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Herding the Pony walls

I don’t know why it’s taking so long to get these pony walls built. Really – they are straight forward framed walls- 2×6 plates and studs, plywood nailed to one side… OK – maybe there are several reasons why it’s taking so long. First of all, the carpenter doing the work has been distracted by : shoveling dirt for the guys on the dozers, being available to wave my arms around for the guys on the dozers, spending a couple of days ‘shopping’ for conduit for the main electrical hook-up, putting together a little platform for the septic electrical system, delivering shared tools to my former ‘boss’ Dennis, borrowing shared tools from Dennis, wondering what the heck to do about the access opening into the crawl space, carrying out the idea for dealing with the access opening, coordinating the electrical trenching with the power company, getting Eddie and Sarah set up to install the conduit from the pumphouse to the main house, making phone calls about things – many of them I’ve forgotten already…. Maybe the real reason I haven’t finished this aspect of the project is that I love the idea of horses roaming free- which conjures up images of me in my cowboy boots and red cowboy hat attempting to sweet talk the large rangy horse on the hill into letting me ride it – when I was 10 and the world was still a place where kids and horses communicated in the same language- and everything was possible. By the end of this week, I’ll have to get these ponies circled up and tied into place – and my attention turned, as much as possible, on sweet talking my way onto the next phase of this exciting beautiful wild-ride

The ground crew shapes up the house site

I’m pleased with JP Landworks and the work Josh’s crew did to create more order out of chaos. What a difference the backfilling around the foundation makes! And beneath all that backfill and soil they placed various pipes and conduits and tanks that will carry water, and electricity and waste products into and away from the house. And moved vast amounts of ‘material’ (soil, dirt, earth) from piles they created in April – to holes and trenches and mounds that help define and shape the landscape around the house. Josh and crew have been a pleasure to work with and they’re all just really nice folks to have around the site. And while Therese will NOT miss the noise of their machines, I know I’ll miss their smiles and helpful hands and their awesome toys! I’m finally getting my energy and focus back – I felt sluggish and sidetracked by various things these past few weeks : Andrea’s sudden health crisis ( she’s getting ready to go home this weekend!!!), the drippy cold weather, an overwhelming tiredness that made me want to sleep most of last week, ‘shopping’ for electrical conduit for the pending electrical hookup, AND no one to boss around. Well, fortunately – the last point has been rectified: Eddie returned from his family get together in Maine and Sarah has pitched her hat into the arena as a valuable bundle of energy! This morning they placed 80 feet of conduit in the trench(from the pumphouse to the main house) Eddie has been working on for the past few days, and then while Sarah helped me out with the pony walls, Eddie started taking apart more of the formwork that’s sitting on the drainfield. Progress! ( view pics here)

Summer Solstice Countdown

We have only 17 more days before the trucks arrive with our house panels on them ( view pics of the panels at the Oregon Yurtworks production yard in Eugene, Oregon). Fortunately these are the longest days ( AND shortest nights!) of the year – I might need every drop of daylight to pull together the zillion things that need to be done between now and T-day ( truck day). How lucky can we get!! Early Wednesday morning we were visited by our fairy-building inspector ( no, not THAT kind of fairy…) who blessed our project with a STOP Work Order. When Mark the dozer operator saw the sign first thing in the morning he wondered what the heck?!! However, his consternation melted to amusement when he read the grievance : No work allowed on the Eve of the Solstice per Mother Nature 603.2.1. And during our Summer Solstice festivities later that evening, one of our friends asked ‘What are all the tiny umbrellas for at the house site’ – HUNH? What umbrellas? I thought he was pulling my leg – until I took a stroll over to the site and sure enough – there were a lot of tiny colorful umbrellas and festive crepe paper festooning the construction site. The Solstice Fairies had a quite the field day romping through our construction site….

More machines move around dirt.

