Saturday, December 31, 2005

Jered & Alisa's Story

The start of the first building...

We re-evaluated where to place our first building that we would move into. We decided to place this building as close to the transformer as possible to lower the cost of getting electricity . A building must be at least 15 feet from the transformer.
Before we even started the building we had the utility company come out and tell us our options for the project. We were told the first time that the wire could bend , but when we had another person out as we got closer to ground breaking we were told that it had to be a straight line from the dip pole (this is the conduit that carries the hot wire from the utility pole down into the ground and connects it to the underground conduit that runs to the transformer.) to the transformer. (the transformer actually trans forms the high voltage carried from the utility company down to the 120 volts that goes into your house)
So we had to figure the path of the wire to figure where we would place the main breaker box which also holds the meter. We found this extremely important to think from the end, meaning you have to know what your end plans are in order to plan everything else that happens before that, making sure it is possible by the limits you are not aware of because it is hard to know all the details of every situation unless you have done it before.

We started by placing stakes at each corner , measuring where the outside of the building would be, keeping in mind that we had 10 foot roofing. So we calculated we wanted a 1 foot overhang on each side, so the building was 8 feet wide and 19 feet long on the outside , because that is how many sheets of roofing we had. The setting of the stakes square (true 90 degree angle, determined by the Pythagorean theorem :3'/4'/5' triangle at the corner. An excellent book that goes into great detail is "Measuring, Marking & Layout A Builder's Guide" By John Carroll.) and level (not always level with the ground, the best way to accomplish this is with a "string level") is the most important thing, this determines the rest of the building. If you don't start out square and level this affects how the rest of the building comes together.
I measured this building level with the ground and it was off by 1/2" all the way up!

We then placed batter boards at each corner to determine exactly where each post would be placed in the ground. This seems like an unnecessary step but it is important , it allows you to use the strings as a guide for the placement of the post.

We cut boards 8 ' long and secured each end, then with a "post level" making sure the post was plumb (level side to side) we connected the posts to one another on the length. These boards also determined the roof line.
We did not cut the posts until the roof line was determined.

We then framed out where the windows and door would be, We bought these prior to starting the construction so we knew the exact size of the openings. Always measure three times so you only have to cut once!

Friday, September 30, 2005

The first slab

We decided the first building would be the studio . It would be my office, our bedroom and kitchen. We had a great place in the trees and the site looked almost level. so we cleared the spot for the 22 by 28 foot slab.
Since we had purchased enough standing seem roofing for all of the first 5 buildings we had to plan our building sizes around the length of the roofing in combo with where a building would fit within the trees.

An after thought, A word about trees: We have learned that if you want to do rain water collection ,you really need your roof to be away from trees. The leaves that collect on the roof affects the color /quality of the rain water. This is something we did not know or think about until after we placed our first two buildings, this building and the one we started in a few months. The other thing about trees is they seem to fall down with out warning sometimes. We have had several on the property just fall to the ground with out any signs they would do this. So we now make sure the buildings are not too close to older trees for this reason.

And a word about recycling: We have found a wonderful guy who is in the recycling business because he likes to help people and he wants to help the Earth. He has found us wonderful building materials at a fraction of the cost of new. But keep in mind that you have to build around what you get. So we purchased 15' and 20' lengths of standing seam roofing, thus the width of the studio with keeping the trees untouched in mind.

When we first started collecting we took everything anybody would give us. Some of that we have ended up giving away just because we realized we would never use them (like toilets) hollow core doors ect)
So now we try to really think if we are really going to use it, other wise we would have a rotting junk yard!

So we hired a crew to pour the slab, which I am glad we did because cement has a way of getting away from you , meaning it sets very quickly and you have to know what your doing to work with it that fast.
As you see there was a lot of guys at the right time to put the cement in place.
What we did not know was there are OK ways to set the forms and the best way to set the forms. The bid I got was for the former way. What they did was level the ground before they set the forms which was an added cost to us above and beyond the bid to do the pour and set the cement. He brought in a clay mix which is not the best material for a slab to set on, it expands and contracts too easily with the change of weather. The other problem is , a slab should be poured on undisturbed soil. So the best forms are set at grade, up to floor level and down into the ground below the freeze line.

We also had to re-enforced the floor with a lot more re bar than they had set in the forms, we knew by the time we discovered it was not enough strength they would be long gone. (We were able to do this because they set the forms on a Friday which gave us the weekend to put in more re bar before they poured the cement)

We are very happy we did this even though we decided to not continue this as our first building because it gave us a solid dry ground to store our shop items. And with the extra cement we made large stepping stones. Which we have made very good use of.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Roads,Rocks and a Kitchen remodel

Our out-side kitchen served its purpose . We had a Coleman stove , Oil lamps, cupboards to store things and a table with chairs. The hard thing was hauling the ice chests back and forth with enough ice to keep the food cold.We tried to eat as fresh as possible but always kept canned soups for extended stays.

We are making some progress on the roads, we can safely drive to the back with out puncturing a tire. It takes a lot of work to dig the yopans out of the ground, they spread by their root systems and seem to go in every direction.

The wood pile was created by chopping down all those trees. This is another advantage to going the slower route, we were able to save wood that normally would have gone up in smoke.
When we cut down the cedars we also saved the poles for future building. We are hoping the landscape is starting to look like a Park, we just need a little grass!

