Snow Day

Today was the day after Christmas blizzard that wasn’t really a blizzard at all.  It was enough to get me out of work early though so not all was lost. I took advantage of the free time and planted our Christmas tree in the east preservation area.  The tree was in the house for about eight days and was starting to shed needles.  There was a lot of snow falling today but I trudged out with my tree in hand. I uncovered the plywood covering the hole I had previously dug in warmer weather.

tree removed from its pot waiting to be planted.

tree removed from its pot waiting to be planted.

I removed the tree from its pot and took off the plastic I had wrapped the bulb in when we brought it into the house.  Using a utility knife I cut away the fabric covering the bulb and loosened up the roots.

I took my trusty shovel and dug the hole out a little more…the soil was not frozen courtesy of the plywood covering.  I dropped the tree in and adjusted it so it looked fairly upright; the trunk has a slight curve.  I covered up the hole with the soil and even spread out a buck full of mulch around the base.  To help insulate the bulb I also tossed some fresh snow around the base too.  Within a few minutes the trees branches were covered in freshly fallen snow.


our christmas tree

our christmas tree

Now as you drive up the driveway, if you look closely out your passenger side window….just over there by the cherry trees, you’ll see a little blue spruce.  The first Christmas tree we ever had in our new home.  Hopefully, long after I’m gone, that tree will be standing there full grown, greeting guests and visitors.  It’s not to far from the birdhouse I cleaned out today as well, so I’m sure it’ll provide some nice refuge for birds through the years.  The tree stands in a pathway I cut out with my trimmer just about 18 months ago.  How far we’ve come in a short time.


We also took the opportunity to play in the snow today too.  The pond berm proved to be a most agreeable sledding hill for two wee little boys.  The berm doesn’t offer any real vertical drop but enough for a little orange sled to give them a thrill.


sleeding today.

We did have a nice holiday.  I took advantage of a Saturday off to tackle a couple of nagging issues around the house.  The studio door knob’s key hub was super loose and driving me crazy.  Every time one keyed the door it jiggled and the large gap invited ice and rain in my opinion.  So I took it apart to see what was up.  The other exterior knob assemblies didn’t have this problem so I think it was just an install anomaly.

I used a couple of flat head screw drivers and took the back face plate off.  Sure enough there are a couple of screws inside that hold the key hub in place.  And sure enough, neither of them was tight…the one had worked it’s way out about a 1/4″.  I easily tightened them up, making sure not to over tighten them and bend the door knob internal assembly.  One fixed up I re-installed  the rear face plate.

loose lock hub on exterior door knob

loose lock hub on exterior door knob


loose screws cause the lock hub to be super loose.

loose screws cause the lock hub to be super loose.









The master bed door inexplicably doesn’t close so I attempted to fix that.  After accessing the situation I figured out the problem. The strike plate doesn’t have any adjustment in it so I’m stuck with where it’s at…..what I would need to do is take it off, somehow fill the screw holes in the frame and then remount it in the proper location.  Alternately I could elongate the strike plate mounting holes so it mounts further out, allowing the door to latch…either way I didn’t feel like dealing with it on my day off.  The wife said “Oh that’s not the door to worry about, I wish you’d fix the bathroom door.”  Apparently she prefers her bathroom door to be able to lock, which it currently doesn’t.  So I took a look.

It’s a pocket door, and we love pocket doors for their space saving properties.  The biggest complaints about our pocket doors are 1) the weight – we shoulda got fake instead of real wood, 2) the hardware – the expensive matching bronze Emtek hardware for the pocket doors totally blows, making it impossible to operate the doors without a lot of effort, and 3) everything has to be spot on else they don’t close….which in our case means every door has an issue.

trim plate removed reveals the issues with the bathroom door.

trim plate removed reveals the issues with the bathroom door.


All three issues combined mean that from at least one side of every door it’s impossible to get the door closed all the way….the door pushes out or in and contacts the trim before the strike plate.  The handles give hands nothing to grip or push on, in order to move the super heavy doors.  Well apparently my wife doesn’t like the idea of any one of the men living in her home to be able to open the bathroom door while she’s butt naked or do her whatnot in the bathroom.  Go figure.

I measured a few things and figured the strike plate needed to be moved over about an eighth or quarter inch.  I removed the plate and discovered at one time it was moved over as there were two mounting holes down low.  Cool, I’ll drill a new hole up top.  Well, buried in the frame, right where my other mounting hole needs to go is the remnants of a broken off screw.  Ugh.  I fussed with it a bit and came to the conclusion that I’d have to perform major surgery on the door frame trim…possibly taking out a block of the trim and replacing it with fresh wood…..filler, paint, etc….more than I wanted to do on a Saturday morning. Well the wife’s just gonna have to live with the “freedom” that comes with non-locking bedroom and bathroom doors.  I went 1 for 3 on fixing doors on Saturday.  Good average if I were a baseball player.

