Freeze-Thaw Damage

freeze_thawAll of the snows we’ve had all winter kept the group 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!)

GGTV

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.

GGTV 1

GGTV 1

GGTV 2

GGTV 2

Caprine Chorus

The goats always notice the start of feeding time, especially in the winter.

The Big Digout

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.

No way to avoid using a shovel on the stone steps up from the house to the upper driveway.

No way to avoid using a shovel on the stone steps up from the house to the upper driveway.

But the tractor awaits in the garage, after a 100-foot trudge.

But the tractor awaits in the garage, after a 100-foot trudge.

Now that's what I call a show shovel! Note that snow and dirt are still frozen onto the bucket from the last several digouts this winter

Now that’s what I call a show shovel! Note that snow and dirt are still frozen onto the bucket from the last several digouts this winter

BTW, here is our 50-gallon diesel tank that we got along with the PTO-powered electric generator that you can see in the previous picture on the left behind the sawhorses.

BTW, here is our 50-gallon diesel tank that we got along with the PTO-powered electric generator that you can see in the previous picture on the left behind the sawhorses.

With this season's earlier snows I could mostly push the snow ahead and to the side. But this one is deep enough that I had to repeatedly scoop then back up and dump off to the side.

With this season’s earlier snows I could mostly push the snow ahead and to the side. But this one is deep enough that I had to repeatedly scoop then back up and dump off to the side.

Well, that 100 feet took about an hour. After another half-hour of manual digging around the car I took a coffee break.

Well, that 100 feet took about an hour. After another half-hour of manual digging around the car I took a coffee break.

After the break I moved on to the lower driveway. This was much trickier, for two reasons. First, the drive tilts as it comes down off the dirt road, as you can see in this picture. That caused a lot of sideways sliding. Second, this portion is also pretty narrow as it passes between the apothedairy and the goat shed, which meant I had to do a lot of backing up this slanted slope to dump the snow. I got stuck twice sliding sideways, had to use the loader to lift/push backwards to get unstuck.

After the break I moved on to the lower driveway. This was much trickier, for two reasons. First, the drive tilts as it comes down off the dirt road, as you can see in this picture. That caused a lot of sideways sliding. Second, this portion is also pretty narrow as it passes between the apothedairy and the goat shed, which meant I had to do a lot of backing up this slanted slope to dump the snow. I got stuck twice sliding sideways, had to use the loader to lift/push backwards to get unstuck.

The lower driveway goes all the way past the front door to the woodshed.  It took 2 hours to get to here, time for a lunch break.

The lower driveway goes all the way past the front door to the woodshed. It took 2 hours to get to here, time for a lunch break.

After another couple of hours around the woodshed and the upper driveway and mailbox, the job's done and the tractor's back in the garage. The poultry shed path can wait until tomorrow -- they had a full feeder and they have a light-activated door so they can get to the snow for their water.

After another couple of hours around the woodshed and the upper driveway and mailbox, the job’s done and the tractor’s back in the garage. The poultry shed path can wait until tomorrow — they had a full feeder and they have a light-activated door so they can get to the snow for their water.

Major Snowstorm Barn Chores

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.

Goat Kids 2014

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.

Hecate [HECK-uh-tee]  (in front), b. 1/30, Miyumkin [me-YUM-kin] b. 2/2, both girls

Hecate [HECK-uh-tee] (in front), b. 1/30, Miyumkin [me-YUM-kin] b. 2/2, both girls

Boy Per [PEAR] b. 2/4

Boy Per [PEAR] b. 2/4:

Adelle (daughter of Anette), b. 2/8, with Bersheba always ready to help

Adelle (daughter of Anette), b. 2/8, with Bersheba always ready to help

Wood Supply

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.

View from the Veranda

This post will give you a flavor of what our farm looks like from our upper veranda. All of these pictures embiggen when you click ‘em (be sure to click on the resultant picture to really embiggen it if your browser has resized it to fit the screen — you’ll need to scroll left and right to see it all.) All of these panoramas were created with drag-n-drop ease using the free Microsoft ICE photo-stitching software.

This picture is a 250-degree view taken today during the first snow of the season.

This is a similar view from back in October. This one goes a bit farther to the left — note the hammock. This blog’s masthead is a version of this image.

And, finally, here’s a slightly narrower vista from March after some fairly torrential Spring rain. The river is up in its banks to where it is clearly visible from the veranda. This is also the height where Cacapon River Road — a part of which you can see on the left — floods several miles downstream. Note, too, how wet several portions of our pasture are.

New Hearth II

Four summers ago we rebuilt our kitchen hearth. This year we tackled the living room hearth.


Here is what the hearth looked like before we started this project. I had added a ceramic-tile-over-cement-board extension in front of the rather shallow brick hearth in order to meet building code for wood stove clearances. This picture was also taken before we had granite installed surrounding the firebox.

