Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Patio Building Update

Ahhhh, yes. What a day. We're still married, no one threw any tools, and cursing was kept to a bare minimum. We managed to put down exactly 21 tiles in about 5 hours, which means if we keep up the pace, we can finish in 2 more days. And that is just the pathway to the front door and does not include the patio which we will finish next Spring. I don't even want to think about the patio right now, truth be told.

The problem with the tiles: not one has a smooth surface. Some are off by a quarter to a half inch over their length. Some are convex, some are concave, all have some type of imperfection that makes them hard to place. And this is Grade A slate:

As Eric put each tile into place and shimmed them into submission, I gauged the thickness of the edge, put on my spare biceps and pulled out what I thought to be the corresponding tile from the pallet shown above. They weigh about 4o to 50 pounds each and are a bit cumbersome and hard to move and place. We then placed my best choice down, flipping it end to end and over to find its best fit. Then we lifted the tile, and smoothed or added screening as necessary. Repeat about 10 times per tile, and we're satisfied.

We used a spackling knife, a piece of wood and our "motivator", commonly known as a hammer. (Actually, it is a carver's mallet we purchased at Lee Valley, and it is one of our favorite tools.) Eric also needed to ensure that 1) his first tile was straight, and 2) the level was correct. All of this was what the Qu├ębecois colloquially refer to as "gossage", a nice all-around word that means fiddly, nit-picking, detail-oriented work.

Both of us have so much mud on the soles of our shoes, every time Eric asks me to go in the house, I cringe because I hate removing my workboots but with our mud-caked boots we don't really have the choice. I sound like a drill seargent before we work out side: measuring tape, check, level, check, Olfa knife, check...anything to avoid me from having to remove my shoes 10 times before we're organized.

At the end of the day, we managed to put down 21 tiles, or 42 square feet. By the time we had found our rythym we were getting tired, so let's hope that tomorrow we have a bit more "oomph" and can get even more done.

Once again, we were rewarded with a fabulous sunset:

Somehow, it sort of makes all the hard work worthwhile.

I almost hesitate to post the photo below since it doesn't really do any justice, but there it is anyway. The crappy steps that lead down to the slate will be done in slate too, but they will only be delivered next spring. We will have 3 steps, 16" wide and 96" long leading down to this path, and we haven't really figured out the full details, so stay tuned. When I said we were making this all up as we go along, I wasn't joking.

All told, we are happy with the result. It's nice when a project lives up to your expectations.

Patio Building Exploits

The sun is out and the weather gurus have forecast a high of 17C, or about 65F today. That means we will start to put down the slate tiles for the pathway to our front door. The slate we ordered to build our patio and walkway, as well as the roofing tiles for our new entrance (more about that later...) arrived about 2 weeks ago. We thought about storing the pallets until next Spring, but really, we'd love to get the job done before winter sets in.

The weather is lovely today, compared to yesterday where we froze our nubs off, and Eric still has 2 days off before going back to work, so we figured we might as well give at least the pathway a go.

We had built the base for the patio and walkway in September, excavating the clay to an approximated depth of 12" to 16", lining the base with a geo-textile membrane, and back-filling with 3/4" gravel. Our first mistake: we were told to use 3/4" gravel for optimal drainage, however, we should have used 0-3/4" instead. We discovered this when we added the gravel screening on top and compacted it using a compactor. Had we used o-3/4" gravel, we would have used less screening, now we have to keep our fingers crossed that the screening won't just disappear into the gravel over the next few years. Once these tiles are down, we hope they stay flat. We don't want to take them up again because the prepared surface might heave with repeated freezing and thawing cycles.

So Eric got 2 trailers of screening that we off-loaded onto tarps. This keeps things tidier and makes it easier to move using the front-loader. No scooping up chunks of grass and earth at the same time. We added about a 1" to 2" layer of screening on top of the gravel (which Eric compacted using a rented compactor below), and yours truly went mad with a rake, smoothing and straightening the surface under Eric's eagle-eye. Eric then compacted this screening, and we now have a lovely, smooth base ready for the tiles which are shrink-wrapped on the skids in the picture below.

