Friday, December 28, 2007

Reflections posted

I was in the process of posting some reflections on our home when I asked my husband for some references. He promptly jumped in and wrote his thoughts which I have published on the right. Just click on the Scribd to enlarge. I think he said it all - at least from the "construction" side.

Supplementing the Sun

There are so many factors involved in the amount of supplemental (or central) heat necessary for any passive solar home - especially one of bermed construction that I wouldn't even consider trying to recommend any. However, here are my thoughts after being in our house for a year.
1 - Design We opted for a modified design (usually for full passive value, you would build in modules with all rooms open to the sun and each other). You can see from our design that we placed baths and laundry behind a hallway as a personal preference. The shower bath therefore is the coolest location in the house and I like to supplement it for those early morning showers.
2 - Building style - insulation, amount of thermal mass concrete, amount of windows, sides bermed, preparation of the slab (see previous posts during construction).
All of these add to the retained heat .
3 - Window treatments - we do not yet have any insulated window treatments to withhold the heat during the night. We may add these later.
4 - Resale - it can be very difficult to get a mortgage for a house without central heat. We never use our radiant heating system though and at times feel it was wasted money.
5 - Type of wood stove. We chose a Tulikivi (because I fell in love at first site). It gives a slow radiant heat - no major hot spots and is great for our living area. We could have also installed a small wood stove in the back of the house and probably only supplemented with wood.

So, in our situation, we do need our Tulikivi. Only for the times that we have more than one day without sun. If during those dreary weeks we wish to have the bedroom and shower room above 64 or so, we also need additional heat at the west side of the house. Do we need or use the radiant heating system - no.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

68 - possible?

Had a question from a reader yesterday that I would like to answer here:
I live in NH and would like to know if it is possible to have a bermed home that stays around 68 degrees with simple supplemental heat.

My thoughts after living in ours for a year:
Yes, of course it depends on two things - the amount of sun and your interpretation of supplemental heat. We find that if we get even two hours of sun in a day, the temp will remain a comfortable mid-sixties through the nights with no additional heat. We may even be a bit over-glazed and it will get up to the 80s until we open the windows (regardless of the outside temps - have had them open with single digits), Our supplemental heat sources consist of the soapstone Tulikivi and stand alone electric heater. Although we have radiant istalled, it is much cheaper to run electric for several hours than to pay for propane.

There is so much more to this answer - it could be a thesis. I would appreciate any further questions or comments.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Cookies

David is the winter cook this year. I posted about his dutch oven heritage bread last week. Well today, he was into cookies (while the storm swirled outside). We now have Ginger Snaps and Oatmeal Raisin -- ymmm.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Trashing the earth?

I just watched a great video around our use of STUFF - I suggest you take a look and pass on this resource.

interactive site:

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

How can you help?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Conversation with interested reader

1. Have you continued to have a good experience with the house? Absolutely - I would never live in a "standard" house again!
2. Have you found that you are using significantly less fuel to heat your home while still remaining comfortable (of course, I can use significantly less fuel in my 190 year old house, but I have been VERY cold!)? We only use wood and a few hours of an electric space heater in the back bathroom. And the Tulikivi only needs to be fired once or twice a day which cuts way down on the amount of wood (and time).
3. Have you resolved the condensation issue? It is much better this winter - the only condensation we have had so far is a small amount on the windows if someone showers at night. No longer an issue.
4. Have you had any problems with leaking? No
5. Do you find that the windows drain a lot of heat at night during cold weather? And do you feel that you need to remedy this with insulated blinds or drapes? Are the windows double-glazed or triple-glazed? The windows are double - actually they are replacement panes for sliding doors. They obviously cool at night, but the concrete holds so much heat that we haven't seen much. We have installed some bamboo blinds for the intense sun on sunny days which makes it nearly impossible to read or work on the computer.
6. How comfortable is the house in the summer? Its fine. Did it get very hot? Not really - we have two attic fans during the day. At night we run the exhaust fans installed periodically through the house to bring in the cool air. Living in the foothills - there was only 1 night that I can recall last summer being overly warm at night.
7. Who was your contractor? A local builder - individual, not a firm. Did he have experience with building this type of home? None Who designed your house? We did.
8. Are you considering including your house in one of the solar home tours? Perhaps when it is finished.
9. And finally, would you do it all over again? Absolutely If so, what would you do differently? That's a hard one as we really love it. Ask me in another year or so.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

The First Loaf

David has been reading about baking bread. Ever since we returned from Germany, we have missed the artisan breads that are available in every town there. You just can't find the whole grains and crusty delights here.
Until today! Today, he tried a recipe he got from Mother Earth News for baking crusty bread in a dutch oven. And is it good. Probably won't do much for the Thanksgiving to Christmas diet, but really - who cares?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Passive Solar 1; Propane 0

Its November. The leaves have all dropped and we still have not needed any heat - as a matter of fact, I have had to open the window at night.

