Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some "During" Photos

Looking at the "before and after" photos, nostalgia has struck, so I have to throw in a few "during" photos, just to give you a bit of the "OMG-what-the-hell-are-we-doing?" vibe that shows how we got from point A to point B.  I'm even super-sizing the photos, just because I can.
 This is how things looked when Eric gutted the downstairs. 
Here we are early on, during the phase of our lives we've come to know as "The Knotty Pine Purge".  We're not quite out of those woods yet.  No more knotty pine to tear down, but finishing work?  Oh yes!  Lots of finishing work remains to be done.  The house is toasty warm though.  That helps.
See the tar paper?  Well, the siding of our house is right behind it.  And no, the hole wasn't small.
Eric's gone rogue with the reciprocating saw, cleaning up the rotten boards so he can repair them.  What you're looking at is the structure of our house, not just some paneling.
Ah, yes.  One of my many contributions.  Many fond hours spent working in this corner.  Eric was busy rebuilding in one corner, and yours truly was busy in another, tearing down moldy drywall, tar paper, and finding one load-bearing beam that had turned to sawdust. It was a new low for us.
Upstairs after all divisions had been torn down.  Note the furniture we're (regretfully) working around, notice the plumbing that we've tripped over endless times, and the 5 gallon pail that held the nails we'd pulled out of the wood during the renovations.  Said and done, that bucket weighed about 100 pounds by the time it went to the metal recyclers.
Are we ready for the insane asylum yet?  Are the men with "I-love-me" jackets walking up the drive?  If this doesn't strike fear in the most hard-core renovator's heart, I don't know what will.

That we lived like this for months on end is unbelievable to me.  Everything is rebuilt, insulated, and even though the final finishing isn't quite done yet upstairs, it's nice to know we'll never have to deal with dirt, dust and debris the likes of the above again.

More than one person came upstairs during the "purge" and declared we're living something worthy of a reality-TV show.  So, there you have it folks: an intimate, behind-the-scenes look, the stuff they don't show you on TV, Shim Farm-style.

...and I forgot to mention...

That our bedroom below is so flippin' cold at -20C that our pillows FREEZE to the walls.  I could not make something like that up!  Serious frost forms inside the knee walls, and Eric surmises, based on his observations when he installed the Velux window, that our walls are totally under-insulated.  Why should our bedroom be any different than the rest of the upstairs, after all?  There might not even be any insulation in the knee walls, we're not quite sure.  Eric is threatening to tear all the drywall down to the studs and beef up the trusses like he did in the main part of our house upstairs, but first he's promised to finish the other bedrooms upstairs so we're not camping in our own house.

In the spirit of full-disclosure, I also forgot to mention one detail we did wrong when we varnished the floor:  the gap between the boards are about 3/16th" wide, and we used a latex-based silicone caulking to fill them.  If we were to do it again, we'd either not bother to fill the gaps at all, or we'd do it AFTER varnishing.  With time, the varnish has yellowed a bit, and although it's not obvious on the wood, it is more visible on the caulking.  The wood also contracts and expands, so the varnish has cracked over the caulking, and one day, when we're in the mood to refinish the entire floor, we'll probably painstakingly remove it all.

We'll see how we feel after the main part of the house is finished, and knowing Eric, I just know he's going to re-do the drywall and insulation in the master bedroom.  Well, the fact he's already bought the insulation is a dead give-a-way,  but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More Before and After Pics

The renovation of the master bedroom was started by previous owners.  Here's a look at things then:
If you double-click the photo, you'll be able to see the water stains on the drywall from a leaky window.  Note the poorly done drywall joints.  Note the unfinished super-soft pine floor.

It was Eric who got down on hands and knees and sanded that bloody floor to infinity and beyond.  We then painstakingly filled each and every gap using a latex-based silicone.  We then white-washed the floor using a white latex paint and wiped off each board before it was dry.  Then, drum roll please, Eric did what Eric does best:  he varnished the floor, and that's where my story begins.

Eric's used a lot of varnish in his day, and his technique is the best.  He's picky, detail-oriented, and takes his time.  Good varnish can't be rushed, and you have to be willing to wet-sand between coats using at least a 600-grit sand paper.  To say that Eric knew what he was doing by the time he reached this Waterloo is an understatement.  The first coat went on like a charm.  We didn't have our menagerie at this point, because I am sure that today, with one ever-shedding dog and 3 cats in various stages of moult, we'd never be able to lay claim to a manoeuver of this magnitude again.  Eric donned his Tyvek suit complete with an elasticized hood and went to town.  To say this floor was a thing of beauty was an understatement.  The first two coats when down without a hitch.  We ran out of varnish on the third coat, and I was sent out to get another gallon.  What happened next cannot be believed.  The paint company even sent out a representative to check out our claims.

