Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 19: Back on Track

Today was definitely back on track.  Still no mezzanine floor, but they will start up on it tomorrow morning.

Which means I'll be standing on my mezzanine tomorrow!


Let's see what they did today:

First, they built the mezzanine stairs! Even though there isn't a floor on the mezzanine yet, there is a stair up to where it will be.  This is very exciting.  Now you can go upstairs!  Just be very careful, and watch your step at the top.

Here we are at the top of the stairs, turning and looking back:

Turning to the right, you can see the main post that holds up the roof, and the larger front area of the mezzanine beyond.  The floor joists are ready to have flooring planks laid on top of them.

Turning further to the right, we are facing the direction we would be in, if we had just arrived at the top of the stairs.  At the very bottom of the picture, you can see 2 joists where flooring will go.  Then there's a beam, and then an opening.  The room beyond the opening is the front bedroom.  This is a fairly complex space.

Now we are downstairs again, looking towards the front bedroom, with the stair on our right.

Finally, here we are standing in front of the door to the front bedroom, looking towards the stairs.  Scroll back up for a second and compare this with the very first picture.  This is one of my favorite views in the whole house.

So, things are definitely back on track.  Moving forward!


Today's extracurricular activity consisted of watching them unload a couple hundred bales of hay:

The hay will feed the horses and donkeys through the winter.

They have this conveyor that brings the bales into the loft.

Today was a good day.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 18: Not as Fabulous a Day as I'd Hoped

Last Friday was pretty magical. They erected almost, but not all, of the mezzanine beams, and I was sure they would be laying floor up there today.

Boy, was I wrong.

Today went at a snail's pace.  Our work today involved coordinating the electrician and framers.  Because of all the exposed beams and plank flooring, the best way to install lighting is to drill little holes down into the beams (or joist, depending on the situation) through which they fish their wire, and then mount the lights on the sides of the beams.

Things started off really well and were going smoothly, until one of the joists got drilled wrong.  It wasn't ruined, but it meant it had to be installed in a different place.  I had picked out the nicest looking joist to be installed at the front door, but now it had to go somewhere else.  Not the end of the world, and all the joists are very similar.  However, with solid wooden lumber, they are really all different, and no matter how good they all look, there is always one that looks better than another.  So it wasn't the end of the world, but it meant I had to re-evaluate the whole thing and pick a new one to go by the front door.

Then one got nailed into place where there shouldn't have been nails visible.  That one was mostly my fault, because they did ask, and I was a little vague with my answer.  I thought they were talking about a different one, and wasn't as specific enough as I could have been.  Luckily, I was able to save that situation, and no one will ever know where the hidden nail holes lie! (Ok, ply me with alcohol and you might learn.  Maybe.)

It just seemed like the beam selection and direction took forever.  After lunch, I found myself trying to help the electrician find the right kind of wire for the low voltage lights.  Seriously, people?  Can't the electrician please just know where to get the wire?  The internet was excruciatingly slow.  It was positively agonizing.

During and after that, someone who is not me, but who is in charge of the budget for the project, and who signs the checks, decided that we needed to trim some of the budget out of the lighting.  That would be the same lighting I had stayed up until 1 a.m. Sunday night drawing and detailing, for the electrician to start roughing in this morning, and for which beams had been drilled already.  Great!  No problem!

Since I want to have a happy client in the end, all I can really say is, it's all in a day's work, and that today's work involved dealing with a lot of curve balls.

By the end of the day, things started looking up again.  I came up with a really good lighting alternative that was acceptable, and was treated to the beginnings of some exterior siding:

After all the workers left, Paul + Todd and I ran a couple of sprints up and down this giant hill behind the house:

It was exhilarating, and Paul and Todd loved it too, and I think I'm going to start running up and down that hill a lot more.  I can take them around the place off leash now, and they know where to go and how to behave (mostly!)  It really was nice, and my back started feeling a lot better, for the first time since it went awry Friday night.


In other news, the local bank was robbed late last Friday afternoon:

Be on the lookout for these two:

Don't they look super friendly?  Apparently they may be armed and are considered dangerous.  You can read all about it here:

I'm not sure whether Officer Barbrady has caught up with them yet, or not.

