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June 25, 2006

Insulation, Week One

Robbi is gone fishing with her family, and so I set out solo Friday night, across the bay in Seiko's station wagon. There is no radio in the station wagon, so Iggy and I sat silently together, each wondering what the other was thinking. Then Iggy fell asleep and I was left to ponder the ether.

The drive was easy. No traffic on the bridge for some reason. Perhaps the would-be beach goers were wary of looming storm clouds. (For those of you not in the general Maryland vicinty, we have been under full deluge all weekend.) I arrived in Chestertown just as night fell. I raced to the barn, eager to see the work of the electricians. The entire space seems wrapped in a giant spider web. Yellow and blue wires. None of the wires are live at this point, which is good, since the sockets and switches are not yet installed. It's just a mess of wire infrastructure, the guts that had to be put in place before the insulation could be hung.

Here are a few examples of the electricans' good work:

After admiring the wiring, Iggy and I took a walk and went to bed.

In the morning I purchsed two Great Ones before heading to the barn. Upon my arrival, I was greeted with this sight: Michael had arrived before me and had set up the scaffolding.

Our charge for the day was opening this door, which was originally used to load hay into the barn. It has been sealed for some time now, and clings to the building in a rather precarious way, as Michael was to discover.

Basically, we had to screw the right hand side of the door firmly to the frame so that it would not fall and crush passersby. Michael told me that it was lucky that no passersby have previously been crushed. It was hanging by a few pathetic nails, he said. I'm looking forward to giving Bob a hard time about this.

In order to get the left side of the door to fold up nicely against the right, Michael had to trim the bottom with his skill saw. My theory: he just wanted to use the skill saw. Notice how I'm doing nothing in any of these pictures. Note how likely it would be that I would tumble from the scaffold given the opportunity.

After some careful work, the door was opened and firmly attached. (Passersby throughout Chestertown let out a collective sigh of relief.)

This new patch of light was our reward.

Once the door project was complete Michael said his farewell. He had to go to work, apparently, to help fix the machine that time-stamps chicken eggs. I got in the van and, against my better judgment, headed east to Dover. I was glad to find that it was not a NASCAR day. Dover was a place of relative calm. I went first to Lowe's, where the guy at the Project Counter was rude and the insulation selection was thin. I drove a mile up the road to Home Depot and met Ellis, who I would like to nominate for Employee of the Week, at the least. Perhaps of the month. I wish I had a picture of Ellis. Suffice it to say, he took care of me. He even went up on the cherry picker to get more of the type of insulation I needed. I was in the Home Depot for at least two hours, choosing insulation, tracking down the related accoutrements. I had to check out twice because insulation is enormous. I ended up buying eleven huge packages and filled the entire van. Iggy had only a tiny place between the two front seats to sit on the long ride home.

Back in C-town, I unloaded the van.

I stored the insulation in our small bedroom, where Iggy has also taken up temporary residence.

See here my assorted weapons: 1/2" heavy-duty staples, gloves, high-tech mask with breathing valve, and my very own box cutter (with 10 bonus blades cleverly concealed in the handle). There are, of course, various box cutters floating around the barn from Bob's private collection. They are old and stiff and scratched and generally ailing. For this important, delicate work, I thought it important to get a new, reliable box cutter. And so I did. and isn't it magnificent?

Now that you have seen my weapons, behold the enemy. Bob, Robbi, and others put a good deal of engery into letting me know just how awful a chore was hanging insulation. I was prepared for the worst. Here, a package of R19 (6.5 inches thick) for hanging up against the ceiling and in particularly thick walls. They did not sell rolls in the width I needed, 23", and so I bought "bats," which are lengths of insulation pre-cut to 8 feet lenghts.

I decided to intimidate the R19 by sheer ferocity. It lay on the floor, unimpressed and impassive.

Nevertheless, a few minutes later, I had won the first battle.

And, undaunted, continued apace.

Hanging insulation requires: a) patience, b) precision, c) unrelenting repetion. I have no trace of the first two, but seem to love tasks that require mind-numbing sameness. So long as there is a discernable effect. I love to do dishes as the stack of clean ones piles up beside the sink. This was similarly gratifying. But it was hot and tiring and trying and eventually I felt the slightest tinge of despair.

But mostly I was just gratified.

When it got dark I had to quit. In putting in our new wires, the electricians took the old ones out. Which means that, for the time being, we have no light in the barn other than that which floods through the windows. I made myself a big bowl of guacamole, played Nintendo for a while, and went to bed.

This morning Iggy woke me around 7:30. Once up, I was too excited about getting back to the insulation to go back to sleep. I worked for 5 hours or so until I had done as much as I could with the materials on hand.

