Tuesday, December 05, 2006


December 5, 2006, a day that shall live in famy. One year to the day after having the house go final, it is complete. Oh sure, there are a few little things here and there, but the house as originally conceived is done. Now to start the improvements, and a few repairs ;->

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Monday, November 27, 2006


one-hundredth post

Sunday, November 12, 2006

One Bay Down

The window trim was built as a frame and mounted with screws. The holes
were then covered with oak plugs, mimicking the oak pegs in the timber frame.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Getting Up

I don't like heights. Well, not heights so much as edges. So when the time arrived for me to put the ceiling in I was a bit hesitant. I'm also not one who has any interest in overcoming my fears. I didn't think of this as a character building exercise. Thus, in the photo you will see essentially a second (and third) floor scaffold created to reduce the sense of exposure. The first level is 10 feet in the air. The second is 3 feet above that, enabling me to reach the top at just over 20 feet.

I have new appreciation for the Sistine Chapel. All the planks are official, OSHA-stamped scaffolding planks, but they are a little bouncy. I did put one up on short blocks and bounce up and down on it before I trusted them in place.

The best thing is it signifies near completion. Setting up the scaffolding is time consuming. And in addition to the ceiling there is painting, and the window trim. I estimate completion early next year.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Pimp My Deere

Every farmer needs a cool ride with some personal touches

I painted the fire extinguisher JD green and mounted on the left.

This found item is apparently a motorcycle repair
kit housing. Painted green and mounted right.

There is NO storage space on a stock compact tractor, but having
spare parts when down in the field can save a long walk. This
was the smallest box I could find...in yellow.

The stock lights suck. These are awesome. Killed
the old battery with them. Rear facing ones are great for reverse
and night backhoe work. Night backhoe work?

Finding room on and under the tiny dash for the switches and relays
was a challenge. Lights are integrated into the stock lighting circuit.

Dual water bottles and a first-aid kit.

Added a 12-volt outlet just for the hell of it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Controlled Leak

One problem I had to solve was where would any emergency, pressure release or leak overflow from the hot water tank in the ceiling go? I had a custom tray made for it with an outlet fitting. But the tank is located right on the cieling and there was no way to slope it to the outside. So, using a brass through-hole fitting, I discharge any water through the ceiling and let it drip into the sink. Thus it forms a visual indicator if a leak occurs.

The inspector read the code manual twice before concluding that he didn't like it, but he didn't think it was a violation.

The brass fitting is visible below the skylight.

Fit & Trim

I hate putting up trim. That is, I thought I hated it. I'd hated it before and I had procrastinated doing it all summer. But with the extended good weather I had run out of reasons not to tackle it. A big difference this time was that I would have to "make" the trim from salvaged, rough boards. As it turns out these turned out to be mostly old cedar. It was a pleasure to run the boards through the planer and 1/16th at a time watch them emerge as beautiful planks. It was sunny and downright hot and the air was filled with cedar dust and chips and scent. Even after 50 years old cedar still retains its distinctive aroma.

Finished cedar sits ready for selection next to similar boards used for siding.

The planks were planed to 7/8" thick and 3-3/4" wide and finished with linseed oil.

Trim adds the finishing touch.

Chime In

My sister and her family gave me this bell as a housewarming gift despite my stated desire to receive only items that are readible, edible or charitable ever again. Nonetheless, I admit it is quite attractive even if extravagent. I didn't hang it until now because I didn't like the metal hook it came with. I had planned to have one made, but I saw a similar bell at the Japanese garden in Portland mounted with rope. Cheap and easy.

Kitchen Done

Well phase one anyway. The gap under the sink will likely get a curtain. The gap between the drawer units is sized for a dishwasher which I will not install. Instead I plan a pull-0ut island. The stove, some year, may be surrounded by a bar or at least something to make it more attractive. But it's in and functions very well.

One thing I noticed, having all open shelving, is how much of the kitchen is hardware and how little actual food.


To keep hunters and others off my new road, I installed a new gate. Salvaged electrical poles are stout, but the 16-foot gate could be cut with a good steak knife. It looks imposing, and that's enough...I hope.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Road to Somewhere

Until now I had to bring hay out of my field through my neighbor's field. Even to get my tractor down to mow or do other maintenance or restoration meant a big detour next door. I'd planned to have the road meander down from the old trailer site. In fact across the back corner. Now, with the trailer gone, the next step could be taken.

