Monthly Archives: November 2011

On the way to the outhouse

So, we are building our cabin, right?  The land is completely raw so there are absolutely no amenities, if you catch my drift.  So, we work hard about every weekend from morning until dark.  We drink fluids and nature does with fluids what nature is supposed to do with fluids.  Yeah, we have to pee sometimes when we go out to the property.

Last week and this week are deer hunting season in WV.  I promise this is related.  So, let’s pretend that one of the females who may or may not be my wife, drank some fluids during deer season on a piece of raw land out in the woods in WV.  As nature takes its course, such a person may feel a little fearful of being mistaken for a deer….a white tailed deer in that exposed condition, while dealing with…uh…natural things.   The obvious solution to such a dilemma is to announce one’s presence in the woods like so: “I am not a deer.  I am not a deer.  I am not a deer”.  So far, there has been no mistake and we have had done very well with this method.

Mushrooms on a log Mushrooms on a log

Now let’s say that a guy who may or may not be me also had fluids while working on a piece of raw land out in the country in WV.  Now for a guy, the world is pretty much a fair target.  Oh yes, it is all about the challenge of a good target.  Anyhow, with the world as a man’s urinal, the concern over being confused as a deer is less pressing.  Instead, a man is able to take in the sights in Nature’s lavatory.

Mushrooms on a log Mushrooms on a log

It seems very late for mushrooms, but the whole point of this story is to lead up to how a guy who may or may not be me, found a really cool log that had the most exquisite collection of mushrooms growing on it.  I like to touch mushrooms.  Is that weird?  These mushrooms were silky and really fleshy and difficult to stop touching.  That’s weird I know, but I think it is fascinating that there are things in the woods that keep the place cleaned up but still look so delicate and soft.  I mean, they were chewing up a log for goodness sakes!  I have been making far too much contact with wood as I build this cabin and my head is suffering greatly from how hard wood is.  These beautiful mushrooms eat the same wood for breakfast!

Even in the most basic of times in the woods, I am continually amazed at the power and beauty that is around me all of the time.  I like to pay attention to these things, even on the way to the outhouse.

Black Friday

I set the alarm for 5am today and drug my weary bones from the warm covers to join the teeming horde.  Well, I thought there would be a ton of people out.  I was out of the house by 5:15 and out to one of the home improvement stores by 5:30.  There were people out but not bad at all.  It seemed like the people were centered around a few stores.  Luckily, my stores were not involved.  So, anyhow, Black Friday and shopping in general are not usually high on my list but I decided to participate this year to get…a new trailer!

My new trailer

Tractor Supply had an ad for $200 off of a 5×8 trailer so I figured I would try at the local big home improvement stores before I made the trip out to Tractor Supply, 40 minutes away.  So, the big local stores had nothing comparable, so I hit the road and got to Tractor Supply by 6:15.  They opened at 6 supposedly but the lines were already to the back of the stores when I got there.  Anyhow, I waited in line for 30 minutes and walked out with my new trailer and a 25 million candle power light.  Yeah, the light was an impulse buy but for $20 I couldn’t pass it up.  I hauled trailer back to Charleston so we could go back to the lumber yard to get wood for the deluxe shed.

Hanging the ridge board Hanging the ridge board


Rafters going up on our small cabin in the woods

We made it up to the place around 10 and hung the second ridge board and started on the remaining rafters.  My buddy came to help and we made great progress again.  We should finish the rafters tomorrow and hopefully hang some/all of the sheathing.   The only other thing I got on Black Friday was a nasty scrape on my head.  I tested and sure enough, my head is weaker than the wooden rafters.  My scrape happened early so the band-aid also left a cool little tanline too!


Most of the rafters in place on our small cabin in the woods

So, my first (and likely last) Black Friday was a huge success.  We’ll head back to the place tomorrow and try to get the place under roof before we get snowed under!  Wish me luck!