We have had nights below freezing, but enough sun during the day to warm everything up above 75 degrees. Dave did cut enough wood for the winter (it is in the garage) and the pile for next year is started too. But, so far no need. I am actually getting the urge to light the Tulikivi - but it has been too warm in here. Gotta love the sun.

With these shorter days comes thoughts of starting inside house finishing again. First on the agenda -- wood ceilings in the study and living / dining room. I also want to get that final kitchen cabinet made and hung now that we have a design. Then a little paint - and on to the tile floors that are still concrete. Time changes tomorrow night - that makes it dark during the evening news (or before). Ugh.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A great loss

This posting is for Sharon's mother, who we lost on September 18th. She would have celebrated her 81st birthday this December. There are no words for the hole in our lives left by this kind, gracious, generous, loving and downright impressive lady. Her loves in life were many with her family leading the way. She was so excited to see the postings of our home and the flowers in Maine. Here she was napping during her visit.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Final preps for winter

With mornings in the low 40s, we can feel summer coming to and end here in Maine. Although yesterday's humid high 80s still felt like August.

We decided it was time to begin finalizing (as much as is possible since you are never really finished) the outside insulation around the bermed buildings. In order to help keep moisture and coldness from the foundation area, a layer of styrofoam covered with 3 layers of plastic and then stone are placed around the house. We went out 12 feet at a slight slope around the house and 8 feet around the detached garage.
This should be the end of the "berming process".

The torrential rains over the last couple of days made a few ruts, but overall it seems like everything is 'doing its job'.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Slated - finally

The slate countertops and windowsills are in place. Certainly easy to install countertops that weigh over 100 pounds each - just lay them in place. We used mottled-purple on the kitchen counters and striated gray at the windows. It really sets off the work so far.

I love them.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Bird in the Hand

I just checked my favorite Phoebe nest and found that the last of the chicks has flown the coop (so to speak). This is my favorite Phoebe because she managed to raise 4 chicks all within reach of a a most bird-crazy leonberger's nose. She built her nest in the corner of Sophie's and Milos's dog shelter. This is the place that they get brushed - and all the undercoat just pushed outside (love living in the Maine woods). Most of the bird nests are golden red around our place! Now this building site may seem like a good choice for a bird -- protection from predators due to the dogs, lots of soft building materials, and shelter from the elements. But, there was one thing she didn't bargain for - Milos the fearless birddog. Not a dove, chick-a-dee, crow nor sparrow is safe within the range of Mighty-Milos. He spends most of his time (not counting his battle with the local red-squirrel family - another story) darting around, ferociously barking and working hard keeping all birds in the air at all times.

We noticed the mother bird checking out the area, but had no idea she would pick that spot. There was no problem while she built the nest and layed the eggs. Not many issues while she incubated them either -- then they hatched and started making "noises"! Bird noises inside Mighty-Milos's shelter was not acceptable. At first he couldn't figure out how to approach the nest of hair and twigs emitting these chirping sounds since he would always bump his head when he attempted to jump up. So, he resorted to sitting pretty in front of the nest and peeking inside. Finally, after a lot of practice he was able to stand up on his back legs and touch the outside with his nose. Ms. Phoebe would go crazy flitting around and squaking for him to leave her family alone. There was no way we could monitor him at all times and figured the end was near. Daily, I visited the shelter expecting the worst. Believe it or not - he NEVER knocked the nest down! And Momma Phoebe would always return to feeding after his visits.

The chicks feathered, flourished and flew away! (But she didn't lay anymore eggs there.) Somewhere out there is a line of phoebes with an affinity for leonberger breath. So, if you notice one riding around on your dogs head - they probably were "bred in Maine".

