Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cabin Building - Day Ten

Clear skies today so we started hauling down the rest of the lumber needed to make the beams and doing the measuring. Well, that was just darned special because we found out that almost half of the 8-footers aren't quite 8 feet -- grrrrrrr.  You sorta expect to get at least 96" in an 8 foot board, not 95 1/4" or 93 7/8"!! And most of them aren't even close to square on the end -- more cuts for us. So we ended up having to make about eight trips to the pile (instead of two) to find boards that were actually 8 foot or longer -- which resulted in blowing the boots on the ATV drive shafts, so we have to be super-careful now because we still have to get into the village and back one more time if and when the truck's brake lines ever come in. And we still need 8 more to make the last beam :(  At least we can still use the not-quite-8' boards for the rafters, or I'd be royally pissed off!!

We did manage to get two of the 16-footers down, so we can at least square up the first floor frame in order to get the jacks bolted in and the beam set properly.  Assuming, of course, that we can actually get the beam laminated correctly since it also appears that most of our wood is varying widths and depths too! Everything is just, oh, 1/4 to 3/8" different. Seriously, whoever was working the mill that day must have had way too much Nyquil!!  Good thing I didn't start assembly-line cutting like I normally do and decided to wait until everything was down there... looks like we're going to have to measure each unit individually against the final height/width/length we want it. The best we can do is get things lined up flush and level where it counts and attempt to hide or fiddle the goofs.  *** SIGH***

And, to top it all off, the bucket that we had all the tubes of construction adhesive in filled up with rain when the tarp shelter gave way... so all those cardboard tubes are soggy now. Hopefully they'll dry out enough to use in the caulk gun and all of it isn't wasted ($$$$$).

Oh yeah, and for a special treat... Ripley punctured and chewed through the last bottle of antifreeze (don't worry, it's the "safe kind" in case she did ingest some) so when the ATV started overheating hauling lumber, we could only put water in... that will need to be fixed before too long!!  Freakin' dog chews anything and everything made of wood, rock or plastic -- you can't hide stuff from her either because she's as tall as I am. One of the reasons that the tarp shelter gave way was because she'd eaten the heads off 2 stakes and pulled out 2 more (still can't find them, she's probably eaten them!).

On a postive note, we finally unpacked and inventoried all the Strong Ties that we got from the awesome folks at ConnectorsOnly.com and they're all there and in good condition!  Mark K. -- you guys ROCK!! Since we had some design changes between when I ordered and now, we've got some extras; but you never know when you're going to build something that needs a connector or two LOL!

Oh well, at least we're a few more steps closer...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cabin Building - Day 9

Stopped raining for the time being.  Spending most of our time managing flood issues and drying things out.

Positive notes: We got the masonry bits and concrete anchor bolts in the mail today, so we can attach the jacks to the concrete piers and then set the sill beams.  We did get the brake fluid in the mail today, but no brake lines or bleeders... so the truck is still out of commission and we can't haul the rest of the lumber yet :(

We can laminate the beams as soon as it's dry enough for the adhesive to cure and we aren't sinking in the mud working, but it's all kind of pointless until we can get at least a few of those 16-foot joists down there to square things up. Otherwise, we've just got some beams sitting on piers, that can't be attached because we need to make sure they're square, which we can't do until we get the joists.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cabin Building - Day 6,7 & 8

No progress.

It's been POURING. Puddles are amassing, and the mud that was finally drying out is melting again. Truck parts didn't arrive on Friday, so she's still out of commission.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cabin Building - Day Five

Slowly moving materials and tools back to the build site in small loads on the ATV. Have to be careful not to damage the it while waiting for the truck's replacement brake line or we'll be completely without a vehicle with no way to get into the village to pickup the parts... which would not be good :(

A few more small trips in the morning and we should be ready to build the laminated sill and header beams. I'll probably get that started while G takes the ATV down the highway (30-ish miles) to check the Post Office for our parts delivery.  Pray pray pray the "overnight express" really is overnight this time and we can fix the truck over the weekend to get the lumber that's too big for the ATV back to the site.  Really, it's just not safe trying to haul back 16-footers strapped to the ATV like joisting lances -- LOL. And 4x8 sheet goods? fuhgeddabowdit!

SIGH -- did I happen to mention that we really need to get a utility trailer one of these days?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cabin Building - Day Four

No progress today.  I'm feeling yucky and there is some sort of critter hanging around the tent making Ripley go bonkers. So we decided to hang out here and get tools & stuff sorted out instead.  I'd hate to come back from the cabin site to find our tent demolished and our cat eaten!

But, on the high side, it gives me more time to document our building plans better and to contact the lumber yard.  They're going to deliver our last load on the 10th. If we get the truck's brake line replaced by then, we'll be good to go.

