Check out the “best of” video highlights below.
On Wednesday the contractor brought in a small tractor-backhoe and dug a temporary drainage ditch to dry up the pond. All has been quiet since then as we wait for things to dry up. Work is expected to resume tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on the weather (storms are expected both days.) The next step is digging the footers.
Well, I spent the entire 3-day holiday weekend prepping the old addition for its demolition, mainly doing everything I could to disengage the addition from the main house as much as possible, putting plywood up over the old doors, removing copper pipes, cutting out drain pipes in the wall shared with the main house, etc.
On Thursday our contractor dropped off this beast so they can start work bright and early Monday on the demolition portion of our new addition project. This thing is big — I paced off the tread width at about 12 feet, which is just a little less than the width of our lower driveway as it passes between the goat shed and the apothedairy, and, coincidentally, the width of the lower drive as it goes past our front porch.
We are told that our 20×25 foot 2-story addition will be gone in a day. How is this possible? It has a thumb, hydraulically operated, that lets it grab and rip and tear.
Yes, Monday is going to be VERY interesting around here! Now, I am off to keep prepping the old addition to make the tearing off process go as smoothly as possible.
This past winter was pretty brutal, and about halfway through it we started getting serious with some vague plans that we have been mulling over for a number of years. Here is what I wrote in an email back in January:
Man, this last cold snap was worse that the last one — we’ve been below zero twice (last night was minus 2.5) — and under 20 for what seems like forever. Bedroom has been hovering around 50. Kitchen and living room struggle to stay in the 60s. It got down to 50 in the kitchen last Wed nite when I put the stoves and me to bed for 6 hours since the power had gone out so there was no internet to keep me company (power was out for 12 hours after which, by the way, the fridge was 10 degrees warmer than the unheated addition.)
We could, instead of this, shut off water to and abandon the main house and move into the back 40 with its electric baseboard heat. But that would feel mighty claustrophobic and even more siege-like, what with the small rooms and 7-foot ceilings and lack of kitchen, so we’ll just tough it out.
We have known from the get-go that our wood-stove-heat paradigm was not sustainable as we age towards our 60s, and over the years we have tossed around a number of ideas for the future — including various ideas about upgrading the heating system here to something else. But this winter has been saying loud and clear that the future is now! So we have been amusing ourselves with an extended-arctic-weather-induced dream of easier and more comfortable living here at Riversdell by planning for a new addition on the house to replace the current addition.
Yes, that’s right, we are tearing down the century-old addition on the house and replacing it with something much better. The new addition will be a cathedral-ceilinged great room with a loft on the west (street) side with a bathroom, bedroom, and galley under the loft. The east (river) side will have a large bay window. A focal highlight of the space is the existing 7-1/2 foot wide stone chimney. Oh, and underfloor hot-water heat, powered by some still-being-decided combination of rooftop solar hot water, LP (propane) H2O heater, and geothermal water-to-water heat pump. PV solar will supply some (most? all?) of the electricity for the heat and water.
A more complete description and detailed drawings are available at the 2014 Addition Project link at the upper right.
We have our demolition and construction permits in hand, have our general contractor lined up, and are now almost done with the salvage-old-materials portion of the demolition. Here is what the kid’s old bedrooms and bathroom now look like:
The walls were all tongue-and-groove pine which we have saved for reuse as flooring in the new loft. We also saved the vinyl replacement windows we had installed when we moved in 16 years ago — we will reuse them in the new vestibule. And, no, there was no insulation in these walls, no sheathing either, just 3/4″ poplar clapboards on the exterior and 5/8″ T/G pine on the interior.
And here is the view into the old addition from our lower veranda:
The old addition floors were several steps down and ceilings were lower — that’s the old guest room below and the kid’s bathroom above. In the new addition this view will be a sliding glass door into the great room.
Well, we finally dealt with the 3 pallets of concrete block that have been sitting the side yard since November. Early last autumn while we were getting the gardens ready for winter, we started brainstorming on a better way to user our side garden area. It was a long, sloped garden that always seemed to get away from us over the course of the growing season. We decided to break it up into a series of level lots by terracing. We looked at several more attractive options, but the cost seemed out of whack, so went went with our tried-and-true dry-stacked grey concrete blocks (aka “cinder blocks” or CMUs), capped with red concrete pavers. We (somewhat optimistically) went ahead and ordered the blocks in November, hoping that we would get our usual periods of decent weather in December and January, but that did not happen.
We just got the plots done over last weekend, and I spent Monday hauling compost from the compost into them, and moving piles of compost-to-be (aka cleaning out the goat shed.) We have a system that works well for us. In the picture to the right you see that I ended the day with two compost piles, the darker one on the left and the lighter one on the right. The lighter one is the bedding that I pushed out of the goat shed — a year’s worth of uneaten hay and goat berries. This started composting in place, giving the goats underfloor heating all winter. It has now been stirred, and the goats (and dogs) will play on it and trample it down. Next spring (or maybe in the fall, depending on conditions) I will move it over to the side for a second round of stirring and trampling — the dark pile you see is last year’s cleanout. The previous second-year pile is what I just put on the new garden plots.
This coming weekend I am going to plant the 12 tomato plants I bought a month ago and have been nursing in little pots, hardening them off. I will get them in the ground this weekend (only a few days our May 15th frost date), using my new and improved cattle panel trellising system.
All of the snows we’ve had all winter kept the ground pretty saturated. Combined with the periodic bitter cold snaps, frost heave was inevitable. This portion of our front stone wall will need some TLC after spring mud season ends (before which this relentless winter needs to end!)
We have a couple of bird feeders out front that attract a menagerie. Our cat Gigi likes to sit at the window and watch them. There is one wren in particular that likes to taunt her. She can easily spend a hour or more a day watching this tailor-made program. And, like any good entertainment service, there is a second channel.
The goats always notice the start of feeding time, especially in the winter.
The snowstorm ended overnight Thursday. We stayed at 16″ of accumulation — the last few inches were offset by melting/compaction since the temp rose into the mid 30s. Friday was clear and bright, a perfect day for digging out.
Like most of the US East Coast we are in the midst of a major winter storm. This has been a very cold, snowy winter so far from the first arctic blast in early December through this current storm-in-progress. 16″ on the ground with more on the way.
Here is a 10-minute video of our barn chores this morning. Once they plow our road I can get the tractor out to plow the upper driveway followed by the lower driveway we are trudging on in this video.
We’re still alive here at Riversdell. I know we haven’t blogged for 3 years, but sometimes life just gets in the way. The goat-raising has taken a back seat to other priorities, but we are getting back to it this year.
So, with no further ado, the first round of 2014 goat kids.
This winter, for the first time in years, we started the heating season with a completely full wood shed. This lets us definitively calculate how much wood we go through.
Today we used up the second of five bays, which is pretty good for this leaky old house. We made some changes this year to reduce our heating requirements, mainly putting in a door between the kitchen and the back hallway to close off an entire wing of the house — the “back forty” as we refer to it. Since the kids are now out of the house there is no need to heat it on a regular basis. Despite the cold weather, it has stayed above freezing back there (barely, at times) but as a precaution I shut off the water to that section of the house. (One thing the previous owner did right in his renovations was to have the plumbing zoned.)
We are also in the process (I always seem to “be in the process” of things rather than “done with” them!) of adding Foil / Double Bubble / Foil insulation in the cellars.
The changes have helped — despite a record-cold December, I have been hauling in 2 – 3 loads of wood a day as opposed to the 4 loads in years past. The long underwear has also stayed in the drawers so far this year.