Tag Archives: Family

House update: exterior backfill and slab footer leveling

We got the outside of the footers backfilled. Which also means we got our garage pad excavated since that’s where the dirt for the backfill came from.

Before we backfilled, however, we had to put rigid insulation around the footers. This helps to insulate the pad so that the house is easier to heat. We chose to go with extruded polystyrene (xps) since it seemed more durable to us. Also, our plans say it has to be at least R-7 and this 2 inch xps foam is R-10 and was easier to find at our local big box hardware store than the right kind of expanded polystyrene (eps). 

We also spent a couple days ripping our form bords down to the right height and reattaching them so that they become the forms for the finished slab. I like that we were able to reuse materials. In addition to the wood, we had put all the forms together with screws, which means we were able to save those when we took the footer forms apart and use them again. Once the slab is poured, these forms will come down and one more row of insulation will go down, then we’ll backfill the rest of the way. And I am sure all this wood will find it’s use on the homestead.

We rented an excavator that Pops operated for us. He’s a wizard in that thing! But then, that’s what he did for a living for 30+ years.

Excavating the garage pad (and getting us fill dirt)

The Hubs and I took turns operating the little bobcat we also rented. Would have been nice to have something a bit bigger, but that’s all that was available on short notice. We used that to move the dirt around the house.

Almost done with the exterior backfill

And since we had the machine there, we decided to finally move the huge boulders into their permanent positions. 

These gigantic boulders came out of the hillside when we excavated for our well. We knew they would come in handy for landscaping and retaining. So that’s exactly how we used them.

Play boulders


The new garage pad with big boulders as a retaining wall

Just a couple days after finishing the backfill, we took off on a big family vacation that has been in the works for two years. 

The Castle Rock Family at Mt Rushmore

We got back from vacation this past weekend, and now it’s back to work!

First thing our hired hand and I did this morning in was some rebar work that needed to be finished. It was one of those jobs that would have been easy to forget.

Then we worked on leveling up the forms. They were pretty close to level, but needed a bit of adjusting here and there.

The first thing we did was go around with a transit level and measuring rod and see where the forms were high or low. Princess Girl and Pajii helped out today as well.

A transit level is basically a swiveling scope mounted on a tri-pod. You make sure it is perfectly level by using the adjusters, then site through it to a measuring rod or tape measure.

The site through the transit

Once we figured out the measurement that was most common, we called that measurement “grade” and brought everything else up or down to meet it. 

Sometimes we had to detach the form from the supports and pry the form up a bit and re-attach. But for the most part, we had to get some spots down a bit. Because there was not enough wiggle room in the system to push the boards down, I came up with the idea to plane down the high spots. We would find two “grade” spots not too far from each other, put a chalk line on it, then use the electric planer to take off the excess down to the mark.

Princess girl was in charge of the camera for a bit – obviously!

It worked great!

Planing down the high spots


That’s all we did today. Tomorrow I am going to order some fill dirt and we’ll start backfilling the interior on Friday (gotta work my summer job on Thursday). Tomorrow we also have some more bracing to do on the forms now that they are level. Don’t want those suckers to move a millimeter!

Then, over the weekend, we start trenching for interior footers and plumbing! This progress is so exciting!

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’tโ€‹ 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’sโ€‹ 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!

Adding on and making room

We have an addition to the family. At least for a few months. Meet our godson, Raven Boy.

He’s 13 years old, can drive a vehicle, is great with electronics and tools, and is a ginormous help around the homestead. He and his family visited for the summer, and when his family went home, it was decided that he would stay here with us for a while to help out with building the house and other projects. 

So, as I looked around our trailer, I realized we didn’t have enough room for another full sized person to sit anywhere when we’re hanging out inside. (He has a separate “bedroom”in our extra trailer that we use as storage.)  And with winter approaching, spending all our time outside isn’t going to be an option for too much longer.

So, Hubby and I had a talk, and figured out that with a little bit of rearranging in the living room, we could build a bench to comfortably seat another person or two. And it wouldn’t take up any more space than was currently being used.

I forgot to get a before picture with all our stuff there, but here’s the area cleared out. We had Scooter’s kennel, a couple of file boxes, and the toy chest in this corner.


We cleared out and cleaned the floor. Then started building the frame for the bench. This is where Raven Boy really shined. He already knows so much about using tools, etc that he cut all the wood for the bench, as well as helped put it all together.


Once the frame was together, and the door in for Scooter’s cubby, we covered most of it in plywood.


The left side was left open and put on hinges so that we can lift it out of the way and still deploy our couch into a bed. It was Raven Boy who came up with the design for that section.



We also left the top plywood unattached on the right side in order to easily access the area underneath for storage (and to be able to clean out the dog cubby when needed).


We bought pillows and pillowcases as the cushions for the bench. And we downsized Flower Girl’s toys to fit in a small tote and put the rest of them and the family heirloom toy chest into the storage unit.


I plan on painting the bench and sewing up the ends of the pillow cases so they look a bit more like cushions.

Overall, though, I’m very pleased with it. And since the weather has cooled off considerably recently, it’s been nice that the five of us can sit comfortably in our living room. We can also go over to Pagee’s (now spelled Pajii) trailer to watch a movie or something.

And Pajii put the full dinette back in his trailer after Bachan passed away, and all 6 of us can sit around the dining table when the weather (or yellowjackets) is not conducive to eating outside.