I'm pleased with the work so far. I did my best to use the materials efficiently, but there were some inevitable casualties.

I was tempted to throw these strips away since they are thin and apparently unusable. But knowing Bob, I'm sure he'll want to take them to the scrap yard or to the auction at Crumpton, to see if someone wants to buy them.

I offer the following as evidence of the value of a dust mask. See all the muck that did not wind up in my lungs? I wish there was some way to recreate the warm salty funk that developed on the inside of the mask. Perhaps you are glad that I cannot.

I'm back in Baltimore now. Bracing for another week at the office, wishing that I was still in Chestertown on the eve of another day of construction.

Next up is the ceiling. I've ordered some space-age metal and foam insuation for placing right up against the ceiling. It's meant to deflect radient heat and is supposed to cut down attic (or barn) temperatures by 60 percent. It is supposed to arrive this week.

Next weekend is a four-day because of the 4th of July, and I aim to have the whole space insulated by the end.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:28 PM

June 14, 2006

Walls, week two

The day began on a sour note. I woke early, walked to Dunkin Donuts to buy a couple of Great Ones for the thirsty carpenters (and a more modest coffee for myself), and then proceeded to the barn. I was tidying up in preparation for the day's indusstry when Seiko appeared and informed me that Michael had called. He had run out of gas on the outskirts of town and was in need of rescue. I grabbed the gas can and set out. I found the stranded truck, which contained only Michael. Apparently, Chris had come upon an opportunity to ride his motorcycle with a group of guys and had decided that carpentry was not in the cards. Michael, somewhat against his better judgment, had resolved to stick to the original plan. (Perhaps running out of gas was a silent protest? Perhaps.)

Our work for the day focused on making the old barn fit for receiving wallboard. Its beams and studs were not designed for finishing, and do not line up neatly. We had to take careful measurements and add strips of wood appropriately sized to fill the gaps, to even things out. It was slow and tedious work, and Michael looked frequently at the open windows, somewhat wistfully, certain that there was a better day for him somewhere outside, on his motorcycle.

Nevertheless, he helped us measure and cut boards lengthwise, "ripping" them on the table saw. These thin strips were then nailed into place along the uneven beams and studs. The light strips of new wood stand in contrast to the dark original wood of the barn.

We also had to add a bunch of "nailers" throughout the frame, boards meant to provide an anchor where none existed for attaching the end of a piece of sheetrock.

Eventually we ran out of boards and had to buy some more. At the lumber yard we decided to buy a new ladder to replace Bob's rickety death trap. We were taken with a spectacular specimin of a ladder, an 8 foot beauty rated to support 300 pounds. This is a ladder among ladders, and will come in handy when I'm hanging insulation in weeks to come. Bob will likely balk at the extravagance.

See me in action, high upon the new ladder, attaching a nailer. Feel free to swoon.

If that wasn't enough to impress, I increased my nail gun prowess.

I even got to use the circular saw a time or two when Robbi wasn't looking.

Though evening up the walls and ceiling took most of the day, we also installed a door frame between our living space and the side of the barn devoted to the Florabana warehouse. You'll notice that the door we will install is much wider than the space available. This is one of many ways in which our barn doesn't quite live up to code. It seems that our barn is really two barns: an original barn with a tradtional roof that rose to a peak and a supplemental structure cribbed on, with a gently sloping roof that covers the space we will inhabit. Easy passage between the two halves was apparently not a priority of the subsequent builders. We don't care, of course, as long as the building inspector doesn't come calling.

I was thankful to Michael for sacrificing his day in the sunshine with the boys. Robbi, however, was less sympathetic. Whenever Michael mentioned the fun he might have been having, she let out a wicked grin. She can be a churl.

In fact, she was downright ornery all day.

When we were done, we cleaned up the mess. Sawdust, remainders of cut down 2' x 4's, empty The Great One cups...

Next steps: the wiring. Calvin and his crew will descend upon the barn tomorrow morning at 7:30am to install 19 outlets, four ceiling fans, three phone jacks, and a lightswitch or two.

We're getting there.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:36 PM

Under Contract

An essential step in moving barnward is selling the current domicile. We put our house on the market last monday. On wednesday we had a realtor's open house. In spite of the mound of sandwiches our agent bought to feed the eager hordes, only three realtors showed up and our agent was worried that we were in for the long haul. But Lo! A buyer showed up just as the open house was winding down. He stayed a while, seemed interested, and that very night put in an offer--for MORE than the asking price. We signed the paperwork that night, and we are currently UNDER CONTRACT, waiting for the results of the home inspection and appraisal before we feel too good about ourselves.

