Sweet and witchy

Since I was off my feet at the end of summer and into October, I missed the usual season of transplanting, end-of-summer plant sales, and gardening in general. But, it has been warm and I’m more excited than ever to get started on setting the tone for our landscaping next year. After posting pictures of sweet fern a couple of weeks ago, a friend said she has a bunch growing in a field that they plan to burn to get some blueberries started. Yes, I was interested! I headed out (in a drizzling rain) on Friday and we dug several sweet fern (Comptonia) plants for me to try out in our yard. Thank you so much, JM!

Even though sweet fern is native and grows in all kind of difficult sites, it’s reportedly hard to propagate. I put most of the plants right in the ground, but I am also trying this propagation technique with one root sucker – we’ll see if it works. They are cold-stratifying in the fridge right now.


Also saw a witch hazel in bloom this morning while walking the dogs. Nearby (in a roadside edge), a sucker is growing in what was recently bulldozed ditch material. Might have to go liberate it from its gravelly grave – it won’t do well given its location right on the new dirt road edge.


We’ve also been organizing the garage (not photogenic) and will circle back to working with the rest of the logs that need staining next weekend. But it was nice to get my hands dirty outside for a change!

Houses of the holy

We are slowly but steadily finishing up the big projects this summer: the porch (June), the garage (July-September, including my time out of service (on crutches)), and the large front steps (September-?). We got a lot done, but it was pretty huge!

In between framing the garage, I started putting together a little side project – a well house, to cover our well head more elegantly than the few fiberglass stakes and pieces of red flagging we had ‘installed’. Our well is at the top of the driveway, and we felt the need to make it obvious after several delivery trucks *almost* backed over it. Eek! So, we had a lot of small ends of logs lying around, and I laid out a little ‘freebie’ house during breaks from framing. K helped fasten the unwieldy thing together, and we scrapped on some plywood leftovers and some leftover Grace ice & water shield on the roof. Then, my leg incident…but this week, I can walk again so we went up to the woods behind the house and got a slab of moss/plants to make a green roof. Voila! Totally rustic, 100% free, and much better looking than mismatched stakes. It felt good to FINISH a project after this weird summer.

Hey, hey, what can I do?

So, no posts in a while because I busted up my leg! It’s on the mend, and far from a permanent injury, but I’ve been relegated to the couch for a month — a month!!! — and still have ~10 days with this walking cast/crutches situation. I have a very good leg guardian – Frankie won’t leave me alone. Or, he wonders why I don’t walk him! Many thanks to K for walking two dogs many times each day – a job we planned to share when adopting dog #2. Sorry ’bout that.


I messed up my leg the evening that we had JUST finished all the framing for the garage. Argh! It was not an injury related to building at all – I just fell in the yard. Not even a steep part of the yard! We were just getting to the fun part – roofing, siding, etc. – and suddenly I became completely not useful. After a week or so of K muddling about, he had some friends over who helped get past a couple of final framing bits and I decided to seek professional help since we really needed at least a roof on the thing. We found a new contractor who had just spun off from a larger, reputable company and he squeezed in a day and a half of labor to help K get the sheeting, tar paper, and roof installed. Wow – so much progress with three guys working all at once!

Then, K called his dad and he spent much of a day working on getting the shiplap installed. We had 16′ 1×10’s which are a bit much for one guy to handle alone! Interior shown below. More pictures of exterior when I’m more ambulatory…


Finally, we decided to call in a garage door installer and he literally spent all of 1.5 hours installing the garage door. I’m pretty sure we would have spent a couple of very annoyed days installing and re-installing the thing, so this was a really good investment. Seriously, the videos showing how to install the door totaled a half hour, and this guy did the whole job flawlessly in an hour and a half! Besides, we bought the door used (but in pretty perfect shape) for about a quarter of the retail price. It’s fancy – even has an electric opener and a light!


So, we have a building with a roof, walls, and a door! Windows and the man door to come; K has been working on finishing some last siding and getting a coat of stain on. Looking really good, everybody but me! Thanks for all your efforts…

Then as it was, then again it will be.

Getting to the more obscure Led Zep quotes. This week we have been continuing to chip away at garage construction. Lots has happened, even though it seems slow (to us too). We had to source a few logs, pour piers, and build the carport beams. A friend came over to help with the big lift – thanks, PS! Triple 17′ 2x10s are a bit much for the two of us. Now that all the wall framing was done, we could get going on roof parts, starting with the ridge beam. A 40′ piece was super-fun to manage, but we did it. Today we installed the first few rafters, and can start getting some progress done on the roof now that we’ve got a couple done.


