Studio Shelf Day #3

Today was a planned day off of work so we could get the last bookcase installed in my studio and install the finish trim. It took us about four and a half hours to get everything done today. I have some trim left to do in my office space but otherwise we are ready for painting.

Because everything is going to be painted we were able to use a lot of scrap trim to finish up the job; holes and edges can be sanded, caulked and painted and look just fine.

I really like the new angled bookcase we installed. It’s in my top five favorite things I’ve designed in my lifetime. It’s going to look great when it’s painted. The middle shelves are angled to get more storage capacity for larger books on the left side. At the right side it’s all the same depth so it doesn’t protrude into the floor space below.  There is still room in my studio nook now to put a chair and ottoman for reading or relaxing (sleeping).

We also trimmed out the tall bookcases with a wrap of 1×3’s at the ceiling and a band about 90″ up.  This lower band is right at the height necessary for a library ladder, should we ever choose to install one down the road.  Note to separate the wall color between his and her studio (above) we nailed up a small block of trim next to the window at the top of the tall bookcases (see photo).

I’m not sure what colors I’ll select for my studio, other than I think the bookcases will be “cardboard” in color, with the wall likely being a tone lighter than that. The painter recommended oil paint for the bookshelves for durability but we don’t think we want to deal with the smell and the long term chance that the paint might yellow.  Instead we’ll tell him to paint the shelves in latex (which isn’t as durable and never really “dries”) and then I’ll hit the horizontal surfaces with a water based clear coat to make them more durable, almost like plastic.

Take a look at the photos and let me know what you think.

 

Chris

Below the new bookcase is an access panel for the water shut off

Below the new bookcase is an access panel for the water shut off

The tall bookcases are all trimmed out and ready for painting.

The tall bookcases are all trimmed out and ready for painting.

The angled design of the bookcase allows larger items to be stored to the left, smaller items to the right, while preserving usable floor space.

The angled design of the bookcase allows larger items to be stored to the left, smaller items to the right, while preserving usable floor space.

The angled bookcase installed and ready for painting.

The angled bookcase installed and ready for painting.

The three peanuts we grew this year.

The three peanuts we grew this year.

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Bat House Day

Yesterday was my day off. This particular day, or at least morning and early afternoon, were all mine without obligation, regard or regret. After I convinced myself to get out of bed, I pulled on an outfit of relatively warm clothes and went out to the garage. First things first I fired up my new brush cutter.  I was in such a rush to buy it a few weeks ago then I got too busy to use it….now the time had finally come.  It’s a 2-cycle machine that uses a gas and oil fuel mixture. It comes with a harness that makes it easy to use and well-balanced, distributing the weight across my body.

The first task on my list was digging the hole for our live Christmas tree.  If you recall we got a live tree last year, and the only way to plant it after the holidays is to dig the hole now before the ground is frozen. I consulted the landscape plan and decided just to wing it.  I’m not sure what species the Christmas tree will be so I selected a spot about 30′ from last year’s tree and 30′ from the driveway.  I’m pretty sure it’s not over the utility trench so there should be no need to chop these memorable trees down should the need ever arise to mess with the utilities.  Frankly by time the trees get tall enough, hopefully the house will be off the grid anyway….though there would still need to be the means to transmit energy from the house back to the grid.  Oh well, I digress.

We dig the hole for our Christmas tree in October before the ground freezes. In the background you can see last year's Christmas tree doing well just off the driveway.

We dig the hole for our Christmas tree in October before the ground freezes. The hole is covered with plywood so the ground doesn’t freeze. In the background you can see last year’s Christmas tree doing well just off the driveway.

After the hole was dug and covered with plywood to keep it from freezing, I moved onto erecting the bat houses. As you may recall I fastened two bat houses to a 4×4 post, and stained everything brown. And there it sat in my drive for the last two months, getting in the way. Well this was the day to get them up and out-of-the-way. I cleared a path to the pond berm and dug a 2′ deep hole with my post hole digger. I then drove two 3′ long 2×2 pressure treated stakes into the ground at a 90 angle to the post hole. I inserted the 4×4 into the hole and dropped some cement into the hole to get the post stabilized. I checked to make sure the bat houses faced east and west, so the bats will have morning sun. Not sure what the west house is for, other than shading the east house. Oh well. I then leveled the post and fastened two treated 2×2 braces, screwing them to the bat house post and the stakes. I checked to make sure everything was still level, then filled the hole with cement and water.

