My former vegetarian of a wife recently purchased half of a half beef from a local farmer, which she split with a co-worker. The two of them compared multiple local farmers/ranchers and ultimately decided on this farm. I imagine the farmer’s blog explains why they chose the farm, but I think economy also factored in. Which is why we weighed and calculated it all as we crammed our freezer full of meat.

Over the last few years, we’ve slowly increased our consumption of meat (not hard for a vegetarian), though we’re still way under the average for Americans, which I suspect is partly due to the cost of the meat we buy, our enjoyment of alternative protein sources (I actually like fake sausage better than some of the cheap pork varieties), and because of the litany of health and environmental reasons for doing so. These are among the reasons we have 3 noisy chickens in our back yard – we know they’re treated well, we know their diet, and we know what was involved in the lifespan of the “product”. Oh, and the eggs are really good.

I’m not going to get in to all the stuff about the state of commercial feedlot operations, the treatment of cattle or anything because it seems like there’s so much already written about it. Suffice to say we’ve managed to get a cow who’s trip through the food system is one that we can get behind while at the same time supporting local businesses, reducing the amount of oil used in the production of our beef, and lastly, but not insignificantly, saved some money.

The initial judgement of the product will likely begin tonight.

Flooring, part 3

This is the conclusion to the flooring saga, following part 1 and part 2.

Tuesday night, after leaving my newly destroyed floors, my dad and I tried to rationalize the damage. It’d be fine tomorrow. It won’t look so bad after we put polyurethane on, and so on. But then we broached the subject of sanding it again and starting over. That’s when I decided to sleep on it. I didn’t actually give it any thought because I essentially crashed. I woke up several times, but discovered a new trick. If you put a little lidocaine cream on your finger and rub the back of your throat, it makes the hurt just a little less so you can sleep.

Wednesday morning I was still undecided about the flooring, still felt like crap, and just wanted to rest. So I did. That and I did a few phone conferences with my mom in Nebraska (who said that if my dad thought it looked bad, it probably was), and my wife in Washington, who thought the pictures I’d sent didn’t look that bad. We didn’t want the added cost and time it would take to resand and then refinish, but we’d have to live with the results of the stain if we didn’t. Since it looked so bad right where you enter the house, I finally decided that I had to resand. But first, I needed to rest.

A couple hours, several popsicles, a few pints of water, and a showing of Blazing Saddles later, I was feeling human enough to rent a U-sand machine from Parkrose Hardware (also damn awesome) and go after the stain. We picked this machine because it’s simply four random orbit heads with a dust collection system. We weren’t looking to sand away decades of neglect, just one stupid afternoon of stain.

Wednesday evening, when I mustered the energy to sand, I was delighted to find how quickly it removed the stain (my dad was right), and how nicely it took away all the extra filler left in the drum sander divots and low parts. I only managed to do the 36 grit before crashing again, but I went to bed with a sense of hope and a tub of lidocaine creme. Surely, Thursday I’d be better.

Thursday arrived, and I still felt like hell. I called in to catch up with my boss and spent a few hours catching up on e-mail. Thankfully, it was summer term, and after most classes had ended so the immediate stuff was pretty limited. I then dozed off in a rocker for a while and woke in a panic, realizing I still had to get the sander back. So I rushed over and did another pass on the floors with the 60, 100, and 120 grit then rushed the sander out to Parkrose.

A short time later, Michelle arrived home with the girls and took on the cleaning while I rested. By about 5pm, we were ready to try again with the finish. We’d tried spot samples of Zinnser’s Bulls eye sanding sealer, a shellac without wax. It looked fantastic, and it’s what we’d originally wanted before testing the stains. The lovely thing about shellac, is that it goes on quickly, and with a lambswool head and a painting pad, we shellaced the floors in about 30 minutes.

Something odd had happened too. Since Michelle and the girls’ return, I’d started to feel better. It’s unlikely related, given that it had been nearly a week since the throat pain had started, but after a popsicle, I was able to eat some food and drink a respectable amount of water.

Friday, Michelle and dad went after the polyurethane and really closed up shop on the project. They put on a coat in the morning, and then we took Ella out for a birthday trip to the Children’s Museum. We’d scheduled the day off, and managed to have a great time ignoring the incomplete project at home. My dad, saint that he is, put on another coat of polyurethane while we were out. Michelle and he put on the last two coats as well, totaling in 4 coats. We used the Zinnser water based Polyurethane because we’ve had great luck with Zinnser’s other products, and it was $10/gallon cheaper than the Varethane, which we’ve used in the past.

How’d it look? Freakin’ shiny, that’s how. We chose semi-gloss because we knew there’d be a fair amount of dog traffic and didn’t want the wear to show off so glaringly. Still, the semi-gloss reflected giant patches of light onto the ceiling. It was a startlingly mirrored surface, but it looked fantastic.

The final cost of the project, which includes the installation of new flooring in the kitchen, refinishing the floors (plus the stain disaster), miscellaneous costs like replacing the damaged sanding head, purchasing a dead blow hammer, buying pizza for demolition crews, etc. came to $1132. (check out the tally) The cost of the “stain incident” was around $150, though I have no regrets now. During the process, in my pain and dejection, I was certain I’d never do this again. However, hindsight is corrective, and $1132 for the entire project is still less than a third of what it would have cost for someone to refinish the floors. That doesn’t include installing new floors in the kitchen, which totaled under $400, or less than $2.60 per sqft for both the material and installation.