Oh Lucky Day

Many of you may remember reading about Milos and the porcupine?? Posting

Yesterday afternoon, I started out with the dogs on a woods walk - Milos on leash and Sophie lallygagging around behind as usual. My husband, David, decided to come with us at the last minute - this will prove to be a lucky choice. Off we went, eating grass, sniffing the air for hare, piddling here and there and overall generally enjoying the nice Maine summer (the dogs anyway). David and I were having a discussion about what a choke cherry really looks like - I am on this quest to identify as many wildplants as possible this year. See posts. And I strode off toward a shady area where I am certain the real chokecherries grow. All of a sudden the leash springs tight and Milos goes on full alert. I glance down to my right. About 3 feet away is a slumbering pile of needles. Poor guy, he was just trying to take a nap in the shade. As I worked to get Milos under control - he recognized his old nemesis, the previously pokey Sophie dashed by at full speed right past David's grab. Now, I like to think I am calm -- but there is something about those beady eyes and waving spines that just sets me off. Or it was remembering the pliers extracting them out of Milos's nose last year. Anyway, they set me off! I'm screaming at her (or it) or Dave or everything; which is not a whole lot of help. Milos is trying his best to convince me that he should be part of the excitement and Sophie is off to investigate. Images of another needle-nose fly through my mind as Dave crashes through the brush in hot pursuit. The porcupine ambles toward a tree (can they even run?) while Sophie darts in and out debating the merits of a close sniff. Thank goodness she is more cautious than "the boy". Dave finally managed to grab her collar and haul her out of the woods. Unbelievably she was completely free of any injury. Whew!

---There are times when a little hesitation can prove to be an advantage. Last week, she came up on a turtle - which she circled for a good 3 minutes before Milos and I got to them. It was a woods turtle on his way to the brook. Milos wanted to immediately make friends and lick the funny colored shell. I swear, if it had been a snapper (like the ones where I grew up), he would no longer have a tongue. Oh the impulsiveness of youth. --

Anyway, its back on leash for both of them for awhile. We seem to only see porcupines during the hotter days in summer, and I know that both will have noses in the air searching for the scent for the next several walks. Boo.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Boom Boom Boom

We again enjoyed the fireworks from the front lawn. Industry is known for having a nice show - and they proved it again.

We are still so dry - the dust is blowing across the front of the house. Milos and Sophie discovered the plastic and styrofoam in the front and to deter any future digging, we spent the morning laying stones. Most of our life in Maine is moving rocks and stones from one location to another - I think this must be a historical occupation in New England.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fenced In

The fence is up and capable of holding the two "coyotes". Yippee!
Dave and I worked all day Saturday to get the front fence up and secure enough for two leonbergers. It was quite a chore in the rock of Maine. Nearly impossible to dig any hole. The entire project was put on hold while we dug up the front yard and put in yet another drainage system. There seems to be an underground drainage that goes right through the center and just never dried out. So, it was either cattails at the front door - or dig again.

Dave dug a trough, put down a perforated pipe, covered with stone, covered with that black cloth to keep dirt out and finally covered. It should help - but turned the entire front into a dust bowl. I mean, we have dust storms like the plains. And when it does rain -- mud dogs!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Yea - its Spring

The weather has been great and we have been taking advantage - not much happening inside this weekend. I will get something posted about finishing off the range hood and starting the tongue and groove walls. For now, you may enjoy some of the wildflowers that are growing on the lot. There is a movie posted with quite a few - check it out on the Betts Video Blog.
Or just see the flowers (I have many to post - check in later this week also) in the Gallery.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Not quite purple

It's Spring - that means a lot more time outside and not so much to report for the "construction". Dave has been working on the bathrooms - we also have the shower now finished (hired it completed). The shower is a walk-in and sits on the north side of the house. That means there are no windows - day light is courtesy of a solatube though. We worry about any moisture in this part of the house. So, we had a complete system installed using a waterproofing called Schluter-Ditra (a polyethylene membrane with a grid structure of square, cut-back cavities and an anchoring fleece laminated to its underside. In conjunction with tiled coverings, Schl├╝ter®-DITRA forms an uncoupling, waterproofing, and vapor pressure equalization layer.). First this covering is applied (like wallpaper - you can see the finished product on the left), then the tile is laid using a special bonding agent. It looks quite nice and we are certainly enjoying being able to take showers again. There are some pictures posted in the Gallery of the process.

The tub bathroom is now painted - Mozart, a very light lavender from True Value. We have some trim to install there around the tub, sink and baseboard. Dave does a much better job with the paint brush than I do.

Turbo Tagger

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Did you notice?

I don't know if you noticed that I have embedded a few podcasts from our regular website. You should be able to see them on the right - and if you click one, you may hear about our adventures. The latest was posted today - all about our adventures at the Leonberger Dog Show last weekend. Milos actually took the show - there were issues though!

