Ah, summer. It feels like it’s been here for ages as we’ve had an unusually warm spring. I feared a cold dose of “June-uary” (aka days of rain as in January) so didn’t set some things in the ground as early as I could have, but that’s been okay.
It’s so wonderful to have our garden beds full of rich soil and producing tasty rewards. We’ve been waiting for years to have room to grow like this and we’re making the most of it! In May I harvested my first ever good beets. In May! The carrots weren’t much further behind and the lettuce and chard crops have been amazing. I’ve also taken more than 12 pounds of potatoes from three plants to give the others room to grow.
The garlic grew so quickly and so strong but then I think I forgot to water in our unusually warm spring. (I don’t recall ever watering garlic in past years) but they were showing signs of stress and it made sense… there was no moisture in the top 3″ of soil at least. In time that nasty rust took over so I cut off the scapes and ripped off every bit of rust-infested stalk I could. They were pretty sad looking for the month of June but wowsers, what a haul when I ripped them out of the ground (to make room for the leek transplants) yesterday.
I’d never come across the dry bundle of onion sets in our garden centres before but over March break I did. Wow, they are so much easier than starting from seed and they’re prolific too! The bundle I had got split between 3 households and I got nearly 50 walla wallas. It meant there was no room for my leeks right away but we’ve been eating our onions for weeks now.
One of the first things on my list this spring was getting rid of weeds. I wish I’d taken pictures of the mess I’d made with all the flattened cardboard along the sides of our property. It was pretty ugly but I figured it was the easiest way to keep from having to weed all the time. I’d wanted to avoid a lawn completely and put wood chips down where we used to have sand and weeds but it took a while to dig out the soil and build a support to keep the chips from landing on our neighbours lawn. At that time we added some plants (including a Japanese maple that should grow to obscure the view of our kitchen from the neighbours bedroom window) and some rocks to soften the edges. It’ll be a while before things fill in but for now I’m quite happy with the result.
I was getting a little distressed with the lack of room for our brassicas, beans and peas and since the sale of the house next door didn’t immediately result in the construction of a carriage house or fence I convinced Kevin to build another box along the property line. I also found a spot for some blueberry bushes and an asparagus bed. I was a little late getting the asparagus started so we’ll have to see how that goes. I have some new starts in pots near the front door so I can make sure they’re healthy (since I lost a few in the main spot right away).
Blueberries were a bit of a surprise. It started out that I bought one as a “just because” gift for Kevin a few months ago but it turns out I like them now too so we have 4 different bushes. There are two of the itty bitty 2′ x 2′ variety, a full-sized one, and another that’s in between. Yay for growing food! We also added 3 little apple trees earlier this year too – a 4-variety espalier, a golden sentinel (the stick kind you can grow in a pot), and a mini-dwarf honey crisp. It’s been fun to make space for all these much needed sources of nourishment and to watch them grow!
In the “landscaped” parts of our yard the yard things are coming along. The vine maples are getting bigger, the bunchberry is becoming more carpet-like and the huckleberries…. oh, those are the best! I also like that the birds come to visit our trees and the smoke bush that hangs in from the neighbours side. I get to hear them at breakfast and dinner and watch them when I’m out on the deck for lunch. Oh and those rudbeckia’s are out of control big this year. I can’t wait for them to bloom.
It’s been two weeks since I last posted an update and in that time we’ve seen a lot of other homes (more on that coming in another post) and a lot of progress on our own home. True, it’s not as quick as a pre-fab or tract home build but for all the special little intricacies of our custom home, things seem to be progressing well.
We were home when the windows arrived from Kamloops. It took a few days to get all the openings ready but then it was so amazing to see how each window and door transformed the space (although the sun made it hard to capture this in photo form). It was definitely more expensive to go with wood windows and all the divided lites but now that they’re in I’m so glad we didn’t cheap out. They so enhance the quality of the space and I know that our eyes, noses and hearts will be thankful for many years to come!
We were fortunate with the weather too as it only started to rain again today, just a few hours after the last door went in!
Inside there has been more framing and blocking and in the next little bit we should get our metal roof and the front porch.
We’re getting to have a few very popular refrains around here. They go something like “I can’t wait until we’re in our new house” and “we’re going to love living in our new house”. Life has been busy but lately we’ve been able to find more time to enjoy the build process and relax a bit.
Our site as it looked when I went out this evening:
Can you tell the difference?
It might not be entirely obvious but we’re finally climbing up towards the second floor. I could hardly contain squeals of excitement as I ascended the stairs!
We’ve been waiting for some time (hmm… about 11 months I guess) to see what it looks like up there and I finally got my first glimpse today.
From the one place where I could stand there wasn’t quite as much view of the range we have looked out towards for more than 3 years. There were a few cool surprises though. It’s a straight out view to see who’s climbing out one window and we get a sneak peak of a local landmark. Just how it will look when our views are restricted to the windows, I can’t yet tell but I’m looking forward to finding out in a few weeks!
