Tag Archives: Construction

Happy Holidays!

Here’s our biggest and best gift this Christmas…

Our wood stove was installed earlier than expected!

This has been a game changer! Not only is the house nowhere near ready to install a furnace, but we plan to heat nearly exclusively with wood, so having this system installed and usable is amazing.

Since we were closing in on Christmas and were loving just hanging out by the stove, we moved some of our collected free furniture into a living room of sorts.

I was even able to spread out for wrapping Christmas gifts. So nice after the last couple of years of using my bed as a table to wrap.

We collected a bunch of junk wood that we had laying around and cut it down to length. I jokingly said that this pile would last us a day or two, and I wasn’t too far off.

With as cold as it was and as small as this wood was, and as little insulated as the house is with gaps still here and there, we went though that wood very quickly.

But it kept us warm enough that we decided to have our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and day celebrations in the house.

Our first Christmas in our house!

We moved our tiny tree and stockings from the trailer and put them on the scaffold. 😊

And the girls spent Christmas Eve night and Christmas night on the pulled out hide-a-bed. The first people to sleep in our house!

We woke up Christmas morning to a slightly white Christmas. We normally get the majority of our snow in January and February.

So it was magical to have snow on Christmas.

And then we had a good friend give us some actual real firewood.

This stuff burns much slower. It is great to put a few logs on and not have to feed it again for several hours.

On New Year’s Day, we are hosting a movie marathon and we’ll all be down in the house. All because of a wood stove.

So nice!

I hope you all are having a great holiday season, no matter how you celebrate.

Happy Holidays.

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House update: Interior Framing!

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a very long time. The start of interior framing means that our house is beginning to look like a house.

We haven’t gotten very far yet, but it’s started!

So, as a reminder, the frame and exterior shell of our house is basically a metal warehouse/shop type building.

On the inside

In order to support our second floor/loft, and to have something to attach sheetrock to on the inside, we have to build a 2×4 wall inside the metal frame. It gets attached to the metal frame with brackets and everything is nice and solid and tied together at that point.

Lay-out:

So, on October 24th, our contractor friend – who helped us get our foundation laid – came back to help us lay out our interior framing. (That means measuring where the walls are going to go and marking them on the floors.)

As I write that, I realize it’s been over a month and a half since we started framing, and we don’t have a lot to show for it. But there have been a lot of small things to try to figure out as we go along, birthdays and holidays and sick days and mental health days.

*Sigh*

I guess that’s how it goes when you are an owner-builder. If you’re not doing it, it doesn’t get done. Oh well, we have quite a bit of forward momentum now. Let hope we can keep it up.

Prepping:

Once we had the walls marked out on the floor and could get accurate measurements, we started cutting sill plates and top plates and studs.

First Wall!:

After we had done more prep work, we started actually forming the walls. We chose the front wall first so we could get in a door asap to close off the gaping hole in our building.

We framed the walls on the floor first.

Nearly there. Just a bit more work needed to frame in the window above the front door.

Time to raise it! Mr Contactor had a winch to use, so just the two of us were able to get this entire wall into place.

In fact, I made a little video of the process. (This is my first time trying to embed a video into a blog post, so bear with me if it doesn’t work.)

Ta-da!

The shape looks funny because the right hand side will have a second story on it…eventually.

Front door:
After we secured that wall to the metal frame, it was time to install the front door!

In the picture below, I marked where the eventual doors and windows will be cut and placed. It’s gonna be so nice…eventually!

Not nearly all the windows we’re gonna need, but it’s a start!

Then we put the front door into place to test-fit it.

Then moved it back out of the way and applied a thick seal of silicone under the threshold.

Then placed it again, shimmed it, tinkered with the fit for a while, screwed it into place, and now have a fully functioning front door!

Ta-da!

We eventually stuffed insulation around it to stop the drafts.

But it is a beautiful sight to behold.

More walls:

If I were making a video, the next section would be a montage of us putting up more walls. My brother and sis-in-law and her family came on a couple different evenings to help build then raise a couple more walls. (Though the first wall of this montage was was completely built and raised by Hubs, Princess Girl, and myself.)

Made a mistake in the placement of this anchor bolt and had to cut it off. We will replace it in the proper location later.

