The Straw House Blog

Some good news

The plumber was at the house yesterday, and he should be there today. We might have plumbing for the weekend. Mom and Dad are going into Peterborough today and they said they’ll pick up the glass for the doors and windows (of the bathroom), so we might even have a bathroom with privacy. You know, versus, “I’m going to the bathroom, everybody go to the opposite side of the house.”

The engineer from Bell called this morning and she said they can put in a phone line to the house. It’s going to cost us $2,400.00, and given that the driveway is nearly 1km long that doesn’t seem so bad. In comparison Ontario Hydro wanted $35-$50 per metre to bury their cable. Bell’s going to put in three test boxes along the road just in case something happens and they need to test the line. They’re going to run 3 pairs to the house so we can have a maximum of 3 phone lines. That won’t be going in until mid-May. Right around the same time as the septic bed.

I think we’re going to bite the bullet and give our notice on the apartment for the end of May.



A long soft road

Just when the driveway dries out we get 12” more snow. Then that snow melts, and the driveway’s back to a muddy rutted mess. Mom and Dad can’t get in anymore with their Subaru because the ruts are so deep that the car bottoms out. We don’t have any problem but then I haven’t taken the snow tires off the truck yet.

But the big news is the working toilet! Joanne is a very happy camper right now. The plumber got most of the rough plumbing done yesterday, and I hooked up the bathroom sink. We still don’t have hot water but maybe next week. Sunday I’m going to install the exhaust fan in the front bathroom. Dad’s been working on the doors and windows of the bathroom, so we’ll have a bathroom with privacy.

The installation of the soffits and fascia continues, but there’s only one guy working on the job so that probably won’t be done until next week.

We ordered our appliances today through a store in Peterborough. Our criteria for appliances is a combination of energy efficiency, quality, and cost. We chose a Kitchen Aid fridge and stove, a GE front loading washer and an Asko dishwasher.

Today we took exciting pictures of plumbing!


New Homepower

There’s a new issue of Homepower out. It has a big article on a house with a massive solar system and all kinds of monitoring software. Looks like the Maui stuff, but I haven’t had a chance to read the article yet.

We’ve been getting between 10 and 11 amps out of our panels on the sunny days but we’re only barely keeping ahead of our requirements - and that’s with no fridge. We need to get the wind generator up to give the batteries a boost. The tower was recalled though and isn’t back yet, and the wind generator was recalled and is now going back to the factory for a retro-fit. All of which is moot though since we haven’t got any cable run, and won’t be until things thaw a bit more. Obviously we’re going to have a problem in the shoulder months when we have the heat and the fridge going at the same time. Although once we turn the heat off we can put the inverter back into Search mode, that’ll save us a little.



Pictures from Sunday

Well I had hoped to do an entry about Sunday sooner than this, oh well.

This Monday I gave our landlord notice that we would be moving out as of the end of May. So we’re committed. The bathroom’s looking pretty good, Dad got one of the doors fitted, and a good portion of the plumbing is done. We now have a toilet and a sink. Unfortunately there seems to be some issue with the water pump and we have no pressure or hot water. Simon’s working on that though, and promises results before May. We met with Andrew the plumber and discussed various plumbing related issues with him. Hopefully we’ll have a people bath, and a dog bath very soon. The shower won’t be installed for a couple more months as the shower base was a special order and might not be in until June.

The major to-do list now consists of kitchen cabinets, final stucco, drywalling, and sanding/sealing the posts.



Another Job Completed

We have soffits and fascia!.



Who was that masked man?

Joanne here - a new voice. We had a few more visitors this weekend.  On Saturday the president of Thermotech Windows stopped by to take a look and get some pictures. We had broken a lever on one of our front casements and he brought a replacement. He said he’d keep our spare window in mind and suggested we post it here. Window anyone?

Mike the roofer also stopped by to check out the completed soffits and discuss eavestroughes. We didn’t work on Sunday - family event at Aunt Joan’s. On Monday we were back up and were joined by Nick (my dad) who came all the way from Grimsby and spent the day sanding the big double beams in the gallery. I finally got a few pictures since I stupidly missed getting any pictures at the beginning of February when he and Anna (my mom) came to visit. We didn’t even do a blog entry that time! They came all the way from Grimsby, helped out, and we went out for a wonderful dinner for Glen’s birthday and there has been no record of it. It’s been bugging me since then so I’m happy to have finally put it in the blog.

