Tag Archives: Building

The Great Potato Experiment of 2019: Day 1

I definitely waited way too long to get my seed potatoes in the ground. But I bought them when I had bigger plans for the garden, which I scaled back drastically when we decided it was more prudent for me to be working on the house rather than building and maintaining brand new gardens.

But I already had these seed potatoes. And I am continuing to develop the terraced garden beds as I have time and just have to get in some outside work.

So I finally figured out WHERE I wanted to plant them. And that’s when I discovered they had a headstart on my gardening for the year. (See above picture! 😄) So, I dug some trenches, and threw three potatoes in each, sprouts and all.
We’ll see how it goes. I’ve only grown potatoes once before, years ago, and that was before I learned to cover them up as they grow.

Method: dig 3 foot long trenches 8 inches deep. Lay 3 potatoes with sprouts end-to-end in the trenches. Cover with several inches of soil. As (if?) they grow, when they get to be about 6 inches tall, I’ll cover the bottom 3 inches with soil. I’ll continue doing that until…ummmm, I’m actually not sure when they are ready to harvest. More research is needed, obviously. But for now, at least they are in the ground!

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Helping hands

When we first started this journey of building our house (actually started construction), our girls were 11 and 4 years old. We wanted them to be involved as much as they could be in the actual building process.

Princess Girl (being older) quickly showed that she could be a good helper with many of the tasks that abound while building. She was an extra set of hands for many projects. And now that she has 2 years of experience under her belt, she can do most of the jobs her daddy and I can.

Princess Girl using the chop saw to cut metal.

But not only that, she often gets the homemaking jobs of cleaning the trailer, washing dishes, and doing laundry that keep our family running while Mom (ie me) is busy schooling Flower Girl (who is now in Kindergarten), and building our house. She truly is a huge help and a blessing.

But what do you do with a 4 or 5 or 6, or even a 7 or 8 year old?

Well, first of all, have them around. Don’t ship them off to the babysitters. Let them play nearby. Let them see you working and let them be familiar with the goings-on at a construction site – providing they can do so in a safe manner, of course.

Many an hour spent playing in piles of dirt while we worked nearby

One of her favorite things is to climb around inside the walls.

Most owner-builders work at a slower pace with fewer people than a professional construction crew, making it safer for kiddos to be around. Even then though, safety rules need to be in place and strictly enforced. Even the smallest infraction must be caught and dealt with. And of course, there are times when it is just best if the kids are not around. But we have found those instances to be few and far between.

Playing with “blocks”

Watching us finish the stairs

But how do you get them actually involved with the family project of building your own home?

The answer in a word: patience

It takes a lot of patience.

Little people are slower. They make lots of mistakes. They don’t understand. But it is so worth it to see the joy on their faces when they “helped”.

It mainly means slowing down enough to find jobs that they can do.

Flower Girl – barely 5 years old

Age 4

And it means taking the time to help them along the way.

Recently, Flower Girl and I took on the task of building a wall in the house.

Just her and I.

But what was a six year old really capable of?

Well, she moved the lumber around.

She measured and marked the studs.

She swept up the sawdust after I did the cutting (and if we’d had the chop saw set up, she would have helped with the cutting, too.)

She clamped things together when needed (and sometimes when not needed 🙄)

She put screws in and backed them out as needed.

And she helped tell me when boards were level/plumb.

Overall, how did it go?

Did she slow me down?

Of course she did.

Was it harder building that wall with her “help”?

You betcha.

Was it worth taking the time to do it with her?

ABSOLUTELY!

OUR wall

We believe that by involving our children in all aspects of our lives on the homestead, and especially the building of our house, we are giving them something important. They are learning many important skills that they just wouldn’t anywhere else. And it’s important to us that when they look back on this time of their lives that they can say “we built a house”, not “my parents built a house”.

It takes a lot of patience and effort to get the little ones involvef. But it is so worth it!

We are building this house!

House Update: we have stairs!!

We got a huge step forward on the house accomplished last month (pun totally intended! 😁)

We got our stairs built!

But, if you’ll remember, the last time I updated about the house, we were working on the hat channel on the ceiling.

