28 December 2007

An EXCELLENT reason to build your own shed

(click on photo to get the full impact of those blue eyes)

Having an excuse to spend the holidays with your teenager involved in something that will hopefully outlast you, and they can remember building with you long after you're gone.

And yes, that beautiful creature is my baby boy.

All the aggravation and exhaustion and delays are absolutely worth it, if only for the time I've been able to spend with him.
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27 December 2007

Reasons for building your own shed

This is a VERY old chicken house (or the remnants thereof) on my mother's property. It's at least 60 years old. I'm guessing more towards 100 years. It was built by folks who were going to use it. They didn't have power tools of today, laser levels, or Lowe's. But they did build it themselves and they built it to last. Considering how much exposure it's had to the elements, and that it's not pressure treated anything, the condition of it is pretty impressive. Okay the roof looks rough, but really, that wood just glows.

So I'm starting my "reasons for building your own shed" series.

Today's reasons to build your own shed:
  • getting wonderfully familiar with the seasons including the changes in movement of the sun across the sky in winter and summer
  • hearing the kids in the neighborhood playing on the trampoline they got for Christmas
  • knowing when the mailman comes because you actually know sound the creak of the brakes on the mail truck
  • learning to do something that shows how much you really did in a day, and at the end of the day, you can actually look and see progress (as opposed to 'work of the mind - in which your life consists of hitting keys on a computer for money')
  • developing work habits in a space all your own, and making up little rituals to open and close your work day
  • getting to make innovative changes along the way with only yourself to blame/charge extra/enjoy the changes
  • hearing the creek flowing again for the first time in months (drought's not over yet, but getting there, fingers crossed)
  • getting to listen to whatever you want to when building it and knowing that Millennium Disco Party vibes will forever be in the fibers of your deck

It's been a good one.

26 December 2007

Merry Christmas

You know you've got it* bad, when you get really excited to get chalk line for Christmas!

(*it is the building bug, chalkline is fior marking straight lines -like for joists etc.)

Fa-La-la, LA-LA-LA-LAHHH!!
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Bass Ackwards

Some days, it just feels like NOTHING is ever going to get finished.

This is what the office looked like about 12 days ago... Are we done now?

Are you kidding me?

Of course not.

BUT progress has been made.

There are times, like today, when I was finishing the roof while recovering from the flu (multi-tasking at it's finest) I realized this almost an adventure in how NOT to build an office.

Okay, so that's probably an exagergation, but I'm tired and finishing the last quarter section of the roof at the bottom feeling like my entire mass was hanging on a serious angle supported by some flimsy particle board, tar paper, random nails and staples felt stupid. I came to appreciate how "real" roofers do shingling etc. from the bottom up. It just makes more sense that way. Duh. And of course, that's just what I didn't do.

BUT it's done, it worked and other than some scratches on my hands and some basic aches, I'm done!! (with the roof, people!)

Tomorrow James and I get to the decking!! Yippeee...?

Yes, it will be great. I'm just sure of it.

Really. . .

go . . . team . . . go. . .
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18 December 2007

Framing the deck.

Today, my dear and beloved husband stayed home.

The deck is now framed out, level, plumb, straight, and ready for bolts and joists.

Yesterday was a bit frustrating. I didn't get as much done as I wanted to. I ended up working on the loft - because it was something I could do all alone. But I talked on the phone figured loft ladder stuff, and essentially lost the day.

So this morning when it looked like things were slow to start, I was getting frustrated, again.

I guess one of the challenges of working for oneself - or shedworking - is the official starting and finishing time tends to be much more flexible. Some days I'm up early and don't have time to get dressed (makes for entertaining impromptu video-teleconferences), other days I feel like I need to lick light sockets to get enough of a jolt to get going.

Anyway, the deck framing is now together and the next steps are things I can do on my own.

More later, I need to take an aleve and go make dinner for the men-folk.

17 December 2007

Cold and windy and ouch

The weather definitely took a turn. It was COLD and WINDY here yesterday so working on the roof was out. The cement wasn't set as firmly as I would have liked, so the setting of the posts wasn't going to happen.
So how did we take advantage of the spare day? We moved lumber. Lots and lots of lumber.

Front yard to the back yard.

Stacked it. moved it stacked it moved it.

I am trying to think of tasks like this as something akin to going to the gym and working out with weights, balance and cardio all at the same time.

But even so, yesterday, maybe it was the cold, maybe it was the wind, maybe it was just the sheer mass o'stuff, but I was a hurting pup. My legs and back were crying out for hours afterwards. Thanks to my favorite cocktail of aleve and tylenol though, I'm back at it today.

They say basic training for the army is getting up and working really hard physically and it hurts like hell, and then you do it again the next day and the next day and the next day until it doesn't hurt so much anymore.

I am not sure how well that works for someone my age, but I am thinking of adding to my list of benefits to building one's own shed in the bottom of the garden: increased physical fitness.

I guess the question is - can I get out there today and keep moving? Answer - after 2 cups of coffee and a reasonable nights' sleep, I am ready indeed to get going. Without my helper guys I may be a bit more limited, or need to be a bit more creative about how to do some of this, but regardless of my condition, this thing ain't building itself.

And at least the wind is calm today...

More soon!!

15 December 2007

Burning daylight... and the joy of mindlessness

Well, after a week or so of beautiful balmy weather that made everyone scratch their head and wonder what season it is, we are finally getting back to a Georgia winter. Georgia winters are wet, cold, and grey. They would be considered autumn or early spring in most parts of the world.

We woke up this morning to grey overcast skies and the threat of rain. Though climbing out of bed was difficult, knowing that there were 16 bags of cement mix in the front yard was incentive enough to get out and get those moved (loaded into the trunk of the car no one drives). Those snugly stowed, the rain decided to start. Not to one miss the opportunity of an occasional downpour, I lined up the 2 x 6s that were the seats at Barbaritoes in a former life, and scrubbed them. They are now the floor of my loft. *yes, I have a loft now too.

The rain wasn't going to make me miss a day of vacation - so I got a bunch of screws, put on my snazzy tool belt and got to work. The loft is about 8 feet up under the sloping roof. It will have windows on 3 sides, and I can now confirm, it will be ideal for the occasional nap.

I spent the grey drizzly afternoon with dropping temperatures enjoying being very zen with the power drill. I decided to screw in the wood instead of hammering it in. I didn't want any stray nails sticking out beneath, and wanted to be able to remove a board if possible. It sort of goes against my quest for green building, but my rationalization is that the use of screws will enable the structure to last much longer. And it was quieter. With my iPod on, the whirrrr of the drill, was the perfect compliment to the drilling of the rain on the tin roof.

We are getting close to the shortest day of the year. And at 6:00 it's too dark to see outside. But working outside sets a nice rhythm to the day.

The more time I spend working on this project the more I appreciate the tempo of the day. I'm more aware of when the birds are active, when neighbors are out for walks, when the cool wind blows as the sun sets, and when the last light of day fades away.

So much of my life, my *real* life is spent staring at a computer, and under electric lights, I forget what the ebb and flow of a day feels like.

Not having tight deadlines, or the endless glare of the laptop releases my mind and I wander. I don't find myself trying to concentrate, or feeling like I have to pull my thinking back to something. It's as if in the physical labor my brain is set free to relax and go where it wants. It's a delightful feeling. I know what I'm doing and I just keep doing it until the task is done. I think I'm remembering what it feels like to be mindless for the first time in ages.

