New Puppy!


Meet Satie [sah-tee] our new 9-week-old Black Lab mix. Mixed with what we do not know.


We got her as a companion Livestock Guardian Dog with Bersheba (left) because we are going to retire the aging Roy (top) from LDG duties to become an indoor dog starting this winter. Satie has LOTS of puppy energy — she is blurry in almost every picture I took.


She is already keenly interested in the chickens — if you look carefully you can see a chicken on the right, kinda hard to spot amongst the similarly-colored leaves. Unfortunately, she is still small enough that she can wriggle through the fence in some places, so supervision in the pastures is a must.

Addition Ready for Final Concrete Pour

Well, almost, still have to do the final cleanup. We are trying to arrange the final concrete pour, but with winter on the way the concrete tradesmen are very busy trying to get their outdoor pours done.

This pour is about 1068 square feet and will be 4½ – 5 inches thick. It is being poured on top of a suspended concrete slab subfloor. We want to add mica flakes at the end of the pour to add a bit of sparkle. From what we understand, this means trowel-finishing the entire floor.


Here is the floor plan of the two slabs to be poured. Click to embiggen.


Our lower driveway will let the concrete truck back right up to addition entryway.


The concrete pump hoses will enter the addition via the exterior door at the top of the ramp. In this and subsequent pics you will see tools and supplies that will all be gone shortly.


The vestibule, being closest to the door, will be the last space poured. The concrete will be poured to the top of the 4-1/2″ triple sole plate. The wallboard is already up and painted so we used blue tape and rosin paper to protect it. The space for the yet-to-be-installed 1×8 baseboard provides a space of bare studs to ease with the concrete finishing.


Just inside the great room from the vestibule there is a staircase to the walk-out basement. The concrete finishers can use this for access as needed.


The great room and under-loft rooms have 5/8″ pex heat tubing attached to the subfloor. At the upper right is the bow windows and at the upper left is the loft staircase the the concrete will need to flow under.


A better view of the loft staircase corners where the concrete will go under it.


Looking towards the loft. On the left you can see the stone chimney and the dumbwaiter enclosure.


The galley kitchenette. Except for the bathroom toilet and shower drain, all drain pipes are in the wall.


The view in the bedroom of one of the two closets. You can see more detail of the heat tubing — it is the zip-tied to poultry netting that is stapled to the sole plates. Tapcon screws and various brackets have also been used to help anchor everything down so the tubing does not float up. To the left you can see in the bathroom where the tubing goes through the subfloor to connect with the manifold in the basement.


The curbless walk-in L-shaped shower. This will get troweled to a semi-rough surface to avoid slipping in the shower (sponge finish?). It will flow under and up against the granite walls and slope down to the drain at the end of the ell (not shown).


The water closet.

Addition Update, Day 434 (Ouch!)

As I said in an earlier post, we got delayed in our construction over the summer. We got a six-month extension on our building permit, so mid-December is our new target for completion. Still lots to do, but now that the hot weather has broken I am able to get more done. My #1 priority is to get the heat tubing in place so we can schedule the final concrete pour(s). (#2 priority is to get the rooftop solar collection tubes up.)


Here is the 1000′ roll of 5/8″ Uponor AquaPEX tublng I am putting down. The make-shift support of sawhorses, pipe clamp, and 4″ PVC pipe is working OK, though at first it took two people to unreel since the roll weighed in at 86 lbs.


The first step was to put rosin paper up to protect the painted walls from concrete splash when the final pour is done. Next was stretching out poultry netting that I will attach the tubing to with zip ties — not really sure about this method but I read about on the Internet so it has to work well, right? Right?? I started with the trickiest of the three 300′ tubing loops, the one under the loft. Among other challenges was the fact that we had to thread the loop through the wall between the bedroom and galley kitchen.


It took 4 days but the first heating loop is now complete. (FYI, I HIGHLY recommend that you not wait until you are in your late 50’s before undertaking something like this!) The only hitch was that I had miscalculated the layout and end up with some left-over footage that I had to get a little creative with around the bedroom closets. (Besides from the one time I kinked the tubing, but that is exactly why I chose PEX-a rather than -b or -c: you can fix a kink with a heat gun or hair dryer).



Our tomatoes did OK this year, even though we largely ignored them and they did get some sort of blight. Here are 20 lbs of mostly San Marzano Gigante 3 Tomatos ready to prep for canning.


7 quarts, ready for the pressure canner.

About Time!