Glen and his dad were working on the bathroom. Today they got the glass in the doors which means we really have a usable bathroom now! Donna and I applied another coat of urethane to the outside bathroom walls and doors. Then I started sanding the posts with 120 grit—I got five done, only twenty-three to go.

At the end of the day Ian showed up, he hasn’t been out here for a couple of months so he was seeing some big changes. Later this week Glen’s cousins Phil and Steve are coming out, Phil to work and Steve to visit (I’m not sure that Steve’s all that handy). The plumber’s supposed to be out tomorrow or Wednesday to fix a few problems. When that is done we can put up the drywall in the kitchen and back bathroom.



Rainy day, dream away

We have a mailbox now. Amazingly the post office has been the least bureaucratic group we’ve had to deal with (so far). Their criteria for starting mail service is: install a mailbox, put your name on it, call them. Oh, and the mailbox may not be more than 42” off the ground. So tomorrow I will put my name on it, and call them.

One of the things I really like about the country is how neighbours really do go out of their way to help each other out. Randy and Kevin Morton who farm our land, and hunt on our land, and whose great-uncle we bought the land from, came down with their post-hole digger to help us install our mailbox. We used a cedar post leftover from our cut two years ago.

Nick spent the night with us at my parent’s place, and was back sanding at 10am. He sanded pretty much non-stop until 5:30pm. His whole body must have been vibrating at the end of the day. He got most of the cupola done and he’s staying over again tonight so that he can finish the rest tomorrow. It’s a crappy job and we’re very thankful that he’s up there doing it.

Dad and I worked on a whole variety of small tasks around the house including,  installing the locks on the bathroom door, some plumbing work, a bunch of electrical work and a whole heap of planning.

Tomorrow we’re going to have a seriously busy day as we are expecting visits from Simon to install the solar hot water system and fix our water pump, Dan Peel to change the radiant system over to air temperature thermostats, Andrew Green (the plumber) to fix a couple of problems and finish the dog bath and bathtub (human bath), and last but certainly not least my cousins Phil and Steve are coming up. This will be the first time that Steve has actually been up to the house.

Because building the house wasn’t exciting enough

Ooops, I forgot to mention that Joanne is pregnant and that we’re expecting our first child in October.

Sorry to interrupt. Please carry on…


World of Ends

If you haven’t seen this and you’re at all interested/involved in Internet stuff please go give it a read. It’s well worth ten minutes of your time.

World of Ends



I was gonna rant…

... but now I’m not. I had a big ol’ rant prepared on the age old topic of contractors who don’t show up. Except it turns out he showed up, at night, after we had left. Now I could deliver a mini rant on the subject of contractors who don’t call, but really I’m just happy to find out that the work is done.

On Wednesday my cousins Steve and Phil came up to help. Steve’s in visiting from Vancouver and it was the first time he’s seen the house. He seemed really impressed with the place, and with the land. Being city boys we all have trouble with the scale of 100 acres, Steve and I walked around a fair bit, but he seemed a little overwhelmed. Steve is a few years older than I am, when I was younger I worshipped him. He used to take me to see the Star Wars movies when they came out, and he loaned me his Eurhythmics, Human League, Heaven 17, and Thompson Twins LPs and 12"s. He dressed cool and he moved out when he was 17. That was a long time ago, but Steve and I have grown to be good friends so I was very excited to have him come out to visit.

His brother Phil (who is 5 years older than Steve) loaned me his Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, and Lynyrd Skynyrd albums. Steve and Phil more than anything else are responsible for shaping my adolescent musical tastes. Phil is far more handy than Steve, he helped us hang drywall, and hopefully he’ll be back next week to help hang more. We might even get him mudding.

We gave our notice two weeks ago and the landlord has already rented it out for June first. So we really are committed. Everything now is a milestone, everything is another immediate step towards the big move. This week we put up the mailbox, got most of the plumbing done, sanded a bunch more beams, urethaned the outside of the bathroom, put up drywall, and did a bunch of electrical work.

In addition Simon was in to plumb up the solar hot water system, and Dan Peel rewired the the radiant system to use thermostats out in the house in addition to the hydrostats on the return loops. The boiler has been replumbed so that it supplies hot water to the heat exchanger, and all of the pumps have been configured to work independently depending on whether the request for heat comes from the floor system or the tank.

They’re late but here are the pictures from Wednesday.