As a graduate student, I would be so exhausted after the term ended, I'd read junk and watch TV, and still feel the pressure of life, knowing there'd be another set of hoops to jump through in few weeks. Then there was the dissertation which was rife with "ought to's, must do's and whose who's", the work as an assistant professor was plagued with demands on my time I quickly grew to resent, and the world of an independent consultant is one of forever pushing to deliver the best possible project in time, and forever scoping for more work.

I feel like I haven't stopped in ages. In a lifetime. In my son's life time.

I don't know that I'm "stopping" now. After all, I'm in the middle of a huge building project that's got a mighty steep learning curve.

But after today, I can honestly say, I like this kind of vacation more than any other kind I've had. Because it just feels so good.

14 December 2007

Cement - MIXED

So, I managed to mix 600 lb. of cement today and get 7 posts tiers set.
(that's just over 272 kilograms for our metric friends)

It's amazing how a can of Red Bull and some good tunes can get things moving.

Actually, I'm very happy with it. L bolts are sunk and we're in good shape.

After I finished, I went out and sat on my deck. Well, okay, I sat on the lumber that will be my deck. And I watched the beautiful moon.

I have to check the weather for tomorrow - hear it may rain and I still have some un-used cement mix in the front yard that needs attention.

So that's today... tomorrow is another day.

Daunting? this? Me? Oh heaven's yes!

It is a beautiful day - already in the low 60's (Yes, I know this weather is WRONG for December) and we've had the house windows open for the past 3 days - even at night!!

This morning my buddies from Lowe's brought over my lumber etc. It was a BIG order and is now sitting in my front yard, waiting to go into it's various places... It's sort of mind boggling at the moment.

Yesterday I thought I knew what was up. Now I'm not so sure. I'm getting a sense of having bitten off more than I can chew.

But come on. I'm a clever girl. I can figure this out. It's not rocket science. Probably.

It's just a lot of work, which is sort of daunting.

The next step, I think...

Is to get out there and check my measurements, look at the nifty designs that they so generously printed out for me, get my mojo working and...MIX CEMENT! All day long...
(I wish I could just mix the cement right in the hole I'm pouring it in. Wouldn't that be nice?) Okay, I know better.

So here goes. I'll try to take picutres and keep you all posted!
Fingers crossed, Inshallah et. al.

Any one who wants to cheer me on here, or even lend a hand, is more than welcome!

Really, I'm thinking this could be a lot of fun.

12 December 2007

Well, WHO KNEW???

Okay, so today is my second full day back at work ON MY OFFICE!!!

We finally finished off the last big project we had for the year so I am now dedicating my time and energy to making some serious progress on my office space.

Monday I was mostly done, but also mostly brain dead. I spent most of the day pulling nails out of salvaged wood and listening to Stephen Colbert interviews. It was what I needed.

Yesterday I decided to tackle the deck and figure out everything I needed to get it done...

Today I went to Lowe's to buy lumber.

Turns out it was a GREAT learning experience. The store was calm for a Wednesday and the staff could not be more helpful. I love it. I asked one of the guys if they noticed things being slower - they said sales are way down. The economy - the housing crunch. It's hitting everyone. But they were all working and helping me and I appreciate it so much!!

And in my incredible learning experience it became clear that I'd made sort of a REALLY STUPID mistake.

Pressure treated wood needs to be nailed with galvanized nails. Regular nails (what I used) will disintegrate over a few years from the chemicals in the pressure treated wood. Melt. Deteriorate. Rust away to nothing.

Okay, all together now... OOOOPPPSSSS!!!!

So that roof? Those floor joists? yah...

Good news, my pals at Lowe's also told me how to fix it.
And they are delivering my lumber on Friday!!!!

So tomorrow, I'm doing pre-emptive repairs. It puts me a little behind schedule, but not nearly as much as having my office roof and floor collapse around me in 3 to 4 years. See. It's all a matter of perspective. . .

It won't be pretty but it will do the job. Thanks GUYS!!

Until tomorrow...

26 November 2007

Working at home... with someone else!

My pal Alex at the AWESOME BLOG Shedworking

posted this link today.

Suffice to say, it explains why the size on my office is going to be 10' x 10' (or 9.29 sq. metres). I don't want it big enough that anyone other than my dogs will be able to fit!!



Lynsey Thomas on homeworking
Cohabiting the office with a dog is all well and good, but my husband? That's quite another matter
Lynsey Thomas
The Guardian
Saturday November 24 2007
I have been a homeworker for three years now, and for the most part it works very well. I admit it did take a while to get used to the differences from office life, but nowadays I have an established routine that lends itself to a high level of efficiency work-wise. I know which doors to close so that I am not disturbed by the washing machine, when to ignore the door bell and how to mute out the sounds of the dog on a conference call. I can configure my router with one hand and change the toner in my photocopier with the other. So you can imagine my dismay when my husband announced he was becoming a contractor and would subsequently also be working at home; "unduly perturbed" probably sums it up best.
And ever since that fateful day he has been here 24/7, sitting at an adjacent desk, eating into my bandwidth, tying up the phone line and typing excessively loudly on his keyboard. During the first week I wondered whether this was the end of my home working days, or my marriage. We have actually worked in the same office before but it was large, and full of other people I didn't have to go home to and spend the entire evening with. Other people whose very presence, whose participation in simple breathing, did not seem to drive me mad.
The problem, I think, is that as human beings we cling to routine and from that, the small pleasures that we know come each day; whether it be crossing Waterloo bridge on the bus to work, or the first day they start serving Christmas sandwiches in the shops. My homeworking pick-me-ups were simple; that cup of tea at 10am, the square of chocolate at 2pm.
Then, all of a sudden, my husband was there, making tea at inopportune times and eating all the chocolate. He takes pens from my desk, he borrows my power lead, he uses my mobile charger and all this from a grown man who is so territorial that he was moved to write his name on his stapler with correction fluid. I ask you, what's a girl to do?
The poor dog is now very confused. My working hours used to constitute our alone time together. He has a love of lying under my desk while I work and only comes up to sniff any output from the printer. Now, his master is home, striding around and talking mannishly on the phone. His loyalty is such that he must follow him, but between this and my endless printing and trips to the toilet he is constantly getting up and lying down. Subsequently, come 6pm the canine is completely exhausted.
I thought that I was hiding my annoyance quite well until my husband, in his wisdom, announced that I must be a very difficult person to work with as I am constantly stressed. True as this may be, quite frankly I had had enough. With all the regularity and comfort of my working environment destroyed, I was as dishevelled as the dog. Did I handle the situation in a mature way? I cannot be sure of the answer to that. I can say that I responded with several choice words (that I would not normally use on a fellow worker), quite a large amount of exhaling and stamping of feet and, to finish off, an encore of "Get out of my office!".
So, how has the situation been resolved? Well, he had to go. I needed the tranquillity restored to my working environment and he needed not to be married to "the most uptight woman in Britain". Obviously my solution of choice was for him to go out and get a proper job, but as that wasn't going to happen I settled with him finding an alternative office.
Now, with suitable arrangements made and peace thus restored, life has returned to normal and I put this question to you: who exactly does use a dining room for its correct purpose?

25 November 2007

Rainy days...

It's wet.

That's actually really big news around here.

