Drinking Water

Portland residents just received their annual water quality report, something that would normally go unnoticed by most if there hadn’t recently been a big to-do in the national media about finding trace amounts of caffeine, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and anti-biotics in several major cities drinking water supply. Portland was one of the cities identified, and the Water Bureau has done an excellent job of presenting water quality and addressing the contaminants:

“At the amounts detected, an individual would have to drink 1 gallon of water a day for more than 13,000 years to consume the equivalent of one Tylenol.”

Now there’s some perspective.

I do a half-cringe, half-laugh when I see people buying bottled water in Portland. The Bull Run water is the most wonderful drinking water I’ve ever had. The stuff in Wyoming was pretty good, Yakima was OK (the well water in the Nob Hill area is gross), and the water in Nebraska was wretched. Every time we fly back to visit I’m always so happy to be back at the Denver airport to get some good water again. I guess I’m a water snob.

One artist’s rendering

Let me start this post by saying that Sketch-Up is probably in my top 5 favorite applications right now, but I’m still a rather novice user. Despite my lack of experience with the tool, I’ve used it twice recently for real designs – both the chicken coop and now our basement. Our incomplete basement.

With the chicken coop, it was more about creating a rough design with relative dimensions and such – mostly about visualizing the product. This time, I spent much more time trying to include real dimensions and went through several drafts – each time boring Michelle a little more. Still, I think the visualization exercise was useful and I was actually able to take the dimensions and use them to fit pieces (stereo, speakers, tv) into the overall scheme. Here’s the latest rendering:

One artist\'s rendition

Now that we’re closing in on the end of the project, I’m really curious to see how accurate the rendering is. I already know of a few changes, but it seems to be fairly accurate still.

edit: Here’s a mock up of the cabinets that are on the east wall. I built them after prototyping them in sketchup with the dimensions of the sill and beam that they had to fit between. Then I was able to find out the size of the pieces needed so I could make sure I had enough plywood. Really, it’s a simple and powerful tool.

SketchUp mockups of the cabinets

Strange Map situation

When Hilly, Michelle, Ella and I got home from dinner, there was a car parked akwardly in front of our house. Hilly, who inherited my mom’s insuppressible urge to help people checked to see if they were lost. They were, in fact, lost. Four Korean 20-somethings were headed from Federal Way to Manzanita. They were operating with a google map print out that was too focused (and indirect) to get them there. They had already missed the route to the coast, so we redirected them with a hand drawn map.

While I was helping the proficient english speaker, the others were letting Ella play with the steering wheel, and were so smitten they gave her a bag of sweet rice treats that were the Asian equivalent of kettle corn. I ended up giving them a crappy tear out map from the Thompson guide which I annotated for their trip, and we sent them on their way. They quickly returned to the front door for a picture with us for the memory. It was cute.

Basement upgrade

Ella helping with framing

I’m at home with Ella today, and she’s just gone down for a nap, so I’m taking the opportunity to post some pics of what we’ve been up to in the evenings and over weekends the last 2 weeks.

Two weekends ago, we were supposed to go camping with Ella for the first time, but the weather was going to be abysmal: cold and rain. Not much fun in a tent. Instead, Michelle, my parents and I started working on the basement – an addition of walls and eventually carpet and ceiling to make the somewhat dank and scary TV room in to a livable family room. Over the last weekend, we managed to tear down, frame and sheet rock and start taping and mudding the walls. It was amazing how quickly we worked, and it put us a month ahead of schedule.

Over the next couple days I worked on sanding and mudding more, but had to stop to clean for the Kroger for AG party we hosted. Then, Friday I was able to sand and mud one last time so we could sand and prime on Saturday. Michelle’s mom and friend came down over the weekend and watched Ella so we could keep working. They all went to the zoo and had a great time while Michelle and I worked unfettered for a few hours. By Sunday night, we’d primed and put 2 coats of paint on all but one of the walls. I was also able to get some framing for a panel wall that I’ve been dreaming of. The green in the pictures doesn’t reflect the actual color very well. In the pics, it almost looks like 70s gauche.

Since Sunday night, we’ve not accomplished much downstairs other than laundry. Today I went to
Rebuilding Center
and CrossCut to buy wood for the finishing touches. I wanted to use reclaimed old growth, clear vertical grain Doug fir, but had trouble finding the quantity and quality needed for the project. I ended up getting most of it from CrossCut, but the wood is beautiful, and the Doug fir veneered plywood will make for excellent cabinets where the stereo and such will sit – well above kid hands. Ella helped me push the wood around and I think she had as much fun at both the Rebuilding Center and CrossCut as I did. Here’s a gratuitious photo of the pile of wood in my garage:

Now we just need to finish the cabinets and one last section of drywall then we can put up the fir and be happy. We’re experimenting with wood panelling for the ceiling, but mixing wood types can be dangerous. We’re looking at Luan for its cost/sustainability/look, though the jury is still out.

