The final final has been vanquished; preparing the trailer for my caravan to freedom

Getting a great deal

(Editor’s note: this post is going live some 2 weeks after the fact, because the last portion of my time in New Haven was simply too busy for me to compose this before now!)

In February or March, it occurred to me that it would be 1) a lot easier to move; 2) a lot easier to do farmwork in Maryland for my internship; and 3) prepare me for years of utility and capacity ahead.

I knew that Harbor Freight is at times a great place to purchase tools and gear – they claim to offer the best deals on great gear, and while their prices are always very low… the quality of what they sell isn’t especially compelling in some cases.

That said, I did a hell of a lot of research over months, looking into whether or not their trailer kits could be trusted – and what I found was, a resounding yes IF you properly clean and repack with grease the ball bearings in the wheel hubs.  Which I did, very carefully, as per below.

My good friend Syed helped me find out that HF was going to hold a sale on Easter Sunday, for 25% off of one item.  The specific store I went to didn’t have any in stock, they gave me a voucher to get the sales price after the day once they were back in stock… and I ended up getting the kit from the New Haven store.

My good friend Bob finalizing bolt placement through the deck

My good friend Bob finalizing bolt placement through the deck

 

Test fitting one of the side walls to the vertical upright beams

Test fitting one of the side walls to the vertical upright beams

Building the trailer

My good friend Bob is a retired Marine and retired police officer, who is working security for Yale Law School – and over the 16 odd months I did IT there, I often helped Bob with various IT problems which arose.  He had told me about the garage he had, where he likes to fix cars – and when I mentioned the trailer, Bob jumped at the chance to help me out with a project before I departed New Haven!  Thus, once I finished the last final of my academic career (thank Jesus it is over), I dove into working as many hours at the Law School as I could, while also working on the trailer after shifts ended.

Bob and his brother Eddy and I, hanging out on a Saturday in the car shop they have used for more than 30 years

Bob and his brother Eddy and I, hanging out on a Saturday in the car shop they have used for more than 30 years

Over several nights and weekends, Bob and I (and his visiting older brother Eddy, at times) worked to put together the metal frame, to prepare for the decking and side walls.  I decided to do 2 foot tall walls, making use of the slots in the steel frame as to ensure they are stable when in place but also make their removal a non-issue.  We used pressure treated lumber for the deck and uprights, to make sure they last as long as possible – and then I painted the side panel plywood prior to assembly.

I found a special set of interlocking corner hardware for trailers, and then a set of super heavy duty Tacoma pickup truck bed D-rings, as the other modifications I did on the trailer.  The corner hardware got put onto the side walls and they do an excellent job of holding the walls very steadily in place, even at speed.  The D-rings were drilled into the outside edges of the frame, as to allow for tie-down points when I have the walls removed and am transporting heavier or larger items such as 4×8 plywood (as opposed to the lighter duty door handles I put onto the deck for internal tie-down points).

Ready to go!

After a great deal of work, the trailer was ready to go – and my best intentions were to take it home to New Haven from Bob’s garage, load it completely for the Maryland trip, and then return it to Bob’s locking garage for safe storage until the moment of my departure south.  I did indeed do that, and in retrospect am VERY glad I did so!

Other than electrical, the trailer was ready to go on schedule (I ended up finishing a few days later)

Other than electrical, the trailer was ready to go on schedule (I ended up finishing a few days later)

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From Springsteen to Turisas – the weirdest concert weekend in VA and NC ever, and more!

The concert(s) trip, an overview

More than 3 months ago, my good friend Andrew told me about a metal concert in April, Paganfest 2014 in Baltimore.  He got tickets and we planned THAT early to go forth and be metalheads with some other friends as well.

the routes involved

the routes involved

So, when my friend Veronica mentioned to me, out of the blue, “want to go see Bruce Springsteen in Raleigh North Carolina” the night before I was going to depart for DC anyways, I realized: I couldn’t NOT see these two concerts in the same weekend, the range of music was too good to pass up.

The rest stops along 95 are sometimes quite pretty, it turns out

The rest stops along 95 are sometimes quite pretty, it turns out

Springsteen & visiting Amber, in Raleigh NC

Williamsburg, VA

So the first part of the trip was adventuring down to Williamsburg to pick up my friend Vero and her friend Alex, but I began with a quick refresher tour of the colonial encampment (having been there back in high school):

Almost as fast as the MFALCON!

Almost as fast as the MFALCON!

It was a lovely day, and after SO much driving (though just an appetizer of the SO MUCH DRIVING to come, this past weekend ), it was quite nice to be out and about on foot.

Cannons are still used to defend Williamsburg to this very day. Just In Case.

Cannons are still used to defend Williamsburg to this very day.
Just In Case.

Additionally, some of you may remember a prior post on this blog about wanting to buy land in Virginia after school.  Even walking around people in petticoats and tourists, the setting and blazing sun suitable to solar power my way to free utilities forever was VERY tempting anew….

