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A Tale of Three Air Compressors


When we first started nailing things together at this place, Murstein used an analog hammer.  There’s a lot to nail, though, and soon he was nursing an elbow injury.  Eventually we got a nail gun and an air compressor.  We did it on the cheap, though, buying from a place known for cheap yet low quality tools.  Of course, it broke just a week or so after the 90-day warranty expired.

Then, we bought a better quality one from the big chain construction supply store.  That’s the one in the picture below.  What you can’t hear just from seeing the picture, thankfully, is the Big Hissing Racket it’s making.  There’s something wrong with the seal, so it pretty much ran constantly and the air hissed out constantly.


So, we took this one back to the store to be fixed under warranty.  The cashier seemed mystified by her own store’s computer program, though, and told us that someone would be in touch with us soon, maybe the next day, to let us know when to come get it.

The next day passed.  So did the one after that.  And a third.  On the fourth day, we were concerned enough to go inquire at the store, because we were going to need it back to sister another rafter on the weekend.  This time, the guy at the register let us know that our air compressor just left yesterday for repairs at the manufacturer.  It would be back in “four to six weeks.”  He was “very sorry” that the first lady didn’t tell us that.  She should have.  Maybe we could rent one of their fine air compressors for the weekend, he suggested.  It was available in 4-hour or 24-hour increments.

Four to six weeks.  Because, you know, we have that kind of time to loll around on this place.

Well, Murstein found a coupon for the Cheap Breaky Tool Place, and realized we could buy yet another air compressor (the kind that breaks just after the 90 day warranty is up) for only twice the cost of the four-hour tool rental.  Sigh.  One of the chief reasons for this whole Minifarm idea is to live in a more conscious, less consumer-oriented way.  We already have enough piles of stuff.  What are we going to do with three air compressors in various states of repair?  But what can we do, just not work on the house for a month and a half?  (We’re doing things that need to get done before we can do other things.  There’s an order of operations, just like in algebra class.)

So now we have three: one dead one, one that is off visiting foreign lands and presumably having more fun than we are, and a shiny new “temporarily operable” cheaparsed air compressor waiting to be used next weekend.  This time, we sprung for the extended warranty.  I swear, one day we’re going to have a heck of a yard sale.

Speaking of yards: instead of “lake-effect snow,” we continue to have our “snow-effect lake.”  This was the lake last week…


But it seems to have dried up in that area and moved further along to the other side of the property.  I’m taking a lot of pictures so I can look back and see how the melt went, what areas stayed wet the longest, what little microclimates I might have, and any other information I might want later, but don’t know to think of yet while the thaw is happening.  Each time I’ve been out there, I’ve also taken a shot of the back yard as a whole, and plan to string them together into a sort of time-lapse slide show one day.

Here are the last four.  You can see the glacier receding.

2014.03.08 ftc

2014.03.15 ftc

2014.03.22 ftc

2014.03.29 ftc



Spring, and a middle aged couple’s fancy heavily turns to thoughts of rafters.


One day, it’s 50°F, the next day there’s a winter storm, and the day after, it’s 35 and everything is melting again.

2014.03.15 Flooding in front

There’s ponding in the front yard.

2014.03.15 Flooding in back

There’s ponding in the back yard.

2014.03.15 Moving ditch water SM

But at least the ditch is running, instead of backed up and ponding the whole yard even worse, as it is for several folks up and down our country road.

Murstein has been busy with the last few rafters.  When we started reinforcing the rafters in preparation for a new roof last autumn, there were 28 to do.  At one per week, it seemed an insurmountable task.  We skipped some weeks, because we were sick or couldn’t get up the driveway in our tiny car.  But now there are just the last four left: the most difficult, problem rafters, of course.  Murstein has been in some tight spaces with these.

2014.03.15 Tight spot 2

Murstein in the rafters…

2014.03.15 Tight spot 1

And Murstein again, trying to see through the low-hanging planks where there were once (and will be again) kitchen cabinets, affixing nails, screws, and metal fixtures to secure yesterday’s problem rafter reinforcement.

The house still looks like this inside:

2014.03.15 Gestalt

But in between times where he needed me to hold the far end of a tape measure or something, I ran around outside in the just-above-freezing heat, taking pictures.

2014.03.15 Nature 1

2014.03.15 Nature 2

2014.03.15 ftc3

The glacier is receding in Minifarmland.  Hopefully we’ll get a lot more work done on it this year!

Out of a Limb


Remember last November when we had Adventures with Wood, learning just how hard it is to ferry two face cords of firewood in a little car with bodies that aren’t used to that kind of work yet?

Here’s the post.

Anyway, while I haven’t written here much because how many pictures of rafters do you really need, we’ve been steadily going out there and doing incrementally more work.  I was pretty excited about today, because it was going to be “warm” (and by that, I mean closer to, but not quite, the freezing temperature of water).  As soon as we rolled in the driveway, though, I noticed something was amiss.


Some unknown person(s) had made off with about a third of our stockpiled firewood: about half a face cord was missing.  By the frozen-in-snow footprints, it looked like they’d just pulled into the driveway, a couple people got out and piled it in, and took off.  They took the stuff closest to the house, too, as if to thumb their nose and make us walk further through the iced-over-now snow to get what we need.

