It’s cold here! How’s the weather where you are at?
Each year we get more mushrooms in this spot. It’s where a Hazel nut tree was taken out several years ago. If only it was a group of chanterelle mushrooms instead…
Back in 2009 we had two trees removed from the front of our house. Ever since then, we have been walking around one of the stumps to get to where we park the car. In early 2012, I decided to dig that stump out. I would work on it off and on as the mood struck me. As the hole grew larger, it became much more exciting to walk to the car in the dark as you had to avoid the pits and dirt piles. What can I say? I like to keep things interesting with half finished projects.
Needless to say, my stump digging plans came to an abrupt end. Lee finally got tired of the shallow pit mine in our front yard and declared war on the stump. It took less than a week, working an hour each evening. He iterated between digging, chopping roots with a Pulanski, chainsawing for a few minutes until the blade dulled, sharpening the chainsaw, and angrily pounding the stump with an maul. The stump slowly came out in 5 large sections.
We are going to let the other stump by the house rot out. It doesn’t bother us and digging out stumps is madness. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We’ve had lots of people tell us about stump grinders. Yes, stump grinders are a thing, but they don’t completely remove the stump and we didn’t want the walk path planned for this space to settle as the wood under it rotted.
The mailbox stand we share with our neighbor has been falling down since we bought the house five years ago. More recently it crossed over the line from dilapidated to disintegrating. Our mail person had to lean awkwardly down from their car to reach it and open it carefully lest it simply fall off the post.
Lee decided to build a new stand which puts the boxes at the regulation height. He wanted something sturdy and study it is. The 6×6 posts are set 3.5 feet in the ground and everything is connected with through-bolts and lag screws. We stained the wood using the same solid stain as our porch and spray painted all the bolts black. It’s been a couple month now, and it seems to be doing the job. What more could you want than a luxurious stand to collect junk mail?
Lee’s future office has undergone quite the transformation lately. For the past five years it has been the catch-all room for tools and building supplies. A hardware supply room it is no longer.
We last worked on this room in February 2011 when the batt insulation was installed. I am actually shocked it was that long ago. Anyway, in June we started working on it again. We added OSB sheathing to the inside surface for shear, and connected the metal straps from the second floor.
Two inch XPS foam was installed over that to provide a true thermal break. The usual caulking, gluing, and taping of the seams and fasteners was done. We really are trying to make this house airtight.
Lee framed the inner walls.
He had to shim the ceiling joists down to create a flat plane for the drywall. His office floor was shimmed a few years ago, but the ceiling still had a bow in it from settling. Some things in old houses you can’t fix all the way.
The wiring and CAT5 was installed.
I went through and insulated the interior walls with rockwool and used spray foam to seal the edges of the inner and outer wall assemblies. Since everything else was getting sealed, we broke out some low-expansion foam and made a first pass at sealing the windows to their rough openings. We had been looking at daylight through a couple of small trim gaps since the windows were installed in 2011.
With our goal of a super duper insulated house, we didn’t forget the rim joists. Two layers of 2 inch foam was added into each bay and sealed with spray foam. Rockwool batts were then cut to fit for the third and final layer. In the attic space, Lee installed a dam made of OSB scraps so the future blown-in insulation won’t fall out onto the porch ceiling.
The entryway closet was drywalled. It’s right next to Lee’s office. To save a few inches of closet depth, Lee did not build an inner framed wall for the closet. Instead the drywall was connected directly to the foam layer using special adhesive. You can’t see it in this picture, but we added OSB strips on each side of the closet to provide a larger solid mounting surface for shelves and a coat rod.
Lee got a drywall lift from Harbor Freight to make our life easier. We were completely chilled out about the drywall process in this room compared to the ceilings we did upstairs in January 2012. It’s amazing how much your stress levels go down when you know what you are doing and you aren’t wrestling 90 pound drywall sheets above your head. Lee still uses his favorite cordless driver for installing the ceiling drywall, but uses a drywall screw gun for the wall panels.
Without the shims, the ceiling would have been out of plane by over an inch in three feet. In this next picture, you can see shadows where the drywall was attached to the 2×4 shims.
