This insulation blows

In the trend of using construction materials in unconventional applications, today I filled my pallet floor with blow-in insulation.

When I went with my glorious pallets, I figured all that air space was a pretty good start, but it would be nice to have something I could pour in for some R-value.  Perlite and vermiculite were considered, but vetoed because of their admirable (in other contexts) properties of absorbing moisture and holding it.  That’s all I need, for my floor to suck moisture out of the very air and then hold it there, like a miser.

I called my beloved lumber supply store, where no staff member has mocked or scorned me for anything I’ve ever asked them advice about, in ten whole years.  Not even a smirk.  For all I’ve got up to in a decade, that’s saying something.  And I still get treated with universal respect there; sometimes I’m even greeted with effusions of delight when I show up after a long absence (I have been bear-hugged by yard guys), so they apparently don’t compare notes and mock me when I leave, either.  They should get a medal.
Continue reading This insulation blows

Pallet palace

I was going with a concrete slab in my head, for several days.  I thought that was “doing it right”.  It would last forever, easily translate purpose to a garage or shop, and would be flat, level, and smooth.

That changed.  The tipping point was thinking about doing yoga on a cold concrete floor.

The other option I was considering was throwing a bunch of pallets onto the leveled grade over a sheet of poly, and sheeting it, which had some merit.  Easy.  Cheap- the pallets were all readily available for the taking free from the garden supply.  Recycled and “eco”.  I just like pallets.  The downsides were that it won’t last nearly as long as concrete, as it’s wood, it’s organic and will eventually rot, relying on the poly for a vapour barrier, and like a cluster of lilypads, they will only create as flat and level a floor as the packed dirt beneath is leveled.

An immense amount of shoveling and raking ensued, removing piles of earth from the dirt floor of the barn and scaling it off to reasonably flat and level.  Then I rolled out the poly, and moved in the pallets, tacking them to each other, essentially creating a floating floor frame.

They worked so well!  Thankfully, the first few went in perfectly solid and flat, because not all of them were so easy to settle in place, and that would have been a disillusioning start.  Oh, so cool.  I’m so excited that it’s working so well.  It’s such a thrill and relief when something untried and suspect works out the best way that you hoped.

I love this Roxul stuff!

I can’t say enough about how much I love working with this insulation.  That’s something I thought I’d never say.  What I love most is the way the batts hold their shape.  Having batts fold down and gently flop on your head sounds like a small thing, but it’s about the most annoying thing ever.  And if the stud cavities aren’t the perfect size, then fiberglass is doing that, all the time.  But this Roxul is so thick and rigid that it never flops.  You do have to cut very accurately, but it’s easier to cut straighter.
Supposedly it’s more environmentally friendly, too.
I feel it in my throat and lungs, although it doesn’t seem especially dusty, and it doesn’t itch NEARly as much as fiberglass.  I’m working with it here in 30-35 degree weather, not only that but in the peak of the two story barn, where I swear it’s hitting 45 and up.  Not that I want to roll around in the stuff but fiberglass in this heat would be hell on earth, and the Roxul is really not that bad.

Working proceeds on the barn

I think I might have overcome my wiring block.  I kind of understand it, at least enough to be confident I’ve got 14-2 and 14-3 pulled in the right places, and everything roughed in properly, if not professionally, and that’s a big breakthrough.

A couple weeks ago:  I ask my electrician friend to come and wire the barn for me.  I tell him that wiring is the one thing I just can’t get my head around.  As soon as I get past series and single switch circuits I’m lost; when well-meaning guys try to explain a 3-way (branch circuit, that is) my vision starts to flicker, and all the words just sound like wanh wanh wanh.  I’d like to understand it, really, but if the comprehension hasn’t set up shop in my head by this time, I’m never gonna get it.

My buddy takes me to his place in his truck, and starts gathering up boxes and octagons and staples and switches and plate covers, and piling them on me.  The truth starts dawning on me and I say Hey!  Aren’t you gonna do this for me?  No, he says, slapping the red basic electrical code book in my lap.  You are.  Continue reading Working proceeds on the barn

Mulch rules!

All that garden, and I can “weed” it in minutes, the first time I’ve weeded at all since planting almost a month ago.  By weeding I mean pluck out the few visible wisps of grass seeded by the hay, and only where the mulch is too thin.  So I spent more time piling on more hay.  It’s melting fast into the ground.

I planted garlic far too late.  About six months too late.  I had these luscious heads from West Coast Seeds that were delivered last September.  But I was moving last September, so I took them with me, and we didn’t move in here until spring, and then built the garden late, so I end up guiltily contemplating these heads of garlic in June.  It seems a shabby way to treat  six beautiful heads of Russian heritage garlic.  I rationalized that they spent the winter in temperature uncontrolled storage, so they definitely froze, and they’ve been in the dark, and they certainly won’t be any good next year.  Some of them were trying to grow, in that way that onions forgotten in the crisper do.  So I planted them, deep.  All over through the tomatoes.  It looks like a gopher was punching holes in the mattress of mulch.  I figure, we’ll never know if they’ll work or not without trying.  Sure enough, the more advanced cloves are already punching through.

I love the way there are so many types of green.  Celery green, bean green, pea green, garlic scape green, squash leaf green, corn green, and tomatoes hold multitudinous greens just among themselves.

Since it’s all a giant experiment, I’m interested in observing what does well in the clay and manure soil I concocted.  So far, potatoes are flourishing, and beans are the happiest of all.  Peas are coming well, and the squashes are ok.  The seed lettuce is struggling, which I didn’t expect, while the lettuce from starts is generally just fine, red romaine much happier than the leaf lettuces.  The carrots are really showing poorly, spinach even worse, and the tomatoes are expressing their displeasure, although still growing.  All else is average.

