Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse Renovations to an 1863 farmhouse built of limestone

May 31, 2010

House and Farm Update

Filed under: Cow Corral,Interior,Kiln,solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 9:42 pm

Sorry for no news recently but all that has really been going on is the drywall. It’s all up and 1 coat of mud is on the joints. Hopefully, this week the drywall crew will be finished. So to keep everyone up to date on progress, here’s a photo of the exterior where you can see there are no longer any piles of dirt around the house. Just dirt.

However, for every action there is a reaction and we now have a new pile of split wood that needs to be stacked in the pole barn (sometime this summer… please visit and you can help!).

Other than drywall I have been working in the crawlspaces (with the help of Ethan – he’s been thrilled) working on insulating and re-routing some water lines to reduce the chance of freezing. Updates and photos will be forthcoming but suffice it to say my knees and thighs are sore from crawling around under there so I took a break.

Here are some photos of the interior kitchen (left) and common area (right) with the drywall up

Around the farm we sent 122 meat birds off to the butcher to return as Cornish game hens. Yummy!

Then 2 more steers arrived this weekend. The corral work as planned and they are slowly adapting to life on the farm (eating green grass and sleeping outside).

Because today (Memorial Day) was brutally hot for the last day of May, I worked in my air-conditioned workshop. I am working on the vanity for the master bathroom. Several years ago Lisa and I bought a vessel sink in Spain in anticipation of actually owning a master bath one day. We stayed in a very nice hotel in Sevilla where the bathroom had a vessel sink on a very simple Shaker style table. We took a photo and I am making a similar vanity out of walnut. So far this is what I have constructed

The vessel will be mounted on a piece of shaped cherry, and the hole you see to the right is where the faucet riser will be affixed. With this layout I can put a drawer on each side of the front panel. In addition, a shelf will be mounted below. However, another option is to place the sink off-center and have only one drawer in the front, like this:

Post a comment and let us know which layout you prefer – or suggest other ideas. It’s not glued up yet and there is still lots of opportunity to make modifications!

And finally, an update on the solar kiln. The past 2 days have been VERY sunny and warm. The kiln almost reached 160°F each day. I just finished a load of white pine (to be trim in the house) and have another being finished off – both were air dried (click on the image below to see a larger image).

February 28, 2010

Slow Going Until Next Week

Filed under: Exterior,solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 5:02 pm

The weather this Thu, Fri, and Sat meant little work got done on the house except the plumber did accomplish some installation of drains and vents. Saturday Ethan and I moved a load of cherry up to the kiln. What an event trying to haul an overloaded pickup truck up into the field with 6-8″ of wet snow on the ground. We only had to reload the truck once.  Below is a picture when we were done. Also, we installed the homestead pole from where power will go underground to the house and barn.

However, on Sunday the front door was installed. We “like” the Penn State blue color. Also, the siding will start going up quickly.

This week I have business in New Orleans all week. I hope to provide the electricians as much info as possible so that I don’t have to try to make too many long-distance decisions.

February 22, 2010

Kiln Update

Filed under: solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 6:47 pm

The kiln potentially has been operational for about a week but either the snow was too deep to haul up wood or I was out of town. However, while in TN I collected the following data with my temperature and humidity data logger

So it is possible to reach 120+ degrees in winter during the daytime, although it does drop to ambient temps at night. Relative humidity, of course, is relative and will be more interesting to monitor when I actually have wood in the kiln!

February 15, 2010

First Task on the Addition

Filed under: Basement,Interior,solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 7:46 pm

Today started out with clear skies and 2 degrees F.  But a faint wind from the east was the prelude to the snow predicted to arrive in the afternoon.  The crew arrived at various times today, with the first here at 7:30am, to try and finish the roof framing and then sheath it with plywood. Progress went quite well and by the time the crew finished and the snow started falling this is what it looked like.

Today I ran some errands to pick up items at the hardware store for the house and wood kiln. Our local hardware store couldn’t get a wall vent for the range hood and dryer in anything other than thin aluminum and an unreasonable price so I ended up ordering that online. But they did have a single gallon of foundation tar sealer so I could finish the doors to the wood kiln (I used up the 5 gallons on Saturday).

While the crew worked on the roof I cleaned up the bat guano on the first floor and what had fallen into the basement. Also, there is a 24″x30″ access from the full basement to the crawl space that needed an insulated door.  That’s what I constructed (so the education from constructing the insulated doors for the solar kiln came in handy). It came out quite well (I think), in which the door has 3-1/2″ of insulation and I constructed a stop around the door with silicone weatherstripping.

Then I worked on the solar kiln by cleaning some metal roofing and coating it in flat black paint (the dogs provided encouragement and quality control). When I stack lumber in the kiln this goes on top as a solar collector.

It is supposed to be cloudy all week so I’m in no rush to get the kiln loaded with wood. However, tomorrow afternoon I may go up and download my temperature/humidity data because this morning it should have been pretty warm in there.