Notice the geo-textile membrane. We are folding the edge under the tiles as we go, and we hope that the membrane will keep the compacted screening from shifting a bit. Can you tell we're just making this up as we go along? (And can you tell someone gave us the membrane, and we figured: we might as well put it to use!)

Next step is to place the tiles: they are 12" x 24" and are so heavy, I can't even take one off the pallet. They are placed in specially-made boxes on a regular pallet frame, and for the life of me, I can't even lift one out of the box. Eric is going to have a bit of fun today, I think! One bug with the tiles is that they aren't all the same thickness, there can be a variation of about 1/4" from one end of the tile to another, so I think we are going to curse a bit when we put these into place!

If I make it through today, I'll let you know how things turn out!

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's Harvest Time!

Yes, the day the dog and I long for all year is finally here! That day would be harvest day, the day the crop is finally cut and we can reclaim the full use of our field for our long walks.

While our crops are growing, I use the farm access roads around our farm to take long walks with the dog, but it's not the same thing as walking on your own land somehow. Even though I have permission to walk my dog on neighboring fields, I long for the day I can tread on our own earth at the end of the growing season. Somehow, it just feels right underneath my feet. And the dog enjoys it too, because he knows he is not allowed outside the perimeter of the property when he takes his morning walk, so he is a bit confined by the corn. He doesn't venture down the rows once they have reached a certain height.

Once again, it proved to be a great year for corn. Last year's wheat was a bumper crop, and this year corn was a perfect choice. I suppose it is like taking a gamble every spring - will this be a good year for soybeans, wheat or corn? Personally, corn is my least favorite crop, simply for it's size - this year it was well over 8 feet tall, and it becomes a bit claustrophobic in a way. There goes the vista, if you know what I mean.

The equipment used to harvest this equipment is heavy, huge and expensive. Had we not changed the drain pipe over the culvert in September, forget having this piece of machinery access our land. Literally, this combine is the width of the road - if you are in a hurry and stuck behind, you better be patient or grow wings, because you aren't going anywhere quickly. And a note to those impatient, lead-footed, disrespectful drivers: please, stay out of the country if you want to go any where quickly during harvest time. There is nothing more annoying than operating a piece of farming equipment with a seething driver tail-gating. Have a bit of respect and back off. (End of rant!)

Not every farm owns a combine, so there are only a handful in the area. This particular combine runs about 18 hours a day during harvest time, and one can hear its constant drone for days on end. It takes about 45 minutes to fill the trailers with corn, and from here they are taken to the silo for drying. The moisture is was about 25% at harvest, and needs to be dried to about 15% for storage.

Once again, Cooper is in his element, running up and down the rows of cut corn. There are so many exciting smells for him to discover, while I walk in a straight line, he is running up and down and zig-zagging all over the place. His excitement is palpable. From time to time, we can see a hawk eyeing prey below, even they fly low along the rows in the hopes of finding a mouse or mole in the freshly cut corn.

As I make my way up the rows and back towards the house, I say a quiet thanks for the people who make it happen. We are mere observers, however, the people who work long hours plowing, planting and harvesting are the real heroes in my books. My hat goes off to you.

The (In)famous Noro Striped Scarf

I know, I know, this scarf has been blogged to death, but I was so happy with the result that I have to share:

I used 5 skeins of Kureyon in total and cast on 45 stitches on a 4.5 mm needle, knitting in a K1, P1 rib. I started with colours 178 and 185 and alternated these every 2 rows, carrying the yarn up the side. I knitted a selvage stitch by knitting the first stitch into the back of the loop, and slipped the last stitch with the yarn in front. When my first two balls of Kureyon were finished I decided the scarf would not be long enough (I casted on more stitches than the pattern asked for), so I decided to raid my stash and use one ball of colourway 146, from which I wound 2 balls, so I was knitting with the start and end of the ball alternatingly, does that make any sense? This way, I still ended up with a variation, despite using the same ball. When colour 146 was finished, I went back to my regularly scheduled programming using colour 178 and 185 again. All said and done, the scarf measures 7" by 80", just the right size in my opinion.

This was a quick and easy knitting project, perfect in it's mind-numbing repetitiveness, yet intriguing enough because I couldn't wait to see what effect the two colours would end up making. Highly recommended and the perfect project for beginning knitters.
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