Tropical Depression

Alas Mother Nature wins again. Because of the hurricane the wife thought the prudent thing to do was get the house upto temperature by turning the furnace on….just three days shy of my November 1st goal.

I spent yesterday in the rain battening down the hatches. Tonight we find ourselves being pelted with the constant drone of 35 mph winds, which aren’t bad compared to the east coast. The rain has been constant. The trench I dug in the back yard has served us well in draining the sculpture garden of excess water. The puddle in the front yard has turned into a small pond. The sump pump is humming along but holding; steadfastly standing sentinel against the constant precipitation that want to flood out basement and ruin two and a half tons of crap we have stored down there.

Outside our first casualty was the rain barrel which blew over. I released its valve earlier which was a mistake. Had I left it full of water it would have kept to its perch.

The wind is not overly loud downstairs, a little louder upstairs. This is one of the pluses of 10″ thick walls, sound insulation. The 16″ thick roof also insulates any potential sound from rain on the steel roof. Overall the house feels solid. Our four year old was worried that the house was going to blow over, having heard me describe the rain barrel exiting stage right just moments ago. I assured him that “uncle Kevin built him a really strong house, so no worries.” That seemed to do the trick and netted me a smile and a hug so win win.

I do hear bumps in the night but there isn’t much I can do. I’m not going out there. Ill assess the situation in the morning as she’ll hold her temperature through the night and her exterior should be able to weather the storm.

So in the grand scheme as long as we’re safe it’s all fixable and I shouldn’t be too depressed about not reaching my Nov. 1st furnace goal. At least were not getting 3′ of snow like West Virginia nor did our basement flood (yet) like a friend of ours did….or worse as has surely happened across this part of the hemisphere as a result of this storm.

Stay safe.

Storm of the Century

Okay so as if all the political ads and build up wasn’t enough the media is going on and on about the end of the world, “Storm of the Century” stuff with the “hurricane” that’s going to barrel through the region on Monday / Tuesday.  Actually it’s nice to have a diversion from the politics. Maybe all the politicians Washington D.C. will be wiped clean and we’ll have to start all over from scratch.

Already today we got a bunch of rain, unrelated to the hurricane.  So any additional rain will be unwelcome.  80% chance of rain for the next four days.  We’ve got the regular puddles outside but there isn’t much I can do until the weather gets better.  I’ll have to dig some trenches and possibly lay down some pipes to encourage better drainage of the site.  They didn’t do too bang up of a job in grading our property in front, but so far it’s not bad enough to be causing any short term headaches.  With all this rain we have no worries from a water supply standpoint.  I may even change the water filter tomorrow to get pressure back up and then take a super long hot shower.  Eco unfriendly? Check.  Self indulgent excess?  Check.  Me not give a rats ass at this point? Check.

We do have our fingers crossed that the sump pump performs well all week.  My fix around the cistern seems to be working well as we haven’t gotten any water in the basement since I “fixed” the problem.  Inside we’re staying warm.  Mid week was in the 80’s temperature wise outside so we could even open windows.  Now we’re in the 40’s so the fireplace is coming back on.  Looks like I’ll reach our goal of not using the furnace yet as of Nov. 1st.  Do we dare set our sights on December 1st?

Today was pretty neat outside, we had a bunch of visitors.  I lot of deer in the morning and then late morning we got a flock of turkeys.  We’d seen their tracks but today I finally got a photograph.  They were huge and mingling around my berry bushes.  It’s amazing how close the animals get to the house.  It must be so quiet outside that they barely know the house is there.  We really love living in concert with nature as best we can.  We are more fortunate than most in my opinion and we appreciate it.  It’s great for the boys to be able to see and witness nature and all her beauty first hand.  I hope it ingrains a sense of appreciation and respect for the natural world that is quite frankly lacking in today’s world.

Enjoy some pics.  And stay dry.

More Fall Pictures

I was driving up the driveway after getting the Sunday paper….yes it’s a pain, we have to drive to get our newspaper from our mailbox, ugh country living…anyway I was driving up and was struck by how nice the early Autumn sun light reflected off the house, and colorful leaves.  The grey and blue sky was a nice backdrop too.  So I pranced inside, dropped off the newspaper, grabbed the Canon camera and darted back down the drive.  Here are some of the pics I took this morning.


Literally not much going on at the homestead front and that’s just the way I like it, and the way I’ve been working towards it being for some time now.  Off the top of my head I can’t think of one chore that involves any urgency.  Technically the only things I have to do involve some general maintenance …like test the water and change a filter.  The garage needs organizing to make room for another car before the snow flies.  Other than that everything else can wait until the mood strikes.  This frees up time to work on art, write books, play or just be lazy.

