Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tiger’s Come Trick or Treating and Stay for Dinner

Yes the house was over ran by TIGERS! Good thing they are not as mean as they pretend to be!

This tiger put more chilly on his face than in his belly

This tiger was more interested in playing with a toy airplane than eating. It might have had something to do with the 3 muffins he ate at the neighbor’s house or all the fruit leather he ate at the other neighbor’s house while on his earlier trick or treating adventures.

Sheldon Jackson School

There are not enough superlative to define how honored I felt to work at Sheldon Jackson College until it closed this past summer. But working at SJC was also often like an abusive relationship. Most of us who loved working there and loved the school loved it in spite of the fact it was always beating us up emotionally and physical. I say physical because most of us dedicated employees worked 60, 70, sometimes even 80 or more hours a week. And I say emotionally because we knew how financially strapped the school was. Always being strapped for funds made it very, very hard to do our jobs.

But, we worked hard and long hours because we loved working with the kids that went to school at SJC. And, I loved working at SJC because I had great boss, great employees who worked for me and I was the person who worked with the most volunteers. Since I was the head of the maintenance department and since management estimated we had about 35 or more million dollars in differed maintenance there was always plenty to do. And, a very large percentage of the work was done by volunteers.

During the summers workgroups from various Presbyterian Churches from all over the nation would come and help with major building projects, summer painting, grounds keeping, and you name it. In the 4 summers I was at SJC I was privileged to oversee the work of nearly 1000 volunteers! Yes, working with volunteers can be a challenge, but I found 99.9% of the volunteers to be wonderful people who had a strong will to do good things. With just a little supervision people who had never picked up a hammer, power tool, or even a paint brush can do fantastic work. Not only did the volunteers do this hard work, but they paid their way here to Sitka, paid to sleep in a dorm room and usually funded the project they were working on. So, yes I loved working with these folks.

And, I haven’t mentioned the VIM’s. VIM stands for Volunteers in Mission. These folks would come to SJC for extended periods of time, some for a school semester, some for a year or more. Once again, good hard working folks who gave of them selves with the only pay to them being the knowledge they had done something good. I found the VIM’s to the cream of the cream.

The pay at SJC was never what it should have been, but the people more than made up for all the other deficiencies. When the school closed this past summer it was not only the loss of a 130 year old institution, but the loss of so many good friends. It’s been hard watching some of my fellow workmates from SJC struggle to find jobs in a small town and it’s been even harder to see some very fine folks have to leave town for other work. I know I was one of the lucky ones who wasn’t hurt financially as hard by the lay off as some of the others were, and I’m grateful for that.

Founded in 1878 the school was the oldest educational institution in Alaska. Sheldon Jackson founded the school to help Alaska Natives and that was the school primary mission for 130 years.

The main entrance sign to the school was built by VIM Vern Boyer in 2006.

I loved the variety of work at SJC. I built this flag pole which is 60 feet high. The flag is 12 feet high and 18 feet long. The flag and materials for the pole were donated by one of the SJC Trustees
The yard arm on the pole was built by one of my employees Jay Schrader and was the 1st time he had ever weleded aluminum. (I enjoyed watching my employees and volunteers learn new skills!)

This tree house at the SJC Childcare Center was built from Alaska yellow and red cedar. Most of the construction was overseen by VIM Cathy Barnes. In fact this tree house was mostly built by women.
I’m very pleased to say that long time childcare director Lolly Miller along with many of the parents of the kids in the childcare center formed a non-profit corporation and it looks like they will be able to keep the center open.
This tricycle track was primarly built by VIM’s Marv De Jong and retired physics professor and John Kleis a retired middle school science teacher. Neither one had ever done concrete work before.

My favorite part of the track is this sinuous section.

A Little Respite in the Weather

The last two days it’s rained and blew hard. So, this morning after breakfast when it stated getting light we could see that the lake was up a couple of feet from the normal level and there was actualy some blue sky.

