Autumn 2017

According to my calendar, today was the autumn equinox (at 16:02 EDT if you want to be precise). Early autumn is a great time of year here because its usually still fairly warm and there aren’t any bugs so you can really enjoy the outdoors. Of course, every year is a little different and this year has been very wet.

We didn’t have much summer at all. It wasn’t all that hot and we had a lot of rain. We never needed to water our garden at all. Nights were often cool and by the time the start of September arrived we had been hit by sub freezing temperatures overnight three times. The garden really didn’t like the frost either.

With all of that cool weather, the trees started showing signs of autumn colours as far back as mid August. I know that might sound crazy, but it’s true. Of course, autumn being very colourful, I have pictures.

This first set I took on August 31st. All of these I took on our property, and some of them are just barely showing signs of changing. Traveling around the area there were lots of other trees showing more colouring that I didn’t take pictures of.

Next, I took this picture on September the 8th. I had been watching this little tree that is located out at the boarding facility where we have our horses for a while and it had been slowly changing in to the colours you see here for some weeks.

A few days later (September 12th) I took this one of the big maples behind the trailer to the north-east. You can compare this one to the second one from the Aug 31st set above as they are the same trees.

Last Friday (Sep 15th), I decided to get a little more serious with the picture taking. Here is one looking down the road we live on.

All of the rest of these were taken on our property, right near the trailer. Some you will recognize from earlier versions posted above.

This next one deserves a special mention. It’s a maple tree that is easily viewable from inside the trailer. The picture was pretty optimal in timing because that tree no longer has any of its leaves; they have all dropped just one week later.

Finally, one last shot over the roof of the trailer, once again. This one from September 17th.

After we had that bout of frost, it warmed up dramatically. We have been enjoying very summer like weather for the last two weeks. Humidex ratings over 30C (86+ in F). This, I’m sure, is causing all sorts of weirdness with the trees and other plants. They were getting ready for colder weather, and all of a sudden it’s warm again. Those trees already having moved into their fall colours just kept going. Some trees that had only just barely started changing seem to have halted and other trees are still completely green. So we have everything from completely bare to completely green. It’s turning out to be an autumn where we aren’t getting a huge riot of colours all at once, just patches here and there.

I’ll do my best to take some more pictures as things progress. If we continue to have these small patches of colours, autumn might get stretched out for some time. This is not a bad thing.

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New and improved table saw

Last year, you may recall, that I was fed up not having a table saw and decided to make one. As it so happens, I now have an actual table saw.

It’s not perfect, as you will see in a moment, but it was free so I’m not complaining. Technically speaking, I traded a big cherry burl for it as the guy who gave it to me does fun artsy things with wood. What is a burl, you may ask? Let me show you.

If you’ve ever looked at a tree trunk that looked normal, but there was one section that was bulging out, like the tree had a tumour, that’s a burl. This particular one was huge compared to the size of the trunk. The tree was dead, so the burl had many cracks in it. I’m not sure how usable it will be, but I didn’t have any uses for it (except fire wood) and if someone can create a snazzy piece of wood art with it, they are welcome to it.

In any event, that is what I traded for this.

Yup, it’s a beast of a table saw. Completely cast iron, weighs a tonne. Here is a picture of the brand plate.

Originally it was guessed that the table saw was from sometime in the 70’s, but I did a search on the Beaver Power Tools company and came across this link. According to their timeline, shop machines produced with the “Beaver Power Tools” name were made between 1946 and 1953. That would make this table saw quite the vintage.

The saw blades that came with it were quite old too. You don’t see packaging like this any more.

This was the blade that was installed in the table saw. It looks like it has seen some wear and tear.

Here is a close-up of the teeth on the blade. They could certainly use some TLC, in terms of sharpening, I’m sure.

I was thinking it would probably be a good idea to get a new blade for it. The blade size is 8″ (203mm) diameter. It turns out that 8″ circular saw blades are difficult to find, especially if you want one for doing fine cuts. They do still make them, but good luck finding one in a store. I thought an 8.25″ blade might work as they are more available, so I tried that first. It wouldn’t fit. I could mount the blade if it was either all the way up or all the way down, but I couldn’t move it after that. Not very functional, to say the least.

So I ended up searching specific blade manufacturer’s websites for 8″ circular saw blades for doing fine cuts. Fortunately, I found one at Freud Tools. I took the information I found to my local Timber-Mart and asked them to order it. They already deal with Freud blades so it wasn’t a big deal. Unfortunately, the one I picked from the website they no longer make. They did give me two other options: one that was pretty close to what I had picked from the website and another one that was supposed to be super advanced, the latest tech, and give amazing results.

