Sunday, June 30, 2019


FINALLY - we were able to break ground!!  Nick got his equipment fixed, and the stars aligned and we were able to actually get this project rolling.

MAY 31st - two weeks after we were able to, and about a month after I thought we'd be getting started, we finally broke ground.

Such a pretty sight!!

Nick cleared the building site and started leveling it, but he also finished putting in the driveway.  Last year we had a friend with a bulldozer/shovel combo come in and dig out the end of a new driveway. (The existing one is way too steep, curved, and not very well placed for the new house, so we cut a new path through the woods).

So, we've had rough driveway there and have been using it since last summer, but it was a bear, and there's no way the cement trucks, etc would be able to get in without a real driveway. Our foundation guy assured us they would just sink right into the dirt. (It's probably part of why the well driller couldn't get in when he stopped by on May 20th - ASIDE FROM THE FIVE INCHES OF SNOW).

But Nick plowed us an actual NICE driveway!

And if you look real close, you'll see that he scooped up one of the huge piles of bark and shoved it along to where he was putting all the plowed up sod, etc. YAY!!!

What I don't actually have to show is a photo of the finished driveway, all nicely graveled and everything.  

I think the site prep stuff was about a week's worth of work on the weekends and evenings for him, but he eventually had sand hauled in, and got the site all ready for the foundation guy.

The foundation guy - who's been hounding us since MARCH about when were we going to get this project started because he was all ready to go and had been building special forms, blah blah blah - was now very very busy, and getting him to come out and work on our project has been a little hit and miss. He was supposed to be out one day, but one of his laborers called in sick and the other didn't show up, and then he's been having trouble getting a new guy - and then there's been a lot of rain, etc. BUT - he did finally get out there and get started on the forms so that the plumber and electrician could get in there and do their part.

In the meantime, Scott and I had the satisfying job of moving the fire number to the new driveway!!

Which calls for a celebratory drink

(The Bacardi boxes in the back are not party supplies, they are actually full of bottle logs we'd brought from home to add to the stash at the property)

In the past week, things have FINALLY really gotten moving. Last Wednesday (6/26), the plumber's guy came out and got started on the drains and other stuff that will be embedded in the slab. Part of what makes this so wonderful and exciting is that for the last few weeks, we've been trying to get a hold of the plumber to confirm that he was aware that the project was rolling and find out if he was going to be available at the right time, and he just WAS NOT calling us back. For a little while, we even wondered if we still HAD a plumber - but many people, including Nick, assured us that's just how this guy is, and he always shows up when he's supposed to.  Or sends a minion, as in our case, which is just fine, because said minion was great,


Just this past Friday while we were out there, he was there finishing up. And the electrician came out and did the things he needed to do. And the INSPECTOR came out and checked over everything - and passed us.

On Saturday, the plumbing minion came back and finished up and back filled all his trenches.  This is so exciting to have something so very tangible. I can look at that and say, YES, there's my bathroom and there's my laundry room, and down there is the kitchen sink.


It's starting to actually look like something!!

Next, the foundation guy needs to come back and finish the forms, do whatever else it is that he does and then lay down the foam. When the foam is in place, Scott and I will lay out the tubing for the in-floor heat. Then some inspections, and THEN...cement gets poured!!

I really thought the slab would be such a quick and easy aspect of the project, but it's not - it's a massively complicated process and involves a LOT of coordination (and waiting)(and people). But it's moving and I'm trying to be zen and just enjoy the process. Once the slab is poured and the cement cures, things are much more in our control, and even the rain will be less of an issue because we just have to get the timber frame up and start getting the roof on - once that happens, rain really ceases to be an issue for most of the work unless it's really blowing or something.

So, very soon we are likely to be more or less living out there. And we're doing some things to make that easier.  We rented a porta-potty for the summer - not only for our own comfort, but if we're going to have a lot of people working out there, or even just visiting out there, we really need a decent bathroom option.

You can't really see it in the picture, but it actually has a little crescent moon on the door!

We also have added a nice catio so we can bring the cats out with us, and stop asking our daughter to take care of them all the time.  It was originally a catrium - a kennel just sitting out in the grass, which we thought they would love, and which we envisioned moving around so they could watch the build, etc.  But they HATED it. They hid as much as they could and when we brought them out and put them in there the second day, they just cried and cried.  We knew we had to come up with a different solution.  Happily, it was very well proportioned for the bunk house, and the way it's put together, we just had to remove a couple side panels and stick it over the window and viola!! CATIO.

They are MUCH happier with this arrangement. We are eventually going to teach them how to go outside and come back in when called, so they can have more space.

The next couple of weeks could be a little bit hairy, what with still being at the mercy of tradespeople, and all that. But I still feel like we are on the verge of things really getting going. And in the meantime I have my swings and my wine.