Even my brother’s dog, Tsunami, came to help. 😁

My studly hubby

Just cleaning up some sawdust so it’s not slippery under foot when we go to raise this wall.

We were not sure how heavy this wall would be to lift, so we wanted to add a bit of safety. We created a pulley type system where the wall was attached at the top by a rope, through an eye bolt in the ceiling, to our other (anchored) wall with a friction device used in climbing. This way, if things went terribly wrong, at least the wall wouldn’t come crashing down on our heads.

Our safety mechanism.

Princess Girl was in charge of taking up the slack and locking the rope as we raised the wall. She was “belaying” the wall just like we do with a climber at the ropes course!

With 5 of us lifting, we “accidentally” lifted the wall into place.

No, seriously, we didn’t really mean to do it. We we’re waiting on Bro and SIL to get there so we’d have a couple more hands and the five of us (Hubs, SIL’s mom and 2 brothers, and I) decided to “just see how heavy it was going to be.” And, fwoop, there it went.

Yes, that’s the actual sound it made.

“Fwoop.”

At least in my mind. 😁

I didn’t have the cameras ready or anything. So I took this “staged” shot of the 4 of then holding the wall in place after it was already standing.

Once we got the wall secured in a few places…

we called it a night and had dinner and just sat around chatting for the next 2 hours. 😁

Then we spent another evening or two putting in all the braces and fixing some areas we had messed up on (more on that later).

One thing we did do is buy a scaffold. It has already come in SO handy, and will continue to for quite some time to come.

And that’s where we are at right now.

Winter hit here in Northern Nevada and the temperatures dropped substantially. Though there is some insulation on the building, it is not a lot, and without a heat source, insulation doesn’t help a whole lot anyway. So the temps inside the house were getting down into the 30’s and not warming up. We had a snow storm come through and then we stayed cloudy for 10 whole days! That is almost unheard of here in the high desert. When the sun doesn’t come out, things don’t warm up. On top of that, Flower Girl got sick, and I could feel my body fighting a cold, so we decided that until something changes, we’re not going to stress over working in the house.

Besides, who wants to be building when there’s cookies to be made?

But, things are looking up. The sun has come back out (yay!) and, a huge piece of news, our wood stove is going to be installed next week! Yay! Yay! Yay! We will soon have a source of heat in the house, and will have no more excuses not to get rocking and rolling once more.

(Except…cookie baking, fudge making, present wrapping, feast eating…!)

We are so excited to get that stove in and have real heat in the house so we can keep on working (maybe after Christmas?). It’s going to be so. Very. Nice! What a great Christmas present!

House update: Floor staining

Starting near the beginning of October and lasting for a couple weeks, we worked on staining our concrete slab. We knew that it was going to be a whole heck of a lot easier to do the floors before any of the interior walls went up, and we had a run of really mild temperatures, so we decided to git ‘er done.

It took so long because we had no experience with acid staining concrete, and we did it in sections in order to test our procedures. So in some of the pictures below you might see areas that are already stained in the background.

The first step was to clean out the cut lines.

Flower Girl was very helpful in this since she liked to scrape out the cracks and vacuum up the mess.

Once the cracks were cleaned out, it was time to wash the floors.

Scrub, scrub, scrub

Brother and sis-in-law came to help and to learn the process. We really appreciated their help!

It felt really weird to run the hose in the house to rinse off the degreaser/cleaner (and later the stain). But with one person on the hose controlling the flow, and the other people using the squeegee and push brooms, we were able to keep the puddling to a minimum.

The next step was to make sure all the water was cleaned up. The easiest way to get all the water was to sweep and squeegee out the majority, then use the shop vacs for the remainder.

Once the floors were dry, it was time to apply the acid stain with a weed sprayer.

This was the easy part!

Once the stain had sat and developed for 8 hours, we neutralized it with ammonia water and then had to rinse all of that out the doors.

We had to run the big generator in order to run all three shop vacuums at once.

And then it was time to wait. Once the stain was neutralized and rinsed, we had to wait for it to thoroughly and completely dry before applying the sealer. Since we were testing procedures as we went, we needed to wait each time we did a section to get some sealer on it to see what the final result would look like. That’s why it took so long to get everything done.

But finally, we did get it all stained and sealed.

