Tag Archives: Family

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!

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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!

A little bit of winter fun

Every winter, we look forward to the right conditions to use our old fashioned runner sled.

Check out our YouTube channel to see a short video of Flower Girl and I going for a ride.

While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to our channel. We don’t post videos very often, so you don’t want to miss a single one. 😄

Goals for the New Year

We’re not so different than most people this time of year. We eagerly make our goals, we start out with determination, we work hard to accomplish them.

Besides the obvious goal of completeing the house (which barring any more major set backs looks totally doable by summer time), we have quite a few other goals for the homestead and in our personal lives.

One of our goals for the homestead is to get rid of this junk wood.

It’s right at the entrance to our property and looks uuuuugly! I want it gone!

One of the personal goals I have is to work on getting my legs back in shape. I want to start backpacking again and right now, my knees could not handle that. Especially with the injury I sustained this summer.

Remember that?

Laid up with a bum knee in June 2018

Yeah, not fun.

So, I have mapped out a one mile route from our trailer, around the house, up the upper driveway and around Castle Rock and back.

The girls and I will be walking this route every day for a while, then we’ll find a way to extend it and build up our miles as our muscles build up. We will also be taking longer hikes once a week, and this summer I want to go on a couple of backpacking trips.

And while this goal is not specifically about homesteading, I love, love, love that I can walk an entire mile on my own property (well, mostly – part of the driveway is technically on our right-of-way on the neighbor’s property). Also, staying in shape is going to help out with gardening and animal care, etc as we get back into that. Especially on this hilly property, and especially as we get older (I turned 40 last month, so I’m feeling my age a bit). It’s the only way to be even somewhat sustainable here. We gotta stay in shape!

Also, I share this with you all to help hold myself accountable. As all the success gurus tell us, writing a goal down and sharing it with others makes you more likely to follow through.

So, there we are. Building a house. Daily walks. De-junkifying the property. Oh, and I want to have a small garden this year. And chicks! I need some cute little baby chicks in my life once again. And through it all, teaching Flower Girl to read, taking some fun school outings, working my summer job, a big family vacation in July that’s been in the works for a few years now, and of course, deepening my relationship with the Lord.

I’m excited just thinking about it all!

What are some of your goals for 2019?

House update: more interior framing

We have more walls up!

We have had many of our friends ask when they could come up to help with the house. So, we set a date for a Framing Party for Saturday, December 29th and let all of our friends know about it.

But before everyone showed up, we needed to get the most complicated wall built since it was heavy on the calculations and decision making – something Hubs and I wouldn’t necessarily have time to do with 10-15 people looking for direction.

So on the 27th, Ahma and Pops (my mom and stepdad) came up to help with that wall.

It was all angles and complicated calculations and we had to make decisions on where (exactly) the door and window needed to go.

But we got it built and raised in about 6 hours.

On the 28th we prepped for the work day.

Framing Party:

December 29, 2018

Here you’ll see a couple familiar faces, but mainly these are friends from church and a few others.

These ladies provided us with lunch. It was amazing that we didn’t even have to think about it. They just showed up with the food and we ate!

When all was said and done, we were able to build and raise 8 walls in one day. Eight! On the 27th, we got one. On the 29th we got eight!

We definitely couldn’t have done that without all the help from our wonderful friends.

And then we ran out of the right length studs. Guess my calculations were off.

So, an after-church trip to the lumber store was in order the next day.

Today is Monday the 31st. We have yet another friend coming today to help out. We should be able to finish all the bottom level framing. Then it’s time to put on the floor joists and floor sheeting and then the upstairs walls. But that will take a bit of time. Nothing like 8 big walls in one day!

Probably without even thinking too hard, you can guess what our goal for the New Year is. 😄

Finish this house!

Happy New Year!

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!