The ‘dirt-works’ guys are back this week with their machines, putting curtain drains along the footings, then back-filling against the new foundation walls, also finishing the septic system connections. After the big piles of dirt are moved, they will smooth out two more small sites where our two ‘detached bedrooms,’ (also from Oregon Yurtworks) will be located. We really appreciate JPLandworks, the business we hired to do the clearing and digging work, excavating the house site and installing the septic system. It’s a family business, good guys, all related in one way or another. They are respectful of the native plants and do a good job minimizing their impact, as much as could be hoped for considering the extent of the clearing they have had to make and the number of machines they have needed. One of their machines is even run on bio-deisel! Maybe by the end of the week we will start building the pony walls to complete the foundation so that next week we can begin the foundations for the two bedroom-yurts. But for now, we are busy rounding up electrical conduit for the hook-up for the site (to be dug and buried next week) and doing a hundred details behind-the-scenes. Therese is back, updating budgets, making phonecalls about this and that. There certainly are a million details to tend when building a house!

Austin’s last day

Summer is here! The past two days have bloomed with bright sun and discreet shadows. Surely a sign the seasons are turning. And Austin won’t be working on the job site for awhile after being with us for a month. Austin is Therese’s nephew, son of her sister Cherie. Therese was at his birth and, since he lives on Bainbridge Island, she has watched him grow up from a tiny boy to a handsome young man. His chosen lifestyle at this point is so aligned with Therese’s that people have wondered if he was her son! His last name is Charvet too. Anyway, he’s been a great help on the project, its been wonderful to get to know him in a new way, and now he’s leaving for a big adventure– he’s going to spend the next 6 1/2 weeks on a wilderness leadership course in South Carolina!. I’m gonna miss his presence, his humor and his curiosity, but he’ll be back on the site in early August with many stories to tell. Good Luck Austin! Austin and Eddie stripped, de-nailed, and stacked the form material; Eddie painted the foundation with an asphaltic dampproof sealer; and they moved huge beams and the rest of the material around. There are still more grunt-type of jobs to do – and Eddie will take up the mantle of willing youth… This week I anticipate exciting changes in our new house site. Josh and crew return with their earth moving equipment – and will finish the septic system hook-up, install the foundation drain, and start the backfill and grading around the house. I’m very curious about how the reality will match up with my expectations. AND – Therese is back from California – her sister Andrea is improving daily – we are all so grateful for her recovery, and for the outpouring of heartfelt prayers and well-wishes by so many folk! Thank you thank you thank you! more pics

The foundation walls are up!

It’s been a slow week at the building site. At least it has been for me. I’ve taken an extended exhale after the pour on Friday, and it’s only been at some point this afternoon that I feel like I’m ready to inhale and get back to my usual pace. However – the boys have been huffing and puffing all along. Check it out – they’ve pulled all the forms off the concrete and have started to stack them in a beautiful and orderly fashion on the drain field. Austin and Eddie – you guys DO rock!! I”m trying to think ahead here, and avoid having to move this material more than necessary. We’re going to need a lot of room to stack the panels that come off the trucks sent by Oregon Yurtworks ( if I was more computer savvy, I’d have their link right here…) , AND we’re going to need a lot of room to maneuver the reach-lift that will be picking up these panels and delivering them to the proper location around the foundation. So – that means anything NOT associated with the Oregon yurtworks part of the house assembly must be out of the way. Hence – the drainfield comes into the picture. I know, we’re not supposed to place ANYTHING on the drainfield – but I think it’s OK to ‘temporarily’ stack a bunch of wood that we anticipate will go into the building once it’s enclosed. On a serious note – part of my inability to rally all my resources this week has been that I’ve had Andrea’s health on my mind. I’ve taken to checking the phone for messages from Therese almost hourly… and in fact – she just called with an update – sounds like Andrea had a better day today. She’s being weaned off the meds ( sedatives, heart + blood pressure), she’s more aware and awake ( she told Stacy GET ME OUT OF HERE ), and her heart seems to be recovering … all in all – good news! I used to dream that doing carpentry and being a chef would be the BEST – however – this week, doing carpentry and being a health reporter (when the news is good) takes the cake!

