Monday, July 15, 2013

Topped out -- just in time

(This post mirrored between my academic sustainability blog and my personal farm blog.)

Yesterday the last structural boards were fitted to the roof of the Womerlippi farmhouse's new extension, an experiment in passive solar construction.

I was too tired and upset from the heat and heavy work to take pictures at the time. Later, when I've had chance to recover, I'll take some shots.

(This link leads to the Facebook slideshow of the construction process.)

But that was a milestone. Now we have a building, and all we need to do is put roofing on and trim it out. Wiring, plumbing, even drywall, windows, doors and trim, these are all easy to do in comparison to heavy rough-cut lumber framing, especially when you're working by yourself. Even a short two by six rough-cut board, for a stud or a plate, weighs many pounds, never mind when you've joined a whole bunch of them together to make a wall frame section or rafter truss.

The foundation was particularly heavy labor, too.

Historically, carpenters from the British Isles held "topping out" ceremonies whenever this stage of a building was completed. I'm not going to cut down a small tree and pin it to my highest rafter and drink a bunch of beer with the building crew, as the old tradition goes.

Seems like a waste of a perfectly good baby tree. And the building crew is way too small to have a party.

That would be a rather lonely ceremony, especially as Aimee, like a true scientist, despises all such "superstition.".

But I am detecting that transitional feeling, when you move from one important phase of construction work to another. And it's a good feeling, of accomplishment and of having done the right thing at the right time.

Even so, I'm going to be very glad of the upcoming break from heavy labor. It's taken me about seven weeks (with a break for a few days for an academic workshop, and another several days to put together a crew and do an anemometer job), to get this building structure built. In that time I've definitely melted fat and built muscle, and I feel a lot fitter and stronger than I have for several years, but I'm also bruised, tired and achy. My body needs a rest.

In any case, the weather won't be cooperating with building plans for the foreseeable. The forecast is for high heat and humidity through Friday.

This is an unusually long heat wave for Maine, although those of us who have to keep up with climate data for a living were expecting a hot summer this year because we're close to the top of the curve in the 11-year solar cycle, so it comes as no real surprise.

Usually we can expect a few truly hot and humid days in a Maine summer. These short heat waves occur when the jet stream is well to the north of us and the circulation from high and low pressure systems (counter-clockwise around a low, clockwise around a high) introduces warm moist airflow from the south.

We began this current heat wave yesterday, and the weather systems are currently set up to continue to pour in warm moist air for several more days. We may easily break some heat records.

We talked about the likelihood of this heat wave occurring in GL 4003 Global Change class during the spring semester, and now here it comes.

The next thing will be a hurricane. I haven't begun checking the NOAA Hurricane Center web page regularly yet, but I will. The Atlantic hurricane season is really just getting started.

I used to spend a lot of time pontificating on this blog about when the penny would drop for Americans about climate change. I'm still not sure just how many hurricanes, tonadoes and heat waves it's going to take.

More than it should, that's for sure.

But I'm glad that I just completed the structural framing on a building that is way more heat-proof, hurricane proof, and tornado proof, as well as energy efficient and low-carbon, than the average Maine building.

I don't want to fit air conditioning, but I expect I could do so if I had to. With the amount of insulation planned for the building, air conditioning would be particularly efficient.

I'd rather have some proper Maine summer weather, with regular, prolonged blasts of cool, dry Canadian air, than air conditioning. I would be happy to suffer frost warnings in mid-to-late August, to be worried about whether my tomatoes are getting warm-enough nights, and so on. That would all be preferable.

But I may not get the choice.

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