Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Power of Positive Thinking

or,  “The Power to Completely Delude Yourself”

You might have noticed that my header image has been changed to a photo of Summer vegetables. It’s part of my plot, you see. If for the next six to eight weeks I involve myself in Spring and Summer planning, I’ll hardly notice the rest of Winter. I don’t mind Winter per se. I’m just ready for Spring.

Besides a pole barn to plan and some landscaping, I need to plan my whole new vegetable garden concept. A few more vegetables to decide on, a few lists to make. Whole different concept this year. No big raised beds. I don’t know quite why, but I hated the thing. Instead, I’m going to plant everything in individual containers (old tin washtubs, terracotta pots). I’ll have a few pyramids for beans and peas too. This way, I can scatter them around the property as ornamental plantings. A la –


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Cottage Conceptions

For those that are coming to the story late, I asked all my blog friends and readers to send me their idea of an awesome cottage. (I’m thinking of building on my own.) Readers here at The Pines are a pretty neat group, so I suspect that we’re going to have a virtual mini-encyclopedia of cabin and cottage designs here!

And it’s good for our blogs! Keep the cottage pics, links, and comments coming! I’ll post the links here, we’ll have a bit of a chat about them, and we’ll have a right proper Link Fest. Not a blogger? Play along anyway! Pass it on! I’d love it if you’d mention it on your blog or to friends – the more pics and links, the better!

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Now, Tricollie, she’s a lady after my own heart. I could live in just about anything as long as I had one of these. Truth be told, when I was jotting a thing or two down, I actually bumped out the walls of the bathroom and took space from the bedroom, so I could accomodate a real tub. Had a link issue, but this is the sort of thing we were talking about.

Lynne at The Blue Door Blog (love that house of hers!) suggested Strawbale building. If you’re not familiar, it works like this – A foundation is built, straw bales are stacked as walls (and fortified/tied with rebar or otherwise), then plastered hard with a natural Earth plaster.

Strawbale is a relative of Cob – mud/clay building. There was a time, Awesome Lynne, when I had every book published on all this. Went to a workshop! But, with our visibility, short build season, and a potential codes battle, I decided I didn’t have it in me. Love ’em though.

Allie from over at Good Things Challenge sent me a wonderful link! (She has a neat gardening post up, currently.) They’re planning on doing the Owner/Builder thing too, and made me aware of their go-to site, Country Plans. Via the link, I’m sending you to a particular cottage – because the construction photos were so good, they made me feel better!

Kathy sent me the link to these little cottages in Oregon. They’re absolute gems – looking at the photos of these gorgeous little things is like walking through an art gallery. Makes me wish we had more decent salvage from tearing down the junky house last Summer. (There was really nothing except some logs and lumber I saved.)

Vicki at Havenwood sent me this wonderful link. If you’re a follower of natural building methods or interesting cottages, you’ve probably seen this house. Friends and I have always called it The Hobbit House. I had somehow forgotten about it! I couldn’t do something like this around here, but it’s enough for me just to look at the thing. It’s amazing. Also, an awesome debunking on Vicki’s part – this photo circulates pretty frequently, but no one ever gives the link or location. Thanks!

Joanna at Boonedocks Wilcox is tugging at my heart strings! Oh, how I would love to build a cordwood house. I want one bad! You can likely tell from my favorite photo – they’re stacked and mortared hardwood. Two big issues for me though – I’ve never known a cordwood house that didn’t leak, and you really have to stay on top of tuck pointing the joints. There’s constant shrinking and expanding of the wood, so there’s constant pointing work. But I want one! It would be pretty safe to say that a cordwood house is my heart’s desire. I’ve studied them pretty hard, for several months last year actually. Maybe Joanna has convinced me to take another look.

To Sandy, I have to just plain say, “Thanks.” Hers are the kind of comments that make me feel like I’m not alone in all this. Sandy and her husband built their own house (over three years), and left a really lovely comment about the this-that-and-the-other thing when building for yourself. Thanks again, Sandy.

The Mac is a neighbor, they built their own home, and we share a Zodiac Sign. So it didn’t surprise me when the nicities she said I needed were exactly the things I have discovered it would be nice to have – 2×6 exterior wall, mud room, metal roof so the snow sheds itself, lots of windows! Mac also points us to the ultimate clearing house for those interested in building smaller – The Tiny House Design Blog. It wonderful. The author collects information in all types of tiny houses, and posts them for our edification on the blog.

