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Posts Tagged ‘Sunset’

Diary #536

Last Wednesday I collected what I thought a good number of apples from my trees to test my new cider press; after coring them and running them through a food processor for pulping, I used the press (on the deck, because I wasn’t sure how messy it would be) and obtained about 6 liters of fresh cider.  I’m going to ferment a gallon of it and use the rest to make apple butter and apple jelly; toward the latter end, I boiled the pomace (the stuff left over after juicing) in water, strained out the solids, and then boiled down the pulp to extract the pectin.  I was kind of amazed how little pectin the process produced; in the future I may decide it’s a better use of my time to just buy it from a grocery store.  But it’s no waste of time to learn how to do something, even if you don’t do it regularly afterward.  Anyhow, the animals really enjoyed the pomace once I was done, or at least Orville and Shiloh did; Jonathan is a bit of a snob, and though he ate it he didn’t seem as enthusiastic as the others.  I’m off to Seattle today, but I’ll be back at the farm on Thursday to do the last of the season’s canning, get on with the bathhouse roof, and spend more lovely October nights watching horror movies while stoned.

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Bathhouse 20

On the day my last bathhouse update posted, we were busily engaged in switching our power system over from the old  cables Grace had jury-rigged back in 2017 just to get the power on quickly.  We originally planned to do it on Saturday, but on Friday morning the weather forecast had changed so that Friday was the better day.  Grace was ready, so we launched into the project a little after 2 pm and were finished a little before 6.  Our new system uses heavy, high-quality copper cable in place of the cheap aluminum ones, and the laundry room, shop, and bathhouse (including the well) now have their own designated feeder cables and breaker boxes; everything is designed to be safer, neater and easier to maintain.  On Saturday, I finished wiring the outlets in both cottages, and Chekhov took down the overhead cables (and those on the outside wall of the shop) which were visible in some of the previous pictures, and the old main cable which ran from the meter to the main breaker box in the back.  Getting rid of that damned overhead conduit was especially gratifying to me, but I think Chekhov and Jae are most pleased about having working outlets in their cottages (instead of having to run things from power strips attached to the long extension cords visible in many previous pictures).  And Grace is just happy to be done with a project that arthritis made very difficult for her.

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Diary #535

Leveling the floor of my house has been a long, slow process, but we’re finally beginning to make some discernible progress.  Every Sunday we use a laser level to take readings across the entire length of the house; when we started the drop between the highest and lowest points on the floor was almost four inches, and now it’s less than 2.75 inches.  But as we’ve worked on remodeling, we’ve come to realize that at least some of that drop has more to do with the fact that the property slopes down toward the east, and the low point is on the east end; in other words, the original owners (who built the house themselves in 1927) don’t seem to have concerned themselves with whether it was level or not!  The house is sturdy enough, but there are many places where walls are not exactly square or plumb, so it stands to reason the floor probably wasn’t properly level to start with; everything seems to have been “eyeballed”.  Given this information, we’ve decided to worry less about whether the floor is truly level and more about whether it’s straight and strong.  Accordingly, we’ve reversed the direction of measurement; whereas before three weeks ago we set the laser up on the living room floor and shot toward the back door, we’re now setting up on the lower level of the deck immediately outside the back door (which we know to be level since we built it ourselves) and shooting to a laser target set up in the living room.  That way, we eliminate the possibility that the floor under the laser tripod might also be moving, and thus introucing error into the measurements.  On Sunday, I asked our hired man to go under the house and crawl toward the living room (the oldest part of the house) to be sure there were no other bad places that we couldn’t detect from above; he returned with this rotten timber.  Fortunately, it was the only bad one he saw, and he said it was obvious it had been poorly placed to start with; all the others appeared sound, and the beam the timber was supporting does not appear to be sagging yet.  So the next time he comes out, we’re going to have him replace it with a steel support just in case, and after we get the bad spot where we want it (we’re improving by about 1/8” per week now), we’ll fill in the area beneath it with a concrete pedestal so that nothing short of a major earthquake can mess it up again.

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Bathhouse 19

Last week was mostly a lot of prep work and what one might call “invisible improvements”. On Wednesday I bought the steel we’re going to build the roof structure from, then over the next few days we were occupied with getting ready to switch over to the new, improved and expanded, main power system.  Under Grace’s direction I ran the main cables to the shop and Jae’s cottage, put in the junction boxes under Jae’s floor, and wired up the outlets for both cottages; I also helped Chekhov move into his cottage, braced a few sections of the deck that were flexing more than I liked, and finished up several other small tasks, none of which would really show up in a picture.  But when our hired man finished the task of applying roof sealant on the shop and garage buildings, I let Jae borrow him to start rebuilding her yurt in its new location north of the house.  For comparison with other pictures, that’s Chekhov’s cottage in the foreground and the outside wall of the original house at left; the area where all the wood is lying is going to be the new bathroom, and there will be an exit door with a ramp just a little to the right of where you can see that extension cord.  We’ve had a lot of rain this week, so we mostly did more indoor prep work.  But if the weather forecast is correct, tomorrow is going to be dry enough to do the big switchover, and we’ll at last be able to get those annoying overhead conduits (they’re visible in several of the pictures) out of our way before we move on to building the roof.