Joe makes fast progress on his new D5.

Joe, a local heavy equipment operator was doing work for others in my area and agreed to do my road. We had walked and bushwhacked through the dense undergrowth, but that was months ago, I hadn't flagged it and he couldn't remember the route. While he started up top, I ran down and started placing some flags working my way back north. No sooner had I started than I heard the Cat roaring back and forth through the brush in front of me. Joe had made up the ground in no time. Fearing I might be run over, I waved the fluorescent pink ribbon over my head and ran for the nearby wooded area.

The road's path.

Six hours later a road emerges. It will be seasonal access only with no gravel. The driveway at this end of the property is flatter with less of a grade. It also keeps farm activity away from the house.

The completed road is used mostly by deer right now.

The cleared area is quite wide. Very wide in places, but it will grow back to a 12-foot wide road with about 6-feet on either side to keep some "defensible space" from the blackberry and rose bushes.

Joe places fill over the culverts.

Screen Door

Every legitimate cabin needs a screen door leading out to a porch. Here's mine created from a nice piece of old cedar reclaimed from the property. Like the other doors it was made by Mountain View Door & Window in Scappoose. The screen is bronze. Although it doesn't have a spring, it closes with that summer camp sound.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Zupa peers out from the pile of wood.

I first saw him under some planks I was moving to make room for some firewood racks. I had retrieved 3 piles of scrap lumber from the barn deconstruction and heaped them at the foot of the driveway with some other scraps. Now as I committed to the task of cutting, splitting and stacking the material, I lifted the oldest, sun-bleached board from the ground. A napping snake looked bewildered then turned and slid away into the pile. I bent to my work, but now the pile of wood had been turned into a giant game of pick up sticks. Each moved cautiously so as not to crush the serpent.


I was making good progress, but I felt bad for disturbing the snake's habitat. I could see why the long, narrow channels of the lumber were ideally shaped for the sinuous movements of a snake, while providing plenty of cover and lots of shade. I was captivated watching him move gracefully, elegantly through the timbers. It had been a very hot summer, with no rain in a month and days over 100. I decided to try and give him some water. I located him on the 6th "floor" resting quietly. I placed some water in the shallow, screw-top of a container. Gingerly I placed it down on the plank within a foot or so and stepped back. After a seeming eternity the snake became active and started to move forward its head moving like a blade of grass in a gentle breeze and floating a millimeter over the surface; its tongue probing the air. It came to the dish of water and after determining its potability dipped its reptilian head in and gulped down some water, and then some more. I was quite pleased.

That night I looked up the type of garter snake he might be. Turns out to be an Oregon red-spotted garter. The three yellow stripes, the scales and the uniformly spaced red markings, and the dull finish of his surface make him look like a fancy boating rope. I determine to call him curly.


Day 3
I discovered during my research that garter snakes love worms. Makes sense. Slow moving, all protien and no bones to regurgitate. I have a hard time finding a worm in the dry soil. One small sample is all I can muster after 5 minutes with a pick and shovel. I rush the small sample over to Curly and lay it out some two feet away. Curly moves slowly and deliberately, taking few chances. Before he can reach the worm it has wriggled off the board. I run into the house and return with a small clean jar. I place the worm in the jar and rest it on a board. Curly is skeptical, but moves forward. Scenting the worm he becomes more animated. He moves around the right side of the opening. He can see the worm. He wants the worm. But he doesn't understand glass. He retraces his slither and finds the opening. His nose is on the worm, his tongue flicking confirmation. Then gulp, gulp, gulp. The worm is gone. Curly licks all the surfaces looking for more. I'm elated.

The lizard's heart stops. Curly is motionless. The lizard finally moves, each limb ticking forward
no faster than an hour hand. In the end Curly decides he is too much of a mouthful, and lets
him pass.

Day 4
I'm awakened early by the mad call of crows. It takes some time to come to my senses. I lie in bed listening to the commotion. Finally I peer out through the window, through the rising mist, and to a pile of old, cedar fence posts near where I'd been working. Two crows natter away atop the pile and one has a long, thin object in its beak. A snake I think. Curly I'm afraid. I sink back under the comforter sad to see the little guy go.