We got most of the hat channel on the south side of the house (the side above the second floor), and then realized we needed to build the other end wall before we could finish that.

But, we also decided that we wanted to get the stairs in to make working on the second story that much easier for us since the ladder was getting old real quick!

But in order to get the stairs in, we needed to put the hat channel on the ceiling of the north side of the house since once the stairs were in, it would make that task infinitely more difficult since we wouldn’t be able to use the scaffold effectively in that area.

Dominoes.

So, we worked on the ceiling above the dining room area.

And, as usually happens, once we start a project, we like to see it through. So even though we could have stopped after the first ⅓ of the roof, we decided to keep on going.

The upper half of the hat channel all the way across the north side of the ceiling.

Princess Girl learned how to use the chop saw to cut the hat channel to length.

Sometimes you just have to get in there!

Yep, working in the walls. 😁

A good friend came to help out and we put her to work helping me with the hat channel.

In between working on the hat channel, we started the prep work for the stairs. Since the stringers needed to be made out of expensive LVL engineered lumber, we decided to buy a cheaper piece of wood to “practice” our stair-making technique.

Neither one of us have any prior stair-making experience, so we did quite a bit of research prior to starting.

We bought a special layout tool off of Amazon (not an affiliate link, nor are we receiving any kind of benefit from sharing – we just happened to use it and like it.) The website affiliated with the layout tool also had a stair calculator so you could plug in your measurements and it gave you a printout to follow.

It was super easy to use (though we did have to watch the video tutorial a couple times to make sure we were beginning and ending correctly). It gave us the confidence to know that our measurements were accurate and precise.

So we cut out one stair stringer out of the cheaper board and are ever so glad that we did. We discovered that we needed to change a few things around and change a measurement or two.

That stringer was not complete waste though. We can cut it shorter and use in various other locations around the homestead. So for now, it’s living in the garage.

So now we were confident about how to build the the stringers, but we needed to put in a post.

Way back when we were laying out the foundation, I made a mistake on the placement of a shearwall. It is 8 inches out of place from what the plans call for. Not too much of a big deal. It just means the bedroom is wider and the dining room is narrower. But that also means the staircase is narrower. Too narrow actually. Building codes state that staircases have to be a minimum of 36inches wide. Because of the mistake in the placement of the wall, our available space was only 35″. Oops.

Had we realized our mistake when laying out all the other walls, we would have just made the pantry wall that the stairs tie into a bit longer. Problem solved.

But, of course, we didn’t realize the problem until ALL the downstairs walls were built and we were working on the flooring for the second floor.

So after quite a bit of brainstorming, we came up with a solution that we actually really like. We decided to add a post to extend the wall where the stairs attach and we are going to leave it exposed. It’s more work, time, and money, but in the end, we are really going to love the exposed posts in our kitchen. And I say posts – plural – because the way we have to tie in the pony wall on the upper floor (because of our mistake) necessitates a post on each end.

So, anyway, we purchased a 16ft long 6×6 and then Hubs and Princess Girl got busy making it purty.

After sanding, Hubs put boiled linseed oil on it.

We just love the way that the BLO makes the grain “pop” and gives the wood a warm glow.

Then we attached it to the wall with ½” lag bolts.

Once we had a full width wall to attach the stairs to, we purchased our LVL boards and got to work cutting the three stringers.

I was the one to use the circular saw because I have a steadier hand than the hubs. Probably from all the sewing I’ve done in my life. 😊

And Hubs is slow and meticulous when it comes to hand work (he’s much more patient than I), so he did a great job getting the little corner bits that the circular saw couldn’t get.

It’s a messy job, but someone has to do it.

And just like that, the stringers were made and ready to be installed.

But first, we had to build the landing.

And put on the Simpson stair hanger ties.

You can see in this picture how much the wall is extended with the post. The very left hand stair hanger bracket is actually on the post itself.

And then came the fun part. Installing the stair stringers. Princess Girl and I worked together on that project while Hubs was at work.

Princess Girl learning to use the palm nailer.

Where has a palm nailer been all my life? It makes nailing in tight spaces so much easier!

Those stairs aren’t going anywhere!

Ah, the fun of climbing the “stairs” for the first time!

