Thursday, October 27, 2011

Island getaway

Cue up Kokomo, kids, because we have an island! Granted it's not the sunbathing-and-snorkeling kind... more like the dinner-prep-and-dishwashing kind. Although I plan on piña coladas, either way.

The sink and dishwasher will be in the island, and it will have a raised countertop along the back with bar stools (duh, I need somewhere to sit with my piña colada while Brandon cooks dinner).

Lots of other excitement at the house today as well... check it out, we have DOORS. INSIDE the house.


Things are getting downright fancy around here. We even have a window with trim around it.

Aaaand, stairs that are not made of 2x4s!

Here, you can pretend you are going upstairs...

...and now downstairs. Don't trip, we are still lacking in the banister department. Also, Brandon mixes a strong drink.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nice day for a white decking

My first clue that something new was going on in the house yesterday was this view at the top of the entryway stairs:

That is one large pile of stuff sitting in front of one large expanse of tarp.

And why, you ask? The painters were back, tackling the somewhat crazy challenge we presented them with: paint the ceiling decking white, but leave the big dark beams unpainted. I know, could we be a bigger pain in the neck?! It looks like they've got a system all figured out, though. They did a test run in the master bedroom, covering the beams with brown paper and painters' tape, to see if they could get away with using a no-VOC paint. Unfortunately there was a ton of bleed-through from the original stain, as you can see if you look at the photos in that older post. It wasn't purty. We gave the green-light to use a stain-blocking primer - still low-VOC but a bit stinkier than the original plan. It worked like a charm though, and the ceilings are looking great. I can't wait to see them without the beams all covered up...

Monday, October 24, 2011

In for a penny, in for a pond

As you guys may recall, I had a bit of a hard time (OK, emotional meltdown) with all the digging that had to happen to install our geothermal loops. The backyard went from looking like a pleasant little meadow to looking like the site of the county fair's tractor pull (TANGENT: Brandon took me to a tractor pull very early in our relationship, to try to remedy some of the Midwestern cultural deficits of his east coast girlfriend. Tractors + jet engines = insane). Anyway, the one consolation at the time was that we could restore the area with native plants, and perhaps even create our very own vernal pool. These small ponds (which hold water in the spring, and then dry down by late summer) are ideal breeding habitat for many amphibians, because they don't support amphibian-egg-eating fish. And as we all know, I'm a bit of a sucker for an adorable amphibian.

So, this plan was somewhat percolating in my mind already... but then this weekend we got some major bummer news. Brandon chatted with one of the neighbors who own the property adjacent to Turtle House, and thus own the fantastic vernal pool that sits just over the property line. I have kind of adopted the pool, and pulled a bunch of trash out of it last spring (when I realized there were at least four frog species breeding there). It is such a cool pond that I've been scheming about how I can buy the property (or convince a friend to do so) to protect it. Looks like I may be too late, though. Apparently the owners need to put in a new septic system, and they think this little pond would be the perfect place to do it. And then they're going to fill it in. And then they plan to reach down my throat, rip my heart out of my chest, chop it into a million pieces, and feed it to rabid dogs. And then shoot the dogs. Seriously you guys, TEARS.

So Project Vernal Pool (PVPTM) is now in overdrive, because I need to create some good breeding habitat before next spring so hopefully some of my displaced little amphibious friends can find it. If the neighbors' pool still exists then, I may even collect and move egg masses... we'll see. Anyway, all of this tragic preamble is to explain why I spent part of this evening out at the house scoping out the site where I want the new vernal pool to be. This area is adjacent to woods (good) and the soil has a lot of clay content so it holds water (also good, especially since so much of our property is so sandy). I am meeting with our GC tomorrow to explain the scheme and ask him how much it would cost to have the foundation guy dig a big ol' pit. I plan to compare that number to the cost of a dozen shovels, six pizzas, and a keg of beer (a.k.a. the "alternative method").

