Thursday, February 15, 2018

Returning to normal (a little)

The last month has been spent making progress in the main bay downstairs.  To finish up from the last post, Jeremy go the stairs pegged and the pipe clamps off, so we have real stairs now! 

Pegged stairs

I also finished the end wall of the laundry room and Scott got the electrical taken care of so that we could finally get a washing machine.  No more laundrymat!!!! 

New washer and built in shelves

And along with those finishing details, we got the laundry/utility lights wired and installed and got the light at the top of the stairs wired and installed.  With a little more electrical tie up, we were able to have actual operating lights everywhere except the kitchen and dining room. 

The stairs were the last holdup for getting the rest of the downstairs floor tiled.  Because the tile pattern is centered on the front door (right in front of the stairs) and there is already a section of tile there under the wood stove, we had to begin the new tile on that side.  With the stair feet locked down, we could finally put down the rest of the cement board. 

Dining room and living room prepped for tile

Ultimately, we did tile in 4 phases to account for having to move stuff around on the first floor.  First, we did the north 3/4 of the living room.  Why 3/4 you ask?  Because we still had to be able to get from upstairs to the bathroom and the kitchen while the tile set up, so we left a path without tile on the south side of the room and at the base of the stairs.  This stage didn't get grouted immediately because we thought we would finish the dining room and then tile all of that side at one time.

Once that set up, we shuffled stuff around and did the tile in the dining room.  Here is where our former plan kinda crapped out.  We had to move stuff onto the living room tile to be able to clear out where the dining room tile had to go.  Sigh.  So we got the dining room done, grouted and sealed, then did the stuff shuffle again. 

Jacob was my mortar mixer and gopher while Jeremy cut tiles

 The finished dining room floor

We decided to try a blitzkrieg day on Saturday the 3rd - finish all the tile in the main bay was the goal.  That included putting cement board down in the kitchen, tiling the entry and south 1/4 of the living room and doing all the tile in the kitchen.  Despite our best efforts and a very long day, we still had half the kitchen left when we had to call it a day.  We still considered it a success though and we got to have Matt Jolley out to help again which is always fun.  I grouted all the new tile and part of the old living room tile (that wasn't covered by stuff) on Sunday and sealed it up on Monday.  Woo hoo for finished floor!

 Half the kitchen done

Entryway tile

South 1/4 under the stairs

Catherine is our expert grout washer!

Weather was a constant concern through this process.  The tile saw has to be set up outside which means that the weather has to be above freezing and not super windy.  That limited the days that we could lay tile pretty significantly.  Because of that, I took a day of vacation on a Thursday to finish laying tile in the kitchen rather than wait for another nice day on the weekend.  Doing the other half the kitchen required installing the floor outlets first though, so Scott and Jeremy worked Wednesday night and got those installed.  They were even able to place them so that the landed inside of the grey diamonds in the tile pattern!  The result looked really nice when it was all grouted and sealed.  With a solid day of work, Jeremy and I got the rest of the kitchen tile down.  I couldn't do the grout the rest of the living room and the kitchen until Saturday, but I got it done just before bedtime on Saturday evening.  Unfortunately, that meant cleaning up the grout lines in the living room without great lighting and while tired.  When we looked Sunday morning there were several spots that needed patched so I did that on Sunday.  The tile was finally sealed up and ready to have things put on it by Tuesday. 

This is where we started - you can see the 2 floor outlets.

Finished tile

 Floor outlets inscribed in the diamond

And with that, the downstairs suddenly got to be organized!  The couch went to its final home in the living room, the buffet to its home, the piano and dining room table to their homes.  The refrigerator is still waiting for the last electrical in the kitchen to get tied up, but finally being able to spread things out has made a huge difference. 

We still have to wrap up the tile in the storage/utility area that was left from Christmas, but we're almost done with the floors downstairs.  Hopefully that will happen in the next few days.  Jeremy has already started cutting trim to finish out the spaces and I am eagerly looking forward to finishing up some other small projects that have been on the back burner while we focused on tile.

These milestones really bring home the length of the journey we've been on.  Most of the time, we just put our heads down and keep plugging away at whatever is next on the list.  It often seems like an endless list - a never ending treadmill of work on the house - then we get a moment where something goes back to being normal again that has been off for a long time.  When we finally set up the couch again and sat down we realized it has been 6 months since we've had a couch to sit on.  When we used a light switch to light up the living room instead of a lamp or headlamp, when we did the first load of laundry at home in so long, something started changing.  The house felt more like home, more like "normal".  We started to feel like our old life was coming back after a long hiatus.  It feels good.

There's still plenty to do before the house is actually finished, but these little steps feel pretty huge to us.  We've even started talking through the garden for this year!  The light at the end of this very long tunnel of house building is getting brighter.  Finally. 