So, despite a few moments of DIY Hell, a week of pain and poor health, we came out in pretty good shape. See the pictures for yourself. Now we just have to repaint all the baseboards and install new quarter-round. Check back in 3 months.

Flooring, part 2

For every DIY story, there’s a sinister subplot where something goes wrong. In keeping with that, I’ve split the story in to parts 2 and 3, so each can have a separate disaster.

Part 2

After completing the flooring install, we had to move on to the larger project of sanding and refinishing the floors. We had intended to do this prior to inhabiting the house since that would have been ideal, but with the logistics of moving, it was too complicated to coordinate with multiple moving volunteers and exiting the old house in a timely fashion. But now, the dirty and decrepit floors, missing finish in more places than not, desperately need to be refinished. The process is rather intrusive, so here was our plan.

Move everything out of the first floor in to the garage, upstairs, basement or guest room. remove all the quarter-round from the base boards and remove all vents. Set all nail heads on top nailed boards well below the surface. Send girls and wife to Yakima to escape. Seal off the house. Rent equipment from Interstate rentals. sand. a lot. Fill gaps and cracks. Sand again. Stain. Finish with 4 coats of polyurethane. Move back in.

It was all supposed to happen while Michelle and the girls were gone, but on Friday, I started getting sick. No matter. My dad and I picked up Saturday morning and finished a few last prep items before picking up the sanders from Interstate Rentals (Awesome people, great prices, local business). We started with 20 grit on the drum sander and 36 grit on the edger and my dad worked the kitchen, edges and hallway while I ran the drum sander in the office, living and dining rooms. We took off a lot of wood, and the 20 grit left some pretty serious gouges. So we moved on to 36 for a pass before it was quitting time. We rode down to 5th Quadrant for a dinner and beers, then came home. I didn’t sleep too well for a second night and my throat had started to really hurt.

Sunday, we were back at it with the sanders moving up the grit, though we found that the large orbital sander did much less damage than the edger, which took off a lot of wood in a hurry. By the time we reached 100 grit, I was in serious pain. I was probably dehydrated and after 2 nights without much sleep, I was out of it, so I took a break and ended up taking a 2 hour nap. My dad continued to work and put a coat of filler in the office. I got up from the nap, choked down some potato soup and went back to bed.

Monday morning I felt like hell, but I had to get the sanders back to Interstate Rentals. We kept the large orbiting sander for another several hours, and my dad and I managed to get the rest of the fill down. We used Famowood filler, one of golden oak, and one of red oak because that’s all that CrossCut had. It’s a lot of work to put on, and sadly, you end up sanding off 98% of it. So, after wrestling it in to the cracks, crevices and unfortunately, the divots left by the drum sander, we sanded off the filler with the orbital using a 150 grit screen. The orbital lacks dust collection, so we ended up doing a lot of shop vac work as well. Dad ended up sanding all the edges with his older palm orbital sander because I somehow tore the pad on his Festool sander. I felt horrible about it since I was being especially careful with his new deluxe tool.

Many a person has speculated that being around all the dust is what caused my sore throat, or at least exacerbated the problem, but I think they’re wrong. I wore a respirator the entire time. I purposely bought a good respirator knowing that I’d be wearing it for a week. And while wearing the respirator in 85-90F heat, you tend to get a little muggy. So the entire time I had the respirator on, I was working in a clean, humid environment. It was actually more comfortable to be working with the respirator than not.

We finished early in the afternoon and I crashed again on the floor at his house. My dad was a little bummed because we had the perfect opportunity for bachelor nights with mom and my wife and girls out of town, but my not being able to eat and the pain kind of dampened the mood. Out of desperation, I rode my bike over to Walgreens and picked up some chloroseptic spray since several people had recommended them. I also picked up some coconut M&Ms thinking in only 15 minutes, I’d be able to eat something again. I was wrong. 15 minutes later, I applied the spray. Nothing happened, so I went to bed. 2 hours later, I woke up and my throat was raw and burning. Damn you snake oil merchants!

Tuesday I woke up hoping for some sort of respite. My dad checked my throat and didn’t see anything that looked like strep, just a really red, probably from all the glycerin in the throat spray. I finally emailed my doctor’s office (yeah, KP lets you e-mail the docs, and they typically respond really quickly) and the someone in the office responded that I should come in for a rapid test. I did, got swabbed, and was told I was negative for strep, but to hydrate, rest, and stay home. The nurse also recommended popsicles if I was having problems drinking water.

After numbing my throat with a popsicle, I drank a pint of water and got back to work. I started staining the floors with General Finishes’ water based Golden Oak stain. It looked best in the tests we did prior to the sanding on the new white and red oak and on the older flooring (I busted out a piece from the closet to compare). It went on fine in the kitchen, though made it look rather red. However, as I applied it in the office, then in the living and dining rooms, it started to look really bad. Maybe it was the heat (90F), maybe it was all the extra filler, and maybe it was just punishment for something, but my floors looked like crap. Cheap faux-aged pier one furniture crap. Splotchy, ruddy, and with huge lap marks. When I went home on Tuesday, I felt crappier than I can remember feeling in a long time. Dehydrated, defeated and pissed off. My dad was trying to find a bright spot in the mess when I crashed for bed.