Monthly Archives: September 2011

We were floored

Well, we were almost floored anyhow.  We worked very hard Saturday and Sunday on the cabin and made great progress.  We almost got the sub-floor done in fact.  There were a lot of joists to finish and then we put blocking between the boards to spread loads and add strength and stability.  It took a long time doing all of the cutting and measuring and so on but Emily, a friend and I had a good rhythm worked out.  My favorite part was the magic that Emily worked with a power saw.  She cut off boards and sort of earned her man-card.


My buddy working...or napping?

Isaac also jumped in and did a little of everything.  He nailed joist hangers, screwed in lag bolts and did about anything we needed.  Of course, he did find opportunities to hide now and then but we all needed breaks…some more than others.

Break time

Emily’s grandparents came out on Sunday afternoon and helped.  Emily’s grandfather is taller than Emily so he was able to do some of the high nailing from the ground that Emily couldn’t do.  That allowed me to keep working from atop the decking-in-progress.

I love this pic...the posts and piers and beams and stuff all look pretty cool I think

Emily's grandfather surveying our work


Subfloor - not screwed down yet but at least out of the trailer!

We have great neighbors on the hill too so Abigail took some time to play with the kids that are from the next field over.  They roamed around and found mushrooms and sticks and bugs and had a great time.

The one little girl said, “Don’t worry about us…there will be teenagers there too.”  Of course, that had quite the opposite effect on me but it all ended up good.  And most importantly, Abigail got to ride a horse which made her day.

The cabin doesn’t look quite as small as it did when we were pacing out the dimensions on the ground.  I am finally starting to see it come together a little and we are so excited to get the first wall framed and up!  With any luck, we will start on walls this coming weekend!

See all of the progress on the cabin

Tanlines and stuff

Emily and I worked a bunch more on Tuesday (yes, still in the rain) and made great progress on the cabin.  I like the DIY part of this project for sure, but sometimes, it’s good to remember why inside jobs aren’t always so bad.  Anyhow, we started off in the rain but the sun came out sometime in the afternoon and pretty well cooked my head.  You see, I decided to forego the hat in an attempt to even out a tan line I got over the weekend:

Baseball hat tanline

Imagine, if you will, a bald guy wearing a baseball hat in the sun.  Most of his head is protected from the sun but the baseball hat, by design, has an opening at the back.  Said opening provides no protection from the sun.  Yeah, it looks pretty stupid and now I have a sunburn on top of the still-obvious hat-tan-line.

Over the course of all of this work, I have developed a few tanlines, some of which are pretty interesting…

Boot tanlines...or hobbit feet


My arm and neck tanlines…pretty typical I guess


Well, enough about tanlines. We did get the main beams for the cabin in place and we started laying the floor joists.  There is still a lot to be done to get everything braced and hooked together of course.  I am using 2×8 boards for the joists and they are slightly cantileved over the big beams attached to the 6×6 upright posts.  I plan to add bracing to support the overhang as the weight of the house really gets transmitted down the walls to the outer edge of the cabin.

The beams are in! The beams are in!

Emily is a kick-butt worker and the real reason this thing will be done right! I would definitely not call her a helper as she is every bit as capable as I am on building. She has a brain for this sort of thing too. Of course, part of working together is the brawling we seem to do to make our points, but I guess that’s part of the “fun”.  We hardly ever fight except when we work on stuff like this. Funny, isn’t it? Is anyone else that way?

Anyhow, this weekend we will be at it again!  I expect we’ll get the floor down and get our bracing done properly.  As weight build on the platform, it will become important so now is the time!

See all of the progress on the cabin

And there was mud

We went back out to the place today to work more on the cabin.  It rained…all day.  Since time off is limited, we pressed on and stirred up all of that mud that we made from the pier excavations.  Holy cow all of that mud was heavy!  This entire building process is exercise for sure and we definitely got our share today.  After awhile, we joked that we needed to scrape the mud off of our shoes so that we would have room for more mud.


We put a tent over the areas we worked and it wasn’t so bad I guess.  We made a lot of progress.  I won’t say much as the pictures show a lot of what we got done.  There is still a ton of cross-bracing to be done but we ran out of wood and, more importantly, nails.  We will be heading back tomorrow for more of the same minus the running out of nails part.


