Sunday, December 6, 2009


Yesterday friends Karen and John came over, and we headed out to the power line where the spindly Alaska trees grow a little better with more sun. Here's what we found!

Then today we put up 4 strings of LED christmas lights outside. They are the big C9 size, like I used to have on my house as a kid. I like the big ones, they make the house look more like a gingerbread house.

LED Christmas lights in detail:
LEDs seem to be the new thing. In this C-9 size they only use 20 watts for 200 lights, compared to about 1400 watts for the same number of incandescent bulbs!

The amber and red colors are not quite as bright as the old incandescent ones, but they are much more vivid. Green is about as bright and the blue bulbs are brighter since the old blue bulbs cut out most of the yellowish light produced by incandescent bulbs. For some reason the yellow bulbs are quite dim.

I have a couple 25-bulb sets of white incandescent C-9 bulbs in the back yard for yard lighting, and they are much brighter than the LED bulbs, but I could have 3400 LED bulbs and use the same amount of power. Still, the LED bulbs seem to be very visible but they don't really illuminate anything around them.As an interesting side note , LED bulbs happen to shine brighter and last longer the colder it is.

LED bulbs seem to be 2-4 times more expensive than incandescent bulbs, if you can even find them any more. The bulbs should last at least 5-50 times longer, but I wouldn't expect sets to last forever. Wires can crack, mass low cost manufacturing results in pretty low quality so sometime LED sets just die. All that aside,even if they outlast regular lights somewhat, they save installation time and tons off your electric bill.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Another shed

Marcy and I did another craigslist weekend shed project to help pay the vet bill for Roland. This was a water shed. The floor is designed to hold 15,000 pounds, and the roof is designed to withstand falling snow from the house. It will get siding in the spring.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Here we are, Fry, Leela, and Nibbler.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shed Building

Paul and I (with some help from Ty Keltner) built a shed for his new house. Fairly simple, shed roof, no roof trim to save money:

I enjoyed it, so I put a craigslist ad offering sheds built, any style. I got a response and we ended up building this:

I didn't get any photos earlier, but here's some of the building process.

The temperature was dropping to about 20 degrees, so we were slowed down some by finicky nail guns. Also, daylight was short. Without those obsticals, this would have been a weekend project. As it turned out, we needed to spend a couple hours Monday and Tuesday evening to finish up.

The owner was very pleased and Paul and I made some extra money while getting exercise. We might try to do more of these next summer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


There are numerous fires burning around fairbanks, including one alarming one that just sprung up some 30 miles from our house. It was the driest July in history, I believe I heard. Tonight it has been fairly clear down at our house, but the smoke is rolling in and has made the sky a wild yellow color. This photo is with the white balance set at daylight, which would yield true colors on a sunny day, and slightly blueish colors on a cloudy day.

deck stain

Finished re-staining the deck. I even sanded it first. After just two years it was pretty faded, but I think the second coat will last longer since the first was on bare wood. It was also worn from construction, and some boards had drips, so it looks really nice now. I also like a second coat because it gets into the screw holes, the first one was done before installation so it was less protected.

beer + floor sanding

Monday, July 20, 2009

landscaping etc

First of all, I wanted to post a picture of our amazing new butcher block that Christen and Troy Bouffard gave us as a housewarming gift. Thanks guys! Troy does oustanding work. This is Purple heart and Maple.

Very nicely joined

As promised, here are some photos of our yard and landscaping work. I never thought we'd even really do a yard but here it is, mowed grass and all!

the yard from below, near the edge of the maintained part. There is 1/2 acre fenced in, the part behind me is natural treed but not very dense and has pathways. There are lots of low bush cranberries around, and the little treed area towards the left of the photo has some nice raspberries that should really take off with more sun now.

here's the view into the yard from our deck.

Marcy's garden is starting to take off, but we could use some rain!

Our boardwalk to the front door is basically done, with gravel I sorted from the driveway, the garden, a green strip, and a little retaining wall. I still need to cut those posts flush!

I finished the final part of the deck over the weekend, consisting of a small landing for another flight of stairs near the garage. This will be nice for bringing in firewood. Here also is one of the four gates into the yard (one on each side of the house, one by the driveway and one by the power line)

I also completely redid the top of the rail because I didn't like how it turned out the first time. The corners didn't touch. The I was a little short on wood due to my error (a 16' wide section of deck needs LONGER than 16' of rail because of the corners and overhang). I used all the wood for the landing, so nothing was wasted. Also, now the right side is up. Decking should have the end grain look like a smiley face, not a frowney face, so as it ages it cups in a way that it will shed water. It may be counter-intuitive, but this is how it works. Luckily I did the deck the right way.

