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Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

Diary #619

On Saturday, the weather helped me to accomplish with relative ease a task I thought was going to be rather difficult: putting the sapphire gems into the nursery in place of the pullets.  I let the pullets out, and blocked the poultry door so the others couldn’t get in until I was ready.  Then all I had to do was wait for one of the cloudbursts we had all day Saturday; I removed the block, let the hens come in from the rain, then re-blocked the entrance so they couldn’t get away.  Five minutes later, it was done.  The other adult hens seem uninterested in attacking the pullets, so I’m going to keep it this way for a week before letting the smallest of the sapphires out.  If that goes well, I’ll let the second one out a week later, then the largest (who seems to be the main culprit) three weeks hence.  If she behaves herself, well and fine; if not, she’s going down the road immediately because the few small brown eggs she lays aren’t worth her pecking the new pullets to death.  You can see in this picture that the one with the worst wounds is now almost healed; her feathers are regrowing nicely, and by the time I let the bad egg out again (sorry about that) it should be difficut to tell which it was.  So if I see more blood, I’ll know it’s a fresh attack and we’ll be back down to eight chickens until next spring.

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Bathhouse 65

Though it rained every day last week, it was mostly in the early morning; every day but Friday was clear in the afternoon.  So I was able to get a good amount of work done, as you can see.   We decided to do all the rest of the framework before starting with the roof panels; after this the cee purlins went up, and depending on the weather that stage may be mostly done by the time you read this.  After that, the panels are next; those on the southeast leaf should go pretty quickly, but the north side will require a lot more cutting and fitting.  Even so, the end is close now; after it’s all in place, I’ll have a lot of finish work to do, but by early June we should be starting the long-delayed phase 5 of the project.

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Diary #618

Years ago, I worked out a system to stop older hens from pecking pullets to death, and it worked fine up until this year.  The sapphire gems I got last year have proven to be more aggressive than any other hens I’ve ever had; they simply wouldn’t stop viciously going after the pullets, despite my precautions.  Nor was it limited to only one of the pullets; all three have been bloodied, but after an especially-vicious attack last week I was forced to put the little ones back into the nursery in order to protect them.  If you want to see, enlarge the picture and look at the back of the middle one’s neck; it was originally much uglier, because this is after several days of my putting antibiotic salve on the wound.  The one on the right has a less serious wound atop her head, and the one which looks unharmed was severely pecked in her anal area when she tried to escape by going into a gap in the wall that had no other way out.  Next week, I plan to let them out and put the blues into the cage for several weeks, then let those out one at a time to see if the behavior resumes (and cull the offenders if it does; I can’t have hens that try to kill every new arrival).  I don’t plan to buy any more of the breed in the future, and if you keep chickens my advice is you don’t, either.  They’re attractive, healthy birds, but the small brown eggs they lay aren’t worth this kind of trouble when I could have some nice white leghorns or Rhode Island reds.

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Bathhouse 64

We finally got two warm days without rain, and were thus able to get the cottage roof headers connected to each other and to the surrounding structure. Welding and plasma cutting both require a ground connected to the metal being welded; since it’s a pain to have to keep moving he ground clamp around, it’s helpful to avoid “orphan” structural members, such as the roof headers were prior to making these connections. But now the header on the northwest cottage (which is the one I’m standing on in this picture) is connected to the larger structure over the new bathroom (not visible in this picture), and also to the beam that forms the roof peak (center of the picture); that let me weld the connection between the headers (lower left, under the apple branch I have since pruned off) and the beam connecting the southeast cottage to the structure atop the shop.  Later on, we also welded a beam from the peak of the second cottage to the structure over the central post.  The rain hasn’t yet stopped; it has appeared every day this week.  However, it’s mostly been in the morning, leaving the afternoons clear; you’ll see what we did after this next week!

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Diary #617

Spring has finally arrived, albeit a month late, and I think the animals are even happier about it than I am.  I’ve never even seen Jonathan sunbathing like this; usually the only time he lies flat like that is when he’s taking a dust bath in the summer, and at those times he’s rolling back and forth rather than lying still.  You can see that his wool is a frightful mess from all the mud; he’s been combing it by circling cedar trees which keeping his head down, so the branches pull out all the loose, dirty wool, but on Saturday he just wanted to enjoy the sun.  I saw practically every pet doing something similar at some point that day; even the chickens seemed to be enjoying it.  It still tends to be pretty rainy here in May and June, but warm spring rains are not at all the same thing as frigid rain alternating with hail and snow; here’s hoping that by the next time we see either of those sorts of precipitation, the bathhouse is snugly sealed up so it’s not quite such a hassle as it was this winter.

