Sometimes You Can’t See The Forest For The Trees

IMG_20160302_160107759We made decent progress this week by getting the second IMG_20160302_154628043
floor walls up, windows in and started framing the roof.  I have to admit to having an irrational fear of heights so I was very uncomfortable working hanging off the side of the building by one hand while nailing on plywood. There are still areas that need to be nailed and screwed down but that will be done from an extension ladder. Randy had other pursuits so we wrapped up Wednesday then headed back to town. I spent Thursday sleeping, crawling through my storage and buying material. Friday morning I headed back out with a truck load  of supplies and 60 pounds of ice to spend several days.

The first order of business was to try to introduce some order into the chaos which results from two very exhausted people just tossingIMG_20160302_132115473 stuff at the end of the day. Heh, what a dreamer. By dark I IMG_20160302_132134233had one side of the shack cleared out with the first coat of paint mostly. By then it was to late and to dark to cook so my Friday rations consisted of two Nutty Buddy bars washed down with two large vodkas. The white paint did wonders for the light level but it was still rather dark for my taste.

Part of the darkness came from my kerosene lamp which puts out a lot of light. When it’s working. I had it cranked up and was enjoying it for both the light and heat when it went TINK! What the hell? I thought. Then it started putting out clouds of thick black smoke. A close look revealed that a tear drop shaped piece of glass had just decided to fall out of the glass chimney thing so it was burning like mad. I blew it out while cussing the fact that I didn’t have a replacement.

Resigned to the fact that I was going to have a dark corner I set up my propane heater. No sir, no more Ziggster pupcicles tonight! Then I realized I had a 20 pound bottle of propane inside a wooden shack with candles and a Coleman lantern burning. So I cranked the heat all the way up, started shedding clothes and stared at it for two IMG_20160305_223734337hours until I began sweating. I figured I had the shack pretty well sealed so it should hold the heat for a few hours especially with the candles and lantern. I woke up about 3 am and it was cold as in every joint was screaming cold. So back in came the heater and I stared at it until about 4 at which time it went back out and I laid on another sleeping bag. I woke up about 7 when I noticed the sun coming through the window had heated my toes enough that I was getting some feeling back in them.

My old, tired kitchen.

After I put on a pot of coffee I looked around and realized I could see daylight coming in from every direction and angle. So much for the sealing I did the day before. I set about

My new and improved kitchen.
My new and improved kitchen.

sealing out daylight with a passion and painting like mad. When I was done I decided that my kitchen needed some work and set about remodeling it.

The next day was spent mowing my front yard. I use a giant sized Stihl brush cutter IMG_20160307_083558213and have to stop frequently to clear the brush when mowing. After a few hours I was worn out but much happier with the view from my front porch. It gets pretty old sitting there staring at the same old brush about 15 feet away which never seems to do anything interesting. Now I can stare at brush as far as 200 feet away which never seems to do anything interesting. Well, my front yard goes all the way to the trees in the back of the pic so something interesting is bound to surface. Anyway, I was tired and hungry since I had forgot to eat the day before. (is vodka eating?)

So I set up the gas grill and set the wood chips to soaking. I had visions of a slow grilled T bone, baked potato and corn on the cob. So of course the gas hose for the grill had a leak in it. Cooking a steak on a griddle on a Coleman stove should be a felony but as hungry as I was it was delicious.

Then it was time to get ready for dark and the sub zero arctic conditions which I knew were fast approaching. I had knocked over the gas lantern the night before and needed to replace the wicks which was an easy task. Then I lit it. Holy crap it turned into a ball of flame. There were flames coming from every joint in it which gave me visions of an explosion turning me and the Zigster into crispy critters. So I threw it onto my freshly manicured front yard. It went IMG_20160306_175258561out. Thinking it was a trap I shut the boy up inside and stared at it for about an hour. Finally I went over and poked it with a stick. Dead. So I stared at it some more then poked it some more. Dead. I’m just not having much luck with flaming devices designed to give off massive quantities of light.

