November 07, 2006

The Barn Complete

For months I took pleasure in taking photographs of our barn as the construction progressed. I spent my weekends here in Chestertown, using my hands to build the new life while still living the old one. September came and we moved from one place to another. These postings have continued, but the focus has shifted from the space itself to the life we're living here. I realize, however, that although I wake each morning to the sight of what we've created, I've never really documented the finished work, waiting, I suppose until it really feels complete. Though there are still some boxes to unpack, I have to admit that the bulk of the work is behind us. And I owe it to our faithful readers to show what has become of our space.

Our section of the barn, which began as one big room approximately 20 by 40 feet in dimension, was divided into a great room/studio of about 20 by 30 feet and a small bedroom, about 8 by 8. The bedroom is pretty much a bedroom. It contains a bed and a bookcase that we use to store clothes. It has a small table with a single lamp.


The big room is where we live, and for the purposes of dividing the space for various purposes (and to find a way to keep as much of our furniture as possible), we created a number of "rooms" within it.

Robbi and I chose offices on opposite corners of the room. Interestingly enough, our initial scheme way back in April called for the orientation opposite to that upon which we actually arrived. Click here to see our original floorplan, an exercise launched on a day long ago when we were eagerly dreaming of times to come. Once we saw the finished space, however, it became clear that the layout of the windows dictated where things should be. Robbi needs more space than I do, and so she chose the roomy area that buts up against the wall between our bedroom and the big room.

Photos can't really do Robbi's space justice. Even when neat, it looks cluttered. Our space is full, but purposefully so. Here's another angle.

She has three desks: one for her computer, one to hold her stuff, and a glass-top table with recessed lightboxes for drawing. Every inch beneath her desks is filled with printers, cables, storage, etc. She has a seven drawer flat file for storage and a wonderful multi-nook cubbyhole container unit that must once have been a series of mailboxes somewhere.

The kitchen has been presented in another entry, but I'll show it again here. We have neither sink nor cooktop, but we have a variety of appliances for baking, toasting, warming, etc. We get by.

A closer look.

Moving on to the place where we eat, our dining room is defined by a jute rug and a table donated by my mother. Because we must be creative, it also houses our rickety old wardrobe/closet for our hanging clothes. It is defined on one side by the freestanding bookcase. There is a leaf we could use to make the table longer, but we have not yet hosted a large enough party to make it necessary.

Looking the other way, toward Robbi's office. Notice how a bowl of fruit adds a certain hominess.

The dining room window, with a stained glass window I made for Robbi a few years back.

The other part of the dining room, across the central open space between the door and my office, is defined by our standing hutch, purchased in anticipation of nostalgic feelings in our final days in Savannah. Here is where we store our dishes and cooking pots. We don't need many.

And let's take another look at Robbi's spectacular bookcase.

When we began, what you see above was a gaping hole between the two sides of the barn. Almost singlehandedly, Robbi designed and constructed these bookcases and the cabinet above. There was a moment when I was overcome with fatigue and impatience and suggested that we merely board the hole over. If she had not issued the executive veto, we would have had to get rid of a lot of books.

Continuing along the western wall, one comes to my office, tucked into the corner by a window facing Queen Street. The showpiece of my space is the enormous work of art featuring license plates from all 50 states. Like so many of our favorite things, this one was a donation. The benefactor is our good friend David Turner, currently touring as Sir Robin in Spamalot. If you're anywhere near St. Louis, you can see him there through the end of the month.

Another angle.

A view from my desk, looking toward Robbi's office.

Finally, we come to the living room, the other space that faces Queen Street.

The room is defined by a south-facing window and the east-facing sliding door that looks onto the street. Light floods in through both. The couch is a nice place to sit day or night. Iggy's bed is in the corner between the windows. She spends much of her time dreaming there.

The nook of the couch is a great place for lounging. So far there has been surprisingly little lounging.

The west wall of the living room, behind the couch, is defined by the other side of the freestanding bookcase.

We stacked books in both directions, increasing the amount of storage space available.

And there you have it. Here is a final view of the space from our front door.

Much of the beauty of the space is shaped by the light that flows in. There are no trees directly outside the barn, so there is little to block the light from flooding in throughout the day.

I want to take a moment to thank our friend Steve Haske, who balked at an early plan to cut costs by installing a drop ceiling. The prevailing logic was that the drop ceiling would have removed the expense of having to sheetrock the ceiling (a difficult task) and would have allowed for greater insulation above our heads (and resulting energy savings). Steve wrote a strongly worded email to Robbi letting us know in no uncertain terms that he disapproved of the drop ceiling plan. His outrage played no small part in giving us the courage to follow the original plan. Difficulty and expense bedamned, we were going to do the job right and preserve the barn-ness of the place by leaving the beams exposed.

I can't imagine what the place would look like without the exaggerated vertical dimension. Likely congested and dark. Some things are worth paying a little extra for.

I hope we've been able to provide a glimpse of our home as it has emerged, but as our visitors have attested, photos don't really do it justice. We've created small spaces within a big one, but the success of the space is how it functions as a whole.

Which is our way of saying, you are invited to visit. We are almost always here. Just throw stones at the windows when you arrive (small ones, please). We're almost always here.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:56 AM | Comments (1)

October 17, 2006

The Last Stand?

For those of you clamoring for yet more photos of me straining uncomfortably in the rafters, this entry will provide great satisfaction.

Thinking ahead to winter, we decided that the time had come to complete the epic task of insulating our living space. The last great liability was the storage box that we constructed above Robbi's bookcases. All that separated us from the Florabana warehouse on the other side of the barn was sheets of 3/8 plywood. No problem in September but a likely sieve when the temperature drops.

I was enthusiastic about the prospect of more insulating. I have developed a certain noble reputation in certain circles for my skill with a roll of fiberglass. I was eager to renew whatever of Robbi's affections for me come from watching me measure, cut, and staple insulation in place. We sized up the situation and realized that Prodex would be the best candidate for the job. Plus, we were motivated to use up the surplus Prodex before Bob tried to use it for some other purpose or before it was stored away in some dark corner to gather dust and molder in perpetuity.

I climbed to the rafters and Robbi assumed her place on the cutting floor. I shouted out measurements, and she delivered. The resulting work was awkward, unpleasant, ocassionaly painful, and ultimately gratifying.

There was no good place to sit, see?

But we got the job done.

Notice that Robbi had the good sense to wear a mask.

When we were finished, we bagged up the scraps and threw them away. Some day I may insulate again, but I will not be disappointed if that day is far from now. The task completed, we began cleanup of the warehouse, which has for some months resembled the staging ground for a minor war.

If you are reading, Bob and Seiko, thank you for your patience and generosity. Soon the inevitable clutter and disorder of the warehouse will be wholly yours once again.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:14 AM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2006

Moving In

As everyone knows, the most important part of any home is the place the food is kept, and so we hauled our newly-purchased diminutive fridge up the stairs and put it, according to plan, in the exact spot pictured below. Robbi and I actually managed to bring it up the stairs ourselves with no help from Bob. It was probably an ill-advised decision, but fortunately it worked out. Such was our enthusiasm to have a place to put the cold drinks, we could not wait for his return from wherever it was he was.

We thought better of trying to move the couch without his help. Here it is. Iggy is doing her darndest to protest our chosen location for the couch. I'll fill you in on the rest of the story: she loses.

But is resilient.

Our worldly belongings were either in the storage unit outside of town or at Bob and Seiko's house (which has recently resembled a storage unit). We had used a very large truck to move everything from Baltimore into storage. Lacking a very large truck this particular Tuesday morning, we used Bob's trusty van.

Here witness feats of strength as Bob and I move the rustic workbench (soon to be our kitchen counter) up the stairs.


Next we moved my desk and chair into the nook that was to become my office. Notice that I am not to be contented with one soft leather chair. The black one on wheels is for ordinary, everyday sitting, thining, typing, writing, etc. The overstuffed grey recliner is for really deep thoughts, ideas, writings, naps, etc.

Throughout the day, vanload by vanload, we just kept moving stuff up the stairs and into our new space.

Not to be outdone, Robbi insisted that we bring her desk up, too. Note that this is but one of Robbi's three desks (the girl needs her space), but we were so anxious to get back online that the moment the first desk was set up, the computer soon followed. Look how discontent Robbi is with the computer's failure to communicate with the internet. Look how indifferent the black cat Lily is to Robbi's plight.

I don't remember how much we managed to move in that first day. We didn't take a picture. I remember that the rest of the week was a blur. Eventually most of our furniture was in, along with a lot of our miscelaneous "stuff."

It looked kind of like this:

Or this:

Lots of things in the middle of the room needing to be put away. Lots of art to be hung.

Iggy was exhausted at the prospect, depressed even.

