Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Home Sweet Home

I guess Allen and I are not the only ones that think the valley is a good place to build a home. I have been finding tons of nests of all kinds lately right around the house. When I was clearing back behind the house last week I spied this little nest. I wondered if it is a hummingbird nest? Someone of more authority would have to tell me; I don't know much about such things. The curious part is that it was built about 3 feet off the ground in a little baby tree. I thought this was awful close to the ground because of predators and such.
You can see here how small it is. It is about the same height as the diameter. I loved how the outside was kind of flowing and loose and the inside was so tight and precise. Excellent craftsmanship.
I'm not sure if you can make out what this is since it's so close to the color of the gravel on the driveway. It was a rather large hornet's nest that fell onto the drive and busted apart. We have found 6 or 8 hornet's nest around the house site since moving out here. All of them abandoned, thank goodness. I have never encountered that many of these things in such a compact area. They were all in an area of about one acre. I wonder if that is unusual or does each group of hornets just build a new nest every year and it's just the same ones moving around? But I don't think their nests would last that long once abandoned. I was of the idea that all wasp-type critters were pretty territorial so this seems like close quarters to me. And why have they all been abandoned? Did something get them, similar to what's been happening to the honey bees with the mites?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tell Me What You See

We didn't get alot done on the house this weekend due to bad weather so I thought I'd post about this curious little guy. I was sitting down by the house late one afternoon after work, having a sandwich before going back to work on a project for the BFA (big fancy architect), when I looked down at my feet and saw this thing. He was just sitting there on top of the ground with his big, bulgy eyes looking up at me. I had been digging around in the area a few days before with the backhoe trying to carefully place some big rocks and must have unearthed him for the first time in about 43 years. I think I have mentioned the history of my land before but if not I'll explain again. Many years ago, in the early 50's, I think, Fred's (the man I got the land from) brother and father decided they wanted a lake so they went about building an earth dam across the little creek that now runs along my driveway. As a result, a lake of about 25 acres formed over one section of what is now my property. Well, in about 1963 a huge storm came and Fred said it rained for about 3 days and the dam broke. They apparently thought it was too much trouble or expense to rebuild the dam so they abandoned it and that's the way it stayed until about 2 years ago.
When I tell people this story alot of them seem troubled about a lake having been there and some even suggest that it is not a good place to live. I think they picture the area flooding again but without the dam it obviously can't do much. Or they feel bad for the men who went to all that trouble to build something to have it fail later. But what I have come to realize and tell people is that I probably would never have been able to do what I have if that dam had never been built. The lake served its purpose for a time but that dirt was going to be needed later for someone else. See, a huge amount of dirt was needed to build the road into the property and it would not have been very practical or cost effective to try to scrape up the dirt from all over the property and there was no way I could have afforded to have had it hauled in. So, it needed to already be there, waiting. I'm not saying that it was meant special for me exactly but that maybe Providence knew that someone would come along willing to work hard to make something out of it. Even the drainage pipe from the overflow valve of the dam worked to make 4 great culverts for the driveway, saving me about $400-500 on that alone. When I look back over things and time it's interesting to see how that seemingly unrelated events and/or people seem to flow together to make certain things happen. Of course, it's easy to see in hindsight but I often think we are not given foresight because mankind always thinks he knows how things should really happen and we would screw it up. Back when I first opened my studio up here, it was just a offhand or impromptu decision to come to this area. I didn't really think it would lead to much and my original ideas have ceased to exist. I had to close my gallery but much more has opened up to me now. That's another thing I think people put too much emphasis on; supposed failures. Some things are just not meant to last long whether it be businesses, relationships or dams. Now, I'm not saying we should not work hard to make the most out of what we have and try hard to make things succeed. Of course I believe in hard work. But, something ending is not always the end of the world. It may not help us but it might be for the benefit of another and as good human beings, that should still make us happy even if we never know about it.
Maybe I'm just trying to compensate for a bunch of bad decisions in my life with a bunch of philosophical crap or trying to give up the responsibility of planning ahead by adopting a come-what-may attitude. I don't know. I tend to have alot of faith that things will always work out for the good if you believe and maybe that sort of people just tend to see through rose colored glasses. So, what do you think; are there events and people that are fated to be in our lives or is it all just one big crap shoot???