All signs point to the heavens being in approval of our foolhearty scheme. Our fingers are crossed. Cross yours, too, if you would be so kind.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:34 PM

June 09, 2006

By This Time Tomorrow

Michael and Chris are ready for more. At 8:00 tomorrow morning we will descend upon the barn to continue our work. On the agenda:

Framing out the door that will be hung between the Florabana warehouse and our space.
Placing studs where needed in order to create a regular, even framework for hanging the sheetrock.
Opening up one side of the double door on the front of the barn (the door through which the hay was orignally lifted into the loft, we think).
Installing the cat door between our bedroom and the main room. (I had wondered if Michael and Chris would think such work beneath them, but apparently they see the value of cats.)

That's the general idea. Pictures and more detail to come on Sunday.

Posted by bogenamp at 05:12 PM | Comments (1)

June 05, 2006


At long last we have something to show for our weeks of industry. Having reached the end of our expertise (which extended no further than throwing things away, apparently), we called in the services of Michael VanSant and his faithful friend and fellow carpenter Chris. We don't know Chris's last name. But he sure does like to drink coffee.

Our trusty duo fuels up before beholding the task at hand.

Our first task was bringing the lumber up the stairs. Considering the sheer brute strength of those assembled, this step took mere moments.

Next, we had to install the footer and the header, the boards at the bottom and the top of the walls to which the studs attach. By "studs" I am referring not to Michael, Chris, and me, but to the vertical boards that span the space between the floor and the ceiling. It is the studs to which we attach the sheet rock. But I am getting ahead of myself. The sheet rock will not be hung for weeks.

Once the header and footer were in place, we added the studs. This was made somewhat tricky by the fact that the ceiling is at a slight slope. At one point the four of us were using our high school math skills to compute the exact "slope" of the ceiling (rise over run and whatnot). We approximated and Michael set his saw to cut at an angle. It worked pretty well. In the midst of the activity Iggy insisted on posing for her official portrait.

When his first coffee was gone (and this was a very large coffee, mind you), Chris stopped working, threw down his hammer, and demanded another. Naturally, we obliged.

Behold the largest coffee Dunkin Donuts sells. They call it "The Great One." Robbi volunteered to get Chris his second coffee and by the time she got to the Dunkin Donuts, had forgotten the name of "The Great One." She walked up to the counter and asked for "The Big Guy," or something like that. The clerk was puzzled at first, but eventually they figured it out.

The work was made much speedier by Michael's powerful, manly hydraulic/pneumatic nail gun thing. It has a battery pack AND a tube of compressed air inside. It is heavy and hums. According to Robbi, I was not allowed to touch it. She knows me well. Michael and Chris felt that Robbi's attitude was oppressive and limited my potential. They kept encouraging me to try it. Eventually, though, I did use it. In fact I used it a number of times. I did not injure myself or any others.

Eventually there were walls.

Someday there will be a front door.

We pulled the plug on construction around 2:30. Michael had to go to his granddaughter's birthday party. (Can you believe that this manly carpenter is a grandfather?) Robbi, Seiko, Maiko (who was visiting from Vancouver en route to Australia) and I piled in the car and drove to the Dover Lowes in search of ceiling fans and windows. There was some debate over which kind and color of ceiling fan to get. My vote was for fans with lights and brown blades. We ended up with fans without lights and white blades. Can you say "outvoted?"

I maintained my usual cheerful attitude in spite.

We are planning on installing a window between our tiny bedroom and the much larger studio space. Our plan had been to use an old window that we found at the top of the barn. Single pane with flaking lead paint! But felt that we owed it to Lowes and to ourselves to see what the modern world had to offer by way of windows. We were unsatisfied with what we found at Lowes and moved on to Home Depot.

In Home Depot we stumbled upon a display for glass blocks, which we have both always liked. Some research revealed that the glass blocks in question would not be as expensive as we feared. We have since ordered our window from our trusty Towson Home Depot and are eagerly awaiting its arrival. (If you click the link above, note that our glass block window will not have a vent in the center.) Robbi's mom is enthusiastic about the glass block plan. We speculate that Robbi's dad will not be. But remember what happened with me and the ceiling fans above? Outvoted, Bob. Outvoted.

Leaving Home Depot we became keenly aware of its being in the shadow of the Dover Downs NASCAR track. And of its being race day. It took us 15 minutes to get out of the Home Depot parking lot. When we finally managed to squeeze in between two trucks and escape, we learned from the insistent waving of a police officer that we would not be permitted to turn right onto the main road (the direction we had to go to get home).

We cut our losses and went to the Red Lobster, where we thoroughly disgusted ourselves eating too much butter.

Michael and Chris are game for more construction next weekend. And so there will be another progress report this time next week. Stay tuned.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:43 PM | Comments (3)