Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Preparing Main Room for Plaster

Filling out the sides of the window wells around protruding concrete

Windowsill showing a leveled surface, made from sand and cement mortar

Each step along the way with the building requires so many little steps before, and after. At first glance, why not just slap up some plaster onto those fancy block walls and call it good? Yes, we could, but I've found that once I delve into finish details, the details matter more. If I become unattentive, the final result will be less than desirable.

So to get our windows into shape for windowsills and plaster, the following steps are necessary:
  • Install an exterior windowsill, that is held in place by metal straps that come inside the house.
  • Pour a little cement and sand on the sill to level it.
  • Install wood windowsills (or in the kitchen window, tile).
  • Apply expanded metal lath over all gaps that can't hold their own plaster.
  • Apply lath to the top inside of the window wells. (Plaster can't stick upsidedown onto insulation).
  • Add layers of drywall if the gaps around windows are really big (greater than, say, 1/2")
  • Build out structolite plaster on the sides of window wells where concrete protrudes from the walls.
  • Fill in any gaps and holes that can't be filled with one coat of plaster.
After AAAAALLLL that, then we are ready for our first basecoat of plaster across the whole wall. Then we really start to cook! Then, it's a few hours for one coat, and another few hours for a second coat, and then, we're ready for finish plaster.

This is what I'm working on this week. Getting things prepared for large swaths of plaster...I'll keep updating. It's fun work.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Garage Slab and Other Concrete Adventures

Finished Garage Slab

Last Tuesday, we managed to pull together the pour for our garage, and two smaller landings and steps inside the house. We spent the week before excavating more dirt, replacing it with gravel, building forms, laying welded wire and rebar, placing dough-bies (?), and so on. In all, the day was really three small pour projects: a landing and stair between the garage and mudroom, a landing and stair between the hall and our bedroom, the battery storage box for our off-grid power system, plus the garage floor itself.

Prepped and Ready

The garage floor is such a relief to have done. This partly has to do with how the cats had decided the dirt/sand/gravel that was there before was an ideal litter box (pee-yew!). But also, now we can actually organize and store things in the space, knowing that we don't have to move everything out at some future date.

Greg Smith was our finisher, and we also had Mikey on hand to do some finishing, along with Karl, Aaron, myself, and Drew, to supervise and look on, with his broken collarbone not allowing him to work.

All in all, most things went smoothly on Tuesday. There were a few hiccups, as there always are on a pour day. But really nothing major. I'm happy with the results. I was telling Greg Smith, our concrete finisher, how great concrete projects are because by nature, you can't leave work till later. It's a lot to get it ready, but once you pour and finish, it's D.O.N.E. Then you get to sit back and enjoy the results.

The Landing into our bedroom

Filling Up the Landing into the Mudroom from the Garage

One quarter there in the garage

Finishing the Garage Slab

Finished Landing Inside the Mudroom

The Finished Landing into Our Bedroom

Sunday, September 26, 2010

All Mattole Foods Potluck 2010

Winner for Best Vegetable Dish: Lindsay's Carrot, Onion, Potato Cakes with Sliced Tomatoes and Yogurt Cheese

My Summer Veggie Quiche

Winner for Best Beverage: Ian's Yellow Jacket Apple and Cherry Juice

Winner for Best Dessert: Jim and Kristen's Lemon Blueberry Ice Cream

Winner for Best Meat Dish: Duck Dumpling Stew by Todd and Jessica

Winner for Best Overall: Ryan's Pumpkin Stew with Yogurt Chive Sauce

Each year the Mattole Self-Sufficiency Project puts on an all Mattole food potluck. Anyone can enter a dish, but all the ingredients of the dish must be raised in the Mattole watershed.

For this year's entry, I made a Garden Veggie Quiche. I grew some wheat two years ago, and ground the flour with our hand-powered mill. I made butter and ricotta cheese with milk I got from our friends' milk cow. I mixed up that butter and flour with a little milk and rolled out a crust, and then filled it with an onion, garlic, basil, egg, ricotta, corn, zucchini, and pepper filling. It was delicious.

