Tag Archives: DIY

April Build Update

Lot’s of pictures coming up! (With lambs, of course!)

We backed the house into the barn and stored all the materials underneath it or in unused horse stalls in the back. wpid-20140219_161041.jpg

Joseph using the barn beams to plumb the walls of the house.

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A view from where the lofts are about to be put in.
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4X4 Redwood beams sanded with 240 grit paper, then put into place.  It’s hard to NOT pet them as we walk under

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With the help of my friend Edward, the loft gets put into place! Oh how sweet it is.wpid-20140322_143735.jpg wpid-20140322_143724.jpg wpid-20140317_155100.jpg

A better view of the redwood beam under the tongue-and-groove cedar loft.wpid-20140317_151856.jpg

Edward and I enjoying the view from what will be the bedroom!
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Building up the side wall by about 6”.  We didn’t extend the sheathing up past our framing (like we were supposed to do), so we’re putting these nifty Simpson plates on, to attach the sheathing and to add to the structural integrity.

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Simpson plates? $.49 each.  Hammer and nails? $21.86.  The feeling that our house can whiz down the highway without racking?  Priceless.
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Sometimes you just get your head stuck in a fence…wpid-20140414_103543.jpg…when going for the wisteria!  #ranchlifewpid-20140414_103526.jpg

Stuffing insulation loosely into the wall headers.  It’s the air that makes insulation do what it does, and if you pack it too tightly, it transfers cold and heat too easily.wpid-20140317_155035.jpgwpid-20140317_151835.jpg

Here’s Meg helping us out!  Things go SO much faster with her around.  Good luck in Indiana, Meg…See you soon! 
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Sarah and Meg knocking it OUT!wpid-20140326_162831.jpgwpid-20140326_140812.jpg

Puttin’ on the Rit…uh…. house wrap!
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Cutting out the windows and flashing them.

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Our window nook taking shape!wpid-20140404_130728.jpg

Color test for our cedar siding.  We have a winner!
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Porch being built.
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Our new/old table saw… They don’t make them like this anymore. wpid-20140415_100743.jpg

How we did without it before, I’ll never know.

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We want this image as a stained glass window in our work loft.  4 or 6-sided.  Anyone know someone who does stained glass?
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All the windows are IN!  Shimmed and ready for trim, which will also double as window-holder-inners.
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Breaking the shims off is the fun part.

wpid-20140414_171914.jpgI left a LOT of space to make mistakes for the windows, thinking I’d need the extra leeway to get it right.  All I can say is, it’s just not needed.  1/2” on all sides is all you need, and it’s both easier and better insulated if your rough opening is smaller.  Live + learn.
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To put the windows in by myself, I made these jigs for the outside of the window.  I used them to clamp onto and as spacers to allow for the 1” overhang on the outside.wpid-20140414_172519.jpgwpid-20140412_121735.jpgwpid-20140414_172513.jpg

The last window that went in had nailing fins… = cake!wpid-20140415_135228.jpg

Coop-n-Annie…

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That’s all for now.  I hope to put up some videos next week about all these things.  Also to look forward to: bed vetting, window trimming, painting and figuring out utilities (this one makes me nervous).  Oh and lambs and sheep.  Plenty more lambs and sheep.

You Get What You Pay For

While I haven’t written here for a while, I feel an update is definitely due.  This is not that update. :-/

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I’m writing to extol the virtues of the Local Hardware Store which will heretofore be referred to by the acronym LHS.

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Big Box Stores (BBS) like Lowes, Home Depot, Friedmans, Amazon…They have everything a consumer could possibly need! It’s cheaper than going to that little store on the corner, right?  Plus, they present options beyond your wildest dreams, right? How could an LHS compete with the shear magnitude and inventory at one of these places? However, I’ve proven again and again that, in the long run, getting something at your LHS is a lot less expensive than the cheaper big-box store.
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To wit.
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We’ve been dealing with a tricky septic situation here on the ranch for the past month or so, and it finally looks like it might be resolved in the near future. I needed some pretty specialized items and went to Maselli’s, our beloved LHS.  Upon walking in, one of the owners (actually, I’m not sure if he is an owner, but he certainly takes ownership and knows everything) asked if I needed help.  It felt a little like if a major league ball player asked if I needed help with my curve ball.
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YES! I DO! I told him exactly what I needed, and he showed me to the PVC fittings.  I picked out what I thought I needed, asked a few more questions about possible hacks for a flotation ball that popped off the septic pump (I’m currently using a tennis ball…which everyone approved of) and went to check out.  The guy at check out noticed that I had grabbed two different pipe fittings, though they were both three inches in diameter.  He explained that one is for drains, and the other for pressurized systems, and pointed out that the drainage one was noticeably smaller.  Then I held up my pipe, and he asked if I had all purpose glue.  “Regular PVC glue won’t work?”  No, apparently my pipe isn’t the regular type of PVC, so I ran back and got the “290” glue like he said and came back to finish checking out.  He further mentioned that my pipe plug was 6”, just in case, and I told him it was for a different project completely.  He nodded and wished me a good luck.
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This visit to Maselli’sMead Clarke, or my childhood LHS, Smith and Strebels, would have been the same.  The professionals throughout the store offered their specialized help, and the checkout people knew what they were looking at and helped troubleshoot my problem before I had one!
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Based on previous experiences in the BBS’s, I can imagine I would have wandered around without any help, left with different size fittings (even though they’re both three inches), inappropriate glue, and the wrong size pipe-plug.  I’d get home, try all my fittings, glue the ones that did work with the wrong glue, spend time figuring out where I went wrong,  ask Google perhaps, call dad, go back to the store and, after about eight hours, maybe get it right the second time.  Instead, I solved it all the same day with the friendly, non-judgmental help from some real pro’s who love helping other people DIY.
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So yes, BBS’s are cheaper if you don’t count time and frustration.  The prices are lower and so is the quality.  We’ve decided, unequivocally that buying something at an LHS for a little more money, makes up for the time, gas, and soul-drainage spent frequenting BBS’s.
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For the sake of length I’ve refrained from enumerating my BBS follies, and LHS triumphs, but would love to hear about yours! Go LHS!