For the bat house I dug a hole with my post hole digger and drove a couple stakes in the ground to prepare for raising the 4x4 post in place.

For the bat house I dug a hole with my post hole digger and drove a couple stakes in the ground to prepare for raising the 4×4 post in place.

bat-house-4x4-post-in-cement-with-braces

The bat houses installed just on the far side of the pond berm, along the edge of the east meadow.

The bat houses installed just on the far side of the pond berm, along the edge of the east meadow.

Yay! The bat houses are installed and out of our driveway. It will be April before we find out if anyone moves in. I did have a few random falling leaves freak me out as I was installing the post…out of the corner of my eye the leaves looked like bats. Oh by the way, the bat post is located near water (neighbors have a snake infested pond a couple of stone throws away), and it’s not too close to trees where predators can get the bats.

While on the pond berm I noticed we’re actually retaining water. The pond berm that is. I am not retaining water…not as far as I know. Why? Do I look fat? It’s the cake.  I’ve been eating a lot of cake because of birthday parties…..and donuts…..you can’t goto the grocery store on Sunday morning and not get donuts.

The pond is slowly forming. Crystal clear surface water pools at the base of the pond berm, trimmed with tufts of water loving grasses.

The pond is slowly forming. Crystal clear surface water pools at the base of the pond berm, trimmed with tufts of water loving grasses.

After checking out our little pond, I planted a fir-tree sapling the in-laws gave us from their collection of wild fir trees.  There’s a nice little sunny spot that should fall alongside a future nature trail that I planted the little tree.  I also planted a tiny oak sprig that was intertwined with the pine tree.

I planted a pine tree sapling on the pond berm, along one of the future nature trails. You can see one of our famous dead trees lying nearby, having fallen earlier last year.

I planted a pine tree sapling on the pond berm, along one of the future nature trails. You can see one of our famous dead trees lying nearby, having fallen earlier last year.

Included with the pine tree from my mother in law was this small oak tree which I also planted on the pond berm.

Included with the pine tree from my mother in law was this small oak tree which I also planted on the pond berm.

With my work on the berm complete I put my tools away in the garage and grabbed my brush cutter. I spent the rest of the morning and some time after lunch cutting the nature trail from the birch trees where I left off all the way to the bees. I also cut the larger brush in the septic field. I really like the brush cutter. It’s not too loud, though after lunch I put on ear plugs because I couldn’t hear very well after running it all morning. With the metal blade it easily passes through grass and 1″ or less trunks.

It’s really nice now, we have a great nature trail to enjoy and it makes getting around the property easier so we can enjoy more of it.  After the trail was cut I also knocked down all the plant remains in the veggie garden.  Lastly I hung up a ball of alpaca fiber in a tree. The birds will like that for making winter and spring nests. Oh, and I cleaned out the bird nests on top of the front porch columns, as well as mowed the front lawn.

We picked up this bundle of alpaca fiber from a local alpaca farm. Birds will take the fiber and use it for their nests.  I hung it up in the south meadow. I'll keep an eye out to see if the birds are using it.

We picked up this bundle of alpaca fiber from a local alpaca farm. Birds will take the fiber and use it for their nests. I hung it up in the south meadow. I’ll keep an eye out to see if the birds are using it.

I happened upon this most perfect birds nest in the front yard yesterday. It was unseen beneath a blanket of summer foliage.

I happened upon this perfect birds nest in the front yard yesterday. It was unseen beneath a blanket of summer foliage.

Once all my chores were done I spent some time exploring the land.  I went from corner post to corner post, trying to discover the metal stakes in the ground. It was a  nice opportunity to see some little nooks of the land that I don’t normally see; a small clover patch here, some interesting brush there. It was a day well spent alone doing mundane things out in nature. The type of day that no one else knows about or can remark, or reflect upon but me. A day devoid of drama or fanfare or grand accomplishment. A very good day indeed.

