We got bit by solar bug (and the mosquitoes, and ticks, and chiggers, and…)

Perriee and I finally spent our first nights in the cabin.  It was wonderful, having the chance to fall asleep, shielded only by the plastic and Tyvek that were hanging on the front wall of the house.  I will admit that I felt some guilt using the tipi only for supplies that we needed during our stay. One thing i look forward to however, is having the chance to glampify it here and there now that we don’t need to sleep in it everytime we go.  We need to finish the floor under the stove, paint the hoosier cabinet, and rearrange a little to make it feel more open.  

Even with our building materials stashed inside, the cabin already feels so open inside.  The best part is being able to walk around freely without a wood stove in the center of the room.  

This trip out there, we were able to install our solar “attic fan” in the gable end where the sleeping loft is going to be.  We bought the Nature Power 24208 Powered 1350 CFM Attic Gable Vent Fan with 20W Solar Panel.  This involved fitting the last two pieces of plywood around the fan at the top of the cabin.  It was so incredibly hot that I thought we might melt out there, but we managed to get it measured and screwed into place.  From the inside of the cabin, we cut and mounted the 2×3 supports that we attached the fan to. We then Tyvekked the new area of plywood and attached the fan.  Lastly, screwed the solar panel to the roof. Perriee rocked out her valedictorian brain (yeah, I know, it’s awesome!) and suggested we test the fan BEFORE mounting it on the roof which was definitely the best way to go.  The instructions suggested wiring up while in place, which would have been a nightmare to do while on a ladder, in the heat. Overall, the entire project was pretty simple. The best part? It freaking works! 

The fan only runs when there is sun, but it started up Sunday morning around 8:30 and should consistently run through the worst parts of the day.  Matt suggested attaching a battery to the solar panel to hold extra energy for overnight, which I would say we will work towards, but for now, with as much time as we spend there, I think the current setup will work out great.  

So now we have the solar bug.  During breakfast on Sunday morning we sat watching the fan whir and decided we need more.  The fan installation was the perfect way to dip our toes in the water or, should I say, sunshine, to get the basic gist of how a system works.  If we can do it, anyone can!  

We revisited looking at the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Package and decided two of those might be all we need to power the entire cabin!  Hear me out, but we might even mount a tv in the sleeping loft, which I had never even considered being an option.  The Yeti has three 110 outlets, a place to plug in the solar fan, plus USB ports for phones. CLEARLY we are not ready for this, but it is a new goal (pun intended).  

Next steps?  

I think the next big step will be to install the back wall’s two windows.  We had ordered two, but realized after watching some installation videos that we bought replacement windows as opposed to “new construction” windows, which have the flange, or lip that you use to nail the window into place.  This worked out though because we ordered a slightly different style (the kind with the window pane look) which I had been having some regrets about not getting in the first place. I love happy accidents.

Homework

Be a deviant!  If we had followed the directions that were inside of the solar fan, we would’ve been so frustrated trying to wire it together after we had it mounted up in place. Trust yourself and the way that you work.  One of the biggest things we have learned since starting all of our projects as a couple of novices is that one source, be it person, video, or manual, does not necessarily have all of the right answers.  Gather your information, listen well, but in the end, make your own recipe. Often, the best answers lie within you.

Some sort of recovered nest.
We pulled this down off of the cat ladder that goes up under the gable of the a-frame. Whatever kind of nest this is (bird or mouse), we pulled it down and relocated it. Sorry kids, you have to move on.

Putting up walls while breaking them down.

The last time we were able to visit the a-frame and tipi we started putting up the exterior wall on the tall side of the cabin, which is the side of the house with sleeping loft and kitchen/bathroom. So far, Perriee and I don’t feel too pressed to move at lightning speed to complete the a-frame since it is staying pretty dry inside. This way, we can take our time, get things right, and customize the shit out of it!

It really blows my mind how much we have learned in the last year to do just that. For example, we were able to figure out the exact measurements of how to cut the plywood at an angle based on our experience with the cabin plans.That step alone would have sent my mind into a tizzy merely months ago. Here is a list of what we got done in the day and some change that we were there:

We removed the Tyvek wrap that we had tacked up on the outside wall and took down the tarp that was hanging up in the inside.

