Monday, December 31, 2007

The Cupola: "coupla". . . . "coopoolah?"

However you pronounce it. . . . we've got one like this being built.

We'd found the Castle Cupolas, which we really liked, but they wanted to charge us an extra $500 for an extension base (three extension bases - each an inch (?!) - to be precise) to fit our steeper-than-usual roof. That sounded high. "Vinyl is expensive." was the explanation. (?!)

I got back online and found the Amish Country Cupola place and for half the price, they're building us this splendid cupola and properly extended base & shipping it to us.

Sorry, Castle Cupola. . . .

Thursday, December 27, 2007

front left corner. . . .

I don't know how we got to focusing on the front left corner as the benchmark of the ongoing construction process, but we have.

I would have preferred to focus on the front tower, instead. That's probably going to be the main focal point, after all. But because we weren't entirely sure what any of the stakes signified - beside the front left one - that's the one we've been following.

I've been trying to keep an eye on the tower as well, though, and later on, maybe I'll put together a montage of the tower development, as best as we're able to piece it, after the fact.

In the meantime, however, we have walls that have gone up in the front left corner, which (as you may recall) encloses the library. And a big hole in the front wall, where a pretty - arched - window is going to go.

Here's the most recent shot.

And here's a view from the back of the house, looking forward and out the library window.

Here, from the front again, showing a bit more of the interior. Oh - and that's the front tower, by the way: bottom right corner of the picture. . . . (or will be the tower, one of these days)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

walls; more people. . . .

We have walls! As usual, here's the front left corner.
This is the bedroom window. I love the woods. . . .
These are the framing carpenters, Julio and Gilberto.
And here's Tom-builder! Reviewing plan details with the king.
Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

one wood, two wood. . . .

yellow wood, green wood. . . .

Things are moving a bit quicker than we thought. The "deck" is already going on! You can see the wood has arrived. Yellow and green wood for the decking.
Orange wood for the girders. I've never been big on orange. . . . . (but no one asked).
Not fair to say "you can tell when it's the king taking pictures" - because he ran out of batt'ry juice and had only gotten his detail shots in. . . . [you-know-who - and that would be me - had not thought to recharge the batt'ries after taking lots of big-picture pictures!) But if I'd been taking pictures, there would have been (1) a lot more overviews and (2) a picture of the front left corner, backfilled and all. He would have gotten to it, I know, but I would have started with it and then run out of juice (as it appears) before getting to the details.

Anyway - LOTS happened yesterday and today. Our front left corner is completely covered up. I'll get a picture [I hope] tomorrow. The deck is on!

Also: a termite bandit did some magic stuff and left a bill for $1,800. $1,800?!!!! Tom-builder had asked if we wanted magic anti-termite juice and of course we said "yes". (Do you want termites?! I do not.) No one mentioned it would cost so much, and require a yearly contract. . . . .


Then there's the magic "storm water management" pit in the back yard. That cost $6000. I think. I don't know what it is or what it does. Whatever it is, it appears to have been put in today, while no one was looking. So we now [apparently] have a pipe sticking out of the ground as "proof" that there is a "stormwater management" system underneath the ground. This, courtesy of our county government's new orders, which is recently concerned about inland storm waters. . . .

. . . . and I gotta bridge in Brooklyn they might be interested in. . . . . man. oh man.

Other than that, all's good. Working on picking out kitchen things and we inspected the windows & doors today. And decided which side they'd be hinged on. (much head scratching and trying to figure out prevailing wind patterns and forest buffers - we're nothing if not practical!)

The king's looking at fireplace mantels and I'm about to order the cupola for the studio - as well as finials.

Who knew there'd be so many choices to make?!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

names and faces

This guy,
you know. . . .

I feel better just knowing he was there! If the inspector isn't looking out for us, the next best thing you could possibly have is a concrete truck with the Pink Panther on it. Ya know? I'll be out looking for his spoor. . . . That concrete's gotta be irresistible.