Hopefully we'll be back to work tomorrow hauling lumber down on the ATV in a million small trips ;)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cabin Building - Day Two & Day Three

Day 2:  We rested. Went into the village to check mail and get more gas, and have a nice long soak in the hot springs tub. One of our neighbors was going in to Fairbanks and offered to pick us up the concrete to finish the piers... Awesome!
Day 3: Trapper got back with our concrete so we finished up the piers... YAY!! The foundation is pretty much done, just have to put the jacks on now (waiting for special bolts that G decided we needed, rather than the ones that I bought earlier). We also got a load of gravel spread out for the base of our metal shed, one more or so and I think we can start putting that up for storage.

Unfortunately, the forest ate one of our brake lines, so the truck is out of commission for the time being. G ordered the replacement parts "express" delivery... but this is the Bush, so there's no telling when we'll actually get them. It puts a damper on moving materials back to the site, but we'll manage somehow.  It would have been nice if we could have at least gotten the shed kit back there before all this... that's just a little bulky and heavy to drag back with the ATV safely. We really need to get a trailer one of these days!

No pics or vid today because a bad storm was rolling in while I was tidying up the work site and I had to hoof it back to the tent double-time to avoid getting drenched.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Interesting thought process...

Ok So I don't post much, since Plick enjoys posting about what we're doing, so I tend to post about "stuff" other than life.

Well so living in the bush can be fun, and can be a bit dull, so during the dull periods we tend to play various casual games (hidden object, match 3, time management). Well we recently got this game (Fishdom 2) that has what I've named the funky flute. Now for those who don't know what a casual game is, I'll briefly explain. It's a computer game that has four prime elements, it's relatively cheap, it has one main gameplay theme (manage your time, match 3 of the same symbols in a line, or find specific objects), they're available for download, they're requirements are quite broad. Being relatively cheap, so is the sound track...

Anyway this is beside what I was thinking about. So hearing the "funky flute" got me to thinking about completely inappropriate instruments playing specific songs. For example the flute normally does not fit too well with contemporary music, unless it has a folksy spin (Jethro Tull for example). Now I apologize in advance to anyone who plays one of these instruments, however if you happen to have a track with the instrument please point me at a link in a comment I'd like to hear it. Or if you think of others, post 'em as a comment, and I'll let you know what I think.

Most of these original tracks will be available on YouTube somewhere, I'm not going to link since all of them are copyright their respective owners. If you want to look them up that's your own affair.

So here's the list
Flute - Bomber - Motorhead
Mandolin- Kickstart My Heart - Motley Crue (Gotta include the engine rev at the start too)
Harp - Plush-Stone Temple Pilots
Bassoon - Jeremy - Pearl Jam
Tuba/Sousaphone - Constant Motion - Dream Theater
Clarinet - Beautiful People - Marilyn Manson
Tin Whistle - Killing in the Name - Rage Against the Machine
Hammer Dulcimer - Screaming for Vengeance - Judas Priest
Ichigenkin - Blackened - Metallica
Bagpipes - La Grange - ZZ Top
French Horn - Kool Thing - Sonic Youth

Now this may not be a reflection on the instument, I remember that a music teacher I had used to say that if a piece of music is well written it can be played on anything... I'm not sure about that, thoughts on a postcard...

Dog Cuteness

We recently discovered an interesting side effect of living in the bush -- your pets also have limited social experiences with their own kind.  This can lead to some entertaining developments.

Ripley, our akita/malamute -- breeds that already have very non-dog-like vocalizations, has learned to "howl" from the local coyotes and wolves rather than other dogs.  It's so cute because she sounds even more like a Wookie when she tries to imitate them.  Even though she tries for the ar-ar-aarooo, it ends up orf-orf-ooorarawooo.  Our neighbor's dogs just look at her funny when she talks to them in her coy-wolf-wookie way :D

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cabin Building - Day One

Today was concrete day!! 1860 lbs... all by hand

Still not done,  we're 3 bags short and ran out of daylight.  SIGH -- just one pad and two piers left.

Cabin Building - Day Zero (video)

Cabin Building - Day Zero

After almost a year of clearing and surviving, and many months of abnormal summer rain, we finally have all the groundwork done for our cabin and are ready to pour our concrete piers. Yippee!

First we cut a 50 ft x 50 ft clearing out of the forest. Our cabin will be 16x24, with porches on either side, for a total footprint of 24x24. Firewise rules state to clear all trees 30 feet from the house, so we have a few more feet to go, but this should be good enough to get started building.  We left one tree standing in the clearing to serve as our center marker for surveying, the rope on the ground is our due north bearing line since we're building passive solar.

Then we ran the chipper for several days to mulch down the 50x10x10 brush pile that came out of this tiny little clearing. This mulched area will be our tool and storage zone while we're building since it's level now. We're planning to put our two metal sheds at either end and then spread a mega-tarp between them to create dry storage for our building materials.

Anything too big for the chipper got limbed out and will become firewood. We have several of these piles up and down the driveway, probably 3 cords worth. None of it is particularly big, so all we need to do is buck it up into stove lengths - no splitting, yay!

