Friday, September 26, 2008

Long Day

I got to Porcupine Ln at 6:30 this morning, and Jeff Gray was there waiting for me. We left at 5pm after a full day of non-stop work with the excavator. We placed all the concrete piers for the shed roof and the screened-in porch. All thirteen of them had to be carefully set four feet below grade. We ran into some trouble while working around the buried electrical conduit on the north side, but other than that things went well. While I figured out where the porch piers would go, Jeff hauled the topsoil from the side of the road to cover the septic system. This is the same topsoil, roughly 30 yards of it, that Lewis Tapley wanted to cart away so that he could bring in more and charge me for it. (Sorry, I wasn't supposed to mention Tapley again.)

Jeff Gray doesn't stop to eat lunch; he snacks in his excavator or dump truck when he has a few idle moments. I had to steal a few minutes to swallow some lunch while he was busy loading. We worked quickly all day to beat the rain. We might get another dumping of four or more inches this weekend. I'm still waiting for the 6x6 cedar posts from Viking. I have about 30 days to finish up before I'm scheduled to leave for Block Island.

On the garden front, I tracked down the fish compost operation we used 7 years ago when we were first starting our garden on Rob Road. Deurr's Soils in Gouldsboro will deliver 16 cubic yards of compost next week for $560. When one little bag of compost at the local garden store is going for $9, 16 yards at $35 per yard is a ridiculous bargain.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The A Team (Part 2)

Our visitors leave tomorrow after a busy couple of days. Tim and I have almost finished making the concrete form. All the serious work is done. Michelle needs to wire all the electrical boxes in place, and I need to place all the knock-outs which will create little shelves in the wall when the forms are pulled off. Maybe we'll pour this thing before we leave.

A little squirt of starter fluid in the spark plug hole did the trick with the rototiller. Rudy tilled over a few beds of garden space, but the soil needs something that will dig a little deeper. Maybe a plowing under in the spring.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The A Team

Seven years ago when Michelle and I were framing the house on Rob Rd, help came from the south in the form of two veteran armchair builders. Armed with brand-new framing hammers and nail sacks, Tim and Rudy were ready to rumble. In one weekend we framed the second floor. Tim left with a bruised hand and Rudy was banned from power tools for rest of his month-long stay. But it was great fun. Maybe I could get Tim to resurrect the video he shot and post it on this blog.

Well, the A Team is on their way again with the addition of Helene and Anna to deepen the bench. I don't know, exactly, how I will use their vast arsenal of skills during their three day visit. Unfortunately, there are no old windows to scrap this time. (Sorry, Rudy.) We'll either form the concrete L-shaped wall or frame the shed roof. The arrival of Jeff Gray and his excavator could complicate things. I have a feeling that my main task will be to keep them satisfied with the slow pace of things.

Another disappointment for Rudy will be the uncooperative rototiller. On his last visit the old Troy Built wouldn't start. I got it going a couple weeks later, but then it sat idle for the rest of the summer. I tried to start it last week to prepare a bed for garlic. No luck. The internal combustion engine and I do not have the best of relationships, and I don't see it improving unless I check myself into a class on small engine repair. Not a bad idea. We need to make peace after years of animosity. I have your garden variety prejudice against gas powered things, and, as usual, ignorance is at the root of it all. I bought three kinds of garlic at the Common Ground Fair, and it sure would be nice to till in all the soil amendments. If the Troy Built fails to comply, I can always borrow the neighbor's supercharged Italian-made BCS tiller, a beautiful machine that makes the Troy Built look like a crude Stone Age gardening implement.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Home Stretch

With the slab done, (it was easy) it's time to close things in for the winter. The pre-cast concrete piers arrived today. They'll support the cedar posts which will support the shed roof. I've got Jeff Gray and his excavator lined up for setting them in place and finishing the rest of the site work. This should all happen next week. Once the shed roof is framed and sheathed, I'll close in the utility room so it can safely hold our stuff while we're gone. Then all that's left is to cover the window openings with plastic. I've got about a month to do this. Shouldn't be too difficult.

I prepared a row in the garden to receive a fall planting of garlic. Peat, seaweed, compost, green sand and granite dust, the secret ingredient. I've read that pulverized granite is essential to growing killer garlic. Piled around our well head is all the granite that was drilled out of the ground in search of water. I dug out perhaps a hundred pounds of this fine bluish-gray material and worked it into the soil with the rest of the amendents. I'll plant about 200 bulbs- enough to get us through the year and plant next year's crop.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ready to Pour

When I arrived at the house this morning, the plumber was already packing up to go. The plumbing inspector was due to arrive any minute. Then Bobby Gray showed up to say that the inspector had some sort of accident felling a tree (broken collar bone maybe?). No inspection. We all agreed, though, that lack of inspection need not stop me from pouring a slab in the utility room. There's only one small, insignificant bit of waste pipe in the utility room that would be covered by the slab. If the concrete guy isn't available to do it next week, I'll do it myself.