Christine did an awesome job picking up the house today to prep for our latest guest who visited us all the way from Australia.  So the first “foreigner” to visit the homestead.  We were going to have a larger gathering but with sick kid we backed off to just a quick look around type tour.  We had a nice visit and talked a little about similarities and differences between houses here and there; we have basements and lofts for example.  Also this type of house with this much land near Melbourne would cost in the millions, so we’ve got a relative bargain for less than a million here in Northeast Ohio.

The deer are crawling around the yard all the time now.  Except of course when our guest wanted to see one.  We saw one on the road when we were leaving the valley but that’s not the same as seeing them in the yard like it was a zoo.  We talked about other animals too, and I’m glad we only have ticks in our woods instead of poisonous snakes everywhere.

We’re still on track with not using the furnace yet.  Today was a downright gorgeous fall day outside.  We’re trying to hold out until November 1st at the earliest to use the furnace.  We’ll see.  Also looking at ways to cut back expenses and start amp-ing up the art business by revamping the website.  We’ll keep the world posted and share a link so people can start buying art.  Have to support my sustainability habit somehow, right.  We’ve been here six months so I will think about recording our utility usage and bills to track our energy consumption and costs.  See if all this insulation is working for us.

Oh one other thing, if anyone needs a giant fixed panel window let me know.  I’m thinking I want to get rid of that large left over one in the garage and I hate to throw it out.  Maybe I’ll check with Habitat for Humanity or try and offload it with an online ad…..wonder if I could sell it on eBay…..Don’t ask me why but this is the crap I think of when I don’t have any chores on my task list.  Idle hands are the neurotic’s workshop or something like that.

Okay, I’m rambling and need sleep.  If anything exciting happens I’ll let you know.  If not I’ll bore you with sustainability, design or random non-sense.  Talk to ya later.

Fall Photo Tour

What a great fall weekend we had.  Saturday was cool but remained dry so that meant I could get outside and wrap up a few chores.  After painting all morning in my studio I jumped outside after lunch.  As the warming rays of sun peaked down at me I stood in the driveway studying the garage door trim.  It sat there tacked up just as it has all year.  See the garage door trim fell victim of self building a house.  None of the trades claimed responsibility so it fell upon yours truly to finish it off.  So in lieu of working on art or playing with my kids, another “fun” chore for me on my “day off”.

The trim around the garage door is actually a vinyl weather-stripping with a molded in wood  grain and a flexible strip on the back-end to keep snow out of the garage in the winter.  I removed each piece and ran a bead of clear silicon caulk down the center of the trim strip.  I then nailed them in place, starting with the top one and then the two side pieces.  For whatever reason, not enough nails or sitting undone for so long, the strips bowed out in-between where the nails were.  Luckily I was able to locate a box of 1-1/2″ galvanized nails, after digging grumpily through the garage.  I nailed up extra nails and that seemed to make everything look peachy.  I bent a few nails but generally all went well; I think I only used the “F” word one time which is pretty good for me over the course of an hour house project.  I then ran a bead of white latex caulk over the entire seam of the weather-stripping and the wood garage door opening trim.  The spouse was very happy to see this task completed, as the bowing tacked up weather-stripping had bothered her for some time.

What was bothering me for some time was the big pile of lumber just off the driveway.  After the garage trim was done I starting picking through the pile.  I decided to stack it all nicely over by my “raw materials” storage area, by the top soil and pile of branches.  We have a bunch of treated 1×8 trim boards that were supposed to be for the deck…for whatever reason they never got used when the deck was finished.  Not sure what I’ll use those for.  Also left over from the deck project were a ton of five quarter deck boards.  These I think I will use…in my head I have a design for a “loft” in the garage above my work bench.  I’ll have to buy framing materials, but I can lay these boards down as the floor of the loft.  Will be very nice, and then we’ll have a place to store bins full of our crap.

Also in the pile where were some crummy old pieces of plywood that will be slated for the trash or fire pile (yes I know I shouldn’t burn this stuff…so we’ll see….pitting my laziness against my common environmental sense is always an interesting match).  There were three 4×8 sheets of cement board siding material mixed in with the plywood as well.  I’ll tell you two things about these 1/2″ thick sheets – they are heavy to carry around, and they crack if you drop them.  Actually they sort of shatter.  Being cement board I don’t think they’ll ever rot, but frankly I’m not sure what I’d use them for.  They were either left over from siding the house (board and batten sections) or from covering up the blue foam under the porches.  Either way one sheet was cracked and I cracked another when I dropped it.  Maybe I’ll take a hammer to them and toss them in the trash but for now they’re in the surplus pile.  Could use them if I make a shed or green house.  Who knows.