See all of the progress on the cabin


Country Neighbors

I grew up in the country and it was just a natural thing then I guess.  People always waved to each other and talked as you passed and left extra zucchini on your porch and helped out when you needed it.  It’s been 20+ years since I lived in the country though and my city life has sort of become ingrained.  We moved to Nashville and it was a huge culture shock to me…from a town of 600 or so people to a town of a million and a half.  I remember as we drove in to Nashville on one of our first visits, there was a guy in a car ramming another guy in a car going full speed down the interstate among how-ever-many lanes of traffic there were then.  It wasn’t a wreck…yet.  They were road-raging and ramming each other.  I knew this wasn’t quite like where I grew up.

Ridge board to support rafters Ridge board to support rafters

The ridge board that supports the rafters at the top end

So, I became a city boy and all that friendly stuff had to be put on the back burner.  It’s not that people in a city aren’t friendly once you get to know them… it’s just that you have to find a way to get to know them first and sometimes even neighbors aren’t interested in getting to know one another.

Getting ready to raise rafters on our small cabin

So, fast forward a bit.  The folks from whom we bought the property still live on the land they retained the next hillside over.  Larry, Granny Sue’s husband, delivered some scaffolding he had over at his place a few weeks back.  He showed us how to set it up and use it and has let us keep it up there as long as we need it.  And then last weekend as we were working on setting up our rafters.  One of the boys (they are grown men but we call the brothers that live near us, “the boys” and I think they would be ok with that) came by on his 4-wheeler to ask if he could hunt on our property.  I told him that any of the boys and their family could hunt but I didn’t want anyone else who didn’t live up there hunting.  I would have never known whether they hunted or not during the week but I am really glad he asked.

A bunch of rafters in place on our small cabin Securing the rafters in place for our small cabin

Anyhow, we agreed that he could hunt so I figured he would go on to do other things with his day.  Instead, to our surprise, he asked if we needed help.  I was thrilled because Emily and I were trying to maneuver 16 foot long 2×8 boards around by ourselves on the second story of the deluxe shed.  It was going to end up with a bout of intense negotiation.  So, our friend climbed up and we started to work.  We worked an hour or so before we had to head home.

Half of the rafters done in our small cabin

That’s about half of the rafters done!

Now that’s one thing, helping a guy for an hour, but the next day we got up there and my friend came over and brought his brother with him!  We worked together all day long and got half of the faters in place and secured!  They were a huge help and I was delighted to get to know them a little better.  We had met on other occasions, but we hadn’t really talked or goofed around before.  Aside from their tremendous help, I absolutely loved the sense of community and belonging that we have felt up on the ridge.   The neighbors across the way (she’s a sister to the brothers) came to visit the first day we showed up.  Our kids have played with their kids every time we are up there.  They invited us to a potluck dinner one night where we talked about all sorts of things and may have solved the world’s problems.  The brothers who helped with the rafters along with Larry and Granny Sue have been so kind and helpful as we work on the new place.  With the utmost respect I say that I am so glad to have country neighbors!


See all of the progress on the cabin



Folks, I have been inundated with spam the last 3 weeks. My usual spam checker has apparently been beaten. Normally just a few got through and I would simply delete them but it has grown into hundreds per day that I have to delete and that won’t fly.  So, I added a captcha – one of those funny letter deals where you type in some nonsense to prove you are real and not a spam engine. The only reason I mention it is because it actually crashed my system last night. If anyone sees anything weird going on or if your comments don’t post or you want to share your lottery winnings, please email me


Well, we can’t really go up stairs at the cabin yet, but this weekend we finished the flooring in the upstairs!  We finished all of the first floor interior walls which allowed us to then install the floor-of-the-sleeping-loft/ceiling-of-the-first-floor.  I had really hoped to start hanging rafters but we had 20 mile/hour winds both Saturday and Sunday.  Besides that, we had to fix a problem with the second story floor.

Interior wall framing for the small cabin Isaac using the pasolode propane framing nailer

Early on when we we installing the beams, we discovered that the wood we were using was not all cut the same length.  Ten foot boards are supposed to be 10 feet long, end of story.  We got burned on one of the beams, the hard way.  I hate the thought of having to measure every board I use but it almost seems necessary after we discovered another board-length issue this weekend.  These “shortages” are not obvious until something farther down the line just doesn’t work out.

