What We Did in December

I wish I could say we were super-busy all through December, but in fact after a visit to the building department, I've spent most of my time this month doing drawings for the permit we need to finish the last of the foundation job, which includes putting a deck on the back and thus requires a major design review, and thus requires elevations of all sides of the house.

To that end, I needed to upgrade my CAD software (which is five years old and running under an educational license that I should have upgraded ages ago) and I needed to get a device for measuring the house without getting up on a ladder.

Drawing plans with the laser measuring tool

The software was not urgent because the old stuff works, if not ideally -- it no longer wishes to generate elevations for me, hence the need to upgrade -- and the measuring device was easily obtained. I bought a Leica DISTO D2 Laser Distance Measurer, a nice little device that can do direct and indirect measurements. But then when I started working with it, I noticed some problems in our old floor plan.

That old plan had been measured by us with tapes, recorded on scraps of paper, and some estimates were made. When I started measuring out everything more accurately, nothing lined up. So I spent a week remeasuring and redrawing the house from scratch.

The new plan is gorgeous, and all those places where I kind of fudged on the old plan just line up right now. Many of our rooms are larger on this plan than they were on the older plan, which is cool but only in an abstract kind of way since it's not as if this process has helped me find any new space. Well, apart from that 14" thick wall in the kitchen -- I always wondered why the internal and external measurements of the back segment of the house didn't work out right.

The other thing we need to do is finish plumbing the water tank to the pump properly. It's got a hose connecting it right now and that is not working. We have mostly been waiting on me to diagram it out and do the pipe work.

Diagraming the tank plumbing

I don't do super-technical diagrams, just little drawings that help me figure out which fittings we're going to need and how many. I finally got this one together yesterday and put in the order for parts, and they will be here Monday. I'm actually not sure how the connection to the sump pump is going to work because that would have involved going down into the sump, but Pagano's has the fittings I'll need for that.

Chickens, dog, and prunings

Earlier in December I spent an afternoon cutting back some of the more overgrown perennials, then put the trimmings in the chicken yard for the girls to pick at. At this time of year the girls have hardly any greenery in their diet because I don't feel like hanging out in the yard in the cold and rain while they eat grass. So now they have a huge pile of trimmed salvia and pelargonium and so forth to mess with.

Fava beans coming up

The fava beans I planted are coming up. This is a thing I have been having trouble getting used to, even after so many years living and gardening in California. You plant things like peas and beans in November, or they Fail To Thrive. These are actually green mulch for next year's tomato bed, but some will be allowed to fruit and give us fresh fava beans for dinner.

New chest freezer

And speaking of food, a friend offered us a larger chest freezer for free, so we grabbed it. We gave our smaller chest freezer to another friend, and now we have tons of room for our excessive amounts of stock. As we filled this one up we had a moment of honesty: if you keep making stock but never use stock, you are dumb. We also have tons of greens frozen up; the usual summer dearth of greens didn't happen this year because it was so cold. Fortunately, we tried out a recipe that uses both greens and stock (and bacon!) at Christmas, and it was quite good.

Mr Kitty and the tree

Speaking of Christmas, it took about five minutes for the kittens to discover the joys of climbing the Christmas tree this year. Fortunately, I thought ahead and bought a bunch of plastic, unbreakable ornaments rather than let them destroy my lovely German blown glass ornaments, so the damage was mostly in the form of scattered rather than shattered ornaments.

Cat Vac, version 1.0

Noel, in the meantime, began working on a new electronics project, enigmatically called CatVac. It's a motion-sensitive "ornament" that turns on a vacuum cleaner when it is triggered, thus terrifying the offending kitty. We had some issues with the first iteration -- after one hysterically funny interaction with Dot, the vacuum started going off randomly over and over -- but version 2 is under construction and will be ready to go next year.

December hasn't been a total wash -- the new plans are almost done and when they are, I can do our major design review submittal to the city and we can get the siding and deck underway. And a few other projects we've been working on are not totally stalled, but awaiting parts or workshop time or stuck in some other kind of delay (like the pergola cross-pieces, which await the purchase of a new bit and some workshop time).

Happy New Year, and here's to a slightly more productive 2011.

posted by ayse on 12/31/10