Not much happening on the "berm" - interior work can be tedious. I will get an update here soon.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dream closet

Walk in closet is finished and already full.
The modular closet hardware came in and Dave finished installing it this week. It took me about 2 hours to unpack all those clothes that had been stored in boxes and fill it up. I can give new meaning to "build it and they will come". I have a few pictures taken as the filling was in operation.
As you can see, I have lots of hanging and shelving space. Eventually, we will also have a linen closet in the bathroom and perhaps one for bedding at the end of the hallway. That will free up some of the shelves. This type of system turned out to be very stable and I am quite happy that we decided on it rather than having units built.

On another note, the walk in shower tile is being grouted today and I will get the final shots of it. Quite a process with the waterproofing and tiling. That will only leave the ceiling to finish, but we believe we can use it even before that step. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mud Season

Maple Sugaring

Maple Sugar Sunday is very big in Maine drawing large crowds.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Asheville Adventures with Monster Milos - Episode 4

The trip home - weather forecasts continue to be for a huge Northeaster. Packing up in the morning, we took off on our 20 hour trek back to the north country. Probably the scenery was just as nice as on the route down, but we couldn't tell you. Fog, sleet, rain and WIND pretty well camouflaged it for us. We plowed on, getting soaked at each potty stop and marveling over the gusts that waved the van around the road.
Mid-morning we passed Blacksburg, VA with no inkling of what was about to happen there in the near future. On we plowed until the weather really got ugly and we really got hungry about 1/2 way through the corner of NY. So, we pulled over at a truck stop and called our daughter-in-law for a weather report while grabbing a bite. "Snow and freezing rain" -- better get a room.
So, we stayed at a Motel 8 - great, except for the 3rd floor room and the shaky elevator. First trip - no problem, all four into the little box. Milos wasn't thrilled at the slippery tile floor, but Sophie was with him.

Then the door slides shut and the box jolts to a start! PANIC! The world is coming to an end and we are stuck in this little box! Bounces to a halt and we are released into a hallway. WHEW! Everyone (canine and human) was exhausted and hit the beds (the dogs each had a chicken leg that I had sneaked out of the truckstop in a napkin - both must be losing weight).

Next morning around 6 am, they can hold it no longer. Up, on with the sweats - a peek out the window shows more downpours - on with the boots, the raincoat. Trotting off and all is well with the world... until....
Mom wants us in that dangerous box again - NO WAY! Sophie hesitantly gets in the elevator. Milos bulks. I am holding the door which is trying its best to close. Coax Milos onto his feet and he starts in, but wait - Sophie bounces back out and that puts a stop to any progress. Deep breath -- by now both are dancing around wondering why we are messing with this stupid machine instead of finding a nice wet grassy area.
Another method - I go in and firmly state: "Gotta go? Come on". Mother nature's call overcomes the anxiety and they both come in. Door closes - Down we go.

When they were thoroughly soaked, but empty - I put them into the van - and went back upstairs to get ready for the final leg of our journey.

We stopped in Wells (our old hometown) for lunch -- flooded roads and wind damage. Up the turnpike (closed to trucks due to the wind which was measured at 74 mph) and home. We were able to get up the slush on the drive thank goodness.

We had some minor damage - one of the solatubes broke from ice expansion. Dave has it covered with a bucket and plastic until the weather breaks and we can get it fixed. He had just mentioned that we needed to put up a weather / snow break above each of those before next winter. It is always the last storms that get you.

Asheville Adventures with Monster Milos - Episode 3

The Big Day - Saturday
Its morning and he will show in the Novice Class.
I drove him down to the arena (indoor soccer fields) in the van. It wasn't hot - as a matter of fact, it looks like rain - we hear there is a major Northeaster on the way. I walked him around using some of the techniques that everyone has been advising. He does respond better, but is a long way from being able to go with me into the ring. We nearly scared the hair off one young leo when they unexpectedly appeared behind a car. I had no idea what I had on my hands - there is going to need to be major changes in our methods of training when we return to Maine.

I brush him out in the van as the show begins and the Youth classes finish - Novice is next. On with the collar and leash and into the arena - Hup, Two - I scoot him past the other dogs with minor snarls and hand him off to the brave handler. Then I must disappear since we decided it would be best for him to not be able to see me or David (or smell Sophie). I had promised to help prepare his dogs for the next classes. He is off to the ring.....

