Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day Present

Most guys would get their sweetheart roses, a card and maybe some chocolates. I bought my wife one-hundred-eight dollars worth of straw bales for Valentine’s Day.

The winter has been everything the Farmer’s Almanac had predicted, and more so. We’ve been snow-covered since Christmas for intents and purposes. And this week the bottom finally fell out of the thermometer; treating northeast Ohio to windchill lows in the -20 to -30 range. As Valentine’s Day dawned we were greeted with winter storm warnings, and cancelled travel plans.

The nagging worry about our bees, that had been omnipresent in the back of our minds, worked its way forward with the arctic weather looming. We decided to put up the burlap wind break that we had neglected to erect before winter. But we wondered if there was more we could do. I’m not sure who thought of what, but I googled “hay” and “beehives” and sure enough found examples of straw bale wind breaks around beehives.

The last thing I wanted to do was go buy a bunch of straw bales and haul them back to the apiary. But it was Valentine’s Day and suppose that’s what you do when you try to be more good, than bad.

With the suspicion that carrying bales of straw out back would be the end of me, visions of a heart attack leaving me face down in a blanket of snow, I reluctantly put on my long underwear, boots, scarf, coat, hat and gloves. Outside I went. I hooked up the trailer and headed down to our local hardware store / lumber yard. Once there, I bought as many bales as I could haul.

Sure enough, back at the ranch, after carrying two bales back I was ready to welcome the relief of a good life-ending cardiac event. That’s when my Valentine came out and had the great idea of using a sled to haul the straw back there. It worked brilliantly with the two of us, and our trusty sled, moving ten more bales back to our beehives.

I stacked the bales as best I could to get as much coverage around the three hives. We also put up the burlap wind break around the southwest corner, which is the corner most exposed to the prevailing wind. I also pushed some snow under the hives; the intent being that it’ll keep the wind our from under the hive. The top of the hives have a decent three inches of the white stuff to help insulate as well.

We’ll see. I’m not even sure if hive No. 1 is still alive. So maybe we could have allocated resources to the other two hives. There’s no way to tell so we just did the best we could do.

With that, I’m writing off the “straw bale for bees” thing as my Valentine’s Day present to my wife this year. And I didn’t even have a heart attack.

Snow Guard Repair

Elsewhere our friends at First Choice Exteriors came out and fixed the snow guard on the garage. They were out on Monday and fixed things right quick at no cost to us. If you have a need for a metal roof or metal roof accessories, these are the guys to call. They are courteous, and do great work; which they stand behind. They service northern Ohio, and I think they even trek out to Indiana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Highly recommend them.

Basement Update

I finished farming the basement today! Only took me 6 months. I still have 3 metal studs to install but I’m leaving them out until we get EVERYTHING in to the storage room. Next we’ll get the framing and insulation inspected and the have the electrician come out to do his thing.

Today I completed the framing for a little storage cubicle under the staircase. That area, while good for storing Christmas decorations, it also makes for a good “fort” too.

Here are today’s photos. Stay warm peeps.

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Mother Nature Hates Me

We’ve gotten a lot of snow this winter. In between snow storms we’ve gotten some days above freezing as well. The combination makes for perfect snow man making weather. It also has meant a lot of snow and ice has accumulated on the roof of our house and garage.

Last night I came home late, and found that the snow guard on the garage failed. The guard hung half off the roof, and managed to mangle our screened gutter as well.

Meanwhile on the other roof areas, warmer temperatures today mean that the snow continues to melt. The melting snow falls off the roof, even in areas with the guards, in large piles of wet snow and ice, often with a loud audible “poof”.

This is destroying all of our plants that we’ve planted around the perimeter of the house. The greatest disappointment was the burying of a witch hazel plant. These are Christine’s favorites so she was very sad to see one basically destroyed by the falling snow piles off of the porch roof (which is so flat we didn’t think it needed a snow guard). The witch hazel’s are also special because we drove all the way to Illinois to buy them. So replacing one isn’t as easy as just driving up to some store in the spring. I took the time to unbury the witch hazel and used string to prop up its broken branches. Maybe they’ll mend in the spring. Hopefully the plant will survive.