Next step: Restain the decking, but other than that we can just enjoy our house!

This blog needs an update!

We never really seem to stop working on the house, but I've been lazy about updating the blog. Tonight I will try to take some pictures of the new fenced in yard, the new stairs and landing on the deck, and Marcy's nicely growing garden.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grass seed planted

After a lot of hard work, the grass seed is finally planted! Now we just hope for some rain. We cleared a large area below our house but kept plenty of trees for privacy and shade. I used heavy equipment to pull stumps and haul trees up our steep lot, and then churn up the topsoil so we didn't have to bring in 50-100 yards of topsoil which would have cost a couple thousand dollars. After that it was a lot of hand shoveling and raking and clearing additional debris to smooth everything out. I'm getting in good shape doing this! I finally got so worn out I posted a craigslist ad for some help and had two guys shoveling and raking within an hour!

Here's the view from the deck

Here's a new footpath I bulldozed, the slope straight down is too hard to walk down. The guys I hired did a good job smoothing this out, it was pretty rough form the dozer.

Including what we had leftover from before, we now have about 5 cords of wood stacked. There's still an additional cord or two in smaller stacks elsewhere. About enough for 3 winters.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A change of pace, sorta

So, since our house is basically done, we had a change of pace... and worked on friends Cameron and Millie's house instead!

We had 8 days in Portland to hand out and work on the project. The time estimate was 5 days, and three of those were supposed to be partial while waiting for drywall mud to dry. Well it turned in to a little more, like 7 long, full days and one partial (like 7am to 11pm a few days). This was mostly because I'm not good at estimating these things (I'm known for saying every little task till take 15 minutes when it actually takes hours). There was some little slowdown at almost every stage, like drywall screws not setting properly, batteries running out, etc.

In the end though, I enjoyed myself, and we did a great job turning two small rooms with small closets into a large master suite a huge window into the back yard and a huge walk in closet.

Demolition was a little slower than expected. The walls had a combination of drywall, soundboard, and the most difficult to remove: plain ol' plywood. However, this stage revealed a pleasant surprise: Beautiful clear fir wood floors under the carpet! At least it will be beautiful after it's refinished. It's all covered in paint and drywall texture.

We also made a slight plan change, which required a trip to the permit office, and added a little time and complexity with the post and beam, but ultimately made a much better layout in my opinion.

Then there was the first inspection, which covered the framing and was supposed to cover electrical as far as we thought, but apparently there was one simple form that needed to be filled out. Really, the inspector could have had this with him. Another trip to the permit office while we added hard wired interconnected smoke detectors, which the first inspector told us we needed since we exposed the ceiling and made it doable...

Also, I was slowed down by being unfamiliar with some of the 1940s construction methods. Most noticably the electric. Durring demo I labeled a wire "power" but later discovered it came directly from the light fixture, so I assumed I mislabeled it. I thought we had pushed the power through the floor, but there was only a 240 volt line for the heater down there. I did some load calculations and saw it was possible to power the room off that circuit, and assumed they must have wired it that way, off one 120v leg of the 240v circuit. This made wiring a bit complicated, but I finished it this way.

THEN, when cutting the previously labeled POWER line which only went to the light fixture, we were all shocked (pun intented) by a huge spark when we thought all power to the room was off! It turns out this part of the room was a continuation of the living room circuit, and the hot power went through the light fixture (most commonly there is only power to a light when the switch is on!) So I had to rewire, which actually simplified it and let us properly dedicate the 240 volt circuit to the heating, like it's supposed to be. Luckily, the spark didn't hurt anyone or anything, I just shorted the lines with the cutters. We probably burned an extra day in all with the electric.

Yay, real wood under the carpet! See that wire there, touching me? Later we found out it was hot.

after tearing everything out, we first put in the new closet wall (this is later, after wiring and some drywall

Attic access. I spent far too much time up there. Very hot.

the post goes through the floor to a foundation footer. I got to crawl around down there a few times

applying rounded corners to the beam

it was usually like this, with several people working hard together

drywall taped, drying for first top coat of mud. The door on the right is the closet entrance

mudder fudders

John sanding away. Messy, dusty work

Texturing. This is about 3 hours before we thought we had to leave for our plane (turned out to be 5 hours). And I still had to connect outlets, smoke detectors, thermostat, and a light switch!

new post and beam in the forground where old closet and wall used to be, new closet wall and doorway in the background. This is pretty much what we got done. Framed, wired, rocked, textured. Cam and Millie still need to prime, paint, hang doors, patch floor, refinish floor, trim. Lot sof work, but I know they can do it and it will make a really nice room!