Another sign of the normal annual cycle of farm life arrived in the middle of January - kids!  We had 6 does kid in the span of a week in January in the coldest weather we have ever kidded in.  As a result, we lost our first kids - a really nice set of twins from Rosie.  They were already frozen when we went to check on the goats.  It is so hard to lose any of them.  The other kiddings went well and all the mamas and babies are doing well.  We had 8 kids from the other 5 does (3 sets of twins and 2 singles) and the cuteness has been irresistible ever since.  We will have 2 or 3 more does kidding in another month or so, but for now we're enjoying this round.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Stairs, walls and floors!

We continue to make progress, albeit slowly.  The last month was spent making progress on the laundry room, getting the water heater going (finally!), hanging drywall in the kitchen and getting stairs in.

First, we got the water heater working.  I was elsewhere for this event so it didn't get photographed, but man was that first hot shower at home amazing!  Finishing the vent stack for the water heater also enabled us to finish out the last of the laundry room/coat closet.  We started by hanging the last drywall in that space, then moved on with the usual mud/sand/mud/sand exercise.

First coat of mud
Power panel ready for paint

We got it primed and painted before the holidays, so I spent the time just before Christmas putting down cement board and laying tile in the laundry.  For anyone not local, we have been in a deep freeze since just before Christmas eve, so getting the tiles cut for this work involved a very cold Jeremy running a tile saw well past dark while I carefully laid out tile and marked cuts.  We ended the evening of the 22nd with all the tiles cut for the laundry and the first couple of rows in the coat closet.  We couldn't keep going - it was just too cold to keep cutting - so the rest of the coat closet will get tiled later.

Cement board ready for tile

We were up early the morning of the 23rd to lay tile before we left town for Wichita.  We were supposed to be there for lunch, so the race was on!  I managed to lay all the tiles we had cut and Jeremy was amazing and cut a couple of re-do's and a couple of extras so we got a little more done than we thought we would.  Here's what it looked like when we left town:

When we got back, I knocked the levelers off so we could walk on it more easily.  There was one tile that didn't stick in one corner that I had to re-lay, but the rest of the floor was solid.  Woo hoo!  I felt pretty good about that for my first attempt at laying tile.  I got the tile grouted the day after Christmas and I think it turned out pretty well!

As my Christmas present to myself, I sealed up the coat closet studs and installed the coat hooks.  I think our family must have 20 different coats and jackets that had been strewn around the house.  It was driving me more than a little bit crazy!  I feel much better now that they all have a home.

You can see the line of unfinished stud at the back

All sealed up and ready for hooks

The coats have a home!

Meanwhile, Jeremy worked on the stairs for most of December.  You saw the rough cut treads in the last post.  Each of them got sanded 3 times, shaped, cut to length, any cracks filled with wood epoxy, sanded again and then Jeremy got to start on the runners and go through all of it again!  Once everything was sanded and test fit, he put 2 coats of tung oil on them and it really brought out the grain and beauty of the douglas fir.  The result is so worth the weeks of work!  We got them installed on the 22nd, although they were held together with pipe clamps.  The treads will get pegged into the runners just like the knee braces everywhere else in the house.  It was so nice to finally fold up the ladder we had been using to get to the second floor!

Treads with wood epoxy drying

Chiseling out tread slots

 Assembling the finished stairs

The craftsman with his creation!

Now we are working on finishing the last of the sanding, mudding and painting downstairs and moving on with tile!  Bit by bit, it is getting there.

Friday, December 8, 2017


Getting the wood stove installed and ready turned out to be a fairly involved process.  First, we had to get the corner finished and tiled.  Thanks to some amazing help from Chris Kesslering and, of course, Scott Dunn, we managed to get that done!  The backsplash is slate and the floor tile is porcelain.

 Scott working on the slate backsplash

Chris working on the floor tile

The finished corner!

We wanted to put the wood stove on a platform to make it easier to load, easier to sit by the fire and to gain some storage underneath.  From that vague description, Jeremy created an amazing piece of incredibly functional and sturdy furniture.  First, he made the pieces out of 3/4" furniture plywood.
Then I stained all the pieces a dark walnut so they would more closely match the eventual window sills in the living room.  After the stain, they all got 2 coats of polyurethane to seal them up.

Platform pieces being sealed

With the pieces finished, it was time to assemble the platform!  Once it was together, Jeremy tiled the top of it and then made cedar trim to match the other cedar details in the house.  The finished platform is perfect!

 Platform assembled and tiled - ready for the wood stove!

 Finished platform with cedar trim

In the midst of working on all this, we found a really cool wood stove on Craigslist.  It is unlike anything we've seen before but it was the right price and so we decided to give it a try.  With the platform done, we set the wood stove and started piping the flu.  Over the course of a few hours and with more help from Scott Dunn, we got the flu installed.  Let me tell you, after a week of temperatures in the 50's in the house, that fire felt amazing!

We had been "heating" the house with candles and terra cotta pots for a couple of weeks.  It was more than a little cold!

 Jeremy and Scott making the flu connections


 Here is our cool little Morso stove.  It has been remarkably functional and efficient, not to mention being beautiful!

With heat in the house, we were finally able to get back to focusing on the stairs and the rest of the downstairs.  Before the stairs can go in, the tall walls in the living room had to get the drywall finished, be painted and have trim installed.  We also had to get the ceiling fan installed in the living room so that the rolling scaffolding could get taken down to make room for the stairs.  First, we did drywall.  I finally got to cut my teeth with a mud knife in addition to my already developed sanding skills.