Anyway, I was pretty freakin' bummed out after learning about the neighbors' plan early Saturday afternoon. I was trying hard to get all zen and overcome my bummedness and act like a normal, non-salamander-obsessed human, because I was expecting a visitor - Kit, a.k.a. the DIYdiva, was in our neck of the woods, and stopped by to check out the house. Despite finding me covered in poly, paint, and wood chips, and Brandon wielding a chainsaw (!), she did not drive away in terror - and it's a good thing, because let me tell you, that girl is just as hilarious in real life as she is on the interwebz. I'm pretty sure she gave me three new laugh-wrinkles, so THANKS A LOT, KIT. Just kidding - Kit is rad, and her can-do-anything attitude is incredibly inspiring and infectious to be around... to the point where crazy ideas like digging vernal pools by hand start to seem tooootally reasonable. Who's in? I'll buy the shovels and beer.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I am going to do something flat-out CRAAAAAZY on the blog right now. LOOK OUT! I am going to create a "kitchen" label for the bottom of this post. I KNOW. What will I do next?!

I feel like I can do this at this point, because we are moving from the realm of "the space where the kitchen will be" to the realm of... dare I say it??... ACTUAL KITCHEN.

The fridge will go in the space at the left of the pic above (the cabinet on the floor is just there temporarily on its way somewhere else). The range will be in the middle, with a microwave above, and the pretty glass-fronted cabinet in the pic below will be in the space at the top right. The cabinets will be trimmed out all the way to the ceiling, and we'll eventually put in a tile backsplash, so you actually won't really see any of the color on this wall. And in front of this whole expanse will be an island, with more cabinetry, the sink, a dishwasher, and a bar height counter with stools.

THERE ARE CABINETS. ON THE WALLS. Sorry for all the caps lock, you guys. I am a little bit excited. And I can't promise to be any better about it tomorrow, because the a(AAHHH!!!)ppliances are coming!!!

In other news, the flooring guys were wrapping up their day when I got to the house this evening - they had laid more flooring in the guest room...

...and dining room.

It looks amazing!! But the living room currently looks a bit disheveled, what with all the cabinets and wood-cutting going on.

I chatted with the flooring guys a while today about what they'd recommend to seal the floors. Being an eco-nerd, I'd hoped to use a non-toxic, low-VOC product like linseed oil. They warned me that using a natural oil would be super high maintenance (it would have to be redone frequently) and it wouldn't protect the floor well from spills, dog toenails, etc. They recommended a product called Glitsa that I'd never heard of. I came home and Googled it, and learned that it contains formaldehyde... but then found another site claiming that the formaldehyde breaks down very quickly and there's no off-gassing, whereas polyurethane finishes can off-gas for much longer. Sad face. What's a girl to do? Anyone out there have any experience with these purportedly green sealers?

There was also progress in the master bathroom upstairs - the floor tiles are laid! I heart white hexagons. It is like a beehive of cleanliness.

The shower is all prepped for tiles, including what I like to think of as the leg-shaving bench:

I can't wait to see how the glass tiles look up on the walls! And the rest of the cabinets! And the appliances! Things are getting exciting around here, people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Disney's magical world of... granite

You guys, I think I've been to the weirdest place in Michigan. And I have only seen maybe 2% of Michigan - THAT IS JUST HOW WEIRD THIS PLACE IS. Yesterday Brandon and I met Steven at a stone yard to look for... well, stone. Yeah. We needed to pick out countertops for the kitchen, and also some stone for the master bathroom, which will be used for a bench cap and shelves in the shower. To find this stone yard, you head out into the kinda-boonies, find a random house on a random road, drive past it down a dirt track, and suddenly come upon this:

Yes, those are just slabs of granite and other types of stone basically scattered about in a field, behind a barn. Sometimes getting a closer view involved some serious bushwhacking.

Check out the crop of grapes growing over this pile of stone (click on the pic to make it bigger):

It is a good thing we trust Steven as our Designated House Genius because otherwise I would have been pretty sure that he was going to kill us and our bodies would never be found (although they would be potentially well-marked by hundreds of lovely ready-made granite headstones). Luckily we made it out alive, and even found a beautiful piece of stone that will work perfectly in the bathroom! We didn't find anything for the kitchen yet - we are hoping to find a nice dark soapstone - so we are heading out to a stone warehouse tomorrow morning. Apparently they have a larger selection, but fewer possibilities for wildlife sightings, grape harvesting, and rock climbing adventures.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Evacuate the dance floor

We actually evacuated the whole darn house not long after we arrived today, walked in, and took a whiff. I am not sure what the flooring guys put down, but the wood floor looked wet and it staaaaaank. It wasn't the final stain/sealant, because the peg holes haven't been filled yet and we haven't really discussed how we'd like it finished. Despite the stankification, it looks BEAUTIFUL so here are some shots I snapped quickly - you're welcome for me having sacrificed numerous brain cells for this effort. Hopefully they are the ones that are now playing this on repeat in my brain (you're welcome for that, too).

