Tuesday, August 1, 2017


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.  

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.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

It's Big. It's Green. It's a Transformer!

When we pulled into the driveway today, we saw that the transformer had been installed.  Marvin talked to the Oncor guy and he said power would be hooked to the barn in just a few days.  Yippee!  We are getting there.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This, of course, is the ugly.

Tuesday night, a storm came through and blew out this door.  The other one doesn't look great, but it still works.

We had noticed that the doors billowed quite a big when the wind blew.  Marvin braced the south door because it looked like it was about to come out of its tracks.  Last Friday, the builder was out looking at the walk-through door that the insulation guys ran into (yes, this is our week for problems), and he said something about the brace and then he noticed that the doors didn't have wind locks and said they should have them.  Before we started building, he had told Marvin they would have the wind locks.  But they don't.  The brace kept the south door from blowing in, but there was enough wind getting through that it got the north door.

The builder called the door company and they are replacing this door and will come look at the south door to see if it has to be replaced too.  It still rolls up, but it is bowed.

Now for the bad.  We ordered two pocket doors and after getting them here, we found that they weren't going to work at all.  Now we have to order two smaller ones and either return these or use them somewhere else.

Saving the good for last, we finally got approval from Oncor on the ditches, the pull box and the conduit.  Now if we could just get Oncor to move a little faster than they have been, we could have electricity by the time we are finished with the inside of the barndominium.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

We Have Walls! Sort of.

We have framed walls at least.  In this barndominium, we are doing double wall construction separated by an air space.  This creates a super insulated and very energy efficient living space.  But it's also a little more work than just nailing the framing to the steel.  The walls are built like a regular framed house, but before lifting them, foil faced polyiso foam insulation is attached to the back, and all the joints are taped.  But one those difficult walls were finished, the next wall went up pretty fast.

Marvin's brother, Lonnie, came out to help us this weekend, bless his heart.  Thanks to him, I didn't have to do a lot of heavy lifting.  We got most of the bedrooms framed but need a couple of pocket doors before we can continue with that part.  The kitchen, dining, and living area just has three walls, so that shouldn't take as long, even though they have a lot of windows and doors to frame.

Marvin's father was a builder and both boys worked for him when they were living at home.  I got the feeling they didn't have a choice in the matter.  Marvin enjoyed the work but Lonnie would have liked to be with his friends instead.  But he said he likes it more now, especially when it is something like this when you see what you've accomplished at the end of the day.  I like seeing this come together too.

We still don't have electricity, but we are one step closer.  Last week, the Oncor inspector came out and didn't approve two things.  Today, the guy who did the ditching came out to put gravel under the pull box, and tomorrow the electrician will come out to replace the conduit going to the meter.  Then we'll cross our fingers and hope they get out here quickly to install our lines and transformer.

Monday, March 20, 2017

First Layer of Insulation, Hard Cell Foam

When we first researched building a barndominium, we were going to use the batt insulation that is standard, or what could be called builder grade.  But everyone we talked to said we should really use foam insulation, both those who had it and those who wished they had it.  Not only does foam insulation seal every air leak, and there are many in a metal building, but it has a higher R value.  So even though it was more expensive, we decided to go that route.

Then the decision was whether to do open cell or closed cell insulation.  Closed cell is harder than open cell, so gives extra strength to the thin metal walls.  It is also waterproof and seals off air leaks, so prevents air and water from coming through all those little openings.  Because it is denser than open cell, it has a higher R value, but that also makes it more expensive than open cell.

We considered putting closed cell on just the living portion of the barn and doing the garage part later, but decided that would be a big hassle.  We also considered putting an inch of hard cell and three inches of closed cell, but in the end, we decided to do two inches of closed cell over the whole thing.  They did a non-expanding foam around the windows.

Since the highs have been hovering around 90 degrees lately, we could tell an immediate difference in both the inside temperature and the noise of the building itself.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Stained and Polished Concrete Floor

Grinding concrete:

Acetone stain applied:

Densifier applied:

Honing the concrete:

Polishing the concrete:

And after it's final buffing:

It is shinier than I wanted, but maybe it will tone down once the walls are up.  The guy said I could dull to a matte finish with wax, but the whole point of doing stained concrete floors was to reduce maintenance.  Waxing is maintenance!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Garage Doors and Roll-up Doors Installed in Barndominium

We are officially closed in!

Yesterday, three of the six garage doors were completely installed. One was started but not finished.  Two roll-up doors still hadn't been delivered but came in yesterday afternoon, so today all the doors are finished.