Saturday, August 16, 2014

Solar in Da House!

We've got our Solar system up & running!

Many of you know that Solar power had been in our plans for the house since the beginning.  

When we constructed the garage, we situated it to have a south facing expanse of roof for the purpose of mounting solar photovoltaic panels.

  Well we finally got her done!

Last week our guys from Solarflair took 2 days to install the system.  

Here is day one.

At the end of the day, we went up on the roof for a closer look.

Here's a lovely rooftop view of our house and yard including my septic hump wildflower and wild grasses meadow, and our solar clothesline.

On day two, the PV panels were mounted.

The inspections took place on Tuesday of this week.  

And on Thursday, Unitil came out and replaced our meter with a new net metering one.  The new meter can send the electricity that we generate into our house as needed and any excess energy is directed into the grid.

We are now generating solar electricity!

Can I get back to my nap now?

Angie is not quite as excited as we are about all this...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mr. Safety is Right

I had an accident involving a shovel and my head.

Here's how it went down.

I was working on installing some stepping stones using some large flat rocks harvested from our property.  This particular stone was about 4 inches thick and I would say weighed about 80 pounds.

I had dug out the area for the stone, and left my shovel as pictured below.


 I lifted the stone and dropped it into place, but missed my mark a bit and it landed on the edge of the shovel end of the shovel causing the handle end to fly up with incredible speed and force stopping only when it hit my head.  WONK!  The power of the lever - like in a Trebuchet without the sling.  

Someone who knows Math and Physics could probably calculate the force generated here.

This photo was taken 2 days later after the swelling went down.

I was stunned!  I ran into the house and looked in the mirror to see a 5 x 5 centimeter egg growing larger by the second.  I put on an ice pack immediately and ran for the Arnica, all the while crying so hard I could barely see.  I was crying mostly because I was SO MAD at myself for letting such a stupid accident happen.  

And also I was SCARED.  I wondered if I was going to bleed into my brain - then I remembered the reason you have a skull is to protect the brain from just such injuries and the reason why you get a big egg is because the blood has no other direction to go except out.  But before I figured that all out, I was in the mirror checking my cranial nerves by sticking out my tongue and showing my teeth, and looking at my pupils and reciting to myself "On Old Olympus Towering Top a Finn and German Viewed Some Hops" - the mnemonic I learned in nursing school to remember the 12 cranial nerves...

Angie tried to comfort me with kisses while a sat on the stoop holding the ice pack on my head, still crying and trying to think if I should go to the hospital.

I did not lose consciousness and I am 99% sure I did not have a concussion.

Dean - AKA Mr Safety - is always cautioning me to be careful when working on our various projects.  When we are using the backhoe, I will sometimes be darting around the shovel and he's always yelling "GET AWAY FROM THE SHOVEL", and be careful this and be careful that, and keep your work area clear.  And I admit that I just don't think that way, and have poo-poo'ed his concerns from time to time.

But now I have to admit it:  Mr. Safety is right!

So after the initial swelling went down, most of the blood from the hematoma sunk down the side of my head and into my eye socket, and it is in the process of going through all the colors of the rainbow.

So here's the project.  The stones are in.  I will be planting some creeping thyme and other ground cover to fill in the dirt around and between the stones.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Rocks in Our Heads

One of several piles of rocks on our property

We have a lot of rocks!  Anytime we dig a whole - like to plant something - we find rocks.  This is one of several piles of BIG rocks that were excavated when the land was cleared for building.

We are now moving some of these rocks to build a stone border wall around the island that is in the center of the driveway. 

It started with my wanting to clean up and landscape that area.  We cut down a bunch of scraggly and damaged trees.  After I raked out all of the old dead leaves that had collected there we had a nice surprise of a good size colony of lady slippers that popped up! 

Here is our process:  Once we find the rock we want, we use a chain and the backhoe to pick it up.  We move it to where we want and put it roughly in place, then push and nudge it with the backhoe shovel to refine the position.  

 Occasionally we use crowbars and muscle to finalize the stone's placement.

Speaking of muscle, ever since I learned how to do a few chin-ups, I am always looking for opportunities to try them out from various overhangs, so I could not resist hanging from the hoe!


But I digress...

So here is what we've got done so far.

We are pretty obsessed with rocks right now.  Anytime we have a couple of hours we look at each other and say "Wanna move some rocks?"  And when we are not moving them, we walk around the property and "visit" our rocks and imagine where and how we will use them.  

This is what happens when you don't have children - instead of planning child care, and soccer games, and college choices, we are imagining the futures of our ROCKS!

Here's a few other things we have been up to.

Tiling the Bathroom

We have finally started tiling the tub surround in the upstairs bathroom. 

I wanted to use glass tile, but it is expensive, so I came up with an idea to use glass mosaic tile for just a portion of the area, and use standard ceramic tile for the remainder.  

But as usual, I wanted to do something different, so I came up with a hair brained (Dean's words) idea to mount the mosaic tile vertically instead of horizontally which is how you most often see it used in back splashes.

Stay tuned to see how this experiment turns out!

