Archive for the 'home improvement' Category


What space do we really need

My cabin in the woods

To begin with, everyone is different. Looking back, I see that my need for space change every decade. This is me, evaluating my lifestyle at the midpoint of my life… give and take, for I do not know if this really is the midpoint, but taking the average lifespan of modern people.

The bedroom…. is the empty storage

I am surprise that right now, I am happy and contented with living in my little cabin in the woods. A tiny 1 stove, never enuf counter space, fireplace instead of A/C. Maybe this is not truly minimalist living, its more like a retreat, becos I still own a very large apartment back in SG where I house all my life collectibles, and a rental apartment in NY where I furnished with all the creature comforts so common in every middle class home.

This bedroom is probably larger than my whole cabin.

Strangely, this line of thought struck me only recently, upon returning to my NY apartment after 2 weeks in my cabin, that I live in extreme conditions.

Turn my 1 bedroom lease into a studio.

My $1400 rent sure gives me a lot of room, so much that I don’t even know what to do with the bedroom, choosing instead to place the bed in the dining space with direct line of sight to the TV. A dining table that is more like a catch all, for I never eat at the table. Choosing to eat on my lap while working in front of the TV. Yep, multi tasking is my middle name. At the rate I am going, I am not sure why I even bought the bed or the desk or the dining table…. I spend almost all the time I am in the apartment on the couch.

So I am totally living like its a studio instead of a 1 bedroom. Even then, its still more space than I am used to. I mean its like my apartment in SG, but for the last few years I have gotten used to living in a really tiny space that this feels weird. Never thought I would feel there is too much space. Something in me is changed, I am just not excited about living the “good” life anymore.

My life centers around the couch.

In about 2 months, I am ending my lease and returning to my life in Port Townsend and Singapore. Realizing that all I need is the couch, I am starting to list bed, desk and table on craigslist. At the same time, I am devising a way to bring the couch with me in Scootz. Pretty sure I will pack Scootz up to the eyebrow for this 5 day driving adventure home….

Becos I need to shift the front passenger seat all the way forward to fit the length of the couch, Doug will not be with me on this adventure. With all that weight, plus the kayak on the roof, its probably for the better that I do this trip myself.

But really, where would I put that couch, TV and extra stuff once I am there in PT? Storage?


Working at home whenever I can

Do a little touristy thing….

Mostly I live and work in upstate NY, but whenever I get a chance, I head back and work my butt off on my cabin in the woods.  Each time I get only 2 weeks, and really have to check into the office 20hrs each week, so every moment I get is precious. Pre planning my projects and order my materials early is the key.

1 week before I head out, 28 tonnes of 3″ and 3/4″ basalt is delivered. Good thing I have Doug over there to direct the delivery to the spot where I want it.

Lots of work, everywhere

I didn’t get good flight time on my trip over, putting me there in the evening, I had to waste an evening in a airport motel, so that I could get 1/2 price Hertz rental from a off airport location. Such locations are open during normal hours only. $55 for the hotel, but I saved $300 from car rental. I am so proud of myself for saving some money, and that gave me the chance to take the lite rail down to Seattle and walk the waterfront. … and splurge on Ivar’s fish and chips that was not worth it… sigh.. touristy….

Plumbing in the watering points.

As soon as I arrive, I start some seeds going in old egg cartons, with Miracle Gro soil. 2 bags is not going to fill my planter box, just for starters. Pile of gravel in the background is 3/4″. 3″ is on the other side of the log pile.

Now its a lot of work moving the gravel from the piles into the garden perimeter. How long would it take little ol’ me to shovel gravel to fill 16′ x 24′ x 6″ garden base? In the meantime, Doug ran the pipes to the garden.

Graveling ramp and our neighbors watching us work.

A full day of back breaking work, but maybe only 10%. I need help, to get it done faster… and Doug is not one for mindless shoveling work. So, I got in touch with Jim who is needing work, but I only got 2hrs out of him. Then he stop showing up and I continue on my own for a few days. My arms, wrists and back killed me for 2 days before I got young James. Nothing like young backs fresh out of school.

X-large planter box coming up.

Doug and I start on building the 1st planter box as soon as half the base is filled. Anyway, it only took James 2 full days to complete the gravel work. Then we got him to level the ground for the workshop building. Getting started on that project is a bonus!

New tool on the job, laser leveler.

When that was done, James distributed the remaining gravel over the RV pad. We had a 12 yard garden compost soil delivery from Shold’s. The best in the area.

Levelled trenches read for 6×6 PT skids.

Meantime, Doug and I complete building the planter boxes. Then it was time for James to fill the boxes with soil, bucket by bucket. I continue to work after James is gone for the day. Its tough work.

Ta da! 2 X-large planter box!

Then we had delivery from Home Depot, materials for the new workshop building. We had to put up a tent over the OSB board and lumber. Keeping it dry is futile but we try. And check out the site prep and the RV pad next to it! Its coming together.

Kale starts and seeds going in.

