Saturday, October 24, 2009

Heat, Now That Winter Is Upon Us!

An interesting thing about older homes (at least in my opinion) is the fact that over the years, as home heating systems changed and evolved, there is the likelihood that a fair number of different systems were used in providing heat to the house, both in the type of heat source and fuel burned, and in the method of heat delivery to the various parts of the house.

The Field House was constructed with 3 chimneys, so obviously wood stoves or fireplaces were used in the early days. There was also a large (2' by 2') square hole in the dining room floor, which has been filled in again, making me thing that a furnace or stove was used also in the basement, to provide a bit of central type heat to the main floor. In addition there was obviously at one point a hot water heating system with radiators, as there were a number of clues: a few cut off water pipes still show in the basement, there are tell-tale circular repairs in the wooden floors on the main level (a pair of 3" circles in each room), and the most obvious was the 800lb cast iron boiler installed in the 1940's which I tore apart and removed through the coal chute (oh yeah, and the two 150 gallon oil tanks in a corner of the basement!). Finally, the house was converted to a natural gas furnace with a forced air delivery system sometime in the 'eighties, which is the present system in use today.

The one slightly annoying thing about the forced air system is the fact that every room in the house has heat delivered to it by way of either a floor grate (main floor), or a grate in the baseboard (upper floor) except one, Alexander's bedroom. The challange of delivering heat to the second floor is that the heating conduit must be routed from the basement, then up a main floor wall such that on reaching the second floor it can easily be directed out a grate located in the base of the wall in the room to be heated. All fine and dandy when the first floor and second floor walls sit directly on top of one another, as a straight run of conduit can be run from the basement, through the floor, right up the first floor wall, through the second floor, and then out of a wall vent. Not so simple though, when the second floor wall does not sit directly on top of the first floor wall, or worse, there is no space in the wall to run a conduit because the wall contains a sliding pocket door. Such is the case with Alexander's bedroom, whose one wall is offset, and both walls beneath it contain pocket doors... the other two walls of his room are an exterior wall, or without room as it backs onto a staircase.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Festival City 10k Run

Today Katherine and I participated in the Festival City 10k Run to support the Stratford General Hospital Foundation. We ran it first last year, raising about $150 or so, with our run times of 52:39 for me while pushing Alexander (age 12 months) in the running stroller, and 1:02:25 for Katherine. For this year, we wanted to raise $300, while getting our times under 50 minutes and 1 hour respectively.

So the results are in: Today with Alexander in the stroller I completed the 10k in 50:58, and Katherine completed her run in 59:18! We also raised $250 this year for the Hospital. Although we didn't meet all of the goals we set, we were quite happy with our improvements. I wasn't totally disappointed with my own results, but I will not use Alexander's doubling in weight (from 15lb to 30lb this year) as an excuse! Hell, I even pumped the stroller's tires up to 70 psi to help keep my pace up! Next year I plan to beat 50 minutes (48 is my goal, and maybe actually training for the run might help!), Katherine plans to break the hour by a more significant margin, and hopefully we can raise closer to $500!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Tavistock Fall Fair

And of course the giant squash plant growing out of my compost bin leads me to the 2009 Tavistock Fall Fair. Every year Katherine and I exhibit a number of items in the various categories at the Fall Fair, this year being no exception. Two of the squash from the plant in the post below garnered third place in their category. Katherine also took first place in the 'Scrapbook' category, as well as three second place prizes for her rabbithair fern ('interesting houseplant'), Fire King mug ('Fire King antique') and small pepper plant (mistakenly entered by me in the 'bean plant, whole' category). In addition to having a whole bunch of exhibits, including but not limited to handmade knitting, fruits and vegetables, home brewed beer and wine, toys by kids and adults, and a whole whack of other things, there is a midway for kids, a parade, and a livestock exhibition. If you have never been to a Fall Fair, you should find one close to you, and go! Here are some pictures of the Parade, some which I may enter in the Photography competition for the 2010 Fall Fair.

Something Giant This Way Grows

I can't quite say I woke up this morning, decided to mow the lawn, only to find a mammoth squash plant had grown up overnight out of one of my compost bins... No, the plant actually took a whole month to grow to these mammoth proportions! The black compost bin is about 3' tall and 2' diameter for reference, and note also that the entire squash plant is not all in the photograph! There are actually two different field squash plants here, one producing a cream and creamy green large fruit, the other an orange and green smaller striped fruit. This is quite fantastic, as I am hoping if I have enough squash for halloween, I would like to make a rather creepy display including severed 'squash heads' on stakes lining the walk up to the front door of the house!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gardening Made Simple!

