Tag Archives: Dirt

Homestead Update: still waiting, but being productive

I didn’t realize it had been so long since I last did an update on the house progress until I posted about Pajii’s new garden beds and saw the half-sided house in the background.

So yeah, this picture was taken on January 26th. We haven’t seen our contractor since that day. Our house sits there, half sided, getting snowed on. We finally gave up on being able to get ahold of him and have found a new contactor to finish the job. They will start as soon as they can fit us into their schedule.

In the mean time, we’ve been keeping pretty busy around the homestead with other projects that needed doing.

We were blessed with unseasonably warm and dry weather for most of January and February.

Picnic lunch in the February sunshine

School outside in February?

We decided to take a Saturday and finish the concrete patio outside our completed well shed (I’m putting together a post on that, I promise). The existing concrete was leftovers from when we poured our house footers. We were hoping we’d have enough left over from the house slab pour, but the calculations on that were perfect. Not short, but no leftovers either. So we had to go buy bags of concrete to finish the well shed slab job.

Prepping the 4’x7′ section

IT’S ALIVE!!! This concrete mixer was my dad’s and has been sitting on this piece of land, completely unprotected, for at least 12 years. And it still worked!

Concrete work is dirty work.

We mixed 3 bags of concrete at a time in the mixer, then poured it into a bucket to schlep it into place.

It was actually really easy to move the concrete around such a small area with the bucket.

You can see the chicken wire we put down as an added strengthener. Every so often, we’d reach down and pull the wire up so it was floating in the slab rather than pressed down to the ground.

While Hubs mixed up another batch of concrete in the mixer, Pajii and I would scree the freshly poured stuff so it stayed level with our existing slab and the forms we built out of 2×4’s.

The finished slab. It makes getting into the well shed so much easier!

Another project we worked on was some driveway maintenance. We had put in a culvert last fall and it needed a bit of upkeep.

Adding and compacting more dirt over top of the culvert.

Hubby cleaning out some collected sediment inside the culvert.

There were a few gardening type things to do as well. Since I don’t plan to start a garden this year for myself, it was great to get some dirt under my fingernails, so to speak.

Spreading pine needles collected from our church’s landscaping. This area will eventually be our fenced in garden with raised beds, but right now it is a parking area. We thought it best to use decomposable material rather than gravel to combat the mud in this area. Besides, the pine needles were free and we were saving our church some money since they didn’t have to haul it all to the dump.

I had some flower bulbs I needed to get in the ground. So I made a couple new areas for flowers along the pathway going from the upper level down to the house pad.

This area eventually became a perennial flower bed. Once the spring bulbs come up, we’ll plant some more summer type perennials in this bed, too.

And, since I had gone a little crazy buying flower bulbs last fall, we had plenty left over to plant in other places as well, such as around our cherry trees.

Oh, and we finally finished the stairway that leads from the upper level down to the house pad.

These stairs are made from railroad ties that have been sitting on this property for over a decade.

And, if you’ll remember the panels that blew off the side of the hill?

We finally got them back up to the pad. All 29 of them.

Even Flower Girl was able to help once the panels were at the top of the hill. The panels are heavy for a 5 year old, but she’s strong and has a will to help.

This girl, even with a gimpy knee, was amazing in getting all those panels back to the top.

So even though we haven’t been able to work on the house, we have not been idle this winter. January and February we’re filled with a lot of time outside.

And then March blew in and winter finally settled in.

So, we’re back to being stuck inside and working on other projects.

But Spring is just around the corner. And our new contractor said it shouldn’t take much more than a week to finish the siding and roofing once they get started. Rest assured we’ll be shouting from the mountainside when that blessed event finally happens.

In the meantime, keep warm and busy friends.


Odd jobs

You know what?

Bronchitis sucks.

There, I said it. Now let’s move on.

And I’m so glad I can. Move on, that is. I think I’m finally over it. In fact, I felt good enough, I spent several hours working on the hillside behind the well shed.

The rocks stacked up against this hillside is a form of erosion control called riprap. When you have as many rocks as we do on our property, it only makes sense to use them when and where you can.

So riprapping a hillside is pretty easy. It’s kinda like a jigsaw puzzle putting all those rocks on there, only a lot easier because the rocks don’t have to fit together exactly. They just need to be placed in such a way that they are stable enough to walk on them. This usually just means finding the position that they lay on the ground and against the other rocks the best. It’s an easy but back straining job.

This is not a one afternoon type job. Or even a two or three afternoon job. We’ve already spent countless hours just getting it to this point. It’s not a sprint, it’s more of a marathon. This is one of those types of jobs that can seem overwhelming in the shear amount of time it will take. So, when I’m faced with a job like that, I just do a little bit each day and it eventually gets done.

And it is important to do it. If we don’t, this hillside will eventually spread itself all over our driveway through erosion. And since I can’t work on the house right now, I’m going to be keeping busy checking off smaller odd jobs from the to-do list while I can.

This is the reality of building a homestead on a piece of land from the ground up. Many, if not most, of the jobs are not glamorous or fun, but they have to get done. Just like cleaning out the chicken coop.

Which reminds me, that’s another job that needs to get done. *Sigh*

What simple but important jobs are on your to-do list?

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.

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.