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Progress on all fronts

Alright, news first:
For those who may be reading this and not on my Facebook account, my wife is a couple months pregnant! Due date is Oct. 19. We're having a human; that's all we know right now.

House projects have kicked into gear with the impending doom of my free time and sanity birth. I've finally cleaned up a totally useless-to-me sandbox that had been infested with rotted wood scraps and carpenter ants and turned it into an uninfested raised bed garden. Yay veggies! Next year may expand depending on the success this year, but we'll see.

I ended up with a stress fracture in my left foot, a minor herniated disc in my neck and a pinched nerve bundle in my shoulder a few weeks ago. It's been hectic, but all of it is getting better. I was able to work from home and get seen by some doctors for it. The end result is that I have terrible upper body strength and lousy posture - two things I must concentrate on fixing this year. So far, so good - I'm back to work fully as of yesterday.

While on bed rest or stuck indoors, I made a dent in the ol' video game list that no one cares about but me. I will cut that because I love you all:

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Video Game Backlog - 2009 Year in Review

This year flew by at lightening pace. I don't even know where any of that time possibly could have gone. Working too hard, and free time was filled with things that are not video games OR updating Livejournal, I guess.
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Weekend Warrior, Part IV

The primary work space available was a horse barn. While being a very spacious area, it has absolutely no expectation of human inhabitance. While the sun in still in the sky, it can be seen clearly between every board along each wall. This boded poorly for my circulation during a harsh winter month that I was to be working.

The wood that was purchased is stacked nicely along the wall. I set up my tools and work space and got right to it. Drawing the cutting outlines on each piece went first, and then the angled cuts. Everything was going along swimmingly until my day job exploded.

The time simply disappeared for me. Luckily, just about that same time, one of the Farm Board Members finally became available. He was normally the handy-man for everything there, so it was in good hands. I was able to show him my drawn plans and explain what I had done right away. He had no problem taking it from there.

I know this is all rather anti-climatic, but the hand-off went well and the frames were stained and installed in time for the growing season. I didn't see them again until after they were under heavy use. They looked great! They were put to good use during the spring and a few lessons were learned from this.

Using the doors at the angles we had them laying did not do well for the panes of glass in a majority of the doors. Typically, the frame simply bent out of shape in the middle where people grabbed it to lift the lid. This would allow the glass to separate out of the channel which held it. To compound this issue, multiple panes of glass in a door created a strange moisture trapping effect as a result of the first point. This invited mold to take root which made it aggravating to clean out.

Making wooden frames that can hold the individual panes of glass to use as lids would be the way to go. Not only does that cheaply make multiple lids from a single door's worth of glass, but it solves the moisture problem. Most of all, it makes it a safer and lighter option in those cases where the frames were distorting due to the weight.

All in all, a great learning experience and fun with power tools.


Weekend Warrior, Part III

When last we left our intrepid hero, he was extolling the virtues of recycled building materials...

As you might imagine, this was a coup in price and product. Where a custom frame and a piece of plexi-glass would run in time and materials upwards of eighty dollars each, these "lids" were found for less than one-hundred fifty dollars for eight of them. All that was needed was to settle on a design and cost of materials for the frames. One might say, the Lion's Share of the project.

When trying to make anything out of wood that will be in contact with the ground, it is important to consider how fast the wood will rot. It is not a question of whether it will rot, but rather how long that process will take. Some woods, like Cedar, are naturally resistant to rot due to the density of the wood fibers and/or special oils found in the wood. These rot-resistant woods are obviously the best choice to use if you do not want to use any kind of sealant on the wood. Incidentally, Cedar is not the most resistant available. Some of my favorites are Black Locust and Osage Orange. Both of which would be rated around four-times more resistant than Red Cedar and a little more than three-times than White Cedar.

I did my research, called a few places and got some price quotes. There was some back and forth between the board of trustees and the farmer as to what they could afford. It turns out that six cold frames sunk a foot into the ground and sitting two feet above ends up being around one thousand dollars worth of Black Locust. The upside is that this wood is very heavy and extremely resistant. The expected life of that cold frame would be at least 15(!) years. That is still one thousand dollars, which is far too expensive for this concept.

Back to the drawing board.

After a bit more research, I found a much more compact design. This one is a foot tall, relying on a good base to be dug and sloping on all sides. Using Pine and a water-based deck sealant, we were able to bring the cost down to around forty dollars per total frame after everything is said and done. Just under four hundred dollars for eight cold frames is much nicer on the finances than one thousand.

