Sometimes I stand back to look at what has been done so far. I take some pleasure from the fact that I’ve made a lot of progress considering how things were at the start. Then I look at what is left to be done.
We started this week with the 24 holes dug and full of water. So we thought. We soon discovered that the holes were filling back in so they had about 18 inches of water and the rest loose, soggy sand. Digging them out with post hole diggers didn’t really work all that well since they just filled back up within minutes. The level wasn’t as high but still they had several inches of water drain in very quickly. After some discussion involving everything from dynamite to brief case thermonuclear devices we agreed that we had neither and needed new ideas.
So we decided to dig a hole out, put some rebar in, pour in a bag of dry concrete and see what happened. We were not in the best of spirits riding out that day.
Arriving the next morning we checked out our pilot hole to mixed reactions. The concrete had set somewhat and the rebar was locked in place somewhat. Grudgingly we concluded that an 18 to 24 inch footer was the best we could hope for and decided to forge ahead. In retrospect, that should be adequate. The 12×12 portion of the shed has 16 footers, the 6×12 porch shares 4 of the footers and has 4 of its own, and the 10 foot awning has 4 footers. Each footer and column will have 320 pounds of concrete holding it down plus the weight of the shed on it. It’s not going anywhere.
By the end of the day we had cleared more brush around the shed and poured five more footers. Of course it rained the next day so I spent the day assembling material, tools and ordering more concrete. We’re planning on pouring a footer around at least the outside columns so I had to get an additional 150 bags of concrete in the pipeline.
Our next day out we set the six columns and poured them to within 2 feet of the top. We will be putting the posts in post protectors then setting them in the concrete forms. After getting them plumb and square we will finish filling the form with concrete. At that point we will probably connect them with some two bys to keep the square. We would have set these today but it rained today. Frankly, I never expected this to be this hard. Like a lot of people I had a vision of living off the grid that involved pitching a tent, cutting down some trees, nailing them together then roasting Bambi over an open fire. Funny how reality will slap the crap outta you on occasion just to set you straight. Anyway, at the end of the day we covered the forms which oddly enough react very badly to water, and left.
Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.
This week I ordered most of the material for my pole barn shed, finished clearing the construction site, had the material delivered and actually got started.
Getting the material delivered proved to be rather anti climatic right up to the point where the delivery guy began to back into the drive. I briefed him in advance on the extremely soft nature of the drive way material so as soon as he began to lose traction he spun the wheel, gunned the truck and dug an 18″ hole in the drive. Refusing my offer to tow him out so he could try another angle he commenced to use every tactic possible to further the damage. In the end the material was literally dropped about 100 feet from its intended destination in a very mangled drive. He wasn’t happy with his tip and I wasn’t happy at the thought of hauling several tons of material an extra 100 feet.
I spent the rest of the day working on the drive with some painting thrown in for good measure. I did learn several lessons that afternoon. The first came as I was cutting the bands on some of the wood. Just as I cut the last band on a stack of 16 foot 4x4s it occurred to me that maybe I should have thought about it a bit more. As I was laying in the bushes with a stack of wood on top of me I made a mental note to bring a helper next time and tell him to cut the bands.
My next lesson came soon after when I began moving the 4x4s. I was feeling kind of good about then since I was prepared. I had on steel toed boots, heavy clothes, leather gloves then I reached down and picked up one them. In a flash a genetic memory surfaced as I stood there thinking “Holy shit! This is heavy!” Ancient cave men knew this which is why they invented the fulcrum. They didn’t know what to name it however and completely abandoned the idea. When ancient cave women started demanding a porch on their ancient caves the custom of knocking women in the head and dragging them back into the cave began.
I quickly dropped the post and gave a silent prayer to the steel toed boot god. With a bit of luck I managed to get a decent quantity of lumber spread out and spent some time painting. I use a somewhat proprietary technique I call “Paint what you can reach, move, repeat.” Crude but it works. The plan is to paint everything with oil based enamel then paint when it’s cut. It will make for a longer construction time but I believe the added protection is well worth it. The paint also dries to touch in about 15 minutes which means a bit of planning/cutting ahead shouldn’t be all that bad. It also comes in my favorite color, olive drab.
That night it rained, a lot. After talking to a friend that is very experienced in this matter, we decided to wait a day and let the roads dry before venturing out. I used the day to rent a 12 inch auger and gas powered air compressor. The next morning we loaded up the auger and headed out. We were confident that we had an easy day ahead since the auger would be doing all the heavy work. Boy howdy were we wrong.