Interior walls and sleeping loft framed in our small cabin
This is the floor of the sleeping loft

So, we had to rip up some stuff and make it right which slowed our roofing progress.  Our goal this year is to get the roof up to keep the snow out so any screw-ups this late in the year hurt.  Still, we should be ok if we can get clear weekends.

Sleeping loft floor in our small cabin
The subfloor laid in the sleeping loft. The extra height of the exterior walls gives us a knee wall for added headroom

So, it’s hard to see the rooms but we have a living room, kitchen and bathroom on the first floor.  The second floor is a sleeping area.  With the floor in place, I think it is a bit more obvious why we made the outer walls 10 feet tall.  The extra 2 feet of height before the roof cuts in should give us a little more room in the sleeping area.

Another view from the sleeping loft of our small cabin
Another view of the subfloor...the view is going to be so cool!
The stairwell to the sleeping loft in our small cabin
The stairwell into the sleeping loft

Abigail stayed with her great-grandparents this weekend while Isaac, Emily and I worked.  We taught Isaac how to measure precisely and he even ran the chop saw quite a bit.  He understands sixteenths better than a lot of adults I have seen so he did a really great job cutting boards for me at the exact length I needed.  He knows about “leaving the line” and “cutting the line”.  He knows when I say, “cut a board a skinny 77 inches” means I need a sixteenth short of 77 inches.  It surely saved my knees a lot of up and down the ladder.

Learning to measure a board
Learning to measure a board
Measuring a board by himself
Measuring solo!
Using the chop saw
Isaac using the chop saw solo

We probably won’t get much done beyond weathering in the place, but I do plan to close in the area under the building.  I am considering doing a cord-wood wall structure around the base but I am not yet sure.  Anyone have any opinions?   Luckily, I think it won’t hurt if we don’t get to it until Spring.  In the meantime, I will probably work on getting stairs in place so I can actually go up stairs to get to the upstairs part of our deluxe shed!

See all of the progress on the cabin

Healthy Coke

So when I am feeling all romantic and stuff, I take Emily to the Club to eat…Sam’s Club that is.  You see, I can buy 2 gigantic slices of pizza and two gallons of drink for something like $2.79.  We usually take an after dinner stroll around the…rice and beans aisle and just generally check things out.  Some stuff we just pick up regardless of whether we need it.  Stuff like brown sugar, canned peaches and tube socks.  Can you ever have too many tube socks?  No, I think not.  I just love the smell of brown sugar too.  If they made brown sugar cologne, I would wear it and I don’t do cologne.

Mexican Coke - aka Healthy Coke Mexican Coke - aka Healthy Coke

Mexican Coke - aka Healthy Coke

Anyhow, I have a few vices, mostly centering around sugar and sweet stuff.  I like pop and sugary candy in a bad way.  I guess I only drink 1 pop per day but I would live on it if I thought I could.  Corn syrup sucks, I know.  It’s in everything though.  Heck, it’s even in new car tires.  So, when we wander around in the Club, sometimes we ponder life and the future and stuff and I lament the tragedy that is corn syrup and how it is shortening my life.  As we toured around one time, we noticed bottles of Coke…glass bottles.  It caught my attention because I fondly remember walking after school to my Mom’s office in the court house in my hometown.

Mexican Coke - aka Healthy Coke Mexican Coke - aka Healthy Coke Mexican Coke - aka Healthy Coke

They had an ancient pop machine on the first floor that sold $.25 pop in returnable bottles and I loved drinking straight from the bottle.  So, I checked out the Cokes in the Club…and then I saw the price…24 bottles for $19!  Back in the courthouse, I could get those same bottles, already refrigerated for $6!   Emily was quick to remind me that my pop machine memory was from 30 years ago.  I guess inflation happens.  Still, it seemed silly until I considered the price I pay for corn-syrup filled pops at the gas station in the morning.  The bottles of Coke at the Club are the famous Mexican Cokes made with pure sugar – healthy Cokes, right?

Mexican Coke - aka Healthy Coke

Mexican Coke - aka Healthy Coke

We scooped up a case of the Healthy Cokes  and Isaac and I have been having one a day for…well, the last 11 days.  Yes, dear friends, there are only 2 left.  It looks like it’s about time to take my lady back on another date to the Club.  Only the finest for my woman!


