Monday, September 20, 2010

Fruit and yardwork

I wanted to take a moment to talk about growing your own fruit. Unfortunately, a lot of people have written of the persuit of cultivating their own produce and fruit. After spending the last few years learning about general gardening and implementing that knowledge into garden plants and fruit trees I have a few pointers for those who care to listen.

Fresh fruit is awesome. You simply can not buy the greatness of picking your own fresh fruit or produce. This is why U-pick-it farms and road side stands sell. The fruit and produce that you purchase from the market usually have been in the transport cycle for a while (with bananas a good long time as they pick them very green and ship them off). Here is the trifecta of fruiting goodness from my garden. Raspberries (yellow here), Grapes (training on the wire trellis), and apples (young tree in back).

Fruit can yield an abundant harvest. For most people it may not be entirely desirable to have a few bushels of fruit and for these people some brilliant people have used a hardy root stock and grafted smaller trees to mark dwarf trees. These cute little trees will product full sized fruit in smaller, more manageable quantities. However, what ever you choose allows you the opportunity to make new friends by sharing your produce. Additionally, I think we all know a few college kids, young mothers, or neighbors who could use some help or encouragement. This heritage pear tree yields consitantly large crops of firm pears with virtually no effort. If anyone can help me identify the actual species please contact me.

Fruit can reduce your expenses. Everyone knows the ancient adage about apples and doctors, however, how about simply making small improvements in your health by have more fresh fruit and less processed foods. This will increase your health and reduce medical costs, additionally, a well planted raspberry patch or fruit tree can be accomplished which gives many years of fresh fruit for the very little cost. Our red raspberries, cost about $20 and now yields more than 4 gallons of raspberries per year, the only work I do is to mow it down every fall and water it a couple times during the driest parts of the summer. These grapes cost about $60 and should yield about 20-50 gallons per year.

There is a myriad of so called experts out there who will try and sell you on their system. I will not suggest that I have attained all wisdom here, although I will throw in my two cents. My suggestions are as follows:
1. Keep things low maintenance. Stick with hardy, disease and drought resistant plants.
2. Start simple. Do not buy $700 of plants if you have never planted tulip.
3. Experiment with what works well for you.
4. Educate yourself. I have a few books I recommend for the new initiate that can contribute well to ones overall understanding (Gardening without work: Ruth Stout, From Vines to wines: Jeff Cox, Square foot gardening: Mel Bartholomew, are three I can think of quickly)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The CleanUp Crew

After the installation of the roof I spent a couple weeks doing a medical study to garner more funding. For those of you who are able to take a week or two in relative seclusion and have a desire or need for bulk funds than this is something to consider. I will write again about this method of gaining useful blobs of cash, but for now if interested have a look at and if you screen for a study mention my name. And by the way I am soliciting corporate sponsorships, if interested please contact me.

My most recent funds have gone mostly to the purchase of siding and exterior cleanup. It is somewhat surprising that after 4 large dumpsters we still require more. We brought in another 3 dumpsters and filled them with the help of a skid loader with grapple bucket. This is really the only way to go when you have large piles of debris or massive clean out to remove. The rental is not cheap, about 200-250 per day but well worth it when making the comparison of several days labor. In this scenario I will not go into details, suffice it to say that the major things that you must have in order are loader delivery, all dumpsters on hand, the wheels of the loader should by non-pneumatic (filled or solid). A one day project stretching out another 2 weeks, modus operandi.

Here is the great before Shot, actually other than the big piles of lathe, siding and wall remains it does not look too bad. Certainly the exterior looks pretty scary, but this is a process that flows slower than molasses in winter. And sadly I sacrificed a lot of those green weeds you see to the gods of heavy equipment.

Now that we have cleaned up most of the trash here is a look at the property. I am not saying that the yards is fully cleaned up however, as I plan on burning off some oak flooring for a little heat as the weather gets cooler. There remains plenty of low level yard work but things are starting to shape up there also.
I will post something about the land and plant life shortly. We managed a few treats from the asian pears, the regular pears, and the yellow raspberries. I am hoping that next year we will see an actual harvest from those plus some extra treats from some of the younger fruit trees and black raspberries.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Amazing New Roof

It has been a long time coming but after raining pretty solid for the last couple of weeks we now have a new roof installed. Here we have the roof prepped for roofing.

Here is a roof from the front with the siding removed.

Hardwood flooring.

I am really only posting this pict because I am hoping to remove the existing Oak Solid Hardwood flooring and sell as salvaged flooring. It is very usable and would be a great addition when refinished. Here the pict shows flooring that I have picted up over time sitting on top of the existing flooring. I think that the flooring was installed in the 20-40's when the house was refinished after the fire. I would like to get about $1/sf and there are 320-360sf.

Alright, I got a couple extra picts here to post. First is general grain from top, note there is some scratching etc, but clearly can be sanded out on install. Second is side view showing minimal cupping. I will note that this particular sample pc was taken out of a section which had moisture damage on subflooring, but there are others with more cupping than this. I would call it minor to moderate, easily sanded out with drum sander but would take a little longer with orbital style. Last is showing the nails used. I think that these were hand driven as the 'blow out' section indicates a slower drive than any pneumatic tool would leave. This adds to my theories of dating for remodel in the 20-40's.

Here is the pict of floor as installed, note that there is a little bit of cupping. I call it character.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Woofing or roofing.

Currently the big push is to finish the repairs and modifications to the roof system and get a finished roof installed. This would be a great benefit in light of the nearly gone felt that we stuck up before winter.