We are also insulating the interior walls around Lee’s office to provide some sound dampening. Since he works from home and we now have a mobile noise generator, we want the office area to be as quiet as possible. In fact, we are considering insulating a majority of the interior walls in our house since it’s supposed to give the house a more solid and muted feel.
We were originally going to fly in the drywall master guy who worked on our upstairs room. Lee bolted on that plan (partly because he hates not doing everything himself) because it would involve emptying out three rooms completely and we already don’t have any space. Rather then put all our stuff in the front yard, Lee decided to tackle the mudding and taping himself. If he can’t get the final finish right, then we will find someone local who can do one room at a time as we need it.
Here is the office as of a couple days ago. We have almost finished the second coat.
If all goes well, we are hoping that in two weeks this room will be painted–with actual paint. OMG! That is pretty exciting stuff for me. The bad news for Lee is that he does not get to use it as an office right away. With Sidney becoming more mobile we need a safe place for her. We don’t actually have any “baby proof” rooms in our house at the moment. After the office, we will work on the upstairs next. Sidney’s future room needs a finish coat, and our bedroom requires bathroom plumbing and drywall hanging. When all of that is finished, Sidney will have her own room and Lee can finally move into his office.
We are going to put off flooring it until next year as Lee wants to fix some moisture issues with the downstairs bathroom. We like the wider plank floors, and they are especially susceptible to cupping from moisture problems. Lee and I are happy as it seems like we are crossing a huge hurdle. Our house may actually start looking like a proper place with painted walls and working lights and outlets.
Once the baby goes to bed, Lee and I have been enjoying some campfires outside. It’s too hot to be indoors and we have a bit of wonky wood to use up. All those pieces which are punky, unsplittable with a maul, or just a little too big to fit in the wood stove are perfect for campfires. There is nothing more relaxing than staring at flames, looking up at the stars, listening to the night noises, and drinking a nice cold mojito with fresh mint from the garden.
Lee’s garden project for the year has been revamping his hop bine trellises. I went out to help weed while he worked on adding a new trellis.
He planted a new variety of hop for bittering beer. Hopefully it grows as it has been sitting in the refrigerator for the last six weeks.
As some of you may know, Google has decided to terminate Google Reader as of July 1st. This announcement was bad news for Robin and me, as we’ve been loyal Reader users for years. I also thought it was an ironically timed decision, occurring just two months after the death of Aaron Swartz, one of the creators of RSS (the web protocol used by feed readers). Google claims that Reader has been losing users, but I don’t think this explains its demise. The power of feed readers (aka RSS readers, blog readers, news readers, news aggregators, etc.) is that they allow users to directly control their content. You pick your subscriptions and read what you like. Detailed content is encouraged. Clicking an entry takes you directly to the source. Supposedly competing services such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Google Now and so forth use computer algorithms to decide what you want to see and target their advertising. The death of Google Reader is a loss for the open and free web as envisioned by activists such as Aaron Swartz.
I realize most of our readers are not affected by the end of Google Reader. This post enumerates some alternatives for those who are affected and requests some feedback from those who are not.
“What’s a feed reader?”
If you follow blogs by manually visiting each site, I have a helpful suggestion: get a feed reader! It will save so much time. A feed reader is a program or web service which lets you define a list of blogs to follow, and then it automatically monitors the “feeds” and notifies you when new content is published. The interface is often reminiscent of an e-mail client, with new entries shown in bold until you view them. You can subscribe to any site which publishes RSS, so that includes ordinary blogs like this one but also less obvious sources such as online news feeds or even local Craigslist searches.
The next section suggests some feed readers to try.
“I use Google Reader — now what?”
If you use Google Reader regularly, your first step should be to visit Google Takeout and download your reader data before July 1st, 2013. That link will select the required files for you. Just click “Create Archive” and then “Download” on the next page. Some alternative feed readers will allow you to import this data to more quickly set up your subscriptions.
The most obvious successor for Google Reader is another free online feed service: Feedly. Feedly formerly depended on Google for much of their functionality, but they’ve invested in a lot of new gear over the past 3 months and are now a completely standalone service. If you sign up for Feedly before July 1st, they can automatically import your blog list from Google. By default, Feedly provides a magazine-style interface, but you can switch your feeds to the new “Title Only View” to restore some of that Reader simplicity. I’m pretty happy with Feedly.
