Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Warm and Toasty

We started to move into the cabin this past Friday once it became apparent that the snow wasn't likely to stop. It's been sooooo nice sleeping in a warm, dry and level place again!! We've been scurrying around moving the essentials from the tent with the truck and ATV, and getting rudimentary utilities set up down here at the cabin. Got the battery bank and inverter moved (ow ow ow - pulled muscles!!!) and the electrical panel with a couple circuits wired so we could get the satellite dish mounted and internet back online.

We'll be rushing around the next few days to get the rest of the electrical wired and our water tank/plumbing sorted ahead of the forecasted winter storms headed our way. Once that's done and we can organize the living space so we're not tripping and climbing over boxes, totes and buckets, I'll write up a longer status post with the many pictures of our progress (yay, I found the camera's card reader) all from my new cushy recliner!! Imagine, real, comfortable seating again instead of folding camp chairs... what luxury!!

We can worry about getting the non-essentials and the tent down to the site and getting the rest of the drywall and flooring done in the pantry and bathroom; and doing a bit of additional clearing and organizing outside before the snow gets too deep, etc. All the remaining interior finish work can keep us busy during the long winter... and we won't even have to freeze doing it this year, or have to work with Gumby Gloves and Frankenboots on -- WooHoo :)


Dani said...

Congratulations - must be lovely to be in before your impending winter :)

As long as you're inside and out of the damp and cold, you can surely take your time in getting it organized as you like it. So happy for you.

Anonymous said...

Yay for you!!!
It was so long since you had posted, I was hoping you were both safe.
Looking forward to your pictures.
Enjoy your warmth, you have more than earned it!

lynn said...

Congrats to you, I look daily for your updates and had been concerned that you were running against the snow clock. How wonderful for you to live and sleep in pure comfort, a refreshment well deserved.

becky3086 said...

Enjoy being Warm and Toasty!

Anonymous said...

good to see you are ok and posting again. i enjoy reading about your adventures.

Velma G said...

Hi there, I was wondering, Is this your "small cabin/shack" you mentioned in your Dec '09 post? Or is this your main house??

Thanks for your blog, I have learned a lot of good info for our Big Move :)

Plickety Cat said...

Hi Velma, this is the "interim" small cabin/shack, not the big roundhouse we'd initially discussed.

But, honestly, after living in the 16x20 tent for so long and then seeing how much space we actually have in our 16x24 "shack" with loft, we may decide to abandon the "big house" idea because we really don't need anything that big.

We've found that it makes much more sense to build smaller, individual outbuildings with the appropriate level of foundation, insulation, and sturdiness for dedicated uses, only heated as necessary, than it is trying to cram everything into one super-sturdy large heated main house on a single foundation and under a single roof.

Dedicated use is a big component of our plans, as there are many things that we store on the homestead that really shouldn't be stored together due to contamination or safety hazard -- like food and fuel, or fuel and firewood. And dedicated use buildings are a lot easier to layout, organize and utilize. For instance, we know we don't need (m)any of the garden/lawn tools and equipment in the winter, so we can put that shed further from the house and not have to maintain a shoveled path to it all winter.

But, we're still interested in using the "round" shape and straw bale construction on one of the outbuildings eventually... most likely the wash house or workshops that needs heating during the winter.

Marybeth said...

Glad you guys are okay. I was starting to worry. I'm sure it must be nice having a toasty warm cabin. I can''t wait to see the pictures. I like the round house idea. One question do you have a shower in the cabin? I remember reading about the bathroom (under the steps?) but does it have a shower? Oh and can you heat the snow for water or is that not advised? Sorry for the silly questions.


Anonymous said...

Happy that you finally got into the cabin but dang that's the longest I've ever seen anyone take to build something of that size.

Looking forward to the pictures.

Plickety Cat said...

Hi Marybeth, not silly questions at all :) We don't have a conventional shower in the cabin since we're working on gravity pressure only; but we can rig up a camp shower arrangement in the bathroom with a combination of hot water (from the wood stove) in a solar shower bag mixed with cool water from the bath faucet and a hand spray wand. We have a large basin that we can stand in to catch the water and a circular shower rod for a curtain to keep from swamping the place. It's not much room and not much hot water, but certainly enough to get a really good rinse after a bucket bath.