Here is what the hearth looked like before we started this project. I had added a ceramic-tile-over-cement-board extension in front of the rather shallow brick hearth in order to meet building code for wood stove clearances. This picture was also taken before we had granite installed surrounding the firebox.


Here we are getting started. We have moved the 325-pound wood stove aside and have removed the tile from the hearth extension. You can also see how much better things look since we had the granite surround installed several year ago.

Here we are getting started. We have moved the 325-pound wood stove aside and have removed the tile from the hearth extension. You can also see how much better things look since we had the granite surround installed several year ago.


The brick hearth was dry-laid, as was the stone floor in the firebox, so deconstruction was pretty easy (if not a little dusty!) After removing the bottom board you can see straight into the cellar and that over half the width of the brick hearth was over the thick stone foundation of the house. We also unearthed an interesting find: a rusted metal cylindrical canister, about 1½" in diameter and 2½" long.

The brick hearth was dry-laid, as was the stone floor in the firebox, so deconstruction was pretty easy (if not a little dusty!) After removing the bottom board you can see straight into the cellar and that over half the width of the brick hearth was over the thick stone foundation of the house. We also unearthed an interesting find: a rusted metal cylindrical canister, about 1½” in diameter and 2½” long.


Inside the canister was a collection of newspaper and magazine clippings, some dated 1889. They are almost all concerned with ladies' skin and health issues, information on various tinctures, salves, etc. And about those prices: $1 in 1889 would be about $24 today, so they were not cheap! Our house was built in 1835. Was the hearth rebuilt in 1896? Or perhaps a young lady hid the canister in the existing hearth (it was dry-laid so it would have been easy to remove/replace a brick). We'll never know for sure.

Inside the canister was a collection of newspaper and magazine clippings, some dated 1889. They are almost all concerned with ladies’ skin and health issues, information on various tinctures, salves, etc. And about those prices: $1 in 1889 would be about $24 today, so they were not cheap! Our house was built in 1835. Was the hearth rebuilt in 1896? Or perhaps a young lady hid the canister in the existing hearth (it was dry-laid so it would have been easy to remove/replace a brick). We’ll never know for sure.


One of the challenges in renovating an old house is that nothing is square, level, or plumb. It took several rounds of tweaking with this cardboard template to achieve the exact location for the new hearth, which is both wider and deeper than the old one.

One of the challenges in renovating an old house is that nothing is square, level, or plumb. It took several rounds of tweaking with this cardboard template to achieve the exact location for the new hearth, which is both wider and deeper than the old one.


A fair amount of work with the circular saw, reciprocating saw, hand saw, belt sander, and chisel was required to remove the flooring and true the hole. The next step: cut out the beam running through the middle (this beam ran along the front of the original hearth). Here you can see the tops of the 2x4's that I screwed onto the beam to keep it from falling down when I cut it. In the foreground, you can also see the 'tool multiplication effect' that always dogs a project of this scale.

A fair amount of work with the circular saw, reciprocating saw, hand saw, belt sander, and chisel was required to remove the flooring and true the hole. The next step: cut out the beam running through the middle (this beam ran along the front of the original hearth). Here you can see the tops of the 2×4′s that I screwed onto the beam to keep it from falling down when I cut it. In the foreground, you can also see the ‘tool multiplication effect’ that always dogs a project of this scale.


The beam removal went smoothly. You can see the temporary diagonal bracing I put in to help support the floor until the new framing is installed. You can also see the end of the existing I-beam that is an important component of the support structure for the new hearth.

The beam removal went smoothly. You can see the temporary diagonal bracing I put in to help support the floor until the new framing is installed. You can also see the end of the existing I-beam that is an important component of the support structure for the new hearth.


The new framing is complete. I used double 2x8's for the new joists, with the ends resting on the stone foundation and joist hangers for connecting with the cross joists. The interior of the hole has a 2x4 ledger screwed in place. I cantilevered a 2x8 from the I-beam for a center support; the center cross-beam is a 2x4.

The new framing is complete. I used double 2×8′s for the new joists, with the ends resting on the stone foundation and joist hangers for connecting with the cross joists. The interior of the hole has a 2×4 ledger screwed in place. I cantilevered a 2×8 from the I-beam for a center support; the center cross-beam is a 2×4.


The plywood (left over from the 2005 Apothedairy project) has been screwed in place. The rebar is keyed into the existing stonework. The tar paper is in place over the dirt/rubble floor of the firebox. 12 bags of concrete mix are at the ready. The goal is a 3½" level slab, with ½" cement board thin-set-mortared on top for a smooth base for the granite slab.

The plywood (left over from the 2005 Apothedairy project) has been screwed in place. The rebar is keyed into the existing stonework. The tar paper is in place over the dirt/rubble floor of the firebox. 12 bags of concrete mix are at the ready. The goal is a 3½” level slab, with ½” cement board thin-set-mortared on top for a smooth base for the granite slab.