We are so far behind - we were SURE we'd have the slab done early June sometime, and here it is on the eve of July, and it's maybe only halfway there.  A MONTH behind - we could have done SO MUCH CORDWOOD in a month.  *sigh*  It'll be fine. Things happen the way they are meant to, and it will all be fine.

OH!! You all this, I never mentioned that at the end of May we sold one of our buildings downtown. And not the one we live in, either - the one with the crazycakes tenant that was making us nuts. NOT OUR PROBLEM ANYMORE. Plus we ended up with enough cash from the sale to pay off our credit cards and still have a big chunk to put in the bank toward the build. And that's after paying down the loan enough to release that building from it - so now we owe very little on the building we still have. But the real blessing here is to just have all that stress and hassle taken off our shoulders.

Spring Log Prep

I decided to do a separate post dedicated to the log prep so I can use a lot of photos, and description, and it won't get lost in all the other stuff.

If you've read the posts about last fall, you'll know that we jumped in half-assed, and didn't fully know what we were doing, not to mention racing against the freeze. So we ended up with a lot of log piles sitting on the ground, logs getting moldy, wet weather creating a lot of mud and slime, and Poplar's own natural tendency to turn black and slimy all on its own.

I had some real concerns about the condition of the logs we were stacking up, but we didn't have a whole lot of choice - as it was, we finished stacking and covering them in the snow.

Over the winter we have a lot of thought to how we would clean them up, and how we would do the Borax treatment.  We did read about how some people trimmed the ends to clean up before they used them, and as you can see from the photo above, ours would really need that. So that eased our minds about not having gotten to the Borax yet because we'd be trimming off the treated ends anyway.

So this spring we bought a really good quality sliding chop saw (Scott is loving this project because it gives him practically free reign to buy tools).

 We also figured out a set up using a drill with a nylon brush attachment to quickly and easily brush off all the dried crap, slime, ick and dead mold.

It's hard to see in the photo, but that log is a little fuzzy. The brush cleaned it off really nicely.  We tried using just a regular scrub brush at first, but was clear by about the second wagon load, there's no way we could keep that up, even switching off jobs from time to time. So we drove to the Mercantile, and found the nylon sanding pad you see above. It did a nice job, but wore down in the second day.  So, during the week, we went to Menard's and found a brush like this:

That works really slick, and the two we bought have lasted the rest of the job (for this year. More about that later). This is really easy and takes just a couple minutes to buzz off a log and toss it in the wagon for re-stacking.

In some ways, this process seems really stupid and at first I was kicking myself that we were so stupid in the fall, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Poplar was going to do this anyway. Sure, there'd be less mud to knock off, but they were still going to go black and fuzzy, so we would have ended up doing all this anyway, most likely.

Also, as I look at the first rank of logs that we trimmed and cleaned over two months ago, I feel really good about the trimming, because the most those logs have done is turn a little more golden on the ends. So far, they don't look like they are going to turn black again. Now...who really knows for sure. But it kind of makes sense - now that they are dry, and don't have all those fresh sugars seeping out, there's just less stuff to actually TURN black.  We'll see, but I'm feeling pretty good about it so far.

Here's how they look when we're done:


We came up with a pretty good assembly line style of trimming the logs, cleaning them and then hauling off to be stacked.

We even had my mom come up three or four weekends now, to help

(She also helped me put bigger fences around the fruit trees to help protect them from deer, and it seems to be working really well. The orchard looks great.)

For a little while, we had to pull the wagon of cleaned logs either by hand or with the lawn mower to the various places we were re-stacking the new logs. But after about 8-10 ranks moved, we'd cleared enough level ground - AND found out the guy doing the septic could get in around the back end of the stacks (not that he has actually done that yet) - that we were able to start stacking right there, so now we just have to pull the wagon a short way, and everything is working really slick.

We've gotten about half our logs cleaned, and recently, as we've taken stock of just HOW FAR behind we are, we figure we've probably already cleaned at least as many, if not more, than we can actually cordwood this year. So, we've eased up on that project.  We're still picking our way through during this foundation time when there's not a lot else we can do, but we're not in a panic to get it all done before we have to start building. Which is really nice, because I want this project to be a fun journey, not a tense panicked rush.

Yesterday, Mom was out again and we hit the point we'd decided was our hard goal line - the point we had to get to before stopping or slowing down. That was the end of the rank on which we'd stacked all my peace signs. Those being logs that we split specifically to make the shape of a peace sign as an exploded log. (Which just means using the log ends in the same pattern but with mortar in between them to create a peace sign image)

(This is from last year when they were split. I wanted to keep them all together, so as we made them, I put them off to the side. Once we were done with all the splitting, the next time I started a rank, I set them all along the bottom)

With those all cleaned up (and now stacked back on one of the saw bucks so they are available at any time), we believe we have more than enough logs for the cordwooding this year.

