Monday, June 30, 2008
After turning an accusing finger on Emrys and being convinced that he wouldn't have eaten half the jar of chocolates overnight and being pretty sure that I haven't been eating in my sleep the only real explanation is that we have some Free-Loading Rodent-Squatter who has raided my chocolate! and I'm ticked! I'll share my yummy treats with people- (although I've been known to hide them when I'm out of town), but with a Free-Loading Rodent-Squatter - no WAY!
There's now a lid on my half empty jar and Emrys has been put on trap duty. F-L R-S - your days are numbered!
Sunday, June 29, 2008
But water has its downsides. Water speeds up corrosive processes, plays host to oodles of microorganisms, and facilitates cooling. In short, water can make stuff rot, grow fungus and bacteria, and make you cold.
It can also undermine basements.
The log house had some serious seepage problems in the basement. Although work would have to be done inside the basement (more on that later), the primary task to prevent continued sopping of the basement was groundwater diversion. Earlier generations had allowed the downspouts from the gutters to drain directly onto the ground at the corners of the house. That had to change.
First, we attached black flex tubing to the downspouts in order to catch all that falling rainwater. Then we sunk the flex tubing underground, so that the water would exit downslope, far away from the foundation.
Here's a shot from the opening, after we replaced the sod. Now the water will run off away from the house. And the groundskeeper will still be able to mow around the building uninterrupted.
One side of the house needed a long run of underground flex tubing. Here, three gutters were dumping onto the ground. Definitely had to change that! Here's the Bushman Chris hard at work getting the tubing in place.
The dirt will soon be covered by the voracious lillies of the valley and ferns that take over this side of the house. And voila! Water away! We need it, we drink it, we bathe in it--but keep it away from our foundation!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
In case you want to keep track, the Wylie's Dictionary for July 5th and 19th--those will be mine, too.
They still won't let me sign my name to them. Sigh. Well, at least I won't have to worry about paparazzi.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Not showroom quality, mind you; but which one of us would look this good after being cut down and left to weather for three decades? If you had only this much greying and cracking, you'd be singing Hallelujah!
Notice, however, the spaces between the logs. Although Grandma and Grandpa put what looks like tar between the logs, they were never properly chinked. Part of this was due, I'm sure, to the fact that it's very hard to chink logs with bark on them. Besides, Thoreau didn't use chinking, I'm sure. Chinking is just another one of those modern inventions that keep you soft and reliant on petroleum-dependent industrial society.
It also keeps your log house standing longer and its occupants warmer in the winter.
By the time another generation of Tylers reached adulthood, there were spaces in between the logs that you could see light through. (No lie: You could stand in the house and see bright sunlight through the cracks. Of course, you couldn't do that most of last week, because it was raining. But trust me. The gaps were huge.)
So we had to chink.
Chinking is really glorified (and by "glorified," I mean "extra expensive") bathtub caulk. Take a tube of caulk, introduce it to a randy bag of mortar mix, give them a motel room for a couple hours, and BANG: you get chinking. Squeeze it on like caulk, and it hardens like mortar with a little flexibility. We bought four boxes of chinking (eight tubes to a box) for a few hundred dollars (ouch!), and got to work. (Praise the Lord: the labour was free--if we fed them.) Here's Geo under the eaves, filling up the gaps.
After you've tooled the bead of chinking with your finger (which is much cheaper than buying an extra expensive spatula designed especially for the purpose), here's what it looks like:
See how nicely the colour matches?
It's supposed to take about a day to dry, but since it rained all week, our chinking took about three days to get solid. But we've been telling ourselves that's good, because it means that the chinking won't pull away from the wood by drying too fast. (We're now experts in the log house renovation field: we can tell ourselves these things.)
Now the rain can't get in between the logs and rot them; and the wind can't squeeze in there during the winter time. Which means maybe that cute little wood stove won't have to work as hard.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I mentioned the squatters. We're pretty sure that over one hundred generations of mice have called this cabin home. And as much as we appreciate the emotional attachment these rodents have to the abode of their great-great-great-great . . . grandparents, this appreciation does not exceed our repulsion for their detritus and tendency to carry disease. So we did what we could to evict this generation and future generations from the cabin. On the front lines of this effort stood Krissy, our most intrepid cleaner. Here she is with one mop-load of mouse-residue extracted from the pantry.
Kudos to my sister-in-law, who goes where angels fear to tread. I guess she's as extreme as Geo, but in a different way.
Some families go to one member's home and sleep on the floor in their cousins' rooms.
Some families meet in foreign countries while on vacation.
Not the Tyler family.