While running a few errands this morning I figured I’d drive on out to Sandy Beach to see the waves coming in. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can also see Mount Edgecombe in the background trying to peek out of the clouds.


I was honored when Mary of the two blogs linked below passed on the Friendly Site Award to me yesterday. Thanks Mary!

Mary's Writing Nook
Treasures to Me

I have to confess that I had seldom looked at a blog until the day I started my blog a couple of weeks ago. I was so busy working and building our house the last two years that other than work e-mail or some research for the house I seldom went on line. Many folks from around the country were asking to see photos so I figured the easiest way was to build a website. That’s when I discovered blogs that I had been hearing so much about.

Now I have to admit I’m getting a little addicted to the many blogs that I have been cruising. It’s kind of fun to go to Mary’s blogs and not only read her well written blog, but click over to see the blogs of others who are posting on her site.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wind Rain and a Nice Fire

As is often the case in Southeast Alaska today was a rainy and windy day. It’s days like this that we especially enjoy our woodstove.

The wind and rain blew across the lake all day while the radio kept issuing high wind warning with guest over 50mph. This is when it’s great to be inside looking out at the lake sitting next to the fire in the stove.

The stove we chose for our home is a Woodstock Soapstone Stove. We chose the stove for the following reasons; the soapstone radiates an even heat, the stove burns clean because of the catalytic converter, and the beauty of the soapstone.

The Ecofan helps move the heat around the room. We find with the soapstone and the fan that we can easily heat most of the house off wood when we want to. It sure helps save on the heating bill!

For those of you that don't know the Ecofan uses the heat of the stove to generate the power that operates the fan

Dining Table

I know a lot of guys would hate having their mother-in-laws living with them, but I’m one of those guys who has always liked my mother-in-law Millie and I’m glad she is living with us now. Since Connie and I lived aboard a boat for so many years we obviously didn’t have any furniture to put into our new home. So, when Millie moved here from Colorado she brought with her enough furniture to furnish the house. I think the piece of furniture we all enjoy the most is the dining room table. Millie’s father purchased this table in the late 1920’s and interestingly enough the table at one time belonged to Civil War General Frank Wheaton.

Millie sits at the table on a very rainy day working on a needlepoint project.

The table is solid oak and as you can see in this photo has some very ornate carvings. The table is 54” wide . The table is capable of holding 6 leafs. In the photo below only one leaf is in. 2 crossword puzzles from the local paper sit on the table awaiting Connie’s expertise.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Instant Hot Water

More than likely many of you reading this blog could care less about domestic hot recirculation. But if you live in a house where every time you turn on the hot water you have to wait and wait and maybe wait some more for hot water, then maybe you should be interested. Most especially if you live in an area where water is a precious resource.

Even though water is not scarce here in Southeast Alaska I still decided to install a recirculation pump on the hot water for 2 reasons. 1. You don’t have to wait for hot water to wash your hands or take a shower. Now that’s nice. 2. It is less expensive to recalculate the hot water than it is to reheat the 2 to 5 gallons that would otherwise run down the drain every time one wanted hot water.

Maybe it’s because I have worked construction and maintenance on many commercial buildings over the years that I was already familiar with recirc systems. Anyway I knew we would install one in our house before we even started pouring the foundation.

I asked a few of the local plumbers here in Sitka and they tell me that they never install domestic hot water recirc systems in residential application. One plumber looked at me like I was crazy, one said he remembered installing one years ago and another guy said why waste my time and money. But, I’m sure glad I did install the simple little pump and the extra ½” copper pipe to make it work.

If you are interested in installing your own recirc system Grundfos Pumps has a great resource at this link: Hot Water Recirculation

This is a photo of the pump and check valve on the system. I used a standard Taco hydronic circ pump that draws around around 20 watts of power. Far less than would be required to reheat the water that normaly would run down the drain.