The potluck featured a lot of lovely dishes, many of which were more complex this year due to the addition and availability of cow dairy. There were soups, stews, salads, veggie dishes, dried fruit, fruit leather, ice cream, grasshoppers, juice, alcohol, applesauce, and more.

The dishes were judged on a combination of flavor, complexity, difficulty of procuring the ingredients, and it seems there was a bonus for using other people's ingredients, as this represents community food sustainability. The winners were:
  • Best Veggie Dish: Lindsay's Carrot-Potato-Onion pancakes, served with sliced tomatoes and yogurt cheese
  • Best Meat Dish: Todd and Jessica's Duck Dumpling Stew
  • Best Dessert: Kristen and Jim's Blueberry Ice Cream
  • Best Side Dish: Mimi and Harold's Dried Fruit Collection. The presentation of this particular dish was stunning.
  • Best Overall: Ryan's Pumpkin Stew, served with yogurt chive sauce
All admission prices were paid in Petols, our local currency, which is based on the value of silver, and prizes were awarded in Petols.

I think that the next kind of food category to conquer is vegetable oil, such as sunflower, rape, olive, etc. That's mostly what's missing!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sunflower Seeds and Dill Seeds

Home-Grown Sunflower Seeds

A Collage of Sunflower Heads

Ella Harvests Dill Seeds

I've clearly been dismal at posting to my blog for several months now, but I hope to entice you all back into the readers' fold with posting a little more often...there is so much going on at the homestead lately. Aside from Drew breaking his collarbone two weeks ago, putting him out of work for a minimum of 8 weeks, we've been back to working on the house more intensively. We are nearly finished with our bedroom walls, and we poured our garage slab last week. Karl is back on the job for two months, and we're trying to push to get into our kitchen.

Amid doing the basic homestead chores for two people and working full-time on the house, I'm still nurturing our garden along. After a looooooong wait for many of our warm-weather, summer crops, they are at last filling out, plumping up, and reaching harvestable size. All except the tomatoes. Tomatoes are the garden crop that keeps me going, that motivates me in the winter when I start seeds. So it's been a little disappointing that they are just now coming barely, and slowly ripe. We have been eating a lot of sweet corn, zuchinni, green beans, cucumbers, and a few cherry tomatoes, a little basil, and so on. The winter squash harvest looks to be a bumper, and today, I prepared beds for all our winter crops: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale. The carrots and beets are already almost ready. I'm hoping we won't miss the window this year due to gophers or bad weather.

Today, I harvested our beautiful sunflower heads, which were drooping and heavy with the weight of seeds. Once I looked closely, I understood why, as each ten-inch disk was packed with black and white seeds swirling into the center of a fibonacci spiral. I clipped each head below some leaf branches, and wiped off the remaining flower tops to reveal the seeds underneath. Ella helped me carry them to the shed porch, where I hung them up to dry with some twine indoors, to protect them from birds and mice. But not before I sampled some raw, fresh seeds, which before they acquire the gray color you see in the store-bought variety, are pure white and very flavorful. What a rich food we can grow so easily.

Later in the afternoon, as I was preparing the winter beds, I pulled out the workhorse dill plant I had this summer. It was a volunteer that germinated very early in the spring. I carefully left it and weeded around it all spring and summer, and had a fresh supply of dill at all the right times as I made jars of cucumber and dilly bean pickles. Usually, when I plant dill, it's ready too early for the other supplies. The dried plant, before I pulled it up today, was almost as tall as me. (Don't worry, I still have another that is still making dill heads enough for canning and salads!)

Tonight after dinner, Ella and I carefully removed all the dried seeds from the heads, to save for gifts, for making sauerkraut, flavoring pickles, and to plant again next year. A full cycle of locally-grown seed is a good feeling indeed.