Was nice to get the wood pile straightened up and under tarp for the coming Winter.  I also officially packed the garage by putting the remainder of the flower pots and gardening paraphernalia in there, as well as a hand me down chipper; so suffice to say the garage needs organizing.   That’s why god invented “next weekend” right.

It was such a nice day I took the opportunity to take a walk with my camera around the property.  There are so many great things to see on the land that getting some time off to walk around is a real treat.  The last time I took a photo walk was in the Winter during construction.  Fall proved to be just as nice and obviously a lot different.  The land is just flooded in a variety of colors and the leaves falling in the breeze add a nice dynamic touch.  I really like the driveway as it becomes covered in leaves.  The charcoal, brown and white house color scheme really pops too against the Autumn backdrop.  The whole experience is well worth the price of admission.  Without further ado, here are some pictures from the day.

Hydrangea quercifolia

Unpacked, this is how our bushes looked upon arrival. They are bare root so there”s just plant, no dirt or bucket. They were bundled by species and included a lot of extra plants.

Our plants finally showed up from Tennessee on Wednesday.  They showed up bundled in a burlap wrap, with plastic around their roots.  The nursery we got them from ships them “bare root”.  This means there’s no dirt or bucket; the roots are dipped in a special preservative that protects them during shipping.  The dormant plants should then leave up in the Spring.  Some were very small, while others had a fair amount of branches.  We’re most skeptical about the Witch Hazels which were really small, but eventually grow up to be really big bushes.  The Red Bud trees were the largest, but even they weren’t much larger than the other bushes.  Additionally we got all our New Jersey Tea plants that we needed, which is great cause we couldn’t find them at our local garden centers or nurseries.  In fact the guys at the “big” northeast Ohio garden center hadn’t even heard of them and therefore assumed they weren’t native to Ohio. Well they are native to Ohio.

What we got the most of were Oak Leaf Hydrangeas.  Offhand we needed about seven.  When you order from TN Tree Nursery you typically buy 3 get 2 free.  Well I ordered 6, got 4 free, and then must have got another 4-6 free.  These are great plants with nice white flowers and the potential to grow very tall.  We’ll mind them accordingly, but look forward to seeing them in the garden.  In addition to planting them where our architect indicated, I planted the extras along the driveway in clusters of three, buffering some of the vacancies created when we were building.

Not much else is happening.  We’re busy working in the studios.  Between regular work, art and house / yard work I’m pretty much running around 16-18 hours a day doing something.  We have been using our fireplace and it burns pellets fairly quickly, we’ve gone through one and a half bags of pellets already.  We have not used the furnace yet.

Speaking of the studio, I got a tv mounted to the wall so I can watch my movies while doing my art, so that is very nice for me.  My boys enjoy being in the studio more now too since cartoons are now a viable viewing option.  The photo lights are now set up too so we can photograph our artwork as we finish it.  My studio, like the rest of the house, is starting to look like a gravel pit of stuff strewn about.

Yay, I can watch tv while working on art.

Here I bolt the tv bracket into a wall stud. I plastered over the test holes that I created in my search for the stud.

Studio already looks like a train wreck of crap…oh well no time to clean, gotta get back to work.

Photo shoot!

The wife framed a branch from the Black Walnut tree the grew in the back yard of our old house. It now hangs proudly in my studio.


There’s an acute sense of urgency resounding in my bones.  The new reality of global warming means we went straight from 90 degree days to 30 degree nights in just a matter of about four weeks.  What this means for me, besides the fact that we are pretty much screwed in the long-term, is that I need to wrap up whatever needs to be done outside.  This morning I awoke to a hard frost, so our growing season here in the valley is officially over in my book. Less daylight after five means I don’t have much time during the week to get anything done after work.  Tonight I planted all the mums that were in pots.  I just randomly selected a few spots in the yard near wild trees and a couple random bushes by the driveway.  I’m not a big mum fan but they were free.  I think the deer eat them but I’m hoping they will be fine where I put them.

We’re still waiting on our bushes from Tennessee.  The should have arrived by now but today was a holiday so no mail service. Hopefully tomorrow so I can get them in the ground.  After I plant those, I just have a few random plants that mom gave us and then that’s it for planting this year.  This weekend will be for bringing in porch cushions and cleaning out the garage to fit another car.