By the way, sorry about all of the pictures…I was feeling so healthy that I just got a little carried away with the camera apps on my phone…


It’s been a long two weeks around our place.  Abigail and Isaac both had a fever starting 2 weeks ago.  We took both kids to the doctor and they both tested positive for strep throat.  They got their typical doses of antibiotics and headed home.  Two days later, Isaac was fine but Abigail was pretty much the same.  She still had a high fever and felt pretty terrible.  We went back to the doctor a few more times which was extremely frustrating.  We knew Abigail wasn’t right but we got this line of crap, “just wait, the meds sometimes take longer to work on some kids.”  Yeah, but I know when sometime else is wrong.  So, we wait another day and go back again and see a doctor who has some bedside manner (unlike the schmoo we saw in the prior visit).  She poked around some more and discovered that Abigail also had pneumonia.  We tried some new antibiotics but that didn’t work so she was admitted to the hospital this Monday.  I stayed the first night with her and Emily stayed the second.

Reading as usual...

Ok, so I usually have only good things to say about Charleston.  WV is awesome and I never enjoy saying anything bad but the hospital we were in had no private rooms unless you were dangerous.  Apparently, if you are a kid, there is no place in Charleston that has private rooms.  That sucks!  So, Abigail was miserable and the 4 year old they admitted right after us was also.  Two sick adults may be able to share a room because they typically don’t cry and scream and pee the bed.  Kids, on the other hand, are not known for their restraint when feeling terrible.  So, between the roar of the interstate that passes nearby and the whining roomie-kid (poor thing…her mom was nice.  It was just a bad situation ) and the double-the-usual-number-of-nurse-checks-because-there-are-two-kids-instead-of-one interruptions, no one slept the first night.  Healing usually works well under those conditions, right?

I agree...

Ok, enough whining…after 4 different antibiotics, Abigail’s fever finally came down although she gained a lovely full-body rash.  She came home after lunch on Wednesday.  Honestly, she was not whiny or nasty through any of this, thank goodness.


Usually the pudding goes inside the puff, but as the chef, I took liberty and covered my first one all over in pudding!

So, creampuffs…why that title?  During the pre-pneumonia-diagnosis time, one day while I stayed home with her, I got a wild hair.  My Mom used to make creampuffs every now and then and I absolutely love them.  I had a hankering for creampuffs so while Abigail was sleeping, I started cooking!  It’s pretty rare really.   Anyhow, Abigail was an absolute trooper through all of this, so she proved that she was no creampuff.  However, I was needed a creampuff, to stay healthy of course…for science!

8 feet is too much

We worked on the place again and made good progress.  The floor needed another layer of OSB to really suit my tastes so we got that installed and screwed down first thing.  Oh wait, the first thing we did was finish getting the second sheet of OSB hung around the outside walls.  Then we did the floor.  We laid down the last piece of flooring and check out how well it fit!  I am so thankful that everything is square:

We also persuaded Isaac to involve himself with the building of this place.  He did a great job screwing down 2 sheets of flooring.  My brother bought me a new Makita impact driver which is AWESOME!  It is so fast and light.

Anyhow, Isaac was running that and got a bit of the Dirty Harry feel going for him.  I guess he was feeling like he needed to pick on Abigail some though as he split after sheet #2 was installed.  Still, it was a great thing seeing the boy work!


The inspector checking on things…

So, after we got the outer walls done and the flooring down, we started on the inner walls.  On Sunday, we were able to get the interior walls for the bathroom and kitchen built.  We also hung about 1/3 of the sleeping loft’s floor joists.  We should be able to finish that pretty quickly which will make all of the high-up work like the last of the outer walls’ OSB and the roof rafters go up pretty easily.  The only thing that I though I was going to like but don’t is the 8 foot ceilings in the bathroom and kitchen (and eventually, everywhere else).

We installed 8 foot boards beside the 10 foot wall studs to support the sleeping loft floor. That leaves us with just under 2 extra feet for a knee wall in the sleeping area
Working on the sleeping loft
Shazaam! The bathroom and closet!

