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Archive for September, 2009

All in a Day’s Work

By the time we arrived Monday (Sept. 21) the first floor had been sheeted. Here are some exterior views.

View from the driveway

View from the driveway

South and west walls.

South and west walls.

South and east walls.

South and east walls.

East and partial north walls.

East and partial north walls.

Some interiors for a sense of our views.

From the kitchen windows

From the kitchen windows

There's an apple tree outside the guest bedroom

There's an apple tree outside the guest bedroom

Looking out the living room, dining room window on the right.

Looking out the living room, dining room window on the right.

This is from what will be Brian's studio on the second floor (no walls yet)

This is from what will be Brian's studio on the second floor (no walls yet)

On Tuesday the 22nd, the guys got a lot done!

The framed area is Brian's studio storage

The framed area is Brian's studio storage

We were surrounded by reminders that it was the first day of fall.

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Of Mice and Moose

A few miles south of Ludlow the Williams river drops in close to the roadside bank and runs shallow and rocky. About a mile to the east our old trailer sits just on the other side of that road tucked between the stone wall and the weathered and crumbling barn, out of the way but in view of the construction site of our new home. The mouse wars seem to be turning in our favor and although I’m not ready to declare the “mission accomplished” we did feel it was under control enough to sleep in for the first time.

We were driving up to Vermont to research wood stoves and had gotten a late start. It was after 5 when we finally headed for Smokeshire Rd and realized we had nothing to sit on around the campfire where we planned to cook hot dogs for dinner. It’s hard enough finding cheap lawn chairs once summer is over. It’s harder still after 99% of VT  businesses lock up and go home. Fortunately we did find a market in Chester open ’til 6. They didn’t have any chairs but they did remind us that Springfield has a few chain stores open to 8. That’s about half an hour out of the way, each way, but it’s better than sitting cross legged on the damp dirt. By the time we hit a Dollar Store and bought some PJ’s Leanne realized she’d forgot, and tried the Right Aid, we finally found the last 4 $5 plastic chairs in town at a Dollar General. The sun was already behind the mountains as we headed for camp. By the time we arrived there was just enough time for a mouse check in the trailer before what was left of the light slipped away.

Fortunately, we did bring a flashlight and there was another small one in the truck but all that dead wood I’d remembered in the woods was either wet or not as dead as I’d thought. I finally found some thin dead branches on some spruce that I thought would go up easily and moved on to pencil and finger sized twigs and branches. Once I had the fire assembled in the dark I discovered the trailer serviceman had absconded with out nice long necked lighter a few days earlier and left only his dead and rusted one in exchange. I fortunately had a pocket lighter with me but just couldn’t get get the damp kindling to light. Finally Leanne found some heavy paper in the trash. With that we finally got the fire going but still needed bigger wood to build up coals and keep it going. By the time we managed to skewer a hot dog and crack open a beer it was 10 pm. We were tired and cranky but the food and beer soon had us sated and relaxed. By 10:30 we were in a state of bliss.

As we relaxed by the fire zillions of stars looked down through the trees as we talked about how great it will be to finally settle into our land. Occasionally we’d here twigs snapping or rustling in the woods but I never saw anything or found any eyes with my flashlight. We meditated on the flames for another hour or so and let the fire burn down. When the flames were all but gone we spread the glowing embers out inside our circle of rocks and went inside to make the bed. This isn’t as simple as it sounds when your bedroom is only 12 inches larger than the bed on each side. About 20 minutes later we finally finished and decided to head out to check the coals and visit the privy before turning in.

As Leanne started out the door she suddenly froze. Brian! There’s something BIG out there!!! As I grabbed my big Mag-Light and came up behind her I was wondering if “big” was just spider big (5 to 10 times reality) or actually big. I shined the flashlight across the road not knowing if I was going to find a raccoon or a bear. Soon the beam picked up a pair of glowing yellow eyes next to the river about 3″ apart. Raccoon I figured at first but then the eyes started moving back and forth much faster than a raccoon would move trying to avoid my light. Leanne couldn’t see them from the ground so she stepped back up into the trailer to see them as I tried to see if we had a bobcat or a fox. We never did see anything but the eyes but Leanne insisted whatever she’d heard was MUCH bigger than that. Right at that point, the biggest moose (ok, the only male moose) I’d ever seen trotted right into our light and spotted us at the same time we saw him. He stopped in his tracks and reared back, spun around, and went back where he’d come from. We were both stunned and in awe. It was like coming around a corner and face to face withone of the horsemen of the apocalypse or a ring wraith from Lord of the Rings… but without any threat of evil. Standing 2 steps off the ground in the door of the trailer, we’d STILL looked up at a good angle into this beast’s face and his single antler was even higher still.