So I am trying to take it in stride. I think - given that I'm finishing off some work for the Mediation Certification Course I'm doing, I'll focus on that, and be thankful for the wet stuff falling from the sky.

I'll get other things done for the next several days, and then get back to work on the office.

Also, I've decided that I need to plan out the basic deck I want to build. We'll need it, so it makes sense to actually plan it out, as much as possible now, while I'm waiting to move forward on the actual implementation.

It's sort of funny, but I'm finding that I'm actually really looking forward to having a weekend where I don't go to the office! Currently, my office is in my bedroom, so it's hard to avoid. Of course, it will mean having some separate time here and there, but over all, just having a bit of space. It's been a great quiet weekend with the boys, and I've enjoyed that.

Still, I'm starting to itch to get back to construction. (Maybe it's just thinking of all that straw?)

Well, let's see where it goes from here!

Be quiet, listen well, do good.

24 November 2007

Slow going... but with rain!!

It's been quiet lately. I've been feeling worn down, achy, and not able to finish off the roof. It's 3/4ths done, but that last bit needs doing. Then comes placing the straw bales, and such. That will be the exciting stuff. We did go to the Habitat for Humanity thrift shop today and pick up two nice double pane windows, in frames for a grand total of $42.10!! Can't beat that with a stick.

Thanksgiving day it rained,(YEAH!!!) so I spent the day before getting everything tarped and covered and moved around. Instead of working on the office this morning I slept in. Honestly, I'm not a morning person at best, but I'm fighting some bronchitis, and last year this time I was on death's door with pneumonia, so I'm trying to gently get through it this time. It's slow going, but I'll have to accept it. No point in working myself sick.

I remember reading some one's account of working to build their shed over the course of about 6 months - working on weekends only. I remember thinking I couldn't stand to wait that long. But at this point that's what we are headed for. I'll finish my mediator certification course next week, and hopefully have some free time to get to work. It's hard doing it alone, especially as the weather gets cold. But I'm looking forward to it, and to having it done!!

I look out my window at the roof and tarps and long to be out there. But I'm glad that things have managed to go as well as they have so far. It's fixin' to rain again tonight and tomorrow. And honestly, the rain is such a blessing I could manage like this for a good while without resenting it. I'm taking my hot cup of tea and climbing under the covers.

More soon. And thanks for the rain!

13 November 2007

Like playing with blocks!

Today was a little unusual for me. I was over on campus taking a course on QuickBooks. I have an aversion to math, but my accountant, my business partner, and my computer guru all told me I had to do this. So I did.

The course is held at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education, on the UGA campus. The first time I was on the UGA campus was for meetings there more than 18 years ago. Then I worked at the radio station there before graduate school. Going back to day was a trip down memory lane. I even got to have lunch with one of my all time favorite people, Robb Holmes, the music director at the radio station. I've been a huge fan of Robb's for a long time, and we had a great time catching up. I've always felt like the radio station was a second home for me on campus. That was definitely the highlight of the day. Quickbooks and all was okay, but accounting isn't really my thing.

So this afternoon, after class Robb was announcing the weather forecast - a chance of rain tomorrow. I'm in class all day again tomorrow, so I realized I needed to get the straw bales and wood under cover. In the balmy warmer night air, I found myself slinging wood and then hefting straw bales up on to the office floor. It's been a long time since I've worked with straw, but the wonderful clean sweet scent took me back to the years I used it for bedding in my horses stall. I couldn't resist playing some and decided to stake bales around the edge to get a sense of what it would look like. I've only got about 24 bales and I figure I'll need at last that many again. But it was so fun to do it. It was like playing with giant building blocks. I'd forgotten how much I love that sort of easy creative activity that really uses your body and releases the child like playfulness.

I restacked my blocks, covered them all and came in for dinner. Now, let's hope it will rain. . .

11 November 2007

Could I have more fun?

Seriously, thinks I've learned this weekend:

Carpenters wear baggy pants for a reason

Roofers are the same kids who always spent ALL of recess on the jungle gym.

I could do this all the time and vow to build a grown up sized jungle gym into this structure for my now grown up son James and I.
(We might make it look like a pirate ship even!)

Wearing those ugly croc shows while climbing around on rafters is awesome.

I am not afraid of heights.

When working on a project: think of everything I want to get done in a week end. Divide it by half. Be happy if that much happens.
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09 November 2007

Roughing it with roofing...

Okay, so this weekend's task is to get the roof on. (Raise the roof?)

We have the rafters, and the lathing.

A straw bale house needs a GOOD ROOF.

And I am not sure how to do this. Now I could be clever and call someone (like a builder) or I could spend hours reading up on it. But mostly I'm just fretting about it.

One of the most exciting and even intimidating aspects of this project is having to figure out how to do things. Years ago I worked in the horse industry - training horses. I'd been working with horses for years prior to this, but I found myself in the position of being a professional - which up to that point had been something of a life long dream. And for a while I really loved it.

Until I realized 2 things. (1) There is not a single "right way" to do things, regardless of what anyone proclaims, but there are a lot of very WRONG ways to do things - that seemed to run rampant. And (2) Horse people are crazy and most horse owners are generally idiots. (myself included, at times, I'm sure) My problem was that I loved the horses but found a lot of the people, especially absentee owners unbearable. They got into horses for the status, but didn't want to dedicate the money, time, or effort to really care for horses. So we lowly stable folks would put in hours and days and weeks taking care of their beasts and training them, only to have some yahoo come out on the weekend and abuse the poor beast to the point of back tracking on the work we'd done. And then they'd be snotty about how we were getting paid to train their animals, but they were not seeing results. I was young at the time. I think I would handle it very differently now.

Anyway, building this structure is feeling very similar to that whole experience. Except it's an office, there is no single authority on how to do it, and I am increasingly aware of all the things I could do wrong...

But despite my overt lack of confidence, I'm sure we'll figure it out.

That, in itself, is it's own reward, isn't it?

08 November 2007

Are you kidding me here?

Okay, so from time to time, around the world, I take a little grief from folks about living in Georgia. After all, there is that whole Gone With the Wind to Deliverance thing that makes Georgia seem Oh-So-Special to the rest of the world. Most of the time, I point out that I live in Athens - THE ATHENS of Georgia. The Blue County in the Red State. The most liberal city in Georgia, where the average age (24) combined with the amazing international presence due to the university and the music scene (Think R.E.M., The B-52's, Widespread Panic, Dromedary, and of course, WUGA) makes Athens a very cool and exceptionally tolerant place to live.

As I've said before, we're in a BAD DROUGHT. Athens residents are pitching in, and for the most part, leading the way in water conservation efforts. I'm proud of that.

On the other hand - this just sort of floored me. Our Governor, who has not done diddly squat to limit growth in Georgia, or to curtail water usage leading to this incredible drought situation now has a plan. He's going to pray for rain. See Here - I couldn't make this up!!

Listen, Sonny, if praying for rain were the only way to resolve this problem, I think the Middle East would be an oasis. We're not quite dealing with the same challenges as the Euphrates, yet, but this sort of "leave it to a higher power" sort of thinking isn't going to get the aquifers refilled. Come on!! Maybe all those folks ribbing me about living here are on to something after all.

But we can't just worry about it tomorrow. Even Scarlett learned that lesson.

07 November 2007


Bill surveying the scene....
We're BACK!!

This past weekend was an amazing build-a-thon thanks for some great friends, good weather and the need to have something built SOON!!

