Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pics of our new gas range!

So, G's folks gifted us with the off-grid (LPG with 9v piezo ignition) Unique Range we were lusting after. Despite international communication and currency issues, logistic horrors getting it shipped to Alaska, and a slightly non-standard coupler/fitting that delayed installation... this stove totally ROCKS! And it looks awesome in our kitchen... now all I need to do is build a baker's cupboard and pot rack for the corner and the kitchen set-up will be complete :)

How wonderful to have a proper oven again! I mean, the nifty stovetop Perfection Oven for the woodstove was pretty sweet... but we usually ended up roasting ourselves as well as dinner. While roasting in a Dutch oven with coals works pretty well as long as it's not too frigid outside; we never quite mastered the knack of baking anything but doorstops in one. And thanks to Megan and the Amazon gift card she sent me for writing those guest articles for her blog, I've also been able to replace a few essential pieces of bakeware. Now we can easily make bread, pizza, pasta al forno and potatoes au gratin. Oh, happy day!

And the little portable LP catering stove that my folks got for us while we were in the tent, that has served us diligently these past couple years, can now be used indoors or out (eventually in the outdoor "summer kitchen") for rendering lard, deep frying or large-batch cooking and canning. Can't get better set than that!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Porch Construction... PICS!!!

We changed the orginal porch design from 4' deep to 6' deep with a center bay 8' deep (forming a 2' stoop at the top of the stairs). Because of the integrated roofline, we had to get the porches on before we could FINALLY paper and shingle the cabin roof. Since it rained all summer, construction and subsequent roofing was delayed... so it got to rain INSIDE the cabin as well. Seriously! I had rain chains attached to the ceiling joints in the living room/kitchen to divert the leaks into buckets.

Anyway, I, um, "misplaced" the camera during the construction of the western (front) porch, but managed to take pics of the eastern (back) porch when it wasn't rainingl and they're identical, so no harm done. Again, we're using surface pads and piers for the foundation. This time the pads are a sandwich of pressure treated 2x4 and plywood with precast concrete piers instead of reinforced concrete pads and poured piers like we used on the cabin since the porches are much lighter. The cabin's surface foundation has proven quite stable and effective with barely any shift despite a rainy summer, a fast freeze-up, an unusually cold and snowy winter, an extremely wet and slow break-up, and another rainy summer... so we're confident that the porches won't go anywhere either.

Since we didn't want to waste a lot of time and effort leveling the pads and pier jacks after building the deck, we opted to build the deck first in 3 independent square frames, attach each frame to the cabin's sill beam since it was already level side-to-side, use temporary braces to level the deck frames front-to-back, and then drop the posts into the pier blocks through their corresponding slots in each of the deck frames and plumb them up before nailing them to the already-leveled frames. Then we came back and shored the posts up with cross ties and angle braces.

This method worked out pretty well for our two-man team without a flat surface to start with, and certainly went faster and smoother (and more level, plumb and square) than erecting the posts and beams first and dropping in the joists second like we did with the cabin floor. Just one of the many benefits to designing and building on a modular grid!

Floor frames built first and then attached to the sill beam.
Pads, piers and posts placed after the frames were attached.
Ripley, sneaking into the shot again!
We added cross-ties in front and back of the posts under the joists as extra insurance, and angle braces to prevent racking.
We attached the stairs to the stoop with an extra riser nailed through the rim and joists on the inside of the floor frame.
Then angle-braced the nose of the cantilever back to the posts just to make sure everything was solid.

AND we put the decking down FIRST this time, so I wouldn't be able to fall through like I did on the western porch! 
Double-checked that the posts were plumb side-to-side and tied them together with a header plate on the inside and outside.
Then checked plumb back-to-front and tied the porch posts to the cabin posts -- yay for the modular grid again!
Trimmed off the tops of the post and added the rafters, with an angle brace as extra support on the flying rafters.
The roof overhangs the deck nearly 2' on all sides, except right over the stoop where the deck sticks out a little;
and that little bit won't be exposed too much after we get the gutters on.
Then it was just a matter of adding sheathing, drip edge, tarpaper, shingles and flashing to finish up the whole roof.
Technically, we didn't need metal flashing on the valley and pitch break since shingles on gambrels are usually just bent;
but since the lower rafters are nearly vertical, we opted to flash it like a roof-wall connection rather than an adjoining roof.
So here's the front (south) dead-on with both completed porches.

LOL - kinda has an Amityville Horror thing going on from this angle!
Now, if I could just get James Brolin or Ryan Reynolds to come split that mound of wood for me!!
And oblique angle from the SW corner, which shows the roof better.
Yes, our cabin is really that small and our truck is really that big ROFL!!

