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Category Archives: building

  • 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.

  • Well, we’re in

    That’s it, we moved into our little 16’x16′ 2 story gambrel. It’s far from finished inside but it’s dry and cozy. For now it’s a little bit like camping which is quite ok in the Summer.

    We love the outside shower


    It’s a very interesting process to start from scratch and one that we wanted to go through. The smallest improvements we make have a drastic impact on our lives and are cause for celebration. The shower above started as just a solar heating water bag, we added a platform, then something to hold the bag, then a couple of walls.  It will soon have a water tank perched above. We are currently going through everything in our lives and carefully deliberating what we really need. And it turns out, we don’t need a whole lot.

    We’ve been without plumbing or electricity for the past 3 weeks and it barely registers as an encumbrance. Sure we have extra chores related to this (emptying buckets, charging batteries, doing dishes) but the simplicity gains largely offset them so it’s pretty much a wash. I’ve been messing around with a couple of solar panels and it opened my eyes to the world of 12V DC power which boating or RVing are familiar with. I’m starting to see that 110V AC is for a specific type of use (centralized power generation, distance distribution, high use) and that it doesn’t fit well the new world of high efficiency devices with batteries. It makes no sense to burn coal and loose 84% of its energy through conversions (coal->motion->electricity->transmission->charger) so you can charge a low powered DC device.

    Picture bellow, charging a tablet, a cell phone, a USB shower pump/head, cellular internet access, and lighting with 1 solar panel.


    Everything we need has its own battery, this is why running straight from a solar panel with no charge controller is fine. The battery bank and charge control is delegated to the devices. Truth be told, I will probably have a battery in the final solar design for the convenience of being able to charge things at all times of the day, especially in the winter. I’m still figuring things out, but one big discovery is that power inversion to 110V AC and the loss that comes with it is far from necessary. It does mean no big appliances like a dishwasher or clothes dryer. For refrigeration there exist pretty neat 12v DC fridges but it’s not the type with 2 doors and an ice dispenser.

    We still have major projects to complete before the Winter, because when the cold and the short daylight hit, everything we’ve learned is off the table.

    • we need a good roof
    • more insulation downstairs
    • a chimney and hooking the cookstove to it
    • septic installation

    I recently spent a good chunk of time on the roof finishing the rakes, making a few last cuts and flashing it to get it ready for the roofers… Yes, we’re buying our way out of this one. Hours spent doing high altitude acrobatics and a few good storms will do that. We need a real roof fast and I’m sick of being up there. This means we’re also getting a standing seam metal roof with no punctures into the underlying sheathing. I’ve learned how much harder gambrels are over conventional roof designs.

    However it’s hard to resist that New England barn charm


    Now we are hypocrites in some regards; there are things that our household doesn’t support right now. We get potable water from outside. We do laundry outside. Lastly, we use gas to power equipment (generator, chainsaw, ATV). We’ll be addressing the first 2 soon but our reliance on gas is unlikely to go away unless we start rearing horses. Which, I really don’t see happening anytime soon.

    5 years after giving up motorcycles, I get to ride again in the good name of Utility :)


    Overall this is an awesome experiment to go through. There’s a lot of self discovery, learning, eye opening, liberating & fun going on. I can’t believe we’ve been in there 3 weeks already.

  • House – Many Things over a long week end

    Too tired for details.

    Opening up the top of the roof for air flow, dust is slippery


    While I’m up there doing panoramas


    Prepping for a sandbox


    600kg of sand later


    Filled the gussets with 2 bys, roughed in electrical, insulation & vapor barrier on 2 upstairs gable walls


  • House – Baffle Vent

    That’s about it for today :)


  • House – Roof Rakes

    I enclosed the ones connecting to the inside of the house so bugs wouldn’t get in. Screen was stapled over the ventilation holes.



    The field was just mowed, a glimpse of how nice a place it’ll be once we’re out of the chaos of construction.



  • House – More Windows

    Small 2nd hand windows for now, all framing will allow for a bigger ones later on.


    Custom cut cedar trims, me likey


    Let there be light