It seems the British STILL don't know when to quit on this country of ours...

It seems the British STILL don’t know when to quit on this country of ours…

Nice to stretch, but back into the car we went, in order to drive down to our hotel as to attend the…

Bruce Springsteen concert @ Raleigh, NC

Our arrival was around 5pm or so, and thus we had time to 1) check into our hotel; 2) drive over and park at the PNC Arena; 3) a scrumptious dinner (in my case, shrimp and cheddar + jalapeno grits, BBQ baked beans, and a clam chowder, all out of this world!) at the Backyard Bistro across the street from the Arena; and then 4) jaywalking/jayrunning back to the parking lot and then into the stadium for the concert:

PNC Arena in the background, with a veritable sea of tailgating BRUUUUUUCEEEE fans in between

PNC Arena in the background, with a veritable sea of tailgating BRUUUUUUCEEEE fans in between

The concert venue was so huge and the lighting fluctuated so much that 1) no camera phone photo of the interior was worth a damn, and 2) my DSLR was disallowed to be brought inside, so I have no photos of the actual event.

But.

Bruce was quite the entertaining performer, with his E Street Band – for a 64 year old guy, he was RUNNING around all over  the place, and generally having a great time.  The people in the crowd definitely got their money’s worth, as people were dancing and clapping and screaming the whole  time – and he was soaking it up.

Astonishingly, Bruce performed from 7:30pm until 11pm or so, without an intermission… I myself departed at 9:45 or so, to go visit my good friend and former housemate Amber.  Between her having worked all day and my having driven a shitzillion miles, we were both exhausted, but we shared some wine and caught up at a local bar in Raleigh prior to calling it a night.  Back to the hotel I went, as another long day of driving was ahead of me.

On the trip back to Williamsburg, from Raleigh

On the trip back to Williamsburg, from Raleigh, with Alex and Vero

All told, even though I am not the biggest Springsteen fan (as in, I enjoy his music but he is not a go-to for me, typically), it was the biggest concert I have ever been to and a fun experience.

METAL and (very) old friends, from Yorktown VA to Baltimore MD

The remainder of the weekend, though, was pretty goddamned metal \m/

After dropping Vero and Alex back to their places in Williamsburg, I then departed for…

Yorktown, both historic and Tonyish

My friend Tony was at a lecture, so I actually visited one of the few major colonial sites I had not yet encountered: the Yorktown battlefield.

The battlefield at Yorktown

The battlefield at Yorktown

An American flag flies here after both Revolutionary and Civil wars... but there was no guarantee of this.

An American flag flies here after both Revolutionary and Civil wars… but there was no guarantee of this.

Departing the battlefields, I went to my friend Tony’s house, a little down the street, and we got to hang out and catch up with our mutual friend David for a few hours before going up to Arlington.

Tony's family has an awesome set of raised bed gardens, I am quite jealous

Tony’s family has an awesome set of raised bed gardens, I am quite jealous

Tony showed us his family’s home, which they planned and built significant portions of themselves (which made my DIY heart sing with joy).  My favorite parts were the gazebo in the back (seen below) which Tony put in himself, the huge raised bed gardens, and their theater room (something I hope to emulate in some way when I have my own home).

David, Tony, and I, under the outstanding gazebo and patio tony put in several months ago

David, Tony, and I, under the outstanding gazebo and patio tony put in several months ago

We talked and realized the following:
1) David and I had met playing DotA on the internet, back when we were 15 or 16
2) David thought I was funny, so wanted to get me in on playing with Andrew and Tony
2b) the first several games with them, I did *awful* but they thought I was a nice and funny guy, so we stayed friends
3) David and I ended up both going to American University and in fact met in person serendipitously at an orientation event
4) I ended up meeting and hanging out with Andrew and Tony many times thereafter

It is crazy that some of my best friends for more than a decade all originated from a random matchmaking queue for a computer game, and I was glad to remember those details after so long.

Tony's mom makes the best food in general, but this baklava was outstanding.  The sort of outstanding where "honey is too overpowering a taste, we make our own syrup with rosewater to keep the treat light"

Tony’s mom makes the best food in general, but this baklava was outstanding. The sort of outstanding where “honey is too overpowering a taste, we make our own syrup with rosewater to keep the treat light”

After huge helpings of Tony’s mom’s delicious foodstuffs, we departed for Arlington through some SERIOUS rainstorms.

Helping buddies in Arlington

Arriving at Andrew’s old house, we did some packing and moving of his things to his new place, because that is what buddies are for/it was his birthday week/his sedan don’t hold so much.

MFALCON, cargo hauler, and Tony

MFALCON, cargo hauler, and Tony

We had some DELICIOUS Korean fried chicken, from a restaurant called Bonchon, and it was absurdly delicious. After that, it was time to coma our way into restfulness for the next day’s activities.

