Saturday, December 9, 2017

Galway #banjoy

Someone who knows me well shared this link on my Facebook page and the #banjoy that resulted was worthy of a post here:


Monday, November 13, 2017

Construction: Weeks 6, 7 and 8

These were three more big and periodically overwhelming weeks. 

Week 6

Progress continued to be rapid in Week 6, with the cabin quickly getting sheathed and wrapped, in time for a couple of stormy days.  

All closed in. Photo courtesy of Anckaert Built

That's a wrap! Photo courtesy of Anckaert Built.
Week 6 ended on a bumpy note. The locks I'd purchased for the doors didn't fit in the holes that had been drilled in the doors. I had failed to specify the size of the holes when I ordered the doors, so they had reverted to the default size, which I didn't realize would be different from the holes in the door of my shed. So, when I bought the same kind of locks, they didn't fit. 

I admit that I had a meltdown that day, in the parking lot of the Superstore in Bridgewater. Not very fun, or pretty to look at. Often, it is difficult for me to make mistakes or feel like I am out of my depth. And there has been more than enough of that in this project. The learning curve is steep. The problem with the locks was not high stakes, but it felt that way to me on that Friday afternoon.

Fortunately, I keep learning how to ride my own emotions more gracefully. And after talking with people in every hardware store in town, none of whom seemed to have the least clue about how locks are installed or what the measurements on the packaging referred to, I felt quite a bit better. I mean, if it's part of their job and they don't know, it seems more than fair that I don't know either. 

On Saturday, in my absence, the slab contractors came back and added styrofoam to the outside edges of the slab. I would have liked the styrofoam to extend a little further down – I plan to correct that when I add the insulation "skirt" to the building. 

Week 7

The beginning of Week 7 felt about the same as the end of week 6. I came over on Monday morning with new sets of locks and doorknobs, but I wasn't able to install them, because the doors needed to be prepped first and that lies a bit too far beyond my skill set and comfort zone.

The crew wasn't on site that day because of the rain, rain that came with high winds that later on blew a tree down on the power line that runs from the road to my shed:

So, there was no power on site Tuesday morning, which meant that the crew were only able to work a half-day until the batteries wore down on their tools. 

On the plus side, they were able to use some of that time get the locks installed, so my house is now lockable. 

Two more keys to add to my strangely large (and strangely beloved) ring of keys.

I came over in the afternoon on Tuesday and hung around waiting for the power company crew to show up and fix the lines. Fortunately, it was warm enough that I could sit outside and do deskwork most of the afternoon.

Expected restoration time for my power was 3pm, then updated to 6pm. Shortly before 6 pm, the forestry crew showed up and deftly cut the tree off the lines, bless them. My restoration time was updated to 9pm and I went home.

Before I went to bed, my restoration time had been updated to 11pm. I was afraid that it was going to keep getting pushed back into the next day, but fortunately, in the morning, power had been restored and work could resume at full tilt. 

For the construction crew, Week 7 was all about strapping and adding trim. I didn't come back to the site until Friday afternoon. 

The Heart of this project

As I got out of my car, I was struck by the delicious smell of The Crooked Wood. I had parked in the turnout to keep the driveway clear for the other folks on site. So, I strolled down the driveway and was greeted by the sound of music and banter and the sight of the crew working cheerfully and efficiently. I have a huge sense of gratitude for all of the good energy that I feel is being infused into my home, with each board and nail, each piece of siding and sheet of metal. 

My tiny house was converted by a very good-hearted person; I feel that energy all the time when I'm in Wholehearted House. I knew it was important to me to have good-hearted people work on my permanent home, too. 
• • • 

I spent the afternoon of that last Friday of Week 7 sanding down the door that I bought on Kijiji which is going to be hung, barn-door style, at the entrance to the bathroom. I love this door – with a single pane of textured glass, it reminds me of a door to a private investigator's office in a typical noir film from the 40s. 

Sanding is relaxing.
I love how distressed this big ol' monster is. 
In addition to the work that can be seen happening in these photos, I was also trying to figure out solutions and get estimates for work on digging the well and septic system. There are a lot of challenges there, many of which I'm still working through. There were moments when I felt extremely frustrated with red tape and with people not getting back to me.

The cabin at the end of Week 7
A little autumn beauty spot in #TheCrookedWood. I love how oak trees are among the last to lose their leaves. 
Naked maple
Week 8 went somewhat more smoothly. There was more progress and the crew were able to start putting the siding on the exterior. There were also more rain days, and for me, more frustration trying to nail down the situation with the well and septic. But there were no more downed power lines! And I call that an improvement!

