Monday, December 24, 2012

for the holidays

A few of the regular views around here, this time of year: Melissa organizing laundry in the mid day sun-

The wonderful Greg and Christine up to visit for the solstice - and Christine's birthday!

The laundry hanging inside, with the holiday decorations and chicken stock on the stove: 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Outside Work

When it rains and is so cold, there doesn't seem to be much to do but light a fire. So I get out and do brush clearing, working towards my goal of having a relatively fire-safe area below the house.  Yesterday was my fourth burn day so far this winter.  Here's a shot of the fire, with the machete in the ground in front of it for scale.  These fires go all day and I'm always wiped out afterwards.  Still, there's plenty of work left to be done.

A couple weeks ago we had to go out on a Saturday morning and I got the privilege of cutting up a doug fir that had fallen across the road.  no big deal, unless you're late and have to go back and get your chainsaw.

Monday, December 03, 2012


It rained over a foot between Friday and Sunday.  The water tanks are full. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Settling (for) some errors

As we enter our second year of living in the house, a few spots are showing where there's been a bit of uneven settling.  I believe most of these are pretty small and (I hope) mostly happening due to the difference in consistency of the limewashed plaster and the underlying cob.  I'm also hoping that when we whitewash again (next spring?) these cracks will get filled in to some extent and disappear. 

In my attempts to be a guide to anyone thinking about building a building like ours, and my strange drive to over-share, I thought I'd point out these flaws. 

First one is where the wood wall (with earth plaster over it) meets the interior cob wall.  Above the main bedroom door to the ceiling. Here's a full shot of the spot:

and here's a shot of the crack at the seam:

At the mid point in the living room couch - where it bends:

 There's a little crack.  This couch wall is only about 4 inches thick.

The most troubling spot, troubling because of how it reveals that my design of a major structure point isn't perfect, is at the apex of the arch over one of the bathroom windows, right at the NW corner of the house.  This is also one of the tallest spots, and thus the heaviest wall.  With all those tons of material sinking slightly, the thin arch above the window is the weak point. This is exactly what the books tell you to avoid. 

Here's the close up of that crack. Still, being the worst one, it's not that bad.  

Now that I'm typing, I realize there's a couple more that I didn't take photos of.  Between the steps and the end of the couch there's a small one, and the love seat armrest by the fireplace is come slightly away from the wall. Again, all should be filled in and covered with lime wash.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Melissa projects

Right before our trip to southern California, Melissa fixed up a back seat cover so Jack wouldn't mess up the seats too much.  It's actually made from an old comforter cover (that Melissa had repaired once already) and was even originally made of sheets (that is, it was already a recycled item). Works really well!
 Plenty of Time.  Melissa went through a tray of 'elfin tyme' and added them to strategic spots on the patio:
 the patio is slowly coming together:
 meanwhile, the persimmons are drying away under the eaves:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Video update on Lister

Since a big part of this update has to do with the noise reduction, I thought I'd spend the bandwidth and upload a video of the diesel gen running on veg with the new muffler set up. 

if you know these old British designed, Indian made cast iron, single piston beasts, you might hear a bit of a squeak on every intake valve move.  I thought that squeak was coming from the alternator with badly greased bearings, but I discovered it was simply the rocker arm (between valve and cam bars) was rubbing against it's spacer. A bit of grease later and the thing is even more quiet. 
Maybe next is a little shed!

Autumn work

Some various things going on around here as the weather turns cooler.  A batch of applesauce has been canned (from the scrounged apples at the close-by orchard)

 You can see both the solar dehydrator working and the patio settling in in this photo:
 Our own main apple harvest is in - we've been eating them right off the tree, but the majority came in right before the few days of rains.  Next year, 2 bags!
 Melissa did a crafty day thing with a bunch of ladies and has started to leave winter decorations around: 
 My favorite winter decoration is the drying persimmons!
 Remember the goat? We got some of the bones after the goat owner scraped off the meat for the grinder and spent a day making stock over the fire.  Turned out great! 

Friday, November 09, 2012

More Servas Guests

A lovely Danish family made their way up to the Journey last month.  We were able to give them an All American baby dress, as she was growing out of her travel clothes, and people have been giving us great stuff in anticipation of our 'project'. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Meat and Veggies

Jack continues to bring back pieces of a deer from the woods, one bit at a time.