Final tally for James, I got 4 days of 6hrs work. It really made all that difference for me. Really bang for my buck! And he was really happy with that exchange. Hope he will do something smart with that money. 🙂

Mint is not welcomed in the planter. It needs to grow in its own pot.

On the last 3 days of my “vacation”, I ran the irrigation, plant berries and cherries around the garden base. Was so thankful to have neighbor Dawn come over to help me put the seeds into the garden.

Unfortunately I did not get to see any sprouting before I had to go… But with all the help we got, it gave me and Doug a day to enjoy not working. So it was 1 vacation day in all of 15 days that I was away from NY.

Counting on Doug to watch over my seedlings, send me pictures of the birthing…. and Dawn to come over to check on them …. till I am back in August! then I get to enjoy the fruits 🙂



Watch this space

Big changes in 3 years. Signs of life in what used to be forest.

Amazing new technology that make it so easy to record the changes to my little plot of land. Who saw that coming? Not me.

But now that it is here and available…. 🙂

I kinda check Google maps every 6 months or so…. but 1 day I found that Jefferson county has a better and more frequently updated aerial. Seems to me like that it is a competition between satellite pictures versus drone pictures, and my vote goes to drone of course…

Which brings me to the point…. with technology like this we are monitored more closely than ever before… Looks like a great way to look for undeclared buildings or unauthorized improvements in outlaying regions.

So is all these advancement really great… hmm….. can we get away with anything anymore?


Home work

Who likes homework? Really, I do. Its what I look forward to for months before I get to do it.

Almost home, flying over the Cascades

Yup, my home work is not an assignment put onto me by anybody else. It literally mean going home and working on my property 🙂 … ya, some kind of vacation… Doug and I could have gone on a cruise, but Port Townsend WA is really where we want to be and improving the property is what we want to do.

Redid our fireplace

Time is short 2 weeks for me… have to back at my desk in NY after that, but Doug gets to stay on and indulge in life back home. Lucky him. Well, so we are zipping across in a plane this time… not train, not driving, not cruising… seeing the Cascades from up above. The Cascades is like the great East West divide to me.

Is that straight?

At the airport, we collected our 2 large checked in bags and 4 carry ons, walked over to the parking garage and took Lyft to a off airport rental car facility. Cost $35 for the ride, but I got a mini van from Hertz for a amazing price of $300 for 2 weeks, tax included. Getting it from the airport would have been $500 at least.

Made it to the cabin just before it got too dark. What a relief that everything is just fine, no break in, no fallen tree on the cabin… our 2 greatest fear for leaving the cabin to fend for itself… Its always good to know that this is a good neighborhood and I have great neighbors.

Not a moment to waste

Not a moment to lose, we head out to Poulsbro the very next day and ordered up my largest Home Depot purchase till date. Lots of 12ft timbers and metal roofing sheets, no way we can load those into the minivan… Since I am paying $79 for delivery, I went overboard and ordered lots of materials for future projects as well.

Garden perimeter

While waiting for the delivery, which unfortunately is 4 days away because that’s when they deliver to PT, we sort out this and that around the property, storage and checked on Calliste at the marina.

And I found this amazing fireplace online and felt that I absolutely need to drive out to Lowes at Port Orchard to get it right away. Finally the minivan paid off, the boxed up package just barely made it into the back. At 250lbs, the guys loaded it with a forklift… now its a challenge for us to get it out and shift into the cabin. Long story how we did it, but the picture tells it all… we did it!

The log condo!

This trip, my 3 projects are to build the garden perimeter, planter boxes and log condo. It is impossible to complete all 3 projects, but we got the perimeter ready for gravel and 1 log condo. Doug can build another 2 log condos in his free time later, all he needed was the sample 🙂 . Started on 1 corner of the planter box… sigh… not enuf for Doug to go on and finish, so it will be something that we have to complete in my next trip home… hopefully in time for the growing season.

Sadly I have to go back to my other life… sigh… I had a awesome vacation being home and working on these projects! Money better spent then my other plan of cruising the Carribean onboard Carnival Cruises.



All in a summers’ work

Alder down. Its a lot of work moving the logs away

Doug been at it all summer long, cutting down trees, clearing it away getting ready for the guys with heavy machinery to come in. Finally I took 2 weeks off in September to check on my lot and get some work done myself.

Wooden boats on display at Point Hudson

But 1st, let us enjoy the annual highlight of the year in Port Townsend. The Wooden Boat Festival fleet is in town at Point Hudson marina, and we have front row seats and parking space by Calliste. We feel so privileged….

Watching the schooner race

After 3 days of watching boats, its back to working on the prop. Only 1 tree that needs to come down was still standing. It was too large for Doug to handle safely, so it will be one for the guys with equipment.

The Hitachi 120 posing with the doomed Hemlock.

And there it goes. No sawing, what a pushover with that Hitachi 120. It wasn’t that easy actually. took some digging and pushing and digging again… cycles, until it finally come down.

Sewers properly installed.