John over at Adirondack Almanack suggests a great book (I love this stuff) called “How to Build Cabins, Lodges, and Bungalows,” a “straightforward manual details the construction process from foundation to roof, including chapters on porches, fireplaces, and furnishings.” Might be able to inter-library this one to check it out before I order one. Pretty neat – It’s been constantly reprinted. Awesome.

OldLadyMac sent me an awesome link – Shelter Kit. This is the sort of thing I love – I wouldn’t buy a kit house, mostly because … well, I don’t know why. I just wouldn’t. However, these kit house websites usually offer tons of information, and this one is a whopper. Lots of great photos, floorplans, photos. Awesome site.

Blessing the Elements send me word of a site I had never seen before – Natural Home Magazine. I think of it as more of an “inspiration site,” and frankly, I think that’s one of the most valuable components of this whole building-your-own-home enterprise. I always like to say – Take tons of time planning and dreaming, and enjoy yourself! This is a great site for that. Good reading here! Fun. Reads like a magazine. I found information here on Tiny Houses, Cob Houses, and all sorts of neat stuff. Read a great article about the 280 square foot cottage pictured.

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So, where does this put me? Maybe a few soft decisions have been made. I now know that we will be either building a standard construction framed cottage, or a cordwood cottage. I know both methods. I understand them. It’s important that I feel comfortable. I’m going to go back to look at my cordwood reading again.

After looking at more photos, I know that I positively need to do a simple “Alpine” or “English Country” thing. They feel right. I tried real hard to look at other styles, but I can’t wrap my mind around putting a non-rustic cottage amidst my spruces and pines.  I really believe that in the best of worlds, the home is part of the landscaping, part of a whole. I believe that ideally, the property is one piece, not several varied components.

At the mention of all this, my mind naturally wandering towards tree and perennial planting this Spring. There’s going to be a lot of that going on soon! I do a lot of planting around here – counteracting whoever stripped the lot clean 100 years ago. I have an endless supply of free White Pines and Lupins. Wouldn’t a little cordwood cottage look awesome among a property filled with those?

While we’re in a stream-of-conciousness mood –  I found a cottage name at natural Home Magazine that I really like. “Quietude.” Isn’t that cool?

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The Virtual Vacation

I find that when I am reading a particular subject, I am largely transported there for some days. It’s gotten to the point where I really have a great deal of fun deciding, “I’m going to England this week.” I stop by the library, grab a few books, and I’m off.

I checked out the Fodor’s Guide to London a few weeks ago. I remember really loving the Fodor’s New York as a kid, so I thought I might like it. Interesting enough, but it was really pretty dry. I think I was really looking more for English Countryside than London. And it didn’t quite immerse me in the UK like I would have liked.

However, last week I checked out Turn Left at the Pub, Walking Tours of the English Countryside. Awesome. Absolutely awesome.

I’ve found that I’m in love with the village of Lower Slaughter. Get this – In Lower Slaughter, a stream runs down the middle of town, with the shops and homes set just a few yards back. Almost seems as if the stream were the High Street. (Pictured.) Awesome.

Next week, I’m going to Provence. Where do you go on Virtual Vacation?

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Dinner Diary: Easy Peasey Navy Bean Soup

I’m a bit of a cook. Call me The RV Gourmet.

I make most of our food from scratch, from snacky cakes and cookies to the actual main events. (Don’t get me wrong – I’m not above jarred pasta sauce.) I have a lot of recipes, collected over the ages. Thought it would be fun and edifying to post a good recipe now and then. Here’s Monday’s dinner. Totally a set it and forget it.

Easy Peasey Navy Bean Soup

2 lbs package dried navy beans (do not soak)
12 cups water
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped (or 1 tsp celery seed)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound chopped, cooked ham
3 cubes chicken bouillon
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup sliced carrots
Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot; place bay leaves on top, bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for two hours. Add carrots. Simmer for an additional two hours. Discard bay leaves. You’ll likely want to add some hot water too it – mine comes out pretty thick, and pretty strong.

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Two Little Wires

You know who my hero is, Friends?

Adirondack View. We met for coffee in Lake Placid yesterday, and she brought along a spare RV pump. Isn’t that awesome? (We RV people stick together.) You might remember that our pump quit a week-and-a-half ago. We’ve been Laura Ingalls Wilder-ing it. So, we the potential promise of real-life actual showers, indoor plumbing, and  not having to heat water on the stove – I grabbed the thing and crawled into the RV hatch this morning. (As if I were a 90-pound contortionist.)