OList Happy Hour Menu for Tuesday, August 31st

Tomorrow evening will mark our second OList Happy Hour, in our new series of semi-weekly Twitter Socials, for members and lurkers of the OLists.

This week's menu draws from the OGrownups and OBloggers lists.  Our theme is Blogging, Boundaries, and Sensitive Relationships.
This week's Appetizer:  If you are a blogging parent, how do you handle the issues that come up around blogging about your kids and family life?  Do you hold particular boundaries that dictate what you will and will not share on the blog, or do you take an "anything goes" approach?  Finally, have your boundaries or standards in this area changed or evolved over time, as your kids get older - or do you expect them to?
This week's Drink Special: Do you blog about your work and/or clients?  If so, are you up front about it, or do you keep it a deep dark secret?  Do you censor your content, or boldly speak what's on your mind, or some combination of the two?  What do you think about "telling all" while sanitizing the relevant identifying information?  Have you ever gotten in trouble with a client, co-worker, or employer over your blog's content?
Happy Hour takes place on Twitter from 9-10 p.m. Eastern, 6-7 p.m. Pacific.  Use the hashtag #OLists to identify your tweets as part of the Social, and join us!

New to Twitter?  Not sure how to get started?  We have a brief Twitter tutorial here.  

Want to read along in real time?  You can do that here.

The OLists Twitter Socials are hosted by @DianaHsieh, owner and inventor of the OLists, @laforgetm, aka William Green, and @Earl3d (that's me!)

Big thanks to @RationalJenn for helping come up with this week's topic!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 15 It's Really Getting Good Now.

Today was immensely gratifying.

This was one of those, "I've trained ALL MY LIFE for this moment, and now here it is, and I know just what to do, and I'm doing it, so by God, get the Hell out of my way, because it's happening, and I'm making it happen, and I'm not letting anything stop it."

Fortunately, at this stage of the project, there wasn't a whole lot of stuff getting in the way, and it all flowed relatively well.

The first thing on the agenda was to replace the beam that was already installed, but which didn't meet my quality standards.  (I described the problems with it on Day 8.  Scroll down towards the end to see the pictures.)

The lumber yard had delivered a beam that was of substandard quality.  By whose standards?  Mine.  My job, as the architect, is to design the building and act as the Owner's quality control agent over what gets built.  This beam was not up to snuff.

Today we took it out and replaced it.  This was not insignificant.  That beam got replaced while the whole upper walls and roof were resting on top of, and supported by it.  To remove it, they first cut the nails holding the beam in place:

Then they pulled it out,

and the new beam went in in its place...

and done!

By the way, whoever invented the nail: my hat is off to you.  The existence of the nail may seem completely obvious, and I'm sure that almost everyone out there takes the nail to be the equivalent of a metaphysically given absolute.  Yet, I will remind you that the wheel seems obvious, yet South American civilizations went on for millennia without the wheel, while other civilizations, on other parts of the planet enjoyed its benefits.  (Actually, the real invention was the axle, not the wheel per se.  But I digress.)  Regardless, a big shout out to mister Nail Inventor.

Then the lumber arrived.  Not just lumber.  Big beams.  Timbers.  What I've been waiting for for weeks.  Months even.

Just back it up right there to the front door.

And the view from in the house:

We unloaded the beams (yes, I helped) and they started right in, measuring and cutting things to size (no, I did not help with that gargantuan saw.  There were plenty of other things for me to worry about, and I left the use of that saw to the experts.)

What was I doing then?  I was inspecting each plank as they went, determining which end would face up and how it would all go together.  That stuff is critical at this stage.  It has to be done right, or you'll end up with a mess.  And not a hot mess, either.

They set the first main beam of the mezzanine, one end first:

and the other end...

then the shorter perpendicular beam:

And then it was lunch.  At lunch, P + T got leftover corn on the cob from the night before.


This guy is pulling the wall apart to make room for another beam.  This beam will uphold the kitchen ceiling, and had to be ordered to a custom width.

and now the beam is in place.

That was the bulk of the activity for the day.  Then I opened a beer and went up on the roof deck to take in the view...

The donkeys were massing on the border.  I feared a coup, but it didn't happen, and they dispersed.