I spent a few hours with a chain saw this afternoon. We've got a group of people showing up to work on Saturday, and one of the tasks will be to make a pig pen. This won't be your typical pig pen. I bought 660' of wire fence to enclose about a half acre of oak trees. Perfect for pigs. When we come back from Block Island, it'll be about time to get us some piglets.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Roof, shrine, plumbing

I cut Michael's hair finally (sorry Helene) and Chloe made this nice shrine in one corner of the house. Michael thought it was frightening and dismantled it. I'm betting Chloe will recreate it when we go over tomorrow.


Plumbers showed up today and installed the well pump and pressure tank. As soon as it was wired into the electrical panel, we had water. It ran brown for a while (agitated rust from the inside of the well casing) but cleared up nicely. I filled a gallon jug and drank it for the rest of the day. Tasted good to me. We'll get it tested to see if it's high in anything harmful. The gas guy showed up as well. He buried the gas line that will run under the slab to the kitchen island cooktop. That's all he needed to do until we get ready to install everything else. The rough plumbing is just about done for the first floor. The plumbing inspector might come next Wednesday. The rest of the plumbing will come when we're back from our six month hiatus.

Tropical Storm Hanna is due to arrive tomorrow evening bringing with her heavy rainfall and some wind. The house should be ready. I spent most of today plastered to the south side roof battling light gusts of wind as I tried to nail down the roof cover. By the end of the day I had almost run out of the 2000 nails I bought to do the job. Working on the north side was less stressful because the shed roof was there in case I made a mistake. I can walk on the shed roof and easily stop myself from accidentally sliding off. The only thing on the south side to arrest a fall is a 2x4 screwed to the edge. Another two sets of 2x4's were screwed to the roof on the way to the peak. To keep myself from falling off, I tried as much as possible to keep my center of gravity against the roof with my feet flat against the 2x4 brace. Working this way, especially for long stretches of time, requires serious concentration. It reminded me of a profile John McPhee wrote about Bill Bradley back when Bradley played basketball for Princeton called A Sense of Where You Are. Bradley had a knack for knowing where he was in relation to everyone else and the basket. Eyes in the back and sides of his head. Working on a roof safely means that you've got know where your feet are at all times. With only one and a half inches between you and a 20' drop, one slight misstep can mean a broken leg at best. Keeping your center of gravity against the roof is easier (gravity more or less sticks you there), but working that way is tiring. At one point my 2x4 braces overlapped at a joint. Working backwards it's easy to forget that there's a small step down (0r up). You get a feeling of where your feet should be, and when you go to step and the next 2x4 is three inches down from where you think it should be, for a split second you suffer a small heart attack.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Winter Roof

I'm just about finished covering the south side of the roof with something to keep the weather out. ( Can't remember the product's name. Rooftop Guard? Something like that.) It rolls on like tar paper and is fastened with little one and a quarter inch nails topped by 1" diameter plastic washers. Lots of little washer-topped nails. There's an X wherever a nail goes. Every 4" on the top and bottom and every 14'' in the field. So let's see. For every 38' length of the 5' roll that's about 215 nails. I'll tap about 2000 of them before I'm finished.

I haven't seen the plumbers in a couple days. They might stretch a few days work into a couple weeks. I mixed up some bags of concrete today and poured a small pad so they could set up the pressure tank and install the pump in the well. We'll have running water! The rest of the floor in the utility room will pour around what I set up today.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Rough Plumbing

The day we left for Rhode Island Gray's Plumbing showed up but not without some confusion. The folks at the office had our old address on file because we'd been gas customers. Bobby Gray had been to our new place but hadn't told anyone about it. One of Bobby's plumbers drove to Rob Rd but knew something was wrong when there was a house at the address. At least he knew that his job was to be new construction. So he showed up a little late; no big deal though. In about three hours we had mapped out the plumbing for the house and installed most of the waste pipe on the first floor. Pex tubing will supply all the water except to the kitchen sink. We're paranoid of the unknown consequences of drinking from plastic and would rather be on the safe side and spend a little more to have our drinking water run through copper. The rough plumbing for the whole house should be done in a few more days at the most.

Tomorrow I'll continue sheathing the roof. The plumber is returning and hopefully bringing a gas guy with him. After tomorrow I should be able to call Andy Gray to schedule a slab pour in the utility room.