I must share one episode from the first day of moving. We were determined to sleep in the barn Tuesday night, which meant that we had to move the mattress and box spring. My first apartment in Baltimore was reachable only via a narrow stairwell through which a queen sized box spring could not possibly pass. So we have a split box spring that makes moving it a breeze. The mattress, on the other hand, is a bulky sucker. It's not overly heavy, but it's awkward, and Robbi and I had some difficulty moving it from the storage unit into the van. At first, we couldn't get it into the van at all, even through the back gate. But we realized that if we positioned it at an angle to the door, and pushed really hard, it might just go in. So we positioned it just right. And pushed. And the mattress got caught at the corners. But it seemed that just a bit more pushing might do the trick. So we pushed. And pushed. And suddenly the whole thing slid right through the back gate into the van. I was delighted. But Robbi was gone. She had disappeared entirely. Suddenly I noticed a pair of green shoes sticking out from under the mattress. I had flashbacks to my childhood on the prairie in Kansas, remembering the day that house landed on that witch, killing her and saving our oppressed people.

I heared the muffled cries of my outraged wife. I lifted the mattress to find...Robbi. Squashed, livid Robbi.

But we did manage to get the mattress in the car. And we did manage to sleep in the barn that night. It was just before bed that it hit me: I hadn't gone to work that day, and I wouldn't be going back again.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:29 PM

October 09, 2006

Monday, September 4

Reaching back over the fog of more than a month, I strive to remember Monday, September 4. We awoke to find a near-finished barn, but a dusty, cluttered near-finished barn still full of tools and dropcloths and with trim in serious need of painting.

The first order of business was to clean the place up. And, lucky for us, two of Bob and Seiko's friends, Yarwen and her husband (whose name, though pronounced "shoe", we don't know how to spell) were visiting for the weekend and, inspired by our project, were eager to pitch in and help us clean. The extra hands were much appreciated as we removed the clutter and began to mop.

And mop.

I could include many more pictures of people mopping, but really, would you want to see them? The fact is, the floor refused to be clean. I suppose the air was full of dust and other fine debris, and by the time one round of mopping was complete, a fresh layer had fallen. We kept at it, and eventually gave up.

But not before mugging in triumphant pose. (Iggy, who insisted on being in the photo, contributed nothing to the cleanup efforts.)

Robbi and I decided to get all "American Gothic." Not sure why. We were delirious by this point.

And here is the finished product, after the mopping madness concluded. Thank you so much to Yarwen and her husband for their generous hard work. Without them we would still be chasing dust bunnies to this day.

For the sake of contrast, let's remember back to the beginnings of our venture. Here is the same shot from the same place six months prior; witness 35 years of human debris:

After a few weekends of cleaning, sorting, dumping, etc.

After the cleaning, on the brink of construction:

At the end of the mad weekend of insulation:

Post drywall, pre-painting:

Painting done. Floors yet to go:

Floors done. Framing, and bookshelf remain:

One again, the work complete:

Deep breath. Contented sigh.

Once the place was mostly clean, Robbi and I took out the paint cans and began the touch up work. The trim needed serious attention as did certain parts of the ceiling and walls where we had banged them moving things about in the course of construction. There was an exciting moment when I knocked over the utility light only to stop it from crashing into the floor with a supririsingly deft (nearly ninja-like) move with my right leg. Robbi was astounded and admitted that she valued me just a bit more in the aftermath.

We have no pictures of touch-up painting. And really, would you want to see them?

Eventually we finished. We looked around in the darkness with a sense of accomplishment. And a countervailing feeling of dread.

Now we had to move.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:49 PM | Comments (1)

September 23, 2006

Sunday, September 3

Sunday came and a trip to Dover was in order. We needed a sheet of masonite to cover the Prodex and some plywood to build the "box" that would form the storage compartment for which Robbi and Matt had been been building doors. The barn has no closets and we recognized in the gaping hole an opportunity to create at least a small amount of storage space for ourselves. I hopped into the van and set out for Home Depot (site of the day of NASCAR sadness) while Robbi returned to the task of building the other bookcase door.

Meanwhile, our cats had spent yet another restless night in their new space, still devoid of anything familiar other than their trusty cat-tower. See how they look with dread upon the floor as if it were made of molten lava? They were unwilling to budge from this spot, clinging to the lone shred of comfort in a cold, hard world.

I have no photos of the Home Depot adventure, but it was trying and took longer than it should have. Upon arrival, I was confronted by a vast display of discount appliances. I immediately discovered a fridge of the perfect size for our small space, on sale to boot, and called Robbi on the cell phone to consult. I borrowed a tape measure from the tape measure aisle and we talked dimensions. Robbi paced out the measurements and we agreed that we had found our fridge. Great news! Except for the fact that this particular model was stored on the highest of the high shelves and all of the forklift operators were eating lunch or smoking or lounging or some such thing. I was left to be consoled by a friendly young woman who complained bitterly that she was not allowed to operate the forklift. She gave me a litany of reasons why, in spite of being unlicensed, she was perfectly qualified. Eventually an operator appeared, the fridge was lowered to the floor, and I set off for home with all that I had come for and more.

Meanwhile, back at the Barn, Robbi had been the picture of industry. I arrived home in time to snap this picture of Robbi on the ladder admiring her work. Who knows how long she had been standing up there, basking in the wonder of accomplishment.

I was so moved that I had to inspect her work up close. The place that I am standing in this photo was soon to be occupied by the "box" I referred to earlier.

Our challenge was now to build the "box." We started with the bottom platform, using 3/4 inch plywood since this piece would have to bear the weight of whatever we stored there. For the top, sides, and back, we used 3/8 plywood, which is much lighter and easier to work with. We needed all the help we could get from the materials, becauase working within the tiny interior of the box was challenge enough. Here I am, risking all modesty, propriety, and the prospect of ever being found attractive again in my attempt to nail in the ceiling. (If you were Robbi, might you have resisted the temptation to take this photo? I'm thwarting her attempt to use it for blackmail down the line by proudly posting it myself.)

Here Robbi installs one of the side pieces.

It was tough, but eventually it all came together.

Apparently, we both liked getting in the box and being photographed.

After the box was built, Robbi turned to the task of building the actual shelves.

There was still plenty of old wood left, so she looked for boards that matched the original beams that make up the central bracing.

When the shelves were all cut and installed she felt positively mighty.

While Robbi did her work with the shelves, Bob and I installed the chair rail we had purchased to separate the "board" and "drywall" sections of the wall. Thanks to Bob's meticulous attention to detail, this mitred joint matched up quite nicely.

The old boards were extremely uneven. In places they proruded beyond the sheetrock; in other places they came up short. The chair rail was meant to divert attention from this imperfection. It worked far better than we anticipated and effected a surprising transformation to the overall appearance of the space. Bob's reaction was gratifyiing. "I had no idea it would look so 'finished,'" he said. Or something like that. At each step Bob has been surprised, and definitely pleased, at how well things have turned out. He has known the barn in a very different state for more than thirty years. It still must take his breath away to walk up the stairs and see the transformation.

Drumroll...the chair rail:

And, for good measure, a shot of Robbi's completed bookshelf/cabinet combo. Remember that, had we succumbed to my despair, you would now be looking a a boarded up wall. Thank god I am not in charge.

At this point we were done building, but the place was a mess, and a good deal of touch-up spackling and painting needed to be done. (Had Westbrook not abandoned his post Saturday, we would have been MUCH further along on the spackling front). But I digress. It was time for bed and so we went.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:51 AM | Comments (1)

Saturday, September 2

We got an early start Saturday morning (September 2). Our good friend and former colleague Matt Westbrook was kind enough to agree to help in our enterprise. He was set to arrive around 10 am, and we wanted to be in the throes of industry when he walked up the stairs.

Robbi was hell-bent on finishing her bookshelves but I, cowed by my recent defeat at the hands of the unyielding beam, was somewhat gunshy. As Robbi took out her tape measure and set herself to the challenge of constructing hinged doors to cover the still significant gap above her lovely bookshelves, I turned my attention to the task of taming the sliding door on the front side of the barn.

Robbi's challenge:

And mine:

Above you see that the sliding door was installed by Bob, thoughful chap, some years ago, to fill the space once used for loading hay into the barn. Faithful bloggers will remember the day months ago when Michael Van Sant and I set up the scaffolding and nailed one half of the original exterior door firmly to the outside of the barn. This allows a wall of light to shine through one half of the sliding door. The other half, though very authentic and "barn"-looking, was a sieve that would have rendered my tireless insulating of the Fourth of July weekend utterly moot when the chill winds of January descended.

And so, in progress, observe my work to insulate and seal the non-window half of the door against the ravages of winter. The white stuff is another kind of insulation that Bob just happened to have in spades, tucked into the rafters on the other side of the barn. It is basically styrofoam coated with a thin sheet of plastic on both sides to help it hold together when cut with a utility knife. I measured, cut, and fit the stuff iinto the many triangular sections created by the door's cross-bracing. It was gratifying and good to be back in the insulation game. You can see the pride teaming through me. It's rather unseemly, in retrospect.

There was much more work to do on the door, as will be evidenced later in the entry. But we must pause for the arrival of Matt, who brought us a splendid houswarming gift that we were not thoughtful enough to photograph. Matt has made regular sport of beating the pants off of me in darts; either exasperated by my failure to improve or else desirous of proving that lack of practice has little to do with my failure to perform, Matt gifted us a very fine set of weighted darts and a sizeable piece of protective material to plalce behind our dartboard when hung on the wall (another not-so-subtle barb about my dart skill or lack therof).