I could see 4 hawks in the sky.  I don't think they all came out in the picture.

Here are the two beams we set today, viewed from that roof deck.  They will support the mezzanine floor, come Monday.  That will be the real thrill: standing on that mezzanine floor for the first time.

The first time I get to stand on that floor, and experience it firsthand, in real time and real space, I will have about 1000 times the "this is what I trained all my life for" experience.

And that makes it all worth it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 14: It's About to Get Crazy

Today got off to a slow start, for a couple of reasons.

First, there wasn't any activity on the house construction at all, so I didn't have to be up and running super early.

Second, we all drank pretty heavily last night at Stella Divine's wake, which basically consisted of Mr. and Ms. Client and me, hanging out in the kitchen of their little house down the hill.  I was pouring the gin & tonics, and the occasion didn't exactly call for weak drinks, not that I would know how to make one anyway.

And, I think, given the somber nature of the events the day before, it was just fine for today to get off to a slow start.

My main project for the morning was making this little shelving unit out of some of the cut off leftover pieces of the roof rafters:

I have been wanting to make this thing for the past week and a half, since I arrived.  Now I finally got to organize my stuff and start to live a slightly more civilized existence.  Here it is in my room:

Just in case you were wondering what books I brought with me:

The Logical Leap by David Harriman is here with me also, in addition to lots of my music books.

I was really glad to get myself organized today, because tomorrow the rest of the timbers will arrive, and the framing crew will be here bright and early, and the mezzanine overlooking the living room will get built.  I don't expect it to be all built in one day, but by the middle of next week it should be done.

Then, later next week, the doors and windows will arrive, and they will install them, which will allow them to put on the exterior siding.  After that, they can proceed with drywall and the rest of the interior finishes.

So, starting tomorrow, it will be moving pretty quickly again for the next several weeks.  And there will be lots of pictures again!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 13: I Somehow Missed a Day, and Today Had a Sad Ending

I thought today's post was going to be for Days 11 & 12.  Then I looked at the calendar, and the old posts in this series, and realized that today was Day 13.  Not sure where I missed the extra day.  I'm know that more extensive analysis could reveal the answer to this mystery, but I really can't be bothered.

Let's just move on, shall we?

This morning started off well.  I went in search of steel to weld, and gas with which to weld it.  I brought my entire welding rig all the way from California, except the gas.  Transporting compressed gas in your enclosed car across 7 states = not a good idea.  The gas isn't flammable, but still, you don't really want to mess with it in that way.

After a little mishap with Google Maps on my iPhone - not the first misdirection by my Googley Friend on this trip - I found myself at Seaton Metals in Athens (Tennessee, not Georgia (much less Greece)).

I was pretty happy with the place.  They had new material, lots of cool salvage, it was all organized, and there was none of the Town Dump feel of that place I visited a few days ago in Knoxville.

This building is a defunct (judging by the vines growing on the door) kiln, such as you would use to dry lumber.  Let me explain why buildings like that excite me.

Imagine that the inside of that kiln were your living room, only it wasn't really a kiln, it was a house.  Then imagine that the giant door, sliding out to the right in the picture, were a steel frame with glass in it, instead of a giant concrete & steel thing on rollers.  Imagine if your house could just slide open to overlook a beautiful view (not a lousy yard full of rusty metal bits of defunct stuff).

What if, instead of living in a house, you lived in a garden pavilion with sliding walls?  Why doesn't everyone live this way already?  Am I missing something?

I don't know what these buildings are/were, but they're very industrial and cool looking.

When I see something like this pile of purlins, all I can think is, "What's wrong with you people?!  You could make a building out of those!  What are you waiting around for?!?!?"

And then, I realize that these people are in the business of selling stuff, not making buildings.  Oh well.

I got parts with which to make chair and table legs, in order to make furniture out of the big wooden beam cut-offs left behind by the framing crew.

This piece of woven metal mesh would have been the perfect material to make a fireplace screen out of, if there had been enough.  Sadly, there wasn't.

I am going to remember that wire mesh though, and I bet it makes it into the house somehow.


There was also very sad news at the farm today.  Ms. Client, aka Farmer Jo, had to put down one of her animals.