Blocking was put up to allow us a substrate to attach the plywood to since our studs did not quite reach the top of the rest of the frame.

We cut and installed two rows of plywood on the outside wall with our amazing new folding extension ladder.

We hung up the bottom two rows of Tyvek on top of the plywood we put up.

A third row of Tyvek wrap was tacked up to temporarily cover part of what has not yet been completed and we rehung the tarp on the inside of the cabin for the time being.

The next two rows of plywood on that side are going to be a little tricky since they are up quite a bit higher, but we think we have a plan for it. We will also be prepping to install the solar fan, which will attach above one of the windows on that side of the house.

While those walls are going up, we had to skip a weekend out at our spot to go to Georgia for our friends’ wedding and to watch some walls get broken down. Except for ours, I have not been to any other queer folks’ wedding ceremonies and I had quite an epiphany while watching through my tears from the doorway at the back of the venue with about twenty other guests, standing, because the room was packed with their friends and loved ones coming to watch their profession of love towards one another.

The epiphany I experienced had to do with the importance of the Obergefell_v._Hodges Supreme Court decision in 2015, which gave same sex couples the right to legally marry. Queer people have been having commitment ceremonies for years, but our decision to unite our lives really did stem from a lot of the legal benefits of being married too, and I suspect that a lot more same sex couples are taking this big step for similar reasons. It gives us the rights to care for one another in ways that would otherwise be denied to us in the times we need it most: in sickness and death.

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All weddings are full of the people who the couple loves so dearly: best friends and family. The ones who make life worth living. That is why they were invited and that is likely why they come to witness the union of the couple getting married- because they love at least one of those two people just the same. What is extra special about a queer wedding is that sometimes, people who come to witness the union might be a little unsure of how these two people of the same gender could possibly fit together in such a way to represent marriage. They have ideas of how a marriage should look, based on their life experience and just don’t quite understand it. But they come regardless because they love one of those two people.

Then the magic happens. The guests start to trickle in, all of them there to support the spouse’s to be. Some are local, some come from far away. The officiant exclaims the couple’s love to the crowd and then the couple exclaims their love to one another. They tell their witnesses how they promise to love and support one another through the best and the worst of times. Then, come the speeches, when the newlyweds’ friends talk about how these two people fell so perfectly in step with one another and how they have never seen them so happy as they have been in their lives as they are with this person.

That is when the walls start to crumble. The mortar of skepticism falls to the ground. First, just dust, then in chunks, then you see the bricks falling out. Those people who came because they love one of those people now find themselves there for both of them.  They are touched with the sunshine of love that is peeking through where a wall once stood.

Then all of the guests go home and the new couple begins their lives together, doing the same things couples have done for a millennia. They go to work, they love, they cry, they sweat together, and they laugh together, just like all married couples do. But the people who were not too sure when they came to that wedding? They do something a bit more profound. They go home and tell one person about that weird wedding while they are still freshly bathed in the love they witnessed between those two people. They chip away at someone else’s wall without either them even realizing it.

See, love can change the world.

Homework

Celebrate.  It’s Pride Month!  Even if you don’t think you have a queer friend or family member, statistics will prove you incorrect!  If you are not LGBTQXYZ, you can still celebrate. Wear a rainbow lapel pin. Fly a rainbow flag. Go to a parade.  The people who might be hiding in fear will see you and it could change their life to know you might be there for them. Most of all, to me anyway, it is a celebration of love.  Love one another. It can change the world.

November 12, 2016

Riding the wave of accomplishment…

We had about 24 hours at the homestead this week and it was great!  Dad drove in for the night and instead of cramming in as much work as possible in that time, we actually built a fire and relaxed around it.  The first thing we did upon arrival was check to see if the cabin was dry inside. It was. At that moment, the list I had composed in my head for what I wanted to accomplish that day flew right out of the holes that are going to have a window in them one day (soon).   We are fully aware that building walls and installing the windows and door are a priority, but we also feel like we can take our time a bit on the next steps and we have such a tight schedule sometimes, so it was wonderful to take a day to cook and just hang out. Those moments are precisely the reason we are doing this for so I am happy with myself for taking it in.

Dad, hiking back to the cabin.