In gratitude to Matt for driving across the bridge and agreeing to spend a day of his holiday weekend working in a dirty barn, we gave him the sexy job of spackling over sunken nail heads. You can see in this photo the line shine in his eyes as he revels in the sheer joy of it.

I wanted nothing but to spackle in his place, but I am the thoughful, selfless type, as many of you already know.

At one point I heard Matt muttering "Tom Sawyer..." under his breath, but I honestly have no idea what he was talking about.

Robbi continued working on her bookshelf doors and I returned to insulating the door. Once the styrofoam insulation was in place, I covered the entire door with a layer of tar paper and stapled it in place.

I was tempted to rest at tar paper, but remembering that Prodex remained, I pulled out the roll and relived the good old days by tacking up a layer of the space-aged wonder. Then I spent about 45 minutes reveling in how shiny it looked, how airtight it felt.

Disgusted by my hubris and just as happy to be free of my recklessly injury-prone self, Robbi selfishly requested that Matt set his spackling aside and join her in the bookshelf project. I was surprised by the alacrity with which Matt jumped to the challenge. For a second, I wondered if spackling was not, indeed, his one true calling. But just for a second.

Like two peas in the proverbial pod, Robbi and Matt launched into the sharp efficiency of synchronized bookcase making. Look at the flawless symmetry of their approach; marvel at the wholesome cooperation of their synergy. It was enough to make me sick. Neither of them spoke a word of impatience or disagreement. I began to worry about my marriage.

See??? It's like they were made to work together.

With Matt and Robbi busily at work on the bookshelf, there was no one left to admire my insulation. I appealed to Iggy, but she was asleep. The cats were terrified, abject, already cultivating the insideous intenstinal condition that you may have read about a few entries ago. Abandoned even by my loyal animals, I appealed to Bob, who seemed uninterested in Prodex but most interested in identifyinig boards that we might tack up to build a proper frame for the sliding door.

At one point earlier in the day, while Matt was spackling and I was cutting insulation, Robbi and Bob had a conversation of approximately two hours about how best to frame the door. The options were many and at odds; opinions were heated and futility was celebrated. Eventually I walked over and suggested that we just frame the sucker with old boards cast off from decades-old shelving we had removed from corners of the barn. By most standards the boards were unacceptable; they were scarred and damaged, stained and cracked. But they looked just fine in the context of the barn and we set out to give it a try.

There was a great deal of nailing involved. Bob is the master of nailing. I am the master of smashing my thumb, bending nails, and bruising wood. That is why I am the one with the camera...

...and he is the one with the hammer. Is it just me, or does Bob look like a deranged serial killer in this photo. Look how he walks with a slight hunch, hammer slung low. More importantly, look at the frame around the door. Not bad, huh? Matt and Robbi aren't the ONLY ones who can get stuff done.

To check back in on their progress:

With careful measuring, cutting, and a seemingly endless ocean of patience, Robbi and Matt created doors with a very barnlike "Z" cross-bracing. Robbi found some old hinges that must have been used for some long-ago door in the barn (thank God Bob saves everything) and, with the winsome precision of a veteran proofreader, Matt helped place the door such that it actually opened and closed.

In spite of her hyperbolic posture, Robbi's sense of satisfaction was wholly justified. I was fully expecting to have to comfort a despondent Robbi upon the utter failure of the door-making and hanging venture, but the doors worked so well, I had no option but to shower her and Matt with the praise they had certainly earned.

At this point it was almost midnight, and Matt still had to drive back across the bridge. We adjourned, tremendously satisfied with the progress of the day.

There were no major injuries, and only one more door to hang. We bid farewell to Matt and went to bed, wondering if it was possible that we might meet our goal of moving in by Monday night.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:50 AM | Comments (1)

Friday, September 1

We are shamefully behind in documenting our storming of the barn. Much has transpired. There is much to share. And yet we have been keeping the progress to ourselves. Why have we suddenly grown so greedy? Perhaps because, now that we have landed, we are less motivated to spend our time blogging as a means of dreaming of arrival. This complex theory was advanced by our friend Christian who was in total barnstorming withdrawal after we had failed to post in nearly three weeks. He is a clever guy, and so I am compelled to think him right.

Knowing now that our recent blogging indifference is born of self-satisfaction, I must firmly discipline myself to complete the story for the sake of our abandoned readers. Please forgive us this thoughtless breach of protocol.

Without further ado, let me take you back a bit. About three weeks back.

At 5:36pm on Thursday, August 31, 2006 I officially retired from my account manager position at NCSDO. I got in my car, drove across the bridge, and enjoyed a delicious celebratory meal prepared by Seiko. I went to bed with visions of my new life: long stretches of uninterrupted time for contemplation of life's great mysteries, restful sleep uninterrupted by thoughts of contracts and deadlines, hours in bed each morning for musing over the great literature of our time. I dreamed of rest, peace, tranquility of mind and spirit.

At 7:00 my bliss was shattered by Robbi's unkind voice.

"Hey Bozo! Wake up. It's time to work on the barn."

And so I returned to reality, to my perch in the rafters.

Now that the doors and windows were hung and framed, the time had come to tackle the unpleasant challenge of thoughfully filling the hole in the wall.

Harassed and fatigued from six months of construction (and desperately ready to begin my retirement, remember), I came up with the brilliant idea that we merely nail boards over said hole, saving ourselves the headache and trouble of having to engage in complex feats of construction surely far beyond our powers to summon.

Yet Robbi would have nothing to do with this scheme. "We're building a bookcase," she reminded me. "If you're not going to help, then I'm going to do it myself." She might have said "dammit" for emphasis, but she didn't, being a generally couth young woman.

She took out her tape measure and got serious. I fell humbly into line.

After meticulous measurement, Robbi created the following sketch. Take a close look and you will see the dizzying complexity of this project. The notches represent spaces that must be left for vertical boards around which this board, the bookshelf base, must be carefully fit. You will instantly identify with my preference for simplicity. You will suddenly agree that it is I who might rightfully have said "dammit."

Once the measurements were taken, Robbi, undaunted, proceded to cut the board that would be the base and bottom shelf.

Bob and I were up to something while Robbi worked. I can't now remember what it was (I'm fighting against three weeks of haze now, remember). Perhaps I was framing out the bedroom side of the cat door. Perhaps I was counter-sinking nail heads and spackling over them. Perhaps I was painting trim, moving paint cans, standing in mute wonder as my wife completed feats of construction prowess far beyond my power to imagine.

It took some doing and more than a few trips back to the chop saw for refinements, but "dammit" if Robbi didn't succeed in getting that board to fit.

Once the board was in, we took a photo revealing such heights of self-satisfaciton on the part of Ms. Robbi that I cannot bear to show it here. It would set your screens afire. It would blind you like the stuff that melted the faces of the bad guys at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

One-by-one, we added the boards that would form the back of the bookshelf, thus sealing off the warehouse from our living space.

(This part is really exciting, so I'll include every photo we took. If you look at them really quickly, it's sort of like watching a movie, a really exciting one.)

First board







Scrolling through our progress right now, you might get the sense that it only took us a few minutes to nail up these boards. You would be mistaken. Horribly so. The boards, which just happen to match the rest of the wall into which we were building the bookshelf, had to be carefully measured, cut, and placed. With finesse, care, and even aplomb.

Maybe not aplomb, perhaps, but definitelly finesse and care.

And if you know me well, or even a little, you will know that as much as I care, I lack finesse. And so, in the course of hoisting myself into the rafters, I rammed the top of my head with the force of a well-swung hammer into a thick, unyielding beam that did not yield. I saw the light of eternity, nearly fell down the ladder, and made some horrible sounds that caused no end of alarm on Robbi's part. The resulting headache was profound, the resulting hole in my head not insignificant, and the pain in my neck long-lasting (to this day, to tell the truth, though it has gotten better in the last few days).

See below said hole.

The incident brought an end to Friday, September 1, 2006.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:48 AM

August 28, 2006

...and the Winner is...

Well, there's no better way to see how many people are reading your blog than to run a blog poll. How many people, that is, who aren't too lazy to click through the poll. At any rate, the results are in:
7 people voted for Naptime, and 2 voted for Sugar-Coated.

And I chose Naptime. How could I resist? In fact, after I fix myself an ice cream float and have a couple brownies, I think I'm just about ready for naptime.

The cats have been moved into the Barn since our sublet in Baltimore ran out. They have been very unhappy, and this morning Oscar disappeared. We looked everywhere. We even worried that he had somehow gotten out and was maybe under the barn. After about an hour of shaking the treat can and making kissy noises (he doesn't always know his own name) dad found him squirreled away in a crawl space above the stairs. We couldn't get him out, no matter how many fish-flavored treats we threw his way. And he didn't even eat them, which is what had me worried the most. He's a real fatass, and can't turn down a good treat.

I had to go in to meet with the IT person this morning, so left. Mom and Dad assured me Oscar would be fine and probably come out on his own. When I got back three hours later, mom and dad were both exhausted, on the couch. Oscar apparently looked like he was passing out, so they pushed a container of water in there for him, which he drank enthusiastically before collapsing again in a semi-concious state. They panicked and nearly called the humane society to come get him out with a noose or something, but he ended up coming out after lots of poking. He refuses to eat, but is acting like nothing ever happened.