Last Friday, Bill was surveying the progress (above) and there was certainly a lot to do.

The weather held last week - it was balmy enough to work outside during the day. The verticle posts were up, and I decided to just get on out there with my laptop. Yes. Mostly I work sitting on the floor while out there. I find that I feel like I've been in a day long yoga class - at least when it's warm enough... But when the cooler evening breezes got underneath that plywood, it did get right chilly.

So we had to insulate the floor. It was an odd way to do it, but we got it done. No, that isn't a rouge Talibani, that's Edwige and Regan spreading insultation. It was post consumer waste - newspapers, phone books, etc. It's pretty thick there, but very dusty to spread. I think Regan was reading bits - as an Doctoral Candidate (!!!!) he's prone to that sort of thing. After all, you never know where that last bit of information will come from!

With half of it done, we had to go back to the store to get more. The guys at Lowe's are getting to know us really well now. But we liked that is looks like pre-made rat's nests. Still, the R-Value is high- and it will help keep the place COZY!!

Speaking of rat's nests...the insulation is encased in double layers of 6 mil construction plastic. And sealed up fairly tightly. We'll do additional boards on the bottom soon too.

Speaking of boards... I FINALLY sorted through all the Barbaritoes wood that we harvested from the pre-demolished site in July. With the autumn sun, it really gave off a wonderful warm glow!!! I can't wait to have this glow IN SIDE MY OFFICE!!!!

But of course, before there can be an "inside" to my office there needs to be an outside. Seumas, our hero, came to help on Sunday. While I was sorting through wood, the men folk were levelling all the posts and beams. They tell me that's important. I think they all just wanted to play with the lazer level.

I often say that Seumas is the consumate boy scout. He's done a lot of neat stuff, builds his own canoes, is a woodsman of amazing ability, and just an over all groovy dude. He also sent me back to Lowe's to get more stuff.

He and Bill threw the rafters up in no time flat. I think they even nailed them down! Damn, it looks nice, doesn't it?

To give a clue about where I'll be working... the tiny "shed" on the left is a nifty bird feeder, and yes, directly off the porch is a small potting shed. But it wasn't going to convert easily, and sits in the hottest sun of the summer. Besides, off in the woods I'm in my own magical little space...

Speaking of spaces - this is the underside of the office. Those pillars are filled with rebar and cement. We'll put plywood underneath to protect the plastic. The middle lines are extra stakes used to plot out the position.

Once the rafters were up, Bill and Seumas got to work on the lathing (is that right?) Seumas crawled around up there like nobody's business. Once we got the support brackets in, it was definitely sturdier and Bill got up there too. I didn't. Yet....

But, progress was made!!!
I am now beginning to think we may want to forgoe the bay window/doors, I'd initially planned and just build a flat front - with Southern Exposure. Honestly, the temps here have taken a dip and I'm coming to appreciate how HARD doing the bay doors will be. It means loosing some floorspace, but also, getting it done sooner.
It turns out that Lowe's even sells straw bales. Now I'd love to buy them from a local farmer, but the nearest "local farmer" selling straw right now is about 100 miles away, and it will probably take 2 truck loads to get enough. Which means several days of driving back and forth to get straw, and gas, and dealing with trucking it through Atlanta... so.... I am thinking of taking the Lowe's option.
This coming weekend, we'll hopefully get the tin roof on. (Fingers crossed) It's cold enough now that it's hard to work out there without being wrapped in a sleeping bag, wearing long underwear. So I need to get SOMETHING up soon. . .
But honestly, I am so incredibly grateful to Sue and Seumas, Edwige and Regan, and of course Bill and James for all your wonderful help!! THANK YOU!!!

01 November 2007

Working in the digs.

Well, due to some unexpected developments, I am pushing up my move in date for my office!!

For those of you who have been following this, you'll know that at the moment, I have floor joists, vertical posts, plywood floor (not yet secured) and a desire to get stuff done out here, that ranges from simmering to flaming hot. Today it is flaming hot - so to speak.

The unexpected developments involves my father now being home full time again. There were some problems at the college, he and the dean reached an amicable agreement, and he's back to being retired full time.

And I am not under the gun, but under the cannon to get a host of things done in the next week, and must work uninterupted as much as possible.

So, this morning I am sitting on said platform - putting in my time. It's 55 degrees (f), slightly breezy, and clear at the moment. All in all, it's not unpleasant. Actually, thanks to lots of layers it's sort of sweet. (In that "I'm a hearty woman" sort of way)

I'll post pictures later.

Wish me luck!!

Oh - naming of the office space. I need a name for it. Something that I can call it that will reflect it's character, and not be too over the top.

Current ideas are:
The Estrogren Hut (I live with 3 men and 4 dogs - I deserve a girl place)
The Fortress of Gurlitude
The Shed of Productivity
The office (boring!)
The Pirate Ship (thanks to my son James)
The Pod (thanks to the husband)
Deep Space Mine (ugh)
MySpace (Already taken by some web page)

OKay,.... must be productive... back to work!!


28 October 2007

Slow but steady... but slow

This is not the view from my office. But it's nice to know that in Indiana, the trees are vibrant, the grass lush green and the skies are bright blue. (it's all sort of dry and hazy down here in Georgia these days)

Anyway, we made some progress on the office today. I'm too tired to down load the photos and the ones that show what we managed to do will not be visible until daylight tomorrow. I like working until it's too dark - but it makes documenting the days work tricky.

We got the verticle posts up!! YEAH!!! It's becoming a real structure now. I'm so excited. And the floor is in temporarily. And we figured out how to do the insulation in the floor which was terribly exciting. (I can't quite explain it, but using 80% recycled cellulose (blown in insulation type) 6 mil construction plastic, and some spare wooden stakes I think I'll be able to get the place pretty toasty!

Of course, it takes forever. I'd burned out a drill motor. (Don't ask - because nothing will make me feel more like a novice building dork than having to admit that the smoke coming out of it didn't clue me in that I should STOP DRILLING!! - on the other hand, I have a very nice drill bit in place of a long 1/2 in bolt... Durrrr....)

But we got the new drill last night, and forgot to get washers. So in the midst of working on the office, AFTER getting set up what I need to do this week, AND planning a weeks worth of dinners AND going to the grocery store AND coming home and unloading groceries AND everything else, we had to send James to Lowe's to get washers, while we drilled the 6x6 posts and the 2 4x6 beams together.... ugh.

It was just not a day for large accomplishments.

And then, because it's all autumn and stuff, IT GOT DARK EARLY!!

Oh well... slow but steady. And I'm excited to see even a little going up...

More soon! thanks for the encouragement.

Oh next week Regan and Ed will be helping out, so we are expecting some real progress!!

27 October 2007

Gone AWOL?

Well, It's been a lovely couple of weeks. I've been out of here, away, gone AWOL.

Actually, I took my son to Indiana to check out the college I went to. And it was my 20th College Reunion!
Earlham is a really great school and it was wonderful to be back there. Se!eing James there was delightful and seeing friends I've lost contact with gave me a really great sense of community with folks I've been thinking of for years!!

Anyway, I'm back and plan to be working on the office tomorrow. So I'll try to have updates in about 24 hours.

Hope all is well with everyone!

Be well, take care, do good!

