Monday, February 25, 2008

High Hopes

These photos are a little out of sequence so just bear with me here. I don't have the patience to try to fix them. This is my attempt to fix the problem I am having with rain runoff clouding my spring. Basically, I am trying to build a dirt cricket. A cricket is a small roof that diverts water behind a chimney for those of you who may not be familiar. I discovered 2 holes in the ground on the uphill side of the spring and I believe the muddy water flowing down the hill was then entering the spring underground before it actually reached the mouth of the spring. At least, that is what I am hoping. I hope by backfilling the uphill side it will cause the water to run around the spring and not down these holes or into the mouth of the spring. I put that meter box over the shutoff valve so that it is still accessible, plus the pipe needed to be covered anyway to keep it from freezing.
Here I have backfilled a good bit of the area after putting down a layer of poly as extra protection. I need to lay up another course or two of the stone on the uphill side so that there is a curb of sorts for the water running downhill to be diverted around the spring.
This is the beginning of the project. I got some Sonotube from the job (leftovers) and it was the perfect size! It is 2 feet diameter. Sonotube is great stuff if you need to pour something round. It comes in many different sizes and you can get it at Lowe's or some other similar devil store. Now, in this instance, I poured on the outside of the form where you would normally use Sonotube to pour the inside. Don't laugh at my formwork; it was difficult to get that stuff down in that crevice! And I had to cut the Sonotube open to get it around the water line. Anyway, a few nail pins (also invaluable) and we are ready. I didn't get any photos of the footing but I'm sure you can imagine.
I thought the tube was going to be too big but turns out it was just right to go around the mouth of the spring.
Here I am in my Superwoman pose! I had to haul the concrete and mortar down in a wheelbarrow but the stones I did bring down in my truck. Still, it was a pretty good workout. I kept the Sonotube in place to help me keep a good circle going with the block. When you are through, you just peel the Sonotube off or out of the concrete.
Here you can see the footing and the stone work. Most of the block is some old stuff that I busted up out of the BFA's driveway. I thought it was kind of cool looking because it is so old it was poured back when they used slag from steel mills as the aggregate, so you get these bright, glassy bits in the block. They are pretty much all a uniform thickness too so they lay well. I pointed the outside of the wall on the uphill side to help seal it up and put the poly against the block before backfilling too. So, we'll see. As I said, I need to go a little higher with the wall and build a little berm uphill to help divert more water.
Thank you all for your kind words recently. I am not going to give up on my house. It is just like any construction project; you always run into problems that you did not forsee but you fix them. Everything is just one thing at a time and you keep going. I think I may have not explained my work situation clearly though. I may have to go out of state but we do get to come home about twice a month. Sometimes you can come home every weekend; depends on how far away you are. Anyway, I could make a lot of money if I go and afford to build the other side of the house (much faster) when I come home for good, so it has it's advantages. And if I go with mostly the crew that I have worked with on this last job it will be a hell of a good time. We have already decided that we are going to get up a bowling team and join a league down there and I told the guys we are all going to learn to dance to the Zydeco music too! It will be an adventure for sure.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Something Warm

I rarely make food posts but here is one for a change. It has turned off cold again here and I really enjoy a nice bowl of hot steel-cut oats in the winter. I don't care for the regular rolled oats that most of us are used to in oatmeal but steel-cut oatmeal is a totally different texture and taste. I just put a little honey (bought from local beekeeper), chopped apples (organic if possible) and pecans (a required staple in the South). That is a cup of organic milk and yikes! some bacon in the background. I would like to raise my own hog someday. We raised them when I was growing up (beef too) and the taste cannot even be compared to store bought pork. Plus, you know, there is the thing with no drugs or hormones etc.
Things have not improved with the house as we have gotten even more rain but at least I have this weekend off to be able to work on correcting the problem. Well, one of them anyway. I am very glad for the rain but must find a solution to this water problem. The creek is way up and I can even hear the rush of the water up at the house! That is very nice. Well, got to get to work; I'll try to show some of my work this weekend.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nobody Knows You (When You're Down And Out)

