A friend of mine mentioned on facebook that he was getting rid of 75% of all of his personal possessions. There must be something in the air because we have been cleaning out this weekend in our house as well. Sometimes I get stressed out just looking around at all of the stuff that we seem to accumulate. Actually, I blame it on school as the kids seems to bring stuff home every single day. We recycle about everything and paper is one of our biggest loads each week as we haul it out.
So, anyhow, the junk-induced stress hit a peak on Friday night so I started piles…a pile to donate, a pile to keep and a pile to throw in the can. I am honestly not sure which pile was bigger. It was excellent therapy at any rate. The kids sort of avoided the whole process until, in my hoeing-out frenzy, I strongly urged them to make piles with their stuff. Isaac fussed a little until I started into his stuff making the piles for him. His ideas did not match mine and I think he caught on.
I remember a family in my home town when I was growing up. They seemed to let things just completely go for awhile and then they would clean in a frenzy, pitching every thing in sight. It was pretty hilarious but their place went from one extreme to the other in the course of a day. I remember the mother of the house saying that she was going to “red up the house” Is that Pennsylvania phrase? I think most people know what I mean when I say we are hoeing out so that must be pretty common…but redding up the place?
Things are calmer at our house and my blood pressure is much better. I know most people like the therapy of redding up the house. I am not sure why collecting stuff is so easy yet causes so much stress. You would think that we would be better at avoiding the stress of junk but it just doesn’t seem natural. Maybe it’s called redding up because when your face finally gets red with stress, you gotta de-junk!
We worked on the cabin last weekend but it wasn’t all work. Emily and I took a stroll around the place a little too. It was so nice out that we couldn’t resist. It was sort of like we were on a bus tour for retired folks (Emily does have a significant birthday coming up this summer), stopping at various places along our tour route.
Anyhow, the first place we stopped was over at the bee yard. We are registered with the Department of Agriculture so we are honest to goodness farmers…bee farmers! Most Januaries, the bees remain inside the hives and cluster together (and sort of vibrate) to keep warm. Honeybees do not hibernate. They are cold-blooded of course, so they slow down if they get too cold, but if the hive is healthy, they remain relatively warm inside the hive and do just fine.
So, this January has been super warm as Januaries go so the bees were out when we visited the bee yard! Here is another interesting fact about bees…barring nosema (bee dysentery), bees will not poop inside the hive. So, winter can be a mighty long prospect if there are not nice days here and there. Nice days for a bee basically means above 43-45 degrees so they can leave the hive to…uh…catch up on some reading if you know what I mean.
Click above for a video of the bees flying. If that version won’t play on your machine, try this link
This year, the bees are feeling good! They can poop pretty regularly, they have a chance to break up their cluster now and then to move inside the hive for food, and they give me something to watch! So, my friends, please enjoy my January bees with me for a bit. They are always delightful and especially so in the wintertime!
Is it January? It was beautiful today. The building fates have been with us indeed. We finally made it back to the property today and made some more progress on the deluxe shed…I mean deer stand…I mean the cabin. The weather man assured us it was supposed to be sunny and 60 so we headed out early…way before it was either sunny or 60. It still wasn’t January cold but I could have stayed in bed pretty easily. Anyhow, we drove out in the woods and there were icicles on the trees and everywhere else too. We had planned to install soffit and fascia on the sides of the cabin because the wind runs right up under the eaves and gives me the heebie geebies…like it could rip the roof right off and send it down over the hill. I haven’t hugged a ladder so many times as I have this winter as we work in the wind. It is always windy on top of our ridge but I think winter wind is the wildest.
So we pulled up and saw all sorts of icicles starting to melt and drip right down the fascia board where we had planned to work. Time to change plans. I guess it worked out better because dripping water running down my back would be high on the crap-I-don’t-want-to-do list. We cut a several pieces of soffit at a time but I could only work with two pieces at a time up on the ladder. So, every two pieces I had to climb up and down the ladder. That makes for a slow and tiring day.
