Yeah… certainly there has been a lack of activity on here. I wish I could say that everything is going well, the roof and toilet room are finished, the solar is hooked up, we have a tonne of dry wood and we’re living comfortably, but we’re not. Well, we are at the moment as we aren’t in the trailer. We headed down to the Ottawa area to visit with family for the holidays, but we will be heading back tomorrow.
So where exactly are we at? That is an excellent question. Out of all of those things I listed above, the best I can say is they are all a work in progress. How can that be? you may ask, as it has been over a month since the last update. Well, we’ve had weather delays, and scheduling delays, construction set backs, other obligations that take up your time, general living and so on. It is not for lack of working, that’s for sure.
So what exactly have we accomplished? Well, we have somewhere to pile wood, for now. It’s not super exciting, but it does the job… for the most part. I put it together using the straw bales we had lying around, some logs and a really big tarp. Here is a picture of the front of it.
As I said, it doesn’t look like much, but it does help keep the wood dry. It also faces south so if the sun decides to come out, it helps to dry out any wood that is there. Here is a picture of the back.
As you can also see by the above picture, we also have a bird feeder setup. That picture was taken the day after we put the bird feeder up, so it didn’t have much traffic yet. However we did have one quite remarkable visitor. He is in the picture above, but here is a closer view.
We originally thought this was a white winged crossbill (which is a stupid name for a red bird :P), but after further searching it turned out to be a pine grosbeak. He wasn’t shy at all either. I took that picture with the camera on my phone. You can imagine just how close I had to be to get that picture. He found the seed in the feeders and he wasn’t going to move. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been back since that first day. This doesn’t mean that our feeder is lacking in birds. Once the chickadees found the feeder, they have been feeding non-stop from sun up to sun down. We also have blue jays, red breasted nut hatches and a pair of hairy woodpeckers as well. The red squirrels have attempted to get up the pole a few times, but gave up after it was clear the birds were knocking enough seeds on the ground that they couldn’t gather it fast enough to keep up.
Moving on… we have been working on the roof over the trailer and we have made some progress. We measured and planned and staked all of the support spots for the posts. I say support because the posts are not dug into the ground, they are floating. The support holes are 60cm cubed (2′ cubed), filled with drainage gravel and then a foundation pad is placed on top. What is a foundation pad, you may ask? Well, let me show you some pictures.
First, this is drainage gravel.
It is a larger gage gravel with no sand in it so water can drain through it. Next is a picture of Kat digging the first post hole.
As you can see, there wasn’t any snow on the ground when we started that. That was the 12th of November, 2014. Yes, all of that snow we had received earlier ended up disappearing. For a while. Anyway, as I mentioned above, once the hole is dug, it kinda looks like this.
I will admit, the depth is almost impossible to judge from the photo. Once you have it dug down to 60cm, you fill it with the drainage gravel and throw a foundation pad on it. Here is the first one completed.
The foundation pads are made of concrete, are 40x45cm (15.5″ x 17.5″) and weigh a tonne. Well, maybe not that much. I’m guessing upwards of 45kg (100lbs). The wheel barrow comes in handy for moving them around.
Anyway, rinse and repeat and eventually you have more holes you’ve dug and filled. We did three that first day.
It took us six days to dig and fill all 17 post holes and by the time we did the last ones, there was a significant amount of snow on the ground again. Luckily, once the digging was completed, we didn’t have to worry too much about the ground freezing.
So, now that we have all of these post holes, it would help if we had posts to put on them. This is where much of the delays happened. Originally, we were going to cut spruce trees off our lot to use as the posts. I had cut nine already, but after discussing it with my friends the builders (same friends who are helping me build it), it was determined that the trees I had cut weren’t big enough. I ended up only have two that were big enough. So, I had to go cut some bigger trees. So that’s what I did.
Unfortunately, once I cut the trees to the size that was needed, they ended up being so big that you would need a team of elephants to move one. Plus, I had to go further and further into the forest to get cut the trees and we really had no way to get them out. This was a bid delma, so I called up my friend Andres, who is the one helping me with all of this building.
Andres, and his wife Sophia, have a large 61 acre lot with a large red pine plantation on it. Many of those trees have been felled for their own building purposes, but they were extremely generous and donated to us pre-cut logs we could use for posts. All we had to do was get them over to our place. That meant renting a big trailer, which wasn’t available right away; we had to reserve it. But the day came and we headed over to their place and loaded up the logs. I have a screen shot to prove it too.
That’s me in the helmet and Andres doing the photo-bomb 😛 We’re working, but we’re having a good time.
Okay, so we now have post logs. What about the rest of the building materials? In fact, I had ordered those a while back and they had been sitting inside of our truck shelter, leaving the poor truck outside in the elements.
So, it wood seem (pun intended :P) that we’re all set to begin. So we did, but it was Dec 9th by that point. As Andres is helping us without pay, we are subject to his availability. We certainly can’t complain about that. He and his wife have been very awesome friends and very helpful. I should also mention that Andres runs a builder/handyman business with a friend of his, Gerald, who is also helping us during this build project. Friends helping friends are the most awesome thing ever.
Now those of you who know a thing or two about building are probably wondering how we get the posts to keep from slipping off the foundation pads? I have a simple answer for you: rebar. We drilled holes in the middle of the foundation pads and drove a #4 rebar through it. Seeing is believing.
The plan from there was to drill similar holes in the posts, squirt them full of industrial glue and plunk them down on the foundation pads. Here is a picture of us putting up our first post.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. We had a really difficult time standing the post up and then it immediately fell over. Frozen logs 5.5m (18′) long at that size are really heavy. We decided that, the safer way to go would be to build the posts out of 2x4s. The problem with that meant ordering more lumber (not to mention spending more money). I went out the next morning to the lumber yard and ordered the wood; that was Wednesday, December 10th. Here we ran into more delays as the lumber yard was out of 2x4s and they couldn’t deliver any until Friday. Then it decided to dump a big pile of snow on Thursday, which further delayed my lumber delivery until Monday, due to their shipment not arriving when it had been scheduled. The weekend was out for us anyway as Kat and I headed to Ottawa for previously scheduled family events.
So it was Monday, December 15th when we finally got back to it. We built the posts and started working on the beams. This is as far as we got.
What you can’t see in that picture are the posts we also put up at the back and the posts we had built for the center supports. I also had begun construction on our toilet room somewhere in the middle of all of that. This is as far as I got on that project.
Not very far, unfortunately. We worked Monday and Tuesday of that week, then on Wednesday, Andres truck broke down and he couldn’t leave home. The rest of the week was a write-off and then we headed out for the holidays. I’m sure you’ll hear similar stories from anyone trying to build or fix something themselves. Things are always behind schedule. This is really only a concern if you get bent out of shape about trying to stick to a schedule. We try to take it one day at a time and do what we can. You survive with your sanity intact much longer that way.
I could go on, as there are other fun things that have happened, but I think I’ll end it here and save those other things for another post. The new year is coming up quick and we will be in the trailer to greet it. That will be another first for us 🙂
Stay healthy, everyone.