Eric cracked open a new gallon of varnish, and painstakingly applying the third and final coat.  Now imagine Eric's surprise when, all of a sudden, right before his eyes, the varnish started to form what are called "fish eyes" in the industry.  Don't worry - you're not alone - we weren't aware of this phenomenon either. Fish eyes are crater-like impressions that form on the varnish, and solving our problem became somewhat of a challenge to the manufacturer.

A representative came to our house to inspect the damage.  Much head-scratching ensued, because every type of varnish, be it semi-gloss, or high gloss, would form fish eyes.  After laboratory analysis, it was deemed that the first gallon of paint was a "one of".  Had we had enough of it, we could have varnished the entire floor and been blissfully unaware of any problems.  Alas, the company concluded that our original varnish was compatible only with itself, and they were unable to supply us with the same incorrect formulation, because they weren't quite sure what had gone wrong in the first place.  In the end, one particular batch of semi-gloss varnish was okay, and Eric laboriously set out to sand down the fish-eyes and apply one final coat.

In the end, we had a beautifully finished floor.  Pine, being a soft wood, is notoriously easy to dent or scratch, hence my use of the past tense.  What Cooper's claws have done to the finish, well...let's not go there.

For Eric's trouble, the paint manufacturer threw in a few gallons of paint to finish the bedroom.  That was nice of them.  Considering Eric lost about a weeks' worth of sleep, it was the least they could do.

We changed all the windows (except those in the kitchen) with new Argon-filled thermal pane windows with PVC frames.  To do it all again, I think we'd look at triple-pane windows sans-Argon.  Argon will leak - it's not a matter of if, but when.

Having a room with angled walls presents a few challenges.  The first of those would be the lack of any proper hanging storage space.  The second is finding furniture that is low enough to fit into the knee walls.  We lucked out at IKEA, finding what we needed from their Stolmen line.  We also need to mention that we occasionally run into the walls, but you've probably figured that one out already.  It would account for at least part of our insanity.
The above photo also shows the Velux GPL-model ("hinged room window" in Velux-ese) that Eric added, to a) give us more light, and b) give us a bit more headroom. We love this window!  We added the optional screen, as well as the roll-down shade that blocks out 100% light, and yet another optional UV-screen that covers the sunlight from the outside during summertime.  You can still see out, but it filters the light to prevent fading in the room, as well as lengthen the life-span of the window, given this is a south-side exposure.  The window flips inside-out for easy cleaning.  Had we known how much we'd enjoy this Velux, we would have added more.

It's nice to open it up, and feel as though you're standing outside.  It also gives up opportunity to take photos such as this:

It's sort of like having your personal little turret from which you can survey your domain.

(If you're into that sort of thing, that is.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Victoria's Guts

I've been threatening to take Miss Victoria apart and have her cams brazed and reshaped.  She runs a bit rough, and when I took her apart and cleaned her, I had to use a lot of self-control to not grind her innards down with my trusty Dremel right there and then.

Eric maintains I should have her guts brazed and then reshaped instead, and I am hoping that in repairing the wear to her parts, she'll run as good as new again.  The skeptic in me wonders if she'll wear down in the same manner again, or if she'll run like a finely-tuned machine?

Well, this morning, I dug out my trusty Teeny-Turner screwdriver (everyone should own one and bonus fact:  they're made in Canada!), and took ole' Vickie apart.

I also wonder what caused the wear?  Was it years of neglect?  Was it improper oiling?  Probably a combination of both, I'd guess.  She was a crusty gal when I got her, as evidenced in my first post when I brought her home and took her apart.  All that felt under her up-throw cams probably contributed to her uneven wear, and the fact her cylinders were jammed with broken needles and years of felt certainly didn't help, either.

Let's have a look, shall we?  (Click on any photo to enlarge for detail.  Click again and you can really see my sad excuse for cuticles.  It's gardening season, okay?)
Her up-throw cams are both unevenly worn.  It's so tempting to grind this down and buff the hell out of it...

The other cam shows the same kind of wear, but the point is worn down to a near-sharp point.

Here's a view of the other side.
Her V-cam shows uneven wear as well, so this will have to be remedied as well.

And yet another view of the wear.