One of the great things about an eight foot high crawl space under the house is it let me build a mechanical room. Since the room is primarily plumbing I now have my own plumbing repair center as you can see in this photo.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

2 Photos of Sun Shinning on the Prow

People ask why the cables on the trees. The cables keep the trees from hitting the deck when the wind bows hard. They have been wind tested and so far they work great.

Rain Gutters and Downspouts

It seems to me that one of the most important systems on any building when you live in a rain forest is the rain gutters and downspouts. However, I sometimes think I’m alone in this thought. In my over 25 years of doing building maintenance here in Southeast Alaska I have seldom see gutters, flashing and downspouts done right. In fact I find it is almost the norm to have gutters done in my opinion totally wrong.

All too often I see gutters mounted perfectly level or worse yet slopping away from the downspouts. One commercial building I use to take care of in Ketchikan had 7 long running gutters with each and every one of them sloped the wrong direction. These gutters had been professionally installed, so I had to wonder if the installer didn’t know that water seeks its own level, runs down hill and only in extreme wind will water run uphill. Again this all seems to me to be common sense, but I tell you I have seen too many gutter systems installed backwards to think it is just a fluke. On a brand new building that was built when I worked at Sheldon Jackson College over half the gutters were again installed by pros and ran backwards slopng away from the downspouts.

I have always liked copper gutters over other types of gutter systems, so in spite of the fact they are much more expensive than the alternatives we decided to do the job right. Not only will copper outlast any other gutter, but I think they look better too.

We purchased copper gutter components for the gutter system except I had to build custom gutters for the prow. I built these with 1X2 copper channel and then soldered on copper brackets to mount the gutters

In this photo if you look close you can see that I sloped the gutters about 2 inches in 26 feet. When installing gutters I always snap a chalk line with the slope that I want I then follow the line when installing the gutters.

Below are 2 photos of the same gutter system on the house next door

I hated picking on the neighbor’s house but here is a classic example of gutters that are sloped the wrong way. Of the 2 gutter systems that we see on their house from our 2nd floor both are sloped the wrong way. Whenever it rains hard more water spills over the side of their gutters than goes down the downspout.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fall and Trees

It turned into a very nice fall afternoon today. The sun was shinning so I had to take a few photos from the deck and around the house of the fall colors.

Looking up the lake from our front yard.

Looking down the lake into town from the front yard.

My ignorance of the proper names of various plants doesn’t keep me from enjoying the colors that are right in our front yard.

Many people thought we were crazy to build the deck around an alder tree. Here is Southeast Alaska alders grow like weeds and many people hate them becasue they do make a mess and can be hard to control. Even though it adds to the work of keeping the gutters clean we love having this alder right out the front door.

I love walking just a couple of feet out the front door and looking up at the branches with or without leaves.

And I love looking at the moss and lichens that grow on the alder trees.

I think what we love the most about our new home is that we can enjoy the outdoors even though we are just a few blocks away from downtown. When we designed and built the house we worked hard to save trees. Too often people cut all the trees down, build the house and then replant trees. We figured that was a tad crazy so we did our best to save as many trees as we could. And, we are glad we did, even though they were sometimes a pain to work around.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Terra Nova

As many of you know Connie and I lived on sailboats for about 25 years. Our son Zach was raised more on boats than he was on land. I know that some of you that are reading this have never seen the last boat that we lived on for 21 years. The name that Connie and I gave her was Terra Nova; which is Latin for new lands or unexplored lands. Terra Nova was our love and joy because not only did we build her from the hull up but she took us to many new lands here in Southeast Alaska. She gave us much joy and it was very bitter sweet to us when we put her on the market. But, we figured taking care of a yacht and a house was too much.

Terra Nova sits at anchor at Baranof Warm Springs on the outer coast of Baranof Island

A couple of the great students who attended Sheldon Jackson College while I worked there and before the school closed in 2007

Terra Nova on the hard as they say getting a new bottom painting.

Looking aft out the companionway. We sometimes felt guilty about all the teak we used inside Terra Nova, but we got a great deal on it when a large yacht manufacturing company on the east coast went out of business. The teak we used when we built our house was left over teak from Terra Nova that we had stored for over 20 years.