Yes, it’s been awhile since I last posted. The addition construction ground to a halt over, of all things, the paint on the great room ceiling. When I went to put up the ceiling fan I noticed that the drywall seams were showing through the paint. Turns out the contractor put two coats of premium primer but no top coat on it, said that was “as good or better” than primer plus top coat. I begged to differ! Long story short, we ended up putting two coats of eggshell (one rolled one sprayed) then one coat of matte before it looked correct. Then I had a couple of minor medical issues, so it took me awhile to pick up on my addition work. But I did finally get the ceiling fan up, looks good, don’t you think?


Minka Aire White 60″ Aviator Ceiling Fan

Peeps ‘n’ Pups


Ok, so they are not really pups any more (but, hey, alliteration!), nevertheless our two dogs Roy and Bersheba both like to participate in the barn chores.

Peeps 2015


Our new chicken peeps arrived 10 days ago — 15 Dark Brahma pullets and 2 cockerels. In the past we’ve had Light Brahmas. We hope that the darker color will make them harder for predators (especially hawks) to spot in the field.

Interesting “insulation”

More renovation fun as we have the old house re-sided. We are having the west and south sides of the old house redone. These walls are wood framed (4½”) with interior wood lath and plaster, and exterior clapboards right on the studs. No sheathing, no insulation (well, almost, see below). We are adding fiberglass batts, then OSB sheathing, house wrap, and the same HardiePlank siding we used on the addition. So we are going from R-1 to R-12+ in insulation.

The north side is covered by the new addition, and the east side has the verandas on it and the wide horizontal exterior boards are in good shape so we are leaving those alone.


As we suspected — since I encountered them when I ran new phone wire 15 years ago — some of the walls in the old house were packed with soft, unfired clay bricks. Brick Nogging is what it is called.


Only half the house had bricks, no reason why that I can think of. We also decided to remove the old window trim — it had some architectural interest but was in pretty tough shape. Besides, the same trim is on the inside of the house where we get to look at it.


Bricks out. You can see a little fiberglass under the kitchen window; this and the new wood were part of a repair by a previous owner of the house.


Interesting craftsmanship in the wood-pegged, half-dado corner bracing. They also alternated hefty and thin wall studs (and floor joists as well). The horizontal wood strip under the windows is the back of the chair rail that runs around all the rooms.

In for a penny …

… in for a pound, as the saying goes. The addition looks so good it makes the main house look, well, bad. So we are going ahead with re-roofing and re-siding it. The roofers started this morning, and here is the progress after less than 3 hours.


Peering through the attic door, all the old metal is off the back (east) side of the house.


New metal is going up.

Addition Solar Heat Plan

The underfloor hydronic heat in the addition will consist of 3 zones with 4 loops total: basement 1-loop zone, great room 2-loop zone, and under-loft 1-loop zone. Each loop is 300′ 5/8″ PEXa tubing. The expectation is that the great room zone will the most active. The intention is to run each loop at 1.75 gpm, 90°F water in, 75°F out, which should produce 13K BTU/Hr/loop. So the system should produce 26K BTU/hr in “normal” great-room only mode, with an additional 13K each available in the under-loft area and in the basement.

After much research, I have decided to go with this 800 Liter Solar Water Heater System from Duda Diesel. We will be adding the Turn-Key option and upgrading to Freeze Protection tubes so the collectors can handle routine temps below 14°F (which, based on this past winter, I would have to say that we get). The choice between evacuated tube and traditional flat-plate solar collectors was difficult. The reasons why I chose tubes include: lower weight and individual components for easier rooftop installation (we do not have enough non-floodplain sunny areas for ground-based collectors); space between the tubes provides a lower wind resistance; purportedly better performance on cold and/or cloudy days. My concerns are mainly related to the fact that because the outside of the tubes stay cool any frost or snow can take longer to melt than with flat plates. Oh well, a grand experiment awaits!

The heating is a open direct system, with a 211 gallon solar storage tank supplying the underfloor hydronic heat, as well as preheating the water for a standard domestic hot water heater. The 211-gallon solar tank has a built-in heat exchange coil for rooftop solar collectors and an electric heating element for backup. It is not at all certain whether the electric backup, combined with the large thermal mass of our insulated suspended concrete slab floor will be sufficient to keep us warm during extended bad winter weather (but I am quite confident that we will remain at most chilly, not frozen!). Our backup plans include the fact that we still have wood stoves in the old house (our only heat for 17 winters.)

The solar collection side is a closed-loop system with a glycol mixture to prevent freezing. The collectors will mounted on the addition’s east-facing 5/12 pitched (22.62°) metal roof. They will face 11° east of south (the orientation of the house itself) and be tilted up at a 45° angle.

