Thursday, May 22, 2008

A new quest...

I haven't posted in a while because I have been pretty busy trying to get ready for all of my summer projects. My summer projects (if any are viable) are increasing exponentially because I am trying to find and implement several alternative energy sources for our house and barn. With heating oil at $4/gal last winter it was kind of costly to heat our house and by this winter it will be somewhere around $5.50 if it continues on it's current upward trend. My problem is that my major project for the summer is a roof and walls for the barn so we can have a heated barn and shop for the winter. I'm not looking at keeping it at 70 degrees but even keeping a 3400 square foot building at 50 degrees all winter would be expensive.

Right now I'm researching geothermal heating, solar hot water heating, passive solar heating, wind generators and a couple of other things as well. I figured it would take the better part of the summer to just complete my roof and walls on the barn but if I add any of these other projects I am going to have to eliminate my love for sleeping in for the rest of the year. I'm not 100% sure on any of these technologies but if I tried three or four and each was a little successful I'd be better off than I am right now. I just have to figure out which technologies to try first. I have found a few people who are using a couple of the technologies successfully but all in all I haven't found a lot of info about our area as of yet. All of the options are a little overwhelming, I'm not exactly sure where to start. None of the alternatives are cheap but they can't be much worse than the total cost of fuel oil in a year. I'm also planning to invest in a Toyota Prius really really soon.

I guess we'll see how things pan out in about six months!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A better visual...

While I was surfing tonight I found a really good video that shows the Rolex Cross Country Course. I could live without the music however, but the video is good.

As for me I am back at work and let me tell you, where I sit here, four miles from the Arctic Ocean there are NO signs of Global Warming! I watched the Kentucky Derby today and was longing for that green grass that I was laying in just a week ago. I'm ready to go home...

If anyone is looking for a good Charity to support with some of your tax refund or your economic stimulus check (neither of which I received) check out the Equestrian Aid Foundation and support a young American Olympic hopeful.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A ten day reprieve...

The last two weeks have been pretty busy for us; we always like to try and plan a trip in April to get a break from the last part of winter and since we woke up on the morning of Wednesday April 16th with six inches of new snow and snow drifts at the front door from the wind, the timing was perfect. We flew to Seattle for five days in the Great Northwest, however we weren't prepared for it to be so cold. We rented a car and drove to Coeur d' Alene, Idaho for the 2008 Western Timber Framers Conference. Since we got into Seattle so early it gave Sandi enough time to get a riding lesson from a friend who is a riding instructor for Dressage and Eventing and lives in Central Washington which was right on the way. Thursday evening we arrived Coeur d' Aelene tired and ready for bed. The next three days consisted of early morning wake ups and a few late nights. We sat through a few good lectures on green building and net zero impact housing as well as a few timberframe presentations. I talked in depth to a geothermal consultant about converting our heating system over to geothermal and was happy to here that it is a real possibility. We also helped with the children's workshop which teaches the kids to cut and raise a small timberframe (usually a playground) over the weekend.
This was our second Timberframers Conference so we got to visit with a lot of the people we met two years ago as well as new ones. We were sitting with a guy and his wife from Wyoming and it turned out that he went to high school with my brother-in-law Tim's two boys in Laramie. It is a really small world.
Thane's favorite part was of course the swimming pool. We used to take him swimming when he was an infant and we lived near a high school with a pool but since we moved to the middle of nowhere he hasn't got to swim much. The first day he wouldn't let go of me at all, and the second day he kicked around with a foam kick board but wouldn't get very far from me, but the third day I got him a pair of goggles and he turned into a fish. He wasn't nearly as clingy as soon as he could see underwater. We had four or five more days during the trip that he got to swim and every day he got a little better and a little braver. He never liked showers either because he hates getting water into his eyes but after he got his goggles he was fine with taking a shower too.

After the conference we left Coeur d'Alene and drove through a snowstorm headed back to central Washington. This made me feel a little better that it wasn't just Alaska that wasn't done with winter yet. As it turned out, while we were gone we got over a foot of snow at home, but again so did a bunch of the northern states. We spent the night in Yakima where I went to Technical School, I hadn't been back since '95 when I graduated and headed back to Alaska. It was neat to see how much the town has grown in the last thirteen years. It wasn't much warmer there either and Yakima is usually pretty warm this time of the year. After we left Yakima we drove south to the Columbia River Gorge. We took some back roads and saw a lot of places I have never been to because I always took the main highways everywhere when I lived down there. There are some places in south central Washington that I really like and are really nice and green when our yard is still white. Maybe Sandi will buy me a piece of land to build her another barn on somewhere down there. At least then we'd have a place to sneak off to when we get over a foot of snow in April.
We drove over to Western Washington and stayed in a great cottage next to my friend Chris Johnson's house which is on an island in the middle of the Columbia River. It was a beautiful spot, not real warm there either but the setting is gorgeous. If anyone finds themselves between Longview and Long Beach Washington I recommend checking out this cottage.
The next morning we drove back to Seattle and got on a plane to Cincinnati.

