Monday, April 27, 2015

Beginning The Porch Floor

Well, even though I haven't completed the floor of the sauna porch, and have about a quarter of it covered with some sheets of chipboard, I decided it was time to make a start on the main cabin's deckboards.

I had a few already assigned to the main cabin, and so on a sunny day, I headed outside to get a few put down.

It didn't take long for me to burn through the pile, but I have to say that they look good, and sure to make the space feel much nicer to use. 
Another Kenny tested project.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that I moved the bins of wood to another portion of the porch, seeing as we don't go through the wood nearly as quickly as we have been.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Garden Table For Kenny And Mama

Last year's garden was a nice start, but it was a challenge to get down there to weed and water on a regular basis, and then when it did get wet, it didn't drain so well.

In the fall when we visited the nearby garden centre, I noticed how well their plants did (albeit inside of a greenhouse!) growing in containers raised up on super convenient tables.  I mentally filed the tables for later thought, and lately it has come back to me.

When Kenny and I were at the hardware store picking up a few more supplies, I included some fence staples and a small roll of 1/2" cage/fence/netting.



Unique form I suspect.
It was easy work to find some scrap wood around here to rig up a table.  While I cut the wood in the background, Kenny brushed up on his short game.  I cut it short when he started chipping in the mud and I could hear pebbles hitting the patio door.  (Surprisingly, Donna didn't put an end to it when he did the same thing, splattering her lightly.)

Kenny was more than happy to assist in the hammering portion of the project.

I found some legs already conveniently cut to two feet long on my woodpile, so I requisitioned them for this project.  At first I was worried that it would be too low, but was happy to find that once I put some bins on top, the height came out just about right.

Kenny tested it for comfort and stability, and now it just remains to get it loaded with soil and plants!
Meets the Kenny Standards Council.
At the moment, I am thinking that the existing garden could be the start of our orchard...  We'll have to try shopping for some apple or plum trees next month.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Finally Tiling Around The Stove

It's taken a year and a half, but I finally managed to align the stars and do something about the floor around the woodstove.

Over the course of the past two winters in the cabin I have mulled over a few different solutions.  The original floor was a pair of sheets of concrete board.  This was approved of by the chimney inspector who said it would meet WETT code (although other parts of my setup need to be changed if I want that certification).

This was okay as a base layer, but it became apparent that it wasn't a permanent solution.  It was dusty and challenging to clean.  Spider cracks appeared as we walked over it, and it absorbed water.

It did have the fortunate positioning to be able to dry out quickly, as it was right under the hot, dry stove.

I headed to the hardware store thinking that my easiest solution would be to lather on multiple layers of concrete paint.  As often happens though, my arrival there caused me to start mulling other options.  I finally settled on the idea of simply dry laying floor tiles in the space.  I had a raised border around the stove, so that locked in the tiles for me.

I purchased three boxes of on-sale tiles for cheap.  I made sure they were a standard 12"x12" tile so that they could easily be replaced if any broke.  My assumption is that with them layed dry, any dust that does get between them will actually assist in levelling them for me in the long term.  They should still be okay with getting wet and then drying out on their own due to the nearby stove.  We will see how it goes in the long term.

Trying to cheap out, I purchased "nippers" to try to break off small bits of tile and shape them to the space I wanted to put them in.  Unfortunately, these only worked for the smallest of adjustments, and were unusable for cutting an entire tile.  I hoped to do that with a scoring tool I had bought, but this also proved impossible to do properly.

Finally I opted to just buy a wet tile saw online that was less than the cost of a rental.  I figured it was good for a single use in the worst case scenario.


Uncut tiles go down quick!

My first challenging piece.

The saw worked a charm, but it must be said that it is a messy affair.  Be prepared to be coated in sticky, wet dust.  Thankfully it was a sauna night that night.

Now things are coming together!
I did all the cutting outdoors, taking advantage of unseasonably warm and sunny weather.

Messy work!
In the background, you can see Nana and Kenny having some quality one on one time.  Kenny loves his Nana very much and you could tell he was getting more and more excited to have her coming as the date arrived.  He would even love to have her around if she didn't have more fun games on her iPad than he does.  Already he is counting the days until he sees her and Papa again this summer.

Loving one another's company :)

And finally, the finished project.  I'll keep you posted how the dry lay tiles end up working.  I couldn't find too many links to other people trying to do it this way.

I wouldn't go back there when it's running!

Looking good!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Deluxe Upgrade to our (Humanure) Composting Toilet

My parents came to visit us this month!  It was just amazingly wonderful to have them here.  There wasn't a moment that went by that I wasn't totally appreciating their love and help around the homestead.

Disappointingly, for a few days leading up to their arrival my stomach was acting a bit dodgy.  This culminated in me becoming completely ill by the end of their first day here.  It was a physically miserable evening and night, but I was a bit better the next day and able to get myself more vertical than horizontal.  Fortunately Nana and Papa were very understanding, and both pitched in to help us out tremendously, even with me dragging myself around for most of their time here.

Papa took up residence in our bathroom again and finished doing much of the trim work - very appreciated where it finally sealed up the door gaps when someone was seeking privacy there.

I outlined some of my thoughts about upgrades to our toilet box, and he set to it right away.

It's so nice to see Papa again!

First off he covered the whole area on that side of the bathroom, rather than just having a seat centred in the space.

Now marking off the seat.

Then he installed the seat with an extra hinge so that we could also easily access the bucket and lift it out.

Loads of space now!

It was a real improvement to have the height set exactly the same as the height of the bucket.  This had the effect of lowering our overall seat height, which had been uncomfortably high for Donna and especially Kenny.  Up until now I had built up under the buckets with a few pieces of scrap wood.  As well, the top of the old bucket was butted up against the top of my old box.  This had the unfortunate side effect of it occasionally getting hosed down by "accidents".

