31 December 2005

Don't panic...

There won't be any news for a week or so!

We have gone to the Island to visit the family, and hopefully there'll be lots of interesting news to report on our return.

I did buy a toilet, how's that for exciting? :) It's out at the house, awaiting installation.

More later on this same station!

27 December 2005

Power! Real power!

I was out at the acreage today to feed and water the cats, and Solar Dude was there just finishing up some work. The batteries are in their battery box now, and they are being charged from the solar panels! There is one outlet on the super duper power central thingie (inverter and all other controlling devices), and today I actually saw it power a drill for a moment. How exciting! How cool!

Everything else is still the same mess that construction sites tend to be, but we are making progress and that is very exciting.

Power! Yippee!

25 December 2005

Merry Christmas from Apple Jack Creek

Merry, merry Christmas to everyone!

I was feeling kind of sorry for myself, being without a real "home of my own", especially as we are now really 'in between' - the cabin has been more or less emptied out to allow for washing all the laundry and sparing all the supplies from freezing, and the house isn't liveable yet. Then I remembered the people in the path of the hurricanes, who are spending the holidays in tents, knowing that all the things they had with memories attached to them are gone forever. My stuff is just in a storage unit - and in fact, I got my big Christmas bucket out, and we put our own stockings out and some of our decorations are on the shelves at Union Guy's house. We are really very fortuntate.

Of course, it is still a very stressful time, and I really don't ever, ever want to go through this again ... but with the help of the work crew, we are now officially closed in, some of the insulation is in place (we had to leave some gaps until the wiring inspection is done, but we are ready for that too!), the big monstrous black thing which controls the power (the inverter and all it's associated gadgetry) is mounted on the wall, and Plumber Man tells me that we should, if all goes well, have heat by the end of next week. The chimney is in for my woodburning stove (that's what the round thing is), the roof is all finished, right up to the peak at the front, and the pine doors for my interior doorways have been brought inside - they are even more beautiful than I had expected! Wow!

Clearly, it is the season of miracles.

Blessings on every hand that helped to make this happen!

Peace on earth starts in each home. May you have a peaceful day today!

20 December 2005

Two thirds of a roof!

The guys worked hard again - on the weekend, Union Guy and Solar Dude did a bunch more work on the electrical, and yesterday, the Crew of Usual Suspects got more of the roof done. The east side of the roof has chimneys that had to be installed, and that meant cutting pieces out of the tin roofing, so it took quite a bit longer. Plus, everything on the second side has to be matched up to what you did on the first side. The roof should all be on by lunch time today, though! They are out working again this morning. Union Guy will stay for the afternoon and do more on the electrical - he really hopes to get power up and running soon. :) I hear all my interior doors are indoors now too: apparently just unpacking them took two hours (not hauling them anywhere, it took two hours to get them *out* of the packaging that they were shipped in!). Union Guy says they are beautiful, which is good, I paid extra for them. :)

The Boy has his Christmas concert at school tonight, so after school he and Union Guy get to go out for dinner (yes, there are a few places to go out for dinner within reasonable driving distance of Apple Jack Creek), then we'll all meet up at the school and hear the Chimney Sweep sing his song (that's the theme for his class ... I have a feeling that Santa gets stuck in a chimney somewhere along the way.)

Further updates (with pictures!) tomorrow!

17 December 2005

Half a roof!

Half a roof is actually a really, really big step forward!

In the chilly -18 C weather, the guys got up on the roof, peeled off the tarp that was keeping the worst of the snow out of the house, and started putting the metal on. In this action shot, you can see how the roofing felt (it isn't felt, it's more like tar paper, but that's what they call it) gets put on first, then the metal piece goes over that. The metal is screwed down to the strapping, and as the pieces link together at the overlaps, that's pretty much all you have to do.
On Monday, they'll go back and finish the other side (there are some cutouts for vents and things so that'll take a bit longer) and hopefully get the exterior door on as well. Then ... voila ... we have a closed in house! In time for Christmas!
I have been singing "All I want for Christmas is a roof on my house", so it seems that wishes really do come true.

My deepest and most heartfelt thanks to the crew who worked to make this happen: Contractor Man (bless you, bless you, bless you), Contractor Man's Assistant (may you always have plenty of tea and milk), and Union Guy (there just aren't enough words to express my gratitude for this, and everything else).

The only constant is change

Plans, of course, have changed again.

Contractor Man has done these types of metal roofs before, but we have a hugely steep slope, and he wasn't feeling like doing imitations of mountain goats if it could be avoided.

However, as things went on ... and on ... and on ....

It finally seemed that climbing up there to put sheathing on would be as much work as climbing up there to put the metal on! So, today, as I write this, the guys are out at my place in -18 C weather putting up the metal roof. Actually, I think they were going to finish the interior stairs and hang the exterior door in the hopes that things would warm up a bit by afternoon, and then they'd climb up on the roof.

Me, I'm in town, nice and warm, and surrounded by kids. Union Guy's kids are here, and The Boy is sleeping in (he certainly needs it, there's been a lot of chaos in his life lately, but that is a separate story). I'm being called to read books, so I better go!

14 December 2005


I'm working on cultivating equanimity in the face of continually changing circumstances.

This morning, Roofer Man tells me the soonest he can get my roof on is the second week of January.

I start thinking. I look into little ATCO Trailer rental units that have heaters. I think, you know, this is silly. I need a roof on my house. What if we put sheathing on and then the metal goes over that? Once the sheathing is on, we are closed in, we can get power hooked up, heat, water, everything. Insulation. Inspections. Money from the bank. Lots of good things.