I wasn't on-site much myself during Week 8. I had desk work to do and it has gotten too cold for me to sit still and work on the site. And, there wasn't much I could contribute by being there, so I mostly kept out of the way.

The plumber came and did the behind-the-walls plumbing.

I imagine most people don't find this kind of infrastructure beautiful, but I do. It's so neat and orderly and enables me to envision what the finished bathroom is going to look like.

And, here's the exterior of the house at the end of Week 8. 

My outdoor tap in the foreground <3
Looking good! I don't want to tempt the fates by saying this, but I think I might be halfway through... 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Quitter (Part 2)


So, more than 3 months ago, I stopped drinking alcohol.

Compared to quitting soda pop it was a snap to do. I think I looked at my quit app to remind myself  maybe once a week for the first month or so? Compared to hourly checks when I first quit drinking Coca-Cola.

Which in a way is not too surprising. I was a daily Coke-drinker when I quit pop. A first-thing-in-the-morning, jonesing, sugar fix desperado. And, while I have been a daily alcohol-drinker at times during my life, I wasn't at the time when I quit. I was probably having 1-5 drinks a week, depending on my social calendar.

Now I only look at my app when someone is cajoling me to have a glass of something and I want an easy way to explain why the answer is "no". Hey, I'm three months in. The quit app is the new AA token.

My quit app on Day 90. It has taken me a while to finish this post; I am now at Day 102.


I decided to stop drinking for 6 months to find out if there was a correlation for me between alcohol consumption and the hot flashes and mood swings I was experiencing as symptoms of peri-menopause. Back in July, I noticed those symptoms had ramped up big-time. I went from experiencing one or two hot flashes a week to several every day. And my mood swings became more severe, too. The lows that had been lasting 2-3 days started lasting 2-3 weeks.

I was about to throw myself on the mercy of the nearest naturopath when I thought to myself, am I doing everything I can do? Am I eating right, getting regular exercise? Why not run an experiment to see if alcohol is a trigger for me? Are these things not worth a try before I spend hundreds of bucks (that I don't have to spare) on alternative medicine?

The proof is in the pudding (and I'm not talking about 150-overproof)

Three months in, I feel fantastic. I still have some hot flashes, but rarely more than one a day and often none at all. My mood seems a lot more stable, too. And, I feel more "with it" emotionally. It seems clear to me, that I am in the subset of people for whom alcohol has an impact on peri-menopausal symptoms. 

Of course, it might not be the alcohol itself that is the agent of change here.

I've been thinking lately about the phrase "The opposite of addiction is connection" and the ideas that go along with that (if this is the first time you're encountering that phrase, you might want to take 17 minutes to check out this TED talk).

I think it's possible that the act of not drinking has opened me up to more connection: with myself, my life, the world, my feelings and my friends and family. If we sometimes drink to make up for a lack of connection, I wonder if choosing not to drink alcohol can make it easier for us to connect?

Connection has never been particularly easy for me. Since I started drinking at age 19, alcohol has been my main medication for my struggles with connection and intimacy – and like many western medications, while it does nothing to cure the root cause and has terrible side effects, it does do a pretty good job at masking symptoms. Alcohol often succeeded at numbing the feelings I had about my struggles with connection. But drinking also made it harder for me to have authentic connections – and, well, I'm sure you can see the potential for a vicious cycle there...

A new leaf

I feel like I'm spiralling up. I think that not drinking is helping me to get better at connecting. I'm not sure where that's going to take me. What I can say is that I am loving the experience of not drinking. I feel more like myself. And I like myself more. 

It takes me back to when I was a teenager. I was a little goody two-shoes: no booze, no drugs, no sex, no tobacco. (But lots of cursing.) That was a good space for me at the time. It was simple, and it was a simplicity that I knew I needed then. 

I guess it's not surprising that during the huge hormonal shift of peri-menopause, I am finding comfort in the same strategies I used during my adolescence. Not drinking feels simpler than drinking. And it's a simplicity I know I need right now.

Of course, it's a little weird socially. And culturally. I suddenly notice what a huge emphasis our culture puts on drinking. It runs throughout TV shows, movies, books, music and conversation. Most of my friends and acquaintances (with a few notable exceptions) are drinkers. And I used to be someone who LOVED to drink and often talked and joked about drinking.  

So, I'm adjusting. 

And it feels good. 

