Tag Archives: Dirt

I’m Back in Action! (House update)

Oy, I haven’t been that sick in a long time. And honestly, I still have a lingering cough.

But the energy – oh, the blessed energy.

I have it back!

It feels good to be able to work for more than a couple minutes and not be exhausted.

So, while not much has gotten done on the house since the slab was poured, we have been doing smaller projects here and there and ramping up for the next big push.

We finally got our shower system built in our well shed (a whole new post about that will be coming soon – I hope).

We started carting all of our building materials from where they have been sitting for over a year to down on the housepad.

We didn’t finish with that yet, but the contactor we hired to erect the structure said that he can do the rest with his fork lift. That sounds good to us!

We got all the insulation which gets put up at the same time as the metal frame. This is only R-13, but we will add more when we build the wood frame walls inside the metal shell.

We carted all the rolls of insulation up our drive and to our cargo container. Hopefully in just about 2 weeks, we’ll have to cart it all down the the house pad. We don’t mind having to move it all twice if it means it’s going on the house next!

Of course, we had some Halloween fun. My costume took so much time to put together. Whatcha think? 😉

And we had another birthday party, this one for Princess Girl who turned 12 (how did that happen?!?) She totally made out in the money/gift card department. Which is good considering she needed clothes in a bad way.

We totally disassembled all the forms and cleaned up the pad in preparation for doing some more back fill.

I was completely dreading unscrewing all those forms. Every screw head was filled with concrete and had to be cleaned out before we could use the driver to back it out. After just one section my back hurt so badly from bending over that I could barely walk. Hubs got frustrated enough he wanted to just cut all the pieces apart with a circular saw and call it good. But we are going to need to use this wood one more time when we build the forms for our garage slab, so we needed to salvage as much as possible,

That’s where a little bit of preparation came in. As the old saying goes, “Work smarter, not harder.”

By putting the forms up on a table, I didn’t need to bend over nearly as much, thus saving my back.

And by using a little tool like a straw, the clean out of the screw heads went much smoother since I could really blow all the dust out once it got loosened.

Once we got the pad cleaned up, we needed to prep the slab itself to bring in more fill dirt to raise the ground level to slab height. In order to do that, we needed to finish wrapping the footers and slab edge in foam insulation. We had done the bottom 16 inches and then backfilled that months ago. So we had the final 16″ to do. Convenient since the 4’x8′ sheets of insulation have snap lines at 16″ sections (thus giving 3 sections that are 16″ x 8′ per sheet). Except that I forgot that each piece needed to be 14.5 inches because of a recessed lip on the edge of the concrete. which means we needed to cut the foam sheets rather than snap them on the pre-scored lines.

Oh, well, at least it is super easy to cut. I actually set the depth of the saw to not go all the way through the foam. That way, I could set the sheet of foam on the slab, make my cut line, then snap the last little bit. This was really good since the winds were blowing about 30mph that day. You can imagine what happens to lightweight foam in 30mph winds! Any time we set a piece down, it had to have something heavy on it to keep it from blowing clear away.

Once we got the foam on the sides of the slab, we could start having dirt trucked in.

Since we no longer have a backhoe or anything, we are doing all the spreading by hand. It takes a lot longer, obviously, but it’s free.

Hubs and I spent most of Saturday getting our water supply line hooked up so we can bury the connection. We also made a water run to my moms for fresh water (still don’t have a treatment system for our well water put together yet).

We are feeling very blessed at the mild weather we’ve had so far this Fall. We are hoping and praying it holds out for just a couple more weeks till we can get the structure dried in.

In the mean time, the girls have been having fun playing on the slab.

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House update: getting ready for concrete

We are scheduled for our slab pour in just two days! (“Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”)

Its been a lot of hard work getting to this point where we are ready to pour (and there’s still some work to be done tomorrow.)

When I last updated, we had just started cutting the trenches for the plumbing and footers.

This looks like a complete disaster, but there really is some order to it.

This is the same area later that same day.

We put a call for help out on Facebook and a bunch of our extended family showed up to help with the shoveling.

Even Flower Girl was a huge help!

My brother manning the sifting station.

My sis-in-law lugging some buckets of dirt out of the forms.

We were able to dig nice and neat trenches for the interior footers.

Once we got the trenches all dug and cleaned out, it was time to start on the drain piping.

ABS fittings

Our first completed branch line dry-fitted.

Once we had all the pipes laid out where and how they needed to go, we had a few days wait for our retired contractor friend to stop by and let us know how we did. He made a few suggestions which we followed.

While we waited for him, we made a good start on our septic system.

When we got the go ahead from our friend, we started gluing all the drain pipes and fittings together.

And bedding all the pipes in sand.