Needless to say, Mr. Moose wasn’t the only one to spin around and go back where he came from! We quickly realized however, that he wasn’t after us and headed back to the outhouse… together! Leanne wasn’t going out there alone, then or maybe ever! We took turns in the out house while the other stood guard with the MagLight. I could occasionally hear the moose and knew he still wanted to get past us. I kept the flashlight aimed between the trailer and the barn so he wouldn’t try to run behind the trailer and right into us. Just as Leanne came out of her little plastic stronghold the moose found his nerve and finally trotted past the end of the driveway and on down the road. I asked Leanne if she wanted to wait inside the outhouse with me but with the moose gone, a big aluminum flashlight in her hands, and the outhouse door unlocked, she decided she could stand guard while I had my turn.

When we returned home I started to wonder if the excitement of the moment may have “enhanced” the size of the moose in my story. However, not wanting to diminish a good tale, I first decided to google “size of adult male moose” to see just how badly I might be exaggerating. HOT DAMM! Right there in print, Wikipedia was supporting my claims! Turns out Your average adult male moose will stand between seven and seven and a half feet tall… at the SHOULDERS! So if this guy had been in our loft, his one antler would have ripped right through our 11 ft. ceiling! You’d have to stand on my shoulders just to look him in the eye! Now we know why we can’t reach any of the apples on our trees. ;-)

Come visit and see for yourself,

Brian & Leanne

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Mouse Wars

A Long time ago, in a shire far far away, Leanne and I bought a trailer to stay in while our house was being built. We dragged it home to the mill for a few days while we got it registered and insured then hauled it up to our land in Vermont. Once there, we set about trying to decide how to make the various life support systems work in the utility free wilderness. To make a long story short, finding acceptable solutions for those systems took a little more than a year while we cajoled a power company, tore down the old house, drilled a well, tested water, designed and partially installed an as yet unfinished septic system. Meanwhile, as we sorted these details and ignored the trailer, the forces of nature were hard at work…

Finally, a few weeks ago, with the much delayed onset of construction and delivery of a port-a-pot, the final critical system fell into place. We cleared a spot in front of the barn where the camper and utility trailer could be accessible and out of the way and managed, after several false starts, to get things jockeyed into position and leveled. When we moved to the inside to get things set up it was immediately obvious that tiny squatters had been having their way with our temporary home for quite some time. The place smelled like we’d locked a dozen cats inside for a week or two and there were mouse droppings everywhere but in the upper cabinets.

This set Leanne’s Catholic school training into overdrive and we mounted our first attack with buckets and rubber gloves, Lysol and and a dedicated dust buster just for mouse poop. While she attacked the inside I tried to figure out how to fill our water tank with a 1.25″ I.D. plastic pipe hooked to the powerful pump in our well. It was like trying to drink from a fire hose. The pump was to powerful and didn’t have a pressure tank or pressure switch so we couldn’t plumb it straight to the trailer like a hose. It would have burst the lines and/or burned out the pump. All I could do was point it at the little manual fill hole and let the extra 80 or 90% fly all over the place. I had to dig trenches and berms to catch and guide all that water away from the trailer so we didn’t end up living in a giant mud pit. At lunch we ran to town and grabbed all the glue traps they had at the local hardware store.

It took the rest of the day after we returned, but I finally got the 50 gallon tank filled and drained several times to flush the coolant from the system. We finally had water to make the cleaning easier but then we couldn’t get the stove to fire up, the water heater had a frozen gas valve and the pump was only working when it felt like it. It was late so we barricaded the sacred ground of the kitchen countertop with 3 leftover antifreeze bottles and 2 glue traps and put a few more in suspect high traffic (extra smelly) areas.

I’d learned this lesson last year repairing the damage from the break in. Every time you need an RV part on Smokeshire Road you face an hour and a half drive, IF you can correctly guess which place has what you need. We do have a small RV center and campground only 2 or 3 miles away but they will ALWAYS have only half of whatever we need. Sometimes the “simple” errand here will take an entire day. With 3 or maybe 4 possible problems, we had an RV mechanic from New Hampshire meet us there a few days later. With a truck full of parts to back him up, the mechanic had everything running again by lunchtime. Unfortunately, while we were gone, the mice had reclaimed all their former territory. Over the next few weeks we waged war on the mice. We caught 3 or 4 adults and 2 half gown but they laughed at the local folk remedy of filling every cabinet and storage area with Downy fabric softener sheets and the ultrasonic repellers did nothing at all.