The all electric galley of Terra Nova

We built Terra Nova for cruising the waters of Southeast Alaska, so an inside stearing station was a must when you consider that many areas of the Alaskan Panhandle get over 200 inches of rain a year.

As mentioned Connie and I built Terra Nova from the steel hull up. She was designed by Grahame Shannon and built by SP Metal Craft of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and we launched her in the spring of 1986. After motoring an almost empty hull north to Alaska we spent the next 4 + years years doing the wiring, plumbing, mechanical and woodwork in the interior. Connie and a good friend from Ketchikan also did all the canvas work including making the sails

Friday, October 19, 2007

Siding and Finish

Siding is stacked and drying after the 1st coat of sealer.

The first thing people see about any home is the exterior finish or paint. I know we get more inquiries and complements on the finish of the siding on our home than anything. So, I guess I should have posted something sooner.

1st off the house is sided with vertical ship-lapped red cedar siding. To me there are few things prettier than red cedar, so we knew we had to leave it clear. As I have posted before this home was designed and the materials were supplied by Pan Abode Homes a company with over 50 years designing red cedar homes. On their recommendation we used Sikkens Cetol Log and Siding Sealer. I did a little research too and I could not find any product that had an overall higher rating. Of course here in Southeast Alaska the finish will get a real test, so I also asked around town. I found out there are at least 2 homes here in Sitka were the Sikkens has been on for over 10 years, and both homes still look great.

We applied one coat before the siding was put on the buildings and then another coat after it was hung. We did not back-prime or finish as I’m of the school that cedar needs to breath and finishing both sides would inhibit the woods chance or expelling any water that will be absorbed.

It’s not very fair that Connie isn’t in this photo because she did at least 75% of all the finishing. But, she also took most of the photos. Here she caught me doing the 2nd coat on the high stuff that she didn’t like doing. The 6 foot step ladder is sitting on ladder jack planks. Something she wouldn't do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Low Voltage Wiring

When designing the house I decided it made good sense to “Smart” wire the house. So I ran structured wire to each room in the house. The structured wire consists of 2 Cat-5 wires and 2 Coax wires all bundled together. I also ran speaker wire throughout the house too.

Now if I can ever get GCI to hook up the phone I might be able to join the 21st century with this unique low voltage wiring system.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Swan Lake

As I have posted before we feel lucky to have been able to build and now live on the shores of historic Swan Lake. I say historic, because it is. When Russia still owned Alaska they hand dug and built the lake primarily for ice. Believe it or not some ice from the lake was transported by sailing ship as far south as San Francisco. As I understand the venture was never very profitable, and after a couple of warm winters the venture failed. However, one of the more interesting things about the lake was that the Russians used it as a bargaining tool with the US. As I recall the price the USA paid for Alaska was raised by $200,000.00 because of Swan Lake.

Sunday morning the 14th of October was so nice I had to step out on the deck and take this photo of the lake. I love the reflections on the still water.

We have been so busy building the house that Connie and I have not had time in almost 2 years to go for a walk. So after breafast we were delighted to enjoy a walk around the lake. The photo was taken by the public park that is on Lake Steet and the view is looking up the lake.

There is always a ton of ducks on the lake, and especially at the park because people frequentaly come to feed then bread at that location. I think they were disappointed we didn’t have anything for then to eat, but I was glad the sun was shining on them to bring out the green heads in a photo.

This view is looking across the lake from Halibut Point Road and looks up the Indian River Valley towards the peaks called the Sisters.

In the center of this shot you can see the bracing and railing for the deck on our house. The house is hidden in the trees and unless one knows where to look chances are one won’t see it. We like being hidden in the trees and because of the Costal Zone Management Plan trees are no longer allowed to be cut within 50 feet of the lake shore.

At the north end of the 22 acre lake there is a delightful little park. Connie and I detoured through the park to get this photo looking down the lake.