The girls had fun talking to each other through the pipes.

Then we had to test the system. This involved capping off all the pipes except this really tall one, then filling the whole system with water.

We only had the backhoe for a limited amount of time, so we got as much done with it as we could. Such as getting the water line put in across the driveway.

This line will eventually connect to an underground cistern which we will fill from our well pump.

I let Princess Girl try her hand at moving the backhoe around (with me right next to her, of course.)

We passed our under-slab plumbing inspection, and it was time to start backfilling. Again.

This time we needed to use sand to completely cover the pipes.

A good friend came by to lend a hand.

Flower Girl love playing in the sand.

She also found a way to go sledding in September. 😄

Once we had the sand over the pipes, we switched to using type 2 base and we were back to filling and compacting.

Once the pad was fully backfilled, there was just once last project to do with the backhoe before we had to turn it back in to the rental company. We needed to cut our footers for our garage and the trench across the drive to run electrical lines.

Then it was time for rebar!

Over the next several days we worked to get all the rebar finished in time for our inspection. We hit a couple delays, but managed to git ‘er done.

And that brings us up to our current situation. We had our inspection on Monday and passed with flying colors. Our concrete contractor was booked up till Friday, so that’s when we’re scheduled. We still have a couple odds and ends to take care of before we pour on Friday, so we’ll be taking care of those tomorrow.

So, Lord willing, we’ll have a finished slab by Friday evening! And let me tell you, it’s none too soon. The temps are dropping and freezing weather is just around the corner.

We’ve worked hard, but it’s exciting to see the progress. Hopefully when I update next the slab will be done!

Even more weather related delays

So, it rained a couple days ago, causing us to button down the hatches and close up shop early. We ended up spending a rare evening together just hanging out. It was great.

But the next day we decided to hit it hard and get some actual work done.

In the morning Flower Girl and I worked on marking out our under-slab plumbing.

First I made a copy of our plans so that I could mark on them.

Then we started transferring the measurements to the ground with paint.

This four year old’s got some skills!

After a trip to take Pajii to a doctor appointment, we were back at it.

It was nice that for this phase, the measurements don’t have to be exact. That will come next as we are laying the pipe.

For now, we will cut our plumbing trenches with the backhoe since that’s what we have. We are not going to rent something else when we already have something that will work. So our trenches will be wider than absolutely necessary. But then again, they are gonna be pretty deep, so we need room to maneuver around in them with the pipes, so maybe it will be fine. All that to say that we don’t have to be very precise with our measurements at this stage because the trenches will be wide enough for some adjustment of the placement of the pipes. Whew!

Just two tools needed for this job. Nice to not have to lug around a bunch of heavy tools.

Consult the Book of the House. Chapter 2 verse 3, “Thou shalt mark thy plumbing upon the subfill with the paint color of thy choosing providing thou doth chooseth a color which doth show brightly upon the ground.”

We got the lines all drawn. Red for plumbing and orange for interior footers.

We excitedly started destroying some of our hard work that we put into compacting all that dirt. And then this happened:

Yes, that’s rain and hail, and Princess Girl and I were stuck inside the backhoe. Thankfully it is an enclosed one so we had good protection and didn’t have to try to make a mad dash through this:

So, again, we were stopped from working by the weather.

This morning, I went out to start back up again and found this:

That’s one big soupy mess, right in the middle of our house. So I decided to let it dry out some and work on one of our other projects that need to get done while we have the backhoe.

So I cleaned out the drainage next to a potion of our driveway. It’s kinda hard to see, but there wasn’t a real ditch here before I started. The water would run down the side and the middle of the road and eventually spread across the drive near the highway, leaving all the mud as a parting gift as it found an edge on the other side and headed on down the canyon.

Flower Girl helped move rocks for a time, then started pretending she was a prairie dog. I just love her imagination.

By 2:30, we were done with the drainage for the day (still need to put in a culvert pipe). The girls and their grandfather were preparing to head off to gymnastics class, and I headed in town to run an errand and hoped that the sun would continue to dry out the pad.

When I got back and Hubby was home from work, we still had several hours of light left, so we decided to try working on the pad despite the remaining puddles of water.

I was amazed at how hard it was to dig by hand through the compacted dirt. Guess we did a good job compacting it.

Hubby worked on digging down to where our sewer pipe will exit the building (pictured above), while I worked on unearthing the rebar that will join into the footer for the interior load bearing wall.

I am well please at how well this backfill is staying neat and tidy as we dig. That’s exactly what we were hoping for. Now, if the rain will just stay away long enough for us to get the slab poured, that would be amazing!

You know what else is amazing? One of Pajii’s kittens, Lilly.