I have also seen recommendations for these feed services, but I haven’t tried them:
If you’re leery of online services and would rather not share your list of favorite kitten blogs with the NSA, a desktop feed reader might be better for you. These fall into two categories: browser plugins and true desktop applications.
If you use the Firefox browser, there are at least two popular feed reader plugins:
A plugin makes a nice feed reader because you never have to leave the browser. There are feed reader plugins for Safari, Chrome, Opera, and Internet Explorer but I don’t use these browsers.
As far as dedicated desktop applications go, we only use Linux at home so I can’t make recommendations for Windows or Mac users. I know the RSSOwl reader gets good reviews and works on all three platforms, but it might not be the best choice for your operating system.
If you also use Linux, other feed readers to try include Liferea and Akregator. Both should be easily available through your desktop’s install tool. I plan to import my subscriptions into all three and see if they offer any advantages over the web based services.
Am a missing a feed reader you love? Let me know in the comments.
“I don’t use Google Reader”
Perhaps you use the subscription system built into Blogspot, one of the services listed above, or something else entirely. For all of you, is there anything we should add to our site which would make it easier to follow? We plan to update our theme in the coming months with more social tools, so any feedback is welcome.
We have a flock of Turkey Vultures that live in the trees by our house during the spring and summer. Every evening they will land in the tree tops and rustle around getting comfy. It’s something Lee and I look forward to every year.
About two years ago we noticed them out in the field near the chicken house. The chickens were concerned. We couldn’t figure out what they were doing until I realized they were eating some nasty eggs I had thrown over the fence.
We rarely see them up close with anything other then a zoom lens. That briefly changed last week. We had lost a gosling to the portable electric fencing and didn’t have time to bury it as we were leaving for the evening. Lee laid the poor thing in the back yard so he could bury it in the morning. The next morning, he got a huge surprise when he opened the door to let the cat in.
The Turkey Vultures had apparently discovered that their breakfast was waiting right below. They worked on the carcass all morning. When they left for the day we walked over to see what was left and were shocked. There was an explosion of feathers and a pair of legs. We actually argued about what happened to all the other bones until the next day, when I walked out the door and startled a lone Turkey Vulture who then flew off with a half-eaten leg. That kind of creeped me out, as I could imagine walking under the trees one day and having a bone fall on my head.
There isn’t much going on in the garden as I refuse to work out there until we get a few things done in the house. Once we start gardening it seems like all house project are put on hold for the summer. We have to make things a bit safer inside for a kid once Sidney starts crawling this fall.
I walked around outside today and was surprised to see fruit on the trees. I don’t know why it should come as a shock to me but I hadn’t looked at the fruit trees in a while. This year’s crop looks to be bigger then last year’s. I am trying not to feel guilty about not pruning the trees, but there is always next year.
Last year I planted a small row of Borage to help attract bees. This year it looks a like a Borage bomb went off from all the seed that self sowed.
Over the winter we let the chickens have the run of the garden. With all the weeding we did last year combined with all the chicken munching it looked pretty good weed wise.
Spring came and I put the chickens back in their designated pen so the dogs could have a play area. Since we weren’t rototilling and gardening it looks like this now. I’m trying not to think about it. On the bright side, the stupid cucumber beetles are going to be really disappointed this year. I hope they all starve.
We have a few artichokes that are getting ready to be picked. Over the winter a gopher killed three plants so we only have two left.
It looks like there are a few sunflowers coming up from the seed that was dropped by the plants last year. I was happy to see that. We had a whole bunch of sunflowers sprout earlier from dropped seed but the chickens ate all the seedlings as they were still in the garden at that time.
Since I don’t have big blocks of time to do things outside the garlic was neglected. I finally checked on it and it looks really rough. It seems like I have a bad case of garlic rust. I’m thinking it was probably made worse by the fact I hadn’t weeded around them so the air couldn’t circulate.
I started weeding on the beds but I didn’t get very far before I had to go inside. This is what most of the garlic beds look like.
Lee has felt guilty about the lack of garden. I actually feel a bit relieved and just avoid the plant sections of stores. Next year it should be easier as I won’t be so tied down. Sidney will be old enough that we can give her a little section to plant some seeds and hopefully get her addicted to gardening too.