That's the problem with cats. You can't actually get them to do anything they don't want to do, and then if they do decide to do something, they act like it's all your fault. Stupid cats.

Posted by ribbu at 12:43 PM | Comments (2)

August 20, 2006

Trim is a Four-Letter Word

We started off Saturday morning with great plans. We had purchased some Minwax Red Mahogany to stain the trim. It would be beautiful, and woody, and work well with all the exposed wood we have.

Uncle Ken called around 8:30 and said we could come get the lumber for the trim that we had picked up last week in his van and left at his house. He had trimmed the trim, so it was in more manageable lengths. I had understood that we would go to his house, bring all the stuff back in his van, unload it, and then return the van. Of course, when we got there (20 minutes away) we discovered he actually needed his van, so I had to return to C-town to get our van, empty it out (this involved dragging a couch by myself down the street and into the yard across rumply dumply bricks), and drive back to millington. In that amount of time, Matthew and Uncle Ken had gotten the mitre saw going, and were furiously cutting quarter-rounds to trim out the glass block window. Between the two of them, they managed to cut everything right the first or second time, and in honor of Matthew's prowess, Uncle Ken gifted him an 8-point handsaw. Matthew was touched. We have no pictures, because we really thought all we were going to be doing was driving, and left the camera at home.

Upon returning home and unloading the lumber, Matthew announced he must get to work on a project for work, left me do the staining, and set up shop on the dining room table chez Behrs.

Well, boy were we ever wrong. I stained a small little test strip, like they told me to, and it looked kind of nice. Then I stained a whole board, and it looked horrible. Not at all like the stain charts they gave out in the Minwax aisle. I mean, ick.

I thought perhaps I had done something wrong, and read the directions. It said that soft woods (like pine) needed to be pre-treated so that the stain would take evenly. I was disheartened. I ran home to chez Behrs, and asked matthew what he thought. Should I invest in pre-treatment stuff and try again, or should I return the stain and just paint them, like he had wanted to from the start? It didn't look too bad around the windows, but as a baseboard...


Matthew came and agreed it looked burfy. This would not do. Then the question was, what color to paint the trim? It needed to go with the yellow walls while complementing the dark exposed wood and the amber finished floors. There had been earlier discussion about a dark trim, maybe in the red range, but it would have to be the exact right red and I didn't feel I had the proper authority or time to be picking out a red after my insistence that the stain would look "really nice". After sweating over it for a little while, we both threw up our hands and said, "Let's just paint it white" because, you know, white is the new black. So, off I went to the hardware store to return the unopened cans of stain we had gotten, and to get some white paint. I was feeling totally demoralized.

There are so many gd shades of white that my eyes started getting boggly. But I narrowed it down to "Sugar-coated" "Naptime" and "Bleak" (seriously!) - well, Bleak was a warmer white like we had discussed, but frankly, I couldn't live with the name. If anything bad happened, I would blame it on my buying a paint color named Bleak. Of course, choosing between Sugar-coated and Naptime is nearly impossible for me. For those of you who know me, I'd like to put it to a vote.

**there was a blogpoll here, but it was slowing loading time - see vote results here **

So, after I made the crucial decision between two nearly indistinguishable whites, the kind lady behind the counter mixed them up, and then gave me a FREE paint can opener! This is why small towns stores are way better than the Baltimore Home Depot, where the service person couldn't even rouse herself to move out of the way when we were trying to push a huge cart of insulation into the lane to buy it. She just couldn't be bothered. But I digress.

Now, armed with the proper colors and the proper tools, I finally got down to brass tacks. Or, rather, paint and trim.

And more paint. And more trim. It seemed endless, even though it wasn't really. I made the fatal mistake of setting up on the floor, where I could get to more boards, instead of on some sawhorses, where I could save my knees and back. But, whatever. I can't really complain, since I wasn't insulating for three days in 100+ degree weather.

Matthew came to check on me after wondering what was taking me so long in the dead of the night. Though I insisted that I had just been painting the trim, he was suspicious, and checked behind all the doors for hidden paramours.

Thankfully, I don't have any, because we don't yet have doors for them to hide behind.

When I finally finished, I stacked all the boards between the two ladders. I felt rather ingenious, and pleased at how they lined up so neatly on both of the ladders. I took a picture Sunday morning, I was so delighted.

Until, of course, I realized I would need one of the ladders to remove the masking tape on the ceilings and beams that I was so looking forward to removing. Needless to say, my ingenuity won out, and I didn't remove any tape. The trim boards remain on the ladders, waiting to be nailed into place.

We also brought over a little home decor to spruce things up a bit. I can't remember where we got this, but I do remember it cost $8.

And doesn't it fit in perfectly? Now we just need to find some plants to inhabit the hooks. At the moment, they're having too much fun hanging out in the backyard chez Behr, with the sprinkler. He's such a Casanova.

Posted by ribbu at 10:04 PM | Comments (4)

Yet More Insulating

Much of the glamorous work has passed. We are truly down to what they call the nitty gritty. This weekend's project works well within this frame, for there was a great deal of grit in store for me as I climbed into the rafters on the warehouse side of the barn with my mind bent on sealing the great sieve of a wall that separates the barn's two halves. Many of the original barn's original exterior boards were left in place when the new section ((our new home) was tacked on who knows how many decades ago. The boards are beautiful and ancient and lend a pleasing texture to our studio, but there are gaps aplenty, many of which are wide enough to acommodate a finger or great gusts of hot or cold air, depending on the season. Because of the gaps, we thought it best not to place lung-rending slabs of fiberglass insulation up against the wall. To our cart at Home Depot we added a roll of tar paper, and so history repeated itself as we returned to the very beginning of this enterprise.

Alas, we have no photos of the monkeylike agility I displayed in reaching my perch, yet here I am, armed and dangerous, already well into my daylong sojurn with the aforementioned grit. Notice the cool and studied nonchalance with which I grip the PowerShot. Revel in the air of breezy indifference with which I behold my challenge.

The work continued apace. Robbi cleared a section of the warehouse floor and set up a staging area in which to cut the sheets of tar paper and insulation according to my measurements. We had only one tape measure between us, so progress was halting, and somewhere in the translation between my intitial measurement, handing the tape to Robbi, idle chitchat, and Robbi's ensuing measurement, some of the numbers went awry. The end result was somewhat lacking, but I have chosen not to feature photos of the rough edges here.

My reputation as a crack insulator now established, I must work to keep the rare examples of shoddy workmanship beyond the reach of Bob's razor eye.

At one point Robbi said something downright fascinating and captured my amazement in this shot. But for the life of me now, I cannot remember what it was.

It might have had something to do with the impressive figure I cut when bending over in oversized workman's pants.

Near the end of my work, I discovered a long-forgotten message high in the rafters, this mysterious "W," the meaning of which we have not been able to discern. Is it the initial of some long ago builder? A rune from which we are to derive some guiding significance? A code we are to break as we forge our new lives in the barn? Or perhaps a sign from our alien friends?

Lest you are disheartened by the abundance of gritty and nitty boards, we offer this gimpse into our side of the barn. See those floors shine.

The cracks filled, the great wall insulated, we are free to move on to the finishing work. There are doors to be hung, windows to be framed, and a glass block window to be put in place. The countdown has begun in earnest. Nine more days of work for me. Robbi begins teaching her class a week from Wednesday. Ready or not, here we come.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:00 PM

August 07, 2006


Bob and Robbi rose early on Saturday morning, energized by the day's task. I vaguely heard Robbi stirring as she got dressed, but I slumbered on as they drove to True Value and rented a belt sander and edger. I contined to sleep as they carefully selected stain (natural) and polyeurethane (water-based Minwax) and slept sweetly and well as they carried the enormously heavy sander up the stairs and assembled it. Eventually I woke, the rising guilt of my non-participation finally reaching the tipping point. I dressed, had a cup of coffee, and made my way to the barn, only to find Bob already in the throes of industry.

Getting Started

Remember, please, what our floors looked like before. Go back to the previous entry if you must. While I knew that sanding the floors would likely make them somewhat smoother, I was not prepared for the rich tones that were exposed when Bob unleashed the 24 grit belt against the old boards.

"I think it smells like pine," Robbi told me. Rememer this fact. Later you might be impressed.

As we continued, Robbi remarked that our work reminded her of the somewhat famous painting, featured below, that shows how people used to do this sort of thing before the dawn of the belt sander. I was awfully glad that we were not forced to plane the floors by hand.

We had gotten a host of advice about finishing floors from people with strong opinions. On one hand, we were warned not to use a belt sander because, when operated improperly, belt sanders can quickly dig a hole in one's floor. We were encouraged instead to use an orbital sander, a benign, inoffensive sort of sander than can only chafe and irritate, but not maim a floor, no matter how ill-used. Thinking back, the person who warned Robbi and me off of belt sanders was probably wise to do so. But with Bob and his decades of sagacity at our disposal, we were emboldened to try. Our decision to use the belt sander was aided by the fact that the guys at Home Depot estimated that it would take approximately 3 months to finish our floors using an orbital sander. They basically suggested that if we used an orbital sander we were hopeless wussies that should just give up and don a "kick me" sign.