Ok, so I did a little work.  I swept some of the nails and dust up in the cabin since the last time we were there it was more of a wet mud than dry dirt.  We laid out an indoor/outdoor mat and laid out the guest mattress for its inaugural sleep.

Perriee and I made a fire in the tipi, then we made some grilled cheese and tomato soup on the stove.  That took a while, so while lunch cooked, we made the outdoor fire. Once lunch was done, I started dinner, because you know, cast iron cooking can be slow.  I mixed meatloaf and cooked potatoes and sipped on beer while Perriee kept the fire going.

Dad and I fixed some Tyvek wrap on the front wall since it was flapping a little too much in the breeze.  That stuff is so loud! We were worried it would keep him up, but it took no time to tack it down with the stapler.  After dinner, we relaxed again. It eventually started to rain, so we took our chairs into the cabin and sat for a bit to listen to the rain.  It was a perfect moment. Perriee and I eventually went to the tipi and had a great night’s rest with a peaceful mind and body. We did not break our backs that day.  

We had breakfast in the morning and dad hit the road.  I shook out some zinnia seeds around the tipi and we packed up and left to spend Mother’s Day with Ms.Gwen.  My only critique about the weekend was that it went too fast. We will be back in a week or so to work on those walls.  In the meantime, it will have to do.

Homework: Give yourself a break.  

I am guilty of sticking to deadlines and working my hardest to get a job done.  Perriee and I have consistently worked on something almost every time we go to the farm, whether it be clearing out some honeysuckle or taking the next step in our homestead build.  I tend to have guilt if we go there without a plan. Perriee is so supportive in my restlessness. We have got a lot accomplished in the two years since we have been working on things but we have admittedly spent little time relaxing there.  

My feelings to move forward so hard and fast with the cabin are partly related to my drive to move into our “early retirement” stage of life.  We want to spend time together now, not in twenty years. When we move into this phase, it will not be to do nothing, but to do something meaningful and fulfilling all day, every day, together.  The things we are able to do accomplish in the time we have together now is amazing. I can’t wait to see what we will do when we have even more time together.

Give yourself a break.  We can all be our toughest boss and you can push yourself into endless overtime, whether it be from your full time job or your hobbies, or your long term goals.  Make sure you are fitting in the time to spend with those who mean the most. I can’t remember the last time dad and I had that much quiet time together. It was something I will remember forever.  I feel like a broken record saying this, but it is worth repeating: you only get one life. Spend it wisely. We did last weekend, hanging out with dad.

Smoke Flap Mouse Nest

And…she’s up!

I am writing this from the living room in our city house. This room is about the same size as our new cabin that we BUILT last week!  Perriee and I took the week off of work to get as much done as possible and let me tell you, we needed every day of it to get the frame up and cover it with a roof.  As it stands, it might already be drier than the tipi and the end walls aren’t even up yet.

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My dad, step-mom, brothers, sister, and brother’s girlfriend came in on Saturday (from Cleveland)  to kick everything off. My brother, Carm, and his girlfriend, Rachel, helped us with some amazing math skills to figure out how to make these beautiful angle cuts on the miter saw with the wood that goes on the end walls.  My sister, Crystal, picked up lunch on her way in and took three, hour long trips to Lowes to make sure that we had the correct fittings for our hose that connected to our nail gun and compressor (just when we thought we had all the pieces, we discovered that the compressor hose we bought months ago did not come with any fittings on it- who woulda thunk?).  

We got the end walls and the ridge beam up on Sunday with the help of Matt and my family.  My brother Mark helped us get up 10 of the 30 rafters before he headed back to the city.  Perriee and I worked on the rest of the rafters, including floating “cat ladders” on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, we put up the nailer boards for the roof and two roofing panels. Brother Mark came back Thursday to bring it home with putting up the rest of the roof and a temporary ridge cap.  It was then that you could see how happy that cabin was to be in her place. That spot beckoned for her. She is settled in there like she has been there forever and we can’t wait to spend the rest of our forever with her.

Friday, Perriee and I decided our bodies needed a couple of days rest, so we tossed up a bit of Tyvek wrap on the back wall and organized everything before we left for the week.  I must not neglect to mention one more pearl…that we moved one of our homemade sawdust toilets into the cabin before we left. Not only did we build the shell of our home, but we also started design on our bathroom.  It is glorious. No more long, muddy treks to either the house or the “Number 2 Room”. From now, until we start sleeping in the there with the potty, there will be only short muddy treks to the cabin. It is even complete with a hand washing station, thanks to Ms. Gwen, Perriee’s mom, who gifted us a water cooler to keep out at the farm a while back.