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Diary #534

Steel has grown steadily more (disproportionate to inflation) expensive in the 18 years I’ve been buying it, but fortunately Grace is good at finding deals.  So we got a reasonable price on the 1100 kilograms of steel we need to build the bathhouse roof structure, provided I was willing to drive a couple of hours and pay cash.  But thanks to my lovely visit with Dr. Quest last week, I had the latter; and thanks to many, many years of long-distance driving, I’m not bothered by the former.  It did occur to me that I’ve never pulled a heavily-laden trailer that far before, nor ever successfully backed a trailer into anyplace, but one does what one must, and our dog Trip was with me for moral support.  I rather enjoyed the reaction I got upon exiting the truck at the steelyard looking like I look, and I enjoyed even more the look on the guys’ faces when they realized I actually knew something about steel.  The return journey was relatively uneventful, though, and my cargo is safely stacked in the garage awaiting fabrication into trusses. And I didn’t even break a nail moving it.

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Bathhouse 18

While I was away last week, our hired man was busy doing the shingles on the second cottage, with Chekhov assisting; it was rather nice to come home to that being nearly complete because I really had no desire to do that job again.  Not only is it just too damned hot, it also requires positions which, after a few hours, leave me stiff and tense.  But now that’s done, and Chekhov will soon be staining the second cottage (you can see the difference in this picture).  On Wednesday I went to pick up the steel tubing for the roof structure, and Grace has been working on a deal for the purlins and steel roofing panels (which aren’t available wholesale locally); once we’ve got all that we’ll be starting on the main roof, and not a week too soon; the long-range weather reports are starting to show higher chances of rain.  I’m not sure I’ll have anything visual to show you on that next week, but if I don’t I’ll figure something out!

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Diary #533

Time spent with Dr. Quest is always lovely, but unfortunately time spent on airplanes is not.  So after a wonderful weekend I had to get up at 5 AM Sunday to leave for the airport at 6, then make a connecting flight via Philadelphia for a long flight back to Seattle.  However, I was on the ground in Seattle by 1:30 PM, came home to eat a late breakfast, and did little other than write this column and do a little bookkeeping before getting blotto on a THC drink.  Then yesterday I returned to Sunset with the money for the steel for the roof structure of my bathhouse, courtesy of the good Doctor!  He was very pleased to know that every time Iook up in that room, I will think of him.  As regular readers know, under my adamantine exterior I’m actually extremely sentimental, so there’s something  very beautiful to me about being able to look at a specific gift, whether a picture or a sculpture or a tool or a piece of furniture or an actual structure in my home, and smile fondly at the reminder of the generous person who gave it to me.

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Bathhouse 16

I returned to Sunset on Wednesday of last week, and until Monday did a host of small jobs on the project which were yet unfinished.  I spent most of the day Saturday skirting around the cottages; since the ground falls away toward the east fairly quickly, I had to allow for that while simultaneously using something strong enough to keep Orville and the other animals out.   Fortunately, Jae remembered that alongside the shop were the panels of a huge garage door which was apparently once installed on the barn (the previous owners came of age in the Great Depression and never threw away anything as far as we could tell); they were strong, light, weatherproof, pig-proof, and (best of all) free.  So I used them as the base layer all around, and topped them with leftover floor and roof boards from the cottage kits.  When Chekhov stains the cottage, he’ll also spray the boards; later, Jae will paint the white panels to match the trim.  We had meant to have our workmen come back to shingle the roof last week, but that got pushed to this week; on Sunday (with Chekhov’s help) I finished the remaining roof boards which are still missing in this picture, then did the roof underlayment so the shingles could be installed.  Grace also showed me her sketches for the main roof design, and we priced the steel for the supporting structure; we should be able to start on that early next week.  And if things keep going as they should, we’ll have a roof up before the rainy season starts again in about four weeks!

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Taking Shape

As regular readers know, I’m planning to semi-retire at the end of this year; I stopped creating traditional ads over a year ago, and as of January 1st I will no longer take new clients unless they come recommended by someone I know personally.  The pandemic and civil unrest of this year have given me a glimpse of what that’s going to look like:  for the past six months I’ve been living at Sunset, returning to Seattle a couple of times a month for a few days at a time.  For example, I just came back to Seattle on Tuesday for an appointment, then tonight I’ll be flying out to see one of my favorite clients for a weekend; on Monday I’ll be heading back to Sunset for a couple of weeks.  And though this year I’ve been incredibly busy with the remodel, the big things should mostly be done about the same time I semi-retire, and the details by next summer.  And then I’ll just be able to settle into a comfortable routine of writing, publishing books, going back to town or traveling elsewhere to work or make public appearances, cooking, relaxing, puttering around the farm, visiting with friends, and maybe even getting a long-delayed D&D game running.  After half a century of sturm und drang, I have finally (mostly) learned to relax, and even my inner nun is beginning to grudgingly admit that I’ve earned it.

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Diary #532

It’s been years since I made jam; I believe the last time was in 2013, because the year after that I was on tour all summer, then in 2015 I moved to Seattle.  But we had a bumper crop of plums and blackberries, and the apples are almost ripe as well; Jae picked a big basket of plums last week, and even after making two huge plum cobblers I had plenty left.  So on Thursday I made plum jam, then on Friday blackberry, and both came out perfectly!  I have to admit I was a bit daunted; I like making jam, but it’s a lot of work, and, as I said, it has been a while.  But it was a lot easier this time than it was in Oklahoma, for several reasons.  First, Jae picked and pitted the plums for me, and she and a visiting friend picked the blackberries.  Second, I have an electronic cooking thermometer now, which makes monitoring the jam mixture’s temperature much less of a hassle.  And speaking of heat, the Washington coast in September is dramatically cooler than southeast Oklahoma in June, so I wasn’t stuck in a sweltering kitchen while working.  Today I’m going back to Seattle and I’m going to visit the gent I call Dr. Quest this weekend.  But on Monday I’ll be back at Sunset, and soon I’ll be using our apples to make apple cider, apple jelly, apple butter, mince meat, and other lovely treats.

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