Compared to my first trial run this wasn’t near as miserable. I’ll dig the solar panel, deep cycle battery and electronics out of storage to solve the lighting problem. A new hose will fix the gas grill. I have a wood burning stove so I just need to put in a chimney for heat with the added benefit of some cooking capability. I had an air pump which worked well on the air mattress but I still had to deal with rolling out of it onto the floor then standing up. Some 5 gallon buckets and a piece of plywood will handle that. I easily have enough buckets full of beans, rice, flour, etc. to make a platform.

I’m hoping to get the shack dried in this week then want to try a full week out there. At that point keeping food cold and mixing vodka will become the problem. Well, as they say, be careful what you wish for, you just may get it. I got it.

And I’m loving every minute.



“I’m not going to tell you again, STEP AWAY FROM THE TRUCK!


Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water

Well, we’ve had some excitement this week.

Things started well after the weekend off so about Tuesday we felt like we were really cruising by the end of the day. Then I noticed that I had no brakes on my truck which was exciting. So I spent Wednesday at the mechanic getting a caliper replaced that was surely made out of some precious metal. But hey, you need brakes so what was I to do?

Thursday morning we set off with the truck heavily loaded with pressure treated lumber and firewood. We got there and worked all IMG_20160225_161713865day without incident so we were once again in high spirits by the end of the day.
The second floor porch deck was done, IMG_20160225_161730330the roof partially framed, some rails up, etc. I wanted to cut some more firewood to haul out the next morning so we left a little early enjoying the short work day.

Then Murphy came a’ calling. I got to close to the edge of the road IMG_20160225_183932170which seemed to somehow offend the road so it collapsed. At which
point I became highly offended and began to describe the situation in the wonderfully rich and colorful manner employed by submarine sailors the world over. In a nutshell, the situation sucked.

Four hours, two broken tow straps, another tree pulled out of the ground, and $300 dollars later I meekly followed the tow truck out. If you are wondering, the front tire really is off the ground. The passenger side wheel wasn’t touching ground either since it was suspended above a very deep ditch. As I was pulling into the camp ground I’m living at I noticed an odd noise coming from the front end which only further deepened my funk.

The next morning I washed about 200 pounds of mud, roots, grass and other swamp debris out of the front end. This seemed to have fixed the problem but I’m not making any bets.

We did a long week end then hit it hard yesterday and today. Made aIMG_20160301_161908395 lot of progress while keeping an eye out for Murphy. The second floor back wall is mostly in (6″ gap to fill), one sheet on both sides, windows framed, 2×12 header up and more roof framed. Our plan is to finish the side IMG_20160301_162032497_HDRwalls, frame most of the roof and maybe get some of the plywood on the roof tomorrow. I’m keeping binoculars and an AR handy in case I see that Murphy guy.

“I’m guarding it. What does it look like I’m doing?”

What If This Is As Good As It Gets?

Gosh what a week. Has it been a week? It’s been a week somewhere I’m sure.

We pretty much got the first floor dried in late Friday afternoon. Randy decided to take a couple of days off so I made plans to spend the weekend at the property. I spend Saturday morning getting IMG_20160219_173449835_HDReverything together I figured I needed and boldly set off for a new adventure. I spent most of Saturday afternoon getting settled then along about dark things began to go south.

I was unable to find my gas grill in storage but wasn’t concerned since I had a brand new Coleman stove. Well, you don’t just toss a IMG_20160219_173508810_HDRsteak in a Coleman stove and cook it. You need a skillet or some such device. I didn’t have one. Two pop tarts, a pack of peanut butter crackers and a Busch beer doesn’t sound exciting unless your stomach is on dead empty.

I remember when I was a kid that Coleman lanterns were extremely bright. I’m sure that they are still so but my eyes kept telling me otherwise. Candles did help but I was left longing for my deep cycle battery, solar panel and led lights somewhere in storage.

