Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gun Shopping

What else is there to do in Florida on a cool rainy day but scan through pages and pages of pneumatic nail guns on Ebay? With a framing gun our proposed barn could be built in a fraction of the time it would take with me swinging a hammer. And I'm feeling at this point that we need all the speed and efficiency we can get.

On Block Island I've been using what might be called the industry standard: Bostitch. I've used Bostitch framing guns, both stick and coil, roofing guns, and shingling guns. They seem to be tough and reliable. Just before I left the island for vacation, I used a gas powered Paslode gun to hang some doors. Easy to use. No hose getting in the way or noisy compressor. But the slight smell of propane in the air after each firing is mildly unpleasant, and my co-workers tell me that the gas fired guns require a good deal of maintenance. While touring Jim and Liz's place under construction in CT, two guys working on a mahogany paneled billiard room put in a recommendation for Senco finish guns. I'd never heard of them, but that's not saying much.

On Ebay I saw lots of Bostitch, Senco and Dewalt with prices more or less in line with each other. I'm wondering if it's best to get the gun that works well with the nails commonly available. That would be Bostitch, probably.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Weighing Costs and Benefits

Since we'll be heading back to Sedgwick in just a few short months, we thought it might be a good idea to think about where we'll live when we get there. Initially, we focused on renting a place for the summer and fall. The question was where. Options are few. Then we thought of buying a camper/trailer type thing and parking at the new house. We'd probably be looking at spending at least a few thousand dollars for an old camper big enough (if that's possible) for all of us. Some claim to sleep six, but what do you do when you're not sleeping? In the end we'd own a trailer and hope to sell it without a loss. For rent we'd be spending the same few thousand dollars, but in the end we'd have nothing. The trailer idea was appealing because we'd be right there. How else could we be right there and not live in a trailer? Yurt? Tent? Yurts are expensive for what you get. Tents are...tents. We do need a barn, however. Something small with a loft for sleeping. If it sat on a gravel pad, it would be easy and quick to build. Maybe two weeks. I'm guessing it would cost something less than $2000, and in the end we'd have a small barn. A place, perhaps, for chickens and some sheep. It took Michelle a few hours to warm up to the idea, but compared to the other options the choice seems pretty clear to me.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In the Hood

My employer, Bob Closter, gave me a bag of stuff for Christmas. A bottle of red wine, some frozen steaks of the Omaha variety, a pair of wool mittens with fold back tops that reveal fingerless gloves, and an insulated hooded sweatshirt. I don't know why, exactly, but I haven't worn a hooded sweatshirt in more than a decade if not two. Maybe it's that under normal circumstances I'm more inclined to wear a hat and that having a hood flopping around on my back, unwanted and unused, is an annoyance. My last hooded sweatshirt dates back to Holy Cross. That was almost 20 years ago, and I don't think I wore it much back then either. I don't know if Bob gave anyone else a hoodie; I haven't noticed any new-looking sweatshirts around the job. Maybe he felt bad for me. Everyone else has probably a half dozen in their arsenal against the elements. Co-worker Kurt wears two at once. Now I don't know how I survived without one. (I do remember shingling our house in Brooklin in the middle of January wearing two wool hats.) Standing on a roof when it's blowing 20 and the wind chill's below zero, the hood goes up and work begins to approach tolerable. On a day like that I'm wearing bib overalls over fleece sweat pants, a work shirt with two layers underneath, a windblock vest, and, finally, the insulated hooded sweatshirt. And a hat. Only my fingertips really suffer, but if it's really bad I can always stow them in the sweatshirt pouch for a little relief.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I've been installing sliding glass doors for the past couple days. It's very much like assembling a five year old's play kitchen. An inadequately detailed set of instructions (What's this part? I don't see that in the picture?!?) A bag of dozens of screws of several different varieties of which a significant pile are left over in the end begging for an explanation. The final product is not perfect; it's the result of a series of best-you-can-do concessions given the tolerances of the manufactured product and the inconsistencies of the rough opening. The goal is to approach perfect, and this is especially true in the case of renovation. If the 50 year old wall, the bearer of the brunt of hurricanes and dozens gales and nor'easters, into which the door is to be installed is a little out of plumb then the door will be a little out of plumb as well despite the instruction manual's insistence that the door be plumb, level and square.
The house we're renovating is an excellent example of aesthetics trumping energy efficiency. There's a wall of glass, about 30 ft long, facing north east, perhaps the worst possible exposure for a house on Block Island in the winter. A combination of double casement and transom windows and one 6' slider. (We installed this slider yesterday morning when the temperature was just breaking double digits.) Why would anyone want so much glass facing the absolute worst direction? The view, of course. Sweeping views of New Harbor and, in the distance, Block Island Sound.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I'm about to write a check to Fedco for an order of potatoes and onion sets. We might get a yield of about 200 lbs from what I've ordered (a mixture of fingerlings and good storage potatoes), and I've ordered enough onions to last about a year. Since we won't be there to start seeds this year, we'll have to buy some plants (tomatoes, for example), but much of the garden will direct seed. It's exciting to start thinking about next year's food.