STEP 1: Identify an overgrown area

STEP 2: Dig out everything, and backfill with some leaf mulch

STEP 3: Followed by a 1/3 mixture of garden soil, compost, and peat moss

STEP 4: And plant with something new!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Field House Organic Vegetable Patch!

Well here it is, in all 32 square feet of its glory! This is our very own little non-certified-probably-about-as-organic-as-you-can-find-in-a-backyard organic garden! This is Katherine and Rudi's little project, as evidenced by their appearance in the photograph. This is the very same garden that last fall produced prize winning Roma and Yellow Plum tomatoes (First and second in both categories) at the Tavistock Fall Fair. Katherine and Rudi have sixteen runner bean plants (four Painted Lady, four Celebration, and eight Wisley Magic) climbing the twig frame, along with sixteen tomato plants, as well as some garlic, peas, carrots, and yellow bush beans. Hot peppers of some description are planted in the strawberry pots. hmmm, seems young Rudi is in dire need of a haircut!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Unkempt Grounds (Part One)

The accompanying photograph depicts one of the unfortunate consequences of my being a lazy person, one who is unwilling to 'get his hands dirty' according to some! This is just one of a fair number of examples of the 'unkempt grounds' the Field House has been left with during our stay here! If my memory serves well, the back of the property here had very little planted along the fence line, as most of the area was thin grass over the bare roots of the spruces, with a discontinous thin bed containing the occasional Sedum or Hosta perhaps. Being at the back of the property and not visible from the road, it was apparently overlooked by Mr. Hilcox when he was in the process of researching his blog (see sidebar). Over three years I slowly built up compost and earthy materials, and then began planting the Hostas five years ago. I counted them recently, and there are now seventy Hostas in this bed, the majority of which have been grown and split from the small assortment that came with the house. I think I purchased perhaps a dozen in total so far. I will readily admit, however, that there are other areas of the garden that actually are quite messy and overgrown, which I have let get that way, as I have neither had the time nor inspiration to tackle them yet. This though, is what happens when I actually do get inspired and get my butt in gear!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It Seems I Have A Fan!

A short while ago a new follower arrived, and left a number of comments. It turns out this person was a former owner of the property, and apparently has some issue with the condition of certain elements, most notably the front porch. I sincerely hope this is not the same person who actually painted the front porch, of which I have taken a couple of pictures in its present condition.

The porch in 2001 when we bought the property had already lost a significant amount of its paint, both the top coat, and the primer coat beneath it, leaving the wood bare in large patches. The owners we purchased it from (Mike and Dana) had evidently slapped on a coat of paint to make it look presentable when they put the house up for sale in 2000, as I am assuming they had no incentive to actually do anything more, as they were not going to be living here anymore.

This begs the following question. Who painted the porch and why had it already peeled completely by the time Mike and Dana put the house on the market in the summer of 2000? I doubt that Mike and Dana painted the porch at all, except to cover up the mess when they sold the place. Was it painted a long time earlier, and they never got the time to do it properly? Or was it simply a poorly done job that deteriorated within a few years of it going on?

Perhaps the painter of the porch was Mr. Hilcox, who seems to take a remarkable interest in the peeling paint! He implies that I am being lazy in my efforts in maintaining the property, as evidenced by his blog (I have included it in my blog list in the right banner). I would then guess that the porch was painted sometime in the late 'eighties, up to the mid 'nineties, giving the lifespan of that paint job somewhere of the order of less than ten years before it completely failed. I do have some experience painting, and am of the opinion that a properly painted exterior surface should last in the order of 20 to 30 years, and the primer coat should never peel from the surface. Perhaps Mr. Hilcox's suggestion that I pick up a paintbrush to take care of the mess that I adopted is also telling: Wielding a paintbrush is the least important step in applying a long lasting, proper coat of paint. Far more important are proper stripping (with either mechanical or chemical strippers), and then properly cleaning and rinsing to ensure the wood surface is thoroughly prepared for painting.