After 1.5 days of pulling stump, levelling the ground and installing the sewerage pipe, I think the RV site is ready for occupancy.

Ta da! My new RV site is ready

Looking good isn’t it? Levelled, log wall by the side and trees in the back. Next year I hope to construct a deck, put up 2 easy chairs, plant a garden.

Sitka tree farm. My own Sitkas!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the log wall  is my little Sitka tree farm. I am honoring my commitment to nature that provided Sitka timber for Calliste bowsprit. I promised to replace this wood. Here are my starts… ordered from Amazon, how amazing that is. I wonder if Amazon sells pot starts too… 🙂 That’s next on my garden plans.

Hurricane ridge.

Man and machine made quick work on my property, leaving us a free day to go up Hurricane Ridge.

View of San Juan de Fuca and Victoria, BC

It was a nice clear day, a bit too chilly for me as I wasn’t dress for the chill winds. But I am glad we came up when we did. Got a great view of Victoria across San Juan de Fuca and tour the little visitor center to learn about the Olympic mountains.

And after a productive and fun vacation, its back to my desk in Malta NY…



Separate summers

Doug’s summer

I am not enjoying the long days and great weather that much this year…. well, I am stuck in upstate NY (yes I am working, and I do enjoy my work), while Doug gets to go enjoy our cabin in the woods. The only consolation is that we are both getting so much done on both ends.

Site marked for container workshop

I hear that 20 trees have come down already, and that we are almost ready for the excavation guys to come pull those stumps and level out the workshop and camp site. Yep, I drew up some plans for a container workshop for us, a outhouse and camping deck that I could rent out to campers to cover property maintenance when I retire again.

My little summer project.

On my end, I’ve been making the dough that pays for the excavators, creating design automation solutions that I so enjoy doing anyway…. Long weekends like this 4th July weekends, I get to revamp my little blog. Yep its time to revisit some of those side panel links and catch up on whats going on around the world… when I work, I ignore the news…

I think better laying down.

And oh BTW, made a little phone holder for Scootz. My very own design, using scrap lumber leftover from the door project. Yep, I wanted to be able to use it standing up or on the side. Definitely on the side is better, IMO. The rubber coated wire tie is to hold it down so that it don’t flop out when I jump on the brakes or turn a hard corner too fast…


Setting up a rental in upstate NY

Thats my corner. All those windows above the 3 garages are my new space.

Thats my corner. All those windows above the 3 garages are part of my new space.

We will be in NY for a while… few years I think. Immediately, we need a place to stay. Being new to the area, and not really committed to being here for long, we look to rent and not to buy.

Moving in today. Nothing to put my stuff on.

Moving in today. Nowhere to put my stuff on.

Ok, so I visited 6 managed communities and chose a rather high end 1 bedroom apartment with the usual facilities. Yes, I want to be comfy and not to worry about maintenance or digging Fordie out of the snow or clearing the driveway. I want to just furnish it, move in and go to work, in that sequence preferably….

IKEA delivery was here.

IKEA delivery was here.

But it was not to be…. we moved in, ordered the furniture, go to work and complete the furnishing over 3 weeks. At least the mattress and bedding came within 1 day, the 1st night that we moved in. As for whatever we need in the kitchen, Walmart is only 10 miles away.

Altho cheap desk and shelves are available at Walmart, we hated how it look and feel so much that we rather eat on our laps and sitting on those crates.

Contemporary and comfy to me.

Contemporary and comfy to me.

I did check out the local furnishing stores, and find that did not suit me. Did I want to drive 3hrs to IKEA in NY? And rent a Uhaul trailer to bring back those IKEA boxes? Nah. IKEA has been really good to me for over 20 years. I have always been able to furnish my space with everything IKEA, it got so comfortable to me that I could just order online and know exactly what I will get and everything is exactly as describe. I never realize how much I have come to trust and rely on a business! :O

A doorway to close off the stairway in the plans.

A doorway to close off the stairway in the plans.

I could have saved $300 by renting a trailer and driving to NY, and gotten my furniture sooner. But nah, I paid the flat fee $380 for delivery which includes the guys bringing up every box to the 2nd level. Phew! I am glad we didnt have to do that ourselves. Assembly was back breaking enuf. By the time we finished, we were already living in the apartment for 3 weeks.

Doorway in the works.

Doorway in the works.

Our shipment from PT arrive just after 2 weeks and that was a good thing, cos we needed some tools. After a full month here, we are all comfy and now shift into a home improvement mode. Things like adding roller shades, adding shelves and even constructing a doorway to keep the heat in our living space.

Doorway DONE

Doorway DONE

And by golly, am I not smart! I designed the doorway without a single screw into the walls. See, I am not sure if we are staying here for more than the 1 year lease arrangement, so I want to have the least patching possible.

Pretty good eh?

Sailing 2015: Port Townsend(WA, US) -> Costes Island (BC, Canada)

Sailing 2013: Singapore -> Okinawa -> Kobe

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