Friday, December 25, 2015

Inside The Looney Bin Part 2: The Upstairs

     Lord, I need a time manager. Someone to say "HEY ! It's been like 2 weeks since your last blog post, get off your arse and write something." Of course, I must play the school card. I just finished the first semester of my senior year at UIUC and I'll admit it; my course load kicked my butt. Five very challenging classes, but finals are over and I'm home till Jan. 20.  Only five more classes to go and I'll graduate in May. It only took 40 years. I'll save that story until I'm closer to pomp and circumstance day.

So, let's go upstairs. We managed to squeeze in three small rooms above the great room downstairs. There is a very small office for me, about 64 SF, with one window. Limited floor space but lots of vertical space for future shelves and maybe even a small loft bed  extending over the doorway,for a grandchild. Please note my temporary desk made from a hollow door we yanked from the old decrepit house. Keith cut it to fit the curve of the wall. Handy guy, my guy.

See that stack of texts, left side, top shelf of short metal shelf rack? Yeah, ten required novels for my American Literature 451 class next semester.  We'll be reading books written from 1914-1945; Faulkner, Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Eliot, etc...After my winter break, it's unlikely I'll get much else done but reading and driving, reading and driving. The university is 1.5 hours from The Poor Farm, one way (up hill both ways.)  Oh well, you can't be much of a writer if you're not a reader, can you?
Heading down the steps from my office, across the landing and up on the other side, we have our small library which will contain books other than my textbooks. It's not yet painted and the floors are unfinished and the room is serving as our closet, so you'll have to use your imagination.
On the other side of the library wall is our bedroom which is also petite on floor space, but ripe with vertical possibilities. It has been painted, floors finished and soon Keith's desk will move into the library and our hanging clothes will move into the bedroom. We'll build a small closet in the space where the desk is now.

     The tall black pipe is part of our rocket mass setup, venting whatever heat has not been absorbed by our concrete floors below, up and out the roof. The hole in the ceiling above our bed is to the opening where all the grain used to be blown into the grain bin. Eventually it will be a skylight. Now, it's just bolted closes and stuffed with a big piece of foam covered in plastic to reduce heat loss.

     Yes, interior designers, I am aware that my horse pic is off center. It's super heavy, made of sculpted plaster and had to be hung on a wall stud. I'll balance it out with some other piece of wall art soon. The bed is a Sears catalog item my Chicago grandparents bought in 1919. I gave it a new coat of bronze spray paint before moving it in here.
     Meanwhile, back in the kitchen; progress continues on our "custom" counter top. It took awhile to figure out how to make the curved frame which will hold our concrete counter top but Keith did a great job with it.
     But, just as we were getting ready to drop our $15 Restore composite molded sink into the cutout space...we noticed a large crack in the bottom. We considered repairing it but if it leaked we'd have to chip out all the concrete in the counter to replace it, and no way did we want to do that. So we shopped for another used sink but when we couldn't find one we decided to use the stainless steel sink in the decrepit house, but dang, if it wasn't rusted out on the bottom. A new sink was not in our budget so we called our wood guy, the one with 7 buildings filled with stuff who supplied us with our floor joists, upstairs shiplap flooring and beams. It took about 30 minutes of searching through his "inventory" but buried deep we found this gem below.

     Circa 1940, it's a Crane cast iron sink. The sucker was super heavy, about 70 pounds, but once cleaned up we knew we'd scored well. Only $25 and I've seen similar models on EBAY for several hundred. It took real effort to get it in its new home but now we're ready for the concrete countertop pour. Hopefully, tomorrow or the next day.

Just one more thing. For Christmas our daughter Raven gifted us with this stunning photo frame filled with our four beautiful grandchildren, ages 14 to 4 months, which just happens to fit perfectly in the space between our two kitchen windows. Coincidence? I think not.