I'm not sure what kind of thoughts most people have when they think of Cincinnati, but mine weren't anything close to what Southern Ohio is really like. I had envisioned something like Detroit or the landscape around Chicago, I don't know why I thought that, but I learned that it is nothing even close. The green rolling hills and red bud trees are beautiful! I really liked Kentucky.
On our first day there we did a little Internet stalking and went and visited Thomas Massie's timberframe home (castle) in progress. There is a link to his blog in my links box. I have been watching his progress for several years and finally emailed him about a year ago when I saw that he was building a Rumford Fireplace about the same time that I started my outdoor Rumford. We have emailed a few times and since we were going to be so close I had to see his place. It is more impressive in person than it appears on his blog. It doesn't seem as big in person as I thought it was going to be but it is really awesome. His attention to detail and desire to use all of his own resources and labor is amazing. All of the timbers and stone have come from his farm and were cultivated and cut on site. He is a really inspiring and talented guy. The best part was that they had the pizza oven fired up and all of the ingredients and a bunch of fresh pizza dough that his wife had made, so we made pizza. I have to add one of these wood fired pizza ovens to my project list, it is really awesome.

The next day was the first day of the Rolex three day event and our day started at six AM. We didn't get back from Thomas' until after midnight so this was not my idea of a restful vacation. We did however beat the crowd (and half of the vendors) to the Kentucky Horse Park for the first day of the event. About mid morning we walked the cross country course which was something like five miles (if it wasn't it sure felt like it). It was nice though to walk through all of that nice soft green grass. The course walk was led by a guy who had ridden in the Rolex several times previously and knew the intricacies of the course. There were probably forty or more people on the walk but that didn't stop Thane from running ahead and befriending our guide. He wanted to be out front for almost the whole walk from one jump to the next. I was really impressed by his amazing amount of energy expended on the walk. We all slept really good that night.
The next morning wasn't as bad since we knew the times and where we were going. Some people might be inclined to think that watching Dressage for two days might be like watching paint dry but really it is amazing to watch what these horses can do. The gracefulness and finesse of some of these horses is pretty unbelievable. The first two days were dressage, the third day was the cross country course and the last day was stadium jumping. It is listed as a three day event but because the dressage takes so long they it takes two days to complete and the last two are the cross country and stadium jumping. With the exception of Saturday morning, the morning of the cross country event, the weather was superb. I did however almost freeze to death on Saturday morning but it warmed up to the mid seventies in the afternoon so I was able to thaw out and get a bit of a sunburn. All in all the event was pretty awesome; there were two severe crashes on the cross country course that injured both horse and riders and we witnessed them both which I could have lived without. The worst injured rider was Laine Ashker who was riding a horse named Frodo Baggins that was in the Lord of the Rings movies and an amazing animal. She was airlifted to a hospital after the accident and is still there with some pretty severe injuries. She was hoping for a good placing at Rolex to secure a spot on the 2008 US Olympic Team, unfortunately this tragic accident has prevented her from making it.
Sunday was the Stadium Jumping which is a lot safer than the cross country (the jumps are knocked over if touched by the horse) but still very impressive. It is pretty funny to hear twenty thousand (plus) people hold their breath, ooh, ahh, and exhale all together. After the event we drove around the outskirts of Lexington admiring the beautiful green fields and miles of fence.

We flew home on Monday afternoon despite Delta canceling our Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Anchorage. I'm not really excited about them becoming the biggest airline in the world! We still have a foot or three of snow on the ground but it is going to be gone soon enough. Hopefully my next time off will see green buds on the trees.

While we were gone we had Jon's Woodworking install kitchen cabinet doors in our kitchen so coming home was like walking into a new house, it was great! What to do with all of these drawers and cabinets that don't allow dust and dog/cat hair to get on everything. We are pretty excited to have a finished kitchen (finally). It isn't quite finished, I started installing a tile back splash and then the kitchen will be done. I have always been deathly afraid of attempting to do my own tile but finally bit the bullet and decided I could figure it out.

Well that is in a nutshell what we have been up to since my last post.

Thane and two friends he met two years ago at the Timberframers Guild Conference on Vancouver Island.

Sandi and Thane at a pit stop in south central Washington.

The cottage we stayed at on the Columbia River, I recommend it if you are in the area.

Thane, happy to finally take a shower without getting water in his eyes. Cute!

I didn't take many pictures at Thomas' because I couldn't take any better than he has on his blog, but I had to show this awesome piece of craftsmanship.

Thomas put on his own slate roof and was complimented by the editor of a slate roof journal as being a homeowner who's DIY installation was better than a professional one. Plus his house was on the cover of the magazine.

Thane paying full attention to the description of the next jump from our guide during the Rolex crosscountry course walk.

A picture of the dressage from really far away!

The hammock jump with a looming storm in the background.

Thane with two of the course volunteers.

This one was called the sunken road.

The exit of the sunken road.

My camera zoom isn't that great on this little camera but it gives you an idea of how challenging this course really was.

I couldn't get over how impressive this jump was.

This horse wasn't sure he wanted to go over this duck.

Sandi and Thane at the first jump on the cross country course.

Sandi at a jump that I'm glad I wouldn't have to jump over.

Thane showed the usefulness of his Crocks by wading out to demonstrate the middle of this five part jump.

As we were wandering through one of the barns we met the guy who designed this cart. Turns out he used to live in Alaska, right down the road from Thane's school. He let Thane test out the drivers seat before the afternoon event. This cart is aluminium tubing and even has four wheel disk brakes.

The directors of the event three hours later on the same cart. Good thing Thane test drove it for them.

The last jump of the stadium jumping.

The second to last jump, these horses are so amazing.

Thane checking out the finish line during the awards ceremony.

Thane demonstrating how big this duck really is.

The next picture shows how big that log really is.

That is a big log, I don't care how tall your horse is!

The broken bridge jump. This was one of the harder jumps on the course.

A beautiful bridge on a backroad outside of Lexington.

I was very impressed by these fences, miles and miles of fences.