Studio Shelf Update

All is quiet on the home front. We pushed back the final day of studio shelf installation to next Monday but I did get a photo of the last studio shelf and it looks great.

The last studio shelf.

The last studio shelf.

Studio bookshelf design.

Studio bookshelf design.

I can’t wait to get the studio done and move back in.  In other news I finally bit the bullet and turned on the furnace. As I sit at my desk freezing to death I felt it was time. The thermostat said the house was at ~67-68 degrees but all I know is I’m freezing in my office so on goes the furnace set at a balmy 70 degrees.  I can hear the fireplace going in the family room, set to an even warmer 73 degrees (which it does accomplish in that space.

I know I have to install some sealing bits on the Thermatru exterior doors, but alas I forget where I put the padded envelop I got from Thermatru in my haste to clean out my studio.  I know you can see daylight at the bottom of a couple of the doors. Hopefully I can fix that.  Well back to work. I just wanted to show off the newest bookcase waiting to be installed.

-Chris

Studio Shelves Day 2

Yesterday my brother and I spent another day installing the studio shelves.  We got the bookcases installed on either side of the north studio window.  I’m ecstatic to have so much storage now in the studio. I can’t wait to get them trimmed out and painted and start using them; unpacking boxes of junk that have been sitting in our basements for years upon years.

It was nice to spend two days working alongside my brother too; a rare treat, even though I don’t do much except hold up walls with my shoulder and talk the whole time. Still I think two sets of hands are better than one, and we weren’t in any hurry.

Sunday we spent a little time showing the house off to some special guests, interested in learning more about the design and sustainable features of the house.  It’s always enjoyable to tour the house and share what works and what we would do differently. Nature provided us with a beautiful, sunny day to show off how the sun bathes the front room with light.  The kids were even able to go out and play in the yard on a nice fall day.

For whatever reason two days of working on shelves has worn me out completely (and I didn’t even do anything). Or maybe it’s just a long week, month or year(s) catching up to me. We took the afternoon off to see a movie and grab a bite to eat.  I love going to the movies. I suspect probably because of the escapism. The more complicated and stressful my life becomes the more I enjoy getting away from it all every now and then.  Installing the shelves was a similar like diversion. A way station away from walking on the edge of a razor.

Here (below) are the pics from yesterday’s shelf install. Also today I started making the sunflower seeds from that sunflower head I picked.  The seeds are soaking overnight in saltwater, then tomorrow I’ll roast them for ~40 mins in a 300 degree oven, with some oil and salt. Friday we will install the last studio shelving unit and trim it all out. Also note my brother installed the laundry room shelves in between our store-bought cabinets.

Studio Shelf Day 1

What a great day. We started the shelves in my art studio, which in turn starts the ball rolling to finishing off my studio and finally “moving in” to it.

Let me say that I did finish my big project so that is good to have that off my plate, and I have a seemingly happy client so win-win. With that done, I set aside today and tomorrow to work on the studio with my brother.

First things first though, the plumber showed up at 8am to replace the master bath drains. I won’t go into the details again but suffice to say that fiasco is finally resolved, albeit at the cost of another $170 in parts in labor (plus $80 for the new drains). I forgot to take a picture; I try to get one for you tomorrow.

By 9am my brother showed up with a truck full of wood parts; everything that would become my studio shelves, save for one unit that he’ll bring out tomorrow.  I don’t know if you remember but here is the design I created:

My studio shelves design

My studio shelves design

Today we made the large set of ~35″ deep shelves on the big interior wall, the set facing you in the rendering above.  We built the right side on the ground then stood it up. We finished the left side by installing the shelves and 1/4″ plywood on the back while the unit was standing. We then slid it straight back into place and secured it to the wall studs with cabinet screws.  Tomorrow we’ll do the two units to either side of the window, and install the angled set of shelves in the studio alcove.  Here are some photos from today:

As I sit and write I can smell the fresh wood just around the corner. It smells good. With all the complexities of life, it’s nice to have something so simple help keep the world at bay. Tomorrow will be awesome, getting all the other shelves in.  I’m actually going to get an estimate for having our painter paint the studio and shelves. They’ll do a much better job than me and probably in half the time. I already have two gallons of the cardboard colored paint for the walls (they will need more if we do all the walls that color). I just need to decide what color the shelves should be. We’re thinking a complimentary tan / brown tone.  Not sure though.