Magic Carpet

Michelle and I have been working on finishing the basement so that its not scary to be in during, well, most times of the year. To make it livable, we put some old carpet down on the floor to hep us pretend that it was a real room. Before cutting out chunks of the concrete floor to repour, we rolled up the carpet and put it in my parent’s truck so we could take it to East County Recycling Environmentally Conscious Recycling. ECR is one of the only options for recycling carpet in the Portland Metro area.

We needed to pick up some sheet rock with the truck, so we set the carpet roll out on the parking strip. Later that afternoon when we returned, the carpet had disapeared. There’s a phenomenon around here where you can set out some reasonable item you’re done with and a free sign and it’ll be picked up within 24 hours by someone. The phenomenon is so strong that the following things have happened:

  • Well, for one, someone took our doubly-old carpet
  • The hippie neighbors put out utter rubbish and it somehow all disappeared, though at slightly slower pace.
  • Occasionally you’ll see a pile of something in front of someone’s house with a “Not Free” sign on it to signal the home owner’s intent to use the pile

If you attempt to use this phenomenon, do not attempt to kick-start by posting something on craigslist. You’ll end up with multiple unhappy parties who show up to get the free item when some dude who was just walking by picked it up not 4 minutes ago. I mean, it’s not my fault they drove from Vancouver to get a few rolls of sod.

I love recycling, but I love reusing even more.

John Kroger for Oregon Attorney General

Freeds for Kroger

I know, seems a little late in the game to post something like this considering our primaries are in 4 days. However, last night we learned that 50% of Oregon voters are still undecided who to vote for in the race for Attorney General. There are probably several reasons for this, including that there are only two democrats running, and that AG has always been one of those lower profile seats.

Last night Michelle and I hosted a house party for John so some of our friends, neighbors and coworkers could meet the candidate. Both Michelle and I feel that John Kroger is not only the better of two good candidates, he is better for Oregon. Here’s just a few items that illustrate why we think he’s the best choice:

  • John wants to drastically improve access to treatment programs for substance abuse, specifically meth. Meth users are the single largest cause for property crime in Oregon, and play a huge role in why Oregon’s child welfare is one of the worst in the nation. Meth is showing up in middle schools, so its clearly time we take a different approach to solving our meth crisis.
  • John wants to start prosecuting criminal polluters. As one of our neighbors pointed out, Oregon passed some sweeping anti-pollution laws nearly 2 decades ago and has just kind of rested on our laurels since. There’s no one in Oregon who isn’t affected by the environment, and small fines for dumping heavy metals in to our rivers shouldn’t just be part of the cost of doing business.

There’s a nice short list. But there are many more reasons, which you should read if you’re still curious. Lastly, please don’t make any of your decisions based on TV ads. I’m amazed at the power and reach of these wretched things and urge you to read your voters pamphlet and your favorite organization’s endorsements for more information.

Green Roof on the chicken coop

Sometimes you start to question doing something unnecessary. I did that several times during the process of putting a greenroof on top of our chicken coop, but now that I’m done and have forgotten the extra time and cost, I’m happy we went with it.

Why did we put a greenroof? (an “eco-roof” to some) I must admit I liked the novelty and wanted to see how difficult it was. Plus, it gave me the chance to learn a little more about the process. Sara lent me here notes from the 1-day greenroofing class she took a few years back, and with that, I developed a simpler, less expensive version for the chicken coop.

Different how? Fewer layers of complex stuff. My roofing layers look like this:

  • plants & soil-medium
  • carpet pad
  • 2 layers of 6 mil. black plastic
  • roof decking

A better designed roof would use a real waterproof membrane, but I happened to have a lot of black plastic leftover from when our basement had radon mitigation. Also, the there should probably be a slip sheet between the membrane and padding, then a barrier between the soil and the pad, but I’m not too worried about root intrusion into the pad. I added a small drain to the lowest corner (it somehow lost square/level once we put the 150 lb roof up) in case of excess moisture. Hopefully it doesn’t get used much.

Finally, the roof media came from ProSoil in Tigard, and the sedum, not the ideal choices, came from Livingscape Nursery on Vancouver and A-Boy. I couldn’t find all the ideal varieties, and Michelle wanted some hen & chicks on the roof, so we’ll see what works and what doesn’t (thus the tags). I need a little more soil, so I’ll be making another run to the soil place to fill up another computer box with someone else’s roof media.