So, I told all this to Union Guy, who called Contractor Man, who says this sounds reasonable. He is going to check with Roofing Company People and confirm that sheathing is ok with this kind of roof (well, we know it's ok, the question is do we have to put additional strapping on top of it or can it just go straight on the wood).

Contractor Man (God bless him) is available to put sheathing on the roof starting Monday. This week, he's bringing me stairs (no more climbing ladders to get to the loft!) and installing my exterior door (the cats will be annoyed that they can't sleep in the insulation piles anymore).

That's our update - we are warm, weather is still good, we actually stayed in town the last five nights ... it's gonna be a shock being home!

10 December 2005

Oh, the power, the power!!

The solar panels are installed! They are generating power! Of course it isn't actually *going* anywhere, but hey. This is Solar Dude demonstrating the lovely solar panels. Aren't they cool? They are 150 watt isophoton 24 volt modules, so together they will generate approximately 600 watts per hour of electricity (under ideal circumstances). They are connected to the house with a big chunk of cable that cost $439, believe it or not. We got awesome batteries - there was a mixup in the order/supply process that resulted in 40% more storage capacity for the same price (Surrette, 1156 ah batteries for those who understand these things). They are stunningly heavy, though, four batteries at 318 lbs each had to be lowered into the crawlspace. Carefully. Slowly. Very, very gently. In the end, the system can handle 3.4 kilowatts of electricity per day. What that means is that with compact fluorescent bulbs in my light fixtures, a natural gas stove and a super efficient (and insanely expensive) refrigerator, I can live like I'm connected to the grid. Well, I do have to pay attention to my power usage, and run the generator every so often to top up the batteries, but it's not like we have to use oil lamps for lighting or anything. :)

So today's adventure was working on the wiring some more ... Solar Neighbour came out again and helped get the circuits all sorted out, and Union Guy rearranged his day so that he could help as well. Apparently Shadowcat thought that he should help too, he kept climbing into my lap as I was stripping wires and hooking up outlets. Yup, you read that right ... *I* was hooking up electrical outlets. Solar Neighbour is a good teacher - I spent most of the day wiring up outlets, and at the end of the day I started on light switches. By the time we headed back to the Big City, we had pretty much everything done - there's some small stuff yet to do, but the bulk of the work is finished. Huge thanks to our neighbour, who has rearranged his days to come and help and has done a lot of the work! Thanks, neighbour!

07 December 2005

Warm winter days

It's supposed to stay warm for the next couple of weeks ... which is good, because we need Roofing Man to finish up the big job he's working on (and he can't do that if it is super cold with nasty winds and blowing snow) so that he can come and put *our* roof on!

So far, it's looking promising ... just please don't sing White Christmas too loudly, ok?

02 December 2005

Chilly, but ok

Just a quick post for those who may have checked our weather - last night was very chilly (-21ish) but we did okay.

When I got home last night we moved some furniture: took The Boy's bed down, and put a mat on the floor in that space, moved the heater over to that area, and hung a curtain between the "bedroom" end and the "kitchen" end. The kitchen end is where the window stays open (to allow fresh air in so that we don't suffocate from the kerosene heater burning up all the oxygen), but even a tiny crack makes a significant draft in such a small space.

The new arrangement worked well, and two bodies in one bed (with all the blankets from two beds on one bed!) was nice and comfortable. I only woke up when the wind started whistling through the window opening, but even then, I wasn't cold. Yay!

01 December 2005

A really, really big tent.

We are now well past my "worst case scenario" for dates. I have to say it, Dad, you were right. It'll be almost Christmas before we are in. We were *this* close, and then that roof mixup happened....

On Tuesday, Contractor Man and Union Guy put a couple of big tarps on the roof, so I guess that makes me the proud owner of a really, really big tent. With solid walls.
Hmm, a soft top house? It makes working inside much more pleasant, and keeps the snow out so we can continue to work without a roof, but ya can't live in it.

The mixup with the roofing materials has caused serious problems: the roofer was available in a fairly tight timeframe - and he showed up as scheduled, only to find out that the roofing wasn't what was needed, and of course, we couldn't get replacement roofing that same day. Now that we have the replacement roofing, our roofer is busy on another job. He says he should be available in two weeks.

Yes, I know. Two weeks in December is a long, long time to be in a small shed.

I did look at other options, but they are insanely expensive: a winterized camper van is $100 a night, an ATCO trailer with a furnace is $2200 a month. So, the plan is to snug up the shed a little more. First, we'll get some floor covering down: I have a really nice rag rug type thing that I got at Rona a couple weekends ago for $25. I'm going to spread one of those emergency blankets on the floor and put the rug on top of it, and that should warm up the floor by the beds (there's quite the chill coming from under the beds, so this should solve that problem). Then, on the weekend, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and peel off the paneling and put insulation in the walls. We are just losing too much heat - the kerosene heater can keep the space warm, but we're heating the world as well and need to keep a bit more of it inside if it's gonna be minus 20. Which it is.

Unfortunately, not having a roof on the house delays a lot of other jobs too, but the solar power system is going to be installed (up to the point where moisture-sensitive components arrive) this weekend. Natural gas should be hooked up and metered by the end of this week (it's all hooked up, actually, and Plumber Man has requested an inspection I believe, so we're nearly there). Once that is done we can run the generator off of natural gas, so we'll not have to worry about running out of gasoline.

So, yes, there are delays, and yes, it's disappointing, and yes, it's cold. But you know, I'd rather have these complications and headaches than the kinds of complications and headaches that have been part of my life in the past.

I just got back from a trip to WalMart with long underwear for me and for The Boy, and a few new wool socks. Hot water bottles in bed at night make a world of difference. We'll be all right.

