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521 Posts By ben

  • House – plans

    Since the modifications I’m making to the house now are quite specific to our living arrangements, I’ve stopped updating the 3D model I made to design the house. I’ve also gained in confidence and experience such that I don’t need to do everything virtually before I grab a hammer.

    Before launching into this adventure, I spent a good deal of time online reviewing designs, techniques and best practices. In case this is useful to someone else I’m publishing the core design here. This design was critiqued over multiple iterations by many carpenters, builders, furniture makers & all around smart handymen.


    A few points:

    • it is very modular
    • a few features are specific to us
    • the gambrel design is balanced (every angle 22.5 and equal lengths)


    Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 22.21.36


  • House – Insulation

    The house is all insulated thanks in no small part to my brother. R30 in the floor, R23 everywhere else; with this and the stove we will be just fine this Winter. We lost 64ft^2 to wall insulation.

    Working against gravity




  • House – Chimney & Stove ready for action

    It took me much longer than anticipated to get the chimney in place. There is a lot to know about it and I can’t afford half measures for this one needs to be perfect. It took a lot of research and an ton of measuring and thinking to do. Also a couple of tough days spent on the roof, again. This is probably the most emotional project of this whole ordeal. Cutting a hole through the roof that cost us so much in worry, sweat and money was hard. Messing up design or tolerance could bring an abrupt end to a dream coming to fruition. On the other hand it means getting wood heat on the coldest days. It’s hard to think straight with this much at stake.

     Looking up the chimney through the 2nd floor to its topIMG_0450

    The house looks more complete with a chimneyIMG_0364

    Everything went well with the chimney and the stove took quite a bit of work too, most of it was done a while back when we acquired it.

    Weights a ton


    We bought the stove second hand & disassembled so there was quite a bit to figure out.


    To line the sides of the burning chamber with fire bricks, we had to chip them to shape with a hammer and chisel. I then coated every hole, crack or worn surface with refractory cement.

    First time I got to use the expression “chipping at it” literally.


    Nice fit


    One clean looking burning chamber


    We fired the stove last night; first time since we own it, first fire in our house just as the days are starting to get colder. The first of many ritualistic fires to come.


  • House – the bytes must flow

    Thanks to the solar install, we’re able to power a modem. I bought a 35Ah battery and the modem draws 1A. Of course we’re powering a few other things but this is by far the biggest consumer right now. 3Mb  isn’t bad at all where we are. The Fairpoint guy who showed up was awesome and didn’t mind hooking into a rudimentary shed with a 12V battery and wires all over :).


    We’ll clean this up in due time IMG_0489


  • House – rudimentary plumbing


    No more emptying buckets outside! As I said, when starting form scratch the slightest improvement can be a huge victory.

  • Apple tree discovery

    We thought we were going to have to wait 10 years before we could produce apples but it turns out that our land came with quite a few apple trees. We took a good hike and sampled every tree we found. A good few were tart, some just not usable and a couple yielded good surprises. It also seems to be an excellent year for apples and so we find ourselves with more apple than we’ll know what to do with before we even planted a tree. They need a few more weeks to yield their exact flavor but it was a nice appetizer :) It’s cool that these trees make apples that are unique to the place. We will graft the couple of good surprises in due time.


    Some of them will definitely need more breathing room


    Branches falling down under the weight of yumminess


  • Moving brush

    Centralizing brush piles to have a big bonfire.

    Let’s see how much of it I can grab with the winchIMG_0133

    Not bad, this is fun


    Adding non treated wood scraps from the construction for good measure


  • Roaming chickens

    We finally let the chickens explore their whole area. We kept them pretty close to their coop for a while so they’d learn where home it. We’re getting better at this this is the most seamless chicken integration we’ve had. No loose chicken, no running around in the forest, no stubborn roosting habits. We know how to foster good habits now and it’s making everyone’s lives a lot easier. They now roam around all day and go home on their own at night. It’s a pleasure to open their door in the morning and see how happy they are to satisfy their instincts. They are still fenced in for now but on a large area that we’ll rotate. In a few weeks they will probably be ok with no fence but then the predators might be an issue.

    Go my minions, keep that grass down for me.


  • Solar – little steps forward

    It’s been hard to finally get to wiring what I have for a solar install. I’m still fuzzy on some of the science and I want everything to be perfect for the big launch. Necessity and having all the gear sitting there is making me reconsider. This afternoon I decided to wire the basics and deal with the imperfection.

    What we have now are 2 panels in parallel, a charge controller, a 35Ah deep cycle battery and the load. No inverter, no clean wiring, no fancy instrumentation to measure everything.


    What this gives us is the ability to use a 12V DC socket and 3 USB ports, even when the sun is not shinning :) This isn’t much but as I said earlier, when starting from scratch everything is a huge victory. It sounds trivial until you realize how much everything we do now is either 12V DC or USB powered. The charge controller comes with its own USB port with which I tested powering a Raspberry Pi.

    I’m so exited about generating my own electricity. Solar is really beautiful, much more so than I thought it would be going in. I’m really amazed that these panels just sit there and make electricity. I’ve always known that but I’m actually using this electricity, I find myself contemplating the system for a lot more than its function. It feels like getting something for nothing, while not burning fossil fuels, while going straight to the source, while being independent, while drinking a beer. I’m a fan.


  • Coyotes

    Sometimes it takes guts to take a leak.

    This one is sound only


    I dropped a skunk a few nights ago that had become a little too comfortable with the crawl space under the house. I’m still impressed at how fearless it was with me; it showed almost the same level of not giving a shit about anything I’ve seen in porcupines. Renowned defense mechanisms lead to carelessness apparently.