I spoke too soon about the internet.  It lasted four days, and then- kaput!  Lost to the unsolvable snow leopard glitch.

The Thank You Bee.

I was watering the garden this morning when I noticed a panicked bumblebee sloshing around in my bucket. I quickly scooped her out and set her on the dry mulch, hoping she’d dry out (to be honest, I thought of the bee as a him, but I’m pretty sure worker bees are actually all female). Every time I checked, she was still stumbling around in the hay, looking drenched and trying to make her wings work.

Twenty minutes later I was half way across the field when a bee lit on my hand. It was the same bee! The feathers of her back were still slicked and glittering with water. She flew from my hand to my other shoulder, and rode there for several minutes while I worked, nibbling a little. I felt blessed, and I knew for sure she’d never sting me.

“Oh hi,” I said, “you’re welcome.”

Even insects know more than we think, I think.

In an unrelated note, this is what happens when you leave mung beans soaking overnight in a jar too small for them. Hilarious. They were all over the floor, still tumbling out every few seconds, when I discovered them in the morning.

Hanging with the Snow Leopard

I’ve had a technologically challenging week.

I got a Bell TurboStick on eBay (rather, my brother did, since I didn’t have internet), that held the promise of anywhere-access internet. At home, traveling, anywhere at all. However, it didn’t work. And didn’t work, and didn’t work.

Meanwhile, I dunked my good camera along with myself on a canoeing trip. That’s why I have only one picture, of the canoe on the truck. The Before picture. It was a crazy trip, best summed up by “it’s only an adventure once you feel lucky to be alive”. We’re not positive whether we swamped 3 or four times, because they started to blur together, and my body was covered with scratches and bruises. By covered I mean green and purple bruises the size of my hand, populating my legs and arms like continents on the map. Luckily the canoe was not as badly abused. Camera did not survive.

Oooo, doesn't my truck look aMAZing accessorized with canoe?

Continue reading Hanging with the Snow Leopard

Battle of the Broom

Haven't reached this part of the hill
The hillside behind the house is infested with Scotch Broom, an invasive introduced species that has spread all over BC, by the looks of it.  We’re determined it’s not going to have this hillside, and we are waging war.  Every week or so, one of us spends a few hours yanking shoots and snipping the fibrous thick stalks.  This is nasty bent-back Sisyphean work, that ends when you stop, scratched, bitten, dirty, aching and itching, rather than when the job is done, because this job cannot be finished.  Even after a systematic back and forth scouring, invariably you look back and there’s a few bright yellow flowers mocking you.

Our idea is that if the broom is never allowed to go to seed from flower, then it will lose one mechanism of reproducing itself, and perhaps other plants will gain dominance, and after a few years, optimistically, there will be no more broom.  Too bad the stalks sprout like Medusa’s head when cut off, and the thready white roots are knotted like bathtub plug chains with rhizomes.  I assume it reproduces like grass from the root, and divides like a tree from pruning, in addition to the explosive seedpods, that twist and spray out their evil spawn.  Acres of broom in the hot fall absolutely rustle with the snapping of seedpods.

Even the shortest of sprigs can produce flowers, and they seem to do so a day or two after an attack.  I suspect rather like dandelions, they flower prematurely when stressed or aware of stress in their fellows via root system connection, determined as they are to conquer all.  So we work along, ripping out anything yellow, chopping down anything so big it can’t be uprooted.  Always more, the most endless task.

And what a workout.  I always end up with my hair and shirt drenched with sweat, all exposed skin red and stinging from allergenic plants.  Temporarily satisfying.

Everything’s up.

This is the grape vine on the barn, earlier this year

Today or yesterday, everything popped the surface in the garden.  Peas, beans, radishes, clover-esque kale sprouts, tiny blades of beet leaves and green hairs of carrots.  The onions are charging away.  So satisfying.  They made it!  Wasn’t too rainy for the beans, or too exposed for the carrots.

I haven’t been too ambitious.  I had a lot of unassigned garden space that I bought random starts for at the garden supply, chosen by what interested me.  A cucumber, and celery, which I consider exotic, and two watermelon plants that are a flight of fancy.  I have high hopes, though, and they are looking transparently plump with water and thickly endowed with white prickle hairs.  They look like happy watermelon plants.

The hay mulch is introducing grass by seed, but the tiny grass seedlings are the most vulnerable sprouts of all, easily swept away, totally unlike the rhizome-rooted counterparts that look innocuous when young and tiny, but are really just the surfacing tip of a diabolical rampaging root system.

Upside down tomatoes

I thought I’d give this a try, because I love the idea, although unproven.  Last year my tomato planted upside down in a juice jug was a total fail, probably not least because of the transparent jug, and inadequate gasket around the stem of the plant.  This time I roughly copied the technique of a guy I met hitchhiking (cute, and he gardens!), and the summer will tell if it’s a success.  Both of us saw this in the Lee Valley catalog, and although the special pots they sell are certain to be sophisticated technology, there has to be a way to make them work low-tech.

First things first!  Drive the nails or hooks where you’re going to hang them.  Because the moment you have one full, you’re gonna need to put it somewhere to get it out of your way.

The supplies: 2 gallon pots with 1 1/2” holes bored in the centre with a spade bit. I made two hanging loops off the top with baling wire by drilling small holes in the side of the pot lip. 5ml poly cut to more than cover the inside bottom of the pot, with an X slit in the center, and palm sized squares with one slit in them.
Seedling out of the pot, using the small plastic squares around the stem, with the slits opposing. Does that make sense? These two pieces collar the stem with their slits facing opposite ways. Then I plunged the root ball in the water to soften it.

Continue reading Upside down tomatoes

Happy about living naturally