So Vickie's guts now reside in a Ziploc bag.  If Eric gets the time this week, he'll run her innards over to our machinist, who's promised to take a look at the parts and let me know what can be done.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that with a bit more TLC, Miss Victoria will be new-and-improved before long.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Before and After Photos

Obviously, the photos in the post below tell but part of the tale when Eric gutted the downstairs in 2001.

What you don't see is the magnitude of bad.  Can we all say "condemned", boys and girls?
Nothing says "Home Sweet Home" like crime-scene carpeting!  The inside division that held the door to the room above had separated from the floor, and when the door was shut, the entire wall swung to-and-fro.  The above room was used as a bedroom and didn't even have a window.  That's too claustrophobic for me to entertain, so I'll move right along.
And do you think someone would have the fortitude of mind to put down the toilet seat before taking this photo?  The floor here was so rotted after Eric tore out the tub and toilet (which I actually Comet-ized before putting out to the road, and yes, someone picked it up), Eric ended up replacing a good part of the floorboards in the blue room in the "after" photo below.

Here's a photo of the repair-in-progress:

Essentially, the tub and toilet were located in the furthest corner of the "after" photo below, which also happens to be the northwest corner of the house.  I can only imagine how cold that old cast-iron bathtub was in the dead of winter.

Here's a view once the pink bead-board (shown in my earlier post) was torn down.  Eric rebuilt all of the outside walls using 2"x3" studs, insulated using fibreglass pink insulation and used polyethylene sheeting as a vapour barrier.  The main structure of the house is comprised of 3"x12" Eastern Hemlock beams that are joined by tongue-and-grooves horizontally.  The inside of the house was clad in vertical boards, many of which had rotted over the years, hence the repairs above. Note the old newspapers, which date from January 1899, most probably used to cut the wind.   Since our house dates from the 1850's, and the newspapers from nearly 50 years later, they were probably glued to the walls during one of the many renovation attempts over the past 160-odd years.
I state the obvious when I say the above is the "after" photo!  Even with plywood floors (which have their benefit, more on that later), the downstairs living room is comfortable and inviting.  The "blue room" is the stereo room.  We don't have a TV, but we do enjoy music, so this is where we spend a lot of time.  The french door leads to the utility room, where we keep our washer and dryer, and where the hot water tank is located.  There is another french door mirroring this one on the opposite end of the sofa which leads to the bathroom.

You can also see the ceiling a bit better in the above photo.  Eric added every second ceiling joist.  Walking upstairs was so spongy, previous owners were scared to put any furniture up there.  Given the fact the upstairs was virtually uninhabitable 4 months of the year because of the fierce cold, they were on to something, and from a structural stand-point, they were rightfully cautious.  The house was far from being up to code, and structurally unsound to boot.  The ceiling joists are 2.5" x 7", and in doubling them up, the finished structure now has them spaced every 20" instead of 40".  Eric added sound attenuation batting (Roxul Safe'n'Sound) between the joists, and finished everything up with 5/8" fire-code drywall, but not before sanding and varnishing each and every one of the joists to a shine you can see yourself in.  Eric has a way with varnish.  Friends joke he can work as a piano varnisher if his day job doesn't work out!

As for my plywood floors: well, with renovations still underway upstairs, we'd rather deal with plywood downstairs than finished floors.  It's relatively easy maintenance, save for the odd pet accident (Schatzie, I'm lookin' at you, girlfriend!), yet even the most offending stains can be readily sanded out.  It's washable, scrubbable and affords me the option of keeping my cleaning standards enviably low.  As long as everything is organized, I can deal with the dust buffalo, as I affectionately call the wafts of dog and cat hair that abound...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Before and After Photos

I haven't shown any before and after photos of our renovations downstairs because all the photos before the tear-down were lost in a hard-drive crash way back in 2001.  That was the year Eric took possession of the farm.

Imagine his surprise when he went to the bank recently, and the account manager pulled out a file of photos the building inspector took in times of yore.

Lookit what we found!

...drum roll, please:
And after!

I am giving you the Reader's Digest sanitized version of the renovations.  What I have neglected to show is tearing down all the bead-board, rebuilding the exterior wall and re-insulating, rewiring, replacing rotten floorboards, tearing down the drywall on the ceiling, adding every second ceiling joist for structural support, replacing the windows and and nauseum.

I'll be scanning in our photo album later which contains sordid photos of how the above came to transpire.

All 8,734 steps of the way...give or take a few details.

Friday, April 15, 2011

...and we have RIBBING!

Yes, worthy of shout-out-loud capitals, we have RIBBING on the CSM.  I don't know why the thought of using the ribber struck fear in my heart, but the time was nigh to add this latest skill to my circular sock machine repertoire.