Tomorrow most of the windows should be installed – except for one to allow us to get sheetrock in the 2nd floor. The prediction is for 4-6″ of snow (up from 1-3″ yesterday).  The kids are predicting a school delay or cancellation.

February 13, 2010

Solar Kiln Almost Operational

Filed under: solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 5:26 pm

Today I finished sealing gaps with urethane foam, tarring the interior, and finishing some drip edge and installing vents. I could barely make it up to the kiln with the truck in 4WD after all the snow we have had. I hope to load some wood tomorrow (if I can get up there with a load in the truck).

Here’s a photo of the kiln

and a close-up of the solar panels and you can see the fan inside. I think these fans are going to work great.  Today was fairly overcast yet the fans still turned and I think they will be sufficient for the necessary airflow. In direct sun they make a pretty good breeze – sufficient enough to provide the necessary air circulation.

Not sure what the first load of wood will be since I have so many piles around the farm… All of them are air-dried so they just need the moisture content reduced from ~14% to 7-9%. It could be the cherry for the kitchen cabinets, the pine for interior trim, slippery elm for the kitchen counter…

I also installed a temperature and relative humidity logger. Will share photos and data downloads soon!

Wind picked up this evening, which means we’ll probably have to shut down the woodstove.

February 2, 2010

Solar Kiln Update

Filed under: solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 6:08 pm

Work on the solar kiln is progressing and this past weekend Ethan and I built the doors. Each one is about 72″ square (by the way, the opening we framed for them was 1/8″ off on the diagonal!) and with 2×4 framing, insulation, and 3/8″ sheathing it took the whole family to move them from the workshop, to the bed of the pickup truck, to the kiln! The doors have been hung and actually work. I was afraid the doors would be so heavy they would sag and not work properly. They actually work quite well and the second one we built is perfect (I guess we should have built 3 of them!).  There’s a long story about construction of the first door -but suffice it to say I framed it properly and then put the vents and exterior framing on backwards…

Here’s a photo of the current status of the project.

Left on the punchlist before it’s completely operational:

1. install upper vents (above doors)

2. seal around roofing and install drip edge

3. hang baffle for fans

4. install fans and solar panels for fans

5. complete tarring interior

6. install temperature sensor

7. paint exterior (won’t happen until spring)

I have a full weekend of work ahead of me.

January 24, 2010

Progress on the Solar Kiln

Filed under: solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 3:35 pm

Yesterday was the last day of grouse season – so the dogs made me take them hunting in the morning.  It was a beautiful day – about 15 degrees with clear blue skies but warmed up into the 30s by noon.  Flushed 3 grouse but no shots and only a couple of dog points but the bird was long gone. Anyway, after lunch Ethan and I worked for a couple of hours on the kiln by finishing some exterior siding and starting to insulate and cover the interior walls. At the end of the day this is how it looked

On Sunday I got up early and planned to head out to work on the kiln before the rain arrived. But first I had to cover and re-cover some of the piles of lumber in the yard.  The wind took some off and others needed covering before the rain arrived. Anyway, I headed up in the pasture to work on the kiln and finished all the exterior siding, interior insulation and sheathing, and coated everything in tar (it serves as a moisture barrier). The photo below shows everything I accomplished this weekend except tarring the interior.

So now I need to install the solar fans and construct the doors. Probably a full weekends work ahead if I work on the framing for the fans in the evenings.  Need to get this operational so that the piles of air-dried lumber around the farm can be dried for interior finishing of our addition.

January 19, 2010

Details about another project

Filed under: solar kiln — Duane Diefenbach @ 8:48 pm

So not only are we building an addition on our house, but I am building a solar kiln.  This is something I have been threatening to do for several years.  Right now all my lumber is air dried – I first stack it outside for about a year and then bring it under cover into either the pole barn or the barn, and then if I want to make furniture I bring it into the woodshop for several months.  With a solar kiln I can (should be able to) dry the wood and get it to 7-10% moisture content in a few weeks if the wood is first air dried.

The design I am using is based on the Virginia tech design. It will process about 1,000 board feet of lumber and supposedly dry green oak in about 30 days.  A more complete description for this design is available on this website.  Anyway, the process is slow because I am trying to do it on the cheap AND do it in my increasingly rare spare time.  In November I constructed the floor using the joists from our former deck (removed for our home addition).  I hauled the floor up into the pasture with the tractor to where I get a good southern exposure.

Poor Ethan has become the forced labor on this project.  But it’s his grandfather’s fault because he gave him a hammer and tool belt for Christmas. The only benefit to Ethan is that he gets to drive the truck back and forth from the barn to the project when I forget a tool.

By mid-January this was our progress:

Check back as I will add to this post with more details. Right now it’s under roof and (mostly) sided.

While working on this project we are visited occasionally by two idiots.

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