Working on the woodpile is easier without having to worry about a snake. Curly must have lived under the few planks that had been there a year as I find several shed snake skins of varying sizes. I wonder if by feeding him I had made him less cautious and been in some way a part of his demise. At around 2pm Curly slithers out from under some boards. I'm so relieved. If he was the snake being tossed about by the crows he shows no sign of it. I'm so happy I dig up 3 worms for him. He devours them in quick succession. But the third one gets stuck in his jaw crossways. It is only then, seeing him thrash around, his miniscule limbic brain working at full capacity at one purpose that I see him as the ruthless killing machine he is. Still, when he's not eating he's cute which could be said for a lot of people.

I also imagine what it must be like to be a snake. Forget opposible thumbs. Snakes have nothing opposible at all. Jaws on a stick. I guess they don't itch.

Snakes can be in two places at once.

Day 5
I have to herd Curly into his new home, but he's not cooperating. I've left a couple of broad planks on the ground facing south and a bowl of water. I'm down to the last pile and it's about to fall over. I want Curly out of there but he is dodging me. At one point I have him where I want him, but I turn around to cut some wood and he dashes back. To hell with him. I work down through the pile. At sunset I lift the last plank, and like magic, he has disappeared.

Completed frames stacked with a cord and a half of wood for 2007/2008

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On the Face of It

I thought I might use ceramic, electric fence insulators salvaged from the property as drawer pulls. They were a bit too long. I tried cutting one on my tile saw, but it was such a nerve-wracking experience I gave it up after just one.

I settled for these off-the-shelf ones from Home Depot. Solid metal though.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Kitchen Cabinets

Another idea I had for the kitchen was streamlining the dish wash-dry-store cycle by combining the last two steps for day-to-day dishes. I built it out of scrap cedar in an open way, mimicking a wood Ikea dishrack I've had for years.

The slat allow water to drip onto the large drainboard of the kitchen sink, found on the property.

The rack works well, but I have in mind a few modifications for a future iteration.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's Not a Bomb...

It's not a bomb, but don't try to take it on an aeroplane. It's more like an "Improvised Pumping Device." This mess is the inside of the control system for the uphill pump. Until now I've had to manually plug in the water pump that pumps water from the 300 gallon holding tank to the 3000 gallon storage tanks. With this system the pump will wait until the holding tank is full, automatically pump, then stop until the tank refills.

The logic for this system is fiendishly simple, and involves no transistors. Nonetheless,
it was easier to buy the Levelite controller than run around getting all the relays and
associated parts. I don't live near a Fry's anymore.

There are two main advantages to this design. First, the pump doesn't start and stop pumping small amounts of water, but waits untill the tank is full. Second, the sensors operate at 12 volts DC, which is a lot safer and easier than running 120 volt outside and immersing it in water.

Front panel includes a power switch, mode setting, manual cycle start and operating instructions.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Demolition Continues

Meryl ties down load #4.

The trailer never looked so good.

Roof by Frank Gehry.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fit to be Tied

I've been using my solar system for some months now, but I haven't been approved to sell power back to the utility. Today I was approved to grid-tie the system. The first such installation for West Oregon Electric Co-op (WOEC). On this sunny afternoon my meter immediately started running backward, generating 1 kilowatt. I'll never make money at the current rates or number of panels, but it will offset some use, and gives me battery backup for my refrigerator and water purifier.

From left to right: Bruce (PGE), Matt (Clatsop County), Steve (WOEC). Discussing how the
system protects linemen.

Bruce, Me, Matt, Steve and "Gunny" (WOEC lineman)


As the old manufactured home starts on its path to disposal, I'm reminded of the saying, "beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes to the bone."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ice Box

One more experimental feature of the house is to take an ordinary fridge, but put it inside an insulated box that is directly connected to the outside. For this purpose I intentionally located the fridge on the north wall.

The two white boxes are Panasonic passive air vents. I eventually discarded the covers to get 1/2"
addtional depth.

The inlet and outlet covers on the exterior wall.

The fridge in place needing a seal and trim around it. A foot off the floor is a nice height for
the fridge compartment, but the freezer is up there.


The drawers are in less faces.

The space in the middle is 24". The right size for a dishwasher, but I will put in a small
rollout, butcher block island.

It's so nice working with trued equipment. These drawers were a dream to make. Made to the
specifications, they fit first time. Made of reclaimed wood, with plywood bottoms.

The garbage/recycling bin is about 2' x 2' x 2' and hold four small bins. I used this design in
my last house, and I really liked sliding open a drawer and just sweeping the crumbs right
into a bin.