Outside the painters are finishing the clear coat on the cedar.  It darkened it up a bit but it still looks amazing and if anything the white trim pops more now.  I’m in the process of getting quotes for the Sno-Gem snow guards on the roof.  We’re not sure if we want the bar or the little glue on tab style.  This will keep snow off the gutters and should run about $4,000.  I’m on the fence as to which style I, we, prefer.  I’ll look at the cost and go from there.

Fall really is my favorite time of year.  I really like driving, even if it’s to run an errand, during sun set time.  I think what makes Fall unique is that it is the one time of year where to really enjoy a sunset one shouldn’t necessarily look at the sun.  Rather one should turn themselves around 180 degrees and look at the eye-popping canvas that has been bestowed upon us on a daily basis.  I think the low angle this time of year makes sun sets last a lot longer and the way the light reflects around opaque slate clouds, filters through thinning tree canopies and saturates across dried out corn rows is just breathtaking.  It’s amazing that nature spends all spring and summer sequestering all that carbon and creating all that life, only to have it undone in the turning of a calendar page.  By time the sewn Halloween costumes are tucked away in a memory bin, the show will be over for all intents and purposes.  The greens, oranges, browns and reds are well adapted to reminding one of the sense of place and mortality that runs through all of our veins on an innate plane.  For the sake of my sanity, or insanity as it may well be, I certainly could never imagine living in a place that didn’t go through such a reflective process every year.  I suppose each place is unique but I’ll take a midwest autumn any day of the week.

Back inside we’re starting to use the fireplace more regularly.  My competitive streak now has a new contest which is see how long we can go without a furnace.  We’ve made it about four weeks so far without A/C or the furnace on.  I think the filter and air exchanger run and that’s about it.  We’d been oscillating between 68 and 70 degrees daily, but after a weekend away and thirty degree nights the temp dropped down to 67 yesterday, inside the house.  The fireplace heats up the family room to a balmy 75 degrees at will with little fanfare.  Once marvelous discovery tonight was we noticed Joe’s design for the staircase works exquisitely.  The open tread, open staircase funnels warm air upstairs.  You literally can feel a temperature change when you get on the staircase.  Places like my studio are a little chilly but not anything that would warrant the furnace.  And the warm air lazily cyclone-ing up the staircase is just fantastic.

Once in hibernation mode my attention can shift to finishing indoor projects and working on art.  My goal is to sell about hundred grand in art in the foreseeable so we’ve got our work cut out for us.  It’s doable, just takes some time, effort and of course people who want to buy art. If you know anyone….

I’ll try to get some nice fall pics for you soon.  I plan on doing a Fall “photo walk” so maybe then I’ll have something to share.  In the meantime get out there and enjoy the best season of the year.

Door Knobs

Tonight I decided my chore would be to finally put knobs on the hall closet doors upstairs.  You probably don’t remember but the four hallway doors are actually custom-made hollow masonite doors that are flush mounted and painted to match the walls.  Eventually we’ll hang art on the doors and walls and have a sort of art gallery upstairs.

I bought some simple wood knobs at Lowes a while back.  Each knob came with two heavy-duty wood screws.  After opening up a knob package I figured out that neither screw was long enough to go through the door panel.  Well since the doors are hollow I simply drilled a small hole in the front face and a larger hole in the back face.  The larger hole would allow me to pass the screw through the back panel entirely and through the front panel into the door knob.  Smartly I realized in advance the little screw would be buried in the door once I passed it through the back hole….there’d be no way to hold it on the tip of the drill, even a magnetic tip, and the screw would fall into the door panel and be lost forever.  So I took some Scotch tape and adhered the screw to the drill bit.  Wow I’m smart….

wood screw taped to drill bit so it won’t fall into hollow door panel. Yes I thought this up all on my own.

It worked like a charm and in no time flat my first knob was on.  I only grabbed one knob so I hunted for the bag with the other three knobs.  Lo and behold wouldn’t you know it, I’m smarter than myself.  I actually bought long wood screws that I should have used.  So on the next door I tried my fancy countersunk wood screws.  Well as soon as the countersink hit the back panel of the door it creaked and popped the door panel a tad bit…. On second thought I’ll thought I’d stick with plan A which was really plan B though at the time I thought it was plan A….anyway.  So I taped another baby wood screw on my drill and tried to find the hole in the front panel.  Sure enough after a twist my screw bit emerged sans screw.  The screw was firmly at rest…at the bottom of the inside of the door.  Sigh, lost a screw.

After that though I got two more knobs on.  I’ll have to pick up a baby heavy duty wood screw and wrap up the last one next time I go to the store.

door knob on, see door stratification in case you wanna make your own door. Hardwood perimeter, 1/2″ mdf up front, 1/4″ masonite on back side. cheap wood knob to be painted wall color.

gallery doors done.