We've been really happy with the people who have been working on the house. Without exception - so far - they've been stellar. Rich - excavator-man; George, in charge of the concrete; we only met one of his drivers - neat guy, whose unusual name escapes me for the moment (it was something like "Mouse" - the king will probably remember. . . ); Charles-in-charge, who did the waterproofing and drainage tile and prep for the crawl-space slab; Mr. Purnell Jackson - ex-military - who was also in that crew.

OK - drum roll - we have new names & faces. Larry, Larry, and Henry - the masons. I'm so pleased to meet them, as they seem so pleased to be commissioned to work on our house! Yes - these are twins. Larry and Henry. (Larry on the right; Henry, left)

Here's the elder Larry, talking to the king. They'll be in charge of stone and brick work, and they seem to be excited at the scope and possibilities of the project. This is exactly what I'd been hoping and praying for. Craftsmen. In the professional sense of the word.

Gotta have steel.

This is the masonry block. It apparently forms a ledge that the brick and stone sit on. . . .

And let's take a look at the landscape again: the moon was out already yesterday as we left. (That's the little white dot in the upper left quadrant. Why does it sometimes look so far away?)

time travel. . . .

I don't mean to complain. After the hoops we went through getting our grading and building permit - (ok, it was the grading permit that caused the problem and required GPS coordinates - I am not making this up - apparently the building permits are a breeze) - you would think that I'd be grateful for prompt county action. I am.

There's only one problem.

This is a picture of a notice of inspection. (we passed! Yay!!!) It is dated 12.12.07. It covers drain tiles, slabs & backfill.

See the problem?

Right. Lemme spell it out.

On 12.12.07 - stated date of inspection - the drain tile was covered over with gravel, plastic & styrofoam. On that date, there was no slab at all (main house not poured until 12.14.07), and even as of today (12.18.07) the slab in the houndstooth studio & the guesthouse have not been poured, and no backfilling has taken place. . . .

Time travel?

I guess the inspector could have gotten the date wrong. . . . But hey, we found his notice on 12.17 (yesterday) and, like I said, there is still no slab in either the studio or the guesthouse, and backfilling hasn't even started.

How can you inspect something that isn't there?

Parenthetically, here's our favorite front left corner, showing the lack of backfill as of yesterday, the 17th, the day we found the inspection notice.

And here's houndstooth studio, showing the lack of slab and lack of backfill.

By the way you can tell there's no backfill because when things are backfilled, you won't see the masonry block - or not much of it any way - any more. And when the slab is poured - of course - you will no longer see a dirt flooring as you do now, it'll be a concrete slab.

Typical. When I want the county to be careful and diligent and look after my best interests, they're not interested. "Ah yeah. . . . sure. . . . ya passed. . . . I'm sure it's fine. What's a little concrete, drainage, and backfill dirt between friends? It's only the foundation. . . . ." But if I want to dig a hole, let's say, or remove a sapling, or have 2 small buildings with one bedroom each - instead of one building with 10 bedrooms - oh no! That's a different story. And don't talk to me about chimneys or GPS coordinates.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

nature calling. . . .

enter: the portapot. . . .

This is a significant and very welcome addition to the greenwood from my perspective, as I hated having to be really cautious about walking around in the woods, now that there are teams of men there on a daily - and extended - basis.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

sign of the times

What a difference a day makes!

The snow is gone. Here's the house, abandoned for the weekend, snow now gone.

We went to the greenwood anyway, as Tom-builder reported that his men had come across deer entrails.

"Do you allow hunting on your property?"

"Ah. . . no. Not that we know of."

Turns out that someone has been hunting there.

I was pretty upset by this. Doubly upset that the hunter gutted the deer and left the guts there! But then I found out that apparently you have to 'field-dress' a deer almost right away, if the meat is going to be eaten, so at least it was someone who is not just slaughtering deer for "fun".

Still, we don't like the idea of someone we don't know wandering the greenwood with a rifle or bow and arrow, shooting at things that move. So today, we posted the property.