I am in looooove it is so pretty. The flooring guys did such a good job at interspersing the different widths and colors! In that last shot you can see the space they've left for the wood stove - it will be tiled (probably slate).

We also found our stair steps hanging out in the entryway:

Oh hey stair steps! You are going to be much more pleasant to walk on than the questionable 2x4s that have been in place during construction.

Sometimes our evening visits to the house take on a Nancy Drew-ish quality, when there is a perplexing mystery that we can't figure out. Today's mystery was this little mailbox house:

We have no idea what is going on with this. It isn't ours, but there it sits in the garage, being hilarious and random and kind of adorable.

Finally, there is some BIG NEWS from yesterday that I shared on Facebook, but haven't mentioned here yet: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE A SALAMANDER. By which I mean, I found my first salamander at Turtle House. And was it a puny lil redback? (No offense redbacks, I do love you)... NO! It was perhaps the raddest salamander in Michigan: the eastern tiger salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum. Those of you who know me will know that I pretty much completely lost my $hit, jumped around, squealed, and haven't stopped smiling about it for the past 24 hours.

This brings our property herp survey up to 14 species if I get to count the northern water snake (THAT I SAW SWIMMING IN THE RIVER, BRANDON). Here is yours truly completely geeking out yesterday... Yay!!! Tiger salamander!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Painting and tiling and flooring, oh my!

Turtle House must have been a bustling beehive of activity today, since evidently the painters, tile installer and flooring guys were all at work. The painters were in the master bedroom, taping off the beams (which we're leaving their current dark brown color) and painting some of the decking in between. We think this is going to look great (like this inspiration picture - but a less glossy white), but we wanted to test it out in the bedroom before committing to doing the whole living room/loft ceiling this way:

Not sure if that is primer or paint, but it certainly looks like it'll take a few coats to get an even color up there, because the decking was so irregular and discolored in certain areas. I am excited to see what it looks like with the protective paper taken off the beams!

This is actually an update from a day or two ago, but the painters have also completed the porch ceilings...

...and the much discussed garage doors! We went with plain brown to match the trim:

The tile installer came back today to grout everything in the downstairs bathroom. For those of you who have been up all night worrying about it, he also switched out the mismatched soap dishes. Both are now the glossy white color - so they don't match the matte white subway tiles, but they match each other, and the tub, toilet and sink. So much better! Here is everything all groutified:

Perhaps the most exciting thing today was the beginning of installation of the wood flooring. I am not sure if I've posted about this on the blog yet, but this flooring is one of the things we're the most geeked out about (and clearly, we're super geeked out about a lot of things). It is actually old barn wood reclaimed from a barn on Brandon's grandmother's property. Brandon's uncle, who farms their land (and a lot of other land!), couldn't fit his enormous farming equipment into the barns that were built nearly a century ago, when farming implements were muuuuch smaller. They decided to modify one of the barns by removing a whole bunch of interior beams (and then securing the exterior structure with cable instead - it's actually pretty ingenious). When Brandon heard about this, he begged his family to save the beams for us, which they did - and his amazing parents even hauled it all up to Michigan for us (yes, I totally lucked out in the in-law department).

We found a miller up here who cut it down into tongue-and-groove flooring several months ago. He told us that it is mostly red oak and white oak, but there is also a lot of other wood mixed in there - whoever built the original barn probably just used whatever was on the property! We asked the flooring guys to just lay it haphazardly, so the different colors and widths will all be randomly interspersed. Luckily they were totally gung-ho about this, and told us they'd done another similar floor recently and it came out looking amazing. We are so excited!

One thing that's really neat is that some of the boards still have holes from the wooden pegs that held the whole barn together. We asked the flooring guys to just fill these with a clear epoxy, so they'll still be visible and we can tell people the neat history of our wood floor.

Here are a couple shots from the upstairs landing. There is still a ton of wood in piles all over the place, but the flooring guys said they'd be back all day tomorrow - can't wait to see how far they get!