Tag Archives: fail

March Update…Finally

March has glided into the Oregon bringing plum blossoms, morels  and humming pollinators.

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Sarah is working happily away  with Sum Of Us, and I’ve been working on the land here gardening, building ‘A’ frames for a green house, and re-roofing the cabin we’re living in while we finish the Tiny House.  It literally blew off in a huge storm that rolled through.  This required peeling it off, scooping out the rotten old fiber-glass insulation (worst part…most def.), replacing and sistering in rafters, re-sheathing and putting on standing seam metal roofing and flashing a chimney.  While it took longer than I thought it would, it didn’t take long at all…and the next metal roof that I do will be even better.

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The good news is the tiny house is bone dry.  That storm didn’t even come close!  WOOT! While we were gone, there were some woodpeckers that made a home in the house, but then a ring-tailed cat moved in and took care of that problem!  I evicted them plus a few wasps with a little sage smoke and we’re off to the races.

I feel like I’m continually finding ways that the house ‘could be better’ if only x-y-z, but at the same time I’m charmed by the little mistakes.  I have even started laughing (lovingly) at ‘Past-Joseph’ when ‘Present-Joseph’, who has excellent hind-sight, comes upon something that his predecessor did that made the next step SO much more difficult.

The ridge cap is a perfect example of this.  I know what the roofing directions told me to do, but the stock ridge cap that came with the roofing material was too small for our massive ridge beam and I just HAD to do it my way *eye-roll*.  So I made a bigger ridge cap out of the metal sheeting, bent the edges a few times to mimic the original cap thinking the “z” channeling that we put on for ventilation would snug into it nicely.

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The crimped edge of metal.

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‘Z’ channeling plus the big ridge beam.

This was dramatically foiled as I precariously tried putting a 25′ long 65 lbs piece of steel on in one long ‘home run’ and, after dropping it twice, hollered for Sarah to come up and help.  She did, we got it on, but the piece was bent all over the place, and it was foolish to think that I could make a machine-straight bend in a piece of metal with only hand tools, then put it on while precariously straddling the roof.

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Well, we’ve come this far!

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I move forward knowing that this self here IS the past self, and will have to contend with/fix/accept the choices I make again and again as the learning curve winds on.  It’s always a funny feeling to be SO SURE of what I’m doing, knowing full well that there will be something that humbles me coming down the pipe.  There WILL be some part of the task that is unexpected, it’s never what I think it will be.  After all, ‘these are the stones on which we choose to whet the keen edge of our spirit.’*

Next week I’ll start running electrical, and now that we’re a little more settled in this life,  be more diligent about updating the blog.  Thanks for reading!

Parting shots!

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Siding trim coming together.

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These gloves have worked hard for me.

 

Cuper grillin me, as Annie looks on approvingly.
Throwback!  Coopy practices for his performance as Rodolfo, in La Boheme

 

 

*Paraphrased from Richard Bach.

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!

 

The Discomfort and the Freedom of Not Knowing

The hot Sonoma sun beat down on our shiny black trailer, our sunhats, and our neatly placed two-by-fours.  Those 2X4s had not come easy.  2X4s (as I learned only recently) are used to make studs, which are like the bones of the house.  The first part of framing the walls is cutting the 2X4s to the right size and nailing them together.  We’d spent most of the previous day working with the building plans to accommodate our salvaged windows and our trailer, which seemed to be slightly narrower than the one in the plans.  I can’t imagine how it took us so long to adjust the plans for that first wall, but I’ll just say I haven’t seen so many fractions since the third grade, and there are many hidden dimensions, overlaps, and extra spaces that need to be accounted for.

Nicola, our architect friend, stopped by to say hi.  I asked him about one of our assumptions–that our trailer was two inches narrower than the trailer in the plans.

“No….” he said, “The wall extends for an inch beyond the trailer on both sides.”  And he went on to show us how the wall in the plans was designed to be wider than the trailer.

“Okay,” I said, trying to sound cheerful and resilient and ready to start all over again.  When Nicola left we set the 2X4s aside and took a long lunch break. We barely spoke except to say, “disheartened… demoralized… disappointed.”

Joseph muttered, “Of course, I should have known.”

I sat with my complete unknowing, wondering, “What makes me think I can do this thing that professionals do?”

It is so uncomfortable to know so little, to work so hard to try to understand and then to fail and have nothing to show for all that work.  It’s hard enough in general to not fall victim to imposter syndrome (when people, especially women, underestimate their own expertise), and now I’ve taken on a project where I really don’t know anything.  I don’t even know what some of these tools are called!  The challenge is to withstand the uncomfortable feeling of incompetence.  There are lots of things I am good at, and wouldn’t be more comfortable to just do those?

Seth Godin says, “Learn something new for no apparent reason,” as part of his artist’s path.  As we get older we are less and less comfortable with starting at the beginning. We feel we are too old to be true beginners.  We feel silly.  Like when you are learning a language and meet young native-speaking children,

“That four-year-old speaks better Spanish than I do!  With a perfect accent!”  In fact, she speaks better Spanish than I ever will.

The challenge is to immerse myself completely in this learning, even not seeing how it connects to what I’ll do once this project is over.  I need to learn as much as I can so I can do this project right now, whether or not I ever do it again.  This can be frustrating and demoralizing… but maybe it can also be a kind of freedom, a kind of bemused awe at the myriad things I’m not an expert in, but can now appreciate the depth of skill of someone who is.

It’s even a bit of a relief to know nothing.  I am just a person who never learned to build and is now, for some reason, trying to do so, stumbling along putting together a durable, square, impermeable house.  If I mess it up it doesn’t say anything about my value as a person.  My ego has nowhere to stand.  Occasionally she gets a bit of a toehold,

“Aha, I’m actually not bad at measuring and cutting 2X4s on the chop saw.”  But then they don’t fit!  What happened?

All this humility is uncomfortable, exhausting, and… good practice.   After our lunch break we started again–back to modifying the plans, measuring, cutting.  We finished our first framed wall the following afternoon.  We can do it, but slowly, slowly.

When you’ve started something as an adult and a true beginner, how was that for you?  Did you enjoy the freedom to fail?  Or were you frustrated by not being able to do what others did so easily?  Or some combination?

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2X4s, properly measured, cut, and arranged, at last