Then I broke out the air mattress only to discover that it requires some kind of special fitting to blow it up. No problem says I, I have anIMG_20160219_173607693_HDR air compressor. Nope. Bicycle pump. Nope. Shop vac. Nope. Dammit.

Which led to me setting up the cot. An experience I hope to never have again. Thirty minutes later the cot is finally sitting there and it’s getting cold. As in really cold. You would think that a Coleman lantern and a bunch of candles would keep the chill off a 12×12 room that was reasonably air tight. Nope.

I had a propane heater that comes with all kinds of dire warning about what happens when you use it indoors. I was worried enough that I decided not to fire it up until I had the carbon monoxide
detector working. Of course I couldn’t find the detector. Did I mention it was very cold that night?

So Ziggy and I settled in for what we both hoped would be a restful night. At first I tried to put Ziggy in a sleeping bag. He seemed interested until I started to zip it part way up around him. Suddenly he screamed “It’s a trap!”, bolted for the door which was shut and latched then refused to come near the sleeping bag again.

So I ended up in a sleeping bag on the cot while he slept on the only blanket I had brought on the floor. By 4 am it was cold as hell so all the good intentions regarding the carbon monoxide detector went out the window and I lit off the propane heater.

The cot itself was an experience. It was hard as a brick.

By Sunday afternoon I was getting fairly hungry but couldn’t face another freeze dried meal. I don’t know who writes the online reviews for those things but if that is “some good eating” to them they really need cooking classes. Then it struck me, pallets are made of untreated hardwood. An hour later I had two steaks sizzling over a nice bed of coals. Ziggy doesn’t get human food all that often but he agreed that it was the best steak he had ever had. I didn’t bother to tell him he had never had one before but hey, it was a celebration of sorts.

Monday morning I was up before the 5 am alarm, had two cups of decent coffee and set to work. Got some bamboo planted, did a bunch of clean up and set about getting material sorted. By 1 pm the rain clouds were rolling in so I headed back to town with a two page list to bring next time.

Got pork?
Got pork?

Moving Along

It’s been a long three days but we’ve made some real visible progress. We installed the stairs to the front porch, got the front IMG_20160218_172811551porch deck “mostly” then late yesterday afternoon put in two windows and the first layer of some of the siding. For security reasons I chose small windows that we mounted rather high in the wall. It’s hard to tell from this pic but the front door is pretty wide. I might decide to cut it back in the future but for now I’ve went with large so I can move equipment in and out easily.

IMG_20160218_172726664Just some random pix. My DSL is still slow as sin so I have to que a whole slew of pix and post whatever it will upload. Another line item on my ever growing “To Do” list.IMG_20160218_172823294 My plan was to spend the weekend out there but I’ll have to burn Saturday getting everything ready then hopefully drive out before dark. Of course that depends on whether we finish the siding plus seal the place well enough to heat with a kerosene heater. I would be OK in a sleeping bag but Ziggy absolutely refuses to sleep in one.IMG_20160218_172627080_HDR

Needless to say I’m getting a bit excited and looking forward to getting settled in a bit. There’s still a mega ton of work ahead to get the place finished but then it will never be truly finished.

Thank god I'm a country dawg.
Thank god I’m a country dawg.

A Quick Update

Well, it will be if I can upload pix. My DSL isn’t the best right now so uploading pix takes forever if at all.IMG_20160214_164932163 IMG_20160214_164918554

This is the first floor porch looking into the first floor. We have it partially frames and some temporary decking in place. My back is still celebrating because I don’t have to crawl on my hands and knees to get past the batter boards. Next is overall progress. On the second floor you can see the start of the framing for the roof. All of the 4×4 posts will be capped with a double row of 2×4 which will support the framing as well as add about three inches of height. The second floor porch isn’t framed as yet.

If you are interested in seeing more detail just click on the thumbnails in any post. This will take you to a larger image. Click it again for a giant image. Use your browser back button to return to the post.



