Category Archives: Cabin


We love Mother Nature out at the cabin we are building but this story may freak out some readers.  Honestly, it gave me quite a start as well.  As you know, dear friends, we are building this cabin from scratch.  Emily and I are doing the work ourselves so we get into a little bit of everything.  Plumbing has long been on the list but we had to get the bathroom floor finished and the stem wall built and a hundred other things.   I promise there is a plan to our madness, even if the plan itself is mad.

Wolf spider on her egg sac
Wolf spider on her egg sac

Anyhow, hooking up the bootwasher was pretty high priority for obvious reasons.  I took a day off of work to be on the job.  We loaded up a bunch of pvc pipe up and I headed off to the site.  I measured and cut and fitted and glued.  I then cussed and cut all of that pipe down and cussed some more when it almost fit.  If you know about pvc pipe, you know that it is rigid.  There may be some play in a plumbing system but generally there is not a lot.  When things work, that is a good thing as you don’t want pipes full of…stuff…moving.  So I almost had things hooked together but something just didn’t meet up like I had planned.  I had to cut it all back out (because pvc glue sets fast and does not forgive) and do a bunch of it the tune of $45 wasted.

Wolf spider on her egg sac

So, I was aggravated but that’s just construction it seems.  I flopped back down on my back and wiggled up under the bathroom floor in the underneath of the house.  As I was about to begin work again, I turned my head and not a foot away was a gigantic spider sitting atop a bag of baby spiders.

Wolf spider - spiderlings
Wolf spider – spiderlings

Spiders don’t freak me out but I have to tell you, I sort of startled a little bit.  It’s just weird when something you don’t expect presents itself…and I think people are sort of programmed to be wary of spiders anyhow.  Anyhow, I let her be as she was just preparing to raise a family of spiderlings (yeah, that’s the technical term), apparently without a father figure around.  Who am I to try to mess with a mother doing her best.  I finished the plumbing and was on my way.

A few days later, I was back by and the spiderlings had hatched.  There were literally hundreds of itsy bitsy spiders on a web that Momma spider had spun very close to our initial encounter.  I couldn’t get a decent picture as they were tiny, but to the eye, it was quite a sight!  I don’t know what the survival rate is, but I may have hundreds of wolf spiders under my new place eating other critters that aren’t welcome!

Boot washer!

Yesterday felt a little like Debbie Downer so I have some really good news too!  Even with all of our soccer running around, we recently got the boot washer hooked up at the executive deer stand!  Although it has been fun using the outdoor litterbox, it got a little old for the ladies, especially.  I don’t understand but then I am not a lady.  I was sort of excited actually when we got the deck built.  You can imagine, as a guy, that a high deck and  the lack of indoor facilities was a temptation too good to pass up!

Bootwasher aka toilet installed

The funny thing is that the very first construction we did at the property was install a regulation septic system.  It remained unused for 2 years as we built our cabin.  I have had the pipe sticking up under the house for 8 months or so.  I just needed to complete that final step where we join the toilet to the pipe.  With my usual schedule, 8 months seems pretty good!

Pipes...who knew how exciting pipes could be?!
Pipes…who knew how exciting pipes could be?!

So, it is functional but we don’t yet have water hooked up.  No worries though…we always bring water for washing and flushing.  I haven’t installed the tank yet.  I’ll get to that  after we get the walls insulated and covered with drywall.  I don’t care much for wrestling a full complete toilet.  I’ll tell you, with the fall muddy season nearly upon us, I am so glad to have the boot washer in place!

See all of the progress on the cabin

The new American stealth fighter

We were working on the deck at the deluxe shed last weekend and we heard this incredible sound.  Circling about overhead was this oddly shaped black flying machine.  It wasn’t a black helicopter so I began to wonder if my tinfoil hat was screwed on a little too tight.  The black flying machine continued to circle though and finally came into my field on approach!  Honest to goodness, the new technology is amazing!  This new stealth fighter landed on one of the boards for the deck on which I was working!

