Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I can feel it in the air tonight....

....hold on. Stealing lyrics from Phil (Collins) there. Sigh. The sun is starting to slip below the tree line a little earlier each night. Summer has given me a chance to get a little rest but now I'm feeling a little anxious. It's time to find hay, put up hay, get firewood, put up firewood, stock the livestock and feLION rations, maybe even a few human provisions for Winter. On the upside, maybe I'll loose another twenty pounds this winter too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weird Wind Follow Up

In a previous post, there was a weird wind that left some of our Loewen windows whipped and hanging not in a good way. Well, a few days later, our paper reported this as a storm. It was apparently a pretty bad one and left a lot of damage in it's wake. We finally were able to get a warranty claim processed for the original purchase of our windows and doors. They came out about a week after the storm. They were very professional and thorough. When they were working on the slider in the Garden Level, they noticed and did not like how the handle and lock were working and they fixed it. This may not seem like a big deal to anyone but I can't tell you how many times a certain other person, who also works for the place we bought these from, went through that door. Also, on two windows there was some pieces that they were able to just lightly pull and the pieces came right out. The pins that were used to nail the pieces in were too short. These guys fixed all that up too. Again, fixing the work of the aforementioned certain other person. This crew answered a bunch of questions for us. The Husband was here as I feel I can no longer control the urge to kick the crap out of anyone that looks like they hold a hammer for a living. I absolutely REFUSE for the sake of my freedom to deal with contractors without The (six foot tall) Husband standing next to me. Exceptions: Bob's Sheet Metal, LR Contracting, Hanson Electric. I also REFUSE to EVER go to the Building Department for anything EVER again. That, of course, is a lively discussion The Husband and I occasionally have when we talk about the wind turbine installation. Anyway, so The Husband was able to ask his maintenance questions. These guys addressed our concerns, answered our questions, and fine tuned the windows and doors. They were an interesting crew. They have worked on multi-million dollar homes. They do custom cabinetry. They've seen worse than The Secret Cabin. While it is somewhat comforting to hear that I'm just as stupid as someone that can afford a multi-million dollar home.... Cripes! I know human beings can't be perfect but for crying out loud, hideous framing on a mulit-million dollar home?! You've got to be kidding me. One of the purposes of this blog and the bitching in the blog is to hopefully help protect at least one person from the criminal building industry. It is unfortunate because there are honest guys out there that take pride in their work but finding them is like trying to find a rare, almost instinct animal. My brother is a carpenter. A good one. He said the guys that were in residential building that were really good, closed up shop, and went and got jobs elsewhere due to the economy/housing industry or lack of housing industry rather. He no longer works in the residential sector. He's now working for a huge industrial construction company building roads and bridges. Anyway, I'd been better off just doing my best with macaroni and glitter glue so I don't know what to tell you. My resume includes work for architects, engineers, and industrial contractors. I dreamed of becoming an architect as I typed away on proposals, scopes of work, and specifications. I was secretary to the Vice President of the industrial electrical contractor that performed the electrical work on The State Office Tower II in Columbus, OH. I worked on site during a BP turnaround. There was a trailer that was just for the job schedule. The schedule would constantly change and I'd take down pages of Gaant charts and replace with them with the updated schedule. I read everything I could get my hands on - for twenty years. I designed one home from scratch. The economy was cranking and no one builds a truly custom home. They can't make money or rather a killing on a home they've never built before. I thought I proceeded with caution but.... Back to the windows, I am now in receipt of an estimate to repair the wind damaged windows. It's bad. I feel queasy. Eighty-five dollars an hour for labor and to sit in a truck while it rolls down the road to get here and it's an eight and a half hour drive - each way. I have no idea what our insurance company is going to say. You really can't have just any body work on these. The hardware system is unique to the brand. We'll see. I'm going to close the Loewen window chapter on this blog with this closing statement: While the windows and doors are beautiful, we don't recommend them. They are too fussy requiring an immaculate installation and pricey, certified technicians to maintain and repair them. Some general tips for specing windows and doors: NO push-out casements for a windy site. (They blow closed all the time.) Doors should be out-swing so that when the wind blows it blows the door slab against the jamb thereby making a tighter seal against drafts. Especially, important on a windy site. It is best to let your new construction/remodel settle (probably at least a year, maybe two depending on item and warranty) and just before the warranty is up, in this case on windows and doors, make all your calls for a claim/adjustments. Most importantly, NO ONE cares about you, your home, or your money as much as you do; unfortunately, YOU MUST educate yourself enough to pass an architectural, engineering, and builders licensing exam and even then your odds may be better in Vegas, baby. For your construction budget, the ten percent for overruns is just the beginning. Unfortunately, you're going to have to pay for some work at least twice. Once for someone to run off with your money without coming back and/or possibly twice to pay for it to be done right and/or, if you're like us, you'll just gut things out until you can afford the parts and do the work yourself. Yeah, Vegas, baby. This concludes the window chapter.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thinking required