When Hubby got home, he was very excited to see our progress. He and Princess Girl got to work ripping down leftover ¾” plywood to use as the riser boards…

And I cut down all the stair treads to the appropriate length.

Then the most exciting part…putting on the risers and treads!

And just like that, we have stairs!

This was one of those projects in this house that, like getting the interior walls up, really changed the form and function, the whole look and feel, of the house. We were giddy with excitement for days afterward. And even now, I get a deep sense of satisfaction whenever I run up and down those steps.

I am rather proud of us.

Bluebirds of Happiness

We have bluebirds!

About a year ago, the girls and I built bluebird houses following plans found online. (This is a really good website all about bluebirds and how to make houses for them with lots of different types of plans for houses.)

We modified the plans a bit to use materials we had on hand (mainly just swapping out black ABS pipe for the thinner PVC pipe called for on the plans), but basically we used the plans for the Gilbertson PVC house.

But we made them too late in the season and nothing ever nested in them. But this year they are fighting over them!

Yep, we have at least two “couples” who are arguing over who gets to build their nest in one of the houses. The cool thing is that one of the couples are Western Bluebirds and the other couple are Mountain Bluebirds.

Blue arrows are the Western and white arrows are the Mountain

Looks like the Westerns are winning as they are the ones I see perched on the roof all the time.

The bad thing is that this little coop that it is attached to is actually occupied this year with chicks. That means we go out there several times a day to check on and interact with the chicks. I hope it’s not too much human activity for the bluebirds.

Luckily, the door to access the chicks in on the opposite side from the bluebird house.

Here’s some pictures of us building the boxes last year.

Marked the inside rim of the pipe onto the board to make the bottom plug

Fits great

Nearly perfect. Notice the hole in the middle, along with not fitting 100% perfectly around the edges will allow for drainage if water somehow gets inside.

Drilling a hole to be able to screw in the bottom plug without cracking the plastic pipe.

Scraping the rough edges

Also cut holes near the top as vent holes.

Smoothing out the edges even more.

Checking for proper depth and hole size.

More smoothing

Placing the hanging block.

Attaching everything together. It is all upside down at the moment.

Painting it so it’s not so dark, thus not so hot in the sun.

Taa daa! Installed on our little brooder coop.

And the other one hung on the outhouse. Not sure if anyone is scoping that one out or not.

It was a fun little project, and we are excited that a bluebird family is moving in this year. We plan to have lots more birdhouses around the property as homes for our feathery friends!

House Update: Upper floor framing

Quite a bit of progress lately – finally!

I am pretty much completely healed from the broken rib and we are finding our groove once more.

While I was still injured, we had several friends come by on several different days to help us move along. With the help of these guys, we were able to complete the floor joists and get all the flooring on.

We can’t thank these gentlemen enough. They are amazing!

Hubby, of course, was there when his work schedule permitted.

One weekend while Hubs was out of town, one of the guys came over and we were able to finish the subfloor and even raised the first of the upstairs walls.

Subfloor done! Time to focus on the wall.

Once that wall was raised and securely fastened, we realized before we could go any farther, we needed to attach the “hat channel” on the ceiling.

The hat channel, also called resilient channel, is basically a metal stud that is lightweight but strong and can span long distances. It attaches to the ceiling perlins every 16 inches and then the sheetrock is attached to those.

We’ve been working on the hat channel for a couple days now and have figured out a good system. It feels great to be working as a team again, and even just working again in general.

And it feels great to be getting somewhere once more!

It is also cool to finally see where the actual ceiling is going to be and how much space we will ultimately have.

Pajii is 6′ tall for reference. It will be short at the sides, but still useable space there.

It’s pretty amazing to be down on the first floor and see all the hat channel on the ceiling. We got just about all of it done on the south half of the house.

We will build the other end wall, then the short side walls next. After that, we tackle the difficult section by putting the hat channel on the north half of the house using the scaffold.

After that, we work on the tall walls and the railing wall upstairs. Oh, and the stairs themselves!

Exciting times!

I just thank God that I have healed enough to be able to work!

PS, Oh, and you know how awesome it is to be able to continue working inside our nice secure house with the warm fire going when it looks like this outside?

Yeah, so nice!