It’s too high and we lose some of the advantage of the added height of the exterior walls.  I am not redoing it now though so we are going to have really nice high rooms in our deluxe shed, or, as I have been calling it, the city-slickers’ deer stand!

See all of the progress on the cabin

Four square

So I mentioned in the last post that we made good progress last weekend. In fact, we got the fourth wall put in place including the door and window. All together, we have 4 windows and two doors framed into the first floor. When we were framing the first window, we were in a hurry and just threw a header in place above two of the windows. At the time, we didn’t think anything of it, but as I looked at the pictures, it occurred to me that we did it incorrectly. Ugh, I couldn’t live with it being messed up, so we had to redo it. Of course, that slowed us down some but with the last walls, we were on a roll and framed everything pretty quickly.

We noticed right away that we got the header in cockeyed, but it wasn't until I went back to look at the pics that I noticed we had done the whole thing incorrectly...we needed cripple studs to support stuff better...see the next pic for the fixed window!
Proper header and cripples in place!

We used my precision adjustment tool, also known as a 10 pound sledge hammer, to aid in moving the entire wall into line with the others. We started to nail the last corner together but decided to do one last square/plumb/level check, and thank goodness we did! With a final bit of precision adjustment, we persuaded the last wall a little farther and checked everything again. Success! It turns out we have a square/plumb/level shell deluxe shed!

I am not sure if I described it adequately before, but we are building a pretty tall building. Instead of using the typical 8 foot long boards in the walls, we are using 10 foot boards. We will still have 8 foot ceilings on the first floor but the longer outer boards will provide a little extra space in the second floor sleeping loft by adding 2 extra feet before the roof cuts in. It’s like a built-in knee-wall.

We have been waffling back and forth as to whether we want to extend the sleeping loft to include the entire second floor or if we wanted a taller ceiling in the common area. We decided to make a solid second floor. Aside from giving us extra space, the solid floor will make it easier for Emily and me to frame the loft/rafters.

So, this coming weekend, we plan to get the remaining OSB hung. As soon as we do that, I plan to build a few inside walls to separate the kitchen and bathroom and then we will frame up the loft. Since we have a square/plumb/level house, the loft should be much more straight forward. So Huey Lewis and I are hip to be square!

See all of the progress on the cabin

Good clamps are hard to find

We’ve been busy.  My company is getting ready to move so I have been pretty involved in that process.  Hopefully that will be done at the end of this week, though it ain’t over ’til it’s over.  Both kids also have strep throat so that’s been fun too.  I am at home with Abigail today, in fact.  She still has a fever and looks pitiful.  Anyhow, I didn’t get a chance to show our progress on the cabin from two weekends ago so I will post about that today.  Hopefully I can post pics from this weekend’s progress later this week.

We had great help…both Emily’s grandfather and her uncle came by to help on Saturday.  My brother tells a funny story about working on stuff with our Dad when we were kids.  He claims my Dad said, “I don’t know if you’ll ever amount to anything son, but at least you will make a good clamp.”  Both of my helpers were much better than clamps though that is all they would likely claim to have performed as during our work.


We fixed up some mistakes we made the previous week when we were framing the walls on the platform.  Once those were fixed, we got more walls set up and we installed some of the OSB on the walls.  Without our helpers, Emily and I could never have lifted and held the OSB on the high points of the “deluxe shed”.  The ladder was steep and the clay was slippery so someone had to hold the ladder while I screwed the sheets to the framing.



Uncle B. claimed that he was not handy but he seemed to be pretty good at hitting a nail and reading a tape measure.  I think he is holding out on Aunt P.  So, working all together, we made great progress.

Emily and I returned Sunday to see how far we could get.  Actually, we built a few more walls and were able to set them up ourselves.


Emily makes a great mule.  I think she has a similar term for me…

We got quite a bit done and we didn’t even brawl too much!  Like so many things, now that we are so far along, we are finally getting the hang of this whole thing.  Emily was a little hard on some of the tools though.  I am not exactly sure how I feel about the look on her face with the skeletons of my former glorious tools.

Anyhow, we went back out again last weekend so stay tuned for more pics of the progress we made.

See all of the progress on the cabin