A full moon pour

The concrete was scheduled to arrive at 2pm Gordon and I got to work at 7am – and scrambled most of the morning to finish up the ‘details’ before the pour. Like making cleats that would tie the forms together at the top so they don’t spread out. And installing bracing – also designed to insure that the formwork stays put against the massive pressure of the concrete being dumped into them. Austin hauled material into the pit for us to cut up. He pounded stakes for the braces. He gathered the hose and made sure we had a source of water nearby. Around 12:30, we felt we were pretty well ready, so we sat down for lunch. Francis showed up. After eating, I started gathering the anchor bolts – and distributing them around the site for ease of placement after the concrete was poured and finished on the top. And that’s when I discovered there weren’t enough bolts. This could be a serious problem. The window of opportunity for wet-setting bolts is slim – and because this was a hot day – the concrete would surely set up and be too hard to push the j-bolts into the mud within 45 minutes of being poured. Amazing Austin to the rescue! He went to the lumberyard while Francis and Gordon and then David K and Troy helped build a form for the center pier, and install steel and brace it. Ilgvar arrived and pitched in where he could. We were still buttoning up this center form when the pump arrived. Fortunately for us, Bryan is a mellow and experienced operator – and set the rig without any input from us. And then the first concrete truck arrived. Troy was on the hose again, Francis was handling the vibrator motor, Austin was the cord wrangler, and David K took over dipping the stinger. Ilgvar took pictures, Gordon was ground control and I tried to stay out of the way – and look important at the same time. The forms creaked and strained – and thankfully Troy suggested that we pour the walls in several lifts, rather than fill them up to the top at once. This reduces the strain on the bracing and cleats and minimizes the possibility of the forms giving way. So, it came as a surprise to Gordon and I when David called BLOWOUT! We raced over to the area – and sure enough, the outside form was leaning a good 2 inches away from the interior of the building. NOT GOOD. The concrete walls need to be pretty much dead-on for the floor and wall panels to fit precisely over them. But wait! The boards that lined the form structure were still pretty much intact because the cleats at the top held them to the interior formwork. With some creative carpentry and a little bit of persuasion, we ‘addressed’ the problem, and stabilized the form from moving any further out of line. And while Gordon and Austin were dealing with this issue, the pour continued – without a hitch. Oh , except when the center pier was being filled. It took over a yard of concrete, and it was a great place to empty out the hose….but the pressure to push that last bit of concrete out of the hose is about 4000 psi (pounds per inch) – and those blasts are what did our makeshift center form in…one side blew out, the concrete poured out and around one wall (like lava swallowing up a house) – fortunately it was against the bank… and Bryan came down into the pit and helped pull the formwork out of the mud, and smooth it out …. Ilgvar and David K and Austin and Francis were already starting to screed the top of the forms when I came behind them installing foundation bolts ( AKA anchor bolts, J-bolts). There were about 80 bolts to push into the mud, wiggle around and straighten up – so it was good that Gordon grabbed a handful and worked from another part of the foundation. The mud was beginning to get stiff by the time Gordon and I placed our last bolts. Troy came after us and tapped and straightened every bolt as the mud got stiffer and stiffer. All in all – it was a good day – thanks to the work of many hands and lots of joie de vivre and the camaraderie of a band of friends. We celebrated afterwards with cool drinks and chips laid out on the tailgate of Gordon’s truck, and watched in wonder as he fashioned a stabilizing contraption for his oxygen tank right there in the truck bed. (more pics here)