Click on any of the images below to see a larger version:


Schematic of the hot water and heating system [Updated 2015-07-22].


Location of the rooftop solar collectors. I hope that placing them close to the addition gable end will minimize blocking snow build-up.


Solar heating schematic from the east. Total heat tube (supply plus return) is about 150′.


Solar heating schematic from the north.


The two-zone, three-loop main floor underfloor heat tubes. I need to re-do the loops to put a couple in the bow window floor area. (Our original plans called for a window seat in that area.)


The underfloor heat tubes in the basement. Placing all the equipment in the mechanical room on the right will be tricky. There are two water tanks, two expansion tanks, and two sets of controllers. Plus I want to plan for a battery bank for future PV solar electric, and the bank will go into a vented box (I have a 3″ PVC conduit in place for that.)

Underfloor Heat Components [already purchased unless noted otherwise]

Winter’s Last Gasp?

We got 6½ inches of snow last Thursday, followed by an arctic blast, and then, finally some unseasonable warmth. Today is a typical cool and rainy March day. We are certainly ready for Spring.


View from the air Sunday. As you can see, the siding is just about done on the addition. The insulation sub is supposed to be here this week to to finish spraying, batting, and blowing. Then next week, now that the bitter cold has broken, the rest of the wallboard will go up. Then on to chimney cleaning and sealing, and wallboard mudding. In the lower left you can see the trails that the goats have made in the snow going down to the spring run for water. Their shed is in the upper left.


The goat shed compound. From left to right: the Airlock (has gates to/from the Dairy Paddock, the Lower Driveway, and the Southern Portico); the Southern Portico (used variously for goat feeding, penning up new moms with their kids, penning up lactating goats overnight away from their kids for morning milking, and locking up Bersheba when she has dug out until we can fill the latest hole); the Main Shed; and the Northern Portico (The driveway half is for storing square hay bales and dog food, the Paddock side is the dog feeding station.) Behind the shed you can see the top half of the Apothedairy/Barn/Garage.

Addition Progress Report, Week 32

Slow progress lately, working around the snow/ice/cold, but progress nonetheless. The plumbing rough-in is done, as is the main floor electric. Stairs are in, drywall about 75% up but not yet mudded. Exterior siding also at 75%. Next week, hopefully, wallboard should all be up and the attic insulation should be in. Then after the cold retreats we will get a portable electric furnace in and start the wallboard mudding and chimney coating (probably satin polyurethane.)


The north end siding is done.


The stairs are in, taped and protected. You can see the gap under the lowest step that the final 4-1/2″ of concrete floor will fill.


Plumbing and electric rough-in is done. In the galley we will have two sinks, both with wall-mount faucets.


This section of wall between the main floor bathroom and bedroom is packed. From left to right: 4″ conduit for rooftop solar hot water pipes, 3″ conduit for future propane H2O heater power vent or PV solar battery bank vent, lav DWV and supply, loft WC DWV. The insulation is for sound dampening the bedroom.


All the main floor and loft electric cables run from the basement next to the galley water pipes.


Our plumbing is a home-run system with all fixtures fed individually from manifolds. On the right wall is the manifold for the underfloor heat.

Addition Progress Report, Week 29


The addition siding has been going up, slowly but surely.


The clean lines of the addition make the old roof look pretty sad. When (If ??) the addition is done we will probably go ahead and replace the roof on the old house so the entire roof is the same age.


This is the view of the inside of the vestibule.


We recycled the vinyl replacement windows from the old addition.


Here you can see the fanned ceiling in the bow window is almost done.

Also, some of the plumbing has been roughed in and most of the basement wallboard is up, but pics will wait for another day.

Addition Progress on the Inside

Over the holidays the roofers completed the metal roof, and the insulation sub did round one on the inside of the exterior walls: sprayed 1" closed-cell urethane foam followed by fiberglass batts. Then last week the general contractor crew came in and did some wallboard. They did what they could while still leaving space for the plumber, who has been delayed. Once the plumber is done with his rough-in, it can be inspected and then the wallboard can be completed and then the insulation as well. This week (once the ice melts) the siding sub will start putting up the HardiePlank siding.


A panoramic view from the loft of the insulation and wallboard.

Addition Progress from the Outside

Christmas Eve day was busy around here with four different construction-related visits: framers, to complete a few odds and ends; electrician, ditto; a debris-removal visit; and an inspector, who OK’d the framing and electric. The day before the roofers got started on the metal, as seen below from the pasture.