That’s about it.  I’m going to play with my toys for the next couple days then get back to work.  I have those studio cabinets to finish installing, then onto my next project.  Also I’m starting to work on maintenance tasks like managing the water system chlorine and filters.  I also have a call into the HVAC guys to check the system and give me the nickel tour on how to maintain the filter systems.  One last thing, I can’t find any LED replacement bulbs for the bathroom vanity lights…it’s a rare T10 60W bulb, like you have in your fridge (though yours is probably 25W or 40W)…..and I’m hesitant to use incandescent bulbs since they use about $7 of energy annually and there are six of them in our bathroom.  I’m thinking CFL’s which I was able to find online.  I guess I should have thought of that before I ordered my fancy Restoration Hardware light fixtures….but I really love those fixtures and their old school Hollywood appeal.  Eventually someone will invent the bulb I need, until then I’ll get some compact fluorescents.

By the way, the floorplan featuring the kitchen island and long front hallway is perfect for bike riding.  We have a toddler loving life riding his bike on the hardwood floors, which in most households is probably a hue no no, but surprisingly for me (if you knew me) I don’t really care.  I’m keeping an eye on things and there appears to be no ill effect….except when he says “I am mad at you” because I tell him to slow down.

Christmas deer in our yard.  So cool to see them almost every night right out our window.

Christmas deer in our yard. So cool to see them almost every night right out our window.



The framers are delayed until later in the week so the only work being done on the site is the excavators are meticulously backfilling the house and relocating the dirt pulled from where the house currently rests.

Backfilling the studio requires significant amounts of gravel to minimize pressure on the Superior Walls of the main house.

 The land is changing quickly.  I still miss what it looked like when we bought the property and walked it, even with all the ticks.  It’s looked like a moon scape the last six weeks.  Now the large mounds of dirt are being used in some of the back fill or being relocated to another part of the property.  We’ll be using some of the dirt to form mounds and eventually a pond. As the mounds around the house are removed it restores the topography back to what we remember but alas all the vegetation is gone.  Hopefully our planning works out well and the top soil that was set aside will be drop on top of the restored sections.  This should assure that the vegetation that was there before grows back.  Within a couple of years any areas that aren’t landscaped should return to their natural state. 
There are still some decisions to made on roughing in the landscaping.  We need to cut our excavation budget to account for the excess gravel, but we should be able to fit in the rough in of the pond.  There’s a natural area for it to fill from so we’ll leave it where the original plan called for it to be. 

You can see a mound to the left, and to the right an area where the mound of dirt has been removed.

After talking to the HVAC contractor, I think geothermal may be back in play.  Using the pond for the geothermal system would be beneficial, but the pond is pretty far from the house.  We’ll have to weigh our options in the coming weeks.
We’re kind of in a state of flux, between phases.  On one hand things have slowed down so it should be relaxing, but on the other hand a lot of decisions have to be made and bills paid in short order.  All of which leads to increased stress levels.  So we have a diverse array of subjects that we have to consider on a daily basis, from mechanical systems, landscaping, and topography to designing entertainment centers and planning the basement layout. It’s kind of sad to see the land in the state it’s in now.  We ran over a lot of little to medium vegetation.  With all the dirt we had to remove because of the blue clay, the disturbed area is significantly larger than I’d imagined.  And sadly I noticed one of the largest trees on the property must’ve been shocked even though it’s in the fenced preservation area.  It started to lose its leaves early and doesn’t look good.  Hopefully it’ll bounce back after all is said and done but you and I both know how that goes.  A real bummer because it provides all the shade for our screen porch and west rooms.  A tree that size won’t grow from scratch within the number of years I have left on this planet.  If it dies I’ll cut it down and plant a new one under which my grandkids can chase each other around. 

There was a large mound of excavated dirt here. It's slowly being reduced by the heavy equipment on site. The dirt here is being relocated to form a pond and / or back fill parts of the house.

 We’re passing the time until the rough framing picks back up again by designing the fireplace and entertainment center.  The biggest challenge here is we have an open floor plan and a 26′ long wall that will have a door, hutch, fireplace and television / bookcase.  It’ll be a miracle if we can design it not to look like a train wreck.

Here you can see we're backfilling the entire height of the 10' tall Superior Walls with a layer of gravel then the remainder is dirt. Very expensive but necessary.

Also we’re trying to wrap up the plans for the off again, on again fireplace.  It’s on again so we’re trying to get quotes and figure out if the flue will be inside or outside the house.
That’s about it for today.  It’s about time for ProjectCam to get a recharge and my rain barrel has collected virtually no water.
Hopefully by the end of the week we’ll have more to share in regards to progress on the home front.