We will be having a proper shower and bathtub in the wash house, along with the laundry wash and rinse tubs, and that system will have a small pressure tank and/or pressure pump along with either wood-fired or propane water heating. You can check out the portable/on-demand "camp" showers at for an idea of what we're looking to do.

Generally, the freeze risk for plumbing is so severe here in the winter that unless you can keep all your water in a heated space all the time or have massive amounts of power for heat tape, it's best to only have small amounts of water and empty pipes between uses... including your drain pipes. We're planning to have the wash house drains empty into the grow beds in the attached greenhouse, which should help warm and water everything in there and treat the greywater.

We can, and do, melt snow (and creek ice) for water in the winter. It's perfect as-is for general use, but we normally boil and filter it for drinking and cooking. The biggest issue with melting for water is that snow and ice has such a low bulk water conversion -- 10 gallons of snow only yields a gallon of water, and takes 1+ hours to melt down, plus firewood, and that amount of snow in the living room can actually lower the room temp 10+ degrees if you're not careful.

Plickety Cat said...

"...but dang that's the longest I've ever seen anyone take to build something of that size."

Agreed, it took a long time, way longer than one would expect if they've never worked in the bush ;)

1) We're not on the road, everything has to come down woodland trail... which has been exceptionally muddy these past few summers. You can't transport heavy equipment or materials through the quicksand quagmire.

2) We're nowhere near a hardware store or lumber yard, and a lot of things have to be special ordered to Alaska or cost a ton in shipping

3) We had a forest fire to deal with and some seriously uncooperative weather

4) We had some neighbor and wildlife issues to deal with

5) Our warm building season is only June through September. But since it was overly rainy and muddy the last two summers, we had to do most of the work after freeze-up October through December when it was too cold to work with some of the materials and progress on what we could work on was slowed because of the temps

6) Daily living chores take up a lot of time... clearing forest, hauling water, collecting and processing firewood all take time and priority; and we lose 1-2 days every time we need to make a trip into town, or have to wait 2-3 weeks anytime we need to mail order something

7) For the most part, other than the few times Ken came to help, we were doing this by ourselves with minimal heavy equipment and power tools... no grid electricity means we have to rely on tools that are small enough to use with our little generators, not fast efficient pro models. And, although I'm strong for a female, I'm not as strong as a man, so we did have to wait for assistance for some of the extremely heavy lifting.

8) Permafrost and massive frost heave twice a year causes more complications than you'd expect in many different and surprising aspects of construction

9) The extreme cold puts more stress on and does more damage to mechanical items than you'd expect and often precludes things from working at all for several months (even gasoline has problems igniting at -40F and anything plastic disintegrates if stressed)

10) Since we had a reasonable shelter already with the tent, we weren't killing ourselves and risking serious injury this far from a hospital trying to get it done faster.

Anonymous said...

I know Plickety. I actually based that on several people that I know of whom have built in Alaska.

I think a major hindrance might be the lack of construction experience.

I haven't read everything from your blog but I seemed to remember that being said, maybe it's something I thought was implied.

Anyway, looks like you've finally gotten it wrapped up. ;)

Plickety Cat said...

Yep, we were software engineers back in The World, so our construction experience wasn't extensive. Of course, if I had opted for conventional stick framing with an air-nailer on a more conventional foundation and a simple gable roof instead of designing a non-standard structure, things would have been MUCH faster ;) More reference diagrams and charts etc for stick framing than having to learn "how to" as you go.

Anonymous said...

That sounded really impressive.

I suppose when I get to my friends cabin near Travis AFB, I'll be sure to tell them both that they did theirs wrong by stick framing it in 6 weeks. That should get grin out of Todd. ;)

Good luck on finishing your cabin. I'll check back in next winter to see how far you've come along.

Plickety Cat said...

Nothing wrong with stick framing, just wasn't what we wanted to do.

If we'd been under serious time crunch because we didn't have a winter-worthy shelter, then I might have opted to go with stick framing to "git'er dun" lickety-split :D

Gungnir said...