For starters, a 12 inch auger with a 5 horse power Honda engine is really heavy. And it’s tall. Just moving the thing after assembly took both of us going nearly all out. Another thing is roots. In sandy soil with no roots it’s no problem to dig a four foot deep hole. Just hold on to the thing and let it work. Maybe lift a bit occasionally to let the bit dump the soil. But when it reaches ground level you realize that you have to pull that thing out. And it doesn’t want to come out. It is designed to drill down, not up. With roots there’s a whole new dimension added which involves the blade hitting a root, stopping and you find your old white haired fat butt laying in the bushes cause a 5 horse power motor is strong enough to toss you several feet. I’m glad my friend was able to shut it down before we lost complete control otherwise we would have spent the afternoon watching the handles spin around like some kind of medieval torture device until it ran out of gas. In the end we managed to dig the 24 holes for the foundation. Then the holes began to fill with water. By the end of the day our four foot deep holes had about two feet of water in them.
After six aspirin and two vodkas I slept well that night.
The next day it rained. I took the auger home then bought more supplies. I rented a trailer but was still to beat to do much loading. The following day we finished loading and bravely set off to build a pole barn. The 15 mile trip off the paved road took over two hours. At several points the trailer was simply cutting a trench through mud that was higher than the wheels on it. But we finally managed to get it on site.
Confident that we would get the corner posts set we set about positioning equipment and material. Then Randy happened to look in one of the holes. Our four foot deep holes now had four feet of water in them. By then it was late so we packed up and left.
Getting the water out isn’t such a big deal. A shop vac will handle that. The question is whether the water is coming in from the bottom, sides or both. If mostly bottom we can plug the holes with a sack of dry concrete and some rebar. Then we just have to build the column from there. Since the first two feet of dirt coming out of the holes was mostly dry I believe that this will work. If not we may have to look at some really creative ways to set the posts in concrete then put them in the holes. I’m currently searching for an ancient man to help build a fulcrum.
I’ve had a lot going on so it’s been awhile since the last post.
The clearing and exploring has continued with no great breakthroughs. We’ve continued to have an unseasonable amount of rain so the roads are terrible out there. My car wash bill is outrageous since I don’t want the mud setting up as it takes on concrete like characteristics in a very short time.
My mulberry “trees” seem to be doing very well. They were 5 inch bare twigs when I planted them and now they are 7 to 8 inches tall and sporting a fresh new crop of leaves. They are russian mulberries which I am told are the ones preferred by silk worms. Perhaps someday I’ll buy some eggs and see. The red circle around the plant is just to let me know not to grind it down when doing maintenance. I have to visit previously cleared areas regularly and chop the rapid regrowth of undesirable underbrush.
Part of my clearing has been geared toward building a pole barn shed. I finally hooked up with my GC contact and we kicked around the plans I had drawn up. His reaction to my design was “Woof! That’s a sturdy shed.” I told him that I was looking forward to riding out a hurricane in the swamp in a home made shed. I admit that I’m very much scared of the idea but if I am to end up living out there full time at some point I’ll have to do it.
I have most of the material scheduled for delivery on site this coming Wednesday. When I ordered it they asked for an address to deliver it to. When I offered to give them the GPS coordinates they called the delivery driver in for directions. He was confident that he knew every inch of the surrounding quad county area and proceeded to tell me where my property is located. After about ten minutes of me saying “No” he finally gave up and stalked off in frustration. I’m guessing that he’s going to just drive in that general direction then wander up and down nameless roads calling my name in hopes of finding me. I finally left my phone number and told them to call me so I could guide him out.
The shed will be 12×12 with a 6 foot front porch. A second floor of 6×12 foot will have a 6 foot balcony. The roof will be flat since it will be used for a patio/deer stand. The top floor roof will also act as a platform for mounting solar cells, a water barrel and solar water heaters. Rainwater runoff will be collected, filtered then added to the potable water system.
I bought six pecan trees that haven’t been planted yet and five more bamboo, also not planted. I ordered six blackberry bushes, a raspberry bush and four muscadine vines. Apparently muscadines come in male and female plants and you need both to have fruit. I’m guessing that’s a marketing ploy thought up by some savvy Seminole Indian corporation several thousand years ago.
I don’t want any dinks, gooks, chinks, sand niggers, russians or any other devolved form of the human species here. If you don’t like that, go phuque your face. That’s just how it is. I’m tired of deleting your low life asses registration because I don’t speak or do animal. I understand that the socialist democratic committee is looking for your kind. Go there. Quit signing up on my blog if you don’t love freedom and America.