We picked up our Pactiv Greenguard Raindrop housewrap. It's pricier than normal house wrap, but unlike normal housewrap it won't lock water against the OSB. We've gotten several compliments on our housewrap. I try not to brag too much.


This is what our dinette looks like these days. Plans, sketches, magazines..... Right now we're designing the fireplace & entertainment center.


We’ve Got A Hole

Well, we sort of have a hole.  Or at least the beginning of a hole.  And it’s really deep.  Careful. 

A picture of our "hole". From this vantage point I'm standing in the laundry room or staircase and looking through the kitchen into the dining room and screen porch. Check out the cool layers of soil. "Pass me the ketchup," is only 8 months away.

We had a lot of rain the last 24 hours, but that didn’t stop the excavator from starting to dig the foundation hole.  Our building site is basically flat, but there is some change in elevation, enough that I think the best we’ll do at my studio door is 12″ from grade.  I may have mentioned we were shooting for the regulation minimum of 6″.  Turns out the opposite end of the house is pretty high and we do have to slope away from the house to keep water away, so we’ll be digging like crazy at one end and a little high on the other.  That’s okay, it happens.  And I can ramp up to my studio when the drive and landscaping go in.  I’ll survive. Our land used to part of an old century farm so it’s kind of neat to see old fence rows grown up (the east preservation area).  There are a lot of interesting plants too, and not all are native as their seeds blew in over the years from surrounding communities and gardens.  I think I tagged at least three blossoming trees that really aren’t from Ohio.  I didn’t look too closely at the layers of soil but will do so tomorrow.  I think we can see some nice farm / pasture quality top soil in the striations revealed in the foundation dig.  Maybe I’m making that up but it sounds good to me. 

In case you were wondering, yes, an excavator will fit in my studio based on what I saw today.

 I adjusted my ProjectCam now that I know where the house is.  It’s taken 200 photos so far (of about 2,600 per SD card) and about 73% battery life left.

As the sun set over the job site I could hear a deer snorting at me from the other side of the west preservation area.  I like to think she (or he) isn’t too mad at me for disturbing the peace and taking some of her space for my family home.  I’ll propose a deal, I may have created a big hole now but this time next year, maybe a bag of clover seed will accidentally fall out of the back of the jeep and a certain deer will have a little patch of clover all to herself.  Maybe then we can be friends again.

Day Two


We’re going at a brisk pace.  Hardly time to catch a break.  I bolted out of work, went home, dawned (sp?) my “tick proof” get up grabbed some papers, stake, and camera and headed out to the site.  Today was all about ordering the foundation.  Yeah, sure you can build your foundation block by block but our architect recommended a prefabricated wall system.  We looked into it and that’s what we’re going with.  I’ll tell you more once it’s installed.  Anyway, after looking over the vendor’s plans, comparing them to the architect’s plans I signed off and viola! Foundation ordered.  I’ll get an install date tomorrow.  Should be 2-3 weeks to manufacture.  Then a big kick ass semi truck and crane will bring the panels out and install them in about 8 hours.  In addition to the details of the foundation walls, I discussed the driveway approach to the job site.  There’s a tight chicane that will be interesting to coax a semi through.  Additionally there are some trees overhanging the job site portion of the drive, but those should be ceremoniously taken down tomorrow. 

For now the excavator has the drive roughed in and the house site cleared.  And of course everything looks different now so I’m totally lost.  Like a small child, I should have a site plan pinned to the cuff of my shirt. Incidentally, now that everything’s clear, need for my “tick proof” get up is eliminated unless I want to gallop through the bush, say to wrestle with my ProjectCam for instance.

roughed in driveway with stabilization fabric. house will be at the far end and to the left.
Driveway isn’t as “snakey” as I imagined but I just rushed through today.  I’ll analyze it more tomorrow.  It’s probably fine.  In a way it’s sad to see the land cleared.  Having walked it for a year, through the seasons I got used to it.   Like Christine said, I guess we just imagined a house would magically appear.  I try not to look directly at all the plants we had to clear out.  😦
bulldozer in clearing with “saved” tree.
There are two “bookend” preservation areas on either end of the clearing.  These tall stands of trees will hopefully not be affected by construction.  They will provide some much-needed protection from the elements throughout the year (e.g. harsh east / west sun, wind, etc.).  I may even drop a couple of the felled cherry trees in the preservation area and let them rot and eventually create a natural cherry tree nursery. We fenced the areas off with orange fencing and tape.  Keep out!
picture of preservation area fenced off
ProjectCam is now stabilized a little better and turned on!  It registered at least one pic whilst I was there.
latest project cam set up: stake, tree, cords, straps…..

Tomorrow I’ll stop out before work.  I have a culvert I need to spec the location on.  Every day a new adventure.