Tony's 4Runner and I, filled with furniture

Tony’s 4Runner and I, filled with furniture

As it WAS Andrew’s birthday weekend, Tony’s mom had made him a DotA-themed cake, and I managed to get a photo both of his genuinely joyful reaction (very rare, for him), and the cake itself:

Infamous Drow cake

Infamous Drow cake

He glad, he glad

He glad, he glad

All told, it was a pleasure to help Andrew move into his new place and hang out with those guys – not least of all because his overpriced Arlingtonian apartment building was quite nice on the eyes:

The view from Andrew's apartment, not half bad

The view from Andrew’s apartment, not half bad

The concert in Baltimore

The main event, then, and the core reason for this whole trip, was to go to Paganfest 2014 – a heavy metal concert with mostly folk and Viking themed bands, which was quite enjoyable.   The venue in Baltimore was the Ottobar, which wasn’t the biggest or nicest establishment ever… but the bands made up for it.  We got to see Ohio’s Winterhymn, Germany’s Varg (with songs where the lead singer introduced it as “this next one is about mercilessly killing your worst enemy on the battlefield), Taiwan’s Chthonic; (my favorite) Finland’s Turisas; and Finland’s Korpiklaani.

From the local band whose drummer WAS Jesus:

Jesus, take the reins

Jesus, take the reins

To the unending goofiness of folk bands in general:

lololol

lololol

To the fun and lively performances:

Korpiklaani, on stage and drunk while performing songs like "VODKA"

Korpiklaani, on stage and drunk while performing songs like “VODKA”

The concert was a lot of fun – and the people at metal concerts are always fun(ny) in their own ways – from guys with longer and better-kept hair than their girlfriends; to people wearing tunics and carrying drinking horns, to the shirts from all sorts of other metal concerts, definitely a grand time.

'Exura' the keyboardist of Winterhymn

With ‘Exura’ the keyboardist of Winterhymn

At trip’s end

After sleeping very soundly from a long day with buddies, our time had run out, and we were forced to head off towards our respective responsibilities.  At the end of a delicious Lebanese lunch, we departed from Arlington – a quick photo of all of us at once, as evidence, and we were off!

Myself, Tony, Andrew, and David - friends again reunited after far too long

Myself, Tony, Andrew, and David – friends again reunited after far too long

All told, a whirlwind of driving and visiting, but an excellent long weekend away from New Haven.  I am very thankful to have such great and gracious friends.

The weeks ahead

So by way of general updates, consider the following:

1) I am working again at my old Yale Law School job, and will be for this week and next week.

The old office still stands

The old office still stands

2) I purchased a trailer from HarborFreight, with the Easter sale coupon they told me I could use after the fact, and will be building it to help with the move down to Maryland for the summer – and I am super excited about this!! More on this once I build the damned thing.

Harbor Freight trailer kit, in the car

Harbor Freight trailer kit, in the car

3) The housemate whose name shall go unmentioned, the one who plays violin at 2 and 3am, and lets his guinea pigs make a mess in communal areas and never cleans it up, and so much more… was legally evicted mid-April.  Sadly, the law is on his side so he has to be gone by or before May 17, a full 30 days later.  But there shall be MUCH rejoicing when his disrespectful, unhygienic ways are no longer on the premises.

Between that guy; the “oh a stray pit bull followed me home and I am going to keep it” guy; the 40 year old law degree’d girl who decided against getting a job and then took out her depression on me via passive-aggressive bullshit 6 miles high; and others, I have definitely had more than my fair share of INSANETRAIN housemates.  I am thankful for those other housemates, who were amongst my best friends in 3 years here… but overall have learned I will need to live by myself or with people I know and trust from the outset, because INSANETRAIN housemate roulette is shit.

In many ways, I still *am* mad

In many ways, I still *am* mad

4) I am so, so very excited to be entering the professional realm in a few short months – so keep an eye out for posted updates about job opportunities I am applying for!  Also, the projects to come, once I have an income, will include things like this fantastic converted Range Rover into a pickup truck spotted in Baltimore over the weekend:

I need to make one.  Or two.

I need to make one. Or two.

Birthday the 26th, and final preparations for The Maine Trip next week

Update on school

The short version is: I truly, deeply, completely, utterly don’t care.

dontcareindicator_zps52ac01df

I am VERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRY ready to leave.  To be fair, I was ready to leave over 2 years ago, but semantics is a game I do not play.

One brief update, I guess, is that the professor of the SE Asian course, Chloe Starr, turned out to be (and I am charitable here) an EXTRAORDINARILY rude, uncouth woman.  A human being who I am not willing to spend time receiving verbal abuse from.  So I spoke in a very clear and passionate way with the Registrar, and was switched out of that class and its professorial charm, to an Introduction to Ancient Judaism (which has been really awesome, actually).