Yes. It’s Christmas. It’s not happy holidays, or kwonzer or any other happy horse shit crap. It’s Christmas. If you don’t like it move to Iran or some other third world shit hole and see what your politically correct bull shit gets you.
Moving on. I had a fairly productive week. I continued with clearing and decided to change the location of the pole barn shed so it wouldn’t be visible from the road. The area I’m going to use now has a lot more cover which will help protect it during storms.
Finally there was a rainy day that allowed me to burn some brush. We started with a slow steady rain that was perfect for lighting off the fire pit. After pouring some gas on the wet wood I tossed in a match and within two minutes I was faced with what resembled a forest fire in Kalipornia during a drought. This fire went an easy 30 feet in the air and I began to worry about the paint on my truck parked 50 feet away. I’m standing there going “WTF?” when my helper goes “I done built me a good fire. I put all that lighter knot in there.” Looking over I quickly realized that the pile of lighter knot I had gathered from several rotted pine trees was missing and that my eyebrows were starting to melt. I’m looking for a new helper if anyone is willing to work for 30 dollars a day.
Well, the fire died down in about 3 minutes and probably raised the local temperature by several degrees. Realizing that his lives work was about to be extinguished by the rain my helper began a mad scramble to add more brush thus keeping alive some dream of immortality. So we burned brush. And we burned brush. And we burned more brush. I can’t begin to tell you how rewarding it is to be hauling a ton or so of brush to a fire pit in the rain, with water running down your butt crack all the while arguing with someone over whether you should be out looking for more lighter knot or simply burning brush. I hope to god he never discovers tannerite.
Anyway, we managed to get five piles of brush burnt in between the heavy rain spells and having to argue over lighter knot. After about 5 hours we were ready to load up, wait on the fire to die down and began the swim home.
The roads out weren’t as bad as expected. There were a lot more mud puddles but going slow tamed them easily. Unfortunately they wouldn’t be so easy to navigate the next time in.
I went back out today and mostly spent the day planting bamboo. Last week I bought two different varieties of bamboo to plant there. One grows to about 70 feet tall and is expensive as all get out. The other grows to about 20 feet tall and is expensive as all get out. I wanted to get them in the ground as fast as possible.
Needless to say, I was very disappointed to find that the very, very expensive bamboos was not happy with its’ new home and had decided to pass on. I have absolutely no idea why it would take such a socialist democratic point of view since the lady who sold me the bamboo assured me it was a very conservative type of plant. Anyway, I moved it into the shade in hopes of reviving some sort of American spirit and possibly salvaging some of my cash.
The other bamboo on the other hand seemed happy with the new home which gives me great hope for a future of 20 foot bamboo.
So between the clearing and the forest fire a lot of area was opened up this week.
Today I also noticed that the mulberry seedlings I planted are putting out sprouts. I’m keeping my eye out for some mature trees to get cuttings from so I can possibly make some mulberry wine next fall.
I bought a Stihl FS 560 C M brush cutter and does it ever cut brush! I am able to cut more brush in four hours than two of us were able to do in several days. It also does an excellent job of mulching which reduces the growth of brush piles.
To the left in this picture you can see a path which is nearly wide enough to get my truck through. I have to widen another path which connects to it then I will be able to drive about 1/4 of the way across the property. To the right is a fire pit we dug that is ready for a match when the weather is right.
The paths I’m cutting are quickly turning into a maze back there. A lost of them wander on for a bit then abruptly end. Others just wander then connects somewhere to another path. I’ve got an idea of laying out some GPS points and cutting a twisty path just wide enough to get through the brush where I’ve not been yet. Then go back and cut a bunch of dead ends and loops. Total waste of time but fun.
Last time out I planted seven mulberry tree rooted cuttings. I should have potted them then planted next spring but they had been sitting on the kitchen counter for nearly a week and I felt I should at least get them in the ground to give them a chance. If the hogs don’t trample then and they survive the winter they should be growing fast next year.
I have five lemon eucalyptus seedlings in pots which will be planted next spring plus 50+ seeds in a starter tray. I’ve read that they are notoriously hard to start from seed so it will be interesting to see how many, if any, actually sprout. The seedlings seem to be doing well since all five have put out sprouts after being moved to larger pots.
I have two 12 inch tall trifoliate orange in new pots. One has put out sprouts, the other just sits there looking ugly and thorny. I put about 30 seed in the fridge today for stratification which takes a month. I have another 100 seed ready for stratification and am planning on doing about 20 a week for several weeks. I hope by next spring to be able to plant several a week to get my living privacy fence underway.