First floor looking out to front porch. Right now the floor is a single IMG_20160214_164949553sheet of 3/4 inch plywood. A sheet of 1/2 inch will be added for insulation, sound deadening and stiffness. We’re using nails, screws and liquid nails so the floor is really tight.

Added foundations. In all there will be ten of these with ten to twelve bags of concrete each. The post footers (yellow tubes) have IMG_20160214_165003811_HDRabout five bags each so each foundation weighs a total of about 1600 to 2000 pounds each. I have to admit that I wasn’t really sold on these at first but now I like the idea. In time I may build new forms and encase the footers even higher up.

After crunching numbers I’ve realized that cash is starting to look thin. I have most of the material needed to finish the shed and most everything necessary to make it habitable. I still have to add a well and solar power. The well will be a fairly low dollar eater but I’ve had to scale back the solar plans quite a bit. Since my power needs are going to be minimal this won’t be a major headache.

With this in mind my new priorities are finish the first floor porch stairs, finish framing and laying the deck on the porch and sheath the first floor. I’ve already bought windows so they will go in while we’re putting up the plywood for the exterior walls. Due to height restrictions the doors are oddball sizes so they will have to be built on site. No biggie. I hope to spend this weekend in my new pole barn and start working out the kinks of living totally off grid.

A view from the second floor.
A view from the second floor.



Ziggy has taken up dumpster diving. I’m concerned that he may be going homeless. I need to find a support group.

Some Pix

Tired so short post. Mostly pictures. We’ve started framing the second floor. We wrapped the shed and porch in 2×12 and 2×4. Added some bracing. And took all the head knockers down. My scalp is raw from banging my head on them.


Our Token Booze Hound





Some Visible Progress At Last

We had a solid night and day or rain which not only set us back but also led to difficulties on site. The area I’m building in is made up of about 18 inches of left over wood chips from logging years ago. This
does not make for the most solid of driving surfaces when waterIMG_20160206_141904653
logged. Driving out the next morning after the rain the first thing I did was sink the truck up to the axles so we spent over an hour trying to get unstuck. In the process I dug several deep mud holes and pulled a really nice pine tree out of the ground. The holes can be filled but I’m still pissed about losing the pine tree. Now I have installing steel poles in concrete around the place on my ever growing to do list.

After we finally got the truck out, held appropriate services for the fallen tree and got a fire started, we made some decent progress. By the end of the day yesterday we had the entire first floor of the shedIMG_20160207_162001386 framed with it mostly covered in the first layer of plywood. We’re putting down a layer of 3/4 inch plywood then covering that with a layer of 1/2 inch plywood. All joints are being set with deck screws and nails. The plywood is being given the same treatment with liquid nails for good measure. It felt good to finally stand on the new floor and be able to see that things are starting to come together. Frustrating is far to mild of a word to describe what this experience has been like so far.


Water, water, everywhere

Would you believe that I have to haul in water while working in a swamp? Well, I don’t have to but the nearest water is several hundred feet away over a very rough path, so I haul it in.

The day before yesterday we made some serious progress and ended the day with six poles left to be set, two footers in place and several  bags of concrete left over. We took yesterday off since Randy had some other work IMG_20160201_160818492[1]
to do and I spent the day mostly sleeping. This morning I picked up another six bags of concrete and loaded a 35 gallon drum of water in the truck.

By mid today we had two more footers in and another pole set. The weather was turning bad and we became worried about high winds damaging the poles. We decided to install additional bracing then continue work. Before we knocked off for the day we were able to get the 2×12 batter board in place which is the first permanentIMG_20160203_160320542[1] lumber except for the 4×4 poles. In this picture the 2×12 on the front is actually the front of the first floor porch. The row behind it will be the front of the shed itself. The floor will be about six inches below the top of the 2×12 which will have to be notched in places for steps, a ramp, doors etc. All of the other lumber is temporary bracing that will be removed at some point as we get the floor installed and move upward. It is nearly four feet from the bottom of the batter board to the ground. I wanted this shed well above the high water mark.