She’s so cuddly. And just look at that face! Almost makes me want another cat. Almost. But not quite. Maybe when we have a barn and they can be barn cats. Maybe we’ll get some kittens then. For now, I enjoy playing with Lilly and Midnight whenever I’m in Pajii’s trailer.

So anyway, that’s our last few days. The rain has put a damper on our progress a bit, but it also means we get some of these other important projects done as well.

And that’s how life goes. God’s got a plan for everything. We just have to trust that he knows what he’s doing.

House update – MORE backfill! (And other stuff)

This was a very productive weekend.

We completed a bunch of the finish work on the well shed.

Including painting the shed floor.

While the paint was drying, we continued backfilling inside the house footers. Once we added another layer of dirt, we couldn’t do much else because the equipment rental shop was out of the compactor we needed, so we had to wait till Monday. So we found another project to work on.

This rather steep hillside is going to be terraced, but needs a set of stairs.

We have a large pile of 5ft railroad ties that were on the property when we bought it. So we set to work cutting them in half.

Princess Girl and I are standing on the tie to steady it while Hubs finishes the cut.

We stopped periodically throughout the weekend to put another coat of paint on the shed floor. Doesn’t it look good?

Then we went back to building the stairs.

Digging in Nevada requires the use of some heavy duty digging tools.

Today, the Hubs took the day off work to help out with the house. And we got all the preliminary backfill filled in and compacted!

The red chicken scratch marks on the ground is my code to see where we were still low. We string a line across the forms (which is slab level) and measured down from the line. Then if put a mark if it was on grade or low. It was not “real” grading marks, I’m sure. But it worked for us.

As my wonderful hubby stated on a Facebook post, it’s been great to be able to work such a productive few days with my best friend. Sad that he goes back to work tomorrow. Happy that he got the day off.

And then tonight as I was closing up the chickens, I found this.

Our first egg from our pullets that hatched this spring! Guess I need to put more bedding in that nest box, eh?

Yeah, it was a good weekend!

How was yours? Did you get lots of work done? Our maybe it was more about relaxation. I’d love to hear from you.

House update – footers poured!

I haven’t written much lately because I feel like there’s not much to update you on. We’ve been working a lot the last several weeks to get our forms ready for concrete, but you couldn’t​ really see the progress. Besides that, I’ve been exhausted working all day in the heat. On top of that, I’ve had to work my regular summer job here and there, and have had a couple of migraines. All that together, and nothing got written here on the blog (though I do a better job updating Instagram and Facebook). However, we did pass our first inspection no problem (yay!) And then had to wait a week for schedules to line up. But we finally got a permanent part of the house built today! We got our footers poured!

It was an exciting day, let me tell you! This is the first thing we’ve done so far that is actually a part of the house. 

And I feel rather validated, because not only did the inspector not have a single issue with the work we had done building the forms, he said it looked good, and several of the concrete guys we’ve had out lately to give us bids have said that the forms looked amazing. 

And they performed marvelously today as we pumped the concrete into them.

And it’s all due to this guys right here:

Gary is a family friend who is a retired contractor and has volunteered hours and hours to help us get this far on the house. He is generous, loving, knowledgeable, and helpful. We could not have done nearly as well or as quickly as we have without his expertise and willingness to help us out.

And he’s not just a supervisor type guy either. He is right there in the mix, getting his hands dirty with the rest of us.

Today we had a large crew here helping. Not only was it Gary and the Hubs and I, but we had Princess Girl, our highered hand (a young friend who’s working for us for the summer), a brother-in-law of sorts, and a couple the dads. In fact, the Dads put together the forms for the patio we poured out of the left over concrete.

Everyone had a job and did it well. There were times of rushed activity, and times of standing around not doing much.

All told, it took about 4 hours to do both the footers and the little patio.

Its been amazing hour much help our hired hand has been. And Princess Girl is learning fast and is able to help with more and more.

At the end of the day, it was amazing to just sit and take it all in. To reminisce about all the work that’s gone into the project thus far. To be proud of what our hard work has accomplished. And to realize that this is just the beginning.

Actually that last part scares me a bit. 

Ok. A lot.

We’ve worked so hard already. And we are just getting started. We have so far to go.

But I know we’ll get there. In God’s timing, and in His will.

And when it’s all built, and we are sitting there of an evening, admiring the work of our hands, we’ll know it was all worth it.

And in the mean time, we just do the next step. Which tonight is wetting down the ground inside the footers so that it will settle and compact.

And now we’re off to bed. Its been a big day.

Let’s Dance

You know what it’s​ like when you’re trying to accomplish something, and it seems like everything keeps going wrong and you just can’t catch a break?

When for every two steps forward, you have to take one or two backward?

Yeah, we had that happen. Yet again.