Last trip out I laid out a 12×12 two story pole barn shed with plans to start construction early next week. Though I’ve watched dozens of building being laid out at construction sites it took a lot longer to do it myself than I expected. However I kept moving stakes and measuring and finally ended up with a square layout. The ground I’m building on is slightly sloped and will aid in drainage since I’m building the floor about a foot and a half off the ground. I’ll put several inches of gravel underneath before the floor goes in then mound gravel around the outside perimeter. I’m mounding it to help stop wind from getting underneath as well as for drainage.
The second floor of the shed will consist of a 6×12 room and a 6×12 covered porch. With any luck I’ll be able to sit outside in the morning, sip coffee and shoot miss piggy while listening to Enigma.
So that’s the current plan subject to change on a whim. I still need to figure out how to get across the swamp, get to the back of the property, drain the swamp, fix the road and cure world hunger. OK You caught me. I don’t really care about world hunger but I do need to get a raised bed garden going.
Time moves on and I continue exploring my new home site to be. A few days ago I completed exploring the accessible part of the new property then came to the conclusion, you can’t get there from here.
It seems that the entire southern border of the property is swamp/marsh. There’s more exploring to be done there, there may be some part of it not underwater but that’s a battle for another day. So I continued onward to the west thinking I could get to the back of the property with relatively dry feet.
OK, that’s a pipe dream. There is a band of swamp/marsh running north to south blocking the back. I spent the better part of a day looking at Google earth before realizing that I was unable to get to nearly 3/4 of my property. I decided that was unacceptable and went out and bought some high rubber boots.
The next day I began probing the swamp band running north to south with the idea of finding a passage west. After several hours I was able to find a path which didn’t overwhelm my knee high boots and found myself in a thick growth of pine and cypress with gradually rising ground. The undergrowth also thinned considerably so I found myself making decent progress.
After a few hours I decided that it was time to head out and start the hour and a half drive back to town. Since missing the path back and getting lost is a very real possibility I wanted to give myself some extra time to do a compass check and cut a new path if necessary.
Once I was home that evening I plotted the GPS points and was gratified to learn that I had trekked a little over 1/3 of the way across. It appears that I have about another 400 feet to cover then I will hit a narrow band of swamp/marsh before starting up the elusive hill. If the weather hold and there’s not much rain the swamp/marsh might not be much of a barrier.
Navigating the swamp is challenging. Besides not wanting to get covered in muck there is the danger of water moccasins, gators and quicksand. Quicksand is very rare here but I’ve used up all the luck in my life so I try to err on the side of caution. It’s also very tiring. Ankle deep water quickly becomes 8 inches deep muck when you step in it. Every step becomes a study in don’t lose your balance or you will be face down when the suction breaks.
I did notice that the swamp is down several inches from about two weeks ago. This leads me to believe that there is an outlet somewhere that is draining it. I really doubt that evaporation and plants would be enough to account for this much water loss. It would be great if I could wait until it had dried enough to get a large back hoe in to dig some large holes and a pond.
Last time out I was able to get a lot closer to what appears to be a pond of some sort. It appears to be clear which might indicate that it
is spring or creek fed, both of which would be nice for an off grid life style.
A zoomed version of this pic shows that this might be a pond and not just an open portion
of swamp. The grass is deceptive in that it’s in water knee deep or higher. Hopefully it will dry enough soon that I can get there and find out what this area actually is.
It’s been a long time since my last post and boy howdy has a lot been happening.
A little over two weeks ago I closed on my house in Sanford and I made the final move to north Florida. The buyer was a long time friend of mine who told me that rather than having some time to vacate the house I would have to be out the day after closing. Chopping a week or so out of my schedule led to some frantic last minute preparations and a multitude of unfinished business. After two weeks I’ve finally started to get things under control and actually have a bit of breathing room.
I spent nearly a week in a motel while searching for a travel trailer on craigslist. Finally I went to a dealer out of sheer frustration thinking that I would let RV professionals take care of me. Man did they ever. They took me to the cleaners and didn’t even kiss me afterward. If you ever have a chance to deal with Camping World in Lake City, don’t. The salesman and business manager took advantage of my trust and ignorance to stick it to me without the benefit of vaseline. After nearly a complete week of lies and subterfuge I ended up with a trailer which I will soon have to begin repairs on. I would have made out better buying a rolling shell and rebuilding.