So, we have our quote from Roger of Bob's Sheet Metal for a different hot water set up. We're still thinking. Some new information has come to light regarding wind turbines which affects the hot water system design. I'm sure The Husband probably told me at least fifty-three times that the turbine has to have a "dump zone." We'll be making power hand over fist in the summer. The excess power from the turbine has to go somewhere. So, we're at the design drawing board on this. First, we need to make a call to our local $200 a month electric bill Electric Company and see if they, at their expense, want to run a line back to the cabin. We had a quote of $8,000 to start to bring a line back here. That $8k bought a lot of equipment here. But, I vaguely remember that Electric Companies, by the year 2012, need to have a certain percentage of their power from renewable resources. Or something like that. If they want to buy power from us, that's fine and the utility company will be our dump zone and we will continue to run off our own system and not purchase any electricity from them; if they don't, that's fine too and we'll plan accordingly. While I'm dreaming of, oh, I don't know, maybe an electric powered infrared sauna as a dump zone; we need to make sure whatever we do, we'll meet our hot water goals of hot showers and hot dish washing water without fires in the Summer; hot showers, hot dish washing water, hot water in the radiant floor heating for the bathroom and front porch in the Winter. Once we know if we have to come up with our own dump zone, we need to lock in our final answer on the turbine. Then we'll start looking at balancing all those numbers (watts) with our needs. My brain hurts.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Like one of those vacuum robots

Only it mows the field. And it's all terrain. Doesn't use any of the cabin's power. With it super hot this is one of Diesel's favorite spots in the "yard." It's kind of low and I think it's cooler. I wasn't real sure how we were going to handle the pasture situation here at The Secret Cabin when we first moved the animals in. I've got a decent size round pen for him. We used it last fall when he first got here. This winter was so  cold, he didn't want out of the barn. Plus, I was worried about frost bite. In the spring, we started using the round pen again. At first, I would lead him from the round pen to the barn in the evening. Then, I started letting him just make his own way to the barn. When I was confident that he was settled in and that it looked like he felt the barn was his home, I started just opening the gate to his pen in the barn and let him roam the property. Apparently, his jobs are mowing, chasing deer, chasing coyote, supervising my every move and following me around as if he were a dog, standing in the UPS man's way, and greeting everyone that comes up the drive. Be forewarned, it's a little Jurassic Park. All that's missing is the screaming and roaring. 

Monday, July 11, 2011


Well, I've not put a fire in the Garden Level heater for about three weeks now which means NO HOT WATER. Yep, COLD showers. One actually gets used to it. The cold water doesn't dry out your skin and my skin feels softer - after the goosebumps go away. And one's face has NO pores after a cold shower. And it is absolutely amazing how little water and how quick a shower one can take when there's no hot water - quick wet down, woohoo, shut the water off, suds up, turn the water back on, woohoo, rinse. Done! Cool, crisp, and refreshed just like a York Peppermint Patty. So, The Husband took his first cold shower last week. He stopped on his way down state for work at Bob's Sheet Metal to get a couple of quotes on adding electric hot water. Why, yes, I am giggling at my Husband. I will get the particular details to you on element wattage and how it affects our electric production and usage. Of consideration, is our inverter. Husband is sleeping and snoring (too bad snoring doesn't produce power) but I believe that our inverter can handle 3500 or 4500 watts. I'll confirm or deny that when I can layout all the details for you. In the meantime, you are cordially invited to practice living off-grid by taking a cold shower. Woohoo!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weird Wind