The first message at the greenwood should not be "No Trespassing" - but during construction and before we move there, that'll have to be the posted sign. I guess you can't exactly practice hospitality before you live there, now, can you? And even then, it's generally expected that one would knock at the door before entering - let alone shooting things!

Let's end on an up note though. Meantime, the deer are still bedding down in the old clearing, which you can see by the matted down grass this picture, below. I guess they're not terribly disturbed by the construction going on a stone's throw away.

And this old stump just glowed with rich colour in the midst of an otherwise drab forest. . . .

Friday, December 7, 2007

and now. . . . tar (?)

That's right, folks. Tar.
Nice; shiny; black. This apparently has to do with waterproofing . . . .

Concrete molds are off, so you can see the outline of the house much clearer now. Here's a good overview of the whole layout.
The house is the largest structure, from the middle over to the left. The front right building you'll recognize as houndstooth studio. The back right structure - the square - is the guesthouse.

Here's the front left corner. From front to back, what has to fit into the section pictured is the library, our closet and laundry room, master bath and bedroom.

I don't know about you, but to me that looks like a tight squeeze. Luckily, the numbers say something different.

For the moment, we're going to trust the numbers.

Closing now, with a blanket of snow shot. . . .

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

snow day

OK. so I cheated.

This is not actually a current picture from the Greenwood. It's a picture from a snow storm there last year.

Picture bare concrete foundation walls in the snow, at the back of this clearing, and undoubtedly you'll be on the right track.

We decided not to risk silly Maryland drivers, however, who - at the hint of snow - get wacko and drive either 80 miles an hour or else 18. There's no in between with these people.

Best to stay off the road.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

singing concrete

I wouldn't have thought it was possible, but I swear the concrete was humming late this afternoon after all the workers had left and it was just me and the king there.

The wind was blowing and I thought it must be howling through a tunnel somewhere - but there was no tunnel - and it was a steady, hummed tone, hovering around a C, and harmonics on that note. It was beautiful. (I am not making this up).

I googled "singing concrete" when I got home, but didn't find any example of spontaneous concrete-singing. I did find a report of a Russian study that indicates that submitting concrete to a certain electromagnetic frequency helps cure it better, and effectively sets it to "singing". . . .

It reminded me of an experience I had some years back, washing crystal glasses. As I set them clean again, they sang in my hands. It was lovely!

Anyway, today was a moving experience. A COLD - moving - experience, but a really important one. The king and I set our thumbprints into the wet cement at the front door and dedicated the house to God. It seemed important to do so at this 'foundational' stage.

It reminds me of what the Bible says in the book of Matthew
(chapter 7) that those who hear God's word and put it into practice are like those who have build their foundation on solid rock.

We want our foundation to be solid. Both house-wise, and self-wise.

Is this a cool shot or what? Our shadows up against the foundation. . .

what a difference a day makes

We have walls.

Foundation walls, anyway. Things look very different today. We were astonished that foundation-man was able to have put up the forms and pour before we got there this afternoon - having first had to wait for engineer-Dan to provide "brick-points", whatever that means.

These are the poured foundation walls - within the forms, which will come off later. Tomorrow maybe? I'm still new at all this.

Here's the obligatory front left corner:

. . . and you can see much of the entire house in this shot.

Here's the entire layout, from atop a flat-bed truck foundation-man left behind at the end of the workday today, for some reason.

Here's the rest of the overview, the right side, the hound's tooth studio and port de cochere.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

curing concrete

Well, we're taking the weekend off. Concrete is curing. Here's the front left corner, all poured up, smoothed over, and a snazzy line drawn down the middle of it with a two by four. Reason? No clue.

Here's the studio - another recognizable shape.

I think it looks like a houndstooth check. What do you think?

The 5 foot trench? We think it may have been an "oops". I don't completely understand how this stuff works, but I think the studio is slab on grade, whereas the house is over a conditioned crawlspace. So the house had to be dug down some 4 feet, whereas the studio should only have had the footers dug. I think. . . . I really don't understand! But check out this picture below, where you can see where the 5 foot trench intersects the front left corner of the studio, and now there are footers on 2 levels instead of one.