We divided the responsiblities. While Bob ran the belt sander, Robbi used the heavy-duty edger to sand the wood along the walls, and I used a small hand-held disk sander to burnish off stains in the hollow centers of the boards that had not come off during Bob's first pass.

Here Robbi uses the edger in the bedroom.

Our floors were so old, rough, and dirty and so hopelessly covered in paint, sheetrock mud, and thirty years of dust that the belt sander kept clogging, at which point the vacuum stopped working. At first we thought that the machine was broken and even went so far as to take it back to True Value with protest on our lips. Of course, when the polite, yet incredulous True Value tool rental guy plugged it in at True Value, it worked like a charm. Nevertheless, and with our tails between our legs, we swapped our "broken" sander for the other and returned to the barn. A few minutes later the vacuum stopped working again, but this time Bob investigated.

Figuring out that the thing was clogged, he set about trying to rectify the situation. But no amount of prodding and poking seemed to be doing the trick.

I leaned in to take a look...and was reminded of my CPR classes in high school.

The thing wasn't breathing and clearly needed mouth-to-mouth recusitation.

Amazingly, my technique, though much questioned (even mocked) by those present, was a success.

Are you amazed? Do you want to watch a movie about the small miracle of the belt sander?

The downside of the small miracle was a mouth full of dust, something other prophets, shamans, and generally awesome guys before me have also had to contend with.

To cleanse the dusty palates, we got some Subway but ran into no Luna Moths. I took this photo, explaining to all present the importance to the careful blogger of thorough documentation. An entry would only be successful if the day's essential moments were chronicled with care. I was promptly mocked and the notion that lunch constitued an "essential moment" soundly challenged. Try as I might, through plea and example, I cannot convince others to value food and opportunities to eat it quite as highly as do I.


After lunch, Robbi was given a chance to brave the belt sander. She sanded and sanded well and did not drill a hole in the floor.

So pleased was she that she struck a mighty pose . . . forgetting the sander . . . which kept on whirring . . . and drilled a deep hole in the floor.

Ok. That didn't happen, and overall, I'm glad that it didn't happen, but it would have been great in some ways if Robbi had dug a hole in the floor because then, perhaps, when people in another room heard a crash or a clang coming from a room that Robbi and I were both known to be in, they might think "Robbi?" instead of thinking "Matthew?" as they do now and likely always will.

After Robbi had her turn with the belt sander, I took it for a spin. It is worth noting, in full disclosure, that by the time I got my turn, we had progressed two degrees in terms of the fineness of the sand paper. We started at 24 (very gritty), moved on to 60 (still pretty darn gritty), and were now using 80 (not really what you'd call gritty). You can still dig a hole in the floor with 80, but you'd have to be a genuine moron, not just careless, but determined to do harm. Which didn't put me entirely out of the running as a calculated risk, mind you.

A brief interlude from my banter; a lovely image taken by Robbi.

And back to reality; this is a photo of the silty black muck we painstakingly removed from between the floorboards through endless scrabing with the finest allen wrench in the set. The grit was tightly packed between every board. We could have left it in place. It wan't hurting anybody. Why did we dig it out, with great effort and even some pain? Because we could. Because we were on a mission. Because the floors were getting clean and those cracks full of muck offended us.

I'm skipping a lot here, by necessity and out of respect for your time and patience. The sanding went on and on. And on. I mentioned we started (Bob and Robbi, anyway) at 7:00am. By 11:30 pm we were still at it with hours of work still to go. We couldn't stop because once the top layer is removed from wood it becomes vulnerable to damage until sealed. In August humidity, the wood, sealed for years, is very "thirsty" and takes in moisture. This is very bad for the wood for reasons I don't fully understand. The long and the short is, it is important to seal the wood (with stain) as soon as possible after the sanding concludes.

With that in mind, I proclaimed exhaustion and went to bed. Though I am a generally energetic guy most of the time, when I run out of steam, I run out of steam wholly, like the dead run out of life. I become a limp, worthless, diffident, cranky person no one wants to be with (let alone sand, scrape, and stain with). My guilt held in check by the aforementioned lack of mojo, I went to bed, slept like the dead, and woke at 5:00am when Robbi rolled weakly into bed, barely alive. She and Bob had worked for 22 hours straight.

The next morning I woke at 7:30, hoping to redeem myself by going to True Value by myself to return the sanders and unused belts. But Robbi and Bob rose with me, both looking more sprightly than I felt, and the three of us made the trek together.

They had completed all of the sanding and most of the sealing, having run out of sealant with a few square feet to go. We bought a quart, went back to the barn, and I brushed it on while Robbi leaned weakly against the wall.

I turned to survey the work of the night before.

We were pleased.

Work (work work, not barn work) has been crazy and I had not done a lick on Saturday, and so I headed back home to spend Sunday afternoon on various projects. I drove across the bridge, stopped at Han ah Reum for two half-gallon jars of cubed radish kimchee (which I'm banned from eating when Robbi is around), and came back home.

The cats were not pleased about my having been gone. Even my description of the lovely floors they would soon tread upon did not bring smiles to their faces.

As for Robbi's keen sniffer, here's the story: Uncle Ken stopped by Saturday afternoon to check our progress. Seeing the exposed wood, he praised our efforts and proclaimed the wood pine. Either Eastern Pine, that achieves the deep yellowed tones evidenced by our floors after years of aging, or Georgia Pine that starts out that color and retains it.

Not much left to do. Next weekend it's back to the insulation game. I need to insulate the wall between our half of the barn and the Florabana warehouse. Ken is going to place the glassblock window, hang the doors, and start making trim for the windows and doors.

More to come.

Posted by bogenamp at 06:39 PM | Comments (1)

The Big Reveal

And then, Bob and Seiko returned.
The last they heard, matthew had finished insulating, and we were trying to get wallboard but were unsuccessful. We told them that it was impossible to get ahold of the wallboard guys, but that hopefully we would have the wallboard in time for us to get started wallboarding ourselves upon dad's return. They had no idea that we decided it would be well worth it to shell out the cash to have someone who knew what the heck they were doing (and could walk on stilts, even!) do the work. You see, we were being sneaky.

There was all kinds of logistical hoo-hah on how we would get matthew home for when we showed the more-than-just-insulated space to mom and dad. He has been so busy at work that he's had to work at home every night, and didn't think he was going to be able to make it on a Tuesday evening. But, he just couldn't stand to miss it and drove over just for The Big Reveal. I was taking the movie with my camera and Sarah got pix on hers. But, we have to wait for those until she sends us copies. Sorry. But they're worth seeing. Seiko can put on a good "Holy Shit!" face when she needs to.

And then matthew had to turn around and go back to Baltimore. But, he says the trip was well worth it. It's not often that Bob is impressed. And even less so, Seiko. All around, we felt that it really pays to be sneaky.

The next big project is going to be the floors, so there were certain things that needed to be done before that happened. First, we had to put the second coat of paint on. There has been lots of debate as to when certain things happen at what stage and why, but ultimately, we took the electrician Calvin's advice, with the caveat that if we didn't get it done, well, we could then follow someone else's advice.

After dad was home for less than a day, I had him doing the crappy trim stuff that I usually get stuck doing, and took over the gratifying roller work. Sometimes it's nice to have a beat-down and world-weary dad who is tired of arguing with his uppity kids.

Once again, I underestimated how long this would take. It seems like slopping a second coat on should take no time at all, but it took nearly all day. But wow, when it was done, it was a major improvement.

Dad did a remarkable job painting the edges. Sometimes slow and steady really does win the race. And if there's anything that dad is, it's slow. And if there's another thing that dad is, it's steady. Actually, he's not really steady. Just slow. But a darn good edge painter. Thank you, dad - doesn't it look mighty fine? (and, btw, ceilings are "magnolia white" to our "provence cream" walls - apparently, we're all about the south, on either side of the Pond.)

Next we had to make sure that the floor was ready for sanding. That means no nails or staples sticking up out of it, gluing down splinters and cleaning cleaning cleaning to make sure nothing awful goes under the sander. While I was painting the ceiling, I had set the foot of the ladder on a board in the trap door that evidently had no support beneath it, and it cracked and sort of caved in. Luckily, the trap door was not nailed shut, as we had previously thought, it was just really heavy. Between the two of us, we were able to open it and see if we could remedy the damage. A few screws and a piece of scrap board we found who knows where did the trick. It turns out that the trap door doesn't actually go anywhere, and has been insulated in from below, but in the event that we decide to put a fire pole in someday we didn't nail it shut. Plus, that would mean all that many more nails to countersink to spare the sandpaper. Matthew insisted via cell phone that I take a picture of the open trap door, since he might never again see it that way (until we install the fire pole, of course).

In the meantime, Iggy was throwing back the vodka and tonics,
and needed a pretty big burf pail by the time we were done.

Posted by ribbu at 06:04 PM | Comments (2)

Glass Blocks are the Windows to [Y]our Bedroom

So, we were supposed to frame out the glass block window before the insulation and wallboard were put up, but, unfortunately, Matthew is too darn efficient, and everything was done before Michael and Uncle Ken could get to it. They insisted that framing it out post-wallboarding was not that big of a deal, though I think by the end of it all, they wished they had done it back when there were just two-by-fours to cut through.