25 November 2005

All wrapped up

The house is Tyveked, and the windows are all in!
The guys worked hard today, I'm told that it's tough to decide if this was harder than putting in that ridge pole in the dark or not (see the Dancing in the Dark post if you don't know what I mean). Union Guy thinks this was tougher - the windows were very heavy and they had only one super duper suction cup thing to hold them with.
They made a sled to slide the windows from where they were stored in a big crate ... notice the gray cat sitting on Contractor Man's feet. That's Shadowcat - he'd just been told that there were no free rides, as he'd been sitting on the sled riding along!

Sure looks good. Roof comes next week, we're almost to lockup!

23 November 2005

And for this week...

We have natural gas hooked up to the pipeline. All three cats survived the procedure. Yay! Plumber Man can now come and hook up things indoors so we have HEAT!

It has been over ten degrees daily for the past few days. Wow.

The roofing materials will be onsite on Monday. Contractor Man will go pick them up and deliver them himself.

Windows and solar system support pillars will be put in starting tomorrow.

Bought all the light fixtures and two smoke detectors on the weekend. Whew.

Union Guy is out at Apple Jack Creek today: he built my bathroom sink cabinet from Ikea this morning (always a much bigger job than anyone anticipates, which is why I asked him to do it, instead of fooling myself into thinking I could just "get that done some evening") and says that he's had to take the cats out of his toolbox three times already, and that all the pawprints inside the bathroom cabinet are my problem.

And, since Union Guy is working tomorrow as well, I get to have a shower tonight and sleep in town. :)

17 November 2005

Roof Update

Sounds like Contractor Man has a solution for the roof ... this is good news! More details as they arrive, but we do have a solution. Might even have a roof by next week!

16 November 2005

A roof over our heads ... soon

Soon, but not today.

There was a mixup: the roofing instructions we were sent said put strapping up (not sheathing) on the roof. We did that.

The roofer arrived, and looked at the instructions that came with the roof, and said, wait, it says right here that this particular kind of roof has to go over sheathing, not strapping.


So, Contractor Man, being the wonderful man that he is, is in the process of solving this problem for me. He and the package company guys (who are also really good - they admitted straight up that this was their mistake, and will cover the costs of fixing the problem) have some alternatives and he'll have more info for me soon. Basically, the preferred solution is to get the *right* kind of metal from somewhere local (it exists, we know this) as that's faster and easier in the long run than getting sheathing, installing it (a 2 day job) and doing all that work.

So, yet another delay, but hey, nobody's sick, nobody's dying, the weather is warming up for the weekend, we are comfortable and well housed in our tiny cabin, and really, it's just one more small glitch in the grand scheme of things.

It's disappointing, to be sure, but hey, things happen.

Curiosity and the Cat

Well, we all know what curiosity did to the cat.

Mikan has, apparently, suffered that fate.

The crew was out doing backfill around the house this week, and the cats seemed fine all day. When The Boy went to let them in, though, only Diesel returned. There was no sign anywhere of Mikan. We suspect that he was checking out the trench and got backfilled in place. :(

So, we were left with one lonely and cold Diesel, who had nobody to help keep her warm at night and keep her company during the day. We went back to the place we got Diesel and Mikan, and there were 2 more kittens (from a different litter, so slightly older) who were still waiting for homes ... and we brought them home. At least now we are "resourced in anticipation of possible attrition": if we lose one more (heavens preserve us), the one who is left will at least have a buddy to keep him or her warm.

So, I now introduce to you our next two members of the acreage crew: Moke and Shadowcat.

Moke is the way that The Boy pronounced "smoke" when he was very small - there was a huge forest fire around the time he was 2, and the smoke drifted through the streets. "Moke, Mommy!" he would announce. So, the light gray and white cat is named Moke cause that's what she looks like. We struggled with finding a name for the lovely dark gray cat, and settled on Shadowcat because his stripes and dark coat would colour him perfectly for hiding in the shadows.

So, that's our animal situation for this week.

The house progress ... well, we have the roof going on today, and oi! I just remembered I have to call the Natural Gas people so they can fax me a work order. I'll go do that. More later on this same station....

13 November 2005

Snowing in my Living Room

Yesterday it snowed in the living room. It looked kind of neat, a few flakes drifting down through the latticework that is currently the roof. Here's an action shot of yesterday's adventures: The Boy standing in his loft (wearing his bike helmet as he had been out riding earlier), and Contractor Man climbing the stringers on the roof, carrying insulation up to the peak. He is utterly fearless up there, even with a 20 foot drop below him, it doesn't seem to affect him at all.He doesn't normally work weekends, but he came on Saturday so that we'd be ready for Roofing Guy who is scheduled to arrive Monday.
He's a very good man, Contractor Man.

Today began with the usual greeting from the kittens - they were sitting in the bedroom window when we arrived, and promptly raced over to say hello. While we got the fire going (keeps The Boy occupied, and burns up our scrap, and keeps us all warm, so it is a multi-purpose sort of fire) Diesel and Mikan were busy climbing all over us.

We worked on wiring this weekend ... Here is an action shot of Solar Neighbour pulling wire up through one of the the holes drilled in the floor. Plumber Dude was there today as well, working on the air exchange system and the in floor heating. He let me use his super duper big drill with the auger bit to drill the holes for the wires ... wow, does that thing ever eat through the wood fast! Of course, it also weighs an awful lot, and I really felt like a wimpy girl any number of times today. Still, we got all the holes drilled, all the outlet boxes mounted, and the wire pulled for all of the outlets at the front half of the house. Next weekend, we should be able to finish up .. and Solar Dude plans to come out and hook up the panels, so we may even have live power in a week. Cool!