I devised a way to lessen the blow of the snow on the bushes, by placing three metal garden stakes to form a sort of tee-pee over the plant. This worked fairly well protecting a chokeberry this morning as probably 400 lbs. of snow cascaded down 30′ from atop the studio dormer. The Japanese maple, we rescued two years ago, didn’t fare as well. It lost quite a few branches.

I’m not sure there is much we can do to prevent this in the future. Some bushes will hopefully grow large enough that they can survive the snow dumps. Others may just be destined to succumb to it.

I took a walk yesterday and checked on the bees. I removed all the snow from atop the hives. I actually saw hive No. 3 bees flying. And unfortunately a few of them drop into the snow and die. Hive No. 2 had some dead bees in front of it. Unfortunately there were no sign of bees in front of hive No. 1, so I’m expecting the worst for that hive.

I’m ready for winter to be over. February is the worst month around here. It has zero redeeming value, and can not be over soon enough.

 

Snow Rails and Fireplace Review

We had an art show this weekend so not much has been getting done around the house.  Outside the snow rails were installed and they look fantastic.  Just as I’d imagined, these little horizontal pieces of metal add a nice subtle design element to the outside, encouraging the eye to move horizontally across the roof.  They add a small degree of welcomed industrial-ness to the look of the structure.  Functionally speaking they’re meant to keep snow on the roof until it melts, preventing from big piles of the stuff from falling on you or me or anyone else.

here you can see the snow rails on the garage

here you can see the snow rails on the garage

Primarily this is to show you the snow rails but I just noticed in this photo... I want to say there is a thermal issue with the roof...on this frosty day it seems like I can see the interior partitions telecasting themselves to the surface of the roof.  I'll have to look into it.

Primarily this is to show you the snow rails but I just noticed in this photo… I want to say there is a thermal issue with the roof…on this frosty day it seems like I can see the interior partitions telecasting themselves to the surface of the roof. I’ll have to look into it.

I’m looking at the photographs I took with my iphone on a frosty morning last week.  I was capturing pictures of the roof snow rails for the blog but it looks like I caught something else in my picture.  No, not bigfoot, but something just as disturbing.  As far as I can tell I can see the ghostly image of my interior wall positions being transmitted visually into the roof.  Basically the wall sections are or aren’t holding the roof frost as well as the non-wall sections.  You can see this in just about every normal cookie cutter house built across America.  The hot air inside warms up the roof and escapes out instead of being held inside the house.  Next time it snows, watch the snow melt on your roof, if it’s poorly insulated you can see the rafters.

Now I don’t know if this is actually what I’m seeing. Just like bigfoot, I don’t have any proof but it’s piqued my interest enough that I need to analyse it this winter.  At some point I’ll get a heat gun out and meter the roof to see what’s going on.  If need be I’ll get the insulation guy back out and see if something needs to be fixed.  Stay tuned.

I had a some questions come into the blog regarding our Quadrafire EDGE 60 fireplace.  We chose this unit because Christine wanted a fireplace look instead of a wood burning stove aesthetic for the family room.  This EDGE 60 is the only pellet burning appliance that  is built into the wall like a fireplace that I know of.  The unit is about 30″ deep, and we mounted ours about a foot into the room.  The remainder lives inside our 10″ thick walls and about a foot sticks out into the screen porch.  We build a framed “box” floor to ceiling and mounted the fireplace on an internal platform about ten inches off the floor.  The part inside the family room is finished in cultured stone.  The part outside is covered in regular house trim.  The chimney is built to manufacturer specs and housed in a wooden framed chase that routes out the top of the house.  None of the chimney is outside except the metal bits up top on the exterior.

our EDGE 60

our EDGE 60

How do we like it?  We love it.  I don’t know if Quadrafire makes them still, their website didn’t list it the last time I looked.  And it’s a pricey unit but we really are happy with ours.  We used it this Fall and it puts out a lot of heat, evenly and effectively.  I was worried it’d dry out the dining room table ’cause it’s so close but the blower shoots the heat out of the top of the unit.  So if you need a quick fix of heat, stand in front of it otherwise sit back and enjoy the even heat distribution.

