Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Has Arrived!

We've had bucketloads of rain this week and the temperature has definitely cooled. Luckily, we had a break in the weather long enough for Jeff to get his cover crop seeds in.

A couple of days ago we jury-rigged a plastic cover over the chicken house, because the wood was absorbing too much of the rain and we didn't want our chickens to get sick from all the moisture. It ain't pretty, but it will do for now. We're exploring options for something more permanent for the winter. Maybe a new not-movable coop, or maybe something like a portable "garage roof."

With the change in weather, our resident trees have started shedding. The yard was thoroughly covered in leaves, so yesterday we finally managed to make it to the store to buy a leaf rake. We spent a while yesterday afternoon cleaning up the front yard and street. Jeff hauled the leaves into the backyard because they'll make great compost.

We've learned this house is really not insulated! I wonder how earlier residents took the cold. We finally turned on the furnace yesterday when we realized it was 55°F inside the house. Though, it's not really working very well; as I type this in the parlor area, I can see my breath when I exhale heavily. It hardly makes much sense to turn the heat up if the heat is simply going to pour out of all the uninsulated spaces and windows. We're going to spend a very bundled-up winter!

We've taken to sleeping in the basement again, because at 63°F, it's the warmest space in the house. Though, with the furnace on, one of the noisiest; we may need to just abandon running the furnace at night. It will be really nice once we finish insulating and replace the furnace with something more efficient, and hopefully quieter. =)

Jeff and I are trying a new routine where we spend 5PM to 9PM working on school. It has reduced our Netflix watching and has helped us be more proactive about getting the schoolwork done. We've also started doing our shopping errands on Tuesdays. This week we acquired food stuffs and lawn tools. Hopefully next week we'll make it appliance shopping. I hope these habits stick at least through the rest of the quarter.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Backyard Planting Bed

Inspired by his organic gardening class, Jeff decided to try and get a fall planting put in before the rains start in earnest. He has spent many hours this week double digging and adding amendments to this bed. It's still a bit of a mess, because he's not finished, but he's made good progress since last Sunday.
After class today, he dropped in at Naomi's Farm Supply and picked up vetch, crimson clover & rye seeds for a cover crop. I'm sure he'll add more details at his blog, when he has time to write up a post.

Anya has been quite the layer this week! She finally settled on a spot in the yard to lay her eggs, and it's making collection much easier. Though, today I felt bad about taking them because she was following me around acting very concerned I might disturb her nest. I think she has given us 5 eggs this week. This is the last three (we ate the first two).

It would be real nice if we could convince the chickens to lay the eggs in the nesting box, but they've decided it is their sleeping space and we haven't been able to talk them out of it. In fact, it was funny the other day, because the roof of the nesting box kept opening partially, and we opened it to see all three chickens trying to squeeze into one side. When they were younger, they all slept together and now they've gotten too big.

Unplanned Shopping Day

I decided to drive out to NW Portland and drop in at BASCO, a builder's appliance supply highly recommended by our contractor, to look at medium to high-end appliances for our remodel. I really needed to figure out what dishwasher to pick before the sale at Lowe's ended on Monday. And, unfortunately, BASCO has lousy weekday only hours, so it had to be today.

I worked with Derek and he was awesome—he's worked at BASCO for 12 years and is very knowledgable about the different brands and their expected lifespans. I walked in there really quite set on the Bosch, but I think he managed to talk me into the Miele.

Derek told me Bosch used to be a great brand—one of their best sellers—but in recent years their quality has really declined (with no decline in price). Also, Bosch had a huge recall last year because their control panels were sparking and they're now manufacturing motors with plastic parts in them.

So, with the hope we're going to get a good long life out of this appliance, I believe we're going to order the Miele Inspira. Unfortunately, though, we're going to have to come up with some sort of wood panel to temporarily use on the face of this dishwasher—he said a sheet of ¾" plywood would work. Oh well, I guess we'll have to do that. =)

Since, I was out and about, I dropped in for another errand I've been meaning to do: Buy Shasta boots! I also found her a "jacket" and I picked that up as well. (They also had a "knight" halloween costume that was very tempting, but it was very expensive and just a little too small. I managed to resist!)Shasta is not crazy about the boots, but I'm sure she'll eventually get used to them. We're really trying to find a solution for her muddy feet problem. Our hope is these will stay on in the mud and then we can just pop them off her feet when she comes in. I guess we'll just have to see once we get mud—it's been too dry this week to test them out.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Our First Eggs!!