This week should see a number of big events: the roof should go on, the backfill should be done (so we don't have a moat around the building anymore), the windows go in (and then we're pretty well sealed up!), the natural gas hookup should happen, and the septic system should be complete. It's very exciting. It sure is a lot of work - I hauled the lumber out of the way today and stacked it all up so that it'll be clear for the backfill equipment, and I'm worn right out. It's painfully obvious that I spend most of my days sitting behind a computer keyboard, not lifting anything heavier than a coffee mug. :S

11 November 2005

Fitting Dresses and Pulling Nails

It was a reasonably warm day, all things considered, and that's a good thing - the crew were up on the roof most of the day getting the "peak" at the front to sit exactly right. It was a lot like the final fitting of a body-hugging dress ... try it out, adjust a little, try it again, adjust it some more. By the end of the day it was there, and with just a little more tweaking we'll be ready for roofing.
This picture shows a good shot of that interior beam that we had to put up (see the "Dancing in the Dark" post) - it sure does look pretty. The spaciousness of the loft continues to surprise me ... no wonder The Boy is so excited about having all that space to himself! Even with the roof on, there's still a lot of headroom and floor space in general.
I spent the day pulling nails out of boards. I cleared up a lot of the lumber around the house, since we'll be getting backfill in early next week and that all has to be out of the way. I also pulled out the interior braces, knocked the nails out of those boards, and piled the lumber up for reuse on another project or somewhere else in the house. The inside looks a lot bigger now that the indoor obstacle course has been removed! The Boy spent much of the day feeding wood scraps to a fire. :) Oh yes, Solar Dude (that's what The Boy calls him) came out and confirmed that we've got a good location scoped out for our solar panels, they won't be shaded by the trees or the house. Tomorrow, Solar Neighbour and I are going to start wiring ... it's getting closer and closer to being a house we can live in!

10 November 2005

Cabin Living

Contractor Man suggested that we post some pictures of the inside of our little temporary housing, so here they are. :)

As you can see we have made extensive use of the "stick a nail in the wall and hang something on it" style of interior decorating. The walls are panelled with paintable wainscot paneling (from Home Depot) and painted to match the exterior (simply because I had extra paint left over). There happened to be enough wide blue rubber baseboard available at the Habitat Restore to go all the way around, so we have that at the bottom of the walls (the panels were short by a few inches, and this solved the problem nicely). The silver stuff on the ceiling is insulation - keeps the heat in to some degree, although I would also have insulated the walls if I'd known we'd be in there quite this late in the year. The kitchen sink unit came from Canadian Tire - it's a demo model that was missing it's front doors so I got it for $99. It can be connected to a garden hose and used outdoors to rinse your garden veggies and so on, they call it a "patio sink". We run the waste water hose to a bucket hidden under the bookcase, and just have to remember to dump it periodically. We keep water in the blue water container on the shelf above the sink, and that gives us our "gravity fed water system". There's also a jug of water which normally has a pump in it and we use that for various purposes as well. In the very front you can see the top of the kerosene heater - our life line now that winter is nipping at our heels.

At the other end of the shed we have the two beds, with a curtain between them so that the light isn't in The Boy's eyes when I'm reading after he's gone to sleep. The large blue thing on the wall is his Halloween costume - he was a jellyfish (it's a sunhat covered in silver tissue and then blue plastic, with lots of dangly blue plastic strips that hang from the brim). For those of you who've been to our house (or Mom and Dad's house) you may see the edge of a clock hanging on the wall ... my great uncle made it, and my aunt from Texas did the needlework that fills the little window at the bottom. It's nice to have pieces of 'home' around!

My clothes are hung on a piece of conduit hung from the ceiling, and you can see the fluorescent trouble light that we use for indoor lighting. That is powered by a large battery thing on wheels, which gets charged up on weekends and will easily power the lights all week (Union Guy dubbed this wonderful gadget the "juice box").

So this is where we live, it's really not so bad!

Barn Cats

When we went trick-or-treating at Halloween, one of the houses we stopped at had several new barn kittens that were in search of new homes. Well, we have plenty of mice (leave a pile of lumber out for a day and it's got mouse turds on it, ick) but no barn. So, we said we'd be back and set about preparations. At Habitat for Humanity I found a cube that must have once been part of some office furniture - it's laminated with that typical office fake wood stuff - and last weekend The Boy and I cut a door in it, then insulated it with styrofoam insulation and a mylar emergency blanket (to reflect the heat back in). Tuesday night we went back to the house that had the kittens and picked out two from the four that remained. Here they are! Their names are Diesel and Mikan ... Diesel is the calico, and she's called what she is because when she purrs she rattles almost as loud as my truck! Mikan is the Japanese word for Christmas oranges (if you get the actual Japanese ones, you can read it written on the side of the box ... well, if you can read Japanese, anyway). So, the orange one is called Mikan (it's pronounced meeee-khan).
They are absolutely adorable when they chase and attack one another, and they seem to have figured out that we are the Providers of Food Water and Warmth, and we're hoping they soon decide to decimate our mouse population.

07 November 2005


The snow stayed on the ground today, and the thermometer outside Union Guy's kitchen window says it is minus four. There were four people out at the land today working, and the roof is well on it's way to being ready for the roofer to put the metal on. We may be delayed some by the snow, I'm not sure yet, but Solar Power Neighbour and I hope to do some work on the house wiring on the weekend so I'm really hopeful we have some degree of cover up there (even if it is only roofing felt, that'll keep the snow out).

Fortunately we are in town again tonight, and it is supposed to warm up a little in the next couple of days. The Boy says that the cabin doesn't get completely warm, but it's not too bad as long as you have something on your feet.

More updates later in the week, we'll be out at Apple Jack Creek tomorrow night with our hot water bottle (purchased to prewarm the beds and keep us toasty at night!) and our warm layers of blankets.