Stealth fighter or giant black horse fly?  You be the judge!
Stealth fighter or giant black horse fly? You be the judge!

We moved over slowly to where it had landed, not knowing if we should be honored or afraid.  I pulled out my camera figuring it would be the moment of truth…either the flying machine would remain still and let me take a pic or I would feel its sting.  I felt bold and alive and the tingles of adrenaline poured over my body!

Stealth fighter or giant black horse fly?  You be the judge! Stealth fighter or giant black horse fly?  You be the judge!

I looked back at Abigail who had first spotted this stealth fighter and she said, “Dad, you’re an idiot…it’s a fly.  Take a picture before it flies off!”  Parenting is so humbling!  I think this baby is a horse fly (Tabanus atratus) but I don’t think I have ever seen a solid black one or one of this size!  He was a beauty and he posed very well for a pic…no bites at all!

She decked me

We always ponder the priority with which we need to work on parts of the deluxe shed.  We need running water, electric, and heat.  There are lots of things that need to be done in a particular order so that we can get electric, water and heat.  Would you believe a deck around the entire place is one of those things?

Building the deck Building the deck

You see, we plan to bury the electric from the pole to a wooden “electric wall” on one side of the house on which the meter and shut-off will reside.  We have always planned on a wrap-around deck so to build the wall, we need to know exactly where the deck is going to be.  Once that is done, we can trench between the pole and the wall.  The rest is sort of easy once that is done.

Building the deck

I don’t know if you have ever been to West-by-God-Virginia, but we have mountains here.  There is precious little flat ground here and that which does exist floods every time it rains.  So, we are building on an incline and in the mud.  It has been fun!  We finished the deck on one side and that has been great as far as getting us in and out of the house…and out of the mud!  The remaining sides are all elevated, with the highest being 9 feet off of the ground.  Still, building deck is easy and makes a dramatic change to the appearance of the place…plus it will allow us to finally get electric, water and heat!

Building the deck

Here’s the cool part about the side deck…Emily, with a little help from Isaac, completely finished it completely by herself.  I was working on the bees while she sawed and hammered and cussed.  We worked together on the frame but she put all of the decking on by herself!  One heck of a woman!

More about building our cabin

Cabin progress – bathroom floor and a deck!

We have been busy lately with the school year winding down. There were banquets and trips and concerts and just lots of activities to round out the school year. There just hasn’t been time to do much of anything…including write anything on here. That changed this weekend! We finally got back up to the country and were able to work some on the executive deer stand. It’s a small cabin but we do not want to be without amenities. Mainly, by amenities, I mean a bathroom with actual running water. Awhile back, I cut holes in the floor for the shower and toilet drains to exit the building. We started to tile the floor but then winter came. This weekend, Isaac and I finished cutting and laying the tile one day and Emily and I grouted it another day.  Finally!  Progress!

My son installing ceramic tile Ceramic bathroom tile

Installing ceramic tile isn’t so bad…with a good helper!

We had originally planned on this place being pretty basic and not too pretentious. It is a deer stand after all. But, like all things with me, it comes down to price. It turns out that if you lay it yourself, ceramic tile is about as cheap as you can get. We found tile we really liked for a really good price. I mixed the thinset mortar and grout by hand so that keeps the price down as well. And dang! It looks great!

Ceramic bathroom tile

Tile near the shower basin

So, now with floor down and grouting done, I have no real reason not to connect the toilet and shower to the drain system. In a solid day’s worth of work, we could actually have a real pot to….well, you know what I mean. It would make our time at the cabin much more pleasant!

Building the deck

Deck framing is done on one side

We were not totally exhausted by tiling so we worked on the deck too. I don’t know if you remember but our place is built on posts and piers so it is well up off of the ground.  Look back at this page and you can see that we had to climb a ladder to get up into the building.  Of course, I know it sounds like a lot of fun, but we have grown tired of free-climbing our way up into the house so the deck is a welcome addition.  It isn’t finished by any means, but we framed a 10′ deep deck on one side of the place that allows us access into the house from ground level!