Without question, three months is the longest I have gone without drinking alcohol since I was 19. That's 27 years of greater and lesser dependence on alcohol. I'm holding things open, but I expect to breeze through the rest of my 6-month experiment and won't be surprised to see it transform into 12 months, which may well become 24 months, which may well become...

PS: Unlike pop, where I have an occasional bottle or can, quitting booze has been an experience of 100% compliance. I'm not saying I haven't had a few times when I badly wanted a drink – like the day I moved for example, and some of the more stressful days during my building project – but so far I have wanted to not drink more than I wanted to drink.

PPS: Just for fun, here's one of my favourite laments about going sober: Coffee Dogs by the redoubtable Kevin Quain. (The only working link I could find for this song is on Spotify, so you'll have to login to listen).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Banjoy: Rhiannon Giddens

Yesterday, I saw the documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World. It's a very interesting and revealing film. I learned a lot.

I hope to post more about it later, but for the moment, I'd like to share this song by Rhiannon Giddens, to whose music the documentary introduced me. Pure #banjoy:

Monday, October 23, 2017

Construction: Weeks 4 and 5

BIG Weeks!

Weeks 4 and 5 were two major weeks. I was too overwhelmed and busy during and between them to write a blog post, so am putting both weeks together in one post now (at the beginning of Week 6). 

Somewhere in the middle of it all, Salinger and I reluctantly moved house, back into our winter digs in Lunenburg. While we are incredibly lucky to have these friendly and comfortable accommodations available to us for the third winter in a row, it was still a bad wrench to leave The Crooked Woods. But my little tiny house was getting chilly and starting to have problems with moisture and condensation and it was time to head for central heating.

Week 4

Week 4 was SLAB WEEK! This was one of the most nerve-wracking stages of the build so far. Pouring concrete is something you want to get right the first time. Second chances at a pour are virtually impossible. Also, if the cement truck can't access the site, there's a big financial penalty and then more work to do to make the site accessible. 

Fortunately, the cement truck was able to get back to the form on its first attempt, thanks to my amazing friend who widened out the driveway and cut a low limb off the big maple during Week 1.
Distributing the cement to the rear section of the form is heavy work, done by wheelbarrow. The work speeds up once the concrete can be poured directly from the truck's chute into the form.
All poured, partly trowelled
The finished slab. I love the marbled look it has. 
The slab needed to be kept wet for three days to discourage cracks from forming. My rain barrel, a bunch of bed sheets and a big tarp helped with this task. Salinger putting his fluffy backside on the wet sheets was probably counter-productive, but very, very cute.
The ever-deepening chill was a big factor in deciding that it was time to move out to my friend's house in Lunenburg. Here is the radiant heater running full blast in the tiny house while I tried to get some desk work done in the early morning on one of my last days living on site...
The sub-contractors who worked on the slab were fantastic to have on site, continuing my lucky streak of skilled and friendly people working on this project.

Week 5

With the slab poured and set and inspected, the framing could begin. There was a risk of rain on Monday, so the work began on Tuesday, and holy cats, did it ever go quickly with four people on the crew and four days of gorgeous fall weather!!! 

Day 1 of framing
Detail, Day 2
End of day 2!
I was stuck in Lunenburg doing desk work on Day 1, but managed to get to the site to spend the morning on Day 2 and then stopped in for quick visits on Day 3 and again on Day 4. 

I was delighted on Day 2 to watch how the four-person crew functions as a well-oiled machine. Everyone had their tasks to meet the inter-locking requirements of the build. Boards needed to be selected and cut and placed and secured and I found it a graceful, intricate dance to watch. And I love the energy with which the crew works – music on the radio, banter back and forth, questions and answers – it all seems to flow with ease and enthusiasm. 

The best contribution I could make was to stay out of the way! So, I turned my hand to sorting out a bunch of paperwork to do with the build and making sure that all of the permits and plans would be readily accessible when I wasn't there. 

I had an unsettling feeling on Day 2. I walked around inside the framed space and was filled with a sense of panic – "It is TOO small!" I thought. "What have I done? What am I doing? I'm having something built that I'm going to HATE living in. Oh NO!!!!!"

Day 2, side view

But then, weirdly, when I came back at the end of Day 3 and two of the walls were sheathed with OSB, enclosing the building somewhat, it felt larger, rather than smaller. I felt perfectly comfortable, and thought "Oh, yes, this is exactly what I thought it would be like; this is plenty of room!"

And when I came back on Day 4, when all four walls were closed in to a height of 8 feet, the space felt even bigger and more comfortable. 

