Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Piglette Is Growing

Well, Piglette is growing, but not as fast as I thought she would.  I did a bit of searching on what to feed growing pigs.  Seems, like everything else, everyone has their own opinion on what is best for pigs.  I came across this blog and really identified with the author.  I like her attitude and the way she approached the pig raising.  I figured that feral pigs do just fine on their own without any help from us or special feed, so how could I go wrong?

I settled on a mix of commercial pelleted hog food, cracked corn, and a bit of calf manna.  I had Tom put an automatic feeder in her pen and I keep that filled so she can eat as much as she wants of it.  Each day I give her our leftovers and I boil up a dozen or so eggs and give her one or two a day.

Piglette is playful.  I've seen her out playing with a branch that has fallen into her pasture and she pushes her buckets all around.  She seems to like to hang with the other farm animals when she can.  Sometimes the goats, donkeys, and Pony will go into the alley next to her pen and she will always go running to them and stays as long as they do.  She runs around chasing the guineas when they go into her pen, which is nearly every day, and she likes to play with me when I go to feed her, but I don't indulge her much because...well, I don't need a broken heart when it's time to butcher her.

She loves the boiled eggs.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Kitchen Reno XII, Finished Concrete Countertop

We finished our concrete countertop.  I think it's pretty great for two rank amateurs.  Internet wisdom told us that it's not a good idea to do a cast in place countertop if one has no experience with concrete.  We took the risk and it was worth it...not perfect, but still great.

We loosely followed the instructions of the smiling Buddy Rhodes, who is apparently the concrete countertop guru of the internet.  I say "loosely followed" because we did not use his concrete material.  His mix is different than the Quikrete product we used and Buddy's mix was waaaay drier than ours.  Ours was a little too wet, but it doesn't seem to have made much of a difference in the finished product.  If you want to do one of your own, I recommend watching all of Buddy's tutorials.

The countertop would have been just as great if I'd not marbled it, and I was torn about the decision, so I polled some friends and family.  The feedback I got was about 50/50 for and against the marbling.  In the end, I decided to do it just because I wanted to.  To the homeowner who may be reading this, this is the price of having me redesign your kitchen.  Faux finishing is fun and sometimes I need to do something just for fun.

If you want to try something like this, here's how I did it.  After the concrete was dry (in our case, three days after we poured), and after we sanded it very lightly, but before the sealer was applied (because, obviously, if you put a sealer on, it will repel stains rather than accept them), I used a concrete stain called SmartColor , in black, and I painted it on with a feather.  Yes, a feather is way better than a paint brush for this application.  SmartColor is a water based stain that comes in a four ounce bottle.  It's pretty thick and dark, so I diluted it with water so that I could get varying shades of gray.  After I saw what color the countertops were going to turn out to be - more of a tan than a gray - I had a little buyer's remorse and wished I had gotten a brown for the marbling.  But, I didn't want to wait (typical), so I made do with the black.

Concrete does not accept stain evenly.  I learned that when I acid stained our barn apartment floor.  That's why concrete looks so natural and stone-like when you stain it and it's beautiful that way.  But, that worked against me somewhat on the marbling.  So, be prepared for the concrete to sometimes do it's own thing while you're applying your stain.  I think our slab was particularly cantankerous because we didn't know what we were doing and our surface, although very smooth, was not uniformly sanded, or...something.  I think it had something to do with some spots have more sand on the surface and some spots having more "cream" (watch Buddy Rhodes if you want to know about concrete cream).

And, that is what contributed to our main issue...

So, when I say "not perfect", the issue is this...the concrete does not have an even sheen.

Since I wanted a food safe finish, I chose to use Buddy Rhodes' sealer and beeswax finish.  I put two coats of sealant, which was a liquid that I just sprayed on and then wiped up the excess.  It's very easy to apply and it protects the concrete from stains, but it has no sheen.  After it dries, you can't tell anything is on it.  He has another sealer, to be applied over the first one, that is supposed to give the concrete a satin sheen.  I didn't buy that one mainly because it is expensive and I didn't see a need for it.  Instead, I went with the wax.  It's like a puck of wax that you just rub over the surface, then buff.  

As you can see in the above picture where the light is reflecting, the concrete looks spotty, and that is because some areas shined up nicely and some remained dull.  I think a couple of more coats of wax will make it uniformly shiny, but that will have to be a project for another day because the most important thing is to get this kitchen finished and functional.

So, it's done!  Except for a couple of small items, I've done all I can do and the rest is up to Nephew.  All that remains is the trim work, installing the sink and dishwasher and electricity in the island.  It could all be done by this weekend.  Or not.

If you want to follow along with the whole kitchen remodel, go far, far back in time to here.

Oh, and as a post script, I did add extra fine glitter (a clear glitter and a silver glitter) to the wet cement.  You can see it in person, but not in the pictures.  I thought it might be sanded off in the final sanding, but we got enough down in the cement so that the sanding revealed the glitter underneath the surface. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Kitchen Reno XI, Building Forms

When I was contemplating putting concrete countertops in the kitchen and casting them in place (in the kitchen, right on the cabinets), one of the things that had me stumped was...how does one cover up whatever is going to be used as a base for the form?  So, just in case someone else has that same question, I thought I'd explain what we did.