I looked up both blades, himmed and hawed for a moment and decided to just try the fancy, advanced blade. The order was placed and a few days later it arrived. Here it is, still in its packaging.

Shedding that protective outer layer, we get a glimpse at the inner goodness.

Moving in closer, we can see the huge difference between the teeth on this blade and the one that came with the saw.

It fit very nicely in its new home.

Of course, after going to all of that trouble (and shelling out nigh $125 after tax for the blade), you better be sure that I was going to try it out. I picked a scrap piece of 19mm (0.75″) plywood with red oak veneer on both sides as my test piece. This is the stuff we have been using to make our cabinets, so it was a pretty good test.

Here is the result.

That, my friends, is a very nice super clean cut. I must mention, however, that the saw does have a few drawbacks.

First, the fence has a small wiggle to it. That’s the big arm piece that sits over the table that you use to set the size of your cuts. You have to take the time to be sure that the fence is square to the blade, especially with that fancy blade I installed. If the fence isn’t square, the blade will burn one side of the cut (i.e. it will leave scorch marks on the wood). This isn’t any different than what I was doing with my home made table saw, but it is a bit more frustrating because this is an actual table saw, albeit a 50-60 year old one.

The other major drawback to this saw is it rusts. I have it out in the truck shelter with my work table and other tools and I can’t keep it from not rusting.

I have tried various different covers over it, but the humidity in there just isn’t conducive to keeping that saw clean. I could put it in our shipping container, but then I wouldn’t be able to use it, which would defeat the purpose. It’s not easy to move either, as it probably weighs in around 90kg (200lbs). It does have casters on the one side so you can tilt and roll it, but they don’t work so well over the dirt driveway. You really just end up leaving trenches.

It was mentioned to use some oil on it, but I don’t know what kind of oil to use so if any of you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.

New trailer door

I’m falling behind on my posts. There are several things to post about, but I’m going to start with the most recent.

We now have a new trailer door, and it is very exciting. Let us start at the beginning, shall we?

Having lived in our trailer now for three years, we have a pretty good idea of what its strengths and weaknesses are. Having ripped out everything from the interior and had it spray foamed has made a HUGE difference in getting through winter. However, there was always that really cold draft coming in from around the door. It never sealed perfectly. So we decided to replace it.

As you can imagine, a trailer door isn’t like your standard house door, it’s quite a bit narrower. So if you’re going to replace the door with something more house-like, it’s going to be an interesting task.

Here is a picture of the original door.

For this project, we decided to call a friend for some help. His name happens to be David as well and he is a professional framer. He has also done the Earthship Academy and is working on creating an Earthship community. I grabbed this picture of him just after we removed the old door.

Here you can see the old door leaning up against the picnic table.

And what kind of door did we replace it with? Well, you be the judge.

That is a solid western cedar wood door with a stained glass window. The stained glass part is sandwiched between two plates of tempered safety glass to protect the delicate parts. I found it on kijiji and it was a steal at $200. I’m sure the window alone is worth more than that.

Anyway, while David was working on the framing, I had the interesting task of trying to figure out how to install the hinges. These are no ordinary hinges. They are made by a company called Soss and they pocket inside the door frame. Yeah, that’s right. When all is said and done, you won’t see the hinges at all, from either side of the door, when the door is closed. Here is a picture of them after I managed to get them in the door.

I bought mine from Lee Valley Tools and I have to warn you, these things are not cheep. The new door we have is pretty heavy, so we bought four of the biggest ones they had. That cost us almost as much as the door did.

Here is a close-up of the hinge.

They were expensive, but they are really sexy, and with our door swinging outwards instead of inwards like a standard house door, this will give us some extra security as no one will be able to tamper with the hinges to get inside the trailer.

Meanwhile, David built this awesome frame for it around the hole for the original door.

The key to the framing working on the side of the trailer is how we attached it. If you look closely on the left side of that picture, you can see two bolts coming out that darker piece of wood against the door hole. Those go through a similar piece of wood on the inside and the bolts go through an aluminum tubing stud. So the wood is sandwiching the trailer walls on both sides. It’s about as secure as we can make it.

In addition to the new door frame, we also built new steps to go with it. Here is David working on that.

After futzing with the hinges for some time and getting everything prepped, we were finally ready to put the door on its new home.

It worked out rather well, don’t you think.

That picture was taken just after 19:00, so it was getting late by that point, but we had to finish it otherwise we would have to sleep with a big hole in the wall. Not good if you have indoor cats who don’t go outside. Also, we hadn’t had any dinner by that point either so hunger was weighing on us.