Stella Divine was a mule who was rescued (from a dreadful equine end-of-life-scenario that need not be elaborated here) about 4 years ago by Jo, and brought here to live.  She captivated everyone who met her, and was a real character around the place.

She was laid to rest this evening, next to a grove of trees at the far end of the meadow where she spent her last days.  The excavation peopleguy who dug the foundations for the house was kind enough to come over, with his backhoe, after his workday ended, and help bury her.  The whole thing was very sad.

Goodbye, Stella Divine.  You will be missed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 10: In the Kitchen

One of the big tasks this week is to finalize the kitchen design.  We have been making progress and things are going relatively smoothly.

Ms. Client has decided to go with KitchenAid appliances, in stainless steel.  I think that's a great choice.  This is a kitchen that wants to be nice and well appointed, without needing to be The. Most. Expensive. Thing. Evar.

Mr. Client has decided that whatever Ms. Client wants to do with the kitchen is fine with him.  Thus far, this arrangement is working out well.

The floor will be the same wood that is throughout the rest of the main level, which is yet to be determined, but will be a medium-dark color.  The spaces themselves will be rather lofty and bright, for the most part, and will be able to handle a dark-ish wood floor really well.  The cabinets will be a lighter colored wood, perhaps maple, to give some contrast to the floor.  This kitchen has hardly any upper cabinets, because it's all windows to the view of the Smoky Mountains.  There is, however, one wall with the range and stainless steel hood on it, that has a few upper cabinets as well.

At present, the Clients are living in this little house down the hill from the house now under construction:

That was taken last February when I was here for a preliminary site visit.  You can barely see the house behind those giant pine trees.

That thing is 3 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, laundry/utility, and bathroom and its 1,000 square feet.  Cramped is an understatement, but they're managing.  I'm staying in a few rooms of the existing garage building, onto which we are attaching with the new house:

The doorway between my area and the kitchen has been walled off temporarily, and the hallway, laundry room (which is just an empty room at this stage - the laundry part will be added after I leave) and little bathroom are my monastic cell.  Paul and Todd sleep in there with me, and I have my computers set up in there also.  The dogs spend their days outside, either penned or on long leads over by the barn.  They get to watch the donkeys most of the time, and bark at the subcontractors as they come and go throughout the day.

Ms. Client has been making the most of her little kitchen in the house down the hill, and her project for the past few days has been roasting her homegrown roma tomatoes.


After (after most of them were already packaged for the freezer):

Photos and words can't begin to convey their amazing flavor.

BeBop the little injured puppy is also hanging out in the kitchen.  What is she up to?  Doesn't she look timid and subdued?  Poor thing :(

But, don't be fooled.  She is still a puppy after all.

And, I've been grilling.  I love to cook and I love to grill out.  Lately it's been kabobs and kabobs and kabobs.  Shrimp, chicken, veggies, turkey meatballs, NY steaks (not as kabobs) and lots of mushrooms.  Mushrooms on those bamboo skewers, reduced to 2/3 their original size, with olive oil and some salt, are absolutely heavenly.

This was my first time putting shrimp on the grill, and I have to say, they were amazing.  The flavor of the shrimp was really accentuated and concentrated.  I think it was similar in principle to cooking the water out of the mushrooms, which concentrates their flavor.

It's fun cooking for and with the Clients, especially knowing they will enjoy their new kitchen so much, and get so much out of it.  Any time there is a particular interest of one of my clients, about which they are especially passionate, I am all the more inspired to make it the best it can be.

OList Happy Hour Tomorrow Evening

Tuesday evening marks the inaugural OList Twitter Happy Hour, the second of our weekly Twitter socials for OList members and lurkers.

The minute someone figures out how to send cocktails directly through the internet, I'll be happy to bartend for the whole group.  Until then, our Drink Specials and Appetizers will be topics of conversation taken from the OLists.  This week, however, to kick things off, we will be discussing OCON and the Atlanta Objectivist Society's MiniCON, held earlier this summer.

