Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Setting the Ham Radio Tower

A few weeks ago when Marti was out of town, Marvin rented a jack hammer and took a few more feet of rock out of the tower foundation. He had had a base for the tower made last year and it has to fit completely in the foundation, with just a few inches of pipe out of the foundation for the tower to fit into. Then, he added rebar, ground rods, and yesterday, a truck load of cement. Once the concrete sets up and the wind dies down (if it ever does), he is ready to assemble the tower.










Friday, December 1, 2017

Storm Room is Installed

The same week the electrians changed out the meter box, Marvin got a call that the storm room door was finished.  Over the next few days, Marvin finished the door wall and installed the door.  Not an easy feat as the wall is steel sandwiched between plywood and the door weighs 600 pounds by itself.   The recommended locks (there are three deadbolts) cost over a thousand dollars, so Marvin is going to check with the company who built the door and see if they have a cheaper source.

The inside of the storm room is sheetrocked, and has an overhead light, electric outlet, an internet connection, and a ham radio connection.  Of course, most tornadoes go through quickly and most of the time the all clear is sounded fifteen to twenty minutes after a tornado is spotted.  So we really don't need internet or ham radio unless the building falls in on top of us and we need to call for help, and in that case, the antenna tower will probably be down too.  But it will be something to do, kind of like pressing the help button over and over in a stuck elevator.

When finished, the storm room will have closet space and store soft things like sleeping bags and blankets so it isn't a big waste of space 364 days a year.

After getting that room finished, Marvin was able to finish framing the closet walls and setting the pocket doors.  Except for a couple of trim pieces, the framing is finally finished!








Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Electric Meter, Panel, and RV Pad


If you recall, we got the first meter May first.  So why do we have a new one?  One word: Oncor.  Or maybe it should be two words, the first and last name of the Oncor representative.  Oncor is the electric provider in this area, which is not to be confused with the electric provider, TXU, who actually installed the meter meters.

The Oncor representative, who was new to his job last fall, told Marvin that it would be cheaper to run the lines underground and have two meters because of the rebates.  Since we only have one building, we were going to have one meter for the garage and one for the house.  Then the representative drug his feet at every turn and it took months to get everything installed.  In fact, I went around him to the previous reprentative to finally get electricity.

After we got the first meter, we called TXU, and then Oncor, and then TXU....  To make a long story short, the Oncor representative was wrong, we cannot have two meters on the same building. Commercial businesses can have more than one meter, but residences cannot.  One of the TXU people we talked to, and there were several, told us that we may be able to get the second meter billed as recreational; otherwise, it would have to be a commercial meter.  AND, we would have to build a second barn either way.  Finally, it was decided that we wouldn't have to have two meters after all, but we would have to have a bigger meter to handle both areas.

So here it is, the new meter on the left, and the first meter on the right.

Marvin had recently finished spreading the road base for an outside RV pad and the electrician also installed an RV outlet box with 50, 30, and 15 amp outlets.  Near it is the water faucet, now covered, and the dump station.  I bought the dump station sewer cap from <a href="http://www.rvparksupplies.com/" target="_blank">RV Park Supplies</a>.  They were great to deal with.  Now we are ready for company with their RVs!
The last thing done by the electrician was to put a breaker box in the wall for the house.  Now we can finally get the wiring done in the house and not have extension cords everywhere.
Oh, and that Oncor representative?  He's no longer with the company.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Winding Up Again

By the third week in June, we had quit working on the barndominium.  The temperatures had reached the high 90's and with abundant spring rains, the humidity was higher than normal.  Plus, we had worked long hours every weekend and every evening until we had reached the breaking point.  I guess you could say we were stressed out, burned out, and tapped out.

I printed this quote from The Cabinet Guy at rvforum.net: 
Now get out there and have FUN! If tempers start getting short and it stops being fun STOP!!!!! That is a good time to go get wings and a beer and walk away until next weekend. Also...Take breaks from the project for a day or a week now and then. A Project of fun and love can turn into a ball and chain if you try too hard too fast.
Of course, he was talking about building a trailer, not a house, but if tempers flare (and ours were), it's good advice no matter how it was intended.