While we had the wet saw rented, we cut the stone tile to finish the window seat in the dining room.   This is the same honed granite that we used for the wood stove hearth and the entry floor.

Once this is grouted, we can finish the trim around the window - yay!

Solar Update

The solar photovoltaic panels that we bought over a year ago are still sitting in the basement not generating electricity.  We had originally planned to do the installation ourselves, but for various reasons including feeling overwhelmed by the paperwork, we finally decided to hire a professional.  They do everything including dealing with our local utility to apply for the net metering program, getting the permits, and applying for all the rebates.  Installation is due to start in July.  I will post updates as it unfolds...

Until my next post, I will leave you with a couple of pics of the gardens.

The "Friends" garden is filling in nicely

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pebble Mosaic

Ever since my BFF CathyO introduced me to this book, I became obsessed with the art of pebble mosaic.

From this book, I headed to the internet to collect more info, and of course started a Pinterest board.  I discovered that I really LOVE the work of Jeffrey Bale.
 Portland garden designer and artist Jeffrey Bale. Mosaic border.
 So there are basically 2 techniques for building a pebble mosaic.  I call them the "wet" and the "dry" methods.

For the dry method, you lay out your pattern in dry mortar mix, then fill in with more dry mortar mix before wetting the whole thing down.  Here is a good tutorial from This Old House.

For the wet method, you mix the mortar to a pudding texture, and place the stones into the wet mix, then let it cure.  This is the approach we used for all of the following attempts...

Pebble Mosaic - first attempt

So Dean had the foresight to suggest we try the first one out in a not so conspicuous place.  This was a smart move because it did not come out very good, but I learned a few things.

We chose this spot in the back near the clothes line and decided to make a pad for standing on while hanging the clothes.  So here is our set-up and below is the prepared spot.

I had all my pebbles sorted.  Here are some that I used.

Granite chips

Glass from the craft store

Yellow pebbles collected from Gay Head Beach on Martha's Vineyard probably about 15 years ago!

Some red stones that I found on the property

Black stones from the craft store

Dean mixes the mortar.

We mixed and poured the entire load of mortar all at once and I started laying in the stones.

And here it is covered so that it will cure slowly.

So here's what I learned from this project:

   1.  Don't mix all the mortar at once.  It starts to set in about 40 minutes which is not enough time to get all the stones in.  Jeffrey Bale recommends mixing only one bag at a time...
   2.  Make sure you have enough stones!  I thought that I had MORE than enough, but came up short.

Here's what it looks like today.

Second Pebble Mosaic attempt

For our next attempt, we decided to build a step for the "man door" of the garage.

Did you know that the small door that a person enters ( as opposed to the big ass doors used for cars and machinery to enter) is called a "man" door???  But I digress...

For this one, we built a wood frame for the form.

Instead of mixing all the mortar at once, we mixed just one bag at a time, and this worked much better.

Rather than going for a specific design, on this one, I built the design more organically working from left to right and using the shapes of the stones to dictate the layout.

Here's what it looks like today.

And a couple of close-ups.

Third Attempt Pebble Mosaic - La Piece de Resistance!

Way before we started experimenting with the above projects, it had been our intention to put a pebble mosaic at the top of the outdoor stairs.

I had started collecting stones a long time before we actually started on this one.

I had an idea of an image that I wanted to do, and because it is such a large space, and I wanted to work out the design, I started with having Dean build a sandbox in which we marked out a template, and I actually laid out the entire design first.  

Many of you who have visited us saw this in process, and then saw it sitting there (for a long time) waiting to be installed.

We thought the installation might take more than one day, so we decided to wait to have at least 2 days of good weather before getting to work.  Also, we did not want to do it during the high heat of summer and risk having the mortar dry out too quickly.

But finally the day came - and starting fairly early in the morning, with our excellent teamwork - Dean mixing the mortar, and me laying the stones - we were able to get it done in just one full day...

A word about our new "supervisor".  I think that most everyone knows by now that Pumpernickel left us in June of this year.  About one month ago we adopted Angela - a 12 year old cocker spaniel/chihuahua mix (we think...) who was in need of a home.  Here she steps into the supervisor role...

Periodically, when a section was laid out, we put down a piece of plywood, and use our body weight to tamp it down and level it.

I started out working from right to left, but quickly realized that I wanted to work from the bottom up, so switched gears after this section.

 We are using this rigid foam insulation to keep the work from drying out while in process.

 Almost done!
 This is back-breaking work.

Hosing it down.

And then we used a soft brush to even out the surface and clean the mortar residue from the stones.

And here it is covered with plastic to cure for a week or so...

And here is the result.  I am pretty happy with it.  It is not perfect - some of the stones sunk in too far and got lost.  And the moon in the upper right did not come out the way I had it originally laid out in the template.  But there will NOT be a re-do on this project.

Stepping Stones

We have quite a few bags of mortar mix (and lots of stones) left over, so we are in the process of constructing some 15x15 stepping stones to incorporate in front of the porch area.  Here is the first one we did.

So that's it for this special pebble mosaic edition of MHHB!