Monday, January 26, 2009

House Plans

We've been living in the yurt for about 5 1/2 years. Its been an excellent experience from the very start; we wanted to create a place quickly that would allow us flexibility in the future. In that respect, it is just what we've needed. We've learned a lot: how little square footage can work, what sort of space feels good, what we appreciate about the land we are on, etc... 

In the last couple of years we've been working on plans to move on from the yurt into a permenant home. I've spent the last two summers working on building crews in order to feel comfortable building our place. I've learned a lot. There are certainly areas I'll want help with, but I feel pretty comfortable with process. 

Our site is not ideal; the land slopes gently downwards towards the north and there is the garage and breezeway which sit squarely along the south edge of the property sort of claiming the best southern exposure. I've struggled with how to best work with what we have and there doesn't seem to be a really great solution, just the best given the elements in place. 

As it happens, Nancy's uncle Dave gave me a day's consultation/design work with an architect friend of his as a Christmas gift.  We have plans for him to come up from Boston in a couple weeks and walk through the challenges with us, and we are grateful for the opportunity.

Despite not having the site stuff nailed down, I've been working on plans given certain assumptions about where we might site the house. Things could change, but it feels good to be working on the house design. We've lived in 480 sq.  ft. for a long time, but there are shortcomings to our present situation that we can address with the house. It feels good to be working towards making this happen. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chilly Ride, or How Fear is a Hardy Foe

After contemplating going for a bike ride for way longer then I should have, I finally geared up and headed out. (We are in Milton, MA for the weekend). The temperature is hovering somewhere in the 17-20 degree zone this afternoon and I was a little anxious about my toes staying warm. I've got the hands and body thing covered, but toes are a weak point. I haven't quite figured out the non-hiking boot solution yet. Hiking boots are fine, but they are bulky, heavy and have really thick soles.

The other hesitation was riding with my studded snow tires on. Since the streets were mostly free of snow and ice, I thought about switching them out for regular fair weather tires, but in the end just went with the studs. Its a pain in the neck to switch them.

I got to try out my new-to-me Carridice waxed cotton rain shell. The weather was sunny today, but when its cold, I wear a wind shell of some sort over a couple of layers of wool and I'm in good shape.

The lesson for me was: Don't be afraid of the cold. 

It felt great to be out on my bike. My toes started to get a little chilly towards the end of the ride, but it was no big deal in exchange for an opportunity to get out and move around and see some stuff. The studs probably slowed me down a bit, but not enough to notice, certainly not enough to bother with switching them out, and the rain/wind shell worked just great. Gotta dig that traditional English bike gear.

I used to commute year 'round when I lived in Boston and I rarely thought about the weather. I think that having the day-in-day-out experience of riding made hoping on my bike in any weather easy because it was just habit and not something I had to contemplate and wonder about getting right. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bags Bags Bags

I've been making waxed canvas and leather bags for the last couple of years. For the most part they are made to be used for cycling, although there are few other types here and there.

My original inspiration came when I borrowed my cousin Elizabeth's Rivendell "Hobo" bag for a three day tour Nancy and I did around Lake Champlain. The bag proved to be quite useful. At the end of the trip I decided I wanted a Hobo bag for myself. Alas, due to manufacturing issues, they were no longer available. This being the case, I decided to make one myself. I used the borrowed bag as a model and made a crude but serviceable one for myself. In fact, I'm still using it. I keep thinking I should make myself a new one because I do a better job now that I've refined my skills a bit and am better equipped.

The cool thing about the first bag-making experience was realizing how much I enjoyed the process. It set of a little light for me and I've been plugging away ever since. Over time I've made a bunch of bags, mostly as gifts for friends.

I enjoy the ruggedness of the materials; they age well and speak to me of old-world exploration and adventure. The texture and colors are in keeping with the natural world, rather then in contrast to it.

Here are a few bags I've made. In order of appearance:

~Deceptively small saddlebag for Randy. It has an inner gusset that pulls out to double the size of the bag. ~Handlebar bag for Parker.
~A small handlebar / saddlebag for Maia's birthday bike.
~Saddlebag for Randy's sister Kirsten.
~Pannier for Nancy.
~Handlebar bag for me (the infamous first bag).
~Cape roll for myself. It holds my Carridice rain cape.
~Peterson's Field Guide bag for Nancy
~And finally, Tom's shoulder bag.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Flint Corn

Here's Nance holding a jar of flint corn she had just shucked. It has been drying in a basket hanging here in the yurt since we picked it in September. Very cool. We recently took some of our corn, put it in the coffee grinder and made cornmeal out of it. 

Cape Cod Christmas

We spent a nice time down on Cape Cod at Nancy's family's place. 2008 was the year of the child in the Turner family with 3 infants added to the already thriving 2 toddlers. Nancy's brother Brian and his wife Dana had twins in September. They are super cute...

Nate and Ella volunteered for this picture without any prompting or arranging on our part.