Monday, April 21, 2008

Crack'n the Vault

Straw Bale House Update: The crew has expanded to three for the time being. An extra set of hands is very useful when hoisting the 4X9 fir rafters into place. Most of the rafters for the vaulted living room ceiling are now placed and the balance will follow early in the week. Two more truck loads of sand have been delivered, and Friday the compacting of the existing sand infill began. The tractor was very handy loading sand between the window bucks. It was a steep learning curve maneuvering the bucket with only inches to spare on either side. Kari worked on the weekend burning the remnants of the stump pile, (while I played on the tractor.) A new tent location was leveled so the staining tent can be moved. This will allow for easier access when it comes time to put the roof on. I've also begun to open up an old logging road access which will act to service the greenhouse and humanure hacienda.

The Mason Bees have emerged! The little buzzers have hatched for the most part. The males seem to be hatching first and jumping the females as they emerge. No wasting any time there. I can't tell yet if the females are laying eggs in the condo, but will be sure to report any such activity.

After the Sunday Vegan Potluck, we went over to Gord Hutchens' kiln firing. It's one of only a few in North America of it's type. The kiln is so hot that flames shoot out the chimney about 20 feet from the kiln. The wood firing produces a finish that no other type of kiln can replicate.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Donald, say it isn't so...

I don't watch Oprah, for that matter, I don't watch much TV. The rumour here last summer, was that while Oprah was borrowing Jimmy Pattison's yacht, she stopped just off Denman Island for some time. In a recent interview with Donald Trump (on the Oprah show), Donald named the Comox Valley as one of the best real estate investments in the world. I hope very few people believe him.

Saturday, we went to the Guest House (our local hostel) for dinner. Twice a month they serve up a great multi course meal for a very reasonable price. We had the salmon on risotto and a bottle of '03 Bin-999. Yum.

We took the plunge into tractor-hood and bought this 2003 Kubota with 147 hours on it. Basically, it's a new machine and these get snapped up very quickly at the dealership. We bought it privately (no tax) and it comes with a front end loader and a grading blade. We'll see how much damage can be done with those before considering a backhoe attachment. No, I've never driven a tractor, but I'm a quick learner.

Straw Bale House Update: Last week the layout for the vaulted beam-work was done. It's a rather slow process, as a mistake would be very costly in both time and materials. Now that I have a machine on site, infill and perimeter drainage work can also begin. Lots to do this week.

The Hummers are back.
We put up the feeder on the weekend and it's already quite busy. We'd heard they've been around for about a week, and that makes them about 10 days later than last year.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Farewell Brico

Years ago, I traveled Vancouver Island from Victoria to Campbell River about every 6 weeks, for work. The Brico was one of the landmarks I loved to see. Once an ocean going cable ship, she was beached at Fanny Bay and became a restaurant for many years. We were heading to the FBI, (Fanny Bay Inn) for some pub fare on the weekend... and she's being unceremoniously dismantled by a couple of excavators. It's sort of sad to see, but she's being headed for the dump... farewell Brico!

Straw Bale House Update:
The geriatric construction crew of two, took a long weekend to mend some sore muscles and bad backs.. I hate missing work days when it's sunny, but the back was not cooperating.
It's hard not to notice the building boom in the Comox Valley. There are OSB, (Oriented strand board) houses and condos going up everywhere. We're trying to keep these types of materials out of our home building process. Although the use of borate compounds and formaldehyde levels are relatively low compared to those old kitchen MDF cupboards or that coffee table that you may have, it is possible to use more environmental options.
I got the roofing quote last week. The round dormer roof will be a "torched-on membrane" and the balance will be metal. The quote including labour was $18,000 more than the material-only supply price. Not a typo, three zeros... $18,000 in labour for a relatively small, simple roof. The trickier torch-on portion, Ill pay the pros to do, the savings of over $16000 will stay in my pocket for our tractor fund.
We're in the market for a small tractor to help with the construction and landscaping etc. There is some big time sticker shock involved in tractor shopping... but the roof savings will pretty much cover it. These things don't seem to depreciate, so we're hoping that we can get most of our money back when we're done, either by reselling or renting it out... operator included.

Saturday...we headed for the Old School for a Mason Bee educational talk, put on by the Denman Island Conservancy. There was a good turn-out to hear about the little buzzers from resident experts. We were offered a Mason Bee Condo and a few of the bees in pupa form. The condo has been affixed to the pump-house with a container of pupa lodged on top. The experts predict, that when the temperature reaches 13c, the prolific pollinators will emerge. Given our coolish spring, it may be some time yet.

Kari & I went on a short hike on Sunday and came across some rather large scat. A rustle in the bushes prompted Kari to find a rather large stick, (to be used as a walking stick, she insisted). The usual Denman Island critters wouldn't be responsible for the volume of the scat, so I presume our cougar is still about and minding his own business.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Forgot to Blog

Late Blog.... I've had that feeling a lot lately. I go downstairs, only to realize when I get there, I've forgotten why I went. Thought I'd take the opportunity to empty the camera. (whilst I remember)

A very strange stretch of weather we've been having.... even though it may me hard to believe, all the shots on the post were taken over the last week.

Straw Bale House Update: A snow delay shut down the site for a day. Today, the weather man said: sunny and 13c. Humidity 45%. Label on the stain says: Must be at least 10c and humidity under 75%. So, staining it is then.... stained like mad all morning. Maximum temperature achieved: 7c. Stain congealed into a messy goo. The staining tent is pretty much at capacity. It's currently loaded up with 4X9 fir rafters that (I hope) can start going in next week.
As it's priority one to protect your SB walls, three foot overhangs were built (left). As the house also requires solar gain for heat, the ceiling height was also raised to just over nine feet. This will maximize solar gain in winter months and maximize shade (cooling) in the summer. Two pictures (right) are from the second floor loft. One shows the bedroom and bath, the other if of the view from the family room dormer window.

I came across an article relating to the organic vs locally grown Dilemma. I buy organic when I can, but I'm reluctant to fall for the "organic ripoff". Sorry, but a carrot just isn't worth that kind of cabbage...

Don't buy "Made In China". I was in the market for a thickness planer. (A great perk to building your own house is the justification for buying new tools) The Chinese made model was $100 cheaper and could do everything I need it to do. The replacement blades are also considerably cheaper. I paid the extra $100, (tough for a cheap guy).