Also, with that abundant rain, which continued through late July, we had to work on our hay field.  This land hadn't been worked in a number of years; the hay was poor and the weeds were taking over.  So from mid-June until late August, we spent every evening mowing.  Our hay mentor told us to keep the fields cut short for a year or more and the hay will come back.  Easier said than done, but I can tell now that it has made a difference.  Already, our field looks better than the one next door that hasn't been cut since last fall.

By September, we knew that we were going to be living in a trailer for quite a while, so we traded our small trailer for a larger one.  A few of our new neighbors told us that we'd probably be living in our trailer for a year or more if our build took as long as theirs.  It took until September for us to believe them.  Of course, having a bigger trailer meant we had to have a bigger truck and it wasn't until October that we found the one that fit our requirements and budget.

Usually, the high temperatures begin to break by mid-September, but this year the heat hung in there until the end of the month.  When it did, I we decided that we needed to organize our tools before starting work again.  My Our first priority was to get unneeded items off the floor and out of our way.  We lined the west wall of the garage with a layer of foam insulation topped with 5/8 inch plywood.  On the upper level, we put some shelves for lightweight items and a bigger platform for heavier things.  Eventually, a ladder will attach to a rail on the platform.

Last week, I started building cabinets to hold the tools and provide more workbench space.  It's pretty sad when the bumper of the trailer is used as a counter.




Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sunset

I just happened to walk outside with the phone this evening to catch this sunset.



Last week we saw a deer in our driveway when we drove in at night, and Saturday we saw two deer in the middle of the day. There is evidence of hogs at the back near a creek, but so far we haven't seen one on our property. We've seen them around though, and Marvin hit one at dawn one morning on his way to work. He didn't know if he killed it because it kept running, but I saw its final resting place when I left later that morning and so did about twenty-five buzzards.

One of our neighbors named their place Hog Run Farm and I told Marvin we should name ours Hog Wild Farm. He didn't think that was funny.



Friday, June 30, 2017

Sunrise at the Farm


Marvin enjoys sunrise on the porch, and this one was particularly pretty.  His comment when he took this picture:

Sleeping in a cramped trailer somehow is worth it with morning coffee and quiet sunrises.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Attic Decking Completed

It's not much to show for the weekend, but in our defense, we took off Saturday for some R&R.




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Stairs Are Up and the Last Windows Are Installed

Marvin has been working on stairs a little at a time this week and had them rough finished by Friday night.  Saturday was unbelievably hot and humid.  The day began at 72° with 91% humidity; by noon it was 77° with 86% humidity.  It felt like a sauna inside the barn but Marvin toiled away in it, finishing the blocking and other little details.

In my last post, I said that I just couldn't lift those windows so they were going to have to wait until someone stronger came by.  Well, my dear brother-in-law made a trip down here to lift those windows and get them set.  Whew!  One step closer to being able to put up siding.  We probably have to order a new front door though.  One day when both ends of the barn were open, a not particularly strong wind blew the door over and broke the plastic trim around the glass.





North window wall

Looking at the North window wall



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rough Plumbing Is In, and Another Wind Story

There's a song They Call the Wind Maria  (or Mariah in some editions).  Sounds like a name for someone nice, doesn't it?  Clearly, whoever wrote that song never had to carry plywood in it, or try to wrap Tyvek on a house.  If so, the song might have had a title like They Call the Wind Abaddon.  Nine out of every ten days seems to have winds from 15-25 mph.  Last night, I talked with a few neighbors and one of them also had garage doors blown out when we did.  When I said that it seemed to be an unusally windy year, they said that it is usually worse than this.  Yikes!  Now I know why homesteaders planted windbreaks.

The plumbers helpers finished the rough plumbing inside and installed three outdoor faucets, on front and back porches, and one on the RV pad.  It's so nice to be able to have hoses outside instead of all from our single indoor faucet.



It was warm and humid while they were here (of course), so they opened all the windows to take advantage of the strong wind blowing through.  After they left that evening, I closed the windows and noticed one screen was bent in the center top and bottom.



"...and I call the wind Abaddon!"