About 10 minutes into the judging (Swedish judge - Petra Junehall ), chaos! Dogfight - my stomach drops to the floor. It must be the testosterone-boy. I am devastated - but, NO! Here comes a friend with the news that it isn't Milos at all, but two others. He is just standing there looking astounded and being calm as can be. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. It was a long class with several other growls, but he showed very well. Took third place, too. (the winner of his class actually took Best of Show - so the competition was stiff).

What does it mean? He isn't the problem (other than being a teenager) - We are.

Relief - we are having dinner with my cousin who resides just outside of Asheville. Very nice to get away and to see them if even for a short time. Tomorrow we head into the storm.

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Asheville Adventures with Monster Milos - Episode 2

It's Friday morning - one more day before Milos is scheduled for the ring. At least we got a decent nights sleep until about 5:30 before the whining began.
The day's Plan - Walk the "boy" to the show venue and work with him to obtain something that resembles control.

The day's Reality - HELP - I need Cesar Milan! I walked him around a fairly open area, but if anything larger than a beagle came by (pretty much covers all 200 dogs present), alarms were raised. I had to leave as he disturbed the obedience trials - how very very embarrassing!

One of the main reasons for this trip was to have Milos evaluated for Breeding. The LCA performs a total BACL (A BACL is a Breeding Acceptability Check List Evaluation. It is a tool the LCA uses to give your dog a rating based on twelve areas including health, conformation, and temperament. The dogs are given a rating based on their score. This rating, and the detailed feedback is used by breeders to select a dog that compliments the bitch for the betterment of the breed.) If interested, you can see the Instructions for a BACL.
We did get this completed and as soon as I submit his pictures, he will be finished with that process.

The evening ended with a great meal followed by a Memorial video of the dogs we have lost this year, and a Therapy Parade which Sophie took part in. She received a "Share the Love" certificate and was a very proud gal.
This year Sophie turned 8 which makes her a Veteran already also.

We may have a solution for Monster Milos - another owner has volunteered to take him into the ring. David S. is a great handler and understands that Milos just doesn't respect us as his Alphas enough to respond in the ring.
Tomorrow is the Big Day - if he does well, we will know that the monster was made by us and not by his DNA!

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Asheville Adventures with Monster Milos - Episode 1

The Leonberger Club of America held their National Specialty in Asheville, NC this year. This is a trip that we figured we could make from remote Maine - next two years will see it in the western states. So, the planning and reservations were made; both dogs groomed; everything packed; the thermostats set to 50 degrees and we were off on an adventure.

The trip down was beautiful - if long. Maine, NH, MA, CT, NY, TN, WV, VA: those were the states we drove in the first 15 hour day. Through the valleys and over the mountains watching the snow piles shrink and flowers begin to appear. It was even uneventful driving through the Hartford, Waterbury, Danbury areas of CT. View our trip and click on the links.
We stopped at a Motel 6 in Harrisonburg, VA. These are great for travelers and pets as they only charge a $10 pet fee. This one had a large field available for walking - which would have been great except for the rainy night.

Now, Sophie doesn't travel much and Milos get so bored. Neither of them would eat any dinner and no one liked the doggy-bathroom-facilities. Into bed around 11 PM with hopes of a good rest. Milos out at midnight; Sophie out at 2 AM; Sophie (Nervous Nelly) got stomach cramps around 4:30 AM and I sat with her until around 6:30 when we actually started day two.

It was 5.5 hours from Harrisonburg to the show in Asheville which was held at the Crowne Plaza Resort. We rolled in around noon ready for showers, only to be told check-in wasn't until 4 PM -- grrrrr. Off to Pizza Hut for lunch and back to the parking lot to walk the dogs. There were Leos everywhere and it looked like the time to get out our two furry friends. Excitement - Fun - Games - Showing (at least this is what Dave and I thought). Strange Boy Dogs - Good smelling Girl Dogs - Dangerous Times - New surroundings: this is a job not for "Marvelous Milos" but for "Monster Milos". How deep can he growl? How hard can he lunge? How many people and dogs can he frighten? Testosterone Bursts! Where or where did my little dog go?

We walked him around trying to maintain some semblance of order and at least look like we knew what we were doing. The beast at the end of the leash - ever alert for dangers around the next bush or door. This is going to be a challenge. Our room is on the second floor and you must go through 3 sets of fire doors to get there. Milos is certain that there will be an attack on the other side of each one and therefore, they must be approached with a snarl and a pull. By mid afternoon, I am sure the word has spread throughout the show that there is a Maine Monster in attendance. Thank goodness for leo-people, and their understanding and willingness to help.