Also, towards the end of “having to travel to job interviews comes the end of the spring,” I have asked for and gotten permission to do all of my final papers as early as I would life – and I finished one of them on February 1, which is due in April.  I am so ready to get out of here, as it were, that I am speeding up to finish early (as opposed to the typical symptoms of senioritis, not doing anything).

Update on work

So I have previously explained that I manage (now) 27 Yale undergrads and grad students, in our pursuit of coding 160,000+ file cards (each detailing 1 event of the French Resistance against the Germans during WWII) into spreadsheet format, focusing on the violent events.

French resistance research project progress up to this week

French resistance research project progress up to this week

It is exciting to report that I helped lead a meeting earlier this week, in which we discussed the large amount of progress we have made, as shown above.  There is a lot of work ahead, but we explained how we will eventually tie every single event into a GIS file which both points to the exact location on the map and also can allow the researcher access to the image of the file card.  Stay tuned, but just know: I might be better at typing on a French Canadian keyboard at this point, after the past few months.

Preparing for traveling up to Maine

Tire chains; LED reflective vest; Amsoil cold flow additive catalog; and military spec boots

Tire chains; LED reflective vest; Amsoil cold flow additive catalog; and military spec boots

So as the people close to me know (namely, because they cannot escape my babbling 🙂 ), I will be camping from Wednesday to Sunday next week, at Acadia National Park in Maine.  As that is near the Canadian border AND is on the Atlantic ocean, it will be a fairly chilly experience.

Preparing for Maine requires preparing the back yard for carpentry

Preparing for Maine requires preparing the back yard for carpentry

So, besides purchasing the proper gear (from military style boots, to stainless steel crampons for traction, to Thule snow chains for my tires, and more), I decided on designing and fabricating a sled with which to haul gear – as I have been in touch with the NPS park rangers at Acadia, it will be a hell of a hike through snowy wastes from parking lot to camp site.

Sizing out the deck for the two plastic boxes and the cooler

Sizing out the deck for the two plastic boxes and the cooler

The joy of Craigslist means I got a pair of kid’s skis for $25.  When combined with approximately $8 of purchased hardware, and then scrap lumber and plywood:

The sled with boxes and cooler, and shovel in its holder, now with the tow rope

The sled with boxes and cooler, and shovel in its holder, now with the tow rope

At the end of the day, then, the sled will be very useful, especially as I have to bring my own firewood and would prefer to not carry that across unplowed terrain in my arms, over a million trips back and forth.  Thankfully, as per below, Icarus has been training to tow this sled (not least of all because I am fresh out of huskies):

Ike has been training to be a sled-towing dragon for months now.  The snow here is simulated by paper towels, as it turns out.

Ike has been training to be a sled-towing dragon for months now. The snow here is simulated by paper towels, as it turns out.

Also, in the event that my Ike/sled combination fail me, the Thule snow chains (similar to these) for my front tires SHOULD mean I can crawl out of the wastes regardless of terrain, road, and weather conditions:

Thule show chains looking DAMNED sexy

Thule show chains looking DAMNED sexy

I also had a chance to get out to REI in Norwalk, and got some MicroSpikes for my combat boots:

The MicroSpikes BARELY fit my size 16 battleships/boots

The MicroSpikes BARELY fit my size 16 battleships/boots

The snow and ice doesn’t stand a goddamned chance.

A quiet birthday, focused on growth of all sorts

Finally, then, I would just again speak to the wonderful benefits of the plants I have put into my bedroom – the air is fresher and cleaner, I sleep more soundly, and I have yet to wake up with chapped lips or cracked knuckle skin yet (as they help regulate the humidity in the room).

Today I got the nepenthe I ordered for myself (thanks Greg H for helping tempt me into doing this).  It is a carnivorous plant native to Borneo, the Philippines, and thereabouts, and they have pitchers (hence the moniker “Asian pitcher plant”) which collect rainwater and then create nectar-smelling digestive enzymes… so bugs are attracted in and then never escape.  Given the huge pile of spiders in this basement, I wouldn’t be dissatisfied with even 10% of them being eaten by this beautiful plant – but its just gorgeous to look at).

Beyond sled building, plant arranging, and working on the French Resistant project, today was fairly delightfully introspective-friendly, which I needed.  Plus, a good warm-up (cool-down?) for the northern frozen wastes next week!!

Asian pitcher plant in my basement, my birthday present to myself

Asian pitcher plant in my basement, my birthday present to myself

“This baby’s got a few surprises left in her, sweetheart.” – the return of the MFALCON, new foglights and winter front grill covers

Leaving the Jeep better than I received it

So to be sure, it has been a massive blessing to have borrowed my friend Andrea’s Jeep – but I am ready to be back to my car and the stick shift’s far finer control.  As I send the Jeep back, the hood struts have been replaced (so the hood can remain open by itself) and the tailgate lock actuator (so now the gate can be opened from the outside AND locked).  I also ran Lucas fuel additive through several tanks of fuel, and both improved the fuel efficiency as well as brought the idling RPM from 1100 down to approximately 575 or so.  Definitely a fun vehicle to drive (and to think, I didn’t even get the chance to off-road with it), but too expensive per mile for me to drive any longer!