I have estimated that 'painting' the front porch is likely an 80 to 100 man hour job, so at least two, if not three weeks to get it done right, so if the weather looks good in August, I will probably do it then. And then I will sit back, knowing that it will be about about 2032 AD before I have to sand and clean it, and renew the top coat again.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Toys Of The New Millenium

Well here they are, the new toys I splurged on... Yes I know you are all probably assuming tools or something like that, but no, these are even better, a Kenmore Elite HE-5 High Efficiency Washer and Dryer pair! Last spring we arrived at the cottage to find leaking pipes, and the washing machine left in the on position (with no water available), the motor humming slightly as it tried to start. With all the other plumbing work I had to do up there, I didn't even get a chance to test it, I simply assumed the motor had been cooked. The plan then was to buy a new washer and dryer for the Field House, and move the set from there up to replace the cooked set at the cottage. Well after finding a great deal on the Kenmores, it turns out that the cottage washer was fine after all, so I then managed to sell the old washer from the house on, and donate the dryer to Katherines sister Elizabeth, who for several months had a dryer with a non-functioning heater element. I saved a few hundred bucks by not buying the pedestal bases, and built a custom wood frame base that is even taller right onto the concrete floor. It is amazing to watch the washer as it spins up (approx 1200 rpm top speed) and the top of base it sits on rocks from side to side roughly half an inch. From what I have heard, it is not a good idea to put these types of machines in a second floor laundry room as they will make the house vibrate, and I can understand why!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Something New!

You might notice a new addition to this blog, in the right hand column. Yep, ads by Google AdSense! I have decided to make my fortune a penny at a time, and have signed up for this incredible money making scheme! In any event, I was just curious as to what AdSense is all about, and if I earn $10 a year, that will be fantastic.

What interested me most was the idea that the advertising would be assigned and tailored based on the content of my site. Well what do you know! Within five minutes of getting the ad code up, the little text ads are all to do about doors, trim, house stains, custom stairs, porches, paint, insulation, and anything else to do with owning a house. Pretty darn cool!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Do Some People Simply Choose Not to Think? (part 2 of 3)

For as long as the trees have lived beside the hydro line in front of the house, some sensible thinking chap on the trimming crew has always brushed them back about two or three feet back of the vertical plane of the lines, and kept the line of six trees looking absolutely fabulous. Three years ago, this was done, except this time, someone punched a hole the size of a small car in the draping canopy of the first of six trees to accommodate the 240 V line from the pole to our neighbors house.

I called Erie Thames, and the next day a supervisor came around to inspect the work. He agreed that the cutting around the line to the neighbors, although legitimately required, was somewhat excessive and not really necessary. He further agreed that Erie Thames would contact me before any trimming in the future, especially if any significant cutting back was required.
Well, this time around, it seems Hydro has subcontracted a lot of work, if not all of it, and the cutters arrived, promptly shearing off virtually all the branches of one tree facing the power lines, and most of two of the others. As soon as I found out the extent of the hatchet job, I talked to the crew chief, and suggested he stop the brushing until he had a supervisor contact me about the work being performed. He complied, noting that I was just a little bit pissed, and moved on down the street. A supervisor from the line cutting department called me back (on Friday) and told me he would drop by personally to inspect on Monday....

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Do Some People Simply Choose Not to Think? (part 1 of 3)

As mentioned in an earlier post on my Tavistock Treehouse blog, the Field House is fronted by what I consider a row of six absolutely remarkable trees. They are all Norway Spruce, identical in age, roughly 75 years old, and each similar in size and shape. They are fairly large, between 50 and 70 feet tall, with foliage cover at least 20' away from each trunk. They have branches that sweep downward and outward, with needles arranged in drooping, hanging combs. All of them have actually been topped (had the main leader cut off) for some reason fairly early in their lives, but since nothing will stop a tree from growing toward the sun, each tree had put out anywhere from two to five new leaders after being cut back. The result now are trees with one mammoth main trunk, that splits into two, three, or up to even five secondary trunks at varying heights above the groud. These multiple trunks, combined with the draping needles, and the numerous died off branches close to the trunks create a magnificently gothic, dark and foreboding appearance.

Now we can get to the Erie Thames Power Corporation, our local Hydroelectric utility, and the wonderful consequences of subcontracting work to companies and personnel with at the very least seemingly little experience, or a remarkable inability to actually use the brains given to them by God...