06 November 2005


Yes, we have snow.

The Boy and I are in town tonight, as Union Guy is working out there tomorrow, and can take The Boy to school in the morning, so we are enjoying the luxuries of central heat, running water, and electricity.

Tomorrow may be a bit cooler, but you know, snow's a great insulator too, so maybe if we get a layer of it on the roof it'll hold the heat in. :)

Here's the current plan: the guys are going to work on getting the roof ready for Roofing Guy, who is coming on Wednesday and Thursday. Digger Man is coming to do backfill around the middle of the week as well, and so that means that Natural Gas People can come and hook us up to the gas line shortly after that. After the roof is on the guys can put the windows in, and we'll be closed in hopefully by the end of the week or early next. If I can arrange it with my neighbour, we'll work on running power this weekend.

With any luck, we'll be indoors, with power and plumbing in a few more weeks. :)

Anyway, I thought in case you'd checked the weather and were worrying about us, I'd let you know we're warm.

03 November 2005


My neighbour has started a blog of his house too ... he's got a full solar system up and running already and is going to help get mine set up too, being the really nice guy that he is.

Have a look!

Last Load

The last load of material arrived yesterday, so we now have roofing, rafters, siding, insulation (yay, warmth!) and windows.

Today was spent squaring the house - Contractor Man had to climb up on the ridge beam on Tuesday and use a chainsaw to trim that long centre beam, as it was a bit too long ... that had to have been interesting! No pictures of that, sadly. Anyway, with comealongs, tow straps and chains and lots of checking with the level, they got everything squared back up again and started putting up roof rafters. Photos of that tomorrow!

The loft is finished and looks really neat. I had thought it had an open front with railings, but apparently the pony wall goes all the way across. That'll work out fine. It's nice and spacious ... The Boy continues to be impressed. We'll see if he's still impressed when the roof rafters are in place and he sees that his ceiling doesn't go all the way up except in the centre ... but then again, he hasn't had his big growth spurt yet so for a few years it'll still seem big.

Contractor Man has taken to calling That Really Nice Guy (who has taken time off his software development job to help with construction) "Union Guy", after hearing him comment one day (when lunch break was called at 2 pm) that he was going to have to speak with the union rep. Since then, lunch tends to be called a little earlier, and Contractor Man just asks me "Is that Union Guy available to work on Friday?" So, I think from now on we'll call him Union Guy. I think he likes the change of pace from building stuff nobody can see to actually hammering a building into place. Works for me, we can use the extra hands!

So our other really good news is that we have a roofing contractor. The metal roof needs to be installed by professionals, as it can be a bit dicey. Of course, I didn't discover this until last week ... so I sent out a few emails, and actually got a reply from someone who is - get this - available next week to do the work! Yay! That is exactly when we need them. They happen to be between two larger jobs, and I should get the contract faxed to me tomorrow. Yay! A roof!

30 October 2005


Ikea has a big Kitchen Event on now (well, it ends today) whereby you can purchase your entire kitchen and have no payments, no interest for a year. This is a great thing, as it means the kitchen cabinets can be paid for out of the final mortgage draw instead of the 'working capital' up front, so that's what I did yesterday. Picked out cabinets and countertop and loaded it all into the truck. Yikes, it barely fit. Much of it is piled on That Really Nice Guy's front portch, and it'll make it out to Apple Jack Creek in fits and starts, to be wrapped in a tarp until such time as cabinets become a priority.

If you're curious, I got the white cabinets that look very "country kitchen" - as I'll be having so much wood, some white seemed a good idea. I did get an oak countertop though.

No further updates on the arrival of the truck, I sure hope it is soon cause I am really anxious to get the house roofed and sealed!

28 October 2005

Keeping the faith

Well, Contractor Man was busy for the first part of this week, and we were originally hoping to get the second shipment on Thursday. Apparently my door frames were delayed and didn't arrive until today (in Vancouver) and so they're just now figuring out with the trucking company when the next pieces will arrive. Probably Wednesday next week.

Anyway, today Contractor Man and an assistant (the usual assistant was unable to join him today) worked on The Boy's loft ... there is now much more flooring down, and the pony wall around one edge is in place. It's looking really good. I think they did stuff around the roofline as well, but I didn't pay enough attention to be sure. I was looking for the tape measure, which I seem to have misplaced.

Plumber Man was out this week and roughed in some stuff - there is a hole in the floor where the toilet goes (woohoo!), and another where the sink will go, and several other pipes sticking up from the basement at assorted intervals, as well as some wire (which is reportedly for the full house air exchange system). I think we should have a ceremony of some kind when we are able to do that first actual flush!

Our weather has been holding fairly well - it's been much warmer this year than some ... no snow yet, and heavy frost isn't even on the ground every morning. For this, believe me, we are truly grateful ... we may smell like kerosene, but we are warm! It really puts things in perspective when you find that you can live in reasonable comfort in a 10x14 foot space, with no running water, no central heat, no refrigeration (that's much less of a problem when it's this cold, I put the milk outside and let it chill overnight!). You start to think about how badly you really need all that stuff you think you need.

Anyway, as promised here are more pictures of the house building adventure.

More pictures of construction

This is how the pieces are lifted. Some of them had to have holes drilled in them so we could put the straps through to lift them.
It was tricky to align everything. We had to lift it up, align it just so, and then sort of slide it down, and then hammer it into place. The guy with the hard hat is the son of the picker operator, and he had a test that he should have been studying for ... but he came to work on this job. I promised to pray for him on Tuesday when he wrote his test and I remembered to do so. Hope he did okay. :)

That's Contractor Man with the sledge hammer, or as Dad calls it, the "friendly persuader": he's persuading the pieces to go together. We did a lot of that on Sunday night. The guy on the other side is That Really Nice Guy who is so good to me (and to The Boy). :)
Below you can see the pieces sliding into place, just like they should be. There were only two pieces that had to be trimmed, by about a quarter of an inch, so that everything would go together: this one, and the one below it.