Thusly, given that this week saw me move to pushups on a 45 degree incline at physical therapy, and then on Thursday I received the permission of the surgeon, I have returned to my beloved MFALCON.

But I was not idle during my convalescence.  I planned out, and as of very recently, did the work involved in a couple of modifications and additions to the vehicle.

Clean and shiny as all hell (call it 90% wax, 10% sheen off the frozen rinse water)

Clean and shiny as all hell (call it 90% wax, 10% sheen off the frozen rinse water)

Fog lights, replacing the turn signals

Initially back in August, I recognized I would eventually want to install fog lights on my car – the extra light is a good thing for safety, but I also happen to think that fogs which are tinted look damned sexy whether on or off! :3

the new turn signal and fog light arrays

the new turn signal and fog light arrays

The assembly comes as a set (the stock assembly is a turn signal, a reflector, and then a fake fog light lens reflector), and thus I had to purchase replacement assemblies with the real fogs, as the sizing on the middle reflector is different.

the finished product, turn signals orange and fog lights yellow

the finished product, turn signals orange and fog lights yellow

And let me tell you, it was REALLY enjoyable to do a project even as simple as this, ordering and then cutting to size amber (turn signals) and yellow (fog lights) vinyl tint.  Having been incapable of doing much of anything for months as my arm healed, this was a really viable project for my still-healing arm while also being very practical and not too expensive.

New turn signals and fog lights installed, looking *awesome*

New turn signals and fog lights installed, looking *awesome*

Fabricating winter fronts for the upper and lower grills

A few weekends later, being optimistic that the surgeon would indeed clear me to drive my car again, and bearing in mind my home town of Chesterland Ohio is functionally the central Antarctic frozen wastes, I realize that my poor diesel engine will have a tough time warming up and staying warm while driving at home for a month (not as a flaw from my personal vehicle – diesels in general produce far less waste heat).  So taking a cue from school buses and semi trucks, I wanted to figure out some sort of winter front for my car.  There is a recently-released professional winter front available from ID Parts – but I do not want to spend $100 for this addition to my car’s winter time capabilities.

The initial pile of materials is confusing.

The initial pile of materials is confusing.

The solution was obvious, then: TO THE INTERNET!! I looked up various materials, even things like Lexan and Optix (various strength grades of acrylics) as backing materials; while using my friend Tom’s suggestion that the visible portion ought to be leather, for cool looks.  I ended up deciding on a lauan back board, with material taken from a $5 faux leather lady’s coat (thanks Good Will!!!) as the cover; the covers would attach to their respective grills using Velcro.

The finished bottom grill cover

The finished bottom grill cover

Without the CEID at Yale, I would have had to buy a bunch more tools (particularly on the fabric cutting and working side of things) – even still, I did pick up a titanium circular cutting tool and am VERY glad I did.  The overall cost was slightly over $50, so that is half the cost of buying a premade one.

The mockup emblem with the now-finished top grill covers for either side of it

The mockup emblem with the now-finished top grill covers for either side of it

Though the brown coat material doesn’t look half bad, I decided I wanted an accent color to really pop against the Storm Grey of my car; Burnt Orange it was!!

Yours truly, test-fitting the winter fronts

Yours truly, test-fitting the winter fronts

Additionally, even though this is faux leather (and thus a petroleum product), I want to try and protect the paint as best I can from the elements.  I looked into the options for leather conditioner + water sealer, and I found Aquaseal.

Fogs and turn signals still look good; winter fronts installed and making a HUGE difference on time to warm up

Fogs and turn signals still look good; winter fronts installed and making a HUGE difference on time to warm up

Traveling home to Ohio for Christmas and the 2013/2014 transition

So, these mods done, I got some help from a friend (for the sake of my poor shoulder) to get the Thule roof box atop my car, and then loaded – since last spring, I decided that each trip I take home will see my car loaded with things I do not want to get rid of, but do not need here with me in New Haven… so that eventually, when I depart this place in May 2014, the moving experience then will be easy (and almost solely furniture).

Thule box on the roof, the car is getting packed and ready to be driven into (apparently) some serious Lake Effect snow in NY

Thule box on the roof, the car is getting packed and ready to be driven into (apparently) some serious Lake Effect snow in NY

Also for the sake of my shoulder, I decided to split the trip into two days of travel – I will drive first to my friend John’s house in Rochester NY, to visit and board game with him.  Then, on Sunday, I will drive the approximately 4 remaining hours home.  Apparently big winter storms all across New England and New York starting tomorrow, so this should be interesting!