After the paint dries I’ll be able to start unpacking once and for all (If I ever move again I won’t need any of my stuff wherever I’m going). I’m even going to put up my deer head and plastic fish…not sure where yet.

The wife had some great ideas for making the space hospitable for hosting clients as well. (Though I guarantee the deer head was not in her plans.) I’m going to figure out something table-wise so I can have a conference table with chairs around the table. The room already has an outdoor access door so clients can come right in that way. I don’t have a great need but occasionally (like this Tuesday) I do have clients that will come out to the estate. I’d like to have a space where we can meet uninterrupted, without tripping over toys or my wife’s grocery list. Maybe the table will have a flippable top so I can paint on one side and have a smooth surface on the other for meeting.

Heck, I’d like to be able to serve dinner in there if we ever got the notion. I think it’d be cool to have a “studio” dinner where we can sit with guests in the studio…eating and drinking. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m the only one who would think that is cool.

Well regardless it’s going to be an awesome space once it’s done. I can’t wait.

-Chris

Tuesday Night Quickie Update

I’m up to my eyeballs in a huge project, so no mental time to write. Yes I know, makes me a bad writer and an even worse human being. Maybe I’ll run for Congress.

Here’s what’s going on:

Bees: They are alive. Another mite treatment tomorrow

Brush Cutter: It showed up. I was admonished by FedEx, they delivered the $300 cutter to my neighbor because they didn’t know my house was back here. They said “If you live in the country you should have your packages delivered to a friend’s house in the suburbs.” Um, FedEx wait for my strongly worded letter…no worries, I’ll send it to you via UPS.

I have not been able to use the cutter yet, but it is assembled. Dumb thing uses gas / oil mixture. Why me lord?

Sleep: I don’t do it anymore.  I typically wake at 1am or 3am and stare at the ceiling, too lazy to leave my warm bed and get back to work. I have a million things racing through my mind. Definitely can’t use 2-stroke brush cutter at 3am. I’m hoping I die soon….or get a landscaper.

Music: I created the world’s best radio station on Pandora. A wonderful mix of folk and outlaw country called “Outlaw & Folk Eclectic“.  It gets me through the day. Also can’t get enough of the Avett Brothers and John Prine. Jamming to Don Williams ‘Living on Tulsa Time‘ as I write….who would want to sleep anyways.

Sandbox: No time to work on it. The boards sit where I left them. Hopefully I finish by time the boys goto college.

Studio Shelves: Now I’m the one who pushed them back off the schedule. Too busy to help install them.

Plumbing: Master sink drains should be fixed this Friday. In other news, the black and pink scum is spreading in the master shower. I’m ready to rip out all of the tile and replace it with a solid sheet of glass.

Snow Leopards: I think they are really beautiful. They look really soft too.

Pet dog: No pet dog yet.  The cat doesn’t know how good she’s got it.

Deer: I’m going to start snaring them and eating them…or just snare them and write them a strongly worded letter. Don’t really care what the rules are. A buck started rutting on my gum tree. Now I have to research tree protectors. A normal person would just put a corrugated tile pipe around the tree. I’ll turn it into my doctorate thesis.   The deer are eating plants indiscriminately, but mostly wild plants. They go into the orchard just to taunt me.

Cars: When you have “run flat” tires it just means you can ride on a flat tire as long as you’re willing to pony up a dollar for air at the gas station once a day, I say.

Ok.  That’s it for tonight. I need to attempt sleep.  Two more days until I’m done with my current big work project.

Nite.

XOXO

 

 

Sandbox Part 2, Plus Our Bees Are Doomed!

Today I did bad. I kind of played hooky but it was for a good cause.  And I promise I’ll work really, really hard tomorrow.

I did start the morning getting some work done, then around 10am the wife and I hit the road. We travelled out to Queen Right Colonies to ask questions and pick up provisions for the bees.