So because someone you know, not you, could build a stick frame house in Solano County CA in 6 weeks, we should too...?

Wow apples and oranges, it'll be 2x4 stick wall too on grade...

Bet he got free deliveries of materials after his 20 or so minute drive to Fairfield. Building season is oh I dunno about 12 months of the year. Hell there are almost NO deliveries out here on the road we got lucky with both of our deliveries. Neither was immediate, and neither one was to our building site. Nearly everything here was hand, or 4 wheelered in here, because the truck could barely make it down the trail.

In comparison for up here, we're not doing so bad compared to most of the local owner builders. Of course if you actually knew anyone around here, you'd already know that talking about regular stick framing in AK means $$$ in heating costs. You'll spend it in the heating, or you'll spend it in the construction, but you'll spend it one way or another.

Average time to build here in undeveloped plots is 3 years, first year survey, for all four seasons, so you don't get buried in snow in the winter, or drowned in run off in the spring, or eaten by mosquitoes in the summer. One building season to get the general foundation placed, with maybe the first floor laid out, the next season, completion of the project.

Unless you're in Fairbanks and it's tract housing, then they'll throw that up in 3 weeks. Choosing that route is not something that someone building their own Alaskan Cabin, a mile and a half off any road, is likely to want to do.

Of course if you'd been following the blog for any length of time, you'd have known the trials and tribulations, before deciding that you wanted to armchair quarterback based on information gleaned in California.

More pertinently, we're no better or worse at anything than others, we don't claim occult knowledge in construction, agriculture, meteorology, or a million other things than anyone else. Certainly nothing for someone to feel the urge to throw snarky comments in our direction. You don't like us, or like our blog, that's fine, don't let the door hit you in the ass as you leave.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know. Stick framing refers to the use of 2x4 or 2x6 studs ( or sticks ).. Most people that don't know any better believe it refers to using a nail gun with a "rack" of nails typically used in nail guns. ( a stick of nails )

Before you offer up an interpretation or excuse, how about taking a run to a dictionary first.

You could probably spout of all sorts of details when it comes to manuals, codes, electrical requirements which is impressive, I'll give you that but you lacked substantial real world knowledge prior to your attempt. I think you've done an okay job relatively speaking.

I saw your pictures, you WERE doing stick framing.

Hopefully I haven't bruised any egos it was just a passing comment. ;)

I got'er done forya.

Anonymous said...

I see the big bad has come out.

Nice ASSumptions Gugner is it?

Man you get mighty testy don't you. :)

Plickety Cat said...

We know that stick framing refers to using light timber studs, most typically in platform rather than balloon. These days, it's normally done with a air-powered framing nailer which makes framing go very fast. Stick fraiming has jack all to do with a "stick of nails" and I've never even heard that being a misconception.

And the only stick framing that we did was few interior walls and the infill panels beneath our beams in the POST-framing on the exterior walls.

Don't come on to our blog and start spouting shit and implying that we are clueless, incompetent and haven't done any research on what we're doing like you've been here with us or read our entire blog or even have any personal experience with building in remote bush Alaska.

I post our methods and explanations so that readers who are thinking about homesteading or doing something similar understand WHY we chose to do certain things in certain ways. I never make the assumption that my way or design is the only way or even the best way... it's the way we chose and why we chose it. So BACK OFF.

I have always admitted that we don't have extensive construction experience. I've built a few smaller buildings and renovated several larger buildings using various conventional and alternative methods. I'm extremely happy that Ken was able to help us with a few of the larger proects with his professional equipment and experience; but what we *CHOSE* to do was build a non-conventional home on raw land utilizing some alternative methods and materials so that we could learn as we went. I've stick-framed a 2-car garage in a month before and could have done exactly the same thing here *if* that was what we wanted.

My ego isn't bruised at all, since this isn't even a matter of ego in the first place... at least not for me. You sound like our research and factual knowledge, in lieu of practical experience, injure YOUR ego though.

If you honestly think you can do it better... come up here next summer and build our barn with exactly the same equipment, restrictions, manpower and budget as we had for the cabin. That would sure put us back in our place, huh?

