move in

I had said for many months that we would be in for the holidays. By golly we made it, with help from a shoe horn and some olive oil. Activity and its buddy exhaustion reached a peak. Noel the clay plasterer scrubbed walls one last time, Maxine scrubbed shower tile for the first time, we vacuumed until late each night and fought for a temporary certificate of occupancy.
The plastic foams we'd been saving got loaded in Michael's van. We were able to recycle the expanded polystyrene (think coffee cup stuff,) that is too often used for packaging. Various hard plastics for strapping etc. also got recycled.
I was surprised that we couldn't recycle the #7 polyisocyanurate (above) that Hubbardton Forge uses for its packaging, unless we wanted to transport it to Hayword, California. REALLY disappointed, and am writing them a letter. I understand their need to protect the glass shades. How about this wild serrated corrogated cardboard that came with the stove from Scandanavia? Michael came to a great solution, though: he'll going to break it up into small pieces and throw it into his attic for additional r-value.
Friday was moving day. We lifted and carried and loaded and drove. Three trips for the 24' U-Haul, plus our vehicles. My calves are still burning. A bunch of boxes that hadn't been opened in 18 months.
It's very hard to describe the feeling I have occupying this home. As things get put away and we can find our wallets, our socks and our senses, drawer pulls get installed, the lighting gets programmed... I accept it all with wonder. Perhaps with the most excitement, we get a tree and light the stove.
...and pose for a group picture with the crew. From left is Hobart, Michael, Jake River, Maxine, me, David and Val. Quite an effort, quite a team.
Dexter and Annie Brown express their own levels of comfort.

There's still much to do, and we'll push on both with our hammers and this journal. Next up is a breakdown of the home systems and methods, furniture design, the completion of the studio, and my own once-again changing role.

For this weekend, we'll rest (and ski!) Maxine's mom Irene is here helping, Dean and brother Paul are on their way. Sierra and Sheila (who ALMOST didn't get through O'Hare last night) are coming, some friends and neighbors are stopping by. There's a gingerbread house to bake. From all of us here at The Vermont Street Project, from New Energy Works Timber Frame Homes and Pioneer Millworks, Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukah, and a Great New Year.


2009, a house odyssey

It's 10pm, and I'm getting in from the site a bit late again. Dragging less than I would have thought. We're into the last few days before move-in, and this is about fun and spark. Val and Michael stayed on until past 7, and we had some burritos and beer, chatted through the world's problems, but mostly just wound down. Then I got some private time to just doodle in the quiet space. This is that magical time when so little, relatively, is left to do and the house is about to be launched from project status on toward becoming a home. Our home.

Do you remember the Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams? A stuffed rabbit has to be loved to become real. (Really, you've got to read this.) Gets tattered and worn along the way, but eventually becomes real, because it is truly loved. The Vermont Street Project is stepping into its own velveteen journey now. Time to become a home, old friend. Plan to get worn along the way.

Tonight I dallied a bit in the dusky empty spaces... doing stuff. You know, good and necessary stuff, like some more cleaning, and putting second coats of oil on a couple of floors, and painting the pipes of the Rais wood stove a proper gray, and finishing installing Hal. Hal is the refrigerator. He doesn't move around much without help, but he's quite a bit smarter than me, and there's a lot to him. There's so much to him that Val suggested that we might want to get him his own Facebook page. No I mean it. Last night Val and I and Justin the plumber spent hours with Hal. (I should note that earlier, a good many of us had about broken our backs getting Hal off my old Ford '78 pick up, up the walk and in through the front door. To give you an idea how heavy he is, 3 people spontaneously burst out laughing at the appliance place when they set in into my truck bed and the springs shot from smile to frown in excited immediacy.) Once in place, we had to give him water, electricity, hook up his hard drive with antenna so he could... I dunno what, communicate? It took a few minutes but when we found the hidden "On" button the insides look like a well-lit runway and the LED controls were clearly calling out to us.Then we wiggled this and adjusted that. And then we wiggled this some more and adjusted that QUITE a bit more. This dance went on for a while, but with both satisfaction and growing anticipation we could tell the battle was going our way. He's tight into his niche now, comfortable and secured. I just need to figure out what he's trying to say to me.

Hal is a Miele 36" single door with bottom freezer. model #KF1901SF. This is an amazingly well made appliance; German company, made in Turkey. Almost all of our appliances are Miele, and most made in Germany. BASCO, our supplier in Portland, has been extraordinary to work with, and has a showroom that will make you weep.


is it too much?

I look at the health care debate from a practical angle, as a business owner. In doing so, I can skip past the part where the conversation would lead me to ask, incredulously, "Why would anyone not want others to have this?" I have numerous friends and acquaintances I respect with whom I would differ on this topic, philosophically. We are wired differently.

What I simply don't get is why the entire business community, other than the medical insurance lobby, obviously, isn't DEMANDING a rational argument and a national health plan. One that would offer an option for a public policy that would be a viable and regulated alternative to the system right now.

The medical industry represents 15% of our GNP. The next nearest industrialized country spends about 6%. How can I compete with that? If it is simply logical that my co-workers and staff need to be healthy, and that therefore I need to supply them with the funds to buy health insurance, and this insurance is rising by many multiples of the cost of living, then it would seem the system is broken, and by looking at systems that aren't (the German, the Swedish, even the French, for God's sake,) we could possible learn something.

I've been blessed with some great staff and subcontractors at the Vermont Street Project. I'm dismayed by how many are not covered by health insurance. It's a bad way to run a country. And now it looks like the public option, first weakened to a level of insipidness, is now off the table entirely. Score another for big insurance.



The temperature has just dropped to well under freezing here in the pacific northwest. It's possible that my luck has run out in my effort to get the majority of concrete placed before spring. That said, we've had a great last two weeks of reasonable weather, and we've poured:
  • 100ft of 4' tall retaining wall, which is most of it
  • The front stoop
  • The studio porch floor
  • The grilling and dining patios
  • A small section of parking area
The above were given a slight broom finish, but basically smooth.
We also poured the entire length of center spine squares of exposed aggregate-finished concrete squares, about 150' long statement that unites fron to back, and defines the space between the main home and studio/garage.
Very psyched. I'm also a bit surprised by my reaction to getting these exterior hardscape elements completed. exterior site finishing and landscape architecture are perhaps my weakest area, in terms of hands-on experience and design confidence. Now that we've added this skillset to New Energy Works Timber Frame Homes with the addition of Don Naetzker, who brings a wealth of planning and landscape design experience into our community, it's a new set of opportunities and interest.

I'm not sure I was ready for how this work has suddenly defined our home as both welcoming and livable. We have a sidewalk sort of thing now, not mud and gravel. It brings me to my home. It says we are almost there.


on my knees

With some of our floors, there's nothing like a penetrating oil like Land Ark to bring out the depth of color, grain and ultimate character. two examples are our Settler's Plank, which is a recycled hardwood from the jackets, or outsides, of industrial or agricultural timbers, or weathered boards. the uneven and patina'd nature of this material really calls for a vigorous rubbing in of oil.

We also like to use oils on Douglas-fir, as in this vertical grain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified floor in the tower. The early and late woods in the grain jump right out. Since the wood is quite soft anyway, it would imply that this room is a shoes-off area. It would also imply that we need to be ready to renew the oiled finish perhaps twice a year. With oil, this simply means rubbing in more. No sanding. etc, as long as you're not trying to make the natural dents and surface mars from your 8 year old Jedi warrior go away, and good luck with that!