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