Archive for December, 2011

Christmas Cabin

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

No, we’re not spending the holidays at the cabin, but yes, that’s a plume of smoke coming out of the top of the chimney. The heat pump has been delayed by a supply chain problem on the part of the manufacturer, so in the meantime, our carpentry crew decided to warm up the inside of the cabin with the fireplace. Elizabeth dressed up kitchen door with a Christmas wreath, so even though the cabin will be spending its first Christmas alone, at least it looks festive.

My parents report that the cement has been poured under the front porch, and yesterday they watched the cement crew putting the finishing touches on the barn floor.  Once the doors arrive and are installed, we can finally park the Kubota inside. My parents also report that the Killbuck has flooded again, closing Route 60 again. The TV meteorologist says that Cleveland is 10 inches above its normal rainfall, an unprecedented level of rainfall that is likely a once in a lifetime experience. Let’s hope so.

[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Geothermal: the green cabin.]


Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around an energetic and fun-loving maiden Aunt, who entertained me with extended weekend visits to rock shops, surplus stores, and whatever passed for tourist attractions in Akron, Ohio.

It might as well be true that my treasured ornament dates from the year I  learned  NORAD was tracking Saint Nick. Hearing the reports on the radio during a long winter’s drive from Bay Village, I breathlessly informed Aunt Eloise that you could see Santa on the RADAR.  She lived alone in a funny little old Firestone Park house with its perpetually out of tune piano, push button electric switches, and a treasure trove of an attic.  Her Christmas tree was full of these fascinating plastic ornaments, glitter-infused in blue, and green and pink, an army of kitschy gold foil propellers, silently spinning away over C7-generated updrafts.  Eloise unhooked one from the tree and generously handed it to me.  46 years later, that thing is still spinning away on a Heiserbaum, its longevity assured by today’s lower wattage bulbs.

Can you remember a time when Christmas didn’t come from China? As it turns out, the Twinkler Ornament was made in Ohio, conceived of in 1949 by Boardman, Ohio native John Garver and manufactured by the Tinkle Toy division of defunct Ohio firm Plakie Toy Company (and who would not want a Tinkle Toy?). According to Garver, who was trying to relaunch an updated version of his popular retro ornament in 2009, fifteen million of the things were manufactured. It would be nice to think that my ornament is not alone, and that Garver’s estimate that 2/3 are still intact and spinning was correct, although price history on eBay suggests otherwise. A fellow Twinkler reports that many of these were unfortunately lost in the heat of the 1950s moment.

Garver’s 1956 patent shows a somewhat less ornamental ornament, yet the basic design is clear.  Thumbing through some of the related patents leads to some interesting paths, including a somewhat different approach for a thermally-driven rotating tree display,  and my favorite, AE Newton’s 1933 patent for Electric and Other Artificial Fire, a whimsical device that I can only envision as a sort of flaming cash register, which probably had a greater impact on 1960s dens than the Twinkler.

I’d always referred to my ornament as the birdcage, and its inexplicably satisfying to learn that the creator of the thing called it that, too. Its just a little bit of Ohio, hanging on the family tree of my life, embodying a rich and wonderful set of memories in a dated but surprisingly sturdy form.

According to a site dedicated to retro Christmas decorations, the following text appeared on the outside of the box.



When placed above the light


Made of durable plastic, not glass”

Exterior Work

Friday, December 16th, 2011

One of the disadvantages of having the final grading work done so late in the year is that grass is unlikely to root before Spring. During her previous visit, Elizabeth cleaned Moore’s out of their remaining 2011 grass seed, spreading 150 pounds worth around our sprawling cabin site.

To maximize the survival and sprouting likelihood, and to reduce the potential for winter erosion, Elizabeth spread 20 bales of straw around the cabin site and along the side of the driveway.  On some of the steeper mud slopes, we unrolled excelsior mats, which Elizabeth attached to the ground with biodegradable pins.

The driveway gravel has never been extended beyond the nearest corner of the cabin, so we stopped in at Holmes Redimix and scheduled Dianne to bring us yet another truck load of 1&2 crushed limestone to spread across the back of the cabin, and what little turning area could be excavated into the hillside.  Dianne ended up spreading about half the load at the top of the drive, leaving several tons in a pile for me to spread with the Kubota tractor.