Applying the sealer

Before the seal

And that’s when we ran into problems. For whatever reason, when we applied the sealer in some areas, it turned a milky white when it dried.

After much trial and error and frustration, we discovered that a stiff scrubbing pad, water, and a LOT of plain old elbow grease would strip the sealer off the floor. So for two days we scrubbed those floors. We had to be careful since too much scrubbing would eventually strip the stain off the floor as well.

This job was too much like playing Cinderella.

But eventually we got the problem spots scrubbed off and once again waited a few days for everything to dry completely. Then applied the sealer, doing some experimenting in order to avoid the previous issues.

And just like that, our floors are finished! Of course now, one month and some more building later, and they are completely covered in dust and dirt. But that will sweep and mop up. We might have to touch up a couple areas, but for now, it feels good to have yet one more project done!

House update: miscellaneous jobs

You know when you have that big project on the horizon that you need/want to start working on, but for whatever reason you can’t yet but there’s a long list of projects to do so you gotta get them taken care of and when you finally do them you realize it actually feels good to be able to cross something off the list and you wonder why you procrastinated so long because, I mean, you’re not working on the “big project” right now anyway?

*Takes a deep breath after that extremely long run-on sentence.* 😉

Yeah, we’ve crossed quite a few need-to-do little projects off the list in the last couple of months since getting the septic finished. Some of them so small, I didn’t even bother to take pictures. But some of them were significant enough that they have made our life so much easier.

Like our garden hose hydrant. We dug a trench (more trenching!) from where our water line crosses the driveway over to where we wanted the hose faucet next to the landscaping rocks.

The trench.

Tee into the water main

Princess Girl got in on the action

The gravel in the bottom of the pit is to aid in drainage since this is a frost-free hydrant. That means that every time the water is shut off, the water that is in the top of the pipe drains out of a small hole at the bottom of the trench so there is no water up in the pipe or faucet to freeze in the winter. We did put in a shut-off valve just in case we ever need to shut the water off to the faucet for any reason, but theoretically, we shouldn’t ever have to use it.

We have water!

And it works like a charm! And made our water situation around here so much easier! Watering the gardens were a breeze with 1700 gallons on tap. Yep, that’s how big our cistern is. We fill it up from the well as needed (every couple of weeks at the end of summer) and it supplies all our outdoor and animal watering needs. Right now it is mid-November and we haven’t gotten any moisture all season long. Great for working outside, not so great for our fruit trees and perennial plants. So we’re still having to water the trees and gardens every once in a while. This hydrant also makes it super easy to re-fill our rain barrels (because, you know, no rain). We use the water in the rain barrels for the animals. Before having the hydrant, we would have to turn on the big generator and well in order to fill barrels, etc. Now, with 1700 gallons of water at our disposal, we only need to fire up the genny and well pump every…actually, we don’t know how long it will take us to go through that much water this time of year. Suffice to say, it will take a while. And since it’s all under ground, it won’t freeze during the winter. Yay!

Another project we were able to check off the list was to move the electrical conduit for the garage. We hired out having the garage built, and we ended up needed to scoot the whole building back a few feet, which means the place where we originally had the conduit coming up was no longer in the correct spot.

New perimeter lines drawn

You can see in the pic above that the conduit was now several feet away from the wall of the garage. So, once the construction crew dug the footers, we came in and extended the conduit so it comes up inside the garage near the wall where our solar power system will be installed.

Electrical conduit extended

Again, not a huge job, but it HAD to get done.

Another small job that made our life so much easier was installing shop lights in the house.

Let there be light!

Now that the days are shorter, we needed light in the house so we can keep on working after the sun goes down.

And speaking of the days being shorter, and therefore colder, we finally got our laundry room door ordered and then installed.

A real door!

We could have had this door in place since January since it’s frame is part of the steel building, not the interior wood frame like all the other doors will be. But last winter and spring we were on hold with the house and the house only had this one wall anyway. And over the summer it wasn’t needed because of the weather. It was only when it got cold enough that we needed to stop the breeze from blowing through the house that we got our butts in gear and got it done.

And yet another small job we got done recently was replacing the rain gutter on our mud room. We had scabbed together something when we first built it, but after two winters it needed to be replaced. So we got a real gutter system. And now we’re set for this winter. And hopefully we’ll get a lot of rain and snow this year. We need it!

