s been fucking scary.

Yes, I seriously had been preparing for civil war. Or to need to run.

I didn’t think it was a given, but it was definitely a serious possibility. Still is, I guess. Although I think some of the less rabid Nazis Trump supporters have accepted that he’s lost.

Anyhow, so, like I say, we’re starting to shift back to working on the house in a more… reasonable way. I’m still working on tiling the floor in the main space. I’m hoping to get it finished this week (although I’m being a little slow today because I did an extra shift this week, yesterday, and so I’m a wee bit tired).

Because the house is so unsquare, Kathryn and I spent a lot of time futzing around with masking tape, measuring tape and tiles trying to get a compromise alignment where the tiles didn’t end up vastly off square on any wall and where they should have, theoretically, met up pretty well by the front door.

IMG_20201019_135329

Theory turned out to be true, and all that hard work has ended up with us having to space out to loose about 12-15mm across the run of tiles that goes across the front door (which is about 3m). The joint spacing is bigger – but not so huge or dramatic as to scream “SOMETHING IS WRONG”.

I’m still working my way round though; we’ve got all the tile down in the kitchen except for a bit under the fridge; we’ve got the dining room done and both hallways (although there’s a bit of grouting to do); but the join between the office and the hallway is still missing a few and there’s the sections into all the cupboards and the laundry to do. There’s also the section under the sofa. So still a fair bit, but I feel I’ve broken the back of this job, which is nice.

Kathryn’s been sealing it while I’ve been at work these past few days, and it’s looking pretty f’ing good, imho. Given the unevenness underlying it all; and the unsquareness of the house, I’m pretty proud of how the main space looks.

I’ve also done that joyous maintenance task of replacing the sump pump under the house.

IMG_20201028_154534

A job that I would categorise as ‘loathesome’. While it’s much cleaner and seems not to be rat infested now; which is a marked improvement, grovelling around in the cold and having showers of glassfibre drop on your head while trying to replace a half-assed pump (held up by string) with a markedly less half-assed pump (although I grant, standing it on the rusty piece of scrap metal that the old pump had underneath it is somewhat half-assed) is not my idea of fun.

I’m also now paranoid that it’s not doing anything, but without going back under there I’m not easily able to tell. Thing is the new pump is more powerful and much quieter, so it probably pumps out the water in a more effective way, and probably does so quietly. I know it does turn on, because I gave it a couple of seconds of test, but there wasn’t any water under there when I installed it.

So… I guess at some point I’ll need to look.

Thing is – the modifications we made (having the water actually flow away from the house) do seem to have largely resolved the crawlspace swimming pool issue, at least for the time being, so it’s much harder to say whether it will work when needed.

Ah well.

Anyway, I should get on with…. tiling.

When the tiling is done and we have our main living space back I shall be scaling back to a less ‘OH GOD THE COUNTRY IS ENDING WE NEED TO LEAVE’ level of work, and actually try doing some fun things.

If I can remember what they are.

Grout, crawlspace and stuff.

So cognitive dissonance continues apace. Oh, look, there’s some horrific thing that’s happened. Ah, we need more yogurt. Rinse, repeat.

I keep trying to plan around what things that I want to do. Or more accurately, I have these thoughts about things I want to do. “Oh, I’d like to set up the garage so I can work in there on some of the non-house projects”. And then I remind myself that in 20 days we might need to flee the fucking country.

That there’s a non-zero possibility of roaming white supremacist / terrorist militias roaming the f’kin streets and shooting people that they decide shouldn’t be in the country. That there’s a non-zero possibility that we’ll need to peel the queer pride sticker off the back of the car and drive north with nothing but our (brand new, shiny) disaster kit in the car and pray that Canada lets us in.

Trying to tread a line between sensible precautions and paranoia is incredibly challenging. Even knowing where that line is, that’s proving harder and harder with each passing day.

So I keep thinking – I’ll set up the workspace in the garage. Hell, I’ve even moved the tablesaw around to the side and put up another shelf for wood (well, really it’s a shelf for ‘stuff’, but currently it’s holding up wood); I’ve tried to work out where the hell the micrometer is (still no idea) so I can work out which specific part I need to replace the flange in the diff; but at the same time I’m hesitant to do stuff that has a longer timeline than a couple of weeks.

I can tell how stressed I am because I’ve managed to bite my lip 3 times in the last 3 weeks – each time leading to a hole that takes a while to repair itself. The constant stress is just fucking with me now.

Anyhow. Iiiin other news. I have now grouted the kitchen tiles. They still need a final clean and polish, but they’re looking pretty tidy:

IMG_20201013_165020

Which is the first job, after washing up today. A quick clean off of those tiles.

The outside is also more-or-less painted. I need to cut the last few bits and go get some more paint, which is probably a job I should do today. Buut, the front and south sides are completely painted. There’s about 4′ towards the north east corner of the north side that’s not done yet; and similarly there’s about 8′ of the east side where we’re missing a few trim pieces (because I hadn’t done the trim bit around the door…which I’ve now done). I need to get those cut and up, but the weather’s been pretty… wet of late.

IMG_20201006_185515

Unfortunately, in maintenance VS repair jobs – the sump pump under the house (this is a afaik a USian thing, I never had one in the UK. It’s to pump out water that pools under the house*) has died. It’s just tripping the breaker when it tries to turn on. This may be related to when we had the membrane under the house replaced and they kncoked crud into the low point in which it sits, and it ran dry continuously for days before overheating.

So I need to wait for a dry block of a couple of days, grovel under the house and replace it. Because I’m not a f’kin scum landlord, unlike the one that’s under there now which is held in place with string, ours will actually have to be fixed in place and will have non-flexible pipe running into a drain.

Which is tedious, but if I’m going to replace it I’d like to do it properly.

In the hopes that we get to stay to enjoy it.

*I think all the houses we had in the UK were built high enough up that you didn’t need to pump water out from under them….

Except my mum’s which had a solid concrete floor.

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:

-mt4ndm

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.

Obvs.

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…

IMG_20200921_124206

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…

IMG_20200917_101208

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.

IMG_20200922_141020

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:

IMG_20200901_134844

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:

IMG_20200902_170852

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

IMG_20200905_141427

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:

-me44hj

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:

IMG_20200905_193153

…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).

IMG_20200825_120631

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:

IMG_20200823_133507

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.