We finally got our first chicken eggs today! Two!

Not really sure which chicken(s) laid them, because we didn't see it happening, but I suspect it was Anya (the gold-headed chicken) because she has been acting very peculiar the last several days (i.e. walking up to us, hanging out alone, etc.). Though, the eggs look identical with a slight green cast, and were laid just a couple feet apart, so I wonder if Anya laid both of them or if maybe Willow and Anya both laid one. (Willow is the other mottled black chicken. Buffy is the gold chicken.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Remodel Update

Though it was difficult, because I felt guilty about the decision, I wrote a very complimentary email to Green Hammer informing them I had decided to hire another company to remodel our house. They graciously accepted our decision. Then a couple days later we signed a contract with Craftsman Design & Renovation.

I hope we're making the right decision, but it "feels" right to me. I just really prefer the work they show in their portfolio. Our only lingering worry is they'll be too expensive and we won't be able to stay in our budget, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it...

Last Tuesday, CD&R came out and made the first pass at measuring the rooms in an effort to put together an accurate floor plan and elevation. Then, they'll be out in another week or two to add more detail to their completed drawings of the existing space.

I've spent several hours during the last week trying to make decisions about materials to use in the kitchen and bathroom. Last Thursday, Jeff and I dropped by EcoHaus to look over some of their Eco-cool materials.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Paperstone; in the evergreen color, it actually looked a bit like soapstone, which is a "stone" that would have been used in period. Though, it's a pretty new product and we're not sure we're prepared to go with an untested new product that may have a short life span. Though, we could also consider soapstone as well; it's still available and looks like a reasonable option.

We also like a product called IceStone which is made from recycled glass. We really didn't like the TrinityPacific or ShetkaStone, so they're definitely out as options.

We're still favoring stone. The new products, made from recycled materials, are nearly as expensive (or sometimes more expensive) than stone. We LOVED our empress green marble counters in Forest Grove, and it's going to be sorely tempting to just go with what we know and love.

I have spent hours researching "period" tile. My goal is to select a backsplash material for the kitchen. Our current options:

1) Go with something a lot like what we had in Forest Grove. We would use stone in a subway tile shape (probably 3"x6") and probably this mosaic border. If we go with this option, it is VERY likely we would buy larger travertine tiles and cut them down ourselves into the 3"x6" size. It would save us something like $15/square foot to cut down the tiles ourselves. And I think it is a job we could handle. We'd obviously have to rent or buy a tile saw.

2) Our next option is to just do a plain stone backsplash—like the above picture—and a nice mosaic mural for the backsplash behind the stove. I really like this picture, but it may not be appropriate for the period look. But it appeals to me because it looks a lot like the Pacific Northwest—our home.

3) The next option, and probably the "best" option for the look we're hoping for, is to go with ceramic subway tile with reproduction accent tiles. But, amazingly, that option is by far the most expensive. The company that makes these amazing reproduction tiles charge an absolutely insulting amount of money for them. That cool dragon tile is $65 each for the 3"x3" tile. While I'd love to be able to do this option, I think it's just going to be too expensive if we really intend to stay in our budget.

4) Finally, my least favorite option, is to just use plain colored ceramic subway tile and don't add any reproduction accent tiles. That route will also be somewhat expensive, because we intend to use Fireclay Debris series ceramic tile, if we go the tile route. It's made from recycled materials and looks quite nice in person.

We obviously don't have to make all these decisions right away, but I am trying to be prepared for when we have a layout plan this winter and we have to figure out the finish options. If we've already picked a few design ideas, it will make it easier to compare the cost of the different options.

Productive Weekend

We had one of our more productive weekends this weekend. Saturday, as usual, we both had school until 4PM then we usually both spend the evening doing school work. It's a long day.

Last week, Jeff worked out a nice food-for-tutoring barter arrangement with one of his classmates and he got some produce yesterday. He brought home about 20 pounds of roma tomatoes, chard, spinach, a zucchini and some other veges. (Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo.) So, today we had to figure out how to process them or they'd likely go bad in the next couple of days.

We decided to make tomato sauce for use during the next couple of weeks. On the first batch we went through the hassle of peeling the tomatoes and cooking them down, but the second batch we just processed the tomatoes through the food processor, skin and all, and that seemed to work fine. It sure saved time. =)

The rest of the tomatoes we just washed and put in the freezer so we can make another batch of sauce on another weekend.