How we do this Off-Grid thing

So you all know we live “off-grid” on our homestead in our trailers and are building our house to be off-grid as well.

But what does that mean?

It does not mean that we are completely independent from modern conveniences. I mean, I do drive a vehicle (more than I want to, I admit). We heat our trailers with propane. And there are times our little temporary solar system just does not cut it and we need to run the generator to charge the batteries. Like when the sun hasn’t come out for days.

Or, like today, when we did have some sun, but I didn’t get laundry out on the line in time for it to dry and needed to use the generator to run the clothes dryer.

It’s times like this that I’m very glad for modern conveniences like generators and the gasoline needed to run them.

Big generator pulled up to the well shed to run the dryer

Our washer can run on our small solar system, but the dryer requires more power.

BTW this is how we vent the dryer. We don’t want to put a hole in the shed wall since this is temporary until we can move the washer and dryer into the house. We also route the washer drain out this window.

So, yeah, for us, living off-grid does not mean that we do not rely on the grid. We are not one of those families who live in the wilderness, eating only what we can hunt or gather or grow, heating our house only with wood we can gather, etc. Not by a long shot!

But it does mean that we produce about 90% of our daily (not construction) power needs through our solar system. (And once we are living in the house it will be even more since our solar system will be larger.) And we stock up on propane and gasoline when the storms are threatening. It means that in an emergency situation, we could live quite comfortably for quite a while. And in a long term situation, we could get by without the backup generators if we ran out of gas. Yeah, it might mean not watching TV, and having to do essential bits of laundry by hand and hanging it to dry in front of the fire in the house, but we’d get by till the sun came back out. Way better than most people who rely completely on the grid. For us, it’s about being as self sufficient as is feasible in our current lifestyle. I also like the idea that by using mostly solar power, we are reducing our carbon footprint.

Now, to just get this house built so that we can focus on producing our own food again and be even more sustainable. 😁

House update: we have a second floor!

Yesterday, Hubs asked where something was and I responded that it was upstairs.

Upstairs!!!

We actually have an “upstairs” in the house!

Now, it doesn’t look like a traditional second floor yet, just some plywood on some floor joists, which we access by a ladder.

But it’s a second floor nonetheless.

Here’s a picture of almost how far we’ve gotten so far.

Floor joists about 1/3 of the way across the loft with plywood staged to attach to the joists.

But now we go back to the beginning of the second floor framing…

Floor i-joists in the staging area (ie our dining room and kitchen areas)

Some of the joists placed on the walls in preparation for attaching

A friend helping us get the framing finished in preparation for the joists.

Princess Girl helped space the joists out on our 16inch-on-center layout

Once the joists were in place, we needed to add some additional blocking where an upper wall will be attached.

Then it was time for plywood!

We glued then nailed the subfloor to the joists.

Once we got a few sheets of subfloor down, we needed to put more joists on. Here, Princess Girl and I are starting the measuring process for the next section of joists.

And that’s about as far as we got, and not likely to get much more done in the next week or or so because I was stupid and got injured.

We got the next joists cut and ready to go, and while we were putting them up on the second level, I forgot to watch where I was walking, and walked off the edge of the plywood! Blessedly, I didn’t fall the 9 feet down to the concrete floor, but that does mean I fell onto the joists. I added an arrow to the previous picture to show where I went through.

I landed on the joists sideways with all my weight hitting on my rib cage. Can I just say that this is one of the few times in my life I’ve been glad for the “extra padding” I have? Between that and the fact I was once again wearing a sweatshirt and puffy vest, I escaped more serious injury. I shudder to think how bad the contusion would have been had I been wearing just a t-shirt as in the picture above.

As it is, I am very bruised and sore. I did not go to the ER since they could not do anything for me anyway other than confirm that my ribs are, or are not, cracked, and send me home with a prescription for pain meds. I do not have any symptoms of internal injuries, but I am continuing to keep an eye on how my body is doing.

The treatment plan, even if my ribs are actually cracked – which I don’t think they are – is just rest (and ice and painkillers, etc). So, it looks like I have an unexpected “vacation” on my hands. Time to catch up on some reading and crocheting I’ve been wanting to do. I’ll update on my condition in a few days.

-Maridy