I looked at Murstein.  He looked at me.  “Well, what do you want to do?  We can spend all day moving wood instead of sistering another rafter, or we can just let them have the rest of it next time they come by.”

With a groan, we grabbed a couple five gallon buckets and started hauling wood into the basement.  We’re a good team, Murstein and me.  He was gentleman enough to do most of the hauling, and leave me to place the stacks because “I can do it better than he can.”  I arranged the wood like a puzzle, again, and two hours later, we had it stashed under the basement steps.  I hope we don’t have to move it again until it’s time for a cheery glow in the fireplace that will warm our hands and noses as we work seemingly forever on this place.

I wonder if we’ll have a bumper crop of spiders.  😦



We thought about trying to sister a rafter after all that, but we were sore, tired, cold, cranky, and hungry.  We hadn’t expected to be thieved, out here in the country like that.  Speaking with the neighbor, he told us he’d keep more of an eye on the place, with a dog and whatever it is that country men bring out when threatened, y’know?

Over some soup, Murstein and I talked about it.  There are two kinds of things that could have happened, I think.  The first, is opportunistic or malicious theft, where someone has enough but wanted more and saw a way to score.  That is maddening.  It only amounts to about $25-$30 worth of wood, but we also lost a day having to do this hauling that should be totally unnecessary, and we feel violated.  The other thing might just be poor folks who were cold but couldn’t afford wood.  Even if they’d left a note that said, “Sorry, but we needed the wood,” that would have been something.  In our opinion, that’s why we pay taxes, though: so people in a hard spot can get food or wood or whatever they need, without it violating or being onerous on any one person.

It’s a damn shame that we can’t be so trusting now.  Bastards.



We woke up and looked out the window.

2014.01.25 First Glance

“It’s warmed up enough to snow,” said Murstein.  “Let’s go put in a day at the Minifarm.”

Seems legit.

The snow was deep.

2014.01.25 Snow was deep

It was the “perfect” day to drag 10- and 12-foot 2×6 lumber in our tiny car.  Luckily, the lumber yard isn’t too far from the site.

2014.01.25 Wood 2

2014.01.25 Wood 1

After we finished shoveling enough of the driveway to make it up, got lumber, and made it back, we got yet another rafter sistered.  I didn’t take any pictures of it because it looks exactly like all the other rafters we’ve sistered.

See this?

2014.01.25 FTC2

That’s the Minifarm backyard.  One day, that will be a paradise.

In our wildest dreams


If I had to make a little video in which I explained (a large part of) the reason we’re doing the minifarm, combined with hopes about how it will go (to some degree), it would end up something like this.  Of course, we’re in a different region, with different land, and different goals, but you get the idea.



Because the roof leaks a bit in some areas, we have a few five-gallon buckets around to catch the mess before it does too much damage.  This bucket here was positioned to catch a rather wide, prolific leak in the area that will someday be our bathroom.

2014.01.11 Bucket

The good thing about having so much construction dust and sawdust around the place is that it marks the location of leaks that dry up before we can get there to observe the water directly.  To the upper left side of the picture, you can see the sort of spatters I’m talking about.

So, when the roof takes a leak in the bathroom but can’t make it all in the bucket and ends up dribbling on the floor, it makes me wonder if the house is not, in fact, a guy. 😉

Sometimes you blow snow, sometimes snow blows you.


With the best of all possible intentions, we put on our layers of clothing and headed out to the Minifarm to sister another rafter or two today.  Luckily, we stopped to check the driveway before we actually bought the lumber, because this happened:

2014.01.04 Fail

Can you see where the wheels got stuck and the underbody of the car was lower than the snow was deep?  After a few wheel-spinny backward lunges, we made it back out into the street again.

While I didn’t personally measure the depth, I was able to compare today’s photo of our house number marker with a photo taken earlier this year.


Since we couldn’t get up our lo-o-ong driveway in our little car, Murstein decided to drive to “town” and see if we could buy a snowblower at the local hardware store.  (Yeah, I know we could technically shovel it by hand, but that’s quite a mighty job.  By the time we’d be done, that would be all we did today, no time to do real work, and it’s supposed to dump a load of snow again tonight and tomorrow.)  Anyway, the local place did not have any snowblowers left and they directed us to the chain farm-supply store in the next-biggest city.  We went there and found only big, expensive models that we weren’t sure would fit in the car.  We ended up turning around and going home, glad to not *also* be proceeding with 2-4 feet of lumber and a red flag hanging out of the trunk.

You may be laughing at us.  That’s OK, laugh.  We know we’re city slickers making a go of it in the country (or we will be someday, when we have the house legally habitable), and that this is the making of a sitcom for the Duck Dynasty fanbase.  We know it’s a priority to get a work vehicle that can both haul lumber and plow a driveway.  But I’ll tell you what: that which we are doing, we’re doing debt free.  That’s a virtue, isn’t it?  Same with hard work, and learning.  There are a lot of people who are either not pursuing this goal, or who think it’s “impossible” or “backwards”.  We’re the ones getting our hands dirty and making things happen, even if there’s a learning curve.  Everyone starts somewhere.