Wednesday, May 31, 2017

1 Family x 12 (May)

Sending all of the summer vibes from our family to yours!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Old stories (otherwise known as "I'll catch up some day...")

Disclaimer: These pictures are old.  Like, it still looks like winter around here, but in real life, it's full on spring with lots of leaves, grass, flowers etc.  But, there are some gems in here I just couldn't help sharing.

Two years ago Ryan built a really nice swing set for the girls, from scratch, without plans (well, he drew up the plans himself) and with just a little help from his dad and mine.  When we moved here to Marengo, the swing set was actually the first thing we moved...a few weeks before closing (thanks Pam and Gary) and we're so glad we took the time to bring it along with.

Now that Abby's a little bigger, and braver, and Hazel is pretty independent, the kids will often take their little Jeep out the swing set and play together without a ton of supervision from us.  Abby loves to push Hazel in the swing, and Abby has even figured out how to use the adult sized swing...though it's a little too tall for her to get on by herself.

One of the many Spring projects we've been tackling around the house is getting the mulch and sand set for the swing set (finally!).  You can see the timbers laid out in these pictures from the frame of the swing set box and in real life the sandbox has already been built and sand poured.  The box for the swing set has already been built and there is a huge pile of 10 yards of mulch poured right near there just waiting for me to stop feeling lazy and start shoveling it into place (and waiting for the dang rain to stop!).  Hopefully by next weekend we'll be able to check this project off our to-do list as well...and maybe, if you're lucky, I'll take some pictures to show you how it turned out!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

House Updates (Spring 2017)

Ok, time to get my "you know what" together and get some blog posts out the door.  We've made a few changes around the house over the winter months and I've been terrible about sharing and documenting so I wanted to do a quick round up of the some of the changes we've made.

First up was the guest bedroom/workout room.  You may remember from my move in post that we had one unfinished space in the house when we first moved in.  It was in the basement and we used the space as Ryan's office, a workout room and the guest bedroom.  In the picture above, the space where Ryan's bike and weight set, used to house his desk.  Then, roughly where the rug and stet equipment is was the extra bedroom set for guests.

Back over Christmas when Ryan had a few light weeks we framed up a wall splitting this one large room into two space.  The guest bedroom and Ran's desk now sit toward the back of the space, and the workout room is in the front.  The only slightly strange thing about the whole configuration is that you need to walk through the workout room to access the guest bedroom in the back.  But, it works for us, and that's all that matters.  It's nice that the guest room has a window so you get some natural light.

Both rooms are painted and dry-walled so the only thing we have left to do is get flooring down in both rooms.  We plan to add normal carpeting (maybe carpet squares) to the guest room and then that rubber gym flooring to the workout room...once we replenish the house funds.

The biggest project we completed this year was one that most people will likely never even see.  We decided to convert our heat from propane to wood burner.  Our old house on Robin Lane was propane as well so after living with it for 4 years we knew the cost was high and could fluxuate quite a bit between any given year.  To give you some perspective, we spent between $2k and $4k a YEAR to heat the house on Robin Lane and our new house is larger and we knew we wanted to heat the shop for Ryan.  We priced out the cost to switch over to Nicor, the cost of adding the wood burner and the cost of doing GeoThermal and decided that our best bet was wood burning.

Most people have never even heard of heating a house this way and certainly have never considered actually doing it, but my parents installed one three winters ago so we've been learning on the sidelines and deciding if it was the right fit for us.  Don't get me wrong, it's a lifestyle choice, that's for sure.  We'll spend MANY weekends cutting, splitting and stacking wood to heat our house each year, but the end result is "free heat".  I say in in quotes because the real cost comes in manual labor and boy does it take a lot.  Not only do we have to cut, split and stack the wood to feed this thing all winter long, but we also have to load the burner twice a day, every day to keep the thing running.  The up side though is that we can heat our house for very little cost now that we've got it installed. And, we've set it up to also heat the shop and the pool in the summer time so we'll be nearly 100% off propane.  We will still have a tank and will still need propane to run our appliances and heat the house whenever we aren't running the burner (like if we're gone for a weekend or something) but our costs to heat will reduce greatly.

Installing the burner involved a few weekends of projects in prep for the actual installation.  Fist we needed to trench in the water lines that run from the burner to the house.  You can see pictures of the trench through our back yard a few photos up.  We rented a trencher and had both sets of parents out the help.  Then, the following weekend we poured the concrete slab you see here behind the shop.  Eventually we'll extend the shop roof over the burner and it will cover our wood pile (which you see prepped here behind the burner with wood pallets).  The goal will be that we can keep a supply of wood dry and load the burner all with a roof over our heads because running this thing in the rain or snow can be one cold job!

We've been hard at work building up a supply of lumber for this upcoming winter.  Most wood should dry for about 6 months before we burn it so we're feeling a little behind the 8-ball these days.  Ideally we'd be cutting wood right now for NEXT winter (not the one coming up again in 6 months) but we'll get there.  These pictures are old because we've already got that palleted space nearly full as high as we can stack it with we're making progress toward being ready for winter.  As I said, this is totally a lifestyle choice and you should anticipate lots of pictures of us cutting wood and running this dang thing.  I am already planning a post called "things I learned while owning a wood burner" which I can already tell you will include "how to stack a good wood pile" and "how to identify poison ivy".  I'm sure there will be some hilarious stories to tell about this latest of McGrath adventures, so stay tuned.