David took both dogs to the room to calm down and I attended a seminar on the Canine Genome Mapping Project being done at MIT and Harvard (presented by K. Linblad-Toh: Lindblad-Toh, K, et al. (2005). Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog. Nature 438, 803-819.) They are starting to see results which which is exciting for the health of not only dogs, but also people in areas of osteosarcoma, hemiosarcoma, thyroidism and more. Following the seminar, dinner was a southern BBQ where we met up with old friends and put many faces to email addresses. One more potty-run and it was off to bed for night two.

Wonder which Milos will wake in the morning?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Back in the ring

It is Spring on the calendar - although not necessarily out the window as reported earlier. Spring means dog shows for Milos - this year's leonberger national is in Asheville, NC and we are making a family trip out of it. Leonbergers are now in the process of becoming AKC (a long story that I won't give my opinion on) - and the breed specialties are probably in for a change. It is nice that this year is on the eastern side of the Mississippi. So, we are on the road this week. I have a first cousin living in the area and hope to see him. Living in Maine, keeps us away from reunions way too often.

Milos is entered in Novice, but I really go for the friendship and festivities. The New England Regionals are in CT - early May. I have made reservations, but am not certain I will make the trip. We'll see.

What's up with the house? The weather has us back to building fires in the Tulikivi - cozy. The tile are all in for completing the walk-in shower. Now, to decide on the type of wood for the ceiling - anyone with suggestions? please click comment below.

I think we may begin some work with wood and put the rest of the floors on hold. We'll see - there is also the need for a fence around the front. I hope to not need to make the trek to the dog pen next winter (not my favorite part of a Maine winter) - but Milos is too much of a wanderer (he like to chase everything including the wind).

Turbo Tagger

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Late April Fools

We woke up to nearly two feet of slimy snow. During the process of cleaning out the driveway, we managed to get both the tractor and the truck stuck for awhile. Perhaps we better rethink our snow removal methods.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The fifth season

It's not called Mud season for nothing! Maine produces prize winning blueberries, maple syrup, potatoes, and an abundance of that gooey Springtime mud.
"Tipicditocreps" -- not a disease, but a soil type (a clay) that is widespread in the state. Certain properties of the clay favor production of the stickiest gooiest mud you have ever encountered.
The snow melts too fast for the soil which remains frozen a few inches down. It can't infiltrate and you get -- MUD! Deep, brown, mud - a prize season for every Leonberger.
So far, I have been able to keep them out, but their run is rapidly deteriorating and I can see it coming. Another great reason for no carpets; better get out the hose.

The current understanding is that certain soil particles have a high affinity for liquid water. As the liquid water around them freezes, these soils draw in liquid water from the unfrozen soils around them. If the air temperature is below freezing but relatively stable, the heat of fusion from the water that freezes can cause the temperature gradient in the soil to remain constant. The soil at the point where freezing is occurring continues to draw in liquid water from the soils below it, which then freezes and builds up into an "ice lens". Depending on the soil's affinity for moisture and amount of moisture available, a significant amount of soil displacement can result.

The earliest known documentation of frost heaving came in the 1600s.
Three conditions are generally necessary for frost heaving to occur:

* freezing temperatures
* a supply of water
* a soil that has:
o the ability to conduct water
o a high affinity for water
o saturation (i.e. the pore spaces are filled with water)
We have all three.
There is a video of some of our mud in Betts Blab - your will need flash, click on the picture.
The orange player is not functioning correctly, but if you click the download link, you can hear the podcast without video.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Ceiling's the Limit

The plan has always been to use tongue and groove on the ceiling above the dining / living / kitchen open area. As things progress, it has become obvious that this could make a spanse of wood that may not be exactly cosy. So, we decided to divide the kitchen off visually (I outlined with blue so you can see). Dave has mounted a frame for the divider. We plan on using a "beam" effect for this. He will build the 'box' and search for wrought iron to use over the sink 1/2 wall. I would like to find a "cut-out" of fruit or animals which would match the decor.
You can see the location of this visual divider in the picture.

Got the estimate back for the walk-in shower. There will be small tile on the floor with 6x6 on the walls. We have wavered back and forth on the ceiling - finally decided on the original plan of using wood (something water resistant of course) and wrapping it down the wall to the location where the wood meets the concrete. The tiler that we chose uses a water proofing method that sounds perfect. I will try to get some shots of his progress and the steps involved. Now we are just waiting for the final boxes of tile to arrive.