And the back porch with the siding installed (hmmm, to paint or stain, that is the question).
Remarkably, we managed a halfway decent job keeping the shingles even, straight and smooth!

We'll be adding the siding on all faces eventually, but might not make it before the snow flies this year. With winter coming, the worst of the rainy season should be over, so we're not panicking to get the gutters up either; but we'll have straight gutters with a downspout into collection barrels on the south end for watering the garden with sun-warmed rainwater, rather than the near-frozen hard water that would come up from a well.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Clearing Brush ... more PICS!

Clearing brush for access, construction and fire safety has been our constant occupation, especially since we've had such a rainy summer.

In order to preserve the critical vegetation mat, we're clearing the home acre by chainsaw instead of with heavy equipment. As you'll see by the mountains of brush, it's a LOT of cutting and hauling... and we still have the eastern half-acre left to do!!  Eventually we'll be sorting all the brush into separate piles since we plan to use most of it to weave a wattle fence around the home acre and veggie garden. Good thing that the spruce right here is smaller diameter, very straight, and very supple! The few bigger trees (4+ inches) will become firewood (or go onto a bonfire if it's punky) and all the random little bits and slash from limbing out the fencing will get mulched to fill in low spots along the driveway (no mulch near the cabin, it's a red carpet invitation for carpenter ants and cabin fires!!)

We were lucky that G's folks helped us out with some of the clearing on the NW corner during their visit... but it's just not right to force houseguests into slave labor even if they are family :D   Now we'll need to haul "Mount Wardle" from the NW corner to the "Wall o' Brush" long the southern border so we can put our storage and wood sheds in the NW corner easily accessible from the front porch.

The end of the driveway, as far as we got last year other than the immediate cabin construction site.
The southern border, extending east from the driveway, and the tail end of the Wall o' Brush.

The Wall o' Brush extending 100' from the driveway, 4' high and 8' wide.
And that's just HALF of what we've cleared, which is only half of what we need to clear.
The western border, extending north from the driveway up to Mount Wardle.
And Ripley, sneaking into shot again!!
Mount Wardle -- all the brush from the NW corner.
Don't be fooled by scale, this pile is nearly 8' tall and 20' in diameter!
That blue tarp right in front of it is covering a *full pallet* of sheathing.
Alas, we've only made it to the corner of the back porch... we still have nearly all of the eastern half-acre to go!
But at least we have a little more of an opening outside the front porch now instead of being claustrophobic in the trees!
And for some perspective and scale... this shot was taken from the back porch roof and shows the entire SW corner (nearly 1/4 acre) with Sonja (our full-size Dodge pickup) in the foreground. It was all just as dense as the surrounding area.
Phew, just looking at it makes me tired all over again!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Winter's Coming - landscape PICS!!!

As Ned Stark is fond of saying "Winter is Coming."  (Game of Thrones is such an awesome show!)

The leaves on the birch and aspen only turned a couple weeks ago, but they've already dropped. No Termination Dust (first snow) yet on the lower hills you can see from the cabin, but we have seen some on a few of the higher hills on the way into Fairbanks. We are getting nightly frosts already, and it's definitely jacket weather. We weren't affected by the Nenana & upper Tanana River flooding, but we're happy for the recent respite from all the rain anyway! Of course, now we're already seeing "chance of snow" in the forecast.

Now that we're past the Autumn Equinox, we're losing daylight fast. Just shy of  7 minutes a day... over an HOUR every week! It's nice to have sunset and night again, but it won't be long until we're down to only a few hours of daylight again.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Adapter Found - finally PICS again!!!!

Yay! While preparing for G's parents visiting, I finally found the camera's card reader so I can finally post pics again :D

I'll start with a few random shots of indoor stuff from previous posts:
Our 200 gallon water tank up in the loft so we finally have running water (gravity-fed, not pressurized).
The pantry shelves. Eventually I'll get these painted and better organized!!
Adjustable spice shelves I built to fit between the wall studs in the pantry. No space goes to waste in a small cabin!
Our tiny bathroom under the stairs. Two-seater bench holds the poo bucket and urinal.
Note the narrow sink we made out of a fish-steamer, which still needs some work to drain properly.
Honey Bucket, not to be confused with....
... bucket of honey :D
The perfect pee-tainer, a 3-gallon outboard fuel tank.
Complete with sturdy handle, fill gauge and threaded liquid-tight cap!!
View from the "throne" - very untidy understairs storage at the moment.
BTW - I highly recommend the 'Gourmet Liquid' ant bait for Carpenter Ants!!
Obligatory picture of Ripley, she's such a camera whore!!

More posts and pics soon!