The next step is to get them all treated with Borax and let that dry off in the next couple of months while we finish the foundation, timber frame and roof.

We had a nice long conversation about that with the guy who supplied our timbers. He runs a log home company, so he is always in need of protecting logs as well, and he highly recommended Bora-Care.  I know that I've read about that product or similar ones in some of the cordwood books and blogs. Because we still have no water at the property, and were very concerned about how to get an actual Borax solution to properly dissolve, etc...we decided to give that a try and ordered a jug of it. It's more expensive than Borax, yes, but it was only about $120 and will make six gallons worth, which is plenty to do the logs we have ready. We will be doing that next weekend, so when I have some photos and an experience to report - I'll come and add them to this post so it's all in once place.

SLOW SLOW Progress

Between the weather, the road restrictions and other mishaps we are making very slow progress and it's frustrating.

Rain and snow have been a huge headache. In fact if it weren't for snow, we would have had our well a long time ago.  Back in May, our well driller just happened to be in the area and decided to stop into the property to scope things out and determine where the well should be drilled. (Right in the middle of my wild, of course, and right off the driveway....but I'll find a way to make it look good.)

He sent this photo to Scott indicating where he would like to drill the well, and get approval - because if he could get his truck in, he would just go ahead and drill the well while he was there. We were ecstatic.

You can guess what's coming, right?  He couldn't get in with his truck and we still have no well.

That was about 5 days after the road restrictions were removed, and we were all excited because the following weekend Nick was supposed to come and start on the site prep.

No. Nick's truck broke down and he had to get that fixed before he could bring the dozer out to the property and get going. *sigh*

We did accomplish some great stuff in the meantime. The best of which is my SWING SET!!  I've wanted this for several years. I was hanging out with my sister and her kids at a playground one evening, swinging, and thought how relaxing it was and how great it would be to have one of my own, built for adults to use. So, I've been daydreaming about it for years, and this year we finally build it. I told Scott I needed something big and sturdy enough for two women my size, who are drunk, to be able to fling around with complete abandon.

He helped me design and build THIS:

It's AMAZING!!  I love it so much! We sprung for the more expensive commercial grade swing hinges and it was totally worth it. They are so great - they're perfectly smooth and completely silent, and once you get going, it doesn't take a lot of effort to keep going.  It's completely glorious and I spend time on it everyday we are at the property.  I even had a few wonderful late night swings under the stars.  I'm in the process of decorating it up a little, and still working on the concept of some kind of drink holder for the actual swing, because I CANNOT manage to grab one off the shelves while in motion.

The next best thing that that we got (and many would argue this would rank higher than the swing set) is....ELECTRICITY!!

We had to test it out right away...


We set up a little electric station with a coffee maker, power strip and a couple battery chargers for all the tools.  We even have a small refrigerator in there now (not pictured).

We did a little work towards the future of the property. Scott knows a guy at work who is an arborist, and each fall he brings in order forms for fruit trees, and creates a big group order. So last fall, we ordered six - two apple, two apricot and two pear trees.

This spring (early May), the order came in, and the arborist had a big garage party one Saturday with coolers of beer and people standing around shooting the shit. And throughout the day, everyone came to pick up their trees. We went mid morning so we could hang out for a bit, but still have lots of time to plant the trees. So - we have now established our orchard. So far, it doesn't really photograph well, because you can't make out the trees at all, so I'll leave you with this instead:

Scott had a cool idea to create a compass rose to embed in the concrete floor of the great room - since no one can get the directions right on our property - something about the shape of it and the fact that the road is at an angle really messes with people's heads and it tough to convince them which way is north.  So we designed this and took it to a guy we used to work with when we had the sign shop. He does metal cutting and has also made all the timber brackets for us. (He's also currently making a sign for my swing set).

Next - we finally got our timbers!! These were also significantly delayed, which was kind of frustrating, but considering we were behind on everything else, it hardly mattered.  It's a big weight off my mind, though. I was very worried this guy might be a crook, or the stuff he would supply would be shit, or not what we ordered, etc.  So when I saw the truck, I was hugely relieved to see that all was as it should be. Nick came with his skid steer and helped unload - on just two wheels much of the time! This stuff is HEAVY.

Look at those big beautiful posts! The two huge ones will go at the front of the house. The other ones are the corners, and then all the other timbers are the ones that run along the sides.

And then, of course, we have been back at the log prepping.  This spring we bought a very good chop saw, and have been trimming all the blackened ends of the logs off. Then we take a drill with a nylon brush attachment and give them a quick once over to knock off all the dried dirt and ick that got on them last fall when we had so much wet weather and had to leave logs on the ground more than we would have liked.

I think I will do a separate blog post about that so I can put lots of photos without making this post ridiculous.

I will leave you with a photo of our planning assistant, Smudge