That's a crappy title, huh? I am in a bit of a bad frame of mind right now. Things are not going well. I have made an effort through this blog to try to show all of the joys and frustrations of building something as significant as a house and how it affects your life (or has affected mine anyway). I don't know if anyone out there who reads this blog is even remotely interested in building their own home or gets any worthwhile information out of this. It is very satisfying to build your own home but I have chosen one of the hardest ways to do this, as usual. Building out of your pocket is very hard and takes a long time. I keep telling myself that it will all be worth it as I will not have a mortgage but I want to finish this house so badly.
I am having trouble with the water again. I have begun enclosing the spring with masonry but this weekend we had some torrential rains that muddied the spring tremendously. The filter that I have is good but cannot handle that much silt and mud so the water is not fit to drink at the moment. It will take it 2-3 days to clear I am getting very frustrated with this. I am very grateful for the rain here but I cannot tolerate the water in this condition. I believe there is a hole on the uphill side of the spring that is the cause of this, combined with the disturbed soil from trenching. As I said, I am in the process of backfilling and moving soil to keep water from even running to the spring but I thought I had made some headway, not made it worse.
Another bizarre problem is that apparently, back during warm weather, wasps got in the house and built a nest (a big one) somewhere in a wall without being noticed. Now, whenever we get a warm spell, wasps start crawling out of the clerestory wall. I mean lots of them. One small section on the back of the clerestory is still open (on the inside) and they must be coming from there.
Another problem that I am having is purely my own fault for not doing enough research. I noticed after moving in that I was having a real problem with moisture in the house, as in condensation on the windows. Now, I paid good money for double insulated windows and knew that they should not be doing that. After a little investigation I learned that it is my propane heater. The nice, cozy fireplace. It puts off water!! Plus, it is just not adequate for heating the whole house. Also, I called today for a refill on my tank. I was disgusted to see that the first 200 gallons barely lasted 2 months and now propane is hitting near $4.00 a gallon. This is double what the first tank cost me. This is just not what I had in mind for affordable heating. I mean, I can technically afford it but I don't want to! I think I talked about this in a previous post and my decision to install a wood burning heater in the basement. All of this can be fixed but I am very aggravated at myself for not investigating all of this better before now.
And to top all of this off, work is slowing to a crawl in town for my company and I have been asked to go to Louisiana for the next 2 years. I just moved in my house and now I may have to leave it. I must keep working in my present occupation in order to finish my house and as quickly as possible because the work that I do is beginning to take it's toll on me physically. I cannot make the same amount of money doing my pottery or something similar and I don't believe I can make it in construction for more than 5 or 6 more years. Also, some of you may have noticed a revision in my profile. Allen is beginning to build his own house elsewhere. This is not a new development though. This was decided over a year ago but we do continue to help each other out when we can.
I know everything will work out fine eventually and this is all my own doing anyway as I always want to try something new and do something different. Everyone told me I was crazy to become a construction worker! I guess everyone wonders throughout their lives if the decisions that they have made have always been the right ones. Should I have done this or that differently? Should I have taken other people's advise or followed my own heart? I have always followed my own heart ( but taken other advise seriously too) and it's been a hard row to hoe sometimes but I guess it is for everybody.
I am still working on getting internet service at the house and a new computer but I think it will still be around the end of the month before all of that is completed. I hope to post more frequently then, if I don't give up on it all together.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hey, Good-Looking (Whatcha' Got Cookin?)

This is the temporary kitchen that I have built. It's not so bad really other than I do not have a stove. But I still make do even without that. The small, unfinished room that you see beyond the kitchen is the pantry. It's an 8'x8' room so that is not bad for a pantry though. Completing the kitchen will probably be one of the last things I do. I don't know why really, it just seems to be working out that way but I might change my mind. Having it like this is almost a good thing too because I can live with the space for a while I see how I actually use the area. You know, where does it actually work to store such and such or use this appliance here or there. It's like a construction project I read about once. This company build a school and at the architects request, did not pour any sidewalks. The builders packed up their stuff and left but then came back about a year later and poured all the sidewalks where the students had naturally created their own walkways, which were the most convenient paths.
I built this quick little shelf unit to store my few dishes. Most of these are my own pottery although I do have a couple of pieces from other potters. I will not have any space for wall cabinets but that is OK. I don't really like them anyway but I will keep some nice open shelves for dishes I use often. Many people have asked me if I intend to build my own finish cabinets. No, I do not. Being a form carpenter and not a cabinet maker I intend to save myself the frustration of such and just pay a small but good cabinet company here in town to make them for me. I know of a good company here that does nice work. I will pour my own countertops though as they will be concrete. I like to do as much of the work as I can but sometimes it is just worth it to hire people that do that thing for a living. They are much better at it than me and I am helping the local economy.
There is still not a lot going on at the house; just little things here and there. I have had other financial obligations that have taken my money that could have been used on buying material for the house. I am scavenging more material for the house and think I have come up with a really cool idea and material for the deck handrails. One nice thing about being a female amongst so many men is that they will give you about anything you ask for. Of course, we give leftover material away to lots of people and I do have to wait until the job is over.