I love seeing the floors taking shape - but am getting anxious for my kitchen counter tops and some doors.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Patterns in Tile

Sunday afternoon with a few snow showers, but above freezing temps - nice day. Tiling is going on. Dave is working on the border around the Tulikivi and the main hallway to the bedrooms. Yesterday was spent cleaning up the foot of snow that dumped on top of what we still had - I was out with the dogs. I put the walk together in a movie which you can view on the new vlog (video blog). You will need to click the picture of dogs in snow - then a new window should open and it will take awhile for the movie to load. If you get a Q with a ?, your computer won't run it :(

I also changed our homepage - you may want to check that out just click Betts Places. There are new pictures in the Gallery of the tile, too. We have the grout ordered for the tile and a counter-top for the little stand in the back hall is in. When Dave has it finished, I'll take a shot of that, too. It is recycled from Wells (it came out when the dishwasher went in). Enjoy - Sharon

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sunday March 3, 2007

Took a walk in the new snow (on top of the old we are up to about 28 in. now). Click the two in the snow....

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Walking in the snow

Hear the latest adventures with Sophie and Milos..

This is posted on another blog - where I am playing around with more podcasts. Click to try it out. You may need to wait a few moments after clicking the arrow on the box.

Feb. 24, 2007

Went for a walk today. click the arrow to hear how it went.

Feb 24th walk
Enjoy! -- Sharon

Posted on Podomatic.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Finally winter - stuck in snow

10 degrees outside - 82 inside and no fire since yesterday morning (no furnace either of course) :)
But there is finally some snow - Last week we got around 2 feet (last night another inch or so). It then decided to blow like it was tornado season and drifted everything everywhere with temperatures remaining in the single digits. I can recall such nice soft snows when I was a kid with the sledding hills and cross country trails just perfect. This is impossible to even walk through.
Yesterday, it warmed up to the 20s and I got all dressed up with Dave's snowshoes (since they are longer than mine). Got the dogs and headed back to one of the trails. There hadn't been any snowmobiles down it yet (we were wondering why). I found out.

The texture of the snow and the blowing had made it over 2 feet deep with no crust. The snow shoes sunk down about 10 inches and were nearly impossible to pull out. Then because they were too big, they would turn sideways further inhibiting my progress. The dogs bellies were dragging and Sophie just can't haul her carcass through that much drag anymore.

I decided that the snow shoes weren't doing any good - sat down and got them up out of the snow and off my feet. Milos thought this was interesting and proceeded to kiss me and try to roll around too. Finally got him to sit and thought I would get up - mistake. Did you ever try to get up when your hands sunk up to the shoulder? Put a foot down and it sunk above the knee - now what. Such a funny situation that I started to chuckle - this brought on more cavorting by Milos and Sophie and eventually more cold kisses. Idea - put the snow shoes on the snow - put my hands on them to get enough oomph to push to standing. Then trudge back to the tracks I had left - get the snow shoes back on (in a standing position) and return to the driveway.

All said, this walk took about 10 - 15 minutes and lasted about 100 feet. Back to the house - all three completely exhausted (ha). Now, I know why there were no snow mobiles -- they also would have sunk and gotten stuck. That must be why the groom the trails......

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Something New - Click HERE

I am going to try something new. I will be podcasting my postings from now on and also spending some time recording the older ones. Enjoy by clicking on the title.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cedar for the smell

It has been a long time since my last post - I am participating in an online "group" with over 200 other educators around the world. Becoming a "Webhead". I know you all think I earned that title about 5 blogs ago, but I am always trying to learn ways to improve and use my skills in my job. The house is looking more and more like a home. David has been busy in the walk-in closet. He is siding a wall with aromatic red cedar. I have always thought that cedar was the best way to keep your clothes nice - and it makes the house smells fresh too. This closet also has a natural slate floor. We used mottled purple and it is my favorite color so far.

The weather has been very very cold the last 2 weeks - temperatures never getting above freezing and near 0 degrees Fahrenheit at night - that's about negative 16 degrees Centigrade! But, the furnace still doesn't run with only one firing of the masonry stove. We still hit the low 80's and have to run around in t-shirts and shorts when the sun shines. The only improvement would be to add solar hot water which we may do in the future. We would both like to say good-bye to propane.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Drips and Drops

A question often posed to bermed home owners is if your house is damp. We have had some moisture battles - but not what we expected.
--We installed plastic tubes extending from the stone layer under the slab up through the roof in case of excess radon. Radon can be a problem in Maine and when in a bermed house, very difficult to retrofit. The floor always stayed wet around this tube. It seems the damp air from the ground (this is a bumper year for precipitation) drew up the tube - then condensed when it cooled and ran down the pipe. There is a connection just above the floor in the wall between the garage and study which allowed this condensation to ooze out leaving this permanent damp area in the concrete. We tried covering the top of the pipe to no avail. Finally, a few weeks ago, we gave up and opened up the garage wall - taped the pipe and now it stays dry. The physics of this phenomenon are mind boggling.