And last but not least, here's the front of the house, with the chimney pillars in place. We spent a lot of time aligning these and making sure they were level ... and then when we put the ridge pole in place everything went "CREAK!" and "KACHUNK" and things kinda shifted. But hey, it started off level!

24 October 2005

Dancing in the Dark

Well, just after I updated yesterday I got a call from Contractor Man - the picker truck could come at 4 pm! Okay, so everyone hustles out there and we start lifting things ... I'll put more pics up shortly but this is just the highlights. :)

We got the side walls in place while it was still light (no photos of that at the moment) ... then after darkness fell, we lifted the ridge beam into place. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, FOLKS! This beam is *huge* and very heavy. Doing this all in the dark was quite the adventure, I can tell you! First they lift it, then we have guys on one end with a rope, swinging the beam back and forth until it slides into the pocket at one end of the house.
Then, very carefully and with many retries, we coordinate the picker truck boom, the guys with the rope, and me on the ground with the flashlights pointing at the end of the beam so everyone can see ... and kachunk, in she goes.

Now instead of looking like a church with an empty steeple, my house looks like a giant's toolbox - you know, the old fashioned kind you lift by the handle across the top. Two pointy ends, an open space, with a beam across the middle. Yup, toolbox.

More pics soon. Gotta work right now!

23 October 2005

The Loft Begins

The interior walls got put in place on Thursday so now you can walk around inside and see how big the various rooms really are. It's still just amazing to me how high that living room ceiling actually is ... you stand there and look waaaaaaaay up - it's probably about 20 feet to the ridge beam from the floor. Quite impressive.
Anyway, once the interior walls were up, the loft floor could begin .. so The Boy's "room" is now started! He is very excited that he's the one who has the biggest room in the house. I won't know until we get the roof in place and the loft floor fully built exactly what I want to do for the loft railing, and how best to divide The Boy's room off from the rest of the house. At the moment I'm leaning towards custom built bookcases that make a 'wall', but that's a decision for later.
Now we're just waiting for the picker truck to arrive and put the high pieces into place. The rest of the package should be delivered at the end of next week. Contractor Man (seen below studying the laminated floor plans we received with our package) has some other commitments for the first part of this week, but we'll get back into high gear once the picker gets the upper walls and ridge beam in place.
The second truck load includes the metal for the roof, all the windows, and the insulation, so it'll really be a house soon!
Oh, and this week's headaches with the bank got resolved, so we'll actually have the funds we need to pay everyone for all their hard work. :) Things are going quite well, I think, and I'm very pleased. I went and looked at wood for the walls yesterday - I've settled on cedar for the walls (unstained but sealed) and pine for the ceiling (bleached with a 'pickling stain' so that it is nice and light). With the chestnut stained floor (from Whiskey Flats Lumber) I think it'll be good. You can't have too much wood, really, although you can make it look like you're in a sauna if you aren't careful. I think with the variations in colour from dark to light, the different widths of board, and the variation in types of wood we'll avoid the sauna look. Guess we'll see - it's kind of scary making all these big choices, but at some point you have to pick a path and go with it. This feels like a good choice, I think I'll be happiest with it.

19 October 2005


Last night, as I crested the hill just before my corner, I saw ... my house!

The walls went up yesterday. Tomorrow the interior walls will be put up, and then the big picker truck will come and assist with placing the higher pieces where they belong. Apparently the walls are very heavy - I was told that my construction crew would all like gift certificates for massage therapy after yesterday's adventures!

It's really neat to be able to stand inside (well, sort of) and see the shape of the house. It is like I thought it would be, and the views out the windows are exactly what I'd hoped for. I *can* see the lake out my kitchen window! I *can* see the corner from the living room window! Yay!

16 October 2005

A floor

Yep, we now have a solid subfloor laid, including a hatchway to the crawlspace. It sure is tiny down there .. the plumber is going to have fun putting the underfloor heating in with so little headroom!

I spent about 3 hours on Saturday putting in the screws to hold the flooring onto the joists - I'm a little stiff today but hey, that is 3 hours of labour that doesn't cost me money ... just Advil! The Boy took this action shot of me up there working. Sure is nice to work with good tools - Contractor Man left me his Dewalt drill. Nice and light, variable speed, super powerful. Plugged it into the generator (which is noisy but effective) and off I went. It took a bit of practice to get the feel for it, and to find the best strategy (get out four screws, put three in my mouth, sit in the centre of the board, put the four screws in, lined up with the nails already in place ... scoot backwards, and do it all again ... repeat ... repeat ... repeat ...)...

Oh, our other fascinating bit of news is that we discovered that Neighbour (the farmer that I bought the land from) is actually my second cousin. We had no idea about any of this: my parents have gone to BC for a year, and were visiting with my mother's brother and his family, just talking about our life on the acreage. Mom happened to mention Neighbour's name and then my uncle started asking questions ... turns out Neighbour is his wife's nephew. So, my neighbour's father is (well, was, he has passed on) my mother's brother's wife's brother. We share an aunt, and a set of cousins. Too cool. I told Neighbour that now he's really stuck with us: not only are we neighbours, we're family!

One last thing - we got the bus shelter almost finished ... all that's left now is to shingle the roof, and then (if I get creative) add a door. It's protected with linseed oil and turpentine, and Dad put in the window before he left for BC. The Boy says it's nice to be out of the wind and rain in there, so ... yippee!

13 October 2005

Foundation floor

Yup, we now have a cement floor in the crawl space. Yippeee!