14 October 2007


I started today with a bunch of cut boards (*did that yesterday) and 50 lbs of nails. It could not have been more fun!! I was putting in floor joist, enjoying listening to a well made mix of hammering tunes on my iPod. The weather was crisp and sunny, and Lucy, my constant companion was there to supervise as always.
Listening to music while pounding away on nails (into braces between the support beams) I recognized a warm feeling of relaxed energy flowing through me. It was blissful. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the sense of isolation my little place gives me, or maybe it was just that it is something I am doing on my own that is real and tangible. So much of the work I do is so theoretical and in my head, it's easy to forget what something real feels like.

At some point I'll post my list of songs - let's just say it's an eclectic mix. I'm a firm believer that music can soothe the savage beast, or get a groove on, and it is often best figured out as task specific. For instance - writing out logistical frameworks it's good to use really bad disco. For more aggressive writing and drafting things I've got a handle on The Clash, and The Police always come through. And maybe some Taj Mahal or Budy Guy if I'm in a Bluesy mood. For getting started on something that requires a lot of focus and concentration - Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Fugues are the tonic. And for nailing board together? It seems that a mix of funk, Rolling Stones and Eurythmics with some Fine Young Cannibals, R.E.M. and Gloria Gaynor thrown in is the way to have a lovely afternoon.

This was the first half done:

This is where I had to stop because it was dark. 3 left to go:

So hopefully tomorrow, I'll finish it off. I'm looking forward to it.
I'm trying to make a habit of spending some quiet, reflective, perhaps meditative time at the end of each day out there, just to draw the line between there and coming inside. I like the distinction from the household that I have out there. So taking time to honor that when I start and stop at the end of the day feels right. As I lay back on the center beam and joist I felt an overwhelming sense of love of place. I don't know why it is. I can't really imagine that all builders get this. But it was really wonderful. And I'm glad I did it.
Thanks everyone for reading!!

12 October 2007


We've finally had a change in the weather. Yesterday the temperature here didn't get above 78 f /25 c, and that nip of cool autumn air is starting to permeate everything. Finally.

I got out and worked on the office a bit yesterday evening before it got dark - I managed to get the beams set and did it by myself!! (for the most part!) It consisted of drilling holes in the 4x6 beams to match the threaded half in rods in the concrete. That was fun. Each beam has a secondary 4x6 which will be bolted together to give it some extra strength, plus one down the middle. It's slow but it's progress!! And it was nice to have to wear another layer while going to work outside - at least until I warmed up enough to loose it and work in a T-shirt.

In the meantime, this morning's news was greeted with good cheer. Al Gore and the UN IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) won the Nobel Peace Prize!! It is no surprise, because the rest of the world take this whole thing much more seriously than the US does, but it was still a nice thing for Al. And for the 2000 member of the IPCC!! GO TEAM!!

Speaking of climate change, we finally had a small rain the other day. But it's not enough and it's getting bad all over the place around here - Atlanta is talking about running out of water too. But more on that soon. I've been thinking about it, but right now, I want to enjoy this day.

07 October 2007


Okay Folks! Here we are!!

I finally had to gut it out, swallow some of my very best intentions and just go with it.

After figuring out what I needed to get this thing off the ground, literally, we sat down Saturday at about 1:30 and drafted a pick list. I have learned a lot on this venture, but drafting a pick list, was well, sort of a combination of drafting a letter to Santa Clause while trying hard not to want to strangle my spouse.
This is the problem. We are both fairly smart. We're both clever enough to be able to figure out how to do things, and we're both stubborn enough to want to be the one making the decisions.

But when it comes down to it, we both don't have a clue what we're doing. Okay. Maybe a little. But it's still sort of funny, because we are both so convinced that we know we are right.

With the pick list drafted, we headed to Lowes - the local big box hardware store.

Now, this is where swallowing some of my ideals comes in. I needed lumber. I needed a fair amount. several folks have said "I have wood you are welcome to use" But never returned phone calls, or live far enough away that getting there and getting the wood sorted through and getting it loaded in SOMETHING and then getting it down here is more than this poor soul can do in a day. ALSO, I realized I needed to make some significant progress on this thing within the next several weeks, because we have other commitments coming up and I don't want to be January trying to get in. Work is expected to get hairy again in the end of November. I need to be in the office or some approximation there of, but then.

I'd loose a weekend of work to sorting through lumber I don't know if I can use, and well,... I simply didn't want to be put back that far, AND I wanted to be able to get exactly what I needed for the framing. So I did. And as Seumas, my eco-guru reminds me - wood IS a renewable resource.

So I sucked it up and bought 6x6s, 4x6s, 2x10s, 2x6s, and 2x4s, plywood for the sub flooring, Plus 50 pounds of nails, an new hammer, braces, and a few other assorted goodies. It totalled about $800 in materials. (ouch) and took about 6 hours to figure, find, pay for, load, unload, and repeat. Lord we were tired.

Today we got to work getting things set up and while I would love to say I have great pictures, I don't yet. Soon.
But I think the funniest and most enjoyable part of the whole thing was working with the spouse. At one point I was asking the Lowe's expert guy - Mike about ply wood. Mike is in his early 60's I'd guess. I'd also guess he works at Lowe's because he enjoys helping folks. So we were discussing ply wood density, and Bill came up. When Mike realized Bill is my husband he got this funny smile on his face. He said " you all are doing this together?" We chuckled and said "yep. For the moment"

Mike's eyes twinkled knowingly. He looked at Bill and said "in a case like this, you only need to remember 2 words --- Yes, Dear."

And then he looked me straight in the eye and said "You know, in Georgia there used to be a law, now it's off the books and everything, but there USED TO BE a law that a man could hit his wife one time with a stick."
I laughed a little, then he said "but it never said what size that stick was... and he could only hit her once."

then he saw Bill smirking and said "but now, that's off the books and illegal and everything, just remember to say 'yes Dear'".

We all sort of stood there grinning.

Several times today Bill's told me he's looking for that stick. But he's only had to say yes dear about a dozen times. (for those of you who know Bill, know he is a very sweet and gentle man, and wouldn't ever raise a hand to me... so no worries there)

Still it's amazing how much fun we had today.

(See we are pretty evenly matched, and didn't throw one another into that gorge...)
Anyway, we are making progress. I was putting together a saw horse and learned an important lesson. I am not good at hamming left handed. I banged the tar out of my thumb and even saw stars swirling around my head and little yellow birdies! and I always thought that Wylie Coyote and crew were making that up!! Maybe next time I'll invest in one of these..

It is a patented finger protector for holding nails!! and here Bill and I thought we were the clever ones!!

05 October 2007


It's been a very strange and busy couple of weeks.
Unfortunately, less busy in regards to the building, but strange nonetheless.

Work has been slapping me in the head. Revisions because of institutional shifts, at times seemingly arbitrary and designed to make poor beleaguered consultantants like myself wrapped up in endless changes to text that make my eyes cross.

Still, we've managed to get the posts in, pilled with rebar and concrete and we're getting ready to start framing soon. At some point (hopefully the end of October) we'll be ready for the straw bales and will be having a plastering party!

During the cement mixing phase we were very very careful about water and used a total of 3 buckets full. (Less than most people use in an average shower). Still the drought (see below) is really taking it's toll. Even though it is grey cloudy day, everything is so parched. It makes me wonder how much more things will change. Is this just the tip of the (last of the) icebergs?