--The other challenge seems to be the south wall of windows. The humidity in the house is still fairly high due to curing concrete and plaster walls (my new weather station, a Christmas present from David, reads around 50%). We have been running a dehumidifier and dumping gallons of water, but the windows still steam every night and every time we even think about cooking something. A simple spaghetti dinner can cause streams down the panes. It dawned on us that in conventionally heated houses, the heat is always placed under the windows. Does that mean that the temperature differences will always cause this to occur? No solution yet - but we have decided that the sills will not be wood - probably cultured stone. And when we have the south wall finished, we will install quilted drapes to help isolate the heat from the cold. Until then, its towels and more hours of the dehumidifier. At least when the sun is shining, they dry out.
And watching the thermometer rise to near 80 without any auxiliary heat on a sunny day when it is 4 degrees outside makes it all worth while.

See Saws

Since we plan on doing the rest of the floor tile and then the tongue and groove walls/ceilings ourselves, it is obvious that a few new tools were needed. How did those pioners manage anyway? Slowly, the attached garage is looking more and more like a shop :)
The absolute necessities (to date) are the tile saw and the mitre saw.

Next on the agenda is to finish painting the walk in closet (it is primed now) and then install the cedar wall and the slate floor as we have those supplies. Hopefully, when that is finished the next tile order will arrive.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tiling Trials

In keeping with the thermal mass concept of a passive solar house, we are tiling most (if not all) of our floors. As I posted earlier, we have finally come up with a floor design for the living/dining area and those are on order.
We had planned on doing some acid etching, but just haven't been able to get motivated for that. Still an option for the bedrooms though. The trials are in working with rough concrete floors.
David has even had to do some grinding on one larger "bump". If you think wallboard sanding makes a mess, try sanding concrete in your living room! He has also used a "primer" layer of thin-set to help even out the base.
He says he is learning quickly all about tile - probably more than he has ever wanted to know.

The furnace still hasn't kicked on, but Wednesday is forecast to stay in the teens during the day and dip near zero at night. I am afraid we may break the stretch then. Still burning the Tulikivi only once a day though - and still loving it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

January in Maine and No Furnace

A month without a furnace...

OK, its been warm - but we are in Maine and our radiant heat has not run since the Tulikivi went into operation. If the sun shines, even for a minimal amount of time, the temperature rises to 80% and would continue to go up except we open the windows. Yes, that's right - open the windows in Maine. Nothing like fresh air all year long. The passive solar aspects of berming and south facing windows with concrete walls and floors are doing their duty. Should we have dreary days - firing the masonry stove once a day (twice if it is really cold - only had the second firing once), solves the problem. A smooth, even comfortable heat spreads through the rooms and soothes our aging bones. The thermometer hangs around 74 degrees throughout the night and into the next day. We are impressed.

Never have we gotten such fabulous heat with so little work - and such minimal wood. I would recommend this type of living to anyone.

The tile is chosen and the rooms are measured. We are going to use a combination of tiles in the living - dining - hallway areas. The plan is for a border (Crossville Empire Elba Nights polished) around the rooms, encircling the Tulikivi and down the hall. The tile in the living and dining rooms will be 12 x 12 Crossville Strong in Brown. The hallway will be a pattern of different sizes from the same tile. It is so difficult to picture and nearly impossible to finalize - but the die has been cast. Next week, we order and soon Dave will be back on his knees.
Pictures will follow.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year 2007

2007 - I resolve.....

Didn't we just pass the century mark? My resolutions contain an annual weight loss (although a few more pounds need to go than in 06 and 05) and the obligatory vow to spend less (going to be difficult with our house finishing).

And in 2007, ! resolve to:
for work:
1. Post at least 2 blogs a week
2. Review my RSS feeds 3 times a week
3. Expand my presentations to include more new technologies for teaching
4. Spend more time directly working with students and teachers - even if it means the paperwork suffers
for myself:
1. Do something everyday for the environment
2. Make those final decisions on tile and wall colors.
3. Smile more, laugh more, brush my dogs more, enjoy my wonderful family, and communicate with old and new friends.