So, step one involved finding where the hole was supposed to be. The bedroom walls hadn't been painted yet, so it was easier to figure out where the studs were from that side.

Hm, that's funny. Even though the level says we're level, it looks way crooked. Ah. Because the ceiling slopes. Funny how that works. Luckily, we left it in the hands of two pros. If it had been me and matthew - well, who ever uses a level, anyway? That's so, like, antiquated.

After hemming and hawing through the wallboard with this amazing little gizmo called a wallboard saw (doesn't look like it's much good for anything, does it?), the hole was made. Popping it out looked like way lots of fun, but I wasn't asked to join in. Sigh. I guess I don't look like the destroying type.

Then the studs had to be sawed out. I wasn't asked to do that either, even though I've been told that I really knock the studs out (if you know what I mean). Incidentally, Michael discovered that a section of the wall had been neglected in the insulation process. Matthew insists that the wallboard guys must have removed the insulation, because he definitely, definitely insulated the whole room. I am torn. Do I trust Matthew, or do I trust a guy named Timmy, who was walking around on stilts when I met him? Frankly, my bets are with Timmy. You can trust a guy on stilts. I mean, because they sure can't outrun you.

Once the studs were out the frame for the window just had to be fitted in the hole. It took a little whacking and squeezing, but it was a nice snug fit. Uncle Ken did and excellent job with the frame, putting the corners together in a rebate joint (I just learned that, thank you google!). Again, if matthew and I had done it, well - who uses a saw, anyway? That's so, like, medieval! Haven't you ever heard of superglue?

So, now we have to wait for sills and frames before we put the glass blocks in. They are so frickin heavy that we wouldn't want them falling out on, say, matthew's toe.

Posted by ribbu at 05:48 PM

Painting Phase II

I decided I must seriously dedicate myself to the task of painting before mom and dad returned. Having a more finished look than just wallboard, I figured, would make all the difference. With a newfound zeal and an 8-foot ladder, I applied myself to applying paint.

First, the undercoat. I believe it is called PVA primer & sealer. The guy at Home Depot had made a special point of telling us to just "slop it on" and not to worry about how bad it looks. But damn, it looked bad. Really, really bad. I spent a good long time ignoring what the guy at Home Depot had said, and painted and repainted the section I was working on, which happened to be the ceiling. If you don't know this already, painting the ceiling sucks. And painting it again and again while ignoring what the guy at Home Depot had said really sucks, especially when you get a call later on telling you to stop being anal and just do what the guy at Home Depot had said. Thanks, Matthew. And thanks for seconding him, Jose.

Aside from that, though, do you have any idea how hard it is to take a picture of yourself painting the ceiling from atop an 8-foot ladder? Now you do: whicked hard. I consider myself a pro, so don't try this at home.

Of course, as is always the case, as soon as I got done doing all the really tedious work, like putting on this horrible-looking primer, Matthew rolls into town and gets to do the fun stuff. Or, the stuff that makes it look like he's getting way more accomplished than I am. We picked a soft yellow called "Provence Cream" that I think we also used in our kitchen in B-more. It sure looked yellow coming out of the bucket and going onto the primer. But we had noticed last time that once all of the walls were the same color, it stopped looking quite so yellow. So, we're keeping our fingers crossed. But it sure does look tasty. I could drink it right up, like french vanilla ice cream.

While we were painting, a butterfly came in and fluttered around. I was delighted because it almost perfectly matched our buttery walls (not in the photo so much, but in real life a lot more) (for you color-matching fiends out there). Matthew was too furiously painting to appreciate the coincidence.

As I mentioned before, I usually get to do the slow tedious stuff. This is the sort of slow tedious stuff I'm talking about:

... painting carefully along the edges and making sure none spills on the beams etc. It turns out that even though I'm pretty anal about art/design projects and the like, I really stink at painting. I spilled a lot, and generally did a not-very-bang-up job (unless, is a bang-up job a bad thing...?). Anyway, all this concentrating on not spilling the paint, not putting too much paint on, painting inside the lines, not dropping my paintbrush on the dirty floor, not falling off the ladder was very exhausting. When it was all over, I was pretty darn tired.

Iggy also found the process extremely dull.

And that was just the first coat. But, it doesn't look too bad, now, does it?

Posted by ribbu at 05:34 PM

July 27, 2006

To Paint is But to Dream...

After returning from our exciting weekend trip, I was supposed to start painting (on Monday). It is now Wednesday, and in the time it takes matthew to fully insulate 8 walls and 4 bays of the ceiling, I have managed to somewhat sloppily paint 1/6 of the entire space. I am not handy.

But, I would like to put forth that I was not just twiddling my thumbs all that time.

I vacuumed.

There was wallboard dust everywhere, and before painting, I thought I should vacuum a little bit. Well, there's no such thing as vacuuming "a little bit" when you're in a construction zone. Once I got started, however, I realized that the floors were so dirty anyway that someone might come along and not even notice all my hard work. So, I took a picture to show just what kind of hard work I was doing:

When you look at it like that, it makes it seem like something was actually accomplished. I was too lazy, though, to move any of the wallboard scraps out, so I'm sure there's still a lot of dust under those.

The shopvac lost some oomph about 10 minutes into the endeavor, and after taking it apart, I realized that the filter could use some cleaning. A lot of cleaning. The following is a close-up of the filter, after I knocked most of the really fine dust off:

As James Brown would say, "Good God, y'all" (wait...did he say that...?). I also noticed that the hunks of dust coming off of the filter bore a striking resemblance to the one thing that anyone ever went to see in New Hampshire:


And just like The Old Man in the Mountain, the Old Man in the Filter was eradicated by the wrath of Robbi.

So, I had to clean the filter out 5 times before the whole floor was cleaned. And that, my friends is what made me deserve an ice cream.

With all the dust flying about, Iggy did not manage to stay clean. For a while she perched delicately on her small tuffet, but pretty soon the heat and the boredom overtook her, and she flopped to the floor. When she got up, she had the equivalent of doggie bed-head.

And now, I am waiting for a call from the NY Times re: a job I'm supposed to finish today, but still nothing. It was a nice excuse to stop with all that silly painting, but now that the heat of the day has arrived, I should probably return to it.

Posted by ribbu at 10:59 AM | Comments (2)

Well it's 7am...

... and we're coughing up the phlegm, spitting out the taste of the night before (o-o-ore)

well, not really. But, it is 7am.

I meant to do an all-nighter painting, but overslept and ended up getting up at 4:30. I started painting the primer on, and after getting one measly corner done, started having visions of the whole paint job crumbling because I was too lazy to wipe down the walls. There's drywall dust everywhere, but I was secretly hoping that since I vacuumed the floor and I couldn't really see the dust, then that would mean that I didn't have to go through the excruciating task of wiping the walls from top to bottom with an old raggedy sponge I found under the work sink. Luckily, my overzealous guilty concience kicked in, so if the paint starts falling off the walls in two months, I can definitely say it wasn't because of the wallboard dust.

So now I'm waiting for the walls to "thoroughly dry" as the paint can instructed. I did some gardening in the meanwhile - the weeds here have gotten out of control. But, I think I can probably get back to painting now, which, thankfully, isn't nearly as miserable as sponging off the walls. Although, it is a lot slower. That drywall just eats up the paint.

Yes, it's very dry drywall.

Posted by ribbu at 07:00 AM | Comments (1)

July 14, 2006

Robbi Returns

It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that a miracle has occurred at the barn.

But before we get to that, Robbi has returned from the tundra, righting many ships that had been sailing at a funny angle in her absence. Iggy and I drove to the airport to fetch her only to find that the 120 pounds of salmon she was supposed to have brought home had not traveled with her. Fishless, we set of down the highway toward home. We got about halfway to Baltimore when the car conked out, leaving us irritated and hopeless on the side of I-95.

Instead of despairing we borrowed a cell phone from a trucker, got a tow to the Nissan dealier in Columbia, and called Christian to rescue us.

While we waited for our ride home, we sat on the hillside at the Nissan dealer.

Once we finally made it home, it would have been nice for me to let Robbi rest after her 4,500 mile journey. Instead I made her pack all of the plants into the van so that we could drive them to Chestertown. I made all sorts of excuses about the amount of work ahead and the limited days in which to do it, but mostly I wanted to show her the insulation.

So we piled into the van.

And drove to Chestertown.

The entire time I described the wonders of the insulation. Robbi listened in rapt attention, so excited to see the insulation that she could hardly contain herself. Once we got to Chestertown we raced to the barn, bounded up the stairs, and found...


Already up!

With much of the finishing complete!

See the care with which they worked around the cross-bracing on the beams. Amazing. This is what we never could have done had we chosen to do the work ourselves.

Robbi took it all in.

And remarked how very tall was the ceiling in our bedroom.

I was sorry that the cats were not there to appreciate our work.

Iggy was less impressed. She still yearns to live in the million dollar house across the street.

The workers were so efficient that Ken didn't even have a chance to frame out the space for the glass block window. They hung and finished the sheetrock on the wall where it is supposed to go. Apparently it is no big deal to cut a hole and do the framing after the fact.