It's a little ironic, that I work with international water issues, and here at home we're hit with one of the worst droughts in recorded history. It's also curious that my partner's home town of Cheltenham in UK experienced some of the worst floods. Talk about bringing our work home with us!!

Still, I think when people think about the ramifications of climate change they think of it in terms of far away places. We don't think of it really happening here. But yesterday I experiences the strangest thing:

I was zipping around on my scooter, Flash, (95 mpg!!), and it was raining. But the rain was evaporating before it hit the ground. It's so dry that nothing was getting wet below about 3 ft. from the ground. The other night we were eating dinner in a restaurant. We looked outside at the lights in the parking lot. It looked like a huge down pour. But when we got outside, nothing was wet. There was this eerie mist in the air, but the rain wasn't getting to the ground...

We've messed up in a big way. I just wonder if we really are past the tipping point... and what we, as a species will do if we have...

It's just a bit overwhelming sometimes.

It's bad out there....

Things around here are getting really serious...

this is from this weeks edition of our local community paper- The Flag Pole.

The Drought
What’s Our Next Move?
originally published October 3, 2007

The sad scene at the Bear Creek Reservoir, as of late September.

If the current intense drought continues long enough, Athens-Clarke’s water-saving restrictions will have to move to a final, emergency level, allocating water to specific categories of commercial and industrial users based on how the water is used. Food preparation, for example, might receive a higher priority than other uses, according to Athens-Clarke County (ACC) Manager Alan Reddish. No decisions have yet been reached about how much reduction will be required of various categories of users, although Reddish speculates that at least some reduction might be required from all. “We have never had one of these plans before,” he says - because there hasn’t been a drought severe enough to need one. Also undecided: whether homeowners would also be asked to reduce their usage beyond the current outdoor watering ban.

Reddish hopes that the current watering ban - intended to reduce water usage by 20 percent - will stretch out existing supplies until rain comes. There is no date certain when water will run out, he says, because “it takes a while for everybody to get the word” about the ban, and demand may still be dropping. Outdoor watering is also banned in Barrow, Oconee and Jackson counties, co-partners in the Bear Creek Reservoir. Athens’ total outdoor watering ban - in place since Sept. 17 - may have bought the county an extra 12 days of reservoir water, Reddish thinks. At current usage rates, reservoir water should last into November. (After that, water could still be pumped from the depleted reservoir, but the remaining water would not be as suitable for treatment. Its taste and color might be affected, ACC Public Utilities Director Gary Duck has said.)

At press time, ACC officials were optimistic that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division would soon be granting Athens a waiver to withdraw up to 15 million gallons per day from the Middle Oconee River for 45 days. Along with county-wide reductions in use, officials hope the additional river water will get us to the end of the calendar year - but they stress that it is not a reason to lighten up on conservation practices. “Having this ability to pump an additional 15 million gallons [per day] by no means suggests that we need to reduce any water restrictions,” Reddish says.

At some point, and based on specific technical “triggers” that include soil moisture and reservoir level, ACC Commissioners may be asked to approve an emergency water-rationing plan: the last, most drastic step of the county’s six-step drought management plan. (The first five steps simply required more and more limited hours for outdoor watering, along with a requirement that car washes, plant nurseries and construction sites reduce their water use by 20 percent.) Details of a last-step rationing plan are being discussed by Reddish’s office, the Public Utilities Department, and Jordan, Jones and Goulding, a public-utilities consulting firm, Reddish says. “It would allocate water to the highest-priority uses first, and then, through some sort of hierarchy, allocate less water to other lesser-priority uses,” possibly even cutting some to zero, he says. But nobody in government likes speculating about what the rules would be.

“We don’t want to say what that is right now,” says Mayor Heidi Davison, “so that we don’t begin to send out false messages to people until it’s perfectly clear what the plan is going to be.” Reddish said a plan will be ready if and when it’s needed. “We will have one available if conditions indicate we need to have one - right now, we’re not suggesting we need one,” he says. “Sometime around the middle of December, we usually will begin to pick up a significant amount of rain. So that’s where we’re trying to get to.”

Georgia’s current drought may be the driest on record in the short term, says UGA engineering professor (and state climatologist) David Stooksbury. But defining droughts can be a complicated task, and one in the mid-1920s was worse in terms of duration and impact, he says. “Droughts don’t develop over a week or two… It’s a cumulative effect,“ Stooksbury points out. Rainfall and temperature records have been kept in Georgia since the late 1800s, and stream flow records for the past 70 or 80 years, he says. Recently, local stream flows have been setting daily records compared to the same dates in earlier years. Jordan, Jones and Goulding engineer Bill Martello says that both branches of the Oconee River hit severely low flows in August of 2002, one of the worst drought years (until now) in recent memory. But that year, he says, rainfall from tropical storms in September replenished the water table. September 2007 rainfall was negligible.

Over the long run, Stooksbury says, “there really is no trend one way or the other” in terms of local stream flows or rainfall; there’s possibly a slight cooling trend in temperature, he says, despite a global trend towards warming temperatures.

by: John Huie

22 September 2007

Ouch. . .

So, today has been interesting - Bill and I got out there and worked on the foundation piers for a while.

Combine cement mix with water, stir, shovel over to cinder block/rebar pier, dump cement in, tamp down, repeat. Like 25 times.

And for some reason everyone is worn out. Including me. Actually my hands, arms and wrists really hurt. I better have shoulders with definition like Madonna's when I'm finished with this thing.

It's slow. Frustratingly slow.

And as I sit here, covered in cement mix dust, it feels like it will never get done.

I know once we get this part done and start framing out the floor, walls and ceiling it will go faster - at least I'm hoping it will. I need it to.

But at the moment, I guess a hot shower is in order, with my own exfoliant scrubb built in. And then maybe to see a movie about the Russian Mob or something... or to read about the plight of a woman in Afghanistan... or just curl up and go to sleep.

hmmm... well either way, happy equinox folks!! (aren't we supposed to feel more balances at this point...?)

More tomorrow - including, perhaps, a shopping list!!
(For the building!!)

Assuming I can even move.

20 September 2007

Get a manicure? or Mix and Pour Concrete?

Well, despite continuing lovely weather, today I didn't get to work on the office.
(I know, it's sort of a disappointment for me too.)

Simply put, I had work I HAD TO GET DONE. And I went to the Y to work out. And I worked at the coffee shop, which is a nice place to work when one is working at home, but wants interactions with real live 3 dimensional people.

At the Y, I was enjoying a cardio-induced high, and looked out the window. The DOT is putting down a new, expanded road. We've been ina drought here, and it's bad. But as I was watching the work going on, there was the stink of fresh asphault and a huge cloud of dirt and dust blew up from under one of the machines. It occured to me that I wondered is it possible to have construction without destruction?

I had to take down some trees, but I'll re-use that wood, I hope. Of course it is faster and easier to get in there and rip up a space, and then plant whatever is needed, but how much of the beauty of a place do we loose when we do that?

My dear town of Athens has recently put a ban on housing projects that clear cut wooded land. It's a good thing. I'm proud of us for that.

On the other hand, I also found myself at the coffee shop talking to my pals the baristas. One of them laughed when I was talking with in a few sentences about getting my nails done or working with concrete. She looked at the new trainee, laughed and said "see Mary is one of our favorites here, because you never know if she's going to get a manicure or mix concrete. She just keeps us guessing, but at least it's never dull."

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to work more with the concrete!!

More contruction, less destruction.