Princess Girl is learning all sorts of skills living here on the homestead.

So much nicer than the old system.

And that’s about it for now. As I said, there were plenty of other odd jobs done that I just didn’t document. And in the middle of all that, there was one major project that we worked on over the course of a couple weeks…

The floors!

But that’s a post all on its own. For now I am going to sign off.

I gots things to do!

House update: Septic Phase 2

Finally, I feel like we’re making progress! In fact, I have so much to share, I’m putting it in several blog posts to keep it all straight. 😁

So, last I left off, we we’re just starting on our leach field. I naively stated that “by the end of the week” we hoped to have a completed system.

Ha!

It wasn’t that was hit any unexpected problems. It was more that the problems we did face we’re harder to overcome than we expected. Namely, we had no dirt with which to backfill the leach lines. It was mostly just rocks. So, we had to purchase and haul in dirt. Again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First thing we had to do was dig the trench for the sewer pipe from the already buried septic tank, down the hill to where the leach lines were going to go.

Blessedly, Pops was on hand to dig once more.

My mom came to help, too!

We only ran into one huge Boulder which we just couldn’t budge with the small excavator we rented. But, a friend had a jackhammer that worked to get the boulder out of the way.

Our excavation crew. We are blessed with great friends who come to help us out.

Completed pipe from the septic tank down to the distribution box.

While we were working on the pipe, Pops was digging the trenches for the leach chambers. So once we got the pipe laid, it was time to bring down the chambers and start laying those.

We chose this system because the trenches only need to be 3 feet deep and no gravel is needed. And it’s very easy to put together. And handle. And transport. Etc, etc, etc.

Pajii finds a bit of shade inside a septic chamber 🤣

Leveling the ground in preparation for another chamber.

Making sure the previous chamber is level.

Prepping the ground for yet another chamber.

Once the chamber is in place, dirt is shoveled in on the sides to hold it in place. That’s where we ran into issues. We had trouble finding enough rock-free dirt to cover the chambers.

Digging the third and final trench.

Sometimes, the big tools had to come out to make the chambers level.

Pajii once again inside one of the septic chambers. 🤣

Each leach line was 80 feet long.

We got all three lines laid and partially buried, then had our inspection. Which we passed, no problem!

Here you see the leach field in relation to the house. What you can’t tell is just how steep that hill is.

Now it was time to backfill.

But again, how to get the backfill material from the trailer to the pipe when you’re dealing with steep, rocky terrain?

Buckets. Lots and lots (and lots and lots) of buckets full of sand.

If I never have to move sand by bucket again, I’ll be happy. 😉

Once we had a good layer of sand on top of the chamber, we could then push the native dirt (full of rocks) back over the top.

Goofball!

The hubby and I got real good at handling the mini-ex.

Aaaaand we’re done!

And that’s it. A completed septic system. It felt so good to know that we have another huge portion of our build completely done.

So now we have a fully functional septic system. But of course, nothing is hooked up to it. We have dumped the trailer sewer tanks in there a couple times since it’s been done, and that’s been great. Not having to go into town to empty those is a blessing indeed.

But let me tell you, that first toilet flush in our new house is going to be magical.

Once we finished the septic system, we turned our focus to the inside of the house. Primarily, the floors. But that is another post. I want to get this one sent off into cyber space and get back to working on the house rather than writing about it.

Homestead update: not a lot of progress in the last two months

So, last I wrote about the house, we were still waiting on contractors to come finish the siding and roof. Our house sat with only 1½ walls for 4 months till the new contractors finally fit us into their schedule. They finally started and I jumped in to help on a particularly windy day. In the process of helping, I learned how to do it.

So when some unavoidable delays happened again, we decided to take matters into our own hands.

Brushing off the dirt from the panels

And there were were, a family of rock stars who put the preliminary insulation, and siding up on 1½ of our walls, all by ourselves.

But then…

Before the contractors could come back and start on the roof, there was some trim work that needed to be done. And we REALLY wanted that roof. So, we continued working sun up to sun down in a push to get ready for the contractors.

With the help of some good friends

This picture makes me so happy. I love that my girl is old enough to be a huge help, but also to really remember this awesome adventure we get to have as a family.

We got the trim all on and it was time for the roof.