Though happy for the most part, Robbi was disappointed to have missed out on the wonders of insulation. The thought of it got her all riled up.

After basking in the progress, we took our load of plants to Bob and Seiko's house and dropped another load of boxes and things off at the storage unit.

And then we went home. And Robbi slept.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:14 AM | Comments (2)

July 10, 2006

Not for Bob

Ok, for everyone not named Bob or Seiko Behr, here's the story: Robbi and I are conspiring to keep them in the dark regarding progress on the barn from here forward. Bob has it in his mind that he will be called upon to spend the month of August hanging 120 pound sheets of 4 x 12 foot, 5/8 sheetrock against the tall and sloping ceiling of the barn. He is trying to keep a stiff upper lip about it, according to the reports from Coffee Point, but Robbi can tell that the thought of it exhausts him.

Considering that taking the course of hanging the wallboard ourselves would likely result in delay, frustration, misery, and quite potentially serious injury, we have decided to go the route of hiring capable, experienced, savvy men with appropriate tools and forearms to do the work in our stead. They are slated to begin this week and, if the projected schedule holds, should be done by the end of July. Robbi and I are waiting like gleeful children for the moment that Bob and Seiko, having returned from Alaska, climb the stairs to survey the insulation only to find that the sheetrock is hung and finished. Perhaps even the outlets, ceiling fans and heaters will have been installed? Now I'm getting hubris, I fear.

Much of my energy last week was spent trying to get my hands on the 46 sheets of 4x12 sheetrock our contractor Eddie said it would take to finish the barn. The story is probably more interesting to me than it would be to anyone else, but suffice it to say that there were mountains and valleys of joy and despair in the quest to get the sheetrock to the second story of the barn. The problem being that carrying 4x12 sheets up the stairs was not a tenable option. While a boom truck could have delivered through the front sliding door that Michael and I opened a few weeks back, the electrical wires along the street in front of the barn were too close for comfort. Eventually Jimmy, the wallboard savior, hatched a scheme to remove our back bedroom window and, using the boom truck, slide the wallboard, sheet at a time, through our bedroom wall into the main room.

Enough of my ramble. Here are the pictures.

Behold, 26 sheets of 4x12 foot, 5/8 sheetrock:

Just to give you a sense of how long is 12 feet in the context of sheetrock, I placed my dog as a strategic marker of scale.

I know you can't get enough of this. Here's another look.

To recap the excitement that I missed. Jimmy and his boys removed this window.

And this stud. And the insulation I had hung on either side. And the wire that Calvin and his guys had strung between the studs at about waist height.

I toenailed the missing stud back into place, restrung the wire, and rehung the insulation. And things were good as new.

Except that now there were 46 sheets of wallboard waiting to be hung. By someone else.

A parting image of the glory of sheetrock.

I can't wait to see Bob's face.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:20 PM | Comments (1)

July 09, 2006

Insulation, Week 3

I came home from work on Friday night eager to kill some time before heading over the bridge. And so I made a big bowl of guacamole and played Nintendo for a while, licking the wounds of the week with good food and the regressive pleasure of video games.

Then I packed up the van. Boxes of books, for the most part. With a few bookshelves thrown in. I have started to prepare for next weekend's move in earnest, dismantling the physical space we've spent so much time and energy putting together. The task is made less painful by the fact that my heart has already moved across the bay.

Eventually we were loaded and Iggy was ready to go. She really hates having to sit in the tight space between the two seats.

On the way out of town, I stopped at Matt's again. We took a trip to the Home Depot to get some new staples and a new dust mask (and a mystery item to be revealed later in this entry).

Saturday morning I headed for East Coast Storage, which Robbi had found for me online. I had spoken earlier in the week with Darlene, learning all that I needed to know to make an informed decision about my storage needs. The plan was to rent a 10 by 15 foot climate controlled unit. There are non-climate controlled units available, but in the July/August Chestertown humidity, no item is safe. We're storing a bunch of books and other things that we'd rather not risk getting all soggy.

Darlene showed me the ropes and I pulled the van up to the loading dock.

Iggy was invited in, but preferred to stay in the van.

Darlene showed me the unit. As I said, 10 by 15. Apparently this unit was the floor model where they keep the sign meant to lure and inspire. The paragon of all 10 by 15 foot units, you might say. And never before rented out, according to Darlene.

I bet she says that to all the guys.

Once the unit had been inspected and approved, I started unloading the van. Look at this stack of boxes, can you tell which of these boxes was once used by Bob Behr?

Give up? It's this one. How can you tell? Because of the carefully cut handles. Bob doesn't mess around. No box goes handleless under his watch.

Iggy was wary of the storage facility at first. The endless succession of identical garage-style doors were unnerving to her delicate sensibilities. Though invited, she would not follow me to our locker. Then Darlene appeared with a bag of Snausages and won Iggy's heart. Darlene loves dogs, apparently. Iggy got a lot of Snausages. After that, she was willing to follow me to E13

The contents of the van lined one wall of the unit. Next Saturday we'll bring all of the furniture over.

Construction-wise, the weekend's task was framing out the space for the glass-block window that is to hang between the bedroom and the big room. Uncle Ken was planning to come help me, but due to a string of mechanical malfunctions to his various lawn mowers, he was not able to. He advised me to put up the insulation, leaving a hole where the framing was going to be. I did some crude measurements, erred on the side of leaving Ken more insulation to work with, and, hung insulation around the window-to-be.

Eventually, this window will be placed into the hole. Robbi and I have both dreamed of having a glass block window in our home. And now we will.

While I was working, Iggy discovered the cat door.

I tried to explain that she wasn't likely to fit through, but that she should feel free to sniff it to her heart's content. She took me up on the offer.

Ok, ok. Before we conclude, time for the mystery item mentioned earlier. The item is a present for Bob. What is the occasion, you say? No occasion, I say. Bob just needs a gift every now and then, to let him know that he's a nice guy who is doing a good job with things.

Firmly lodged in the gift-procuring mindset while strolling the aisles at Home Depot, I was drawn to the fact that this item, on its very packaging, was to be considered a "great gift idea."

And that it came with a "carrying case!"

And what is this fabulous item, you say? End the suspense, for god's sake!

Behind door number three is...

A brand new Power Shot, to replace the one so badly maimed by my relentless dropping of it last weekend from the top of the 8-foot ladder to the unyielding beams of the barn's ash floor.

Bob, I took the liberty of opening your gift and using it in Saturday's insulation hanging. I hope you don't mind. It worked very well. It's intact handle ejected staples with an ease and fluidity I regret not having been able to enjoy for much of last weekend's work.

Perhaps we'll have to enshrine the broken Power Shot in a memorial to the weekend of insulation madness. Or perhaps not. There may be yet more heroic milestones ahead that will make the days of insulation seem like child's play.

Hanging the wallboard, for example...

When are you coming home, Bob?

Posted by bogenamp at 08:15 PM

July 04, 2006

Insulation, Week Two

All week I sat at my desk at work, struggling with the irrelevance of my quotidian task. I would pause frequently, gaze up at the stamped tin ceiling of the fire house, and think to myself, "I was born for bigger, better things. I was born to insulate." The days dragged by at the pace of glacial molasses, but eventually Friday came. And as eager as I was to get to Chestertown, I was more eager still to avoid the hordes heading east across the bridge to be the first on the beach Saturday morning. And so I came home and twiddled. I packed the van, ran the dog, watched television in a passive sort of way that brought no real joy. My heart lay across the waters, on the second floor of a dark, hot barn.

Eventually 8:00 rolled around and I felt comfortable setting out. I stopped at the fire house on my way out of the city to pick up my enormous roll of Prodex insulation (700 square feet!) and then proceeded to my friend Matt's house for yet further delay before braving the traffic. [Those reading on will be rewarded with a photo of the Prodex in its glory.]

My sojourn with Matt was idyllic. He was kind enough to procure a pizza and was thoughtful enough to add intrique by topping it with diced slivers of a fresh jalepeno from his garden and carefully shredded bits of lightly microwaved smoked salmon jerky from Bristol Bay. I'm convinced that (considering the mushrooms added by the pizza makers themselves) we were the only two men in Elkridge, MD sampling this particular delicacy that night.

Does this make you hungry? I hadn't thought I was particularly hungry when I arrived at Matt's. Then I ate half of the pie.

After dinner we moved an air conditioner from the basement to Matt's writing nook (he is a sensitive literary type, too) and then proceeded back to the basement where I proceeded to thoroughly trounce him at darts.

Ok, fine. Matt emerged the victor. But the final tally was closer than it has been in the past.

My subsequent drive to Chestertown was uneventful. I arrived, unloaded the van and was ready for bed, but Iggy insisted on seeing the barn. We took Matt's utility light over and set it up. He claims to have used the sucker to mow the lawn in the dead of night, and I can see that such a claim was not overstatement. I think it might be useful to hail a small planet. Skipping ahead to the next morning, here it is, in all of it's dual-halogen glory.

And what a lovely light it casts upon this naked, uninsulated corner of the barn. Seeing this sight, I was inspired to begin my task.

My task began with contemplation of the Prodex. I was hesitant to unroll the gleaming column, so lovely did it seem to me.

