Phoebe wins

Last year, a corner of the eaves went unpainted because a pair of Eastern Phoebes was nesting there. They cleared out in the fall, but it was tool cold to paint by then. Still unpainted, we really hope to keep the top of our beam clear of the nest (it got gross) this year, finish our painting, AND provide a nice place for the phoebes, who could be in decline in the northeast US.

So, today we used some scrap cedar to build a nest platform for the little couple. We haven’t seen them yet, but if they can wait until after warm weather next weekend, we might finally finish up that paint before they start building their nest. It was satisfying to build a dwelling in just under a half hour…big change from the amount of work that has gone into our humble abode.

More info about phoebes is here, and we built an open nest platform (rather than box, with a roof) because they will be under the roof of our house).


We did it ourshelf!

We’ve been steadily working through our list of trim projects, you are are painfully aware. This weekend, we did one of our favorite types of these efforts: log construction! Our large front window has been sill-less since we installed the window, and in the hope that I can soon start some seedlings indoors, we prioritized a sill on which to stash them, given tight space elsewhere.

So, in between rainstorms, we went to our log pile and grabbed a good candidate, peeled the bark, and prepped it for cutting. K broke out the chainsaw and we took a large slab off one side. Then we hand-planed it, sanded the face, removed small branches, and cut it to length. Our favorite tool for cutting small branches flush with the log surface is an oscillating tool fitted with a saw blade, which we call “the buzz-buzz” – it’s been perhaps the most useful tool I’ve ever owned. Ours is just this cheap version, and it has been just fine for log work and many, many other jobs (cutting aluminum trim; cutting spray foam flush with joists; carving log sections).

We have also developed a nice trick that lets us install log sills or other parts with large Timberlok screws; we pilot drill for the screw, then use a Forstner bit the size of the Timberlok’s large head to countersink the screw at least 1/2″. Then, I find a cedar twig outside (seriously, twigs are perfect for this), strip the bark, and find a section that fits the hole a bit snug to create a plug. Then glue it in to the hole (hammer it in) and let dry. Then cut the excess with the old Buzz-Buzz, and sand it flush. It’s hard to tell if it’s a plug or an actual knot/branch original to the log. And, it makes the piece pretty sturdy.

For this windowsill, we needed supports where there weren’t good attachment points, so we also used a smaller log end to create two little diagonal supports toward the center. Later we’ll sand an epoxy fill I had to make and urethane the whole thing. One more thing off the list!