It was hot and super humid in the Keweenaw yesterday. I did chores late hoping things would cool down. I had just finished my outside chores by LED flashlight and sat down for a moment before starting my before bed chores in the cabin. It was 11 pm. All the Garden Shed windows were open and all the windows on the main level of the cabin were open. There was no breeze to speak of. Then I heard what I thought was either rain coming or the wind in the trees, however, something was different. At 11 pm, I'm slower than usual. Hmmm? What is that? Something feels weird. That's kind of loud for rain. Is it getting louder? Then it was eerily still and quiet. Then for just a moment, I felt something. I don't know what it was. It wasn't really air. The Secret Cabin kind of exhaled. I know that sounds super wack-o but there's a lot of wood in the cabin and it contracts and expands with the temperature and humidity. But never like this. That wasn't it. It was like the roof was being pressed down. Then, all of a sudden, the wind came from out of no where and ROARED and whipped around the cabin. The windows slammed shut and blew back open repeatedly as a herd of spooked felis catus stampeded from the front porch in all directions. By the time I hurdled the cats in my oncoming traffic, the wind was blowing rain through windows hanging half-ripped away from their frames. Shit. I quick-looked the porch and confirmed no cats on the porch and shut the door going from the porch to the kitchen. I ran around the rest of the cabin and got the windows shut and locked while mentally noting all cats present and accounted for. I went back out to the front porch. I was able to get some of the windows pulled in but not enough to latch them. One of the windows was sticking out more than the others and I felt my old cowgirl injuries flame up as I tried to lift the triple pane window into the frame enough to prevent further damage. Now, it was cold. I called The Husband to tell him what happened. He's used to me saying weird things so that didn't concern him as much as if the Garden Shed and Barn were okay. So, out into the down pour. The Garden Shed was fine. No broken, cheap Pella windows. The temperature had dropped ten degrees since I was last out there about 20 minutes previously. Next, the Barn. By the time I got to the Barn, my shirt and shorts were completely soaked down to my skin and I couldn't see through my lenses. Diesel was pretty concerned, doing the horse talk whinny-knicker thing, but everything was fine. The chickens and ducks always sound like what I imagine our US Congress sounds like in session. I went back into the cabin and called The Husband to let him know that yes, the Barn was still standing (for now); no, no damage to the Garden Shed; yes, everyone is okay; yes, solar panels still where we last left them but I couldn't get the windows lifted back into their frames. When I went upstairs to the loft to finally turn in after my exciting evening, I discovered the knee wall storage doors had blown open. Quick check for feLIONs, closed the doors and put the items we had stacked in front of them to keep the doors from blowing open back in front of said doors. Sigh. Now, for the day after.

Plant blown off front porch. It took me a while but I did find the planter it was in.

Stupid, over priced Loewen window trying to leave the building. Good riddance, piece of crap.
This screen frame cracked when it blew open. Now it won't close.

Tsk, Oh. Darn, my wind chime got broken. It was hanging on the above screen. 

You have got to be f*ing kidding me. Really? Well, now I'm pissed. This WAS the Swarovski crystal top to the Swarovski Saturn Candlestick Holder. Now retired. It WAS in mint condition. I still have all the original packaging, box, and certificates. It was a gift from The Husband. OOOOOO, I really don't like - a lot - Loewen right now. 
In conclusion, if we were made of money, I'd yank these lame ass windows and doors, load them up in a garbage truck, and ship them back to Loewen Corporate where you cannot reach anyone by phone. They might take some interest if there was a bunch of their windows dumped in one of the executive's parking spot. With the performance of these windows and doors thus far, we do not expect that we will even get ten years out of them. Of course, I don't know how long the poor Secret Cabin is going to be able to keep it together. We've still got leaks we're looking for. I'm concerned about rotting and mold. Then there's the drafts. It's a darn good thing we paid for permits so the Building Inspector was out here and kept the contractors honest, eh? I so badly want to move forward, heal, and get on with my life but I keep getting yanked back down in the mire of construction past. It's hard to move forward when you're still dealing with it all. Shaking head. I just don't know what to do about this mess.