I can't decide if my brain just needed to adjust from my imagination to reality, from 2-dimensional plans to 3-dimensional space, or if there was some kind of cognitive block in my brain that meant I couldn't accurately gauge the volume of space when it was outlined without being enclosed. In either case, it was strange and unsettling, and I'm glad it passed. This project is way too major to have to live with discontent or disappointment about it!

Of course, I am curious to see how it feels once the walls are closed all the way in and the roof is on, as that will make a change yet again, I'm sure. 
Day 4
I got more chances to spend time on the building site over the weekend, because some friends invited me to stay in their nearby house while they were away camping.

Interior space taking shape – I love that high window. The small opening lower down on the left is for my firewood pass-through. 
Light and shadow at my back doorway.
The view from my back door. 
I had a moment, sitting in the back doorway when I could feel what it's going to be like to live in my house, with a deck or even a little screened-in porch to the south, and maybe even a deck on the east side, as well. I foresee a lot of coziness and peace and quiet, safety and comfort, protected and blessed by these trees.

I have been yearning for a home of my own for a long time. I feel very lucky and humbled and I am deeply, deeply grateful to all of the people and circumstances that are making this possible. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Construction: Week 3

Well, last week was rather up and down.

There was a lot of hanging around waiting for things to happen; it felt frustrating and tedious by times.

The plumber was unable to come on Monday, but I couldn't go anywhere because I was waiting for the inspector to come and ok the under-slab insulation and vapour barrier. She came in the mid-afternoon and signed off, so that was good.

My plumber came with an assistant on Tuesday morning to install the in-floor heating pipes.
So neat and orderly.
The pipes are all zip-tied to the wire mesh.
Once all of the pipes were in, the plumber pressurized them with an air compressor to make sure there were no leaks.

My plumber came back on Wednesday to bring me my shower pan and invoices for the work of roughing in the plumbing.

My builder came on Wednesday, too, to have a look at the heating pipes and take photos and measurements, so they can be sure when they anchor the walls that none of the in-floor heating pipes will get ruptured.

The slab contractors weren't able to come on Wednesday OR Thursday – there was just no space in their schedule.

Wednesday was not a fun day. I was in a terrible mood and didn't feel like going anywhere or doing anything.

I felt a bit more upbeat on Thursday, but I still couldn't go anywhere because I was waiting for the first delivery of materials. Since the concrete truck still needs to be able to back up to the form, the materials have to be placed properly on the site, so they won't all have to be moved out of the way when the concrete truck comes. There is a hefty penalty if the concrete truck comes and can't access the site.

The boom truck is pretty cool.
Tucked out of the way for the time being...

Bad news

I received a couple of pieces of bad news on Thursday. For one thing, although the slab crew would come on Friday morning to make their final preparations, it would be Tuesday before the building inspector would be able to come sign off – and therefore Wednesday (at the earliest) before the concrete could be poured. So more waiting was on the cards.

Also, the results of my Efficiency Nova Scotia New Home Construction Program Review came in and showed that there was nothing feasible I could do to be eligible for rebates for my project. My Energuide rating works out at an 82, and there is not much I can do at this point to push it over the threshold for rebates, which is 85. This is partly my fault, because I waited too long to do the assessment – essentially, after making inquiries about it earlier this summer, I then forgot all about needing to do it until a couple of weeks ago... If I had done the assessment before my design had been decided, I might have been able to make changes that would have brought me up to an 85. But, not necessarily. My house is so small that changes to the mechanical systems don't have much impact. Also, the base load in the model is for two adults and a child, rather than one adult and a cat. So, I will doubtless be more efficient in my home than the model shows, but bureaucracy doesn't work like that and there will be no money back from the government for me.

On the plus side, the assessment was done by a friend of mine who works in the energy efficiency industry and we got to have some nice chats as we went back and forth discussing questions and options.

By the end of the day on Thursday, I was in an even grimmer mood than I had been on Wednesday. Fortunately for me, a friend came, helped me get my newly-delivered doors into my shed for safekeeping, took me to play tennis for the first time in years (which was super fun) and then to a party with many of my favourite people.

Next steps

I was in a much better mood on Friday and happy to see the slab contractors come back and finish installing the rebar for the project. I sent photos to the engineer who had designed the slab and he was impressed by the execution.