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Window Walls Part 3

These walls are recessed behind the roll-up doors for extra protection from the elements and for security when we want to hook onto the trailer and have an adventure.  Those doors, however, have been a challenge, and not just from the wind.  They have to be completely enclosed on the top side to keep out the wind, the rattle caused by the wind, and the bugs.  It also needs to have siding on the exposed side which meant that Marvin had to devise a plan to make it snug and attractive, and yet leave room for the door to work.

So the chore this weekend was the outside of the window walls, and of course installing some of the windows.  I cracked a rib or two a couple of weeks ago, so haven't been of much help lately.  I did manage to get my side of the shorter triple window into the opening, but the larger triple window was just too much.  It will either have to wait until I am better or until the unsuspecting strong person stops to visit.

South side
South side
When we planned this building, we knew we would be building this recessed wall, and yet one of the details we missed was the dropped porch area.  We gave the concrete guy a two foot deep measurement to the wall (and on the front it should have been deeper because of the brick ledge), but we didn't think about the sides.  So he made it the standard for garage doors when it should have been a little more to allow for the position of the wall.

South wall

When we stood the above wall, we found that the slab was unlevel on the left side.  It was about an inch higher and you can see it in the framing above the door.  It's impossible to have a slab this big and not have uneven places.  But what a bad place for it.  There are ways of dealing with an uneven floor under a door, but it was going to be a pain.  However, when Marvin put the door in place, the slab was perfectly flat right there.  Talk about a lucky break. The high spot was only near the corner of the wall and leveled out about six inches from the door.  Marvin did have to adjust the header, but he said that wasn't a problem.  Since we are going to have wood on the ceiling, the difference won't be noticeable there either.

South wall


South wall


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Window Walls Part 2

This weekend we worked on the window walls on the north and south ends of the great room.  We still have to keep the roll-up doors down most of the time because the wind blows through it so hard that it blows everything around and blows sawdust in our eyes.

South wall

North wall



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Aerobic Septic System Installed

Paved driveway, electricity, and now septic.  We're beginning to feel downright civilized around here now.

Start to finish in less than a day.   We had the plumber put in an RV dump on the other side of the barn.  As soon as we get it customized and a door cut through the side for the stinky slinky, we can have full hook-ups here for our RV.  Hopefully, we just have to make one more run to the dump station before that is ready.


No wonder the ground dries out so fast after a rain.











Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Long Drive Home

Today, the trucks began bringing in road base for the driveway and our guy, Phillip, came out to smooth it.  He is an artist with a skid steer.  200 yards of road base delivered with a belly dump truck.









Monday, May 1, 2017

We Have Electricity! Finally, Finally, Finally!

I was out when Marvin pulled into the driveway and saw electric lines coming out of the meter box.  So someone from Oncor had been out to pull lines from the transformer to it.  We weren't sure who was to put in the actual meter, so Marvin called TXU to find out and put in a request if needed.  An hour later I got home and was on the phone to a friend when I saw a truck coming down the driveway and he stopped at the transformer.  I may have shouted in her ear that I thought it was someone to put in the meter as I clicked off the phone.  (Sorry Debbie.)



Sure enough, it was a contractor for TXU here to install the meter.  He opened the box and said, uh oh, these wires were installed wrong by the electrician.  They are supposed to be in the bottom of the box, not the top.  Worried, I asked if that meant he couldn't put in the meter.  He said he couldn't touch the wiring because of liability.  Before he could leave, Marvin jumped in and said he would do it, and with the electric guy advising, they got it done.  Within minutes, the meter was on and we had electricity.  Beautiful, shiny, humming electricity.

We 💕 Electricity



I'm sure this guy thinks we have completely lost our marbles because we were both so excited to see him.  At one point, he looked over at us and said, "it's just electricity."   I wanted to correct him and say no,  it's not having to get up and refill the generator in the middle of the night, it's being able to stay up past dark, it's being able to turn on more than one light at a time,  and it's being able to watch tv at night without worrying about the generator.  But we just laughed and let him think we were looney.

And then we texted everyone who had been commiserating with us, and a special  thank you text to Jason who made this happen.  


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Electric Update and a Window Walls Part 1

No power by Tuesday.  Big surprise - NOT!