It’s easy to fill up the hopper on top of the unit with hardwood pellets and looks like the hopper will hold two bags if you wanted to. The front door opens easily with a simple latch.  It’s matte black finish stays relatively clean and can be wiped down with a damp cloth if need be. Clean up is easy, there’s an ash tray below to empty out.  Inside the components are easy to remove and sweep out.  An attachment set for my shop vac is on my xmas list, that would make the job easier, but for now we’re okay with regular shop vac nossle cleaning.

The thermostat is simple to use and controls everything.  Ours is mounted across the room from the unit.  The family room tends to be the warmest room in the house.  The fireplace requires setting the thermostat 2-3 degrees more than the current temp.  It’ll then shut itself off after it reaches the set temperature. I’m sure there’s a manual mode but we use it this way.  The ambiance isn’t over the top like a real fireplace, more appliance like than anything, but you do see flame and it’s a welcome member of the family.  I don’t think you can go wrong with an EDGE 60 in your home.

Hibernation

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.

Mantel Update

Tentative mantel location.

Tomorrow the masons will install the cultured stone around the fireplace.  I’m hoping it will turn out well.  One last item to take care of before they start was locating the mantel. 
 
As you know, we’re going to use a piece of cherry from a tree that was on the property for the mantel.  We’re attaching a 2×6 to the fireplace chase, and then we’ll lag the mantel itself to this 2×6. 
 
The EDGE60 installation manual defines some minimum clearances that affect how close the mantel can be to the unit.  The mantel in our current house is about 53″ from floor to the bottom edge and it’s about 4″ tall.  The guys mounted the 2×6 today at about 60″ from the floor.  I stopped out to take a look and it just feels too high for our liking.  I checked the manual and we need about 8.5″ from the top of the unit to the bottom of the mantel, assuming the mantel sticks out 6″.  I made a black mark on the wall indicating this level…..It falls about 3″ below where the guys mounted the 2×6. I left a note indicating we’d like to move it down that much.  I’m hoping it’ll all look good.  I’m sure it will.
 
The stonework should take two guys one day to do.  I left a note letting them know we want a “dry stack” look to the stone which means no mortar lines between stones.  We’ll see, hopefully it’ll look good.  The masons did say the stone we picked out was probably the most difficult to work with and get it to look right, plus the would have started from the top, and in fact they would have selected a different type of stone….not sure what kind.   Long story short, probably a good idea we’re paying them to do it since everyone will see the fireplace.
 
Elsewhere, the septic system got inspected and will be approved later this Spring once things dry out a bit.  The leech (sp?) field needs to dry out, be over seeded, and straw laid down.  I did ask the government if we could over seed with flowers or natural grasses….they said I need to use a typical sun / shade type grass seed.  But they also gave me a link to The Ohio State University website where I can get some additional recommendations.  Additionally there is a septic service that we’ll have to contract with for the life of the system.  They will be able to help guide us as well.  Planting or letting trees grow in the field is a no-no.  I just hope we don’t have to make it look like a manicured lawn.  We’re trying to minimize our impact and would like to minimize the amount of high maintenance lawn area.  I think a field of black-eyed susans or cone flowers would be awesome, but the government may have a different idea.  Long term (years from now) installing a “living machine” would be an intriguing option.  I saw one at Oberlin college and it’s pretty cool.  Living machine’s use plants and holding tanks to treat wastewater and sewage just like nature does (biomimicry essentially).  This would eliminate the need for a septic system (or rather is a type of septic system).  It would cost a lot but is a nice alternative to get back some of our real estate.  I could imagine a nice system in an outbuilding, maybe adjacent to a green house or something.
 