See all of the progress on the cabin

Building our cabin

We like going up to our land to hang out and enjoy mother nature on the weekends.  If you ask the kids, of course, all we do up there is slave away moving piles of dirt.  Emily and I finally decided to show the kids what it meant to move piles of dirt so we broke ground last weekend on a building to house a toilet.  That’s all that really matters to the kids – a bathroom.  Well, that and air conditioning.  Anyhow, as all ground-breaking parties go, it was more symbolic than anything.  The real work began on Thursday evening.  A buddy of mine came with us and we have abused him all weekend…you know, strong back, weak mind.  So, we mixed somewhere around 4500 pounds of concrete and filled 9 12-inch tubes (that’s just to brag, it isn’t meant to really have any real meaning to you, dear friends) on which to build this place.


This saves lives but also shortens lives. Post hole digging is faster and easier with this auger but it beat me to death!
Isaac hiding from work in one of our holes. We are building a post-and-pier foundation.


Post and pier foundation

Emily and I are building a house, really.  It will have more than a toilet.  Emily calls it our “deluxe shed” as it will be more of a small cabin than a house.   I have been fascinated by the small house movement (see Tumbleweed Houses for example) for a while now.  The idea is put forth as an alternative to the trend of increasingly larger houses over the last 30+ years.  I don’t care what size house people live in but the small house philosophy suits me.  In a way then, we are sort of participating in the small house movement…except it is going to be our second house.  I think that must somehow be against the point of the small house philosophy.  Still, we really like the idea of simplifying and someday, the first house will be sold and we will fit the bill.

It needs skin and lots of details, but this is the cabin we are planning to build

We are off from work Friday, Monday and Tuesday so we are plowing forward for 5 days straight to see how far we can get on this place.  I have been working on plans in Google Sketchup (you gotta learn to use this program).  My model is pretty rough but it allows me to know exactly how many boards I need and how everything needs to go together.  It will be around 400 sq ft and have one of the coolest views anywhere.

The view from the cabin spot

Emily took some pics today and they are just incredible.  Anyhow, I will keep posting as we make progress on this place.  Anyone else out there have a strong back and a weak mind?  Have I got a job for you!

See all of the progress on the cabin

My braces are off!!

A little over 2 years ago, my foray into the world of braces and oral pain began.  I am here to tell you that yesterday, my braces were removed.  I didn’t have braces in the traditional sense because I was fitted with Invisalign aligners.  Part of that process, though, involved the installation of tons of knobs and buttons and bumps on my teeth so the aligners could grab onto something.  So, I had knobs and bumps and stuff removed yesterday and my teeth are straight!


Growing up as a boy with a brother who liked to fight (it was mutual), my teeth were a wreck.  I had chips and dings in my teeth, both top and bottom.  After grinding all of the extra stuff off of my teeth, they ground my teeth too.  I no longer have chipped or uneven teeth!  Although those chips were hard won, I am happy to be free from their unhappy appearance.  I have to tell you though, it was a lot more fun getting those chips than having them ground away.  Holy cow was that awful!

Before Invisalign


After Invisalign…cheesy grin at no extra charge


So, I was fitted for retainers and now I will spend 4 months wearing them 24/7.  If all goes well with that, I will wear them only at night after that period.  I am pretty pleased with how all of this went down.  I would do it again if I had to go back in time.  What I wouldn’t do, however, is use Invisalign.  I would get the regular old fashioned braces and be done with it. Mainly, I like the cool colored rubber bands.  Actually, either way you can see stuff in your mouth.  Invisalign aligners are not invisible and I needed to wear rubber bands anyhow in order to move my teeth and bite around.  With the bands, Invisalign aligners are a ton more work every time you eat or drink anything besides water.  No thanks.  Hopefully I will never know though.


Solar Powered Electric Fence

Part of moving the bees to our place in the country is so they can be out of town and away from people.  Of course, getting away from people means getting them closer to good old mother nature herself.  For anyone who has read Winnie the Pooh, you know that bears like honey when they get a rumbly in their tummies.

Bears don't read very well...

Not much will really stop a hungry bear, but the official recommendation is to enclose all “country bees” in an electric fence.  When a bear attacks a hive, the bees always come out in great number to ward off the attack.  Bear fur is typically too thick to present a problem.  The only sensitive place on a bear is apparently their nose/mouth area.  While my electric fence is a little more “juiced” than a bee sting, most folks agree that a bear has to learn about the fence with their mouth or nose.  I’ll talk more about that another time, but it makes sense that an electric fence properly set up should deter all the Poohs out there.