Emily and I decided to take a short walk in the woods since we were just so doggone efficient at getting work done. It sounded like it was raining with all of the ice melting off of the trees. It was so cool. The only sounds we could hear were from the forest. I love being out there because it always seems to amaze me. At least as many water drops ran down my back as would have if we had worked on the soffit and fascia on the side of the house. I didn’t mind the water in the woods though. Perspective is sort of funny, isn’t it?
We are all about the fashion here, so when Isaac donned the dog collar, I knew we had an opportunity to change the fashion world forever. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce to you the newest in preteen fashion – the Elizabethan collar! Believe it or not, this collar has been missing in our house somehow. Of course, we are also missing Isaac’s cell phone and socks…many many socks. Anyhow, Isaac found the dog collar so there is yet hope for his phone.
How, you might ask, are the pre-teens wearing these new fangled things? Behold:
This boy is so cool! He didn’t mind showing off and had a lot of fun doing it. Isaac means laughter according to the books that make up meanings for names. He really lives that part too. He’s a great kid and so clever and fun! Sometimes I wonder if he will get into the teenage angst junk and stop having fun with the family. I hope not. I know there is a certain amount of that coming but hopefully we will all get through it just fine. And heck, if he gets too big for his britches, I can always break out these pics and remind him of when he was just a pup! How much are those invisible dog fences again?
It just doesn’t have a ring, does it? We watched Julie and Julia the other night and it just has a ring that makes it perfect. But forget the ring. I really really liked the movie. Now don’t tell my guy friends but I might even buy a copy of the video for my collection. I am not sure what made me like it so much but I have been walking around the house talking like Julia Child.
There were all sorts of neat things that Julie and Julia made in the movie but one thing in particular stood out to me. I guess I needed to shoot for my something in my ability range but I really liked the scene when Julie was trying to make poached eggs. Unlike Julie, I have eaten a lot of eggs in my life but never have I had a poached egg. Julie struggled cooking poached eggs so I thought the challenge would be fun for me. So, I consulted Betty Crocker and followed her recommendations.
Betty and I are like peas in a pod I guess. We even had the exact same custard dishes that she used in the pictures in the cookbook. Perhaps I channeled Betty but the steps seemed pretty simple. I boiled 2 inches of water, cracked my eggs into custard cups and poured the eggs (quickly..that’s the secret) into the water. They foamed a little bit but I let them boil for 4 minutes and scooped them out with a slotted spoon.
I didn’t have any trouble like Julie did and I am so glad. Poached eggs are a lot like hard boiled eggs without the shell except they aren’t quite hard boiled and they do seem to taste a little different to me. I am not sure why but it was a good taste and I will definitely make them again!
So, after eating my poached eggs, it occurred to me that there are probably other things that are kinda well known but that I have never cooked or eaten. I started making a list but I would really like it if you, my friends, could suggest some stuff that I should cook and eat that are sort of famous…I am going to make Eggs Benedict next.
Yosemite Sam always used to say, “Sufferin’ succotash” and it occurred to me that I have never had succotash. And then I got to thinking about fancy stuff that people are supposed to know about…like bananas foster and cherries jubilee. I have never made ratatouille either…it’s a cool movie for sure but I have no idea what it tastes like…not like the rats/mice in the movie I hope but I am willing to try.
Anyhow, I promise I won’t go down some cooking-blog-road (not that there is anything wrong with that) but can anyone help me with some more things I need to make? I am not trying to find myself or escape from my job like Julie was, but I could probably use a new excuse to sample a little wine and eat too much. Help!
A few folks have asked recently why we built our deluxe shed up in the air on piers. You see houses on piers near the ocean often enough but West-by-God-Virginia is not terribly near the ocean (really, check a map….) Near an ocean, it makes sense to raise your house in the air for when hurricanes blow through or when gators need to mate (more for my bayou friends than my ocean friends).