Pretty straightforward, two wires, one water line in, one out, pressure switch attached to the pump. Worst part of it was really working in the tiny enclosed space, laying on my stomach. But, with minor wear and tear on my knuckles (and quite a bit of water all over the place), I got it in. I then came inside, turned on the hot water heater, made sure everything worked, brewed some coffee, and wrote this blog post, anticipating my first proper shower in 12 days. Can we get by without a running water? Sure. But it certainly makes things a lot more comfortable. Okay, eminently more comfortable. All that nirvana, just from attaching two little wires.

So, it’s a pretty awesome day here at The Pines. Tomorrow, I’ll do a round up of all the cabin info folks offered in the last post. Be sure to appreciate that indoor plumbing and hot shower, Friends!

You have a great day too!

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Design The Pines

(We’ve had some new friends coming to visit and offer links on the cabin/cottage topic, so I’ve brought this post back up to the top. Thanks, Friends and Visitors!)

When I checked out a book at the library today, the librarian saw my info on the computer screen and told me I carry my age very well. Isn’t that the kind of librarian we all hope for?!

I ran across a gem today. Perhaps a life-changing one. Long-time readers probably know that I’ve looked at everything concerning building your own cottage or cabin. Last year, I finally decided that a solid walkthrough of the whole building process, from soup to nuts, simply didn’t exist. Not one that I like and understand, anyway.

This is why I love our library. It wouldn’t be unusual to stumble upon a fascinating tome printed in the 1930s or so. This morning, I stumbled on “How to Build a Vacation or Retirement House” (1968). I took a look, and I got it. I understand every word. As they say, it spoke to me.

This book takes you through every single step of building a small home, in order, with drawings. I still needed to test it. “Foundations are tricky,” I thought. So, I read the chapter about foundations. I looked at the diagrams. Huh. Perfectly clear.

Change of plans. As if you’re surprised, I’m going to build the house myself. I kind of forgot I could do that. (Duh.) It’s perfect. Don’t care how many seasons it takes, and this way, we can do it a little at a time, on our own schedule. Foundation one season, framing the next, finish the next. That sort of thing. It’s permissible with our local codes, so heck. Why not?

Best part – a bank slate. No blueprints, no prefabs. Just an idea that I’d like it to be old-fashioned-like.

So, Friends, I’d like your help. Let’s Design The Pines together. Seriously. I’d like to look at as many gorgeous cottages as possible. Wanna help me look? What do you find beautiful in an old-fashioned way? I hope you’ll look around and send me some cottage images/links that you really love. Please post links in the comments section here. There are only three requirements – small, gorgeous, and old-fashioned.

Alpine style? Bring it on. Rustic? Awesome. English countryside? Um … perfect.

As long as pics and links are coming in, I’ll post them for us to comment on and chat about, along with a link to your blog. If you send me a bunch of them? Repeatedly? I’ll link to you repeatedly. Let’s up each other’s blog participation during these dark days, and have some fun. No blog? Play along anyway! Pass it on! I’d love it if you’d mention it on your blog or to friends – the more pics and links, the better!

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Sylvan Summer

Thirty-one days ’till Spring, and plenty to think about.

I have a Spring dream. Each night for the past two, actually. We’re right here at home, inside. There’s a sense of Spring rushing in, as if the Spring changeover and greening were going to take a mere two hours. I worry about a (fictional) large patch of ferns. They’re peeking up through the mossy ground. In the dream, I’ve been adding little buildings – the shed, the chicken run – and I worry about the ferns having enough aesthetic space … enough room to really look great. In the dream, I also fret a bit about the lupins coming up. It’s a Design Dream, I suppose.

I’ve been thinking. Thirty-one days to Spring, and the job market is still pretty iffy. I have work for Summer, but nothing now, and we’re hardly ahead of the financial game.  So, I’m thinking, “We’re certainly not building a house and taking on a loan now.” And really, the RV doesn’t bother us a bit.

So maybe, in lieu of building, I could take this Summer to really make the place look beautiful. Plant a tree screen. Add more perennials. Line the driveway with the 12×12 beams I saved. Use the vintage logs to build a nice pole barn for the chickybabes. Heck, I could even upgrade a few things in the RV. Really make the place look gorgeous. I really think it’s just about the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard –  Take the pressure off, and have a total Sylvan Summer.

I keep a file of photos on my computer – an electronic version of a “dream book” full of magazine clippings. None of the photos are specific. That is, I wouldn’t replicate them directly.

They’re really just impressions of what I like. I like to say, “Not exactly this, but this sort of thing. This feeling.” Pics today are from the “dream book.”

I know I have a habit of trying to turn bads into goods. The Book of Life has served up plenty lately. But I’m really pretty sold on this particular chapter.

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