Getting all that poured in, raked mostly level, squished even more level with a board, smoothed with a big flat thing called a float, and then polished took all day.

Now we can start on the subfloor, though, and then it'll really start to look like a house!

10 October 2005

Thanksgiving Monday: things I'm thankful for

The Boy, of course, who is the best part of my whole world.
My family, who willingly help me out, even though I seem to need an inordinate amount of assistance at times.
That really nice guy I met ... who is still very, very good to me and still likes me, against all odds.
Indoor plumbing (using a portapotty for a few months makes one truly appreciate flush toilets!).
Running water.
Guys who drill wells. Guys who dig foundations. Those really neat styrofoam foundation blocks.
Diesel trucks. WVO conversion kits.
Apple Jack Creek ... I love being out there.
Good neighbours (my neighbour brought his front end loader over and shovelled gravel with it!)
Coffee. Tea. Chocolate.
A job that pays well and doesn't make me crazy. Nice coworkers. An ethical manager.
Sorel boots. Down comforters. Flannel sheets.
Kerosene heaters.
Generators. Solar panels. Inverters. Smart people who know how to connect all these things together to make power.
Computers (yes, even computers).

There's more, but that'll be a good start.

The house is here, the house is here!

Finally, on Friday, after more adventures involving a broken down delivery truck and complications with mortgage financing ... the house package arrived! Well, the first shipment.

All the walls (already framed, exterior walls already sheathed), everything to make the floor, and the wood to make the roof ... all of that came on a big truck and was offloaded at my land. There's a really huge engineered beam that goes at the top of the roof - it'd be called the ridge pole on a log house. Dad says it's really impressive looking, and will definitely have to be lifted up there by crane.

It's a huge relief to have that here - now we can start making it look like an actual house. :)

When we are ready for the rest of the stuff - the doors, windows, roofing, siding, insulation and trim - they will send the next load. It's easier than having to store it all outside: if we had a barn, then we could take it all at once and store it there, but the barn is a future feature!

Apple Jack Creek

One day when I was very small, I was eating Apple Jacks cereal at the breakfast table at my grandparents’ house (my parents would certainly never have given me that sugary stuff!) and I thought how funny it was that the cereal had the same name as my grandfather, whose first name was Jack. I decided he should be called Apple Jack too. My parents tried to talk me out of it (I remember Dad saying, “what about Grandpa Jack?” and stubbornly refusing to say anything but “Apple Jack”). Apple Jack himself did not seem to find it problematic, and the name was adopted by all the grandchildren. He signed cards to us with a little picture of an apple, then his name. He was the best grandpa a kid could have—he loved us completely, exactly as we were, and always had time for us. When I was trying to find a name for the acreage, I went through a lot of different options and then, driving on the highway one day, this just popped into my head and I knew this was it.

Country pets

The Boy was promised that he could have a new "outside pet" when we moved to the country. He thought about it, and decided that he'd really like a rabbit. We had plans to join 4H when it started, and then we could do a rabbit-raising project.

When I moved out of the other house, I became a huge fan of Freecycling (www.freecycle.net if you haven't heard of it!): people post offers for things they want to give away and can post requests for things they want, in case someone else has whatever it is and is willing to give it away. It's a great way to keep stuff out of the dump, and make sure it goes where it'll be appreciated. Anyway, one day when surfing the Freecycle listings, I saw an outdoor bunny that was looking for a home. I emailed and we were selected ... but I didn't tell The Boy about it at all. Things got delayed, but with one thing and another eventually it was time to go pick up the bunny. I told The Boy I had a surprise for him, and that I'd be late because I had to go pick it up - he was really pleased to see what the surprise was! She's been christened Cappucino since she's the colour of an Iced Cappucino. She's very friendly, and comes right up to you when you go to her little hutch. The first thing we did was remove the floor of the hutch so she was on the grass and she promptly started munching. She's been burrowing under the hutch a little - we are watching to see if she makes an escape tunnel or just a burrow, but we know that they like to burrow to keep warm and it's a bit chilly out there now, so we are letting her dig and providing her with lots of hay to burrow down into. Or eat, she does that with it too.

Contractor housing

Mom and Dad volunteered to help on the project for two weeks. Excellent, free labour! Next problem: a place to stay. Our little 10x14 cabin isn't really big enough for more than two of us, and has no shower - and ya know, I'm just not all that excited about sleeping in a small room with people who've been doing heavy construction labour all day and didn't have access to a shower!

So we started hunting - they didn't want to have to drive very far, but that meant finding accommodations close by ... which is not as easy as it sounds, as I do live rather far out in the country. Anyway, we did locate a cabin that was rented for $700 a week ... pretty steep, but it had two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a shower, and was 10 minutes away. I checked it out quickly the day I signed the agreement and all seemed well.

Yeah, until we moved in. Nothing was clean (despite the promise that it'd be all cleaned up for us ... I know people have differing definitions of "clean" but really, you should be able to expect that you could eat off the dishes without seeing grime around the edges, eww). Mom scrubbed the stuff we'd need to use and we figured we'd make do. I was violently allergic to something in that house, so I slept at my little cabin, and Mom (surprisingly) was okay. Apparently whatever mold was in the cabin was different than the stuff she's allergic to, so she was doing all right.

By the second night, it had been revealed that the shower was pretty disgusting - water backed up out of the drain up to your ankles and that's just nasty. The day that we poured concrete into the foundation, the shower stopped working. No water came out of the taps. We had people who'd worked all day in concrete, with no shower. NOT GOOD.