The first problem we had in building this house is that we had absolutely no facilities to make building a house in the least bit easy. We had no water, no power and no flat land. I studied A LOT before charging head-long into house building and among foundations, it seemed that the post and pier foundation required the least amount of concrete to be mixed and would be the most straightforward for a building neophyte to pull together. All of the concrete for this place had to be hand mixed as there is no driveway or road for a mix truck to deliver concrete.
I figured that pouring one pier at a time would be slow enough to do (unlike dealing with an entire load of concrete on a truck) that I could take the time to make sure that stuff was plumb and level and fixable if I screwed up. It turns out that it is a slow process but definitely not simple. I learned how to tie rebar and how to mix concrete that was not too wet and not too dry and I learned how to keep a sonotube (cylindrical concrete form) plumb even when pouring shovels full of concrete into them.
Our soil is red sticky clay with very little rock. I read a lot about soil types and found that if there isn’t a sufficient base under a pier, the cylinder that is the pier will push down into the soft clay like a pin through butter when the weight of the house is added. Most recommendations suggest that a larger footprint cylinder will prevent the sinking. They make a flared base that expands the footprint of a typical 8 inch sonotube to prevent sinking but I didn’t have those handy. The other option is to use a bigger tube. Twelve inch piers seemed to be the consensus for size and they were readily for sale. Let me tell you, for simple cardboard tubes, the folks that make the forms are pretty proud of their product. Anyhow, in addition to the size of the base, the depth is important. In addition to needing to dig the piers deeper than the frost line, deeper piers provide more contact between concrete and soil. That friction also prevents sinking as well.
Anyone still with me? Yeah Mom, you don’t really count here. Anyone else? Ok, well just in case…we connected 6x6s to the pier with a metal post base which was bolted to a J-bolt embedded in the concrete. In some ways, I would have preferred to pour taller concrete piers rather than add a wooden post but my back wouldn’t take it. I also did not know if I could lift that much concrete over my head to pour it into the forms. Anyhow, the only reason it matters is that the joint between the concrete and wood is a hinge point…a point of weakness. Solid concrete to the base of the house would have eliminated that hinge point.
My goal is to minimize hinging by making good connections, by making things plumb/level/square and by using geometry. I connected 2×6 boards from the top of one pier to the bottom of adjacent piers. By making triangles with the boards, the weaker tops of the 6x6s are connected to the more stable lower portions preventing movement.
So, once all of that is done, I have a pretty stable base on which to build everything else. I am not sure that I made a compelling case for building a post and pier foundation but I have no regrets and it definitely raises eyebrows. Initially, I had hoped to be able to ignore the space underneath but I will definitely have to do something to protect the area beneath our deluxe shed. The wind really howls up there and I have no interest in a Dorothy/Kansas/Toto deal where my house gets carried away by the wind!
Time has sort of flown with the holidays and everything. We worked on the deluxe shed around Christmas vacation, again on New Year’s vacation and then again this weekend. It’s been pretty warm as Januaries go so we plan to just keep on working until the caulking won’t stick any longer or until we freeze our hind-ends off (which is a real danger as we rough it in the woods if you catch my drift). Anyhow, the last time we reported in, we were still working on getting house wrap up to protect the cabin in case we finally do get into winter.
Just this weekend we finished the last of the housewrap. The peak at the back of the cabin is around 30 feet in the air. I have a 24 foot ladder so I have a problem that requires creative bending of the laws of gravity. It’s done now so, honestly, I am relieved. We also got 4 windows and a door installed which leaves 2 windows and a door left to go. The best part about having a door installed is that we can leave a few things in the cabin. But shhhhh…don’t tell anyone. I don’t expect any trouble and there really isn’t anything of value there but I am glad to not having to load and unload goofy stuff each trip.
