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.

Slow Ahead

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 IMG_20160119_154201344_HDRfooter 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.

IMG_20160119_154214779_HDRBy 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 IMG_20160121_163543269setting them in the concrete forms. After getting them plumb and IMG_20160121_164125377square 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 IMG_20160121_172711273this 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.

Busy, busy week

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 wayIMG_20160113_103739319 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 IMG_20160113_112755480to 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 IMG_20160113_112818751hauling 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 IMG_20160113_144231819_HDRlumber 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 IMG_20160113_144425045enamel 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 IMG_20160114_174813270cause 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 IMG_20160116_134108539positioning 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.

The Path to Nowhere

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 inch100_1403 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 IMG_20160108_144031861_HDRknew 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.


Living the dream.