Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trenches, Pits and Boardwalks

Frustrated with living in a bog, we finally went Medieval and started trenching.  Let me tell you how totally thrilling it is to dig a trench with a pickaxe and spade when you're shin-deep in muck and your gloves are sopping wet!  First we use the blade side of the pickaxe and the shovel to cut the vegetation mat. Then use the pick side to hook the mat up, using the spade to help lever it off the clay subsoil. Then we use the spade to break off and lift out almost perfect slabs of semi-frozen clay until we hit the ice and permafrost. Which lets us get a trench about 24" deep. And it starts filling up with water (at a rate of about a gallon a minute) while you're still digging... JOY.

We dug a wider pit and tried running the trenches into that, but there's just so much water in and on the surface that it fills up almost immediately and really doesn't drain an awful lot off the surface. The trenches help a little to give the water somewhere to go before they fill up completely, but it's nothing significant (maybe 1/16"). Unless we cleared out a pit something the size of a pond, or dug a mile-long trench, there's just not enough room for all the water swamping out yard to go somewhere else. That's just not feasible by hand... we'd need a backhoe to make that work given our time schedule.

On a positive note, we made boardwalks out of leftover lumber from last year, so we can at least get off the deck and get to the 4-wheeler without walking in too much muck.  We might get desperate and make more boardwalks out of some of the logs we had slated for firewood so we can actually get to the shed.  But there is no way that we could drive the truck out front, especially not loaded with gravel. We can drive the 4-wheeler only because it's much lighter and narrower; and we take a slightly different route each time, which seems to help the ruts self-level now that we've started laying down mulch from our chipped-shredded brush piles.

The main trail is starting to dry out and drain, and should be reasonably drivable by truck once we fill the worst of the ruts with gravel. Which should be loads of fun... hand-shoveling the gravel out of the pit into the pickup 1 yard load at a time, backing the truck slowly down the trail as we shovel the gravel from the bed into ruts. But, hey, it's only 1/2 mile (a full mile if you count both ruts) so that's only, like, 200 trips. Which is, coincidentally, all we could buy from the state on a "residential" permit.

Then it's back to the pit (if we still have any left on the permit) to grab another 3-5 loads of gravel, bring it back to our driveway in the pickup, shovel it into the sled, then drag it back to the build site with the 4-wheeler so we can put it right under our footings so we can finally start building... that might be sometime in August the way things are going unless we get help. We'll just have to fill in everything else some other time as conditions and finances allow.

After the trail gets reasonably filled in, we might be able to find someone who is willing to drive a dump truck down to our property to put in gravel for our driveway and/or building pad... we'll see.  Trick with the gravel is that it goes down best when the ground is starting to freeze, so you have to work fast before the gravel pit freezes up, too.  Plus, anyone with a backhoe would probably want a half-way decent road, too, if we want to excavate trenches and a pond at the build site to make sure we don't run into this bog nonsense there (which we shouldn't, since it's higher and not on an ice lens). Hell, we wanted a pond for ducks & geese and emergency water for fire control anyway... just weren't planning on doing it immediately.

All I know is that if it doesn't quite raining, I'm going to need a vacation in a white padded room for a few weeks!

Oh, yeah, did I happen to mention that this water and muck is only about 35F... such a treat!  At least the dog likes it. She wallows in the cold mud holes to cool down and then comes and jumps on the bed... and people wonder why I bought an ugly brown bedspread! It is ever so pleasant to sleep in a cold damp bed... everyone should try it!!


Linda said...

Gosh I feel for you guys. So your out there mucking. I use to do that in a creek just for fun but when its like you got I can see no fun and cold to boot as well, yuck : (.

The boardwalk, you all playin monopoly by chance!

If you can believe this, you all will be shaing stories of this for years to come. Plus advice in what to/not to do for those that take on an adventure you two have done.

Do you know any others up there building or waiting to build and having the same kind of problems out in the bush that you are having? Are you the only ones that you know of living in a tent all winter?

Ok what if it was perfect conditions (which it well be), roads in and your pad/foundation for your cabin done. How long would it take to build your cabin if just the two of you did the building? Could the pad/foundation be done in a day or two or maybe some time to cure?

We are having LOTS of rain down here in MO. I just did a blog about our creek and some of the water is over the bridges : (.

We all need a major dry up.

I do hope you get some help.

Hang in there and muck away
tc linda

Plickety Cat said...

If this were a Utopian Ideal and the road and driveway was perfect and our gravel base was down...

It would probably take 2 weeks to properly set the concrete pads and piers (mixing and pouring by hand and letting it cure) making absolutely certain that the foundation is perfectly plumb, level and square. All those materials are already at the tent, so it's just a matter of dragging them down to build site as we need them (something to do while the concrete cures).

Then probably a week to frame up the first floor platform, get the 8 load-bearing posts set and get the second floor platform framed up.

Maybe another week to get the rafters up, frame up all the wall infills, install all the windows and doors (still needs to be delivered), and put up all the sheathing. Mostly because we have to make a few trips to get that lumber back from where we've stored it.

Then another week to put up all the tar paper, shingle the roof (still needs to be delivered), and install the siding & gutters (still needs to be delivered).

So that's probably 5 weeks to dry in; another week to weatherproof and get the roof done; and another week to drywall, vapor barrier, blow in the insulation and install the stove & chimney.

I'd estimate, with just the two of us, we'd have it totally comfortable for winter in 7 weeks, but at least livable in 4-5 if we tarped it for the winter.

Since first frost averages the first week of September with steady snow about 2-3 weeks after that... if we can start building no later than August 1st, then we just might make it before it starts snowing. Even if we don't have insulation the first winter, it'll still be warmer and more spacious than the tent.

In fact, if things go really pear shaped and we can only get the two floors and the posts up, we may end up tarping the downstairs "walls" and erecting the tent (with the current foam panels) on the second floor. We'd have to get creative with a tarp or two since the tent is a little shorter than the cabin, and we'd have to figure out something with the woodstove since the stove jack in the tent is not lined up anywhere near where the stove will be in the cabin; but at least that would give us double the space.

Plickety Cat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Plickety Cat said...

And to answer your other questions...

Yes, other folks are having or did have similar problems as we're having.

One couple's bulldozer got swallowed by the mud up past the tracks, and they almost lost their tractor trying to tow it out!

Another couple had to carry a bunch of their lumber back to their site by hand... luckily, they were only about 100 yards from a semi-decent road surface.

Another guy spent the winter with a tarp for a roof and visqueen plastic for windows because the snow came early.

We do know a couple of old-time trappers who use wall tents during the winter (trapping season) which I guess is almost like actually "living" in one.

And lots of folks end up living in some combination of wood (either frame or log) and tarps/visqueen for the first year or two either because of the weather or limited finances. In a lot of cases, they run out of money for the cabin because they had to spend it all on the road!!!