The water supply inspection has been put off, pending gutters being installed.  We need the entire collection system up and running, gutters are obviously a big part of that.
 
I’m getting grief from the gutter guys that we don’t have ice guards installed on the metal roof.  They’re guaranteeing that all my gutters will be ripped off by snow and ice sliding down, which is probably true.  I’m going to drag my heels because there are a fair number of options out on the market.  I need to research them and make a decision.  Then I have to talk to my roofing installer and see if they can install them.  Honestly, it’s nearly March and we haven’t had much snow this winter, with three weeks to go in Winter I don’t think we’re going to get anything substantial enough to destroy anything.  And if we make it that far then I’ll have all year to decide on something.  In fact if nothing meets my needs aesthetically and functionally, I could design a system myself and have it fabricated.  Maybe if it’s effective enough I could retire and sell ice guards.
 
Ok, that’s it for today folks.  Catch you next time.
 
-Chris

Autumn Road

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the new house is the drive up the driveway to the site in Autumn.  That alone is worth the price of admission. In just a few hundred feet the beauty of the valley encloses into a leaf lined country “road”, ultimately leading to our home, perfectly bookended by two stands of trees.  A day’s trials and tribulations give up their last gasp, having been worn down by a spirited charge down the valley’s wall and winding roads.  Leaves gently flutter earthbound through the glint of a lazy late season sun.  The crunch of gravel under tire is tempered by a week’s worth of leafy carpet laid down fresh.  Regardless of the temperature outside, one is virtually guilted into rolling down the window to catch the scent of Fall in the air.  Carbon cycling back to where it came from.

View of house with most of the metal roof in place. The charcoal grey color is great this time of year because it holds its own against the steely Autumn Ohio sky

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Most of the standing seam metal roof is now in place.  It has unified and slimmed the house considerably.  It does not look as expansive as anticipated.  The metal roof should last upwards of 40+ years and is fully recyclable when it does need to be replaced.  The gentle ripples between seams allow the metal to expand and contract, avoid oil canning and provide a gentle visual detail to add interest.  We’ve got nothing but compliments on the style and color. (pat on back, and a “thank you”, for the wife).
 
With the sun setting so early it’s impossible to get pictures of the inside.  Suffice to say, all the trades have roughed in the mechanical systems so we’ll be ready for insulation relatively soon.  The exterior insulation is being wrapped up as well.  After that we start finishing the exterior and interior with siding and drywall respectively.
 
Waste wise, we’ve employed our second waste container from Kurtz Brothers.  This time it’s a smaller one to handle the intermediate was being generated.  We should have one more container for end of project.  Maybe two.  Waste is something I wish I’d done a better job with but at least by using Kurtz Brothers, i’m assured that a lot of my waste is being recycled and made into other products.  This is better than randomly picking some everyday waste hauler; who knows where their waste ends up.
 
The interior framing is complete.  We’re making the kneewall areas our “line of defense” against air transmission, so we increased the roof thickness to 16″ by installing 2×4’s to match the interior ceiling plane.  This will give the roof an R-60 value throughout, saving a lot of energy and resources that can be used for something better than heating and cooling our house.  We also framed in transoms above the interior doors to allow for evening privacy AND air flow between rooms.
 
Fortunately the weather has been pretty good lately.  This is an encouraging change as we finish closing in the house.
 
Pretty soon I’ll have to go outside, or open a window, to get in the Autumn mood.  Maybe go for a walk down the drive.

Not So Heavy Metal

I don’t know what’s going on or who we pissed off but virtually nothing is happening at the house. In all fairness I’ve only mustered enough energy and time to wrap and finish off four more windows.  Beyond that not much is happening.  The blue rigid insulation continues to be put on, along with the firring strips for the siding.  Most of the dormers are done and the west gable is complete.  The porch roof also now has underlayment.  Our roofer recommended, and installed, ice guard over the entire roof due to the shallow 2.5/12 pitch of the roof.  The screen porch roof is a lot easier to walk on than the 12/12 pitch of the main house.  Almost like walking on the ground.  All this work is in preparation for the other roofer who will install the metal roof.

recycled blue Dow 4″ rigid insulation on exterior of house, with firring strips on top for siding and sealing of joints.