There are certain benefits to getting old. I just can’t remember them right now.

Woof, What a Week

This has been a long, hectic week.

The delivery Monday didn’t happen. We had material on hand to keep things moving along until the truck arrived. By Monday afternoon the truck was still missing, we were nearly out of material and the weather was starting to look soggy.

I called the supplier who stated that the driver had left much earlier in the day. So we packed up and went in search of the missing truck. About three miles out we found him. Sitting in a mud hole with one side of the truck nearly horizontal. After a flurry of phone calls it was decided that he needed a new phone carrier and that he would ride out with us. It was well after dark when we reached the paved road only to find it blocked by a very angry, surly woman with incredibly rude manners. Only after giving the driver a thorough chewing out and waiting for some time for the wrecker to arrive did she decide to allow two very heavily armed people to pass.

The next morning I was told that they wouldn’t try to deliver again. That and oh by the way sixty plus bags were left on the side of the road if I could be so kind as to deliver them myself. I indicated that I wasn’t so kind but I would take what I could on my normal trips to the property in a pay as I go routine and oh by the way when could I expect a full refund?

So Randy and I loaded up and sailed off to the swamp. We were still busily brainstorming strategy when we came upon the concreteIMG_20160126_093532292_HDR[1] looking all lonesome and rejected along side the road. We loaded enough to keep us going another day then left the rest sitting. I was really enjoying that I had paid a large delivery fee to avoid having to handle 80 pound bags of concrete two extra times and was having to do exactly that.

We made decent progress that day. On the way out we covered the remaining concrete with tarps, towed out a truck that was stuck one puddle over and they graciously loaded the six bags they had “borrowed” in the back of my truck. The next day was supposed to be a rain day. We took the day off to take care of personal business and I lined up a trailer.

The next morning we helped load the lumber, threw on some IMG_20160128_121905659[1]concrete and once again did a white knuckle drive of over two hours to my IMG_20160128_150644857[1]property. It was very gratifying to finally arrive in one piece with no obvious damage to truck, trailer or precious lumber. Needless to say handling the material an extra two times was so gratifying that I immediately to use another supplier for future purchases.

Anyway we made good progress this week. We have 14 posts set, two footers ready and hope to start framing the floor in back thisIMG_20160128_144744469[1] morning. We have one pad poured with plans to add several more over time. This pad took about 17 bags of concrete counting the footers and weighs about 1400 pounds. My current estimate is that we will have around 20,000 pounds of concrete holding things down plus the weight of the building.

IMG_20160130_164708244_HDR[1]How it looked at quitting time yesterday.




Hot tip of the day: Don’t put a pit bull in charge of running string.IMG_20160130_160955363[1]

Moving On

Today when we got to the  property it was cold as sin with a strong gusty wind blowing. So we started a fire and picked up all the discarded brush and trash. Along about 11 it had warmed enough to start work without risking frost bite.

Setting the first pole was a challenge. Naturally we picked the heaviest one which resulted in a couple of near catastrophic failuresIMG_20160123_132052862 before we picked a lighter pole. After that it went fairly well and the first pole was set in place then concrete poured in less than an hour. To the right of the white bucket you can see the pole that we gave up on. The flesh colored stains are some skin from my ear which got in the way of its final voyage to ground level.






Things progressed from there with poles two, three and four being IMG_20160123_162238422very well behaved. By the end of the day it was gratifying to see four posts in place and ready for the boards which will frame the bottom of the shed.

Tomorrow we will set the two remaining poles for the awning then use what concrete is left to set more footers. Monday 150 more bags of concrete are being delivered along with some 16 foot lumber. I miscalculated some measurements very early on so the 12 foot lumber I bought is a few inches shy of what is needed in several critical spots. The 12 foot lumber will get used further up in the structure but I wanted as few seams as possible for the base so it will be Monday before we can start framing the floor.

Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Living the dream.