We also managed to spend a few minutes out in the garage working to unbury the cherry entertainment center out there. It's taking up a ton of space and we need to get it gone. We cleaned it up and I listed it on craigslist. We're going to try and sell it until January, and then we'll go ahead and donate it and the rest of the furniture if we haven't found new homes for them by then.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Jeff Visiting Seattle

Jeff decided to go visit Seattle this weekend. One of his team members from Intel (way back when) is getting married up there tomorrow and Jeff thought it would be nice to visit. And since Erik lives there, it gives him an opportunity to have some friend time with Erik as well. Hopefully Jeff will share some photos when he returns.

Tonight, I'm trying to resist the lure of remodel "window" shopping and Netflix to spend my time getting caught up on my reading for classes. After nearly a week of blowing off my school responsibilities, I was starting to get behind.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happily Shopping!

When I'm not busy reading boring paralegal textbooks, I can be found having fun cruising around the internet looking for appliances, tile and eco-cool finishing alternatives for our remodel. While our general inclination for materials is it to go with stone counters and floors, I'm taking the time for this house to investigate other options as well.

Here are a few interesting options for countertops:
Paperstone countertops. Made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, resins and natural pigments. Some nice colors, but they may look too much like plastic. I hope to go see it in person soon.
Trinity Pacific countertops. Made in Washington State from 70% locally-sourced, recycled glass and low-carbon cement (20%).
Cambria Quartz counters are created from pure natural quartz
and, finally
ShetkaStone counters are made from 100% post-consumer and post-industrial recycled fibers, including cardboard, newsprint, retired U.S. currency, and other paper. The green shredded-currency counter looks interesting.

I've also been trying to find appliances that will accept wood panels so we can reduce the visual impact of these modern built-in appliances. I'd like to do something along these lines for the refrigerator. Though, I had forgotten how much good appliances cost! I shudder to add up the total. We'll obviously be doing our part next year to stimulate the Oregon economy.

(The refrigerator image was borrowed for my remodel idea file from one of the blogs I follow: Hartwood Roses.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Time For Sure

Well, after a couple weeks of mulling over the decision to go with Green Hammer Remodeling, I have been stressing about whether we made a mistake. While I'm sure they're capable of doing a nice remodel for us, I really want something special. I want to put in a kitchen that looks like it could have been original to this 1912 Craftsman house.

So, this morning, Jeff and I went back and talked to the Craftsman Design and Renovation folks. I'm pretty sure we're going to switch to them.

I love the majority of the work in their portfolio, especially the cabinetry and lighting in this kitchen, though we'll certainly go with different tile! After today's visit, I am confident they'll be able to help us make the tough choices we'll need to in order to stay on budget.

We've also had more time to think about how much of the work we want to try and take on in this project. I'm getting more and more convinced that our participation will be minimal. We'll certainly help with manual labor, like hauling demolition debris out of the house. I think we may try to stain and varnish some of the woodwork. We also want to try and make stained glass panels for cabinet and built-in doors. Otherwise, we're probably just not qualified to do much of the work ourselves without more training.

It was difficult, but I think I wrote a diplomatic "Dear John" letter to Green Hammer letting them go. I hope this process isn't too painful, because I'm already stressed about this decision.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rain Gardens 101

Earlier this week, Jeff and I attended a free class in Portland offered by the East Multnomah Soil & Conservation District: Rain Gardens 101. A rain garden is a garden of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers planted in a small depression, which is generally formed on a natural slope. It is designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water runoff that flows from roofs, driveways, patios or lawns. Rain gardens are effective in removing up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80% of sediments from the rainwater runoff.

We are definitely planning to add a rain garden or two as soon as we can figure out where we want to put them. We quite enjoyed the class and it was worth every penny! If anyone else lives in Portland, you might want to check it out.

Though, one thing we learned is that we shouldn't use copper rain chains because the copper leaches into the water supply and harms salmon. Oh no, we already bought some. Bummer. So now we have to decide if we're going to hang them or abandon that earlier plan. =(

For folks not lucky enough to live in Portland, but who want to build their own Rain Garden, I found a great website that had links to tons of resources for DIYers. Check it out. They look pretty easy to build; mostly just digging holes and planting particular varieties of plants.