Drawings made, lumber bought and delivered, sealant purchased... all that is left is the doing.

What's that? Oh, you mean I have to build these myself?


Next time: Doing it in a drafty barn...

No, it's not a skin flick.


Weekend Warrior, Part II

A cold frame, in the most basic of terms, a small-scale greenhouse. Though a number of styles exist, it is typically a rectangular box made of wood. The box is slanted, higher in the back than the front, and angled to face the south in a spot that receives as much sunlight as possible.

The Farm has a greenhouse and a series of elevated racks just outside of it. In prior years, the procedure was to bring all the seedlings out into the sun during the day, but then bring them all back into the greenhouse for protection and warmth during the night during the early months of spring and the late months closer to fall. As you might imagine, even on a small farm this is a process that is just a time-sink. Twice a day you're carrying the trays back and forth. Thank goodness for volunteers.

Because this took around an hour out of every day, improvements were of interest to everyone. One of the main projects considered was the construction of cold frames that would eliminate the manual labor of moving them in and out. With the cold frame in place, they are protected from the wind, from the elements, receive maximum available sun and temperature is regulated simply by lifting or lowering the lid. Propping eight lids up instead of carrying hundreds of seedling trays back and forth twice a day is a significant change.

The problem was that no one there had ever built one before.

The first week I was at the farm, I had a conversation with the farmer regarding the whole concept. He knew what it was and what it would look like, but the best way to build them so that they wouldn't rot away was in question. Based on the description he gave, I figured out that he needed a cheap way to get a piece of glass with a frame to use as the lid. Windows or screen doors would be the best option. So I had him lead me to his computer (with dial up!) and set google upon a business search for reclaimed building supplies. I figured we'd see what kind of lids we could find and then just build the frames to fit the lids.

Lo and behold, The Loading Dock. Reclaimed or donated building materials in a warehouse. Businesses like this are in most major cities, and anyone who is trying to restore an historic or period building would know these places well. Great for matching those old crystal doorknobs or fancy molding, getting classic bathtubs and granite counter tops. Even better for getting doors and windows on the cheap!

I quickly realized that we only needed an intact frame and one piece of glass, at minimum. Most windows and doors are double- and triple-pane glass. If one of those panes is broken, it's not worth much as a door or window. However, it's perfect for a cold frame lid. So the doors we were looking for were priced in the $5-$15 range, as they were not useful for its intended purpose.

There was much rejoicing. A bit over One-Hundred Fifty Dollars later, we have eight frame lids.

To Be Continued...


Weekend Warrior

There is a community farm located near my house that I learned about through researching the Slow Foods concept. I have volunteered to help there a few hours almost every week. This is the fourth month I've been there, off and on due to weather and health. I decided to update with this space with those adventures to illustrate what I've done and learned. These anecdotes and observations are in no specific order.

Playing in the dirt...Collapse )



We have created a perimeter on the addition.

Traps are set.

We have an expert on the job.

He is paid by the squirrel.

We expect... results.
But then she mistook my devious comment as participation, so I felt obliged to answer.

Meme rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Do me next."
2. I respond by asking you five personal questions so I can get to know you better. If I already know you well, expect the questions to be a little more intimate.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

I get a euphoric high from getting new tools. Construction tools, kitchen tools, painting tools, it makes no difference. Specialized equipment for various interests and hobbies are where it is at for me. That means I get the same buzz from Home Depot or Lowes Home Improvement as I do from Bed, Bath & Beyond, Crate and Barrel, or A.C. Moore Crafts.

Luckily, I temper my lust for these items with a strong sense of priority - some tools you can live without or are too expensive to make it worth while. I'm not going spend seven hundred dollars on anything that I'm not going to get significant use from. However, twenty dollars can purchase me a lot of one-time-only joy.

Cheaper than drugs or booze for a single dose, I suppose.

In which I fulfill textual obligations

Post Christmas and depths of January I think we all need a bit of cheering up. So... Reply to this post, and I'll tell you one reason why I like you. Then put this in your own journal, and spread the love.

From a few people already, so here's me passing along the love.

Edit- I'm super busy until Sat, so don't expect a reply until then. I want to devote some time to give thoughtful responses, and I just don't have time to do that. However, if all you're looking for is a sarcastic one-liner that tears you down, I can do that on the fly... ;)

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April 2010


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