I decided to mix the concrete outside in the wheelbarrow 2 bags at a time, then wheel it in and dump it. Concrete is heavy and messy so we prepped by taping down cardboard and using plywood scraps on top for a lane and outside as a ramp on which to roll the 'barrow.

I decided to mix the concrete outside in the wheelbarrow 2 bags at a time, then wheel it in and dump it. Concrete is heavy and messy so we prepped by taping down cardboard and using plywood scraps on top for a lane and outside as a ramp on which to roll the ‘barrow.


I was pretty pleased with myself for how good the pour looked (and for my home-made bull float that you see here). Once it set, though, I discovered that it had a pretty severe hump in the middle. I ended up mixing and spreading small batches of mortar to try and level it out. This was only partially successful, and after discussing the situation with the granite installers, we opted to nix the planned cement board overlay and have the granite slab installed on a fresh bed of mortar.

I was pretty pleased with myself for how good the pour looked (and for my home-made bull float that you see here). Once it set, though, I discovered that it had a pretty severe hump in the middle. I ended up mixing and spreading small batches of mortar to try and level it out. This was only partially successful, and after discussing the situation with the granite installers, we opted to nix the planned cement board overlay and have the granite slab installed on a fresh bed of mortar.


The installers (A & S Marble Granite) did a fantastic job cutting and fitting a 1¼"-thick single slab around the mantle molding and into the firebox. The stone we chose is Giallo Fiorito, a yellow granite from Brazil. It is the same granite we used around the firebox, though a slightly different shade.

The installers (A & S Marble Granite) did a fantastic job cutting and fitting a 1¼"-thick single slab around the mantle molding and into the firebox. The stone we chose is Giallo Fiorito, a yellow granite from Brazil. It is the same granite we used around the firebox, though a slightly different shade.


Kirsten wanted to paint the interior of the firebox to brighten it up. I was skeptical about using latex paint so close to a hot stovepipe, but I applied my Google-Fu skills and unearthed the research paper "NIST GCR 02-832 - Flammability Characteristic of Painted Concrete Blocks" which describes lab experiments on, yes, painted concrete blocks. The lowest ignition temperature they found for latex paint was 1200°F -- plenty of leeway over the normal 300° - 550° operating flue range -- so I painted it using the same off-white color of the mantel trim.

Kirsten wanted to paint the interior of the firebox to brighten it up. I was skeptical about using latex paint so close to a hot stovepipe, but I applied my Google-Fu skills and unearthed the research paper “NIST GCR 02-832 – Flammability Characteristic of Painted Concrete Blocks” which describes lab experiments on, yes, painted concrete blocks. The lowest ignition temperature they found for latex paint was 1200°F — plenty of leeway over the normal 300° – 550° operating flue range — so I painted it using the same off-white color of the mantel trim.


The finished project, just in time for the heating season.

The finished project, just in time for the heating season.


Goodbye Snow Hello Rain

Well, we’ve had a week of mild weather followed by a couple of days of rain, so the snow is just about all gone. But the river is high. That narrow island in the middle of the river is usually the opposite river bank. Real-time and historical Cacapon River data 30 miles downstream from us is available from the USGS National Water Information System.

Snowmageddon II

Yesterday, Eric slogged down to the billy pen, dragging a bale of hay using a small tarp as a sledge. Here are the anxious billies who were quite grateful for the feed. Amazingly and happily, their shipping-pallet hut with 2×4 rafters is withstanding the snowload.

Snowmageddon II [Continued]

Snow PathWell, true to our suspicions, a few minutes after the post below went up, our power went out, and stayed out for 3 days. As for snow totals, it is hard to get a precise measurement, but we have 26+” in the clear areas with drifting up to 3 feet or so against fences and rises. I amused myself by hand-shoveling 230 feet of trails to the woodshed, to the chickens, to the goats/dog/barn-cat, and to the driveway. Unfortunately, they are now partially re-filled with snow from the six additional inches we got since yesterday and the 30 mph winds we are now experiencing.

Snowmageddon

This time, the storm lived up to its hype. We have 26″ on the ground and it is still coming down at 11am. We like the “gnome hats” on the fence posts in this picture. Our power has blinked a few times, but looking at the snow on the power lines, we would not be surprised if it went out later today when the winds pick up. The firewood we brought in before the storm is still holding up. This, and the snow pictures that follow, were taken from various windows in our house.

Snowmageddon [Continued]

Somewhere under there are the stone steps leading up to the driveway. We are waiting until our neighbor comes with his plow-equipped tractor to clear the upper and lower driveways before we start shoveling.

Snowmageddon [Continued]

Glad we stocked up the chicken feeder in their shed — they are on their own for the next day or two! If you look closely you can see some chickens just inside the doorway eating snow for water — in weather like this, eating snow is the best they can hope for. It is forecast to get down near 10°F for the next couple of nights.