But first…

Yep, that’s a fire pit. INSIDE our house. How many of you can say you’ve done that?

And then the day finally came that the roof started going on!

Oh Happy day!

Pajii got to help!

Finally! The roof was on, but there was still a bit of trim work to do before we no longer had the equipment. So once again, my brother and sis-in-law jumped in to help out.

And then it was done, done!

We still have to cut in the doors and windows, but at least it’s “dried in”.

So the exterior structure of our house was done. And so was I!

This is what happens when you hurt your knee but don’t really take the time to slow down and heal. It keeps getting worse until it’s so bad you can’t walk on it any more!

So, I was laid up for about a week, waiting for my knee to heal well enough that I could get back to work.

But in the meantime, we had one more job to do with that equipment.

Putting in our cistern tank.

But let me back up…

Last summer, we needed to rent a large excavator to widen our garage pad. We also dug the hole and trench for our cistern system (say that three times fast!). A cistern is a fancy way of saying a water tank. This one is specifically a holding tank that we will fill with our well water and use as the water for our house. Being off grid, this is the best system.

But in order to get the tank in the hole, we needed to prep the hole and run the line for the water.

Remember the part I said the hole and trench were dug last year?

Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. And this picture is after Pajii had cleared all the big rocks out! But that entire trench had to be bedded in sand for the pipe to lay on. And how do you get dirt up a 175 foot long trench that is 3+ feet deep and only 2 feet wide?

With buckets. Lots and lots (and lots and lots) of buckets full of sand! In fact, that’s how I hurt my knee, all the way back at the beginning of June. Carrying those heavy buckets (each one weighs roughly 40lbs when full!)

And where were we getting the sand for most of the job?

From our own sand pit, of course. We bedded and covered nearly a hundred feet of pipe on a very steep hillside by “mining” sand from our property. A lot of extra work, but it was free, and we had the time (we were still waiting for the contractors at the point.)

So fast forward several weeks. The contractors came and went and we had abandoned the trench prep in lieu of working on the house (because, priorities), I had begun to heal from my knee injury, and we were looking forward to finishing the cistern and starting the next phase of the journey.

But that was not God’s plan. My Dad’s health took a drastic turn for the worse and it became apparent that he should no longer be living alone, and therefore, his house on the other end of town needed to be sold. So, very reminiscent of when we dropped everything and moved to Oregon in 2014 to care for Hub’s ailing mom, we dropped nearly everything to care for my ailing dad and get his house ready to sell.

That was at the end of June. It took two months, but I’m happy to say, PopPop is now settled in here with us (in his own trailer), his house is in escrow, and we only have one more load to bring home from his house.

But in the midst of all that, we needed to finish the cistern. And we needed to do it quick. We had already put in so much work to it, that to leave it at the mercy of the elements was just stupid. So, while we still had the equipment we used for the siding on the house, we put in the cistern. Then we had to bring in load after load of DG (saving us the time and effort of shoveling it from our own property). But, how do you get the DG from the trailer on the road, down 15+ feet to the hole that the cistern is in?

That’s right, some of our roofing and siding scraps. The sand just slid right in. Quite ingenious, if I do say so myself.

And so easy, a 5 year old could do it.

Then it was another while before we could get it finished. That entailed hooking up the supply pipes, etc to the tank.

Hubs is inside the tank, putting holes in it!

Starting to fill in the hole to cover the tank

And that brings us up pretty much to the present. Here’s an updated picture of the dianthus bush I planted.

The dianthus has not done too well in our hot summer, but the alyssum, petunias, zinnias, and marigolds that I planted around it have just about taken over!

And we’ve got another broody hen who has been sitting on golf balls for 5 days. I put 9 fertile eggs under her this evening. This will be hen #6 that we’ve tried to get to set till the eggs hatch. It has been misadventure after misadventure. But I’ve learned a lot and have great hopes that this clutch of eggs will be the one!

We did have two chicks hatch from our very first broody hen of the season.

I’m not sure why only two of the 7 eggs survived. Of those other 5 eggs, one chick was half hatched, three were fully formed as far as I could tell but had died before hatching, and one had gone rotten from the beginning of the brood. But I was totally excited to get two of our very own, completely home grown chicks! Too bad they both turned out to be boys. 🙄😒

And now, for the truly, truly up-to-date update:

We’ve started working on the Septic System: Phase 2! By the end of the week, we should have a complete septic system. Hallelujah!