Once the clearing was cleaned up and all the mulching done, we cut down our center tree, drove a nail in the stump and used that as our center marker for surveying. We got the corner stakes in and measured out about as square as you can get without a laser or being able to grade. We tried the batter boards, but they were just not working for us. In the end we settled for running string lines right on the ground against the stakes... good enough for government work ;)

Then we hauled gravel down to the site and built up bases for our pads and piers. The ground is pretty level, but not LEVEL... so we gave up any pretense of leveling the pads to each other and just settled for leveling the pad to itself.  Since we can't dig or grade because of the permafrost issues, and we couldn't get a dump truck back because of the muddy trail issues, we decided that each pier could be an independent height as long as they were all level at 20" above grade to accept the beam. We do have some wiggle room since there will be a ginormous acme screw leveling jack on top of each between the pier and the sill beam.

Here's all eight of the bases with their 32" x 32" plywood frames and 5/8" rebar for pouring the 2" concrete pads. All our bags of local concrete are tucked up safely under the tarp just in case it rains again. Once the pads are poured, screed and green-cured we'll score the top and set our 10" quickcrete tube forms up and pour the piers with vertical rebar. Once that has green-cured, we can embed the bolts for the leveling jacks.

Here's a view of the footprint with our truck for comparison:

Standing on top of the truck cab, I'm just about the same height as the loft floor, so here's what our bedroom view should look like (south):

And our view out the back from the landing (north):

No side views since we've got the gambrel roof and I'm so not a good enough carpenter to build dormers!!  Once we clear some more of those trees (particularly the aspens) for pastures and whatnot, we'll have pretty good views of the hills on both sides.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Surveying Blues

I hate survey staking for new construction, I really really do.  It seems that you can have all the measurements between each stake perfect, but the diagonals don't add up and darned thing isn't square. So you fiddle around and get all the diagonals the same, but then the stupid distances between the stakes are wrong. So you fiddle with them a bit, trying not to mess up the diagonals; but no, the diagonals are off... or worse, only one of the diagonals is off but everything else is perfect! You just know if you fiddle with that last stake to get the diagonal right, then all the other measurements and diagonals are going get out of whack again.

Over and over and over with the tape measure, back and forth and back and forth from stake to stake.  You start thinking that maybe 1/4" really isn't going to make that much of a difference; but deep down, you know that this is a lie you're telling yourself because you're getting frustrated and that if you don't do the foundation right your building will never be plumb, square, level or true no matter what you do.

Our cabin is even relatively simple, I designed it that way... 16 x 24 makes a perfect little 3:4:5 (well, 12:16:20) square triangle. You'd think it would be cake to get it staked out squarely... mwuahahaha the cake is a LIE!!!  And the absolute bestest part of all... you guessed it... it's RAINING!! Surprise, surprise :(

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Seems that ECHO failed to mention, in it's product safety brochure, that one should beware of high-speed pine cones being shot at you with gatling effect when sending conifers through the BearCat chipper/shredder!! And they sure didn't mention that said missiles of death can and will ricochet off everything in the forest just so they can hit that sweet-spot where your ribs don't quite cover your kidneys, or the other sweet-spot under your shoulder blade that causes your entire arm to be paralyzed for several seconds, or that soft little sweet-spot in your temple that causes you to blackout temporarily.

Mind you, at no time during any of these occurances was I standing anywhere near the input or exit chutes!!  The kidney killer got me across the clearing while I was behind the brush pile. The shoulder mamer got me when I was standing in the clearly marked "safe zone" to the back side of the chipper. And the temple nailer got me when I was leaning down behind the ATV.

I don't even want to try figuring the probabilities of those mathematical feats of physics :)

You wouldn't think something roughly the size of a kumquat would hurt so bleeding much; but seriously, I have welts... and bruises.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Heat Exhaustion and Sun Poisoning

Yes, even in Alaska heat-related illnesses are still a problem. Now that it finally stopped raining, we've been working hard and long hours trying to catch up on all the work that got delayed on account of the mud.  Well, working 8-10 hours a day in 80+ with near-constant sunlight has finally caught up to us and we're both suffering from a bit of heat exhaustion and sun poisoning. Even though we were trying to stay hydrated and taking cool-down breaks every couple of hours, it apparently wasn't enough. Yesterday I nearly passed out and spent the rest of the evening/night battling nausea and stomach cramps, a headache and the shakes. G has a lovely patch of sun welts (hive-like blisters, but no sunburn) on his torso, moderate muscle cramps and an unhappy tummy.

Today, we're taking a break and drinking lots of fluids trying to get fully rehydrated while attempting to stay cool with water baths and cold packs. It's hard to believe that you can get hyperthermia in only 80-ish weather, but I guess once your body acclimates to temps that are 100 or more degrees lower you just can't tolerate the heat anymore... at least not enough to be doing hard manual labor in it. We're going to try adjusting our schedule so that we're working in the early early morning and late late evening, which should help with the temps even if it doesn't help that much with the sun. Hopefully we won't get sick or nearly keel over with a running chainsaw again! We're just lucky that neither of us actually had full-blown heat stroke and that we got our freezer last week.