While we were doing log stuff, I found another local source of skinny cedar posts, and we put together a few railing sections for the porch. We wanted to get it done before one of us inevitably fell off! A couple sections to go – ran out of logs, but the farmer who was supplying them is cutting more soon.

railing1 railing2

It’s been disgustingly hot and humid, so we’re happy to have moved forward at all, but still feel a bit behind. We’re looking forward to slow but steady progress for August.

Black Dog

Tri-color dog. Yes, we’ve added to our pack – meet Bisbee (formerly Bella) who is a foster pup staying with us for a while, or maybe permanently, depending how well the next couple-few weeks go. She’s a very sweet, adorable little beagle about a year old who is getting along pretty well with Frankie so far, even though she is completely irritating to him when she leaps repeatedly in his face and falls all over him.

We have now turned to working on the garage – albeit slightly slowed by Puppy Weekend – but now have all but two small wing walls raised. (No pictures from today – it was really wet out – like living inside a cloud). We have to say, it is kind of awesome to work on a flat job site with brand new materials! Things go so quickly this way.



The upcoming week is for finishing walls and getting the roof structure together. There’s a heck of a pile of lumber and materials out there, which is getting irritating since there have also been a bunch of unexpected rainstorms, and it’s really humid. Not the greatest weather, but it’s supposed to get better soon.

Trampled Under Foot

We can use the front door again! The decking is on, and the porch is solid, sturdy, and sylish. As usual, almost all of the hardest and most important work is invisible. First, there was getting rid of all the yuck.

Then, building fresh – starting at the foundation.

Before we could put on the decking, we needed new cedar posts for the porch. Originally, we planned to re-use the old ones, after cutting off some rot and creating capitals at the top to make up the length. Alas, only about two had enough good wood to use. And, we had a hard time finding logs nearby – most of the cedar dealers are in other parts of the state. K’s persistence paid off when he talked through two guys to get to another guy who had a pile of cedars in a pasture he was clearing – and the price was perfect. So, we got to go last Saturday morning, pick logs (get our feet incredibly wet), cut them, peel them, and put them in the same day. Then we ready for the decking.

And now…decking! We can’t afford the fancy exotic woods (plus they’re totally not local), preferred not to do cedar, and I can’t deal with pressure treated…so we crossed our fingers that Craigslist would have some composite decking. We found a guy with plenty of decking that had been removed from his newish deck (that fell over! someone didn’t do their prep work properly), and at about 1/3  the price of new. Sure, it has some screw holes, but we managed to generally arrange boards so they were cut off or reused, and I’ve got some color-matched caulk to fill the remaining few. The porch floor is 99.7% done! And there’s furniture to relax and enjoy the view. Yes, new stairs and railings still to come, but at least we have our porch back.


Four Sticks

Yes, there is a Zeppelin song for everything. This week: the last of the big beams went in. And we mean big! About 300 pounds, that front main beam. It took a couple extra guys (super huge thanks E & L!), a couple six packs in payment, and some brownies, but it’s all in now. The rim joist is done. Here with joists too.


Then we moved on to the rest of the joists – easy as Custard Pie. This new construction business is super-simple. But the old way is, of course, best. K put the blocking in today, and we are in great shape now.


Up next: some prep, then some posts, then some decking…wow, that’ll be Celebration Day.

Whole lotta junk

We were away for 9 days – in awesome New Mexico! One of our absolute favorite places, besides here.

And now we’re back, and full steam ahead on the Porch Project. It is always a bit scary doing demo, because you realize that you have basically been walking on the structural equivalent of cardboard, resting on rotted-out beams. So all that stuff is gone. A few highlights:

So now we’ve been starting to rebuild! Yahoo! Progress to date includes a lot of bruises, sore backs, cuts and scrapes, and two very tired people (since every little thing means a trip up stairs, through boulders, etc.):


’twas in the darkest depths of mortar…

Figured we’d go with the Zeppelin theme this summer. Lots of work going on, both in the day job and here on the cabin. A few highlights:

We also built a nice block foundation wall under the porch for the work that’s about to take place. So much concrete and mortar! A heavy week.

Stairway to heaven?

Summer’s here and we have two big projects this year: build a garage, and re-build the porch. The garage is underway, and the porch is now too. Today we chopped off the awful stairs and moved them aside so we can take apart the rest of the structure. Everyone else is banned from the stairs- they’ll be a little dicey for a while (though perfectly stable). The house looks so much better with the ill-conceived stairs peeled off. image