We packed up our things and decided that the door knob would have to wait until the next day.

So, this morning after breakfast, that is what we did. Installing door knob hardware is really finicky and I can truly say that I am no expert at it. However, we do have something functional.

Here is picture from the inside.

It ended up turning out even better than we had imagined so we’re pretty happy. David was an amazing help and the reason why we were able to finish the main part in just one day. A big thanks goes to him. If we had been working on that ourselves, it would have been a week or more, I’m sure.

There are still some fiddly bits we need to take care of, like adding weather stripping around the door, filling in all of the cracks and insulating around the outside. We’ll get to that sooner rather than later as the nights here have been pretty chilly. We’ve already had hard frost three times.

This isn’t the only project we have going on so I should have more posts coming up soon to cover those.

Day at Dash and Y.P.’s Earthship

It’s been too long since my last post, and it’s not like things haven’t been happening. Just got busy.

Fortunately, for all of you, I was over at another local Earthship yesterday.

A short 20min drive from our trailer is Dash and Y.P.’s Earthship. It is not complete yet, so I volunteered my time yesterday to help out. Actually, that was the second time this summer that I have been over there helping, but I forgot to take any pictures the first time so I didn’t have much to post. I remedied that this time.

This first picture is the back of the Earthship.

Dash is the guy on the tractor. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting his wife Y.P. yet as she is working in the city to support this venture of theirs.

Getting up a little closer and looking over that wall of white Styrofoam insulation you saw above, you get so see the area we were working on.

If all you have ever seen are global model Earthships, this may look a bit odd. This one is built using the simple survival design, which uses domes made of concrete. What you’re seeing in that picture above is the tops of the domes, three of the four in this Earthship.

If we move a bit more towards that far end you see in the picture above, and turn the camera south, you can see the empty gaps between the domes.

Standing on top of the western most dome and looking back you can see the retaining wall that circles the domes. That is what is covered with the Styrofoam insulation. The previous work day I was here, we worked on that concrete bottle retaining wall.

This next picture will give you a good shot of the framing for the greenhouse at the front. Dash used hemlock as his framing material of choice. He said he really like it too, as it made for a really rock solid structure. If you know anything about hemlock, “rock solid” is not just a comment on the framing technique. Hemlock happens to be one of the hardest of the softwoods.

The colouring of the hemlock is due to the stain they used to treat the wood.

I took this picture from above, standing on the western most dome, looking down through the roof framing into the area that will become the greenhouse. That door looking thing is actually just a window. That’s the door frame beside it to the left.

The bottle wall to the right will be finished up to the roof, insulated with more Styrofoam and then covered with the berm.

Next we’re looking down the length of the greenhouse. The greenhouse will eventually have an EPDM liner put in to contain the planters along the windows.

Here is a picture of the front/south face. If you’ve been following me for a while, you might recall we first visited Dash and Y.P. last October.

So, what were we working on yesterday, you may be asking? Remember those big gaps between the domes you saw in the earlier pictures above? We were filling them. Dash worked the tractor and dumped load after load of dirt over the retaining wall and I shoveled it into place, tamping it as we went along. We managed to fill in the first two trenches completely before lunch.

In the afternoon we worked on filling the gap between the two central (and largest) domes. There was a bit of a delay in getting to that stage though, as Dash had to build a dirt ramp up the outside of the wall so he could get the bucket of the tracker over the lip. Once that was completed, we were back to filling in the berm.

When you first begin, the gap is quite narrow and you’re thinking, “okay, this is going well”. Then you realized that the gap just keeps getting wider and wider as it goes up, needing more and more dirt.

We weren’t able to get it finished by the end of the day, unfortunately. This is as far as we got.

I don’t think we would have been able to fill it completely, even if we had kept going as we were running low on dirt by that point. Still, a pretty decent day’s progress for two people. Yeah, it was a full day of physical labour, but I knew that when I volunteered and I’m not afraid to break a sweat. Yes, you can get expensive machines to do the job quicker and faster, but you really need to pick and choose those carefully, or your costs just start running away.

Besides, I’ve worked with the Earthship Biotecture crew and they are no strangers to physical labour.

If you’re wondering what goes on top of the dirt after it is all filled in, there will be 10″ (25cm) of rigid foam insulation, two layers of 6mil vapour barrier, an EPDM liner covering all of that and then a 3″ (7.5cm) concrete slab will be poured over the thing like buttercream frosting on a cake.

There is a good chance that we will be doing more work over at Dash and Y.P.’s before the snow flies. The goal is to try and get it enclosed completely before winter arrives. With a little bit of help, I think that is quite achievable.

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