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Part of the reason I got such a good deal on my property was that superficially, the house was in a frightful condition.  It was structurally sound, solid, and dry, and though we needed to do considerable work on the electrical and water systems to get them to the level I was comfortable with, we were able to move in right away and then fix it up over time.  But while I cleaned up the most obvious dirt, dust, and grime pretty quickly, and tackled the less-obvious stuff as I got to it in the process of remodeling, every house (especially a 100-year-old one) has innumerable nooks, crannies, corners, behind-fixture spaces, and other places where grunge and filth can hide.  On top of everything else, the house was unoccupied by humans for so long, the spiders had multiplied until they were numerous enough to field an entire arachnid legion without much trouble; it seemed like no matter how often I cleared away the cobwebs, there were plenty more within just a few days.  Had I attempted to get it all perfectly clean from the get-go, I would’ve been so overwhelmed I would’ve had little time or energy for anything else, so instead I adopted a strategy of “clean enough”, keeping in mind that it’s a farmhouse near a rain forest, and that we have pets and have been constantly remodeling for the past five years.  Over the past two I’ve been living here full-time, and except when I’m traveling or absolutely slammed with the building project, I like to clean pretty well once a week; I dust, vacuum, wipe down the counters, clean the stove, mop the floor, etc.  And over the past year I’ve realized that almost every time I do so, I notice some crud somewhere that I hadn’t before; it’s as though it had been hiding and suddenly leapt out at me, taunting me until I eliminate it.  Obviously, that’s silly; most of this grot has actually been there since the last owners were alive, and I simply hadn’t gotten around to looking closely enough at the spot it was lurking to notice it before.  But I think a lot of my not-noticing is a psychological defense; my brain refuses to register most of it because if I did, I wouldn’t stop cleaning until I dropped from exhaustion.  So I only let myself notice one or two such spots every time I clean, and as the general level of cleanliness increases, the remaining problem areas become more noticeable one by one.  This is, as I wrote above, a farm; it’ll never match an operating theater.  But it’s reached the point where most of the rooms now look clean to me, and it’s a lot easier to maintain that level once achieved than to deal with hidden messes which have been slowly accumulating since the late twentieth century.

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Diary #616

I think my Amazon wishlist probably confuses some people, because I only put things on it that I actually want, and my tastes can be rather eclectic.  I know that some sex workers put a lot of stuff on theirs that they think guys want to see (expensive lingerie, shoes, sex toys, etc), and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But as I’ve pointed out before, I’m not actually very good at marketing; I’m mostly only good at being myself, and the idea of getting people to send me things I don’t actually want or need just does not compute in my brain.  So though the juxtaposition in this picture may seem strange to you, they’re both presents recently sent me by generous gentlemen from the aforementioned wishlist.  Now, in real life there’s no way I would wear a beautiful new cashmere sweater to use my beautiful new chainsaw, but it makes a lot better picture than the shabby old clothes I’d really wear when using it, and it drives home the point about the eclecticism of my list.  Right now, it consists of four movies, three music CDs, two TV series, three discs of cartoons from Croatia and a medieval riddle book, but it often contains much stranger things than that.  Which, given that I’m pretty strange myself, makes perfect sense.

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Bathhouse 63

While I was welding the truss for most recently-completed roof section together, it occured to me that we could use purlins with a center notch cut out as the headers over the cottages.  Grace thought it was a good idea, so she calculated the right angles for the notches and cut them out, allowing the purlins to flex in the middle.  It was actually pretty easy to get them into place, far easier than I expected; unfortunately, it started raining just as we finished and it has rained nearly every day since.  It didn’t bother me too much, because though it isn’t safe to get up on a ladder in the rain, it wasn’t actually too bad doing the fence work I had to finish, since most of the rain we’ve had (with the exception of the first weekend of April) was just a drizzle.  Anyway, you can see that we’ve placed the headers over the front walls of the cottages, which are the strongest part of the rooves; they’re not actually attached right now, merely held in place by gravity.  Next we’ll connect both of them to each other and to the existing structure on either side; after that it’s purlins and roofing, then all the finish work.  I’m hoping to be finished with the rough work by the end of this month, and the finish work by the end of May; then I can at last come down from the roof, and the majority of the remaining work will be done from floor level.

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Diary #615

Jae’s patron has been offering to build a stable for her pony for quite some time now; the barn is just too large for the animals’ body heat to warm it adequately, and Shiloh actually has a kind of allergy to hay dust, so a hay barn isn’t a healthy environment for her.  Since the temporary shelter got ripped up in a windstorm a few weeks ago, the plan had to be moved from theory to reality.  I told them I was happy to provide the space as long as it was big enough for Jonathan and Cicero too, so last Wednesday a shipment of lumber and other supplies arrived, and on Friday and Saturday we dodged rain (and even a little hail) to get the frame started.  After getting the foundation blocks in place, I mostly assisted with the framing and spreading those wood chips around; there was some miscommunication about size, so we stopped when we mostly ran out of lumber, and will finish framing in the near future.  It’ll be nice to have something more solid for the pony and llama, and I’m really tired of having to clean up the shop from Cicero staying there at night.  I think he approves; if you look closely at the picture below, you’ll be able to see where he parked himself to watch us working.

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Bathhouse 62

The amount of floor area that stays relatively dry during a rainstorm is growing with every additional roof section I complete.  Of course, the wind can whip rain in from the sides, and in this particular area water running down the cottage roof can of course drip into the covered area.  But the area near the original house wall now stays dry enough for me to have started keeping the tools there; while I still haven’t managed to stop all the leaks from between the rooves, I’ve installed a gutter which carries the runoff to a downspout which drops it into the main drain under the deck, beside the hot tub.  Since we’re getting close to the two-year mark for this project, I’m really pretty tired of the deck getting slick (and in some areas, slimy) when it rains, and icy when it freezes; I’ll be really glad when we can pressure-wash it and expect it to stay dry except for wet footprints or bathroom splash.  By the time you read this, we’ll be working on the framework for the final (complex) roof section over the two cottages; look for a picture next Friday!

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