Using a friend’s transit level to lay out the septic field.

The middle one of the three required leach lines marked out.

And today, we started cutting the trenches. But that’s another post for another time. Right now, I am t-i-r-e-d. And we still have at least another two hard days of work till we can call for inspection.

Nighty night. Don’t work too hard!

Landscaping

(Edit: 8/28/18 I wrote this post over three months ago. Today, while looking at my writing app, I see the little word “draft”. I had never published it! Silly me! So without further ado…)

Imagine your house (either the one you currently live in or one you have lived in at some point). Now imagine if all the land surrounding that house was bare ground. Now throw in a bagillion rocks, and a few weeds here and there for good measure. Not a pretty thought, is it? Kinda depressing?

That’s how I feel about the land immediately surrounding our house. Yes, it’s understandable since it is a construction zone. But that doesn’t make me any happier when I look at it.

So, while I was delayed on working on the actual house, I decided to do something about the landscaping.

When the house pad was cut, it left behind a fairly steep hill of barren, rocky soil. But in my mind’s eye, I see beautiful terraces, filled with edible and decorative plants that provide beauty and habitat all year long.

When we had the backhoe last fall, I did the rough (and I do mean rough) cut of the terraces. This spring I have slowly been building the terrace walls.

The stairs were built out of railroad timbers we had on the property. The rocks are all native to within 50 feet of right there!

I completed this triangular section first because that is going to be Pajii’s area and I wanted him to feel like he could plant if he wanted to. Besides, it was the easier section to do!

A friend of ours came by one afternoon to help out with stacking rocks.

The circled rock in the picture below was just one of several 100lb boulders I needed to dig out and move.

All of the whiteish rocks below it are the rocks I piled under it when I levered it up, until I could roll it out of the hole.

In the picture below you can see the completed terraces on the right of the steps, and the not-yet-started hillside to the left. The huge boulders were dug out of the hillside where our well is now. They were placed in such a way as to become part of the landscaping. There are several more that you can’t even see just to the left, and many more that got used as a retaining wall over by where our garage will go.

So I got a bit of the terraces done on the left side of the stairs, and while at the hardware store, succumbed to an impulse buy of a dianthus bush. I just loved the color of the flowers and the fact that they are supposed to bloom from spring all the way till fall!

So, I had to find a place to plant them.

The very first plantings in the terraces. 😄

I also decided to pick up a few more landscaping plants that I know I want. And as the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was 40 years ago. But seeing as how I’m not (quite) even 40 years old yet, I figure the best time to plant is now.

Lilac

Red Haven peach tree

Double Delight tea rose 🌹

The first bloom on the rose bush

I also bought some annuals to plant in pots around our trailer to pretty things up a bit.

Our fruit trees that we planted last year are doing well. The cherry trees blossomed out in late April and I thought for sure they’d be killed by a frost.

Cherry blossoms with Mason bee 🐝 busy pollinating

And they almost were! We were surprised by a light frost at the very end of April. Not that it’s unusual to freeze that late, but all of the forecasts said we were going to stay above freezing that whole week. But everything seemed to be ok despite the freeze. The next night was supposed to get nearly as cold, so we decided to play it safe.

The apple trees wrapped against the cold look like weird lollipops.

Apple blossoms

Yesterday, I checked on the cherry trees, and lo and behold, they’re loaded!

And last but not least, we bought some native/locally adapted plants from the state nursery and will find places for them to go once the terraces are completed.

For now, we have been busy trying to finish up the septic system. But we’re almost done with that, then I again won’t have anything to do, so I will go back to the terraces.

Now, remember that house you thought about at the beginning of this post? Think of all the bushes and trees and flowers that actually do surround it. Are there any that you’ve ever thought, “If I had been in charge, I would not have planted that”?

Well, guess what. We are in charge of everything that gets planted here on our land. It’s actually rather exciting to be building our land from the ground up. While it is a lot (a lot) of hard work, it’s awesome to be able to make it how we want it and only have to deal with what nature handed us, not what other people thought was a good idea. And so far, with the exception of the dianthus, I’ve put quite a bit of thought into the plants I’ve chosen.

One day, it’s going to be beautiful!