You see, we had our footing forms all built, leveled, and were starting the bracing in preparation for putting in rebar.

Fully built footing forms

And then we were told we had to have a certification letter from an engineer stating that our soil compaction was within acceptable levels. As you can probably guess, the engineer told us it most certainly was not within acceptable levels and we had to do some work under the footings.

So, we had to break down all those footings into sections. All those beautiful forms we spent so many days building. 

Forms moved out of the way and digging the footings UNDER the footings

All had to be moved so we could bring in a backhoe and dig under the footings. 

Under footings all dug

Do you see her?


After a couple weeks where we were waiting on inspectors, I had to work several days at my summer job, I got sick with a horrible allergy induced head cold, and we had to wait for the holiday weekend (Memorial Day), we finally got to pour concrete. 

Concrete flowing

We were told we needed a “2 sack sand slurry” to fill the trenches. I estimated we needed 18 yards. Boy, was I wrong! We ended up needing about 25 yards. 

Not knowing what a “sand slurry” was, we really had no idea what to expect.

The third truck

Turns out a sand slurry is basically just sand and cement, no gravel. And it’s pretty soupy. Made it easy to just flow into the trench. We barely even had to screed it. Just enough to make sure it was at or below grade.

Filled trench

It set up very quickly, and at the moment is the consistency of packed sand.

Set up enough to walk on within minutes

We do not know what it will be like when it is cured. Will it harden into more of a concrete consistency, or stay sandy, or something in between?

It’s a family affair

After pouring the concrete, we decided to watch the sunset from our new area for our Sunset Swing (finally moved it down to our new location). Unfortunately, it was too cloudy for a sunset, but the Hubs and I enjoyed sitting there as the light faded and looked at what we had accomplished. I’m sure many more pictures will be taken from this vantage point in the future.

Overlooking our domain

So, we did get a huge chunk of work accomplished today. 

And I am reminded that two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward. And that is one step further in the right direction. 

Also, there is this:

There will be many set-backs as we build this house. I could get all bent out of shape. I could get frustrated at the slow pace. Or, I can look on the bright side, and learn to dance!

Building update – and a great wood cutting tip!

For those of you who do not follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you probably don’t know that we actually started building our house! 

Finally!

After months and months of permit delays. And more and more months of weather delays, we finally “broke ground” on Easter weekend.

Bringing in “DG” (decomposed granite) to level out the house pad.

The perimeter of the house outlined in compacted and leveled DG

Once the pad was leveled, it was time to build the footing forms. We decided to build the forms up and backfill rather than try to dig down into our very bouldery ground. 

Yes. “Bouldery.” See all those huge boulders in the above pictures? That’s what lies just below the surface up here!

The first day’s progress.

Yup, that’s me, putting one of the pier footing forms together.

We have a family friend who is a licensed contractor who is helping us get all this right (that’s him in the red plaid shirt). We couldn’t do it nearly so well or as easily without his help. As with many things in life, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And we are so very glad to know him (and that he is so generous with his time) ’cause we don’t know much!

Princess Girl, “Mom, I need ‘more cowbell’!” So proud of my girl. Not only was she a huge help putting all those “cowbells” on the forms, but she also quoted a Saturday Night Live skit. Yep, we’re raising her right! 😃

Building: a family affair

The perimeter of the house footings – almost completely built. Now to do all the leveling and put in rebar, etc.

It’s so wonderful to see the progress after waiting for so long. 

And today I learned something new. Something that makes me say, “No way!” A new way to use a skill saw!

I’ve used a skill saw for 20+ years and just today learned something new. I’ve seen the pros (building contractors, etc) use a skill saw in a certain way but never knew why. Today, I tried it and was blown away with the results!

The old way: you lay the 2×4 flat on the sawhorse(s) and hold it with one hand while pushing the saw across the wood. All the while, the force of the saw pushes against the board and it is hard to hold it still. 

The old way.

Close up – old way

In order to hold the wood still, you can use a clamp, but that takes a while to put in place and remove, and when you’re making a bunch of cuts as I was today, they are too cumbersome to use.

I’m not sure what made me think to try something new, but I figured, what could it hurt?

The new way: So, I turned the 2×4 up on it’s long edge at about a 45 degree angle and the saw cut through so easily, I was shocked. I had no trouble keeping the saw on the cutting line, and the weight of the saw pushed it’s own way though the wood. 

The new way: turn that wood up on it’s edge!

Close up – the new way

The wood rests on the sawhorse and the force of the saw is pushing downward rather than across, so the board doesn’t move around.
So easy!

This technique will make the thousands of cuts I’ll be making over the coming months that much easier. 

Just goes to prove that it’s never too late to learn something new.