I wonder how they tie this together, then? Just pour higher walls on that one side to get it all up to the same level? I don't know.

I guess we'll see. . . .

Meanwhile, here's a picture from down at the stream's S-curve - almost all the leaves are down.

And here is another view of Grand Avenue - looking down this time. The stream is all the way at the bottom - you can't really see it even with all the leaves down. Maybe especially with the leaves down! It carpets everything.

Friday, November 30, 2007

comments generally

Ok - so I've checked it out, and you don't have to sign up or anything in order to leave comments, ask questions, tell jokes, say "Hi!" and/or other tomfoolery and general dialogue.

You can do so 'anonymously' - although I'd prefer a consistent name of some sort - and the "comment moderation" is there because apparently if you don't do that, you can get unpleasant people and/or junk mail comments (?!) which rather surprised me. . . .

But at present, there are NO COMMENTS and I have to ask myself how I have managed to render you all speechless!

All I can think is that no one wants to be first. I'll post this, and leave the first comment!

(Plus which, I'll take the "comment moderation" off, in case that's an inhibitor. [I'll put it back on if we start getting wierdos. . . .])

There! Better now?

construction comments, Thoreau

I never did read Thoreau's Walden. My education is strangely better - and yet curiously lacking - than a more "stable" education, conducted within, say, an hour's drive of the general starting place of first grade. Twelve schools by high school graduation, in 2 languages, multiple states and countries, leaves a distinctive mark. My curious deficiencies include an uncertainty in multiplication (I was learning German at the time) and not having read, e.g., Thoreau's Walden, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, or Lucy Maude Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. Until adulthood, anyway.

Here's one section, where Thoreau - describing his construction in the woods - considers the importance of home construction to the human person. How interesting!
It would be worth the while to build still more deliberately than I did, considering, for instance, what foundation a door, a window, a cellar, a garret, have in the nature of man, and perchance never raising any superstructure until we found a better reason for it than our temporal necessities even.

There is some of the same fitness in a man's building his own house that there is in a bird's building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged?

But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveller with their chattering and unmusical notes. Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter? What does architecture amount to in the experience of the mass of men?

I never in all my walks came across a man engaged in so simple and natural an occupation as building his house. We belong to the community. It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man; it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve?

No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.
By the way, the whole book is available online (his work has passed into the public domain at this point, so it's royalty-free), here. You can either download it, or read it directly online.

I think I'm going to have to get myself a copy. A nice edition. To linger over.

In the library!

(Meanwhile, I think I must learn a bit more about construction - and especially brick and stone masonry. I have every intention of turning my hands to this enterprise. Much to the horror of Tom-builder, I feel certain. Not to mention the mason.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

we have CONCRETE

oh my. . . . the concrete arrives!

This is SO exciting. We got to the property this afternoon and saw 2 concrete trucks - which impressed me no end until we walked past them and saw three more trucks - and then some sort of boom truck, a pumper truck?
(Those are our shadows, bottom front right. . . . )

Here's the first truck, moved into position to drop its concrete.

And here's the obligatory front left corner - the library - whose progress we've been following so closely.

Overview. They've extended the boom out over the whole site and are pouring the front footers for the guesthouse.

Meanwhile, the forest has opened up even more just this last week. Yes, that's 'lone laurel" again in the foreground.

This red maple sapling, below, has three grown-up-sized leaves still clinging to its single branch. . . . Still red against the browns and fading yellows of the fallen leaves.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007



check this out:

It's the front, left corner you've come to know so well. . . . that's right, the library.

Actually, it's the whole house.

From looking like a Walmart site, now things look small.

Here's me in the kitchen:

What happens when you add a stove, oven and cabinets?!

Now - the 5 foot trench we were wondering about? It's the front left side of the studio. The rest of the studio hadn't been dug out yet. Here you can see the trench - the studio is to the left.

Overview of the whole:

And here's the final foundation plan. . . .

And the man in charge keeping a close eye on everything.

This is SO exciting!