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DayCreek Journal

July 2 , 2004

Squirrel Races

Since I am a light sleeper, it doesn't take much to wake me up. It's not uncommon for me to be rudely interrupted from my dreams to the sounds of barred owls, raccoons, coyotes and who knows what else. And then there are the squirrels races at sunrise.

Ma and Pa red squirrel who reside somewhere in back of the house had a litter of (at least) two babies who have taken a liking to our 16-sided deck. The first time I heard the pitter-patter of their feet, I thought it might have been those pesky car-eating mice, but after sneaking up on them I discovered that it was just two, cute red-tailed squirrels playing games on the deck. They love to chase each other around and around the house. It has become a morning ritual and I must admit they are rather amusing to watch.

Speaking of squirrels, the weather here sure has been squirrely. Summer appears to have finally arrived here at Daycreek, although the heat has been quite subdued from previous years. There has only been one 90° (F) day so far, and most days have been below normal temperature-wise, but above normal rain-wise.

With the cooler and wetter weather, most days have been cloudier than normal. Insolation has been a bit lower than the norm, but I'm happy to report that June's solar output numbers fell just a tad short of the predicted amount. The total production for June of 2004 was 453kWh, which was just shy of the PVWatts predicted output of 462kWh. Not too shabby for the first month of production. Our electrical bill is computed from the 10th of each month, so I do not have the final numbers yet for our first month's credit. I am hoping for it to be somewhere close to a 400kWh credit, while our net consumption should come in somewhere around 100kWh. (During the day when the sun is shining, the solar electric system supplies power to the house. Any surplus is put onto the grid. Our actual consumption is higher than 100kWh. "Net" refers to the net amount of power required from the grid.)

Besides monitoring our solar electric system, I've been quite busy with other things. Jo and I attended the MREA Fair a few weeks back. We had a great time as usual and had a good attendance to our workshop. 50 minutes goes by really fast, and I wish I could have had more time to talk about our house. I hope everyone enjoyed the workshops and the fair.

Walls Number 49 and 50
The following week I spent cutting wood in preparation for cordwood walls number 49 and 50. I had no pre-cut cordwood inventory to speak of, so I decided to build up a stockpile. I still have plenty of 16" logs under tarp and in the pole shed. Each 16" piece is cut in half with a miter saw and then the freshly cut faces are beveled with a Dremmel tool. It's a rather tedious process, but cutting the wood is kind of like cutting a geode in half—you never know what beauty you may find inside of the log until it is cut. After a week of log cutting and beveling, I was ready to start building cordwood walls again.

There are 16 walls left to do and most of them are walls with no doors nor windows. This puts a bit more pressure on me to reach my goal of one wall per week. Last year, things went a bit quicker considering that most of the walls contained windows. This gave me extra time during the week to cut wood while I was building the walls—not so this year.

I will probably build two walls every two weeks and then take a week to cut more wood. This means that for every three weeks, two walls will get built. If this equation holds true, I may not get the remaining 16 walls done this year. At some point in the fall, the weather will probably get cold enough that using the mixer outside will be a problem.

Once the cordwood building season comes to a close, I will focus on completing the first floor framing and electrical work. This means building out the master bedroom, kitchen and laundry area. But, here I go again getting ahead of myself when I need to focus on the task at hand—walls number 49 and 50.

These walls are a bit unique. This will be the first set of walls (first and second floor) that are solid cordwood all the way up to the ceiling. That makes for a 17' high, solid cordwood wall. I have done 17' high walls before, but they contained at least one window. Needless to say, I wasn't able to complete both walls in one week—there's about 8 more feet of wall left to go.

I did get some help this week from my friend Tom who came out on Wednesday afternoon. Over the years now that he has been helping, he's become an MPM (Master PEM Mixer). (Someday, I will have to honor him with an award of some sorts for his achievement.) One thing is for certain, building walls with two people goes much faster than just one. Thanks for the help Tom!