 The "short" living room wall mudded (its only 13 feet tall).

Between Scott and I, we got all the drywall in the laundry room, dining room and living room finished and sanded.  I spent Thanksgiving day sanding drywall and masking off all the wood for paint. 

Laundry room masked for painting

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, my Mother and Stepfather, Connie and Frank Bondurant, came up to help for the day.  Mom, Catherine and I managed to get all 3 rooms primed and painted while Frank, Jeremy and Jacob got 2 walls of drywall done in the kitchen.  As a bonus, we harvested the 15 rabbits we have been putting off for the last month.  It was an amazingly productive and exhausting day.

I got to paint the tall wall (19 feet) and look down on the other 2!

 Catherine had fun with the super extension roller.

Here are 3 of the 15 rabbits we harvested that day.  It went fast with 3 of us!

We were all pooped after all that.  A sit down was in order!

Since then, we have completed the trim on both tall living room walls and Jeremy has started work on the stairs.  The stair runners are 3x10's and the treads are also, so this will be a serious staircase when its all done!

Treads cut and ready for sanding.

Here is the template for the runners in place. 

We got the ceiling fan hung on Wednesday of this week so we can start disassembling the scaffolding finally!  It will be nice to have the space back and not have that very visible piece of construction equipment sitting in the living room anymore.  Getting up on a wobbly ladder on top of wobbly scaffolding was a bit intense though.  Everyone was happy when that job was done!

Ceiling fan going in!

Next we will be working to finish the stairs, get the propane connected to the hot water and get the storage/utility room ready for tile.  Bit by bit, it's coming together!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Real rooms and lights!

At the end of the last post, we were starting the flooring in the bedrooms.  Since then, we have finished the flooring and trim and gotten the lights and outlets all done for all 3 bedrooms.  Woot!  We are all in our own rooms for the first time in 4 years with actual furniture (not plastic bins and suitcases).  Wow.  So, back to where we left off....

While Scott and I worked on flooring upstairs, Jeremy cut our leftover car siding into trim for the upstairs.  This way it matches the ceilings and the beams and we don't have to buy more stuff.

Stack of trim waiting to be installed

Once the trim was made, he moved on to finishing out the windows.  We used cedar boards milled from trees we cut off of my mother's family farm (where she was born) to finish out the deep window wells and do the window built in shelves in our room.  They are absolutely beautiful thanks to Jeremy's amazing attention to detail.  There is something really special about being able to tell my kids that when their grandmother was a little girl, she probably played around the trees that are now in their windows.  You can read the story of us cutting those trees 5 years ago here:

Sealing the boards after they were cut to fit.

The first finished window!
Cedar under our window waiting for the built in


While Jeremy was busy with that, Scott and I hung the ceiling fans in the bedrooms, finished out the rest of the upstairs electrical and hung the doors.   Doing the trim was somewhat tricky in that our beams are not square thanks to the trees growing on the side of a mountain.  That meant that the trim around every beam and collar tie had to be custom cut which was a very fiddly, tedious process.  The end result is beautiful though!

Doors hung

Finicky trim

They were predicting a very cold couple of nights and we really wanted to get the kids into their rooms and out of the RV before that happened, so we were all in on getting the rooms done.  We just made it!  The kids got to sleep in their own rooms for the first time on the first near freezing night of this fall.  Whew!  Then we started moving the rest of their furniture in and put the finishing touches on Jeremy and I's room. 

Jacob on moving day
Our room with actual furniture!

With everyone in a more stable sleeping place, it was time to get the power on to the house.  We had been running our refrigerator and a single lamp off of an extension cord from the outlet in the shed since August.  Now that we had all the circuits upstairs and in the bathroom tied off and ready, we started the process to cut power over to the main house panel.  First, we dug a trench and laid the heavy gauge wire in it inside of electrical conduit.

Trench with conduit starting

Then we killed the power to the power system in the shed - inverter, batteries, everything - to make sure no one got hurt.  Then my amazing brother took care of connecting the wires to the appropriate ports on the inverter and in the house while the rest of us buried the conduit. 

Covered trench and Scott working on the cables in the shed.
Then it was time to flip the switch!  As you can see in the sneak preview above, it worked!  There was much rejoicing that we didn't have to keep wearing head lamps around the house to see.  It was a pretty awesome feeling to get to pull the extension cord out of the house for good!

No more extension cord!!!!
Let there be light!

Due to the impending cold weather, getting the place for the wood stove ready to go became the next top priority.  The first step was to finish out the electrical by the front door since we needed to close up that wall.  That involved installing the outside light and outlet.  Scott and I knocked that out in about 2 hours last Wednesday.

Outlet and door light

Inside view of the wood stove corner

Now we are focusing on getting the corner ready for the wood stove.  It is going on a platform which Jeremy is busy building.  One step at a time, we're getting there.  It is starting to feel a lot more like home now though.