It’s no fun posting without photos that show progress and last week was dedicated purely to sending back the yucky wood, locating better wood and then having the crew sand it since we were fully booked up with other things.
Here’s what it looked like before they got started yesterday:
Then I came home from work yesterday and there had been a whole LOT of progress. Here are the photos I took this afternoon:
To support all those joists they had to frame a few more of the internal walls and spray paint the visible joist hangers. They’re black to go with our future roof!
With the ceiling delineated the living room feels much more cozy (and I think it will be much better when that one window hole gets cut out):
And from the kitchen sink it will look like this (plus the deck, the veggie garden and some shrubbery):
Look at our beautiful floor! That’s the colour of wet, uncured, Omaha Tan my friends and what will soon be our main floor.
It turns out that we didn’t have to wait long to get this poured after all. I nearly forgot to mention what happened before that though – the plumbing for hydronic (aka in-floor) heating.
We’ve been having quite the dilemma when it comes to deciding what sort of heating to use. From the very beginning we really liked the idea of hydronic heating as it’s much quieter than a forced air furnace (and we sleep right beside a noisy one in our current home) and more importantly, is the cleaner heating option when it comes to indoor air quality. All was well and good until we started to hear about air-tight hydronically heated homes that were too hot and we got the price tag for our dream air to water heat pump system.
The whole topic of heating is complex and I found it really hard to find good information on why other builders went with the options they did as we went through this process. We still haven’t made a firm decision on how things are going to work but we realized it was still better to put the pipes in before having the concrete poured so we could have the option.
When it comes to warming the hydronic system we’ve narrowed it down to using either an electric boiler or an air to water heat pump. That type of heat pump, while not quite as costly as a ground source heating system, is still really pricey, especially for a small house. The standard choice for many with a hydronic seems to be to use a gas-fired on-demand system but it isn’t something I can muster up a willingness for. For starters I have concerns with in-home emissions. Add to that my experience of THREE gas leaks in my 5 1/2 years of owning homes with natural gas and my distaste with how gas extraction and distribution is managed in our country… natural gas in our new home just doesn’t make sense.
While we’re on the topic of heating I should mention that we’ve also looked at electric baseboards and that’s probably what we’ll have for back up heat upstairs since we’re anticipating that heat will travel up there quite easily on its own. Should we not choose to use the hydronic plumbing the other main alternative we’re investigating is a ductless air to air mini-split heat pump system. When we finally make a decision we’ll have reason to celebrate the end of a many month long struggle about what to do!
This was a busy week for us where very little happened on site other than the wood being delivered. What beautiful wood it is!
Today we finally had the chance to go out and start making it look pretty. In the small pile that we started on today we’ve got a beam that goes over the inside of the entry way, exterior corner posts and two skinny little posts that define the transition between our entry and living room. Later in the day we started on the deck posts.
When our sanding equipment wasn’t blaring we chatted about the difference between structural and architectural lumber. It turns out that with the exception of my first posts (the ones between the entry and living room), all the wood represented varying degrees of the two elements. Those “little” posts (relatively speaking) are purely architectural and something we requested. Others like the post for the SE corner of the house are clearly structural as windows abut them on two sides, but there’s also an architectural element that connects them with the overall language of our house. Then there are beams that support our covered deck. They are huge! While they perform a structural task their sizing is without question architectural.
We were just about to pack up and take a break for lunch when the grey clouds that had been building all morning gave way to precipitation. Fortunately we’d prepared a space indoors and only a few drops landed on our wood before we had it safely stowed away.
The rain didn’t last so after taking care of the usual weekend errands we went out again to finish what we’d started and take a crack at sealing the wood that will be visible on the inside.
We’re using a water-based “Professional” (lower VOC’s than the regular grade) varathane for that but the debate on what to use on the exterior wood continues. That reminds me that I should take a picture of the growing selection of stain samples that are littering our side yard!
This construction project moves in fits and starts. It’s an interesting thing to observe really. Yesterday, there were 6 guys on site – two digging trenches and laying pipe outside of the foundation, another dealing with us landowners, and another 3 working out the interior sewer drains. Then today everything stood still as we waited for the inspection of the drain pipes. Wouldn’t you know though, the plug couldn’t handle all the head and now we have to wait another day for the testing of the pipes before they can be covered up.
Work moved in a similar fashion last week too. We had a foundation ready to be filled but every dump truck in town was committed and it took 4 days before we could get our first load of pit run. (I was out and about that day and it was true – there were loaded dump trucks everywhere!) Our truck arrived and filling and compaction went quickly. We even got our own water hose functioning that day too!
Yesterday we went to look at rock for the backyard since some of it needs to go in next week. Needless to say, we were a bit blown away at the prices. We came back to the site to get input from our digger and found that there were some suitable specimens in the pile of pit run that is currently our front yard.
We have a river feature planned for the backyard too so we spent an hour after dinner pulling out river rock for that too. Kevin’s the strong arm of this part of the operation!