Saturday, November 28, 2009

Winter is fast approaching!

It has been a very wet and warm fall. The leaves are turning colors and slowly falling. We have not had a freeze yet, but it will be here soon!
I love the wet falls and winters for the green grass that grows!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The cement arrives...

We scheduled the cement to be delivered mid-morning so it would be warmer than an early morning pour. Cement needs the warmth to cure properly, it is better to pour in the middle of summer than in the winter, but the summer in this part of the country it is so hot it would have been very hard to have worked in the hot sun setting the forms, so we compromised with the fall .
The crew finished up with last minute details just before the 1st truck arrived .
To extend the 30 foot chute the crew used a 4X8 sheet of plywood, it sorta worked but the cement was so heavy the plywood collapsed easily. So they used special cement tools to move the cement in place.

We were a little worried after the first truck because it appeared not to go very far. We realized that they started in the corner with the deepest forms so as each truck arrived they covered more area.
Each truck carries 10 cubic yards. So how it works is the contractor estimates the cubic yards by measuring the ditches and slab top.
One cubic yard = 27 cubic feet.
Cement is ordered by the nearest full truck then after the last truck dumps the last truck is ordered to complete the job. Our two slabs took 48 yards of cement.

After the cement partially cures ( it will become thick enough to hold some weight but soft enough to move steel through it, there is a small window of time for this) we put in the weld plates(metal poles will be welded to these) anchor bolts (6X6 cedar posts will sit on top of these) for the shop and re-bar for the cinder blocks in the bath house (the re-bar will go through the blocks to anchor them to the slab) .

The slab sat for a few days then the forms were removed and the out side was smoothed and finished.

Larry and his crew did a wonderful job and for a reasonable fee. Here they are on the steps to somewhere.......

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The slabs for the Shop & Bathhouse

The best way to do slabs is from the solid ground up to the desired inside grade. We started from the highest point of the natural grade of the land which for us was the south west corner of the shop. We wanted the floor to be at least one foot above out-side grade. We then pulled a string level from one approximate corner to the next corner getting an idea of the change in elevation; meaning the difference in the height of the floor from one end of the building to the other end, with the floor being level across. Doing this we estimated a difference of 2 1/2 feet from the south west corner to the north east corner.
Because the foundation is one of the most important aspects of a house we had it engineered by Strand Systems Engineering of Irving, Texas. Dick Martter drew up the plans and gave us excellent instructions as to how to handle the deep sand we have. it is so important to have someone that knows the details of how the cement needs to be reinforced with re-bar for maximin strength and crack prevention in your specific soil. He told us it would be better to use #3 re-bar , one foot apart to prevent any cracking.

We realized from the other buildings that we mixed and poured ourselves that this building was to large for us to do by ourselves. It took 5 guys, that do this for a living, a week to complete the slab. We could not have done this ourselves . The crew worked very hard and did the job according to our plans and they were very reasonable! Larry was the crew head , his phone # is 1-512-308-1283 for the Austin, Texas area. I would highly recomend him And his crew.

The project was started by 9 , 12 yard loads of sandy-loam, which has some clay in it to help it hold its shape.
Then Larry used a laser beam to find where the building is square. They then put up the exterior form boards and staked them to support the tremendous weight of the cement.
The cross beams were the dug and a plastic barrier was put down to help the cement stay wet as long as possible and to help moisture from wicking up from underneath the slab after it cures.

Larry and his crew had an amazing system for cutting and placing the re-bar and did this part very fast.

We placed the plumbing rough out ourselves with a good friend that is a wizard with building, he was such a tremendous help.

At this point it is important to have the fixtures that are going into the building measured so you know precisely where the drain goes. And for the floor drain we build a wood frame and packed the inside with dirt so it will be easy to dig down to place the drain just the height we want it to be.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Garden shed rafters

Here I am going over the plans.
I sketched out the floor plan and all four sides to make sure there was enough room for the doors and windows we have gotten for the building. Like always we had to think from the end and incorporate all the components of the building , from the wood supporting the rafters to the floor elevation.
Putting up the top 2X6 established the top line square & plum to the building as a whole. The rafters sit on top of them on 2 foot centers, meaning from the center of one board to the center of the next board it is 2 feet. This is the measurement for putting standard insulation in between the rafters. We will be putting in 19 R covered with black plastic.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Setting the Garden shed poles

When we set the poles we use a post level which makes the job a lot easier . It gives you the levels all the way round and up & down. We attached it by sewing elastic tied together and then it attaches to a hook on the side of the level. Very easy to move from post to post.
From the plans we drew up , we knew how far apart to place the poles. We started with the corners and stabilized the poles with 2X4 bracing screwed to the poles and screwed to a 2X4 stake hammered in the ground 2 feet.
We then pulled a string around each corner pole so we knew where to line up the center poles.
It can be very tricky to get everything lined up and plum and square. We measured at every pole to check the diagonal , width and length.
When it was right , we used a tamping rod to make sure the ground was tight around each pole.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Garden shed post holes

I couldn't resist taking these pictures of the foggy morning...............

Back to the shed..... Next we dug the holes for the posts and filled them with 4" of cement, letting them cure for a day.

Making the best greek yogurt!

The best way to make thick and creamy yogurt I discovered by necessity .
Here is what I Do:
1) Pour low-fat / no-fat/ or full fat milk into a stainless steel pot.
2) Heat the milk until it steams and almost boils, stiring the bottom with a spoon so the milk does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
3) Cool the milk by placing the pot in a sink of COLD water and stir , changing the water in the sink when it becomes warm. The milk should cool enough so you can put your finger in the milk and it feels very warm to the touch.
4) I then put about 2 inches of water in my crock-pot turning it on to warm (NOT low or high), cover it with a towel so the pot containing the milk does not slip off the crock-pot and it does give it a heat buffer as well.
5) Cover the pot with a lid , then 2 towels so the heat is contained.

6)Let this sit for about 8-10 hours. Before you cut into it, be sure to let it get completely COLD in the refrigerator or it will get mushy.

And you have thick wonderful yogurt !!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Making clarified butter

Making clarified butter is easy but a little tricky. To make a Quart of Ghee (clarified butter) but 2 lbs of unsalted butter in a 2 quart sauce pan and turn the heat on low. The butter will melt and start to make hissing / bubbling sounds. After about 30 to 40 minutes foam will appear on the top of the butter, then it will collect on the bottom of the pan and start sticking. The butter will become clear/translucent and that is when you know it is done, plus you will smell the wonderful aroma of Ghee. I just pour this liquid into a jar and keep it at room temperature ready to use!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Clearing the site for the garden shed

When the blades are sharp , the wood cuts like a hot knife through butter!

The first cut takes the branch down and the second cut leaves a clean cut so the tree can heal and look good. So tree #1 is out of the way.

The second tree needed a little pull in another direction, so we put a rope as high as we could throw it and Mariah pulls the tree in the direction of the fall, always standing out of harms way, and Richard works the saw. He always starts by cutting a wedge in the tree on the side where he wants the tree to fall. Then as Mariah pulls to the side, Richard saws from the opposite side of the wedge in the tree a little above and cuts through to meet the wedge. And the tree falls where we want it to fall.

Tree #3 was really tricky. There was no way it was going to fall with a simple pull, so we hooked up the come-a-long as high up on the tree we were cutting down to another tree as low as possible. Then Mariah pulled in the direction to the side, so the tree would fall clear of the fence and other trees, and it worked!!!