Hell bent on harvesting some honey this year, and hopeful because the last time we saw our bees they had filled up the entire medium super with mostly capped honey, we grabbed what we knew we needed….a mouse guard because one of ours was hopelessly lost in the mess of our garage, as well as some items for our bee keeping friend.  A trip way out to Queen Right is not to be taken lightly because it takes like an hour to get out there. While out there we took the opportunity to ask about what would be need to harvest honey. We’re making progress because we limited ourselves to only two and a half dumb questions and only projected a sense of misinformation on one or two occasions during our conversation. As always the owners of the bee supply store provided us with valuable info. We decided to rent an extractor from them and put our name on the schedule. A weekend rental, for something like $25, meant we could keep it for an extra day. Essentially the extractor spills all the honey out of the frames using centrifugal force. Our mid super has ten frames so it wouldn’t take long but well worth having the right equipment.  Like any small business that knows a lot about a topic, bees in this case, they know what you need and what you don’t and as such are hesitant to sell you anything unless you absolutely demand it…pound your fist on the counter if need be. Being a guy, I of course slipped in a 5 gallon bucket with a yellow spigot at the bottom of it, as well as a fine mesh strainer insert. Hey, just on the off-chance we wanted filtered honey and a fancy spigot to fill the bottles with.  C’mon, you don’t expect me to drive an hour and not buy something for myself do you?  So we were all set, rent the extractor in a week, then dump all the honey into a bucket, then into my new fancy bucket then into some bottles….honey for everyone for Christmas this year. Happiness.

We also talked to one of the owners about getting a screech-owl nesting box. We were informed that screech owls are great cause they eat mice and sparrows. Do we want to get rid of sparrows?  Mice, yes. But sparrows?  Then he mentioned that you have to get up on a ladder and clean out the box when swallows, or some other type of bird nests in there. And it wasn’t like just clean the nest out, it was like take baby birds and chuck them across the field type of clean out.  Suffice to say we didn’t come home with a screech-owl nest today.

Screech owl. These awfully cute guys apparently eat mice and sparrows or something like that. I'm sure the birds that nest outside my office window would love it if I erected a few owl nests in the yard.

Screech owl. These awfully cute guys apparently eat mice and sparrows or something like that. I’m sure the birds that nest outside my office window would love it if I erected a few owl nests in the yard.

Speaking of birds we asked about guinea fowl chicks. Queen Right sells those as well, along with a menagerie of other critters for your farm. Remember we have a ton of ticks and the guinea fowl will eat them like a large man plowing through chicken wings at an all you can eat buffet. The best news there is that the baby guinea’s don’t hatch ’til June so that gives me nearly a year before we need a coop.  Even better, the owner said you really don’t even need a coop, they’ll roost in trees. So maybe I don’t even have to make a coop. (By the way, I’ll sell naming rights for the coop to whomever comes over and helps me build it).  The owner recommended getting three birds, something like one male and two females (hens).  We asked about baby guineas…or more specifically eggs. He said it’ll be tough to find the nests but if we do we can shake the eggs to keep from being overrun with baby fowl.  Well once again, I can’t envision my wife running around shaking the life out of unborn baby birds, even if they are in an egg.  I know you can eat the eggs somehow.  Also we could eat the birds….but then one of us is going to have to kill the birds. If I could shoot them I’d probably be fine. But running one down with my bare hands and breaking it’s neck doesn’t really appeal to me.  Well we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

Guinea fowl. Tastes like chicken I bet.

Guinea fowl. Tastes like chicken I bet.

Getting back to the bees, all of the honey harvest plan was predicated on the fact that we provided the right info to the folks at Queen Right who gave us the low down on what we could reasonably harvest. Of course that all changed once we actually looked at our hive during today’s inspection. I guess we were blinded by the exaggerated memory of how well our bees were doing. The game plan was: ten tall frames of capped honey in the middle tall super. Then in the lower tall box four frames of honey, placed at the ends. In the center of that box would be a gradient of decreasing honey frames, each with a compliment of open comb for the bees to snuggle into during the winter. The top two medium supers, that was all our honey. If that was what we had, then we go proceed according to plan.  Well the reality was that yes, the top medium super is empty, no comb or anything, so that will be going bye bye next week. The next medium super is in fact full of honey, so that’s according to plan. The middle tall super had about eight frames of honey, some brood and a queen (we actually saw her today). Okay, that’ll work but not perfect. The lower tall box was a ghost town. All frames had comb on them but very little honey…just a lot of bees walking around. The hive essentially moved up one box. We put what honey we had in that box outboard, and placed the open honey comb into the center. So in the end we really can’t harvest that entire upper medium super.  That being said, I have every intention of harvesting two frames of that medium super, but I’ll do it the old-fashioned way. I’ll cut the comb out and drain it. I’m not renting or borrowing an extractor for two small frames of honey. Despite me taking some, that should still leave about 14+ frames of honey for the bees to survive the winter on.