And I'll wear gloves so I don't completely ruin my nails.

Concrete results

Okay, since I'm not able to swim because of the tattoo - looks great- though there is a red welt under it. I suppose that's mostly normal - I'm working on the office/hut/space instead of going swimming.

Today, I could have used the solace of the pool, but found myself having my first ever experience with concrete instead. 40 lb bags of Quickcrete Cement Mix, mixed with requisit amounts of water, and learned about how to get it from point A to point B. We have cinder block piers, reinforced with steel rebar, and now we're filling the holes in the cinder blocks with concrete. This will be stable!!

So I got a chance to get a sense of how it feels and filled two of the side piers (not the corners) with a total of 240 pounds of concrete plus the requisit amoung of water. It took about 2 hours, and I was fairly tired. I could have kept going but it was getting dark, and I knew it was time to stop. Also I took a fall early- or rather a graceless dive down the hillside when my foot got tangled in a root or something. I ended up doing this very strange staggering shuffling running dive that ended with me hurtling myself toward a pile of recently downed pine tree trunks and thinking "Oh, now that's really gonna hurt" - magically, I managed to veer to the left at the last moment and instead did an amazing slide across the forrest floor that James Bond would have been proud of. And my iPod headphones even stayed in tact!! Eurythmics blarring. Indeed, the sisters ARE doing it for themselves.

Everything was fine and I hopped up seconds after Nurse Lucy (the dog) pounced beside me in most dire concern, as I lay there wondering how I managed to miss doing a header into those logs... but still... it gave me pause for thought. BE CAREFUL!

Of course. I forget that. I'm not always going to heal as quickly as I did when I was 14.

But at 14, I'd never spent an evening mixing concrete... And now I have.

And that's sort of cool, when it comes down to it.

18 September 2007

Tuesday....Ultimate recycling

Today, 18 September, is the second anniversary of my step mother's heart transplant. She has it done in Pittsburgh, and the donor was someone 22 years old from West Virginia. It's been a tough day for me, especially since our expectations were so high. Adri, my step-mom was one of my dearest friends. She survived the transplant, but didn't survive surviving it. Her poor body was so worn out that 5 months later, she watched the Super Bowl and woke up dead the next morning - as my father often says.

I miss her a lot.
Before she had the transplant, I used to joke that if she got a new heart, I'd get the reuse reduce recycle logo (above) tattooed above my heart so everyone would know I'm an organ donor. We used to giggle about it a lot. It just seemed so silly.
Well, I've been thinking about it a lot and missing her a lot too. And it seems like 2 years is about right.
So tonight, I went to Midnight Iguana Tattoo Parlor and got it!!
I'll post pictures another time...
But today, after having a difficult day, I went out to work on the office a little and I was thinking that organ donation is the ultimate in re-use. And it is such an amazing gift to someone.
So as I pounded rebar into the ground to stabilize the piers it just seemed reasonable.
And here's the cinch - I can't swim - my much needed favorite stress relief - for a MONTH. So I've decided to dedicate that time and energy to building the office a few hours every afternoon instead. No, it won't feel as good as doing laps and then soaking in the hot tub, but maybe this is Adri's way to help me get this thing built. The tattoo is in her honor, the office in the honor of the donor. It just feels like the right thing to do.
So folks, Please, if you can, sign an organ donor card, and tell your loved ones your wishes. It really is the ultimate in recycling!! And an amazing gift.
A very deep thank you to the anonymous family who shared a part of their loved one with Adri, to keep her with us, even a little bit longer.
(Yes, okay, I know, no blood donations for a year now, but since I'm in sub-Sahara Africa and the Former Soviet Union, they won't take it now anyway.)

16 September 2007

Lesson Learned

Things I learned today:

1. There is a reason that there is a single engineer on project sites.

2. There is a reason that there are engineers.

3. Engineers must be really smart to know how to do that stuff.

4. I am not an engineer. But I do have a whole new level of appreciation for them.

5. Building things yourself, and having to figure out how to do it is AMAZING!! Now I know why all those guys who have given me so much advice always say "I'd love to have time to do something like that myself!"


Oh, and there is not one single right way to know how to do something.


It started like this:

I've been working on work, and sitting looking out my bedroom window wishing to be working out in my office which isn't there yet.

So my dear boss-ish Tim made the comment: Sometimes you just have to start on it.
It made sense. And it was time to see progress. So this weekend, progress has been seen.

First off, we accepted that digging 11 holes in the hard Georgia clay was going to be a huge strain, so we went to Home Depot where we made friends with two really nice, helpful guys "Orlando" and "Jose" (this may or may not be their real names) They came and dug the holes for us and used the word "loco" quite a few times. I think they meant me. Orlando and Jose were great help! We appreciate them very much!! By Saturday at 4:00 we had 11 holes dug!!

This a picture Bill and James standing in for Jose and Orlando, since well, they left right after they finished.
In the meantime, while Jose and Orlando were digging holes, James and I went to Lowes to get
300 lbs of gravel, 25 48 inches #4 rebar, 60 cinder blocks and 1200 lbs. of cement mix. Lowes has a truck rental so we rented the truck, got everything to the house and unloaded! Go Team!
This morning, Lucy, my devoted assistant, partner in crime and our building site supervisor, was out checking out the site. Evidently, she was checking things out before we got to work.

So, I moved the cinder blocks up to the building site. That was fun. Sort of an applied strength training workout - especially since is was up hill. But I got it done (and Bill helped some too!)

Then after lots of trying to figure things out like how in the world to level the cinder blocks in the holes, we gave in and called our friend Seumas. Seumas is the voice of all reason. He's also build a good number of structures. We love Seumas. He said this is the reason he thought using cinder blocks wasn't the best idea. He said using plywood forms made better sense. But after using plywood forms, we'd have that wood left over, and I don't want to have waste from this project, if we can help it. So Seumas and Bill and I figured out how to use a laser level (Bill's newest toy), and gravel and marks on the hoe to get the bases of the holes level and then the blocks leveled. It was a pretty fancy system, and I'm glad we did it!! I definitely learned something about this from them. More on that later.
So we got the first one sunk, I climbed up to see what the view would be from my new office.
It's high, but I LOVE IT!!! IT IS PROGRESS!!

We sank a few more, Bill went in, James came out. Lucy continued her supervisory role.
By the end of the day Lucy was exhausted from all that responsibility of making sure we got everything done right. She inspected every hole, and made sure we were all on the level.

And at the end of the day today, we had 9 footing piers sunk and leveled. We'll fill them with cement after providing additional stabilizing rebar. That will probably be next week...
But hey... IT'S PROGRESS!
And thank heaven's for Aleve... my muscles are so sore!!
But I feel great!!
Thanks to everyone: Bill, James, Seumas, Orlando and Jose, and of course, for her wonderful supervisory work and constant attention to detail - Lucy!

Garden Offices in the News - sort of...

From USA Weekend - the magazine insert to our Sunday paper...

Sometimes the inspiration just keeps coming... I'm just a trend setter, I guess...

We're out to set the footings this afternoon!! Update coming tonight, if I can move...

Enjoy! in the meantime!