Rain is less than helpful at this time. Currently we have windows, flooring and insulation sitting inside under tarps, however, after the last rain I had about 6 gallons of water pooled up in the tarp. I tried to dump it toward the outside but failed. I am sure it is not the first time the floor has been wet.
There are a couple repairs and modifications we are making to the roof structure that bear mentioning. In this picture you can see the existing rafters are cantilevered over beyond the exterior wall. If you think of how the load is transferred from the roof to the foundation it is not all that pretty. So what we are doing is adding a short stub wall which directly ties the exterior wall to the roof rafters. We also are adding blocking between the ceiling joists to prevent twisting under load. Here we show the completed stub wall.

Two additional items of interest, first, as the house suffered some fire damage (1940’s?) some of the ceiling joists are damaged. The repair joists will be installed immediately adjasent to the damaged joists. Secondly, there is nothing like a collar tie for the rafters and our building inspector wants some type of middle support. While my solution will not win any awards for efficiency it is practical and effective.

After these items are completed the roof should be ready for the shingles. In light of a very reasonable bid I am declining to install the shingles myself and I will not cry about that.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The rot and bug damage

I thought that you might be interested in seeing the damage located on the lower 12" or so of the studs that were next to the ground. (There is a reason why codes require 6" min seperation from the dirt to wood).

Also here you can see that I have removed all the damaged studs and am re-framing the sections. The door and windows are framed in. I have sheathing installed on the inside of the framing to provide stabilization and security, After all the framing repairs are completed on the exterior shell than I will get an OK from the city inspector and install new sheathing and siding. These repairs include obviously the rot and insect damage, also re-framing windows for egress compliance in the bedrooms, and replacing a few stud that have splits, warping, or charring from the fire damage.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Adjustments toward level

It becomes a important to describe some construction methods of the late 1800 period. Conventional framing today would construct a house by building a platform for the floor, followed by supporting walls, followed by roof trusses or another platform for second floor. This system is usually called conventional or platform framing. The main advantages in conventional framing is that the length of the pieces can be shorter and that the floor platform distributes the forces more uniformly.

However, there was a time when trees were plenty, tall and straight. In these days a 24 foot 2x12 was not in scarce supply. In those days it was common to build a house either with large timber beams, or the other method of the time was called balloon framing. In this method the exterior wall is built directly on the foundation and the floors were attached to the wall members. The primary disadvantage in this system is that the wall pieces were long (thus added cost as time progressed) and also that the vertical stud could be under significant loading (because they carry point loads instead of distributed loads).

Our house was built in the 1890s and is a very good example of balloon framing. However, it has for many years sat with the front wall being in direct contact of the dirt and grass. This I am sure would have resulted in extensive termite damage except that there was plenty of other dead wood in the yard. However, the damp rot mad a good spot for borers and other opportunistic bugs to chew or dig away the structure. When we raised the house, removed the lathe/plaster and removed the lower section of the siding it was clear that while the damage was substantive, it did not go beyond the damp rot area. For this reason it was important to remove the damaged section and repair/replace. This is why the balloon framing has a downside, as significant damage to a section of studs could cause the wall or house to collapse.

I decided very quickly that it would be cheaper and safer to replace the wall than to repair it. The entire side of the house was sagging perhaps 2+ inches. First we installed a few beams across the joists of the second floor and carefully jacked them to remove the loading on the studs. At this point is was critical to establish a planar point of reference in order to find dimensions of the replacement wall. This was not all too difficult as we have replaced the foundation and the sill is level around the perimeter. The side was again raised sufficiently to something around level. At this point I discovered that the wall was not vertical but a parallelogram. It was off by about 3 inches from vertical on only the wall we are replacing. This of course can be corrected by using a hoist or simile pulling device to pull the opposing corners back to straight. What you see here is the replacement wall built and in place with the internal sheathing acting as bracing for the wall. It is not quite finished, but it gives a good idea about both the process and the result. After finishing up the replacement wall in the next week or so, the next project will be to complete any other planar adjustments to ensure that each floor, the exterior and of course the members are as level as can be reasonably accomplished given the limitations of the existing materials.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fire in the 1940s

The cold weather was certainly less than entirely pleasant this last week when plugging away. Currently we are working on giving the structure much needed adjustments and reinforcements. The structure is basically a 24x30 four square two story. The house was built in the 1890s. After a full inspection it was clear that the structure was involved in some type of house fire and restoration. Based on the materials and objects found in the house it is my opinion that this fire occurred either sometime around 1940s but possibly back to 1920s. If anyone has knowledge of how to determine the actual history let me know. There were several remnants of the Omaha World Herald from the 1940s in the attic.

Now the structure has managed to accumulate damage by foundation failure and also by insect damage. The foundation had two major problems, shallow foundation walls and no footings. The resultant effect was the cracking and sagging of the foundation walls, and also some shift. It also had a dirt floor and poor drainage causing it to remain a little damp. The insect damage was caused, I think, by dirt build up close to and above the siding. I think combined with the damp provided opportunistic insects the chance to chew up the rotted wood. I think I can say this with confidence because there is practically no insect damage outside of a damp region distance from what was the existing grade. As you know we have jacked the house and replaced the foundation, but it the picture here shows the potential damage area with siding removed with the house set on the new foundation. Because of the extensive damage on the front side of the house I am working on a complete straightening the whole of the structure and replacement of the studs on the front wall and that should be the next posting.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Twas the night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house.
Not a creature was stirring,
not even a hammer...

Yup, that's about the state of things right now. Checking under all the mattresses to find spare coins to finance the effort, but you can only look so many times. Also its plenty cold enough to find a way to believe that a persons effort could be better used elsewhere.