And with the bucket in place.

Papa solved all these issues by lowering the seat until it rested directly on the rim of the bucket.  Now there is a vanishingly small space between the seat and the sides of the bucket.

Additionally, he cut a custom inset in the top of the seat to put our sawdust containers in.  These are some waste baskets I picked up at Wal-Mart that have good dimensions that allow us to put them in a narrow space, but still get a scoop in there to lift out the sawdust.

Just begging for someone to have a seat!
It turned out amazing!  Papa's work has already made us more comfortable and improved the aesthetics of the cabin tremendously.

  I still have to do a bit of work to finish it off, but it has been a real pleasure to use.  I get excited to have an excuse to use it - so much cleaner and more comfortable and better organized than before.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring Cleaning The Yurts

With the sun and warmer weather, I can finally entertain the thought of cleaning up the yurts, which had become a catchall shelter and storage space over the course of the winter.  I look forward to a more permanent workshop coming hopefully this summer!

I pulled out the extra insulation we had added to the yurts the first fall.  Now they are back to the original wool walls and look really cozy again.  They won't be warm in the winter, but now they look more like they belong on earth, rather than in interplanetary space :).

This is where Papa's magic was made!

And restoring the big yurts walls!



Kenny and Donna came over to see how things looked.  There is still lots to straighten up, but at least the environment is brighter and airier.

You can see the insect damage on the screen here.

Of interesting note - it appears that pine beetles got trapped between the wool and the canvas.  As they climbed towards the light (from the windows) they were directed to the upper left corners of each window.  Once they ran out of space, they actually chewed right through the bug screens!  About half of our screens have been breached, all in this spot.  Something to think about.

New Record for the Sauna!

Kenny and I headed out to sauna the other day and were treated to a new high for steam!

Isn't that over the boiling point?
No wonder my eyeballs were steaming!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

First Trip Down the Well of the Year

This year has been our best for water yet.  We managed to keep it flowing into the sauna through the entire winter, even if it did take quite a bit of effort with pouring many kettles of hot water onto the pipe to thaw it before we could turn on the pump.

As we all know, the line between the sauna and the cabin froze early and only recently thawed.  It actually refroze since I initially reported it flowing again, but then a few days ago we managed to run the generator for a day and get it thawed again.  I am very hopeful and optimistic that it will remain flowing this time around though, as we are not to have daytime high temperatures below zero again for the foreseeable future.

At the beginning of this day I noticed that as the pump put water into our tanks, it was very dark coloured and silty.  We ended up having to just dispose of the contents of both tanks as they were too dirty to use.  I went up into the sauna loft and scrubbed the insides of the tanks and then tried to lift them to drain as much of the yucky water as possible.  Later that day was when the line finally opened to the cabin.
Hide yo dirt!  I'm up in yo loft, scrubbin' yo tanks!

These things are remarkably challenging to lift and drain!

Towards the end of the day we did get it flowing again. We pumped into the tanks until no more water flowed.  This has not been an unknown event as the water level in the well has been insufficient to completely fill the tanks from empty.  We chalked it up to an empty well and called it a day, content that the water at least could move from the tanks to the cabin once the well recharged.

The next day though, it became obvious that the pump still wasn't producing water.  I opened up the well and turned on the pump.  While I could see that it was consuming the usual amount of power, there was no sound or movement in the water.  Sigh.

I grabbed the hook from the sauna I normally use for hanging laundry and took it down to poke at the pump and hose.  This did nothing.

Calling Maier Hardware, I had them set aside a replacement pump for the next morning.  I dutifully arrived to purchase it, as well as discuss future plans with Dave Green.  He's always super helpful!

I brought the new pump home and Grandpa arrived soon afterwards to assist in me heading down into the well to replace the old one.

We had previously chipped through the ice with his ice breaker, and this time after I was down the well he helpfully pulled the ladder out.  I was a little bit nervous standing on the ice in the well, worried that if it gave way I would be in for a miserable time, but to save any tension I can report now that it held fine throughout.
Assessing the situation.

Kenny and Grandpa prepare the insulation.

The old pump looking a bit dirty.

Not that experienced putting on panty hose.

Closing up the waist.

Back into the briny deep for you!

That smug look that comes from a completed job!

First up I pulled up the old pump and cut away the heat cable and power cable.  I then disconnected the old pump, as well as the secondary heat cable we had installed in the fall that appeared to have had no benefit.  No sense in having an extra load there if it wasn't needed.

The old pump was lifted away, and then I installed the new one.  I applied cable ties along the length of the pipe to remount the heat cable and power cables, and then this time I added in a length of pipe insulation to try to increase the efficiency of the heating cable.

I pulled up the small tub that the pump normally rested in and Grandpa rinsed it out with snow to try to clean off some of the silt that coated the sides of it.

As an added attempt to keep the more gritty silt to a minimum, I managed to jam the tub and pump into a pair of women's pantyhose - size "queen plus".

I cable tied the waist shut around the pipe and put the tub back into the hole in the ice.  Bubbling gently, the pump sank beneath the surface and came to rest fully submerged.

Grandpa lowered the ladder back into the well and I climbed out and headed up to the sauna to turn on power to the pump.  I only had to walk partway back to the well head to hear from Donna that she could in turn hear the pump running.  Grandpa said he was pretty sure that he could see the water level dropping and when I got a good look for myself it was obvious that we were pumping water!

So Donna spent the next day washing load after load of laundry, interspersed with trying to keep Kenny's creative juices flowing and taking the occasional picture of me bringing in the last of the winter wood before the bush trail gets too sloppy.

It's an awesome feeling to have empty laundry baskets and clean underwear again!  And brushing my teeth in the bathroom rather than the kitchen sink is a real treat.