There is a good tale of danger and daring that I need to tell you for my ego’s sake. Last weekend we had 40 mph wind gusts so it seemed like the perfect time to install the window in the high peak in the back of the cabin. The real problem was the window was open and unprotected from the weather so we felt like we had to get that area weathered in since the wind clearly blows against that area. Honest to goodness, the gusts would blow us back a few steps (luckily into the house, not out) which made installation interesting. The wind rattled everything and sounded like a freight train rolling through the uninsulated house. At one point, we thought the roof was going to come off. We went out to look and it was, in fact, about to come off. The guys I hired to install the roof had forgotten to install one screw (I really have no complaints…it was an easy thing to miss). The wind got under that spot and was wreaking havoc. That leaves my butt holding on to the ladder for dear life to add one screw. I got about half way up on the first attempt and it started to blow me and the ladder over. Emily caught the ladder in motion and prevented its continued slide but without her I would have been in a bad way. Huh…when I write it out, it seems much less dramatic that when we were doing the work. Trust me, it was nuts!
We found pretty quickly that the slowest part about installing the windows is installing the adhesive-backed flashing that should water-proof the window/door opening and further prevent water from entering the building. It is slow and tedious but super important so we have been taking our time to do it right. I know, it seems like a pretty big change for us, but we do try to do the important stuff right.
I think the best part about going up to our place is that we are always greeted by something beautiful. Sometimes it is rosy cheeks and sometimes it is a beautiful full moon on the horizon…that’s the important stuff and it always seems to be done right!
I have been absent from here for a few days and I can’t believe it is already 2012! So, a lot has happened since I last wrote. It turns out that Santa still comes to our house. As long as everyone still sees sugarplums dancing in their heads, Santa keeps coming to our house. So, Santa brought the kids a trip starting the day after Christmas. I’ll tell you more about that later but it was a big hit. Aside from that, we had a pretty low-keyed Christmas which was absolutely perfect.
We had family over for a late-ish lunch and did a little napping and otherwise goofed off. We had to pack of course. Santa made reservations for the day after Christmas so there was little time to waste. Ok, so you want to know where we went? We went to the Great Wolf Lodge near Cincinatta (That’s how we say Cincinnati here in WV). It’s a huge indoor water park. At first, I figured it was going to have a few lawn sprinklers and a diaper-seasoned kiddie pool. I was soooo wrong! The park had a wave pool and a lazy river and a half-dozen really awesome water slides! Water slides used to mean you skidded down on your butt and had to wiggle your way down the bottom half…oh no, not at Great Wolf Lodge. The rides are awesome and you haul butt around the curves and down the tubes.
Abigail was pretty concerned at first but I assured her that we wouldn’t die. She agreed to go on a ride with me after that (she actually bought the part about not dying.) I told her they had not lost anyone in a few weeks. Once she got a few rides under her belt, we could barely keep up with her running to get back in line again.
Isaac was more diverse in his use of the park. He spent a lot of time dumping buckets of water on unsuspecting people below. He really made use of the entire place pretty well too. For some reason, Isaac and Abigail never got cold. They kept the air temperature at 84 degrees but I swear the water was 60. Anyhow, they never got cold but my lips turned blue and my nose hairs froze and broke off.
The other cool part of the surprise is that Santa gave my brother and sister-in-law the same gift! The kids had no idea they were coming so it was a great surprise. All-in-all, it was a great trip. We only stayed 2 nights and that was just about right. Great Wolf is mighty proud of their place so my wallet is glad Santa only sent us for a short time. We were physically exhausted after two nights anyhow. I bet we burned a Christmas ham’s worth of calories in three days!
When we checked out, my brother and I were sent out into the cold to load all of our loot into our cars for the trip home. Living up to our 13-year old mindsets (though possibly not my 40 year old body), we returned the luggage carts in typical pubescent-boy fashion! I have to give props to my brother for using his ultra-manly muscles to prevent me from turning over. We were absolutely hauling butt across the parking lot hoping to provide an example to my kids and all of the other kids that got the chance to see how grown-ups are supposed to act!