So that’s one more thing checked off our list of things to do to in order to live comfortably in the trailers for the winter. Next up is heat! Pajii’s trailer has a working furnace. Ours does not. We have several ideas of how not to freeze over the winter. I’ll keep you up to date on what we come up with.

End of an Era

If you can call just over two years an era, August 4th marked the end of it.

Mom/Bachan went home to be with our Lord that day.

For those of you who haven’t followed along since the beginning, Bachan is our kids’ name for Hubby’s mom who’s declining health was the reason we dropped everything and moved to Portland, OR on July 12, 2014.

We spent nearly two years in the Portland area helping care for Mom. You can read all about our time there, which I called our Portland Interlude.

On May 20th, 2016, we brought Mom and Dad back with us to Nevada. Mom got to spend just over two months enjoying the blue skies and bright sun here in the high desert.

But the disease eventually won out and her body just couldn’t fight any more and she passed peacefully in her sleep on August 4th.

We were so very blessed to get to spend two years with her. She was such an amazing, godly woman. I hope that should I ever face the challenges she did, I handle them with the grace and strength she showed.

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Mom and Dad getting to enjoy the sunrise together for the first time in forever.

So now we move forward, with a hole in our hearts that her presence used to fill, but also with a profound gratitude that she’s no longer in pain and a firm knowledge that she’s home in heaven. The future looks a little different than it did a couple weeks ago. And sadness still lingers. But, for the most part, the joy outweighs the sorrow and we are doing well.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

The Heat is On

Howdy, howdy!

Boy, I’m horrible at keeping you all up-to-date. I keep procrastinating because there’s so many parts to our story I haven’t told yet. But I figure I should just go forward from here, otherwise I’m gonna get further and further behind. ๐Ÿ™‚

So summer is officially here and the temperatures are rising. Where I sit right now, under the shade shelter we built, with the breeze blowing across me, it’s not too hot. Inside the trailer? Well, as long as the breeze is blowing through the open windows, it’s bearable. At least Bachan and Pagee have AC in their trailer.

We’ve been having quite the time keeping tarps on the shade shelter frames. The wind has been atrocious.

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But we keep redesigning and rebuilding. And then it’s good till the next wind storm. And by wind storm, I mean literal hurricane force winds. Yeah, anything that’s not tied down – and even some things that are – gets blown off the mountain down into the canyon.

But that’s life up here. You learn to deal with it. You prepare the best you can, and trust God for the rest.

Our schedule is about to heat up, too. Our house plans were turned into the building department this last week! We have just a short month or two to prepare for the work to begin. And then we’re gonna go crazy!

Not that we haven’t been keeping busy.ย  We finally got our shower all put together.

You may remember that our trailer does not have a working bathroom. So we’ve been washing up with buckets and wash cloths, or going down to Mom’s to take showers.

But now, we can take full on regular showers right here on the homestead! I’ll do a explanatory post on that whole system some time.

And speaking of my mom, she brought a TON of cherries from her trees up to gain some help in pitting them. Her and Princess Girl pitted a large refrigerator drawer full of cherries. Flower Girl helped by being the official taste tester. ๐Ÿ™‚

The following day, the girls and I went to Mom’s to help her make jam and a couple cobblers.

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The end result was 27 cups of jam using three different recipes, and two cobblers.

Life hasn’t all been hard work over the last month, though. I’ve had a little bit of time to relax here and there. A couple Sundays ago, I spent nearly the whole afternoon in the hammock.

The girl’s and I had an opportunity to dress in 1860’s clothing and join in a Civil War Days event.

And just the other day, amongst errands, we spontaneously decided to take our fast-food to a park for an impromptu picnic. (I learned that I feel less guilty about eating fast-food if we turn it into a picnic. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

And amongst all the work of settling into the trailers, getting our house plans turned in to the building department, and the myriad of other things we do every day, Princess Girl and I have been working at our summer job at least a couple days a week.

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One thing I’m learning is that up here on the homesteadย  everything takes more time. Because we are living completely off grid in an old camping trailer, there are extra steps to nearly every task.

Gonna make breakfast? Gotta gather up of the food and utensils and dishes needed to take out to the outdoor kitchen first.

Gonna go potty? Well, do your business, but know in just a couple of days, you’re gonna have to take care of that bag of poo. (Another post on that is also in the works, just in case you’re wondering. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Gotta get something from the shed? You gotta walk all the way over there and back -several times usually – to get what you need.

But it’s a good kind of work and we’re happy to be here. As has been my mantra for the last several months, “the trade off is worth it!”

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Spring weather on the Homestead

We traveled to Nevada at the end of March and while we spent most of the time at my mom’s house, we did get to spend some time up on the homestead.

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This is the main reason that we decided not to stay in the trailer while we were there. It snowed on us!

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But the girls and I went up to check on the homestead anyway. And had a bit of fun while we were at it.

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And three days later, nearly all the snow is gone. We decided to try “witching” for water in other places around the house pad to accommodate the change in location of the septic system.

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This is “Ahma” (my mom) using the copper rods. It’s amazing how they really do react when near water.

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Flower Girl loves trying new things and having “pickmicks”

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Yeah, three days ago and now it’s warm enough to play in the water. That’s spring in Nevada for you!

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Our little “lion” in her cage.

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And look what we found while rummaging around in our log piles (placed there back when my parents owned this property and tore down an old barn).

Logs!

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Y’all remember my post about the logs right?

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And here I have some sitting right there on the property just waiting for me!

Oh, the possibilities!