We have a collection of holey rocks that we are saving for landscaping projects in the future. They were hauled by our 10 foot trailer that was the second purchase we made for the land and the trailer has paid for its' self many, many times!!!
The reason we got a 10 ft was that we own a med size truck (ford ranger V6) the weight limit is about 3,000 lbs. It would be very dangerous to pull more than a truck can handle and 3000 lbs is about what will fit in a 10 ft trailer (except a yard/3'X3'X3' - of gravel, dirt, sand or any dense material weighs about 2000 lbs ) The only disadvantage is the single axle, which means it only has 2 tires instead of 4 (because the trailer is so small). Where the two different axles make a difference is when you are backing up, the one axle trailer has a mind of its own and is very hard to get it to go where you need it to.

When we got the trailer we added more screws to the floor boards, coated everything with a heavy duty water sealer, made a tail gate of 2"X 12" lumber with 2"X4" cross bracing that doubles as a ramp, lined the bed with 1/2" plywood water sealer coated on the inside and painted on the out-side. It has carried lumber, rocks and compost with ease!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The enterance, The bone yard and POISON IVY....

We had heard that there was poison oak and ivy out here , but by the time we really started working on the land it had died back to sticks, so we did not recognize it . It can look like other plants so it is hard to notice it until you really observe its characteristics.

It is always shiny, has rounded edges on the leaves and there are always 3 leaves to the stem.

Soooooo, when we were clearing a space to start moving our building supplies , I was down on my knees pulling out the underbrush and I remember thinking "these kinda look like those pictures of the poison ivy"

So the next day I developed some bumps that looked like insect bites. I did not think too much about it until they really started multiplying fast!
They were everywhere and the more I scratched them the more they spread. It was soooo painful! I looked on the internet to see what I could do and found a site that had a lot of advice. Some of which made the rash worse, like taking a hot shower and scrubing the rash as hard as you can. I had welts over 60% of my body for a month and it was the most painful thing I had ever experienced!!
The way I got rid of it was to take a homepathic remedy for poison oak & ivy. It started to diminish right away. It also helped to take baking soda baths and then put aloe vera gel on afterwards.
I now know to be very aware of the plant as I walk around ( the best way to kill the Poison oak & ivy is to mix straight high acid vinegar with 1/4 cup of orange oil per gal and spray with a spayer that won't corrode. It is best to spay when is is hot and has not rained for a while) .
I now know that it looks like a bug bite when it first apears and never , never , never scratch it, this is what spreads it to other parts of your body. So at the first sign of it I take the homepathic mix and it might blister in the one place and run its course, but it is always gone within a few days. Putting "Technu", available at drug stores ,can help prevent the rash and it does seems to help keep it at bay once you know you have it.

When we set up the storage area, we picked a spot that would be out of the way yet easy to unload . We wanted to make sure we would not have to move everything until we are going to use it, so far so good !

We are starting to define the entrance. We wanted to have a place to pull off out of the road before going through the gate. That way we are off the main road when we need to open our gate.

The posts and fence are 8 ft tall . We chose field fencing (it starts out small near the ground and the spaces get larger as you go up) for the first 4 ft and barbed wire for the upper 4 ft. This way we can keep out dogs and other small animals near the ground and we have learned that because the deer are small around here they will not jump an eight foot fence.

We decided early on that making our place beautiful as well as functional was very important . It seems that it is a work in progress and we have islands of peace and moments of chaos that somehow even out in the end.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Taking down trees/pulling up roots....

Our first objective was to get a road cut into the middle of the property where the main house will be built.
First cutting the trees and bushes , burning them so we could keep the space clean. Then we hired a neighbor to dig up the tree stumps. We had looked at other options: 1) we could rent a stump grinder. It would have been very slow and we had about a hundred stumps to move. 2) There is a chemical that you pour into a hole that you drill into the stump. But it takes a while for it to kill and dry up the stump, again this would have taken a long time.

Thus we had his backhoe do the work and he got it all done in one day.
What we were left with was the stumps will a portion of the tree to cut off. Then we had to let them dry for a month or so then we burned them.
What a difference that made, we now had a way to drive to the center of the property!
It took us about a month to clean up the stumps.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A Visit from our daughter and Friends

Our daughter and some college friends braved the elements and camped out on the land. They had a great time playing Frisbee, cooking dinner on the campfire and

You can't have a camp-out with out

It was so great to have them as guests to see what we had been up to the last few months!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Setting up camp

It was getting old to get up really early in the morning, prepare meals for the day, drive an hour and a half, work till dark and drive back to our rental. So we started preparing a camp site . It was the perfect spot: out of the way of construction, very protected by cedars from the winds, yet easy to get to. It was very simple: a tent where we slept on a king size bed ( we had tried an air mattress but it deflated by morning, we needed a little more support for our 50+ bodies)
dry storage for changes of clothes, A coleman cookstove and an Ice chest.
we could now stay for days and be very comfortable. Oh yes we also had a latrene and an out side shower as well!

Many kitchen remodels and expansions.

Light was by oil lamps because kerosene was so volatile. I replaced the coleman stove as soon as possible with a propane stove that a good friend of ours gave us. What a world of difference! There were many times I could not get the coleman to work. They are very fickle stoves if you use them all the time as we did. The last straw was when gas caught on fire from the pump area and I had a hard time getting the flames out. That scared me too much. I can never go back.