Gungnir said...

No assumptions, just replying to what you said Travis AFB is in Fairfield CA... No? Not testy to people wanting to have an honest conversation. Pretty testy on people self aggrandizing on their acquaintances achievements while providing completely contrasting situations.

However as it seems we have another anonymous troll, who probably is currently getting all hot under the collar, in his mom's basement. We're instigating the moderation rule...

Our house, our rules. Don't like it, well then you are free to go and try to achieve the miracle of self-copulation.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. The smell of troll is overpowering in here...

Congrats on being indoors! Can't wait to see your photos. How are the animals adjusting?

Still following you blog in western NC - Jennifer

BSV said...

You two are terrific! I've followed every word you have posted since post #1 and I worry about you as if we had been neighbors for years. I'm thrilled that you are moved in -- and I'll bet 99% of your other followers feel the same way.

This is a time to feel good about what you have accomplished, and not a time to let snarky comments get under your skin. The percentage of the population who could duplicate what you have accomplished is about -- lemme see, now -- .01% or thereabouts. So congratulations on a fine job.

I see the temperature there is a balmy 9 F as I type this at you from here in Central Texas. There is an old saying that everything is bigger in Texas, but I will concede that your mosquitoes are bigger. On the other hand, you won't have them to worry about until spring. Hang in there and please keep us posted. And please try to post updates a bit more frequently. After two or three weeks without a post I begin to wonder if a bear ate you.


Gungnir said...

Aww, BSV, I feel all bashful now.

Thanks for your kind words, we both appreciate them. Hope you're dealing with the drought and wildfires with minimal impact on your life.

Yes we're enjoying the few moments we have in the warm, dry, and draught free cabin we now have. I'm much enjoying not having to duck under the ceiling, having a door is pure luxury, and our frustrations with our living accommodations are definitely subsiding a little.

Quinton said...

Congrats on getting into the cabin.
This should be a much more comfortable winter.

Sam.... said...

Hey guys -
Good to see things are progressing. Like BSV, I too get a little concerned when I don't "hear from you" for weeks at a time but I try to temper that with the reality that you're probably busy as hell.

I'm always amazed at those who have the nerve to post snarky comments then ID themselves as "Anonymous". How utterly brave of them. I also don't understand why they jump on someone's blog only to be rude and negative. Perhaps "Anonymous" will deign to enlighten us some day. Actually, now that I think about it, perhaps it would be better if "Anonymous" simply stayed away!

Meanwhile, I'm pleased to see that you two remain as feisty as ever. Keep it up! :~)

CottonLady said...

A hearty congratulations on getting to move into your cabin! You two have worked so hard and endured quite a lot..good goin'.
I check in about daily and am glad to see your post and that you two are o.k. Enjoy your new home!!


Anonymous said...

A big and heartfelt congratulations to you both!!!!

I remember reading your blog when you were in the process of selecting materials. You've come a LONG way! I can't imagine the sense of satisfaction you both feel. Well deserved, too.

Anonymous said...

Congrats... cant wait to see pictures. You all have done well!!!

Dont let people with out experience get under your skin... It is easy to sit in a chair in a warm climate and mouth off but to actually deal with what you all have is a whole other story... Cant wait till I can build my dream place. Bet the anon person hasnt ever been to AK, delt with the summers (if you can call them that) or the winters and camped out, hauled water, cut wood for heat, cooking, etc. Takes gumption to stay in a tent for that long and not go nuts with the cold and the wind. I would totally prefer building a small STICK shed and living in it before I would do a tent, Especially up there.

Hoping to make it north some time in 12 to see you all and Tom....

Pics please. :^)


Marybeth said...

WOW it's warmer in Barrow than where you guys are!!!!! Stay warm and cozy in the cabin. Take some time to RELAX!!!!

Gungnir said...

Yup, it's not uncommon. Barrow's temps are modulated by the ocean, so they tend to be (as an annual average) a little cooler than the interior, but we have higher peaks and lower troughs. Prospect Creek has the lowest temp on record with -80F it's about 100 or so miles north of us, just to the South of the Brooks Range. Fort Yukon holds the highest temp with 100F. They're a couple of hundred miles North East of us.