 

Life on the Sheep Ranch

There’s a ranch in Sonoma County, with sheep and cows mostly – some horses, turkeys, bobcats, jackrabbits, a family of deer, and a tall redwood where ravens harass red-tails, and owls just try to blend in.  A three-mile dirt road winds off of a twelve-mile, farm-lined paved road (that leads to ‘civilization’), and at the end of that road is the ranch, a house, and us.    We are caretakers of this land for the owners (who live elsewhere).  Our lives are rich with sheepy-details and sheepy-learnings; we are the shepherds here.

We love this place.  We love the rolling California hills, which were kelly green and smacked of Ireland when we arrived six months ago, and are now a deep, golden-brown .  Here is a little video of us and the property only a few days after we arrived.


We have both lived in plenty of off-grid situations before, but neither of us knew anything about animal husbandry.  There are two flocks of sheep we’re responsible for, one for meat, one for milk, about 150 sheep in total.  We feed them, water them, repair their barn, and generally keep an eye on them.  They tend to get their heads stuck in fences,  sprain ankles, and sometimes they escape their pastures, only to get left behind by the herd.  As herd animals, being alone is the worst.

A month or two after we arrived a mama sheep died, and we raised her baby, who we started calling Lambikin (rhymes with ramekin).  We fed her lamb formula from a bottle twice a day for about two months.  She stayed around our house and slept in a barn across from us rather than wandering with the herd.

Here is a Lambikin photo collection, from our first feeding when she was just a  baby lamb, to a photo from just the other day, where you can see her as the robust, trouble-making teenage lamb that she is now.

Lambie's first feeding. She was terrified of us at first.  But it only took a couple of days for her to change her mind about us, and soon she was following us around.
Lambie’s first feeding. She was terrified of us at first. But it only took a couple of days for her to change her mind, and soon she was following us around.
Lambs don't really like to cuddle or play the ways dogs or cats do.  We guess that as "prey" animals it feels like an attack.  But Lambikin does like having her neck scratched, she also likes bumping up against you so that she knows where you are, and resting her head in your hand.
Lambs don’t really like to cuddle or play the ways dogs or cats do. We think that as prey animals it feels like an attack. But Lambikin does like having her neck scratched, she also likes bumping up against you so that she knows where you are, and resting her head in your hand.
Kind of the best photo of Lambikin ever, with our dear friend's wonderful son.  He was scared of Lambie at first (he'd never seen such an animal before!) and she was scared of him ('cause she's scared of pretty much everything) but they got used to each other and we think they even shared some baby mammal secrets with each other.
Kind of the best photo of Lambikin ever, with our dear friend’s wonderful son. He was scared of Lambie at first (he’d never seen such an animal before!) and she was scared of him (because she’s scared of pretty much everything), but they got used to each other and we think they even shared some baby mammal secrets with each other.
A very patient lamb.
A very patient lamb.
Lambikin on the runway.
Lambikin on the runway.
Lambie is starting to get Sheepie.
Lambie is starting to get Sheepie.

Eventually, and with trepidation, we re-introduced her to the flock.   She is doing really well there.  We think she is a well-adjusted sheep.  When we go out to feed the sheep  they all run away (they always run away, that’s what they do), but Lambie runs towards us baa-ing her baa that is so distinctive only to us.  We love her the most.

This is an experiment.  Testing the waters of living off the map, with the hope of one day parking our tiny house in a place like this.  A place that has room for community; a place with open land where you don’t have to worry about running the tractor into anything and the circadian rhythm of life takes over.  A place where we can step outside and take a deep breath when we need some space to create or wander.

This is one of many seeds being sown right now.  We’re learning new skills at every turn and planning way down in the sub-conscious for something still to come.  What it looks like…well…how can we know?

Or as Lambikin would certainly say…..  Baa.