The Tyler family owns a log house in Brooktondale, New York, just 20 minutes southeast of Ithaca. My grandparents had it built in 1976 (my birth year) from larch logs cut in the next door town of Danby when the forestry service decided that the state forest there needed to be thinned. My grandfather had the logs cut and placed without peeling them, under the assumption that larch logs are resistant to disease and insects such that they don't need to be peeled or treated. Well, this may be true of larch for 3 to 5 years, but not for 32. So the Tyler family (with additions--Uncle Jim, Christopher, George, Geo, Krissy, Sara, Emily, and myself) set upon the log house from Sunday to Saturday in order to make a dent in 32 years of deferred maintenance.
First we had to debark the whole exterior. Much of it just peeled off by hand (with the help of thousands of generations of insect activity--sorry, Grandpa--and 31 summers of sunshine and rain). Some of it required scraping. Some of the bark had to stay on, because we chose hand tools rather than cob-blasting. We just didn't have it in the budget to rent an industrial-power air compressor. Here are the backs of Emily and Geo, scraping away. Note the courses of logs above them, that still have their bark on.
When you defer maintenance on a rural home for 32 years, certain members of the rodentia and insecta families assert their rights to squat in your territory. As a result, the living conditions inside the cabin become offensive to anyone except the most rugged Appalachian mountain people. Thus, we made our sleeping quarters in a tent village on the lawn. (Thanks to a couple of tents borrowed from the Conas!)
By the way, we had this work week, whose major tasks were all exterior, planned for about three months. You'd think we would have had a shot at at least three days of sun. No such: it rained every day except the day we left.
Here's Emily, hard at work (don't let the smile fool you) peeling larch bark. She joined us all the way from Guelph, Ontario, to be part of this Tyler madness. Note the ladder on which she perches. It's an old-school wooden extension ladder, probably a few years older than I. Still works, though.
Here's my brother Geo, working so hard that he doesn't have time to look at the camera. One virtue of leaving the bark on (to give some credit to Grandpa's Thoreausian dream) is that the wood underneath did not grey as much as exposed wood (like the porch pillar that Geo's leaning on). Which is better: greyed wood without insects, or insect-damaged natural colour? You decide--before you build your own log house.
A persistent issue in the cabin is water supply. When Grandpa and Grandma had the house built, they dug a 60-foot well which, while providing chemically clean water, also spit out a lot of silt. So the water is always grey. What's more, the well has a very slow flow rate, so you can't use more than a gallon or two before the pump has to draw more and the pressure goes down. In their effort to echo the simplicity (and economy) of Walden Pond, my grandparents didn't put in a retention tank or pressure tank. So showers are out of the question at the cabin. There just ain't enough water flowing in.
However, the Tyler family has some extreme characters in it. Some of us are extreme dreamers and philosophers (like Christopher); some of us are extreme intellectuals and specialists (like Uncle Jim); and some of us are extreme experience-seekers. Geo is one of the latest. Case in point: though the ladies had a local state park scoped out to take free showers, Geo was not content to wait for the 20-minute drive. So, when it rained and we discovered that one of the gutters had clogged up, he showered under the waterfall from the north-east corner of the house:
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Our strawberry patch holds the promise of many strawberries this year. We got the hot tip that you have to cut the runners in order to get the plants to bear fruit. So we did. In this one photo, you can see one pink strawberry and ten green ones--plus the flower that will become a fruit. Now, we just have to keep the vermin away.
And of course there is the great upside-down tomato project. Here's one of the four posts with the four planted buckets hanging from it.
And here's a close-up of the plants. On each of the plants, the central stem turns upright, going against gravity. However, on each one there's a side-stem that thinks, "OK, you go that way; I'm going to see what happens if I go this way." So the side-stem goes sideways and down, and finds sunlight past the edge of the bucket. I hope the side-stem sends messages to the central stem, so they can get their acts together. Next year's marinara depends on it.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I’ve gotten most of the veggie beds cleaned out now, the flower beds have been sorely neglected. Jack in the Pulpit & Columbines are under attack by the Evil Weeds and I’m hoping to get out there this afternoon if it’s not too hot. The first batches of asparagus, spinach and snap peas have already been consumed is promise of much more to come – yummy! We also have green beans, cucumbers, squash, soy beans, peppers (3 varieties), carrots, tomatos, broccoli and cauliflower all doing their growing thing to fill my fridge & freezer with produce. I love it!
The baking projects of winter have waned and I’ve taken on other fun kitchen experiments – like making yogurt. The first batch is in the incubator as I type – we’ll see how it turns out. Emrys was especially happy when I pointed out that I had used whole milk for the project – not the lowfat stuff.
Craft fair season is right around the corner. I’ll be setting up for the Owego Strawberry Festival on June 21st and the Montrose (PA) 4th of July Festival so I’ve got to get my act together! I’ve got the candles poured. Now it’s just the organizing – bleh! I have special orders coming in for the end of the year holiday season which is really exciting!
I guess that’s about all that’s fit to print. Time for me to quit procrastinating and get to work!