As Diana Hsieh posted previously on Noodle Food, this week's Appetizer is:
If you attended OCON or MiniCON (aka AOSMCON) what were the highlights for you? How did the conference compare with your expectations? Was there anything unexpected or particularly surprising about the conference?
and our Drink Special is:
Now that you're back to your life and its routines, what can you say were the things that have had the most practical value, that you got out of the conference? What has stayed with you, or had the biggest lasting impact on you?
Happy Hour will take place from 9-10 p.m. Eastern and 6-7 p.m. Pacific.  New to Twitter and not sure how it works?  A simple tutorial on getting started can be found here.  Big thanks to William Green for putting that together.

Yesterday was our first OList Twitter Brunch and it was a lot of fun.  We hope to repeat that success with Happy Hour, so join us!  If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Want to suggest a topic for a future Happy Hour?  You can leave it in the comments below, email me directly (firstname dot lastname at google mail) or better yet, tweet it to me @Earl3d!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 9: A Somewhat Slow Saturday

This morning Paul and Todd went to the vet for their lyme disease vaccinations.  The vet is about 45 minutes drive from here.  Mr. Client drove as he had to pick up his puppy, BeBop, a cute little Boston Terrier (aka little monster) who suffered a broken leg last week, the night I was in Atlanta.  She had to undergo surgery a couple days ago, and was just now coming home.

The veterinary facility we went to is very impressive.  It is out in the country, and they have the capacity to do surgeries on horses and such, right there on the premises.  Unfortunately, it was pouring down rain, so I couldn't really take any pictures.

They had some nifty benches in the waiting room, though, and I took some pictures of those.  The cool thing about the benches was that the seats are mounted on springs, so they bounced and rocked a little; a feature that I might just have to incorporate into an upcoming creation.

In other news, yesterday morning the farrier came and gave the horses pedicures.  The distinguishing characteristic about Ms. Client's horses is that they are all curly horses, and apparently curlies have extremely tough feet, and thus no need for shoes.  So, the farrier just trims and shapes their feet, cleaning them up, but doesn't put shoes on them.  Just when I went out to take photos of the farrier in action, my phone rang and I was tied up just long enough for them to finish without me.  I think they still have to come back for a couple of horses that didn't get farried (or whatever you call it that the farrier does when he's not really putting shoes on them) so I may get my pics yet.

After the farrier left, the farm dogs got a special treat:  they got to eat the trimmings.  Doesn't that just sound... um... just delicious?  So, Paul and Todd got to try the horses feet trimmings treats.

Todd snarfed his down really quickly.  He is aways a fast eater.

"Oh that was yummy! Can I have another?!"
Paul took his time.

"OmNomNom this is good!"

"Any more of those things around here?"

We keep getting intermittent showers and things are starting to get muddy.

This evening I took it upon myself to staple some plastic sheeting over a few of the larger window openings on the South side of the house, in an effort to help keep the rain out.  The roofs are on, and most of the house is wrapped in Tyvek (the white sheeting you see on the house in the pictures.)   This keeps out most of the rain, but the South side didn't get wrapped, and enough water has been coming in that I wanted to do something about it before Bob the Builder comes back on Monday.

The windows I covered are the large ones visible in this pic, taken this afternoon, before I covered them:

And then it was evening.  At night, the noise outside is cacophonous.  If you think it's quiet out in the country, think again.  It seems like most of the noise is from the frogs, but there are some rather loud crickets and other bugs as well.  The last couple of nights, there has been a frog at the window.  The light inside attracts bugs, and then the frog climbs up, sticks himself on the window glass, and eats from the buffet.

This coming week will probably continue to be on the slow side for the construction progress - at least at the beginning of the week.  By the end of the week, the specialty timbers that we dealt with yesterday will be delivered, and the framer will be back on the job.  Helping install that wood is the main thing I'm here for.  Then doors, windows and exterior siding, which will finally keep out the weather (and critters) allow them to start finishing up the interior.

So, I need to make the most of the coming week to finalize some of the interior design elements, such as the kitchen, fireplace, and bathrooms.  I'm excited about all of these things, and looking forward to this part of the process.

And, I need to get my welding shop up and running.  Then I can start making cool furniture for the place, utilizing some timber scraps and bits that I rescued and brought in out of the rain and mud this afternoon.  Perhaps even a bench on springs!  That's something I'm very, very excited about.