Building the deck

One of four decks framed!

There is much debate among the wage earners in my house about whether to deck it with treated lumber or composite decking.  Composite is 3-4 times the cost but should last a lot longer.  We will need around 600 sq feet of decking which will be pricey either way.  We’ll see what comes of it but at any rate, we can now get into the house without a ladder!

See all of the progress on the cabin

Closing it in

It has been hectic around here lately but I did manage to get out to the place a week or so ago and do a little work.  We had a hard time deciding what to do to enclose the underneath of the executive deer stand.  We looked at steel underpinning, rock, brick and T1-11.  After looking at the prices, we decided to just use treated 2x8s!

Skirting under the cabin

Treated plywood is pretty expensive, especially in a thickness that seemed worthwhile.  T1-11 is not cheap and once you add primer, paint, and pain in the butt, it isn’t cheap either.  I did some ciphering on the price per square foot and treated 2x8s worked out to being only slightly more expensive and well within the “close enough” factor.

Skirting under the cabin

I like working with individual boards because they are manageable for me to handle alone.  I can hold a board and nail it all by myself.  I think that the bigger draw for me is that the finished product looks log-cabin-ish.  Much like a log cabin, I will let the boards shrink to their dried out size and then use caulking as a sort of chinking in the spaces between the boards.  I am not sure whether we will do anything else with the wood at all.  We may stain it or we may leave it alone.  Either way, I like the look, it will be nice and sturdy and it will not rot or get termites!

Skirting under the cabin

Closing in the bottom space makes it finally feel as if we are closing in on the completion of the outside work!

Not thinking concretely

It was pretty nice this weekend so I decided I needed to go up to the place and do something involving concrete and me in the sunshine.  It has been wet and all that and there is plenty of exposed mud so I knew it might be interesting up there.  Still, I was so excited to be getting some time outside that I poorly planned my todo list.  I hustled out to the lumber store and bought 15 bags of concrete.  I was all prepared to pour the remaining piers we need to have in place before we build the decks.  I crashed through mud puddles and pulled into the hay field.  It was then that it occurred to me that I had not brought rebar, the generator, the angle grinder or sonotubes to form up the piers.  I did however, have 15 bags of mud-puddle-soaked concrete that would not make the trip back home.  I guess I was excited and not fully thinking things through…

Building a stem wall under the house

Plans changed but I was still in the sun so it was all good.  I did pour the 15 bags into an area near the foundation that needed concrete anyhow.  I also finished the wall framing under the house and was able to shovel a lot of the dirt back up against the concrete blocks of the foundation.

Building a stem wall under the house

Progress seems slow lately but this add-on foundation may finally be coming to a close (thank the manufacturer!)  so we can build the decks, get electric connected and finally hook up the porcelain alter so Abigail will stop complaining about her time with Mother Nature!  I may not always think straight, but Abigail makes it very clear to me her position…and her thoughts on that subject are very concrete!


I went up to the deluxe shed by myself last weekend.  We are pushing pretty hard to get a few things done before the snow flies.  I was doing a lot of work under the house and had successfully ducked the cross beams for a couple of hours.  Towards the end of the day (luckily!), I misjudged my duck and smashed my head right into the cross beam.  I had a hat on which sort of protected my head, but I got a little messed up.  If you are easily grossed out, do not continue reading!

I was not painting with red paint…

I was wearing work gloves to protect my dainty hands so they were pretty dirty as you might expect.  When I hit, it dropped me right on the ground.  It wasn’t a matter of teetering around and then sitting down stunned.  It put me down hard.  My hat came off and I knew I had done damage.  My hat was off my head and I immediately put my nasty gloved hand on my head.  Sure enough, I was bleeding and had just smashed dirt into the cut.

Glad I had big band-aids and candy!

I staggered over to the car where, luckily (once again) I had remembered the first aid kit.  We keep a fairly well-stocked first-aid kit with us when we are working.  Since we are working with power tools and low hanging beams, it only seems wise.