Our inability to remember how much honey we had paled in comparison to the bad news we found during today’s inspection. Christine noticed varroa mites on a couple adult bees. Looking closely I could see the mites as well, and we saw one newly hatched bee with underdeveloped wings; a bad sign. By time you see them on adult bees you’re screwed. This basically spells doom for our hive unless we can fix it. The wife will work to treat the bees but it could go either way I suppose. I’m optimistic but what the hell do I know.  We will still be able to harvest our honey as the treatment won’t affect the quality or safety of our honey.  I guess we just have to treat and then see how the bees are doing next Spring, if they survive the Winter.  On the plus side, like I said, we saw the queen and she’s still laying eggs. And there are a lot of bees in the hive. They really liked when Christine dropped a frame in the hive and they all swarmed angrily around us.  That was pretty cool.

mite on bee

By time we were done checking the hive it was two or three o’clock. My day was shot in terms of getting any office work done. So I played hooky and took advantage of a gorgeous Fall afternoon and dove into the pile of lumber I had dropped off in the driveway the day before. I cut 4×4’s for the sandbox foundation posts. Then I cut up 5/4 boards that had been in storage for a year into six foot lengths for use in the sandbox cover assemblies. There was a cool snake skin attached to several of the boards as I pulled them out from under the tarp.

Set up for cutting all the sandbox parts. I made a dent in the pile of old wood under the tarp in the background. Found a mouse nest and a snake skin, so you know...today was a pretty good day for old CW.

Set up for cutting all the sandbox parts. I made a dent in the pile of old wood under the tarp in the background. Found a mouse nest and a snake skin, so you know…today was a pretty good day for old CW.

As I laid out the 2×10 boards for the perimeter of the sandbox, I examined the 5/4 boards and decided to change the cover dimensions a bit; which in turn resulted in a slightly smaller box but also one less cover to contend with.  I ran inside and updated my plans. New printout in hand I cut up the 2×10’s and was done with making parts.  I spent another hour or so making a jig and screwing together four of the six covers I needed. I thought of free handing the assembly of the covers, but in the end making a jig was the way to go to get a consistent cover. My brothers would be proud of me.

Revised sandbox drafting I did today.

Revised sandbox drafting I did today.

Here I'm placing a 21-1/4" connector board in my jig. I'll screw four 5/4 boards onto this board, leaving 3/4" space between the 5/4 boards.

Here I’m placing a 21-1/4″ connector board in my jig. I’ll screw four 5/4 boards onto this board, leaving 3/4″ space between the 5/4 boards.

Laying 5/4 boards into my jig for assembly of a sandbox cover.

Laying 5/4 boards into my jig for assembly of a sandbox cover.

 

An assembled sandbox cover, 6' x ~2'

An assembled sandbox cover, 6′ x ~2′

As the sun set I hauled pretty much everything back to the play area and called it a day. Our friend, who is also our bee mentor, stopped by and gave Christine all the info she needed, and even some mite fighting supplies, to take care of her bees. As with anything, having someone who knows what’s going on makes life infinitely easier and less stressful.

Everything is cut for the sandbox, just need to assemble.

Everything is cut for the sandbox, just need to assemble.

I’m not sure my brush cutter showed up today…(I have to check the porch). But once I get that, I’m going to fire it up and clear out some brush ’round the sandbox area and I’ll be ready to start putting that all together.

But not tomorrow. I’ll be back in the office all day. It was nice to get out though. To put on the tool belt and pull the trigger on the saw for a few hours.  A good way to refill my spiritual fuel tank.  And it probably was necessary. Difficult to be creative when you’re running around all the time, physically and mentally.