Monday, February 06, 2006

Chilly drafts

We’ve been at the farm full time for 11 days (since January 26) and we are enjoying ourselves. The house is still a construction site but we have areas that are set up for our comfort -- the rest is a mess. We have our bed with its comfy bedding and oversized pillows, our office desks and chairs, laptops, printer/fax machine, satellite TV with DVD, wireless Internet connection (we do have to conduct paying work after all!), two stadium chairs from our roughing it weekend visits, assorted scatter rugs plus a makeshift kitchen that includes an electric self-cleaning range (stovetop and oven), washing machine, dryer and refrigerator. We are using the existing bathroom, which is our only source of household water. I wash dishes in a dishpan in the bathtub (I haven’t shampooed dishes by accident yet!) and I fill animal water bowls and coffeepots from the sink faucet.

A new well will be dug in the spring, which is good since the current water pressure is so-so; sometimes good, sometimes lousy. We try to time showers to the better pressure times. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the ebb and flow. We have a washer and dryer but the pressure is not good enough to run through the cycles, so we go into Cambridge (10 miles, about 15 minutes) with dirty laundry. This isn’t bad at all and things are done pretty quickly.

The weather is turning colder. It has been balmy compared to Minnesota winters I remember. The day we moved the temperatures were in the mid-40s! In a “normal” Minnesota winter there are usually 30 below-zero nights. During winter 2005, there were only 11; thus far in the 2005-2006 winter there have been only four. The weather predictions are for temps later this week to dip into the teens with stiff winds that should drive the wind chill temps even lower.

As I’ve written already, we are re-insulating this 100-year-old farmhouse and now most exterior walls are done. What we found is that cold air also seeps into the living room area (what will eventually be our master bedroom with en suite) through its tongue-n-groove wood floor. Today, we bought big pink two-inch thick sheets of Styrofoam-like insulation that Ian will custom cut and glue to the basement ceiling. There are areas of the basement that are not much more than crawlspaces and we will need to do something different in those areas. The idea is to find what works knowing that in the spring when we build the addition (a study, living room, dining room, three-season porch and three-car garage) we will have opportunities to make improvements to the existing basement by adding things like drain tile, waterproofing and insulation around the outside below-ground wall. The addition will have its own basement, one that will be finished off and used as a much needed storage area.

Ian has strung all the wiring along the kitchen walls. He also ran a heat duct from the furnace, up through the kitchen and into one of the upstairs bedrooms. Voila, heat! It will be a few mores weeks before the floor and walls are ready for ceramic tiling. However, once the ceramic is set the IKEA kitchen cabinets will be assembled, installed and the whole place will take on a much more finished look. Meanwhile, the sink and its faucet sit alongside the cabinet boxes waiting for that day.

We have our eye on some beautiful moss green marble countertops and backsplashes. We still need to select the gas stovetop and overhead extractor fan. We have decided on a refrigerator, a matching upright freezer and dishwasher and we will buy these when the kitchen nears completion. The refrigerator and range that came with the house (the ones we are using now) will then be donated to the local food shelf.

The living room area, where we work, lounge and sleep, is much warmer since being insulated and covered with the plastic vapor barrier. Yes, there are still drafts but we are identifying them and plugging each one by one. When the insulation and wiring is complete, we will begin hanging drywall.

Lady the lab and Tiger the orange tabby cat are getting along better. Tiger likes the convenience of Lady’s water dish and has been seen taking a drink while Lady nibbles at her chow. Lady is still a bit too enthusiastic for Tiger, and sometimes their interactions remind me of Garfield comics.

The horses Cairo and Bentley are good too. The days have been chillier but they like the sun and are often seen standing quietly sunbathing. Bentley the 17-year-old Thoroughbred mare has recovered fully from her bout with colic. Much to my chagrin, Cairo continues to nip. He finds this a great ongoing game, despite the fact that he gets reprimanded consistently. I’m told gelding Cairo, his own maturing and my continuing to be consistent with behavior modification will result in him not biting. Some days when we have gone back and forth and I am exhausted (thankfully, my heavy barn jacket protects me from his teeth) that no-nipping day seems a long way off. Ah, well, anyone can deal with a well-mannered horse. There are many times when he stands beautifully without incident and I revel.

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