Cheese Making

January 30, 2008

Making our own cheese sounds like fun. Cream cheese, especially, sounds easy and tasty. I found the best price on a pretty standard cheese making kit which contains the rennet, some mesophilic and thermophilic starters, as well as cheese cloth and thermometers at this website.



January 10, 2008

I’ve been thinking of ways that I can do some woodworking with the beautiful Manzanita trees that grow on our property, either for crafts or for furniture. Therefore, I’ve done a little research and I thought you might find it useful to have all of the work I’ve done about these trees in one place.

“Manzanita water was the universal California drink [of the Native Americans]”
Survival Skills of Native California, by Paul D Campbell
.Excerpts from pages 149 to 151

Manzanita means “Little Apple” in Spanish, as the little berries look like miniature apples.

Below the fold I’ve got stuff about making wine from the manzanita berry, scientific information about why the bark is smooth, how it propagates, purported health benefits, and extensive excerpts on how the Native Americans used manzanita.

Click on “Read the rest of this entry” to continue.

Read the rest of this entry »

Slow Down

December 22, 2007

If you’re gunna work in construction, you have to be prepared for a rainy day. Its tough to work on a roof when its slippery, its hard on electric tools, its cold and miserable, and paint tends to run.

An office worker might see a drizzle as a commuting inconvenience, but if you’re standing and working in it all day its a miserable pain in the butt, a safety risk, and a health risk.

Do you stay and work one day, only to get hurt or sick and therefore miss several days?

Then again, a lot of what we do is backbreaking, so a day off here and there often feels more like a vacation. So you’ll see guys joking: draw a circle in the dirt and stand around it (or huddle around the hood of your truck for warmth while staring at the windshield) if one raindrop hits the windshield or within the circle then a yell goes out, “lets roll up!”
Read the rest of this entry »

California Building Codes

December 4, 2007

I’m still looking for more information about the actual changes to the code that’re to take place on Jan 1st.

California is basing the code on the  International Residential Code (IRC) of 2006.  That code book is not available online as far as I can see, but can be purchased for as low as $47 on CD or $72 for a soft cover book.  Note that some of the “Builders Books” sites I saw had the older 2003 version instead of the 2006 version.

For now, here’s a link to a free PDF which appears to highlight some of the amendments which California adopted that differ from the actual IRC, and which is meant to be used in conjunction with their “Cliff Notes” of the building codes entitled “Code Check 5’th Edition.”  This 5’th edition retails around $14.
Amazon’s customer reviews of “Code Check” are mixed.  Some people say its a great and handy reference for homeowners and pro’s alike to have on hand, and some say the notes are too cryptic to interpret.  Also note that this is NOT the actual code book.

The International Code Council (ICC) also puts out its own cliff note version of the IRC – without notes specific to California.  This one retails around $27.

Madera Building Code Changes

November 30, 2007

California is updating its building codes for the first time since 2001.
I’ll update this with more information in the future, but the skinny currently is that California is adopting much of the International Building Code (IBC) and moving away from the Universal Building Code (UBC) and California Building Code (CBC).

What those changes may mean will be subject to future posts.

In the meantime, here’s an article from the Madera Tribune that gives some info on what you can expect.
(Click on “read the rest of this entry to continue)

Read the rest of this entry »


November 29, 2007

Take one step and you’ve travelled about 3 ft. Do that 8 times and you’ve gone 24 ft. Which isn’t much, really, unless you’re going UP that high.

Once you get up over about 12 ft you start hugging the ladder. At around 16 ft an extension ladder starts to bounce with each step, and it seems like it wants to – really has a human like desire to – slide sideways. At 20 ft you feel for each rung with your foot before committing to moving upward any further. As you reach the wall and stretch higher your hands evolve into octopus like super suction grips, and you find later that you’ve got splinters in your cheek from the raw siding.

And you realize that it wasn’t always that way. When you were 20 years old it seemed you’d live forever, and even if you did fall how long could it hurt?  Now, at 46 you know that you probably won’t bounce, and even if you don’t die you’ll spend a fortune in medical bills and be out of work for a very, very long time.

However, you were probably safer at 20 than at 46, because your muscles weren’t cramped and frozen solid from fear, and therefore you had better balance and control.

You don’t know *drywall* Jack

November 20, 2007

A drywall jack rents for about $20 per day, but is worth an extra person and a half.


If you’re just doing a little repair, then a drywall jack probably isn’t cost effective.

However, if you’re doing a whole ceiling, especially if you’re using img_8204.jpg4ft wide x 12 ft long drywall, or if your ceiling is 9 feet or taller, then a drywall jack is invaluable.  For 8 foot sheets you can just about do the work alone as long as you have a jack.  However, putting the sheet onto the jack by yourself will be a real struggle.

Its not as useful for doing walls.

Most rental yards have drywall jacks available, and they’re extremely simple to use. Just cut your drywall to the measurements you need, put it onto the jack, and hoist it into place. The jack holds it firmly in place while you nail it in.

You may be used to working without a jack. You know, you hold it with one hand while you try to nail with another, or hold it with your head (and get a bruise where your baseball cap has that little knob in the center), but once you use a jack you’ll never go back.


November 19, 2007

Is there a secret to installing insulation? Not really.

The first thing you need to know is that fiberglass insulation makes most people very itchy. It doesn’t bother me, but if it bothers you then wear gloves, a long sleeve shirt, and even a mask and eye protection: the fibers can get into your lungs and eyes.

The “R” rating tells you how effective the insulation is. The higher the “R” rating, the more the insulation.

However, there are someimg_8201.jpg standard ratings for different types of walls and ceilings. With standard fiberglass insulation, you’ll want R-13 for a 2×4 wall. If you try to increase that to R-19 it won’t fit into the wall, and you’ll end up trying to cram it in. You might think that’s OK, but actually when you compress the insulation it doesn’t work as well. So, just work with whats recommended:

R-13 2×4
R-19 2×6
R-30 2×10 (attic) to R-38 (attic)

One more thing you need to consider. Most sizes are sold in 16 or 24 inch widths. So if your joists are 24 inches apart, you’ll want to buy the R-30 in 24 inch by 48 inch batts.

You definitely want to insulate all exterior walls and your ceiling, but its up to you if you want to insulate your interior walls. If you do, it really won’t do much of anything to help keep your house warmer (or cooler) but it will help make that wall more sound proof. So you might consider insulating the bathroom and shower – – to keep the noise down and maybe even keep yourself a little warmer.

Generally you can push the insulation in between the wall joists or the ceiling rafters without any staples. If you’ve selected the appropriate size, the insulation should stay in place by itself long enough for you to put up the drywall.

Do not compress the insulation. It works by trapping air, so if you compress it you lower its effectiveness. Secondly, do not leave any voids between the insulation and the drywall. These gaps will allow air movement, which will allow heat transfer.

If you’re remodeling and want to add insulation under the floor, then you can staple chicken wire or string bailing wire in a zig zag pattern underneath to keep the insulation from falling out over time.

The State of California has put out some helpful videos about installing insulation (click on the hyper link to view)