First of all, there are some very good reasons for not casting the concrete in place and many people prefer to pour them in a form outside or in the garage or on the porch.  If you pour them somewhere besides on top of your cabinets, you cast them upside-down. That means you can use a sheet of melamine on the bottom and the sides so that when you take them out of the forms and turn them over, you have a smooth-as-glass countertop.  You don't have to worry about smoothing the bottom of the slab, which won't show after it's installed, so you just pour, screed, and leave it to cure.  It also cuts down on the amount of sanding or slurrying.  And, pouring and finishing concrete is messy.  It's great if you can keep the mess out of the house.

But, if you do it that way, you have to plan your project backwards and upside down.  That's fine if you have just a simple slab with no cutouts, but we had to notch ours on one end to fit against a column and we also had a sink cutout.  And, the biggie...somehow, you've got to get that big ol' slab of concrete back in the house.  Our slab is 10 feet by 4 feet and weighs approximately 800 pounds.  We couldn't very well carry it into the house with a tractor.  According to other tutorials I've seen and read, many people make two or more slabs, then bring them in and put them side by side, but that means there are seams in the countertop.  I wanted one continuous expanse of concrete with no seams.

One more benefit to casting in place is that you end up using less concrete because the bottom of the form becomes part of the thickness.

So, when you cast in place, the bottom of the form, whether you use plywood or concrete board, becomes a permanent part of your countertop.  If you build your form in a simple box style like you would if you were casting it upside down, then when you take the sides of the form off, you would have a 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch strip of plywood (or concrete board showing).  Unsightly!

It takes a bit of forethought to build the forms for cast in place so that the base of the form doesn't show.

Our countertop looks like a two inch thick slab, but we actually only poured the concrete one and half inches thick.  The only part of the concrete that is two inches is the lip around the edge that hides the plywood.

Can you see that line that goes through the middle of the concrete edge in the above picture?  That is there because of the way we poured the concrete.  I don't know why it happens that way, but it came out that way consistently in all of our tests because we poured half the concrete, then laid the rebar on top of that, then poured the rest of the concrete in.  Quikrete instructions say to fill your form starting at one end and working your way towards the other end, filling it to the top.  This is probably why.  But if you do it that way, you'll have to put your reinforcement mesh or rebar in the form before you start pouring, which means you'll have to put some effort into suspending it so it won't just lay on the bottom.  That line doesn't bother me at all, but for those who want to avoid that, this is me telling you how you can.

So, here's a cutaway of the form.  We used 1/2 plywood as the base.  As a side note, 3/4 inch is stronger and we had a bit of a problem with the 1/2 inch flexing because of our overhang.  See how we dealt with that problem here.  To achieve a standard 1 1/2 inch countertop overhang or lip, the plywood base needs to overhang the cabinets by a half an inch to have room to screw a two inch strip of plywood to the underside.  And, since we were pouring a 1 1/2 inch thick slab, the outer strip (that is standing on it's end) needed to be two inches wide.  It is widely recommended that melamine be used for the strips along the side, but we used a PVC product because it could be bought in strips long enough so that we didn't have to have a seam along the 10 foot edge.  This product does have it's downside, though.  It is not as strong as a melamine coated plywood and we had to be careful that it did not flex.

Here it is from a different angle.  The concrete pours into that channel all around the edges and creates a lip that hides the plywood underneath, so that when the forms (the two narrow strips) are taken off after the concrete hardens, all you see is a concrete edge.  If you look at it from underneath, you'll see 1/2 inch of plywood and an inch of concrete.

The PVC product is some kind of trim.  You want to make sure you put the smooth side in or else you'll have those ridges in your finished countertop edge, which is not particularly attractive.

Caulking the corners of the forms fairly thickly will give this nice rounded corner. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Kitchen Reno X, Concrete Countertop

We finally, finally poured the kitchen countertop on Saturday.

Nephew built frames using 1/2 inch plywood as a base and some sort of coated wood.  It's not melamine, which every tutorial I saw suggested, but it has a very smooth surface and will hopefully release without sticking to the concrete.

He also welded rebar to strengthen the countertop.  I've watched and read several tutorials and, although there needs to be some reinforcement, rebar is not necessary for countertops. Most of the tutorials used a mesh like chicken wire.  But, since we are having a twelve inch overhang with nothing to support it from underneath, we needed some extra strength on that side.  This is a bit of an overkill, but if the homeowners don't like the countertop, they can always take it off and park the tractor on it.

We put a frame up under the overhang to keep it level until the concrete hardens.

I totally forgot to take pictures from here until the end.  I was going to strap my GoPro camera to my forehead and do a video tutorial, but the camera wouldn't work.  NOTE:  The GoPro is a nifty little gadget and I know there are lots and lots of GoPro videos out there, but I have found it to not be user friendly and I've been having a problem with mine not recognizing the SD card in it, so it won't work.

Here it is after the pour and after we screed it twice.  Screeding is taking a straight edged board, like a two by four and resting it on the forms, having it span the whole width.  Move the board with a sawing motion all the way down the length.  It pushes all the extra concrete off and levels and smoothes the surface.  Our concrete was too wet, but I think it's going to be OK.  We screed it two or three times,  let it set for a couple of hours, then came back and screed it two or three more times until there was no more excess concrete coming off.

I vibrated the form by running the orbital sander around the edges of the forms and the places where I could reach up under the countertop.  We had lots of bubbles.

After this, I went home and left Nephew to do the rest.  After it set up so that it could be pressed without leaving much of a mark, he troweled it, then waited and troweled again.  All told, I think he did it about six times and got a nice smooth surface.  Troweling it like that pushes out the air bubbles and helps the concrete "cream" to rise to the top.  At least, that's what the concrete guru, Buddy Rhodes, says.