Kelly said...

I stumbled on your blog when doing research online for Gambrell roofs. Although now living in FL, I grew up many years ago in northern MN. I am extremely impressed with your progress. Your tenacity to live in the tent for the first couple years was really impressive. I am sure having moved into your cabin, you now feel as if you have the Ritz.
What impressed me most about your Gambrel trusses was the construction method that eliminated the need for the support posts that are used in most Gambrel truss diagrams. Was this possible due to the smaller width of the cabin (16 ft) or is this method possible for a wider structure? Just curious.
Congrats on all your progress. I have worked in MN winters before. Don't let the arm chair QB from CA get to you. It is way easier to point out the flaws of others than to admit that you yourself (mr. QB) would not the gonads to accomplish what PC & G have.
Take care and I'll be watching for further updates.

Plickety Cat said...

Hi Kelly & welcome. Glad you're enjoying the blog so far :)

On the gambrel truss design, you could adapt it to a wider structure (I adapted the design from a 50' dairy barn) but you'd probably need to make the gussets larger and place them further in/down the rafters depending on the angles you were working with.

They'd probably stick well out of the rafter bays, but should still give you a bit more floor space than a support wall... especially since a wider building would raise the ceiling height.

The gussets at the pitch break act as a lock to keep the two sets of rafters from sliding off their supports, collapsing inward or spreading apart; as do the triangular/trapezoidal gussets at the ridge.

If I went much wider (say over 24' wide) I would probably also put a collar tie 1/3 of the way down the upper rafter because you'd be getting into some pretty long rafters and wide spans at that point. But it's totally do-able with the right load and angle calculations!

I've even seen this braced truce roof on structures that are wide enough that the builders added a 3rd plane... turning it more into a barrel or gothic roof than a true gambrel.

Kelly said...

Thanks for the quick response. Your explanation makes perfect sense to me. Also glad to hear that you had modeled your truss design from a 50' barn.
I look forward to seeing more of the progress pictures as it is made. Stay warm.

CottonLady said...

Yea! good to hear from you. I watch your temperatures and you are -33* now!!!! So very glad you are in your cabin now.


Marybeth said...

I hope you guys had a wonderful Thanksgiving in your nice warm cabin :)


dabjr2 said...

Long time viewer, 1st time poster....guess you've heard that before :-) AAAAAnyway, my wife and I must say - you guys ROCK! We understand, it literally takes years & years & years to do what you guys are doing, and we're in PA (AK has got to be much tougher). Folks who take out 30yr mortgages for others to do what you've done and then criticize? YYYYEAH... Thanks for keeping us "followers" posted & tell G Man I'd be pzzzed too if I were in his shoes.... -Dave in PA

Gungnir said...

Thanks for the kind words Dave.

I was mildly peeved, not really pzzzed, there is absolutely and positively no doubt when I am ;)

Anonymous said...

Ditto all the positive comments. You guys really do rock. We all would really like to see some pictures though, Please. Regards,CJ

Pam and Norm said...

I've enjoyed keeping up with your blog for a while now. You've done such a great job. I can't imagine how many people move up there to do the same thing but fail, and understandably so given the brutal weather & wildlife (bears!). You've really thought things out & persevered. I can't wait to see new pictures of your place. Thanks for keeping your blog open. I know it's hard with the backlash you get from time to time.
Pam from Central Texas

Anonymous said...

Haven't had a chance to peek in for a bit but am ever so glad to read you are in a cozier place for the winter!!
DOn't know how you have been but we, like ANC, have been cold (-10), then warm (40's), then up and down a few times with winds thrown to boot.
LIke the rest looking forward to more updates and pics.
ENjoy your new 'space' and hope the critters are as happy.

Marybeth said...

I'm eagerly waiting for an update and pictures!! Did you guys celebrate Thanksgiving? How do your fur babies like the new place?


Anonymous said...

Hey you all...any words, pics, anything...haven't heard from you since Nov. Christmas is around th corner...hope your holidays is a good one.