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Loose Ends

Well, alot of stuff has been going on these past couple of weeks. I've been working so much I haven't had time to post much but here is a summary of some of what has happened. Allen finished framing and sheathing this end of the house so now it is completely framed except for a couple of small interior walls. The outside is ready for roofing and siding. We used up alot of scraps we had on this so that was good. I hate to waste material.
It's so neat to see on the inside! It actually looks like a house now! Now to start planning electrical and plumbing. Well, the next immediate thing is to get the permanent roof on but we are planning utilities too.
While Allen was working on that I got the backhoe! Those things are sooooo much fun. I started cutting the area that will be parking next to the house. I do pretty good but I am a little slow with the machine but I think I still made fair progress. This is not a really good shot; I don't think it really shows how much I cut and moved. I will have to build a retaining wall here at the front of this cut as it will be about 4 ft. into the hill there with a set of steps going up towards the house.
I also gathered up all the many piles of rocks that I have all over the property that has been accumulating for months and took them up to the house. You have to throw them in the bucket by hand but its great to just be able to dump them wherever you want them. I have a pretty good pile at the house but I fear its only going to be a drop in the bucket for what I need to build this wall.
I started clearing this area behind the house too in preparation for putting in a french drain at the base of the retaining/foundation wall here and backfilling this area. There will be a large flagstone patio and walk here that leads to the entrance to the house, which will be in the dogtrot part of the house. Which, of course, is just porch now and won't actually be a dogtrot until I build the other half of the house. Which hopefully will be in the not-to-distant future. If I survive this. I will be clearing quite a bit more here but leaving the bigger trees for shade. There are also a number of dogwood and redbud trees that I want to keep. I'm trying to keep lots of the native plants that are attractive and that also includes wild hydrangeas and ferns.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Here I Am

No photos today though; just a little update on what's been happening. I'll have some current photos shortly. We really didn't work on the house this past weekend so there wasn't much to show. We thought we should take more advantage of having a free backhoe so we did some more road and clearing work since we were kind of to a stopping point on the roof. Allen cleared the way that the water lines are going to run from the spring to the house and consolitated some brush piles that we have been trying to burn up and took them away from the front of the house so it looks much better. In the process, he uncovered many good rocks that I am going to need to build the wall under the house so we loaded 2 full backhoe buckets of rocks and took them up to the house.
On Sunday I went to a lecture that an architect presented here in town on passive solar houses. I didn't learn much but it was interesting to go to anyway and see that there is growing interest in the subject.
On another subject but still related to the house, I have been lent to another job that needed a carpenter for awhile so I am not on the Big House right now. The job I have been sent to is a branch of a children's hospital down here. Hospitals in Birmingham are big business and are constantly being renovated, which is what we are doing even though the hospital isn't 7 years old. Anyway, renovations mean they are tearing out and throwing away LOTS of stuff; great stuff if you are willing to deal with it. So, I have got enough insulation to do the entire house, 3 practically brand new bathroom sinks (Kohler no less), stainless steel lock sets and maybe some other stuff. The sinks even still have the fixtures on them but I will probably buy something a little more residential looking. Money is starting to get a little tight so this comes right in time and hopefully the insulation will not have to sit long before being installed. I wanted to buy the insulation that is available nowdays that is not made using formaldahyde but when you are offered completely free, basically new material it is hard to turn it down. It is a standard fiberglass bat-type roll insulation so it's good stuff. Maybe any fumes have already dissipated. Truely green materials can be very hard to come by in this area or too expensive for me to afford but I think it counts to reuse what you can because that saves any material (green or otherwise) from having to be manufactured, which is where alot of enviromental problems come from and plus the materials are not thrown in a landfill. It still pains me greatly to see how much is still thrown away. But if the owners of the buildings do not put it in the specs to recycle the materials, then it is rarely done.

Monday, September 04, 2006

One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor

Well, this is this weekend work. We about got it topped out. Here is Ted and Allen discussing how the plywood was going to lay out on the rafters.

These are the rafter tails on the clerestory eaves. We were still making them Sunday and putting them up as we went. So far all of the overhangs seem to be sufficient to keep out the summer sun.
This was quite a bit of decking to get put down but it went well. Getting it up on the roof was the hard part and made Ted and Allen grumble about being old.
Now, this is the south side which will hopefully recieve the winter sun. We were missing one last 2x10 for something so we couldn't quite finish that last little bit of roof on the end there.
Just a view from the inside. It's shaded inside now!! Allen is felting the roof today; I've been a little under the weather. But it's starting to look like a house now!