Phone calls to the man who rented it (now known as Cabin Idiot) were not particularly helpful. "Oh, you musta turned somethin' off ... go check this ... okay, try that ... ah, don' worry 'bout it, there'll be water in the morning I guarantee it". Yeah, well, there wasn't. We packed up and moved everyone to the Ramada Hotel where we had a kitchenette, a hot tub, a swimming pool, and maid service, for under $80 a night. Okay, so there was a 40 minute commute, but you know, for a hot tub and maid service it's worth it.

Especially since Mom broke her foot a couple of days later.

She was burning junk in the firepit, it flared up a bit and she backed up ... and stepped on a twig, rolled her foot, and broke a bone in it. Take home message here: drink your milk when you are young, and wear work boots if you have fragile bones! Anyway, she was much happier spending her remaining week in the hotel with internet access and full cable than she would've been in that crummy little place.

How firm a foundation

After several delays due to the rain, we got a big hole dug in the dirt, and started on the foundation. Footings had to be poured first, which meant laying out boards and bending rebar to go inside, then getting concrete poured into the troughs created by the boards.

The V you see here is the part at the front of the house where the fireplace goes. Once the footings were in place, the next job was to put up the foundation walls - this is just a crawlspace, 4' deep, not a full basement (a basement tends to just collect extra 'junk' and after emptying out the basement at the last house, I decided I really don't NEED that much space ... it collects stuff all on it's own!).

The foundation is made from special styrofoam blocks that are shaped to fit together like big lego blocks. You fill them up with concrete, and voila, you have an insulated foundation. Getting them all in place took a couple of days (they have to be braced with wood so they don't buckle when you pour the concrete into them). Mom and Dad were here for two weeks working with Contractor Man (a wonderful, extremely helpful man who works so hard and does such excellent work ... and is perfectly willing to let my 9 year old help him with any job that seems reasonable for a kid ... he's just great). I have some really neat pictures of the day the concrete was poured - I'll post those when I get them off the other computer. What a messy job!

Name that structure

City folk may not recognize this structure-in-progress: it is up by the corner, and is a place to wait for the school bus in the mornings so you are out of the rain and snow and wind. As you can see, it’s not done yet: the sides will go all the way up and it’ll have a door of some kind. Haven’t quite got that all designed yet, but the lumber was free so we thought this was a good way to make use of it.

The floor boards are preserved with linseed oil, that’s why they look different. We will probably seal the whole thing that way when we are done, although the oil sure seems to attract the hornets when it is wet!

Living in the Country

And for those who think my hour long commute to the city (each direction) must be long and painful, here is a picture of what I see in the mornings. I tell ya, this beats city rush hour any day.

We both find it really relaxing to be out at the acreage. There are lots of sounds, but not the busy sounds of cars and trucks and kids yelling and dogs barking - we hear the cows in the field next door, and the coyotes at night. Most mornings I see 3 white tailed deer hop across the road into the trees as I'm on my way out, and I've seen a pair of little red foxes up the road a ways. There are hawks overhead every day, and a killdeer (a little bird that looks a lot like a sandpiper) had a nest right on our access road - we even saw the little hatchlings.

And then, of course, there is Duggan. Here he is sitting in his tire, soaking up the sunshine. He's gotten more accustomed to being outside - at first he was really confused, and panicked if we looked like we might be walking off and leaving him. With his own little dog run (complete with tire) he is more content now.

Moving into the Cabin

By the August long weekend, the shed (now referred to as The Cabin) was fit for human habitation. We got it all painted, shingled, and the furniture moved in. Believe it or not, in this tiny building there is a twin bed, a double bed, several shelving units, a portapotty, and a really neat sink from Canadian Tire complete with gravity fed water system. Oh, and a kerosene heater. It gets cold at night.

The Shed Raising Party

Our temporary housing plans involve a 10x14 shed (a package purchased from Home Depot). Getting this package put together turned out to be a lot trickier than it would've been to just build one from scratch, but it was damaged in transit and I got 25% off the purchase price, so at least there was that.

I changed jobs in the midst of all this adventure, and so the vacation time I'd planned to take off to do the building of the shed just didn't happen - fortunately for me, my dad, my sister, her inlaws, and my wondeful boyfriend all went out and built the shed for us. This involved an entire truck load of gravel, lots of work hauling said gravel with wheelbarrows, framing walls, putting up rafters, and sheathing the roof. Dad put in at least a week of work mostly on his own. Wow. Blessings on every hand that swung a hammer, shovelled gravel, or brushed on paint!

The house

The house is a package bought from Allpro Building Systems in BC. You can see the plans at their website: http://www.cabins.ca/html/Banff.html

The large windows will face south, for solar gain in the winter and for a view of the land. The north side (the back of the house) is just in off the access road, with enough space to build a garage between house & road and still meet county setback requirements.

The siding will be a pale yellow, and the roof was supposed to be dark green but apparently that shade isn't available here, so I opted for a nice mocha brown.

The deck won't be built at this point - we'll see how things go and decide what we want to do out there.

The Boy gets the loft all to himself - that's his bedroom, play room, homework space, everything. This arrangement means that I won't have to even look at the mess if I choose not to - the downstairs has to stay neat and tidy but if he has a disaster area going on upstairs, well, as long as nothing falls over the loft railing, I suppose it's manageable.

The site

First step was to get the land levelled for the house. This picture was taken in the early summer and shows the site for the house. We're standing at the north west corner of the site, looking south - the creek is back there in the trees. The lake is actually off to the left of the photo, it'll be visible from the kitchen window.

The creek

This is the creek on the land. It essentially forms the south border of the property, and divides our land from the neighbour's. Most of the time it's just a little trickle, but in the spring it runs a little higher. Apparently there are beavers upstream, and their activity changes things for us.

Standing down there by the creek on a warm day feels like standing in a holy place. I just love it down there.