But the the minutes were passing and, looking around me, I knew that I would need them all.

And so I began fitting the Prodex up against the ceiling, leaving a 3/4 inch pocket of air above the Prodex. Apparently this is an important part of its functioning.

The job of the Prodex, according to the Web site on which Robbi found it, is to block the radiant heat that comes through the roof. Do I fully understand the intricacies of radiant heat? I do not. Do I know for sure that Prodex and fiberglass are not redundant factors instead of collaborators in insulating synergy? I do not. I must admit that I am charmed by its shiny surface, its light and pliable bearing, the gentle loft of the foam between the sheets of mylar. Given the heat of the barn, I am willing to dream the dream of hoping that the Prodex protects us from days of heat to come. And apparently, it will help trap what meagre heat our bodies are able to produce in the winter months.

Iggy misunderstood the meaning of Prodex. Once I explained it to her, she was embarassed for having mistaken it for a dog bed. I sent her back to the tuffet. Moments later she returned to the Prodex, undaunted. Apparently, it was the coolest surface in the barn. I hope that the presence of dog claw indentations does not lessen the effectiveness of Prodex. I scanned the instructions, and there was no mention of dogs.

I cut my teeth last weekend insulating some of the walls. The challenge for this weekend was tackling the ceiling. The precience of our purchase of the grand ladder became clear; I spent the majority of the weekend on the ladder, leaning back, staple gun above my head, fitting and attaching Prodex and fiberglass to the 23.5" space between the ceiling beams.

It was slow going:

But eventually the bare ceiling disappeared:

As did the roll of Prodex:

And eventually, the ceiling was a sea of kraft paper waves.

You can't see it, but underneath the mask, I am grinning the grin of a crazed, hot, gratified man.

The little montage above documents the work of several days. Along the way there were complications. Because this barn was never meant to be insulated, it is not layed out neatly for the ease of he doing the insulation. The dimensions are uneven and there are an inordinate number of diagonal cross beams that must be negotiated. And then there are the wires, which while necessary, do complicate one's best attempts to neatly orient the Prodex. For example:

Another man could have grown frustrated. I struck this pose, aiming to threaten the Prodex into straightening out.

My tactic was effective.

To my utter shock.

Another complicating factor was the heat. Saturday was hot. Sunday was ridiculous. It was 95 degrees outside on Sunday and easily another 10 degrees hotter on the second floor of the barn. I had to drink constantly and still could not stay hydrated. After approximately 15 minutes, my clothes were completely wet. Not just damp, but saturated with sweat, as if I had just climbed out of the pool.

These patches, for example, are from the sweat of my knees.

Every two hours or so I went back to the house and changed into another set of clothes, putting the ones I'd just ruined in the wash to be worn again some two hours hence.

It was so hot and humid that my mask also became saturated, making it possible to breathe through. I switched to the backup mask. Soon both were unusable (and sang with an inarticuable reek and funk). Out of options, I put one of the masks into the laundry with my clothes and Lo! it came out as good as new.

For the most part Iggy spent the weekend on the porch at the house (fiberglass is bad for a dog's lungs, too), but I brought her over occasionally to check out the progress. It's strange, but she really loves the barn. She's enthusiastic about most things, but it's clear from the way she races up the stairs whenever we arrive, that she knows that this is her new space and that she's eager to start living here. Or maybe that's just projection. Because it's certainly true for me.

Once I finished insulating the ceiling, the next order was the bedroom. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday on the ceiling and walls in the big room and had thought that the bedroom, small as it is, would be an afterthought for a short day of work Monday. I had underestimated the complexity of the bedroom and soon realized that Monday would not be a short day of work.

Here, for example: we placed this series of boards against the beam to create support for the header for the west wall of our bedroom. The boards made Prodex hanging rather difficult.

But not impossible. This time I used gentleness instead of intimidation.

And eventually, the bedroom ceiling was done.

The bedroom walls presented such challenges as this beam, which made an otherwise straightforward task rather complex. I am not known for patience. But I dug down.

Dramatic shot of Matthew and Prodex (on bedroom ceiling).

By this point, the Prodex was nearly gone.

Fortunately, the bedroom was done, and the need for Prodex done with it.

The finished bedroom from a slightly different angle.

Once the bedroom was complete, all that remained was the big wall that separates the big room from the bedroom and the stairwell. This being new construction, the work of hanging the insulation was easy and predictable, a refreshing departure from two and a half days of improvisation.

See how the studs are all evenly spaced? Notice the lack of intervening diagonal beams? I was glad to have saved this for last. At this point I was just about running out of gas.

Here's a shot standing on the stairs, looking up at the back of the big wall and the bedroom wall.

And another, for good measure. See the dust motes? In their midst are milions of tiny airborne shreds of razor-sharp glass fibers. This is why I wore the mask. This is why Iggy was not invited to hang out in the barn this weekend.

There is one more adventure to relate. Since our bedroom does not connect directly to the big room, we thought it would be fun (and useful) to have a cat door so that the cats could pass freely between the bedroom and their litter should the spirit move them. I had discussed framing the cat door with Michael and Ken, but had not yet gotten around to it given the pondfull of bigger fish to fry. Hoping to finish as much of the insulating as possible, however, I realized that the time had come and that there was no one but me on hand to get the job done.

I used Bob's table saw to cut two side supports the same height as the cat door:

And cut two narrow strips for the cat door to attach to:

I then cut a top support to span the two studs in question:

I then used the (harder than it sounds) toenail technique to fasten the whole shebang into the existing framework.

And so the cats will have egress:

Given the long list of potentially threatening factors (tall ladder, sharp box-cutter, searing heat, my already acute procilvity for unwitting self-mutilation) I am gratified to report that the list of casualties is light. The worst injury of the weekend happened before I even left Baltimore. I stabbed myself in the right thumb with a fork while scrubbing it too vigorously. In the barn I twice bumped my head against nails sticking down from the ceiling and twice banged my head against the boom of the crane that lifts things between the kiln room and the Florabana warehouse. I suffered the indignity of all-over fiberglass rash, but that's more irritating than actually painful. In fact, the greatest casualty of the weekend was none other than Bob's Power Shot staple gun.

Previously, the Power Shot had a nicely contoured handle meant to make the act of pressing and ejecting a staple much easier on the hand. After the 11th (or perhaps 12th) time of being knocked from the top of the 8-foot ladder, the Power Shot gave up and jettisoned its handle. I'm not sure what this sign of protest was intended to achieve, but it had the impact of making my stapling quite a bit more difficult. My forearm this morning is a work of art. A swolen, painful, badly fatigued work of art.

The other casualty was Seiko's hydrangia, which I pruned to appease a passerby who claimed that it was impeding her progress along the sidewalk and that if it wasn't pruned soon the city would likely intervene. Not wanting to see Seiko carted off to the Kent County slammer upon arriving home, I took matters into my own hands and pruned back the beast.

At the end of the day Monday, the barn was in a sorry state of repair. Because of the odd angles and uneven measurements, there was a great deal of fiberglass detritus.

So I cleaned it up.

This is going to be a nice space.

The other direction:

For the first time, you can really get a sense of how nice the exposed beams are going to look:

I'll leave you with this shot looking from the foyer through our front door and out the recently-opened front door into the street. I like the patch of early-evening sunlight on the far door. Our new home is going to be beautiful. Thanks Bob and Seko, for making this possible.

I'm now back in Baltimore on the morning of the 4th of July. There is no part of me that doesn't ache. I don't think I could do more work today if I had to. Or maybe I could. This afternoon I will grill steaks with Chris and Emily, the second year of a two-year tradition. And tomorrow, back to work for a three-day week.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:08 PM

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

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)

May 09, 2006

Bad News


Bail donations are welcome. Send cash only to: 4220 Falls Road.

If we get enough money, we might also buy some real estate in the Everglades...

Posted by ribbu at 10:58 PM | Comments (3)

April 30, 2006


After four straight weekends of junk removal, we finally started constructing this weekend. The work was neither glamorous nor particularly satisfying to behold, but there was something deeply gratifying about actually doing it. Our task was to address the problem of the drafty front wall of the barn, which is nothing more than barn board nailed up against rafters. Sunlight and rain could pour through at will. As could heat and cold.

We started by nailing these two boards across the most conspicuous gaps. This required nailing straight up into the board below the sill. It was an awkward way to swing a hammer, and I ruined two nails before I got the hang of it.

Then Bob used caulk to made a seal between each board.

Then came the tarpaper. Robbi measured and cut (she's the careful one) and I attached them using the staple gun (I'm the reckless one, who should not be trusted with the staple gun).

There were some high and hard-to-reach sections of the wall. Robbi tried to place a big sheet of tarpaper in a section behind a horizontal beam but got frustrated and started swearing. So I tried.

It was frustrating. But I dug down deep and found a formerly inaccessible region of patience. Which I tapped, somehow, and somehow got the sheet of tarpaper to fit. And so on for the other five high and hard-to-reach sections. The rare patience continued to guide me. I hardly knew myself. It was deeply gratifying.

And useful from a home-insulation standpoint.

See how the wind can no longer whip through our wall with impunity?

Iggy was not impressed.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:38 PM