Which leads us to today.  They started installing the standing seam metal roof today!  Rejoice!

Standing seam metal roof on garage.

In case you were dying with anticipation, we went with Sheffield’s COOLR Energy Efficient Metal Roofing Material in a Pre-Weathered Galvalume color.  Thickness is 24 gauge (as opposed to a typical 26 gauge material.)  This metallic color is a Kynar 500 finish and looks like a charcoal grey in regular light.  Today it looked light grey due to the overcast rainy skies.  This color, like most COOLR colors is EnergyStar and LEED 2009 compliant.  It has an ISR (initial solar reflectance) of 0.30 and an EMI (emissivity) of 0.79, and finally an SRI (solar reflectance index) of 27.  These numbers are fairly respectable and should help keep the house cool in the summer.  The durable metal finish will outlast me, even if I stopped drinking and started exercising.  We’ll never have to replace our roof unless, god forbid, we get hit by a massive hail storm or tornado.  Only worry might be a scratch or rust but the Kynar finish is pretty durable.  I’m not worried.

The finish will be good to for collecting rain water as our primary water supply.  I did some research and decided that a metal roof was the best finish for collecting rain water for my family.  You can use pretty much anything other than cedar shakes.  The cedar will leach stuff into the water that’ll make you sick.  Asphalt shingles don’t sound like an appealing surface to drink from so that, in conjunction with having to replace them every 10-20 years, nixed that option.  Copper, Aluminum, and slate all would have been viable options as well I suppose.  Plastic roofing was a possible option too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally I stopped out early this morning to post up notes for the AWOL electricians and noticed our excavator (the guy) out working in the dark, the lights on the excavator (the big yellow machine) illuminating the back yard.  Today was a double-header of success in that in addition to the roof, the septic tank was installed.  Not sure if it was inspected but at some point they’ll truck in 1,800 gallons of water to test the system and get the inspector to sign off on it.  The septic system won’t actually be hooked up to the house until virtually when we move in to assure it stays “clean” and free of debris that might compromise the system.  We’ll also get a list of stuff we shouldn’t throw down the drain.  If we throw bacteria killing agents or chemicals down the drain it will negate the bacteria in the system rendering the system useless.  I think we should be fine, but will be interesting to see the list.

I of course was so engrossed by our new roof, I forgot to take pictures of the septic tank for you to enjoy today.  If it’s still uncovered tomorrow I’ll take  a pic.  It’s actually pretty cool looking.  I think it’s plastic and it’s finished in a racy green color.  The location is half way between the house and septic field.  Waste will be pumped up from the house to the tank, then up to the field.  The actual location may wreak havoc with our landscape plan but at this point I don’t even care anymore. Just get it in there and we’ll deal with the impact to the master plan later.  As noted early on, the house is shifted about 20-60 feet west so our landscape plan would need adjustment anyway.

Goodbye sewer bills! (of course we’ll have septic maintenance bills, but I suspect those will be less or at the very least fairly constant……we’ll see.)

Hopefully someone starts working again on the HVAC and electric.  We also have some framing to finish too before insulation can start going in.  Exterior doors were slated to show up today too, but didn’t.

But I can’t complain too much because I’m just as guilty.  We have a laundry list of things to design and detail and select.  I thought at some point it’d be easy or more enjoyable.  Enjoyable at times, easy never.  There’s also some labor I can do out at the site as well so maybe a few days off work are in order.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Here I’m putting on a strip of 4″ Vycor Plus over the head and jamb nailing flanges on the windows. Another option would have been to install the windows when framing the wall and encase the flange, buck and onto the wall with 12″ rolls of Vycor. 12″ would be a special order. The 4″, 6″ and 9″ we’re using are readily available at Lowes.