Some of our new neighbors had been encouraging us to call the Oncor rep who used to have this territory.  Because Marvin is also a salesman,  he knows what a hassle it is to try to learn a new territory while customers from the old territory still want you to help them.  So he didn't want to do that to this guy, Jason.

However, on Wednesday, I had reached my limit.  Tuesday had been hot and humid, so of course Tuesday night was hot and humid, which meant the air conditioner ran more and the generator ran out of gas around 5:30a.m, right after Marvin left for work.  So my choices were to get dressed, find a flashlight, and go refill it, or sweat for another hour until there was enough light to see it.  Since the trailer is inside the barn where there is no breeze at all and with a propane heater and refrigerator, it gets warm and stuffy fast.  So I got up.

A few hours later I started calling the neighbors to see who had Jason's number.  Then I looked up the check to see when we paid Oncor to start this whole process.  Novemeber 28, 2016.  Twenty one weeks and two days.  Ridiculous.  When I finally talked to Jason, he was very concerned that it has been so long and promised to look into it.  When I talked to him the next day, he said the order had been turned in on April 21, four days after the last guy said we would have power.  Jason said it could take up to ten days once the order was turned in, but he had sent a request up the ladder to expedite because we are living here without power.  He said worst case, we should have power by May 5, but maybe sooner.  So on we go.

After the beating he took last weekend, Marvin wanted to build Saturday and take it easier on Sunday.  So that's what we did.  We built and stood the last window wall Saturday.  On Sunday, Marvin reworked his plan for the storm safe room (it's getting smaller each time) and thinks it is a manageable size now.  It is just big enough for two people and that's about it.  If we ever have a tornado when we have company, they'll have to draw straws to see who gets to sit on the floor.

South wall
South wall
North wall


Windows and doors should be in next week.  The driveway should be finished next week, and the septic, which was supposed to be installed April 29, should be installed next week.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Big, Heavy Walls are Up

Still no power, so things are moving exceedingly slow.  We can use one piece of equipment at a time on our generator, but not the table saw.  As Marvin put it, the table saw will knock it down and stomp all the life out of it.  So we continue building slowly.

Last Saturday, Lonnie came out to help again, and they got the long wall up.  It is a six inch wall with one big header and a smaller one, so it was really heavy.  I helped lift a little but mainly I held it steady while they did all the hard work.  Later, when they put up all the ceiling joists, I held things and took the air hammer from one to the other.


Courtesy of Lonnie



On Sunday, we were beat, but Marvin and I managed to build and stand one window wall where the kitchen will be.  We also began blocking the ceiling joists that he and Lonnie put up Saturday.




According to our Oncor rep, we should have power by Tuesday.  Finally.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Slow Building Progress, But We Are Now Living Here Full-time

It look Overhead Door almost two weeks to get out to replace both doors.  We've had a lot of wind since they were installed, but the new doors barely move and are much quieter too.

Since we couldn't do any building while waiting for them to replace the doors, we finished the ceiling joists over the bedroom section, and then moved stuff out here from two storage units.  These were the units with our tools, and while we haven't found everything yet, at least we have enough to work with for now.

However, having all that stuff here made it hard to work and hard to find anything.  So Marvin built a ramp out of three ceiling joists and floor decking.  Then we bought a 12 volt winch so we could pull things up the ramp on a dolly.  It worked well a couple of times during his testing, but the next morning when it came time for me to put all the boxes in the attic, it wouldn't work.  After a long, hard day of pulling the dolly up by hand with a rope, I was beat.  But I had most of the boxes up there.  When Marvin got home from his real job, he worked on the hoist and it worked like a charm after that.



The lease on our duplex was up April 15.  Rather than sign a new lease, and to save time and money driving an hour each way from every day, we decided to move out here and live in the trailer full time.  The Oncor representative said we should have electricity by April 18, or April 20 at the latest.  We thought we could live off the generator a few days.

Have I mentioned how long we have been waiting for electricity, and keep getting promises and excuses from this guy?  Needless to say, we did not have power by April 18.  Maybe by April 20, but I'm losing hope.

Meanwhile, we hoisted to the attic the remaining boxes and few pieces of furniture we had taken to the duplex.