Before we go back, we will have another consultation with neighbor Mark to talk about how to fix the ridge cap and get some guidance about putting up some of the plywood on the exterior walls. We may need to run some extra wood around the eave ends to give the plywood a place to latch on to.   It seems we may be getting a ladder soon, one long enough to get back up to the top of the roof. We rented ladders for the week, which were picked up on Friday, so we will let our savings recoup a bit before we get one.

Homework:

Need to work on a relationship?  Build a cabin together! Ok, maybe not a cabin, but work on something as a team that neither of you know how to do already.  Change a light fixture, put up some drywall, build a cat house, tile a floor. It might not be cheaper than therapy, but you will get to reap both the benefits of the project as well as grow stronger together in the process.  Perriee and I already have a solid relationship, but i realized this week, that every project we embark on together is like a team building exercise. It is almost comical to think about, but it is true! I am going to miss her so much next week when we go back to our regular jobs.  This week doused a load of fuel on our fire to move towards our goal of being together full time. We had roller coasters of emotions this week, but we were able to problem solve amidst all of our frustrations, and when we were packing up yesterday, it was apparent that not only did we build a strong cabin, but we made our marriage stronger as well.

You can jump for joy because we have a floor to jump on!

Oh my goodness we made a floor.  It took about 10 hours to Tyvek the underneath, insulate, then cover it with plywood.  We had some help moving the plywood around which saved us some time and energy and overall, we did not come home feeling the most exhausted we have ever been.  Because the weather called for rain through the night, we decided to make it a day trip, which ended up working out perfectly. We left the site with a solid floor, covered in a big tarp, secured with bungee cords. a2007f02-e37d-4ad5-9080-86df5ad4ac0b

Taking a weekend to recreate in Louisville with my sister, we will be back the following week to frame it up. Hopefully, we will be able to get it roofed and framed over the weekend so we will  have the rest of the following week to tinker around the site and the cabin.

Since we are now on this stage of the build, it has allowed us to start speculating on the interior and exterior finishing plans.  This has had my mind spinning with excitement, thinking of all of the custom things that we can do to make our cabin comfy, efficient, and unique.  

Interior plan ideas:

Dead space: This is an a-frame, so with this style of home comes 14 feet of dead space on each of the sides where the roof is.  I have been dreaming about the best ways to maximize that space (actually, i have been dreaming about oceans swallowing me up and tornadoes, but I digress)so here are a few of my thoughts on this:

Veggie bin for potatoes, onion, etc., cooler bin for drinks. We plan on getting a mini fridge for the barn to store any refrigerated items that we need, so a cooler should work out in the house.   We can also use it as storage bins for dishes, pots and pans. Feel free to share any ideas or thoughts about these things. We love ideas!

Thinking about cooling solutions, we  found a great solar fan that we can install on the loft level to vent out some hot air that will surely collect near the ceiling once the weather warms up.  The amazing thoughts about installing one of these is the fact that we will know exactly where to attach the solar panel onto the roof because we are installing that as well!  If I sound excited about that, you heard me correctly. It may even be a bit of an understatement.

Exterior plan ideas:

We ordered the frame of a hoop house which will be covered in some sort of screen or mosquito netting and fashioned into a screened in porch/catio.  We have quite a slope around the cabin, but i am confident that we can adjust for that with some pallet wood in order to make it level. The current plan is to connect that to the house with some sort of tunnel that the cats can help themselves to when they are ready for some outside time.  If the hoop house doesn’t work for the cats, it will work for the ducks somehow, so no loss there!

Homework

Daydream!  Let your mind wander.  I know I will not actualize everything that I daydream about but if it is half as nice as I imagine, we will be enjoying quite an oasis.  I think that sometimes, people are afraid to get excited about things because they don’t want to be disappointed when something doesn’t work out the way they planned.  As the saying goes, you only have one life so let’s go for it. Don’t hold yourself back and adjust your expectations of the results to either be happy with what has resulted, or try again to make it better.

Howard