So now I’m living in a campground about 30 miles from my property. The advertised WiFi runs at a speed approximately half that of a 2400 baud modem but it is very peaceful here and convenient to town and the interstate. Being close to the interstate is fairly important since the nearest WalMart and Lowes is about 35 miles away in another town. Though things have been frantic and rather stressful for the last few weeks, I am loving it here and am looking forward to the coming months.
I’ve been out to the property several times and begun clearing as well as cutting paths. There is a hill at the back that appears to be covered in pine, cypress and hardwoods. I’ve not really had a good look since the underbrush is to dense to navigate without a chain saw. Next week I hope to complete cutting a path to it and hopefully
it will be much easier going once I get into the older growth.
I left a hidden stash on site a few trips ago to see if anyone would mess with it when I wasn’t there. So far it’s not been disturbed and I’ve expanded it quite a bit. It’s under the camo tarp if you are having trouble picking it out.
My initial efforts were to clear an area to stage from then start fighting my way toward the elusive hill on the back of the property. There is an area at the front of the property where a logging company chipped logs years ago and was built up slightly as well as not so densely overgrown. After a lot of sweat, cussin’ and chain saw I was able to get the truck in and out but just barely. Part of the problem I’m experiencing out here is that my truck doesn’t turn in a 40 acre field and I only have 30 acres. This leads to a lot of 197 point turns.
I’m also trying to not cut any “good” trees such as oak, maple or pine. Eventually I will have to choose a few to euthanize but for the time being I’m willing to work around them.
On a couple of occasions I’ve missed the turn into my property. It isn’t at all hard to do since in a weeks time the plants will regenerate and seem to thrive on Roundup. I’ve been told that the underbrush is to dense for a bush hog so obviously this isn’t going to be an easy effort.
Burning came to mind but then I had a flash of poor Bambi trying to help her aging mother get to the swamp with a broken wheel chair and immediately discarded that idea. Then in a stroke of pure genius I asked a friend I know in town for help and he came out with some giant industrial gonzo mower. I’m expecting a Christmas card from Bambi this year. We’re placing Miss Piggy on the endangered hog list though.
Now I’m able to get in and out with only a 36 point turn but it’s still a lot better than before. Once we get enough cleared we’ll be opening up a turn around but until I see more of the property I’m not going scorched earth yet.
In this picture you can see an area we’ve cut out for a fire pit. I was a bit skeptical at first but it was 34 degrees when I woke up this morning and had I been on site I would have been going “Fire pit! Hell yeah!” I have plans for a picnic table under the pines center and left. It’s also the entrance to the path we’re cutting to the back of the property.
Cutting this much underbrush produces tremendous amounts of cut brush. Although this should be intuitively obvious it’s not until you
start getting a few piles of brush about 6 feet high, 8 feet across and 20 feet long that you fully realize this. I know you’re thinking “Fire pit! Hell yeah!” but I still have to clear some more around it so Bambi doesn’t go sending DCF after me.
The path to the back is slow going. Randy started one his first day out which I continued next time while he was mowing. His path looks like a super highway and is nice and straight. Mine looks like a drunk came through with a chainsaw attacking pink elephants at random. Hoping to speed things up a bit I’m following game trails as long as they are generally going in the direction I want to go. This has led to several dead ends as I run into swamp along the southern end of the property. I’ve spent a lot of time back tracking and checking a compass.
Today I made a major breakthrough. I was following a game trail heading roughly west when I came to a rather large open area. It was pure swamp to the south but I could see open water which might indicate a spring or creek. Good chance that it could be turned into a fish pond at some point. After it gets cold enough to put the snakes in a coma I’ll have to explore it with hip waders and a life guard. The really nice part is that to the north and west it was fairly open and I was able to cover about 50 feet in a very short time.
Needless to say I was excited and shot a few GPS shots to track my progress once I got home. Google Earth didn’t hesitate to shoot me down though when I did a measurement and realized that I’ve covered about 325 feet so far. Oh well, only 1500 feet to go.
I’m working on allowing registered users the ability to comment. So far Word Press isn’t being very cooperative. If anyone knows where to throw that switch please drop me a line at email@example.com and I’ll get right on it.
Things are kind of hectic right now but I hope for some time this weekend to work on the blog. I would like to add a picture gallery and some other goodies but time is precious right now. I appreciate people signing up and hopefully will soon have comments in place along with some other goodies.
On the new home to be front, the engine in my truck is blown and has to be replaced. Ouch. So far the start date is tomorrow, Friday and a promise of a healthy truck sometime early next week. When it rains it pours huh?