A warm start

Phew – we were fried by the time we packed it in yesterday – and in spite of the heat – we made great progress. Installing the inside forms was not as difficult as I thought and in a few short hours we got more than 3/4 of them up! Therese popped in and out throughout the day – hauling piles of chopsaw cut-offs and organizing the recycling / garbage area. As well as providing watermelon and keeping the water jug filled and bringing me lunch! All this besides the general work of keeping the Groves running smoothly… Francis stopped by long enough to help get Gordon’s refilled oxygen tank down into the pit and inspect the progress. The crew for Friday’s pour is coalescing – I think we’ll have plenty of hands – let’s hope we have enough ice-cubes for the post-pour-margaritas. We’re starting at 8am today – hoping to beat some of the heat – the temps are slated to be even warmer today! Oh – and Oregon Yurtworks plans to deliver the packages ( 3 truckloads of house-panels) July 9 – 11, and their foreman will arrive July 16 for the BIG HOUSE raising party! We’re still assembling the crew for this two week adventure….

We pass another inspection!

Yes – we invited the building inspector to take a look – and were given the go-ahead to take the next step in the building process. We can now pour concrete with the sanction of the powers that be. Of course, we’ll have to finish building the formwork – and that’s our goal this coming week. Concrete has been ordered, the pump company has been notified – all we have to do is provide the formwork, the crew and a couple of checks. Calling the Crew I called Francis on Friday, to see if he would be available to help us with this pour – and when I ran into him at the farmer’s market on Saturday – he said YES – he’d be there! I was very pleased. I’ll call David K when he returns from vacation in a couple of days and see if he and his compadres are available to provide the muscle and expertise…Posted by Picasa

we pour the footings

A beautiful day for a pour! I woke up feeling excited and a little nervous. Would our flimsy plywood forms hold the massive weight and pressure of the concrete? Did we order enough or would we have too much concrete? Did we get the steel in the right place? Did we get the layout of this complicated 28-sided building right? Gordon arrived early and started in right away pounding the ‘extra’ 80 stakes into the hardpan ( there’s a reason it’s called ‘hardpan’ – the ground beneath all the organic matter that we walk upon is damned hard) with our trusty ‘smaul’ ( a small maul /sledge hammer). I’m still not sure how I whiled away the 3 hours before the scheduled arrival of the boom truck. Because of the terrain, the concentric ring shape of the footings, and because we’re all older now – we decided to use a boom pump to deliver the concrete, rather than the typical line-pump. I know that I’m not up to dragging a 4” hose full of concrete even 4’, much less the 268 lineal feet of footings we were intent on filling – and I’m not interested in having my friends drag one around either. It’s still hard exhausting work to wrassle that hose dangling from the end of the boom and keep it’s open end aimed into the footings, rather than having the mud sploodge out all over the place. Troy did an amazing job of concrete control and containment. I ran around behind him with the vibrator ( not the bedroom kind, this is an industrial model – tho probably adequate for the Jolly Green Giant’s missus). Evan alternately worked with me holding the motor while I dipped the business end of the vibrator ( aka ‘stinger’ ,‘donkey dick’, etc you get the picture) into the just plopped mud and fell back with David and Therese and Gordon screeding, trowelling and generally getting the concrete smooth and flat after it had filled the forms. Gordon got to do a little fire-pole work – some of the forms did bulge and buckle a bit – and this is where Gordon got to shine. He grabbed stakes, the real sledge as well as ‘smaul’ and ran around pounding stakes against sagging straining plywood forms – and generally managed to hold off that ‘disaster’ that creates so much excitement in any concrete pour: a blowout. When the formwork loses it’s integrity and allows the mud to move in an undesirable direction – you have two options. Keep on pouring and plan on renting a jack hammer the next day. Or stop the pump, all hands on deck as you shovel sticky heavy globs of mud away from the gaping wound and figure out some way to staunch the flow and repair the breach. In any event, you have an ugly job. Gordon saved the day several times! David and Therese filled in admirably – screeding and trowelling and generally managing to stay ahead of the concrete setting up and becoming so stiff that no amount of muscle is able to get it to relax into a nice smooth surface. Thank goodness for friends showing up at just the right time! And that’s been the story of this project from the beginning. Everything has unfolded at just the right time! We’ll keep you posted… although this kind of excitement doesn’t happen everyday – at least not around here.

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