So, you may be wondering how solar power can deliver enough juice to make a bear even notice it was there.  It turns out that the people who make electric fence controllers make a version that runs on DC (i.e. deep cycle batteries, not house current which is AC).  The controller I bought is designed to power up to 25 miles of fence.  All told, I have maybe 1000 feet of wire strung on a few poles, so the charger will deliver a good shot when it fires.  I won’t bore you with the calculations about the capacity of the battery but it is roughly the size of a car battery just for perspective (a car’s starter battery would not work here though…this application needs a long continuous  draw on the battery rather than the quick hit when you start a car)

The battery, fence controller, and charge controller

The instructions show that the fence will run for 2 weeks on a fully charged battery of the proper specs but I do not want to have to worry about whether the battery is still charged if I don’t make it out there for a few weeks.  Instead, I bought a solar panel and a charge controller to keep the battery full.

See? It's pointed south

I pointed my solar panel south and angled it to the optimal angle to get direct sun.  Output wires from the panel go into the charge controller which regulates the power going into the battery.  The charge controller makes sure the power is the proper voltage and that the battery does not get over or under charged. The charge controller also has a “load” connection so I connected the fence controller to that connection and we’re off and running!  All of the charging/controlling/shocky-shocky stuff is inside a beehive surrounded by my other beehives as a sort of a theft deterrent.

Oh, by the way, without thinking I tried to use a regular household switch at the gate to turn the power on and off.  Of course, the fence controller pushes somewhere around 10,000 volts which didn’t even slow down for the switch rated for household current of 110 volts.  If you want a switch, make sure you get one rated properly…same with any wire you may need to use (I only used fencing wire which handles the charge nicely)

So, I hope some of that makes sense.  So far it is alive and well.  Let me know if you want more details…

Change of address

Etched in my back…er mind…is a picture of a bad interaction with the bees last year.  It was shortly after that episode that I decided that if I was to continue to have bees, they had to be away from people.  We bought property out in the country early this Spring and one of its main purposes was to be a bee yard.  After this weekend of labor, I am happy to report that the majority of the bees have been relocated to the new bee yard and seem to be doing quite well.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  As you might have guessed, it was anything but.  Of course, any test of one’s mettle always makes for a good story if nothing else.  To ease the move, I decided we would mostly enclose the bees with screen and other stuff the night before.  To enclose the bees the morning of the move would only stir them up and make the process miserable.  Each hive got the screen treatment except for a small access ares for the bees to come and go.  The plan was to screen that final access point, throw the bees in a truck and go.

My father-in-law and I started before sunrise to carry the bees from his back hillside to the truck.  So, we grabbed ahold of 150 or so pounds of bees+hive+honey and prepared to stumble down the hill, guided solely by the sweet glow of the…yeah, it was dark.  We tried to carry a heavy bunch of bees down a hillside in the dark.  FAIL.  Oh don’t get me wrong, gravity works and we got the bees down the hill and into the truck but it wasn’t fun.  Luckily, the first one took us so long that it was daylight before we got to the next ones and they all went pretty smoothly.


We finished the electric fence of doom a week or so ago so hopefully any bears, raccoons, or bee-lovin’ dinosaurs will find that my bees are not on the menu.  I still have 4 more hives to move but it was such a relief to get the first batch moved to their new address in the country!

A little help

So, we are already crazy cat people.  Since we have lived in WV, we have adopted 3 cats that have ended up on our doorstep (we already had one when we moved here).  Four cats is all we can handle along with our dog, Ginny.  The cats continue to pour in though and “Momma cat”,  who is involved in a great love affair with Ginny, decided to go and get pregnant a few months ago to some gigolo-cat passing through.  She birthed 5 kittens under our shed and they are adorable.  She is tame but her kittens initially appeared to be completely wild.  I have been hanging outside some at night as they come in to eat the food we give them.


One kitten has made up with me in a big way.  She is cute as can be and is now completely tame.  I cannot bear to take her to the shelter (which is where the others are headed as soon as I trap them), but I cannot take any more into the house.  Does anyone have interest in a sweet little kitten?  I will pay to have her de-clawed, fixed, whatever if someone will take her.  Please…I need a little help!