Did I mention I helped the neighbor process one of his goats? quite a bit of work, as we tried hard to take the skin off perfectly. The whole job, from .22 in the brain to chunks on ice was 4 hours. Then he still had to do all the grinding the next day.
 And, for something completely different, last weekend we and our guests made up some maki rolls for a light snack.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

insane foodie project! Sea Salt!

I'm not sure exactly how this all happened.  Our good friend and neighbor Dave is something of a foodie, and he brought up the idea of someday going out to the ocean and collecting our own sea salt - it's all the rage right now. I'm almost always up for a DIY project, but even I thought this was a little bit of overkill. But, somehow on our last trip down to Santa Cruz, we met up with Dave and went up the coast a ways until we found a quiet out-of-the-way beach.  We wanted to use a rocky shore to avoid the sand, but that wasn't possible. Pretty soon, it became apparent that we had to get in the water pretty deep to get past the cloudy sand in the breaking waves.  So in I went:
Believe me when I say, it was cold, and quite a workout. 
 We got a total of 19 gallons (lost one lid somewhere) and dragged them all back to the car. 

 Dave did his on the stove, but I'm too cheap for that, so I boiled the 10 gallons over the fire for about 3 days (not at night) until I had a bucket of what looked like wet sand.  

The last step was to spread the clump out on cookie sheets and since we baked in the earth oven last night, I had a hot empty oven, so in they went.  I got 9 gallons of fluffy sea salt that I stuffed into 2 full sized mason jars. DONE!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gang Cutting

With all that tree trimming (last January already!) I've had a giant pile of poles/branches that are all about 15 feet long.  I set up a saw horse sort of thing and put about a dozen in there at once and cut them up.  do that for a couple of hours and you have a lot to stack up.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Its Curtains!

Melissa made cloth covers for the south windows that will work both for the summer heat and the winter cold.  They actually make the room seem brighter at night!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Little views of Life

The morning fog was creeping by the office window while my tea was cooling by the keyboard.
 Maki rolls were ordered by the pregnant lady, so out comes the fresh veggies and bamboo roller.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Moving Door

So, the French doors (south, center) have begun to move apart from one anther. I think it's actually the west side of the house is settling a touch faster than the east, and thus the frame is widening a bit.  Why this matters is the catch between the doors doesn't always 'catch', and the door stays open.
 So, even though I spent a bunch of time beveling (is that the right word?) the hinges into the frame back when I put them on, I realize the easiest solution is to move the west door slightly to the east. Here's what it looks like at the hinges before I started:
 And after I put in a little shim behind the hinges, all worked well:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

oh, did I mention about the pumpkin?

So, yeah, not exactly about the house construction, but definitely part of the Journey in the Woods... Melissa is pregnant!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another Knife Project

Well, this time I did manage to get some photos along the way. Here I cut a rough knife shape out of an old chunk of bandsaw blade (found in the woods):
 well, not too many photos. I then drilled 3 holes for brass rivets and added a piece of oak from a former handle of my framing saw (that had cracked under use a while back):
 and after some shaping of the handle and much filing of the blade, I got down to sharpening the edge with my nice japanese water stone.  Ended up pretty good!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Firewood measurement

So, I took a photo of the amount of firewood I used to heat the earth oven yesterday when we baked 2 loaves of bread, 6 trays of crackers and 6 trays of granola (sort of a light baking day).  This was it... 2 buckets of small sticks.  My chimney is doing a great job of a hotter cleaner burn.  It could have been a little hotter... so next time, maybe 3 buckets. 
I'll never get through all that firewood.

Back on Timber Framing

We've been working on the timber frame structure for the car port for a while now (usually in between getting urbanite and running out of it). Melissa, as usual, does the exact marking up with pencil (in the shade whenever possible); here she is working on a knee-brace:

Once she's done some markings, I get to do some cuttings.  Luckily with the knee braces, they are small enough I can hold them in the vice, which makes for much easier cutting. Notice the old buck saw that my mother bought at some rummage sale many years ago:
 Then the chiseling starts up, with careful work with the Japanese 'slick' chisel to smooth out the tenons that will slide into mortises in the posts and beams:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bringing down some firewood

This should have been a video, but these photos make it look pretty cool. It was a high speed event.

$1 tool rescue

Had a moment last week, so we strolled the flea market. A woman had a pile of rusty tools "anything $1!" and so I dug through it ...