The GhostShed – a retrospective on the summer’s major architectural project, and how it points to the agrarian future ahead!

This summer sped up quite a bit at the end, and so I will have to do a couple of shorter follow-up posts for summertime projects that took place over the long term.

supplies supplies

supplies supplies

Please excuse the interspersion of chronological photos of the build throughout this post.

the little car that did

the little car that did, and my friend Sarah, helper across the summer months!!

The Plan

Threefold were the problems facing me: 1) there had been bicycles in the dining room of my house for the full 2 years I had lived there and that annoyed me; 2) I had gotten a fantastic deal on a Thule cargo box for the roof of my car,  but it was 90 inches long, which made it difficult to store in the house and still have easy access to; and 3) my tools appear to be based on compound interest, as they accrue more of themselves more quickly as time goes on (and this led to an overcrowding of the shelf in the laundry room… and the basement… and my bedroom).

sizing up the walls for assembly on the ground

sizing up the side walls for assembly on the ground

Given all of these problems, and my penchant for projects and building things, there seemed to be one way I could go forward, to both solve those issues and (as I am wont to do) push myself deeper into debt: design and construct a shed in the yard!

the initial structure, prior to The Collapse

the initial structure, prior to The Collapse

The Problem, and The Solution

a pitched roof for ease of construction, I thought (not realizing how annoying the gables would be)

a pitched roof for ease of construction, I thought (not realizing how annoying the gables would be)

Unfortunately, much earlier this summer, at the very end of May, I injured myself at krav maga: while throwing an elbow, I felt something tear in my right shoulder.  After a series of tests and MRIs and the like, it turns out that 1) I tore the posterior labarum in my right shoulder (the fibers that help hold the muscles around the bone); 2) I have serious hypermobility in my shoulders, and given that the shoulder is already the most unstable joint in the body, this makes it unlikely to ever heal on its own; and 3) I apparently have a genetic abnormality in the capsule of my shoulder that makes it prone to tearing (and the capsule can never heal or be repaired, due to its extreme thinness).  All of this means that I will have to have surgery in the next few weeks (scary, to be sure), and that building a shed out of heavy timber components by myself would not be a good plan.

I am not a smart man, as it were, so I still wanted to build this shed of course.

Thankfully, however, I have some amazing friends: Sarah, Ryan, Adam, Ben, Chris, and Liam.  They all helped me at various points along the way, and in the case of my roofing-friend Sarah, multiple points!  My deepest gratitude to them all for their help!!!

roof application with the help of Ryan, my housemate at the  time (now in TX for his PhD)

roof application with the help of Ryan, my housemate at the time (now in TX for his PhD)

The Build

So, for a solid three months over the course of the summer, working alone and at times with friends, the shed took shape and was polished into its completed form.

doors installed and framed with 2x4s

doors installed and framed with 2x4s

The basic intention was to have this shed be built from scratch, the right way to last a long time to come, without breaking the bank; after all, I am hoping to purchase my own tract of land and build a paradise on it some day, and so I need to get practice starting as soon as possible.

shingles galore

shingles galore

We got, as per photos above, the side walls up and the back wall between them… and then I did a Dumb Thing.  Namely, told Ryan it would be OK to leave plywood and lumber leaning against the temporarily-installed walls as we removed a few of the rear wall panels to readjust them.

And so, the proto-shed collapsed sideways, with Ryan and I thankfully jumping out of the way, and not getting hurt.  Lesson learned: don’t be an idiot.

the problem was how to finish the walls...

the problem was how to finish the walls…

So, we got the structure upright again and permanently installed, so that we could begin to get the roof going.  At the same time, I made use of some of the very cheaply-gained “scrap” plywood (being odd sizes doesn’t make it scrap in my opinion, but I will not argue) to put floors onto the joyces at the bottom of the shed.  I also installed internal shelving on the right side, and then the mounts to hang bikes down from on the left (and indeed a bigger shelf atop that, due to the extra plywood floating about).

... so, scratch-built gables!

… so, scratch-built gables!

The Final Product

the internal contents of the shed, and the shelves built into the back

the internal contents of the shed, and the shelves built into the back

Thus, although my goal was to finish this prior to school starting, the GhostShed was actually finished at the very beginning of September.  As I was working 40 hours per week at Yale Law School, and doing a slew of other things (mostly trying to camp in different places around New England, visit friends in DC, NY, and VA, and the like), the project went from the early middle of June until the very beginning of September.

8 foot foundation timbers in place and bolted to the structure

8 foot foundation timbers in place and bolted to the structure

The most important successes from this project, I would say, are split between rekindling my intuition that I won’t be able to feel content or fulfilled if my future doesn’t directly allow me to build and repair things with my hands; and the fact that though there were some rough edges, all told I have it within me to plan and build houses both for my lizard Ike AND buildings I could one day inhabit.  Again, it is difficult to overestimate how important it is to me to feel but more importantly be able to enact a serious degree of self-sufficiency, and this project did that in a great way.