Thursday, December 10, 2015

Inside Uncle Lesters Looney Bin, Part 1. The Downstairs

 As school winds down, I have 2 more written finals, one oral final in Italian, (Mama Mia!) a large multimedia project and an essay, I find myself aching to get busy with the completion of the inside of our grain bin house. Which, by the way...has a new name. A couple of weeks ago Keith was at a family reunion trying to explain to his elderly Uncle Lester, what we were living in and why. Uncle Lester's response? "You're living in a Looney Bin?" Actually, it's a grain bin, but Looney Bin has more charm don't you think?
. As a refresher, our inside living space is a 21 foot diameter repurposed grain bin which we bought for $1500 and had moved to our farm. It provides us with a bit less than 700 square feet of living space divided into one open kitchen/dining/living area downstairs, a small bedroom, very small office and library space upstairs. We heat entirely by wood, do not own a dryer, microwave or dishwasher.
So, join me for a walk about inside
The downstairs is 50% complete. Walls are painted, the concrete floor has been sealed, most of the lighting and plumbing is complete and we have furniture. The dining area looks like this:
Soon the stairs will have risers and the pantry under the stairs will be closed in. This will be a very good thing because right now any little bit of dirt on the stairs gets dumped on pantry items underneath. Yes, I am aware that if I swept the stairs more often there would be less debris to fall. Please refer to the first sentence of this blog.
Our small 20 gallon water heater and short water softener are tucked under the front part of the stairs and have been serving us well. After showering outside all summer with very little water, the 20 gallons of HOT water is a luxury. You'll note the washing machine is blanketed with a coffee maker, and toaster because...
the actual kitchen part of the kitchen, sink, counters, shelves has been on hold while we wait for saw repair parts to arrive. The two by fours on the walls is the begging of our counter top frame which will support the concrete counter top we will pour ourselves. In the meantime I am washing dishes in the bathroom which is a bit of a pain but nothing like washing them outside after heating up water on an open fire. The cooking magic all happens here now...
on my $100 gas stove bought on Facebook (Livingston County For Sale.) It works fantastically and when coupled with the rocket mass stove barrel, I can easily make a large meal on the gas stove while keeping other parts of it warm on the barrel. The large pieces of cement board on the right will be the base for our concrete counter top and when it's moved we'll have enough room to the right of the barrel for a small chair to sit in while we feed the rocket mass heater. We've used the RMH for over a month now and generally only have to fire it up for about 3 hours every 48 hours. It keeps our beloved Looney Bin at 67-71 degrees depending on how cold it is outside. One burn equals approximately the wood in the metal  basket in the photo and you can see that the biggest sticks we use are no more than 3 inches in diameter. It's all junk wood on our property, dead, fallen tree limbs mostly, so nothing we have to buy. Moving around the stove towards the living area we have this scene:
 a small loveseat and one chair plus a very poor excuse for a Christmas tree. I worried about having enough room for visitors but last Sunday all three of our sons and wives and one baby did quite well in here. The steps can also seat visitors. The front door (also the only door) is located right next to the bathroom.
This view makes it all look bigger than it is. Please note the strategically placed wreath over the not so strategically placed breaker box. That placement decision (of the box, I take full responsibility for the wreath) was made while I was in Ireland last summer, need I say more? To the right of the door is our bathroom which I like to call...
the best Texaco gas station bathroom this side of...uh...Texas. Geez, I need some new towels! Due to cost and time restraints we covered the walls and ceiling with Kemlite wall board, the same stuff we used to cover our milk room walls at our old farm. I wanted tile but it wasn't in the budge so for now I have clean, white and waterproof. Because of the round walls and the stairs that curve above the bathroom the walls are oddly shaped, coming to a point in the back of the shower; but still plenty of room. The sink we took from the old crumbling house on the property, the medicine cabinet was a $15 flea market find with original pink paint on the sides circa 1940. It's super sturdy, a real workhorse piece, I can still smell Noxema and Brylcream in there.  The toilet was new when we realized our large compost toilet was too large for the space, so it remains in the outhouse where it will still get lots of use.
The towel racks are simple galvanized pipe, much cheaper and sturdier than conventional towel racks. The floor is just concrete like the rest of the downstairs but sealed with several coats of viscous concrete sealing stuff. I used some powdered charcoal for variety the floor. Not at all sure I like it but at least when we drag in mud after chores it's hardly noticeable.  Oh yeah, that's our dish drying rack in the back of the shower in the middle picture. For privacy...
a salvaged door from the same guy we bought all our floor joists, posts and beams from. It required digging through a few piles but we were thrilled to find this one as we needed a narrow one, only 28 inches wide. It has some water damage but it's straight and solid and for $15, a keeper. I'll take it down and refinish it over my Christmas vacation time. Obviously there is still more to do, I of course have a list to keep us on track.