Yes, that is a piece of skin in my hat

Anyhow, I self-doctored and texted Emily…  It sort of makes me laugh a little when I read it now.  As I was texting, I went back to my hat.  I found the chunk of skin that was ripped off still in the hat.  I decided not to keep a souvenir.  I think that was the right decision.  I will always carry with me, though, the memory of the squeaking noise that skin being ripped off my head made.  It was awful and that is how I knew for sure I had done damage.  It looks ugly and gooey now but I think I will make it through ok.  I definitely need a better story to explain the scar though…

I’m starting to see it…

We started on our deluxe shed just over a year ago.  We often aren’t able to work more than one day each week on it and it has long seemed as if we might never get the place to a point where we could enjoy it.  We are still a long way from being done but last weekend, Emily and I were able to make great progress on the stem wall that runs around the upper side of the house.  It’s weird but that step alone makes it look like a nearly-completed project!

Building a stem wall

We are three quarters of the way done with the stem wall and should finish it pretty easily.  We also started back-filling the foundation which says the foundation is complete like nothing else could.  I really hate digging dirt and I was super concerned that all of our trudging over the piles of dirt and all of the rain and snow we have (already) had would have packed the dirt but I was pleased that it wasn’t so bad.  I would love to have a skid-steer, but in lieu of that, I suppose this job wasn’t so bad by shovelfuls.

Building a stem wall

A few weekends ago, we poured the piers on which one of the decks will rest.  It is possible that we may actually be able to walk right into the house rather than climbing up a ladder to get in.  Simple decks go up quickly too so we may see even more progress quickly.  Finally, I am starting to see it..this house is coming together.  I am enjoying most of the work we are doing on the house, but I am so ready to be able to move inside to the finish work.  I know  Emily and the kids will be glad for that too…indoor plumbing is really high on their list.  That’s the first priority after we get the outside work finished.  Now, if only the snow will hold off….

Angle grinder + finger = bad

Emily and I finished up digging the footer a while back so that left the best part…mixing concrete!  We mixed and poured 184 bags of concrete into the footer ditch.  Just to save you the math, 184 bags of concrete is a metric crap-ton!  When you pour concrete for just about any purpose, you need to add steel rebar which gives the concrete something to which to bind.  You can buy nice pre-cut pieces or you can buy large pieces for about a quarter the price and cut it yourself.

Angle grinder
Not a fingernail trimmer!

The perfect tool to cut rebar is an angle grinder.  I happen to have an angle grinder with a metal cutting blade on it.  Running an angle grinder is a bit of an adventure!  The same blade that cuts steel with ease and throws sparks like a 4th of July show, spins mere inches from the user’s fingers.  Mostly, when the user is not exhausted, it is a simple task to keep separation between fingers and blade.  A few weeks ago, I was in a fatigued state and co-mingled my left index finger with a spinning blade.  I am incredibly lucky to still have my finger and am even luckier to have only cut a nice gouge in my fingernail.

angle grinder finger cut
This is several weeks healed but you can see the potential…
On the next to last bag of concrete for the footer, I dropped the bag and my finger got between the bag and the blade in the mixer…it was an 80 lb bag and yes, it hurts even 2 weeks later

I both cussed and bled, for roughly the same amount of time, before I surveyed the area for a first aid kit.  We are usually pretty conscientious about keeping first aid supplies on hand, but in our fatigued state, we left home without one.  I have always been one to improvise and really, my solution is not terribly new, but I am still proud of my first aid solution…duct tape!

Redneck Band-aid?
Redneck Band-aid?
Almost done laying the block!

I was able to continue on with work for the day but I was much slower and continued to mumble bad things off and on through the day.  It was not a lot of fun though and I still have a nice bit of concrete filler in the gouge where my fingernail should be.  Friends, I have to tell you, if you feel an urge to trim your fingernails on the work site, DO NOT use an angle grinder.  Stick to a metal file or cross-cut pliers or even tin-snips…but not an angle grinder!