Oh, and now the bikes, tools, and rooftop cargo box are out of the house and stored properly.  Also a nice positive outcome 🙂

cutting the drip edging to size...

cutting the drip edging to size…

... so my good Lutheran roofing-friend Sarah can help install it!

… so my good Lutheran roofing-friend Sarah can help install it!

It is important, I think, to also mention that I (re)learned some vital lessons from mistakes made.  The biggest one was “don’t cut corners around heavy stacks of lumber, as that can fall” and I am thankful neither Ryan nor I got hurt.  Additionally, I took the embers of a childhood learning from my master carpenter of a father and by practice fanned them into flames anew… but also realized that without the proper tools (eg a table saw, and the ability to measure and cut angles) a project can still be done but at much greater headache and possibility of error.  Finally, I suppose I must admit, this project (a foray into the real world which I am quite, quite ready to get to, by escaping the Academy and all its works and all its ways) firmly reminded me that I do NOT have a real income at the moment, and that the educational tendency to reassure us that going further into debt to do something in the here-and-now is NOT a sustainable model.  I will try and embrace all of these lessons moving forward; thankfully, I have a large wooden monument to them, on hand, right behind my house 😀

the GhostShed begins to be painted, so named because when one combines the spare blue, grey, and white exterior paint on hand... ~GhostShed~ emerges

the GhostShed begins to be painted, so named because when one combines the spare blue, grey, and white exterior paint on hand… ~GhostShed~ emerges

Sign of the times ahead?

So, as I close this post, I would like to offer a brief preview of an amazing opportunity that has come into my life, closely related to sheds, construction, agrarianism, and wholeness.

Though this is still being planned and examined, there is a church within commuting distance of my old city, the District of Federal Overspending-mbia, which has an opportunity.   They own approximately 11 acres of farmland, which has on it a recently-restored 18th century house.  They are hoping to start a small, neo-monastic community, of people who will live and work together on the land, to teach people of the area how important it is to know what one is eating, and indeed how easy it is to save money and feel great by growing some of their own food.  This is not yet guaranteed, but I am applying to live there for a year, the first three months of which might also serve as my Master of Divinity-required internship (which, to be frank, would be a stupendous blessing – I have dreaded this internship requirement as another hoop to jump through, and being rather burned out on such jumpery).  More on this as it develops (and prayers/kind thoughts/sacrificing the proper animals towards the successful realization of this hope would be MUCH appreciated), but for now, gaze ye upon the completed GhostShed and enjoy:

the finished product, accent color and all, just as the fall begins

the finished product, accent color and all, just as the fall begins

Victory Garden – now with more gutter gardens!

So, on a suggestion from my co-gardener Alisha, who has friends who are redoing the gutters on their house, I decided to give gutter gardens (albeit in modified form) a try in the Victory Garden, as well.  The story follows.

Construction

The design you see here is another Michael A Repas Special (namely: it is from scratch and overly well-secured with more screws than are entirely necessary, but will never EVER fall apart as a result).  Came up with this as I went along, but from the beginning I figured the basic design of the compost tumbler’s base was sturdy and rugged, so start there – 2×6 pieces of pressure treated lumber so it could be free-standing (early on, I recognized that the fence in my yard likely isn’t strong enough to be load bearing, so I nixed that part of the plan).

The rack is built, with one gutter for sizing

The rack is built, with one gutter for sizing

My schedule being what it is (unholy, busy, unnatural), I have done a lot of “come home after work and then make progress on the gutter rack until after dusk” evenings recently.

the gutter rack is approx the same height and dimensions as the compost tumbler

the gutter rack is approx the same height and dimensions as the compost tumbler

due to my work schedule, many nights of working under moonlight have occurred

due to my work schedule, many nights of working under moonlight have occurred

The basic intention with gutter gardens is to do leafy greens and have them thrive… but I figured if I was going to build a rack, it would make sense to include smaller gutter sections on the sides, for spices and the like (especially things like mint, which will spread like a weed if left unchecked).

planting some alma paprika indoors to get it prepped to go outside. Please listen to this while viewing this image.

planting some alma paprika indoors to get it prepped to go outside. Please listen to this while viewing this image.