It's probably because every CSM forum features problems with the ribber as a main focus so much of the time that I was intimated by little bits of metal.  Shame on me.  It took me longer to find the dial adjuster lever that I had taken off and stored along with its screw in a Ziploc bag aptly tagged "Marie's Guts", which in turn was logically placed in a Rubbermaid bin where I store all the miscellaneous bits and bobs of my three machines.  Sometimes, I amaze even myself with my organization, (sigh), because it took me over an hour to find.  Then I misplaced the screw, and that must have taken me about another half-hour to locate...alas...a day in the life of...

I armed myself with my laptop, and for the umpteenth time, watched the YouTube video called Sock Machine Ribber Confidence.  I like Laurie's approach.  She's very cartesian in her logical, step-by-step explanations.  Thanks to Laurie and her video, I plunked my laptop beside my CSM, popped the ribber on, followed her steps, and behold!  We have ribbing:
I ran the tube off the CSM and put it in the kitchen for a show-and-tell when Eric returned.

And that's how my Anna Pepper came to be the best-dressed pepper mill in town.  Haute couture for your pepper mill - Alessandro Mendini would be proud.  Or maybe not, since I've turned his pepper mill into a Barbie?

So there's more ribbing in my future.  I still need to get a lot of the finer details down pat before attempting to make a sock like the original Auto-Knitter sock that came with Albert, my first CSM:
I'm sure I'm months from being able to crank one of these babies off the sock machine, but at least the first steps have been made.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ahhh yes...the breakfast of champions:

My favorite orange cat mug filled with a cuppa steamin' Earl Gray and a couple of chocolate chip cookies.  Probably everyone has made these before, and if you haven't, you have no clue what you're missing.

This recipe is the best of the best, crispy yet chewy and loaded full of chocolate chips.  The trifecta of cookie perfection.  If you happen to buy the 2.4 kg bag (I know, it's a piggish quantity!) of Chipits at Costco, well, the recipe's printed on the back.  For those unable to lay their paws on a bag of Chipits brand chocolate chips, here it is:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter or shortening (I always use butter)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional - I didn't put any in)

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat softened butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until creamy.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt.  Gradually blend into creamed mixture.

Stir in chocolate chips and chopped nuts, if using.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 375F for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies.

I hadn't made these in years, and they were awesome.  Scarfed 'em down in no time...don't tell anyone.

I've mentioned this before, but I have to say my trusty digital kitchen scale has revolutionized my baking.  I always weigh my butter now, instead of using those not-so-precise cutting lines on the sides of the 1 pound butter packages we have here.  1 cup of butter weighs 227 grams or a half a pound.  Easy as pie, or cookies, in this case.

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Ode to Spring

Spring has sprung,
and the grass has ris'

Now I know where the
dog poo is.

Buh-bye March.  Don't let the proverbial door hit your arse on the way out.

I can hardly remember a colder March.  Lots of snow, really cold temps and dreary, gray days.  I haven't made an Easter tree in years, but this was the year I finally dug out my Easter decorations.  Yes, I am aware I am a tad early, but I needed some brightness to restore my sanity.  Growing up in a German household, we'd eagerly await the day we went out to our secret pussy-willow location and cut a few branches to decorate with hand-painted eggs.  This year, I needed brightness now, so I marched over to the dollar store and bought a whack of fake forsythias and decorated them.  I avoid fake stuff like the Plague, so I have to plead lack-of-spring induced insanity.  Or something like that.  But I'm done apologizing, I love my Easter tree, and so does the cat.

The snow is still not gone and probably won't be for a while considering the long-range forecast for the week, but the daffs at work are poking their heads out in a valiant effort.  No signs of plant life here at the farm, not even the chives that grow against the barn wall have shown signs of resurrection.

The Poppet, aka Popina, aka Weenie Popeenie loves to climb trees.   Here she is in the pine tree, trying to work her way to the sky and a huge flock of Starlings:

 Meanwhile, her sidekick, BobCat, sits below and patiently waits:
Schatzie knows better.  She favours her sunbeam and has commandeered poor Cooper's dog-bed in the kitchen for one of her famous naps:
Pooper-scooping aside, it's a wonderful season of renewal and rebirth.  The longer days are a true gift, and once we get a few warm days under our belt, the trees will start to show their greenery and Spring will really have sprung.

Then we'll start to complain about mowing the lawn again, the prohibitively high humidity, mosquitoes the size of helicopters, until we start dreaming of evenings spent by the wood-stove and the first snow fall of the season.

And so the cycle continues...
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