Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Color in the Canyon

Last weekend I attended the annual retreat of the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts Board of Directors, and made a quick stop at the house to deal with a couple of issues for Leo and photograph windows and insulation.  While I was there I got some shots of the fall color in the canyon that I wanted to share, including the Szmania's grape harvest, a day or two before they harvested.  I'm sorry I couldn't capture the trip across Blewett Pass, with the smoke cleared and the Tamaracks in full glory.  But the little Brender Canyon is nothing to sneeze at, beauty-wise!  Enjoy.

Shhh . . . Don't tell Julie and Ludger we ate some grapes!

Squirrel footprints.  He got confused and ran up my leg!

Looking towards Wenatchee further out the canyon.

Week 20: Windows and Insulation

FALL has come to the Wenatchee Valley, as you can see in this photo of the house from the road.  Those trees we felt were a fire threat now beckon in full color, especially when the sun lights them up.

Windows and insulation went in very quickly - in about a week.  We just love our Eagle windows from Washington Window and Doors.  Thanks Matt (and Barrie, too).

The pictures really tell the story here, but there are a couple of interesting notes about windows and insulation.  First, the windows are aluminum clad on the outside, a nice blue-black color called Dark Ash; the trim will be painted to match it in an opaque stain color called River Deep.  Inside, the windows are all clear vertical grain fir and they are finished with a clear finish - no stain.  The interior doors and trim around windows, doors and the base molding will all be to match - clear vg fir with a natural finish. Light, clean.

The Eagle inner workings work exceptionally well.  In particular, I'm a big fan of the triple latch full-light doors.  When closed, they latch in three different places, up high, in the middle and midway down - no air will leak in here, and there's no sense that the doors will ever break down through use.  I would heartily recommend to anyone building a home, to reach in price here - the quality is well worth the investment.  Here are some views from inside with the windows in, and the insulation all completed.

View of dining room from living room

View of living room from dining room

View from master bedroom

Entry hall to the north side

Guest bedroom looking north

Looking through Wally's studio to entry hall; NE view

Leo's beams being prepped to hang in the great room

The insulation went in so quickly!  The exterior walls are also sealed in with a moisture barrier as well, and the interior walls are all insulated.  I've never seen the interior walls insulated, but Leo and his team do a solid, quiet house.  With the windows and insulation, the house takes on an entirely new character:  it's so quiet you can hear your ears ring.

We're still toying with staining the ceiling beams, perhaps to match the cabinetry.

And here's a quick look at the front entry elevation.  Next time you see this, it will be clad with siding!  No more white Tyvek!

Next post:  Fall Color in the Canyon!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Living With Fire

Living with the threat of fire is one thing.  It comes with the territory when you decide to live in the country.  You drive by the remains of earlier forest fires, where the hills have greened up with re-emergent shrubs but black toothpicks stand as reminders of the last big firestorm.  You start to look at trees differently, see where they’re sick from an infestation of sucking insects.  Or where they’re healthy, but too close to the house.

Living with fire is another thing entirely. 

Seen from the rodeo:  smoke in our canyon
When real fires break out, as they did in early September in North Central Washington, the threat becomes all too real.  Columns of smoke announce a lightning strike that made it to ground.  The crackling of the arrowleaf balsamroot on a hike a few weeks earlier served as a cautionary note that such a strike would surely mean flames.  When we saw this particular bit of smoke, we jumped in the car and headed home.

This fire burned a few acres over 3 days
The storm generated thousands of lightning bolts as it stalled over the center of the state for more than 7 hours.  Over 100 fires were sparked that night.  Some like this one, just half a mile further up our canyon, were put out relatively quickly.  Our neighbors, together with area volunteers and a Seattle fire crew, worked a line around the fire and by Tuesday had put it out.  But bigger fires spread, several fires merged, and the fight was on.

We had to head back to the west side the next afternoon, leaving that situation there.  It’s hard to describe what it feels like to drive away, not knowing if the nearest fire would make it over the ridge and head our way; of course, there is good reason for that fear.  Then there is the feeling you should be doing something to help the cause. But the reality is there is very little you can do but wait and stay tuned, which we had to do from Bellevue.

Over the next 5 weeks, the fires continued to burn in the sick forest south of us - but it burned half-heartedly.  Calm winds and cooler nights let the fire crews burn through a lot of the sick woods.  They cut out a lot of the dead trees, cleared the brush and set back- fires. We surmise it struck them as a good time to let the fire burn the insect out, with calm conditions allowing them to contain the spread to within the national forest. Maybe this will indicate we've cycled to the end of the epidemic.

On Blewett Pass at the height of the burn.
Calm conditions, however, led to hazardous air quality throughout the Wenatchee Valley, where the canyon landscape and a lengthy weather inversion trapped the smoke at ground level.  Particularly hard-hit was the city of Cashmere, which experienced air quality levels you just never see.  Schools were closed, people stayed indoors.  Our house crews knocked off at mid-day when the levels went the highest. 

Having enjoyed the driest fall in recent memory, much-needed rain fell on October 13, ending 35 days of smoke and uncertainty. Driving back, only a few very small spikes of smoke outlasted the overnight rainstorm.  

So folks in the valley lost a month of the finest season of the year.  That's too bad, because in a year of beautiful seasons in this place, each one takes our breath away. In the end, one firefighter died, but not a single home was lost to fire.  Stepping outside our friends’ cottage on a Sunday morning, I could faintly smell smoke, but mostly I could smell the fresh smell of new rain washing away a summer’s worth of dust and grime.  What a relief.