MFALCON easily handles gutters longer than its internal length

MFALCON easily handles gutters longer than its internal length

The actual gutters we were going to get from Alisha’s friends came in an initial installment of two 6’ish foot sections, with some rust on them… which, after a slowdown in the ETA on the remainder of the gutter getting to us and considering the longevity of the pressure treated lumber rack versus metal… I realized I would just go get vinyl gutter new from the ‘Depot, to make this project last for many years to come.  The gutter itself was less than $6 per 10 foot piece… the damned fitted end caps, however, were not so cheap 😦

wooden shims, even cracked, are a cheap and low profile way of securing the gutters to the rack

wooden shims, even cracked, are a cheap and low profile way of securing the gutters to the rack

a little bit of end cap silicone'ing prior to work so I can go home and plant

a little bit of end cap silicone’ing prior to work so I can go home and plant

Extra gutters, extra planting

To get the 6-foot sections of vinyl gutter I wanted, I had to buy six 10-foot sections of gutter… which meant a fair amount left over.  Given the six 1-foot sections for spices on the sides of the rack, that left four 4-foot sections and an oddball size… which meant a small stand-alone inclined plane for the uniform sections; and then bolting the metal gutters and  the remaining oddball vinyl piece to the side of the raised beds, within which I will try my hand at growing corn!

(photo of stand-alone gutter sections)

(photo of the corn gutters mounted to the side of the raised beds)

Composite garden, next to the compost

The other, other, other, other, other (etc ad infinitum) way I spent money at Home Depot on this Victory Garden was on three large, blooming foxgloves, which were on sale for $3 each.  Though the Transmogrifier compost tumbler does a good job of keeping the smell down, it does still smell directly around it; also, I love to try and leave places better than I found  them… so I am going to buy seeds of different perennial flowers native to this area of CT, and plant them in this small flower bed (and perhaps around the yard), as an investment in the house’s future once I am  gone.  Plus, it will make the air around the Transmogrifier smell better, too!!

Planting

SO.

After a lot of work in rain, shine, darkness, and calm… and then 10 days spent at home, things have begun sprouting rather nicely, wouldn’t you say??

planted and sprouting

planted and sprouting

 

The Transmogrifier – designing and building a compost tumbler for the Victory Garden

Food and organic waste can be up to 21% of a household’s garbage; rather than continuing to add to weight transported by EXTREMELY fuel inefficient garbage trucks, I decided a month or two ago to try my hand at make a compost tumbler for my yard.  This, of course, required a smaller cousin, a filtered compost bin, for the kitchen in which we can collect scraps.

The inspiration

Working from the cleverness of others and their own DIY compost tumbler, I realized I would want to modify the design to be larger (two houses, one of which is a duplex, adjoin my yard, plus my friend Alisha from krav would be contributing food scraps and labor to the Victory Garden) and also to be more durable – so I will water-proof all the wood with the same non-toxic waterproofing I paid so much for, for the IkeHaus.

As with all of my projects which at least partially point towards my intended future agrarian paradise, this needs to be a VERY portable product, so I can take it with me on that much-anticipated day when I make good my escape from the ‘Haven.  Thus, the project uses bolts to connect the wooden pieces, and the barrel is able to be thoroughly washed prior to transport!

The illustration

My childhood was heavily infused with reading and re-reading many comic book collections, from Garfield to Foxtrot, and many liberal doses of my beloved Calvin & Hobbes in between.  For a project involving composting, which is taking things in an unusable state (food waste) and magically turning it into high-grade fertilizer (composting!), what was I supposed to think of besides Calvin’s Transmogrifier, a box that helped him use his imagination to make him and his world into something more to his liking:

The source of the Transmogrifier

The source of the Transmogrifier (comic drawn from here)

The values of corrugated cardboard cannot be faulted by this writer (especially not contra Hobbes), but this project decided to go with plastic, steel, and pressure-treated lumber, instead.

(Editor’s note: haven’t had time to go learn to use the laser cutter fully at the CEID, so the nameplate is a future task.)

The assembly

So, after another long and tiring (but oh-so-fulfillingly-school-free-) week of work and krav, I spent Thursday and Friday nights putting this together, having purchased materials earlier in the week.

beginning work on the compost tumbler

beginning work on the compost tumbler

building the composter legs with the Irwin clamps that are so incredibly useful

building the composter legs with the Irwin Quick Grip clamps that are so incredibly useful

the composter-building game was called midway, on account of rain

the composter-building game was called midway, on account of rain

circular saws are best employed for questionably safe cuts

circular saws are best employed for questionably safe cuts

axle fits into place through the barrel AND the plywood support

axle fits into place through the barrel AND the plywood support

threaded rods provide internal threshing arms, to help mix the compost whilst tumbling

threaded rods provide internal threshing arms, to help mix the compost whilst tumbling

The outcome

At the end of the day, then, The Transmogrifier looks pretty sleek on the edge of my yard, no?

Compost tumbler in place next to the Victory Garden

Compost tumbler in place next to the Victory Garden

The home front

So, with a compost tumbler in the yard, we can expect compost anywhere from 12 days to 6 weeks, depending on how often we turn the compost; how much air it receives; and what organic compounds are used.  To make it easier to feed the tumbler, Alisha and I each got a food waste bin that has a carbon filter to reduce smell to almost nothing (and in my case, the tumbler is in the back yard so I don’t have to worry about when I will have time to empty the indoor container into it!).

the initial compost contents

the initial compost contents