By the way, my spellchecker on Blogger has decided to stop working so if you see a bunch of misspelled words now, that's why. I try to check things but I am usually fairly tired by the time I write this.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Gloomy Sunday

These photos don't look gloomy but they were taken last weekend I believe. This weekend is drizzly rainy and dark but not too cold. It has been raining on and off for several days now and we are all very glad. So maybe it's not so gloomy after all. I actually had to go into work today as someone from our company has to be on the job if a subcontractor works, so I was the lucky one to get to go in. Anyway, I have been working on some stuff at the house but not anything really big or exciting. I ran some trim around the windows and worked on getting more of a temporary kitchen set up. Things are going well; just not enough money coming in fast enough to do some of the big projects that I need to do. You can see from these photos a little better the amount of sunlight that comes in. The book that I went by said that for people in our region, we should not have any more than 7% (of your square footage) in glass on the south side. I think that is actually a little slim. I think I could have gone with 10% and done OK. Of course, unless I just ran windows solid across the back, I could not have gotten too many more in. I did need some wall space. This is taken from the other side of the living area. There is a lot of work still to be done. This wall obviously needs sheathing and the tile work done and I think I will build a small hearth under the little heater. I am not really satisfied with the supplemental heating of the house. Even at 70 degrees inside the house still just feels cold. So, by way of an experiment and at Allen's insistence, we started heating the underside of the house, the basement area and turned this heater in the house way down. We put a propane heater under the house and directly under the bathroom where I had poured a small concrete slab for the water pump that did not end up going there. Well, the results have been astounding. That slate floor in the bathroom heated up (and the bedroom floor too) and it just warmed that whole area so incredibly. Before, that slate was so cold I could hardly stand to step on it. I knew it would be cold before I installed it but it seemed to chill the entire space. Now, it is so nice. When I have it heated you can't pry Grendal off that floor with a crow bar. I even laid down on it myself. It is really amazing how much difference having a warm floor makes. It warms the whole floor too; even out in the living room etc. Now, I have noticed that at 67-68 degrees the house actually feels warmer. I think that psychologically, having cold feet makes you cold all over. I was afraid that this would double my gas costs but the heater in the living room rarely comes on when the one in the basement is going so I think that it will not add that much at all.
I'm thinking now that if I install a good, efficient wood burning stove under the house and some vents in the floor, I could heat the house very nicely at very little cost. And on days that I don't feel like fooling with the wood stove I still have my gas back up. There is plenty of head room for such and it's all on concrete down there. I just need to figure out where to vent the smoke from a wood burning stove. I don't want it coming up right beside the house. As I mentioned before, I would also like to preheat my water through the use of a wood stove because that would save money on the water heater and I am also having some trouble with condensation in the house. The water going into the toilet and kitchen cold water line is SO cold the tank on the toilet and water lines sweat almost constantly.
I tried to get a decent photo of the bath since it has gotten a little more completed but there is not much room. This will one day be the guest bath so Pablo, if you and Libby come visit, this will be for you. I'll make Grendal stay on the other side.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I Should Have Known

Well, I guess I should not have said anything 'cause it wasn't but just a couple of days after that last post that we had a guy squashed on our job. A crew of guys came from Kansas to install some heavy equipment and as they were unloading some of it, on just their second day on the job, one of the pallets tipped over and fell on one of the men. Thankfully it did not kill him but it mashed him up pretty bad. At first we thought it broke both his legs but I think it only broke one. Our guys did very well and reacted quickly, flagging in the fire department and ambulance. The last I saw of the poor guy he was still laying in the middle of the gravel road and the paramedics were putting the IVs in etc. Fortunately, and I know that may sound weird, that is the worst accident on a job that I have ever actually seen.

The word spread fairly quickly and soon the railroaders were coming out to see what happened. The Switchman (some of you might remember) came out and found me to see what was going on. He sternly told me I better keep my little hind end away from anything like that going on. I assured him I try to always watch myself as I have a big aversion to pain and blood. I felt bad for the young man that was driving the forklift (who was picking the load when it tipped) as Steve said he was having a rough time of it after the accident.

I hope maybe to post again today or tomorrow and show a little about what is going on at the house.