Ranging from baseball to softball size, the 1&2 limestone is nearly impossible to move with a shovel, and a huge challenge with such a small tractor.  I spent a couple hours last Thursday and Friday nibbling away at the last of a pile that was left in the meadow in July, spreading it over some of the subsiding areas in the drive where a new culvert was installed last month.  The new pile was easier to spread because it hadn’t packed down yet.

On the theory that ground would be frozen during the next 3 months, I took the opportunity to polish up some of the earth moving.  The back fill around both the cabin and barn has already started to visibly subside, so I used the blade to scrape up more clay and pile it around the foundations.

 The driveway drainage seemed on track towards creating a new stream through the side door of the barn, so Sheldon put in another culvert, with a drainage basin and grate located in front of the side door of the barn above. After 4 weeks of continued wet whether and pickup truck traffic, a ridge of clay appeared between the drive and the drain.  I used the tractor to scrape off the top of the clay, filling in a deepening puddle between the driveway and what I hope will soon be the cement floor of the barn.  I also dressed up a couple other drainage problems along the drive, and hope that it will last until spring.  Dianne should have arrived some time this week with a load of smaller limestone, either #4 or #57, to spread across the length of our gravel sinkhole.


[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Christmas Cabin.]


Thursday, December 15th, 2011

We were more than a bit surprised during last week’s trip to the building site to flip a switch and actually see something light up. We knew that power cables had been laid between the utility pole and the cabin’s foundation, along with water and power connections to the well, but we didn’t know that some temporary lights had been put into place.

As observed by Elizabeth over a month ago, the various subcontractors have been competing for the most desirable locations for, staking out their territory with magic markers.  The view above shows a transportation hub in the basement utility room ceiling that includes cold and hot water, 110 and 220v power and television.

The bathroom ceiling above shows duct work, drainage and cold water running to an upstairs bathroom, along with duct work for downstairs ventilation fans.

Log wall construction creates some challenges for utility routing, with most of the plumbing, wiring, and duct work for the upper floor sharing interior wall space around the bathrooms in the southwest corner.  One result of this is a tortuous path for hot air from a plenum in one corner, leading through two closets, a bedroom and a storage nook, ending up with a heating vent inside one of the gabled dormers.

Electrical outlets on exterior log walls were planned before the logs were stacked, ensuring that holes were drilled for pulling the wires.  Most of the switches are near door frames, which simplifies wire routing. As shown above, the door, ceiling and fan wiring for the porch are put into place before installation of the door trim.

 At this point, it seems that everything that is going to be inside a wall is in place, and Sam’s carpentry crew has started installing tongue in groove ceilings and walls in the areas where we decided against drywall. Most of the duct work seems to be in place, and power has been run into the cabin, so we’re hoping that heat pump will be installed soon. So are the subcontractors working inside an unheated cabin in December. We have no work on the when the geothermal company will be drilling or when the heat pump will arrive.


[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Exterior Work.]

Starting the Barn

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

When Elizabeth and I arrived at the Hollow this afternoon, our building crew had already installed the barn floor and was well along with the trusses.

The upper floor will have a door on the west end.  Sheldon graded a ramp along the northern face (left above) and bulldozed a flat area on the slope to the west of the barn, so it’ll be possible to drive up to the upper level door.

The barn will have a door on the south side of the lower level, and a pair of garage doors on the east side, facing the driveway.

The north face will have a pair of windows on the ground floor, and a pair of windows in a dormer on the second.  The east face, facing the drive, will also have a pair of windows.

Today was my first chance to inspect all the work that Sheldon did to finish the grading and install the septic system. The driveway looks great, with a big new culvert at the county road, a new culvert at the right angle bend, and most of the bigger holes filled in.  Elizabeth had also asked Diane to bring in a couple loads of gravel 2 weeks ago, and that made a big difference.  Everything was in surprisingly good shape, given the amount of rain that fell here recently.  Route 60 was closed, and we had to take the high water road on the other side of the Killbuck, which is currently 1 foot above flood stage.  We saw lots of flooding in fields and other low lying areas.

The pond was pouring out the overflow, fed by a babbling brook. The newly recaptured spring was gushing into the cress pool.  The springs along the eastern edge of the property were all flowing strongly.  Coshocton County took the lead in the number of deer shot during gun season. I found a lot of fresh prints today, so there should be plenty left for the final 2 days of the season, later this month.

[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Power.]