Eventually I got smart and went to the internet for advice. ( http://www.doyourownpestcontrol.com ) I now own enough traps to catch about 75 mice at a time, all in one 24′ trailer! (12 new and improved easy set plastic snap traps, 2 “Tin Cats” that can hold 30 mice each, and a few leftover glue traps). We have a squeeze bottle of the best scientifically formulated mouse bait, laboratory tested and proven even more effective than peanut butter! We even have a bacteriological spray that seeks out and devours the bacteria that causes the smell. I have special high tech knitted copper mesh to block any points of entry we can find. Finally, on back order but now on it’s way is the coup de grâce, a special high powered, 51 LED, ultraviolet flashlight to make every last hiding place of these little monsters glow in the dark so it can be cleaned up once and for all by the Catholic Kitchen Police (Leanne). Of course, now with all our internet ordered weaponry is in place, we’ve caught only 1 more mouse.

The last 2 visits have found no new prisoners or evidence of mouse habitation. In fact, Tuesday night we finally spent our first night in the trailer and on our land. That night we learned that not all the local inhabitants would be under an inch tall. In my next post I’ll tell you about our visitor that that night that probably stood over 7 ft tall… at the shoulder!

Stay tuned for our next episode… Of Mice and Moose!

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Let The Framing Begin

We went up to Smokeshire last Saturday (Sept. 12) and entered our front door for the first time. Granted, it was only a door frame flanked by exterior wall framing, and, since it had been raining for hours, the floor was covered in an inch or two of water–but it was definitely the front door. We walked into each 1st floor room, as delineated by sills and framing. We got a feeling for the size and flow, and looked out the windows at all of our views.

We went back again on Monday (September 14)  and took pictures. But there were some steps between the slab and the framing, so I’ll start with those. If you’re impatient ;-) you can scroll down to the bottom of this post for the framing pictures.

On Tuesday, September 8, we had a site meeting with Tony (our contractor) and Gregg (our architect). We got there early and spent most of the day on the land. There were only 3 guys working, but they got a lot accomplished and a few deliveries also contributed.

Nathan and the 3 Brians

Nathan and the 3 Brians

Nathan is the excavator driver who has been doing all the site work. On Tuesday the other two men working were both named Brian. We had no trouble remembering names that day.

The first load of lumber arrived late morning

The first load of lumber arrived late morning

A thin sheet of foam insulation is placed over the foundation walls.

A thin sheet of foam insulation is placed over the foundation walls.

The insulation goes under the sill plate

The insulation goes under the sill plate

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The septic tank arrived about midday.

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Septic tank with laser leveler

Septic tank off south east corner of the house

Septic tank off south east corner of the house

Nathan had cleared a path for the huge crane which dropped the tank into the prepared hole, which had been smoothed to a 2% grade. The septic was designed to support up to 4 bedrooms and will accommodate a garbage disposal as well.

Throughout the day fill arrived periodically and Nathan worked on the drive, creating a stone filled base.

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Driveway looking south toward the road

Driveway looking south toward the road

Okay, you’ve been patient.

Now for the first pictures of framing!

View of the west and south walls, living room on the far right

View of the west and south walls, living room on the far right

View of the south wall which faces the road

View of the south wall which faces the road

View of west wall from the driveway, garage on left, front door in center

View of west wall from the driveway, garage on left, front door in center

Partial view of east wall, guest bedroom window on right, stairwell window on left.

Partial view of east wall, guest bedroom window on right, stairwell window on left.

Partial view of east wall, stairwell window on the right, living room wall on left
Partial view of east wall, stairwell window on the right, living room wall on left
Looking out our kitchen windows toward the barn

Looking out our kitchen windows toward the barn

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The Slab

By August 28, insulation was inserted on top of the gravel that fills the frost walls and foundation to isolate the floor of the house from the outside cold.

Rigid blue insulation tops the filled frost walls.

Rigid blue insulation tops the filled frost walls.

The insulation wraps up the sides, isolating the foundation.

The insulation wraps up the sides, thermally isolating the slab from the foundation.

Nathan, from M & M Excavators continued to work on the site. By the 28th he had cleared trees so that equipment could move around all sides of the house and had filled in the old well.

The old well off the northeast corner of the house has been filled in.

The old well off the northeast corner of the house has been filled in.

Fill was still needed around the house.

Black water seal coats the outside of the foundation walls.

Black water seal coats the outside of the foundation walls.

On September 1, the day the slab is poured, this leaf warns us that winter is just around the corner.

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The concrete slab was poured after a vapor barrier was placed over the insulation.

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Vapor barrier between insulation of concrete slab.

Vapor barrier between insulation of concrete slab.

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After smoothing with trowels the floors of the house and the garage were smoothed very finely with a machine which reminded me of a whirling propellor.

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The concrete was then left to cure for a few days while site work continued.

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