Next up, having now filled the cores of our foundation blocks with concrete, is to prep for the slab in the basement, build the first floor deck and backfill/rough grade the site, to be ready for our timber frame raising on Saturday, 2 May, just 11 days away. On this you’ll hear more, for sure, or you can click here for all the information, and for YOUR invitation, as you would be welcome. We’ll have good soup and better beer, as I’m told by our friend Nick Harville that Rogue Breweries is supplying a keg.

Prepping the dirt for a good slab pour is all about preparing what’s underneath: soil raked flat, stone spread to about 4” deep and then compacted with a plate tamper. We also need to place all the lower level drainage pipes, which means we need to be very sure of where every toilet, floor drain, and sewer pipe are located, because you can’t change any of this after the floor is poured, as you can imagine. The 6 mm polyethylene vapor barrier, between two inches (in the center) and upwards of 4” at the perimeter of extruded polystyrene insulation under a wire mesh that has our cross-linked polyethylene tubing for radiant heating of said concrete floor.

Only THEN can my mason friend, Ken Froeberg, show up with his cadre, steel trowels flashing. Ken and his wife Susan own Water Brothers Construction and if you’re a concrete-as-art-medium freak like me, you need to check out their work. In the struggle to find the right material for counters, for finished floors, even for certain furniture, particularly outside, concrete should be a contender.

At NEW you’ll almost always see a combination of the hard (and typically natural) sharing counter duty with the warmth of wood “where elbows land” as I like to say. Our favorite hard is slate, which is mined from glacier-pressed quarries in New York and Vermont. Peter, a 4th generation quarrier at Sheldon Slate, will give you a tour; call ahead. Good embodied energy, gorgeous and, unlike the too typical Chinese or Brazilian slates, this is impermeable and therefore about impossible to stain.

That said, we've done some fun concrete counters, and are considering more at the Vermont Street Project. Ken and Susan’s work with finish concrete, even including integral sinks, rocks. Or to borrow a Jake phrase, it’s overgood.

Overgood. This might need an explanation: Jake River is all about motors. When I’m not sure about the controls for the latest forklift that shows up, I’ll turn to him, and often, he’ll just know. I don’t know how, but he does. Ask somebody else: lot’s of people have seen this. Alex from the yard team gave him an honorary certificate of training, for gosh sakes. So when he suddenly began talking about something that is great, powerful, way out in front of the rest, that was his designation. Overgood. You know, like overdrive, as in a motor going all out.

He has a thumb-meter assigned to overgood. Bad is thumbs down (you knew this), medium is the thumb horizontally, pointed inboard, good is thumbs up of course. Overgood is the stretch, further rotating the thumb past straight up to the outboard horizontal position, so that it takes some effort, a bit of a stretch, gotta work it. Here’s Jake giving the overgood to ice cream at the base of Multnomah Falls, in the Columbia River Gorge. You get the idea. Makes you want some, yes?