Getting away from it all (without leaving)
Homeowners squeezed for space are turning to cozy "cabins" they can build in their backyards. These affordable, DIY units are extending our living space like never before.
By Jeffrey Ressner

As a single mother living in Austin with her 16-year-old son, Sydney Rubin adored the architectural style of her 1952 two-bedroom bungalow. But she desperately needed more space for a home office. Adding a new room would have run about $40,000, and at least double that to convert her carport. Either way, the renovations would have compromised the home's original design. Instead, Rubin came up with a novel solution: a tricked-out backyard cabana that transformed her garden area into an idyllic workspace.
"They're less expensive than an addition and a great way to escape from loud family life in the main house."
"I know it sounds flaky, but it's a really inviting, happy-looking structure," says Rubin, who bought the upscale cabana online after mulling over her various options. The 140-square-foot unit took a couple of workers just five days to build using prefabricated materials, including gorgeous tight-knot redwood panels. Total cost: $22,000. Now she has a home office, a garden feature and a conversation piece.
"Every time someone comes over, they ask the same question: 'Where can I get one?' "
These days, the answer is easy. Prefab cabanas, or "cabins," as people also call them, experienced a resurgence in the 1970s, and in the last few years several companies have popped up selling hip backyard lodgings perfect for art studios, meditation rooms or guest quarters. Keep in mind, however, that traditional "bonus room" additions generally are more sturdy than cool prefab modules and may deliver a better return on investment when reselling your home.
Although separate structures like these often are used for storage, they also can offer homeowners a real refuge -- a different room in which to work, play or just relax. It's almost like having a vacation home in the backyard. The units range in size (100 square feet and up) and are detached from the main residence and immobile. "A new trend definitely started in the building industry," says Casper Mork-Ulnes of Modern Cabana, the maker of Rubin's cube and one of at least a dozen firms offering the nifty single-room nooks. "They're less expensive than an addition and a great way to escape from loud family life in the main house."
Garden rooms in general have become a popular concept as homeowners seek ways to expand exterior living and leisure spaces beyond wooden decks. Some daring folks are experimenting with cargo containers; others park gleaming Airstream trailers in their yards. Jo Stougaard of North Hollywood, Calif., pitched a large canvas tent in her garden, decorated it with safari gear, framed Hemingway photos and African knickknacks and now often hosts fun dinner parties there -- that is, when guests aren't sipping martinis inside a nearby Tiki hut, which serves as yet another outdoor room.
Sometimes fun is trumped by function: Richard Cornelius of Cincinnati spent nearly $10,000 on a Cape Cod-styled mini-home that he uses to hide his swimming pool equipment.
Popular for many years in England, the too-cool garden-room trend got a spark here in early 2004 when Gen X-slash-Y craft magazine "ReadyMade" published a cover story featuring a $1,500 super-shed by California designer Edgar Blazona. With its corrugated metal siding, large glass panels and Eames-era charm, Blazona's MD100 (named for its 100-square-foot size) became an instant classic -- practical yet prudent, retro yet relevant. When "ReadyMade" began hawking the construction plans for $35 online, they quickly became a big hit.
"I call it an adult playhouse," says Christian rocker T.D. Oakes, 32, who built an MD100 on his Lexington, Ky., property over two weeks last September for $3,000, using off-the-shelf material from Lowe's and The Home Depot along with a cheap cordless power tool kit.
Candace Locklear, who lives in the East Bay hills near San Francisco, says building an outdoor room was "totally worth it." She and her husband had considered landscaping their yard, adding sod and a koi pond, but instead built a hip "modern playhouse" for their young daughter. Not only did the construction project bring them closer ("it helped us realize what great partners we really are"), but they've become the most popular parents on the block.
Blazona, a former Pottery Barn designer who offers larger backyard structures at ModularDwellings.com, thinks the market for outdoor rooms is good but says "it's hard to create a true product that can be made anywhere" because each municipality has different building laws and codes.
Dave Kimball, whose New Hampshire firm Shelter-Kit has sold prefab barns and homes since the 1970s, sees his business expanding, especially for the basic $9,975 "Unit One" mini-cabin, which can be used in backyards or combined with optional decks and porches to create larger residential structures. "Our business was exclusively in the Northeast, but now we're all over, including Texas, Idaho and Montana," Kimball says.
And why not? Single mom Rubin says the pre-fab units offer a pretty fab way for homeowners to get back to nature: "These aren't tiny trailer homes; they're beautiful objects surrounded by greenery. I'm in my little room, looking out over the garden, watching squirrels climb up an oak tree. It's far better than any other office I've ever worked in."
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HouseSmart By Lou Manfredini
The practical side of building a backyard escape
Check with your local building department to see if these types of structures are allowed, and if so, what requirements you must meet. You may need to submit a building plan and survey to show where it'll be located on the property.
Position the structure in a way that avoids problems such as water pooling down in low spots. Consider a gravel base or raised concrete slab to keep your new unit high and dry.
Make sure the design of your new cabin or shed has some kind of visual relationship with your home. Not only will it make a great companion element, it'll keep your neighbors happy, too.
Add some basic amenities to the unit. Having a few electrical outlets, some lighting and even indoor plumbing can be a real plus. (Check out the BioLet toilet, a composting unit that uses no water, at biolet.com.)
Lou Manfredini is OurHouse.com's "Mr. Fix-It" and a contributor to NBC's "Today" show.
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What's your style?
1. Cottage All that's missing from this elegant mini-home, which even boasts a steep gable roof, is the white picket fence. It's a sweet spot for overnight guests, or maybe a great pool house.
2. Pavilion This octagonal "home extension," designed by Michael Graves for Target stores, makes a great breakfast nook or library. Use more glass walls and it's an awesome greenhouse or artist's studio.
3. Modern dwelling Marketed under various brand names, such as "modern cabanas" or "metrosheds," these fun retro designs are perfect for a trendy playhouse or an urban home office.
Cover photograph by Jean-Yves Bruel, Masterfile


03 September 2007


After planning, replanning, figuring, refiguring, refiguring again, and again, we finally did it!!


It was hot and we were tired, but it is progress!!

More details soon.
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02 September 2007


At last!

Labor day weekend and we're doing some labor!

There were 2 trees about 16 and 20 inches in diameter that needed to come down.

It seemed easy enough. So we get the chain saw working (again), cleared away the remaining brush that had been there from the smaller trees I took down last time, and got to work.
Instead of doing it on my own, Bill and James pitched in. So instead of "chain saw therapy" we had an opprotunity to have "family chain saw therapy". With James taking AP (University level) Physics, Bill being the practical man, and me being the one with the most experience in working with chain saws, it was a real battle of the egos.

But actually it was really a lot of fun!
We got the first tree down, but were trying to keep it from taking out a swamp maple I wanted to save. But the first tree got caught in the branches of a larger pine, so we tried to guide it down using ropes we'd attached earlier...

We managed to get it to fall, but it took a few extra cuts and (fortunately) a lot of laughter. And we managed not to loose any of the small hardwoods I'd been hoping to save. What started out as a slightly fussy day, ended with all of us in stitches, and having a good time. And sore and tired.

And we even managed to clear the two trees and have a bunch of big logs left over! (I'll use them for something)

And we've got a cleared space to start the foundation!! That's tomorrow's work, if we're not too sore and tired.
Of course, I know having a professional team come in here and do this would have gotten it done in an hour and the foundation would now be setting. But honestly, the time spent with the boys made the time and energy worth more than I could have paid anyone. James leaves for University in a year, and we won't have these moments again. (At least until we get the foundation started.)
It just makes it feel that much more special.
Let's see how tomorrow looks!!