Continuous lap rebar
The finished underslab
Steps 6, 7 and 8 of the slab got completed this week. Just two more steps to go!
  1. Excavation (Week 1)
  2. Construction of the form
  3. Under-slab plumbing
  4. Under-slab plumbing inspection
  5. Insulation and wire mesh (Week 2)
  6. Inspection
  7. In-floor heating pipes
  8. Rebar
  9. Inspection
  10. Concrete pour
I paid for the excavation and the first phase of the plumbing this week. Money is flowing out quickly now, as I knew it would. This project has not felt particularly blessed financially. The bank declined to extend my line of credit. There will be no rebates from Efficiency NS. This makes me all the more thankful to my friend who gave me a sweet deal on the excavation work, and who is also willing to dig a well for me when the time comes. And I am deeply grateful to a couple of dear people who have offered me short-term loans if I get in over my head. 

Ever changing moods

I notice my moods have been cycling more rapidly than usual, which feels challenging. I struggled through the early part of last week, was very chipper Thursday eve through Saturday eve and then quite depressed again on Sunday and Monday over the holiday weekend. I think this is a combination of hormones and the stresses of this undertaking. I have wished, more than once, that I had had the foresight to know that I should build a cabin immediately after landing back in Nova Scotia, when it would have been less expensive and when I was not yet into the emotional rollercoaster of peri-menopause. I feel that many times in my life, I've gotten ready to do things (my personal chef business, my music career) years later than would have been optimal. But, I'm here now. And I'll get through this. While it might have been easier seven years ago (or 10 or 20), it was also not possible for me then – if it had been, I would have done it.

Here I am, in the present moment, taking things day by day – or hour by hour, when that's necessary. Sometimes, I'm in a crappy mood and feel overwhelmed and anxious. And sometimes I'm in a great mood and feel like I can manage everything just fine. And that, my friends, is my life these days.

Lumber is Salinger's favourite camouflage.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Construction: Week 2

This process is getting smoother as it goes along. It took me almost a whole week before I managed a report on Week 1 and here is the Week 2 update after just a couple of days. 

On Monday, last week, my amazing friend and another amazing friend of ours came to spread several tons of Class C and Class A gravel to extend the pad around the foundation. We had to hustle because the crew was coming to build the form at 2pm. So, hustle we did and we got 'er done in time. 
The pad at the beginning of the form's construction.
The form had to be meticulously measured to make sure it was a rectangle and not a parallelogram. I was proud to see that our measurements were very close to the pros'. As the form was built, it had to be leveled, too. A couple of our corners were a few inches lower than the others, but it was nothing that a little crushed rock couldn't fix.
No fair! They had a rock "slinger" and filled the form with gravel in a fraction of the time that it took us to spread gravel for the pad!
Three-inch thick and 2-foot wide foam insulation was placed around the edges on the inside of the form. The centre was then filled with gravel up to the edges of the insulation.
On Tuesday, the plumber came to install the under-slab plumbing. It was an unbelievably hot day for late September in Nova Scotia. Actually, it was an unusually hot day for Nova Scotia – period. To reduce the risk of my plumber passing out from heat exhaustion, I pitched in to help dig channels in the gravel to place the pipes and then helped fill in around them. Even sharing the work, we had to take several breaks for water and popsicles.
It's a small job – one 3-piece bathroom and a kitchen sink, but it's still a lot of pipes...

Once the under-slab plumbing was done and inspected, the slab contractors had to come back to do the next steps.
Stakes and pieces of 2x4 bolster the sides of the form, so it won't fall apart when the concrete is poured.
Insulation is fitted over top of the gravel and pipes.
Rebar and wire mesh are added to reinforce the concrete.
Surprise! The plumber needed a wooden box to put around the shower drain to keep it free of concrete and allow him some wiggle room to place the drain correctly under the shower pan. I had no idea this would be necessary, but fortunately, my builder was able to build the box on short notice and the slab contractors cut the angle to fit the slope of the insulation.
To recap, the following steps were completed during Week 2:
  1. Excavation
  2. Construction of the form
  3. Under-slab plumbing
  4. Under-slab plumbing inspection
  5. Insulation and wire mesh
I felt much more steady during Week 2 than I did during Week 1. Working with friends the first week gave me the safety to meltdown and be supported in my doubts and fears. Now that things have moved into the hands of strangers, I'm rising to the to occasion and pulling myself together a bit more. It helps that I feel like I am developing a better handle on this process. Learning what to expect and what I can do to help facilitate things is helping me maintain a more positive and relaxed attitude.

It helps that the contractors working with me (and their crews) have been stellar, fitting this project into their schedules with virtually no delays. It feels like a complicated process to weave all of these inter-dependent tasks, but so far, it's been almost seamless, and that is helping to build my confidence. 

I'm optimistic about Week 3. If things continue in the same vein, the slab should be poured by the end of this week! (knock wood)