Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Concrete

We're close to pouring. I had thought that I'd pour both the foundation and the thermal mass wall at the same time, but I've reconsidered. I'll have enough happening on the day of the foundation pour without the added stress of the fancy thermal mass wall. A color pallet is in the mail for the pigment options for the wall. It will be about two yards of concrete to color. I set up the form for the base of the wall today, and set it on top of two inches of rigid foam to create a thermal break between the earth and the concrete. Eric's going to borrow a laser level from the boat yard and help me set a level line on the interior of the form. I tried to set the top of the forms perfectly all the way around, but even a small amount, say a 32'nd, would leave me about a half inch off by the time I worked my way around to where I started. At some point I decided that perfection wasn't going to happen and that making a level mark on the inside of the form was the way to go. The melamine coated MDF (the smooth form material for the thermal mass wall) will come in a few days. Making the form will be an interesting project. Between knock-outs for built in shelves and four electrical outlets (one on each side of the base of the wall and two on the top for lighting), I'll have a lot of little details to work out.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The foundation forms are just about ready for pouring. Tomorrow I'm going to get some bags of ready mix and set up two small footings for the posts that hold up the second floor. Those posts will be incorporated into the thermal mass wall I've got to form before concrete can be delivered. I'm guessing that concrete delivery is about a week and a half away.

I've been mentioning changes to the house plan over the last couple months. The drawing on the right hand side of this page was one of the first of the early planning stage. As it exists now on paper, the house is remarkably different from that early sketch. (Michelle thinks it's a nice drawing and will not remove it.) The screened in porch is now on the opposite side of the house. The shed roof meets the house at the top of the second floor as opposed to the top of the first floor. That geodesic dome looking thing that's supposed to represent the bread oven is gone as is the shed roof off of the east side of the house. The whole thing is totally different from what is was at the beginning of the process. Fortunately, we're coming to the point when at least something will be set in stone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


This afternoon I set up almost half of the forms for the foundation. It went well. The water level took some getting used to, but once I learned the tricks it worked well enough. Though, I must admit, a laser level would have been much more convenient.

Time and money have influenced some changes to the original plan. I had thought that having the screened in area as part of the same continuous concrete floor would have been a nice touch, but having it supported by posts with a regular old wood floor would be easier and cheaper. The bakery room has been on the chopping block in my mind for a while. Constructing the space and the oven would be costly and time consuming. Down the road if I felt inspired to build a clay oven, it could stand alone outside like traditional rural bread ovens in Quebec.

I could be pouring concrete in a couple weeks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Icing on the Cake

On the way into the Blue Hill Co-Op, there's a sign that says please turn off your cell phone before entering. I'm new to the cell phone and forgot that I had one of those offensive objects in my pocket when I walked in to placate my daughters' need for snacks. It was on. Still, this shouldn't have concerned me; only one person has the number and she, Michelle, has little reason to call. There we were sitting on bar stools in the cafe eating a blueberry muffin and drinking a raspberry seltzer and, much to my surprise, my phone rang. Audibly. Yes, I should have had it on buzz mode, but it's only rung three times since I got it a few weeks ago. Again, to my surprise, it wasn't Michelle; it was Lewis Tapley. I had called him first thing in the morning to complain, again, about his road building incompetence and used the cell for the call because we don't yet have long distance service at the new rental. (That's how he got my number.) One of his guys was there in Sedgwick and says that it doesn't need fixing?!@$#? Really? I was just there yesterday and it was deeply rutted. A joke. I just didn't know what to say. Yelling foul language into the cell phone was simply out of the question under the circumstances. I just told him I'd be right there. Chloe chugged the rest of her seltzer. Hazel finished her muffin on the road. All the way to Sedgwick I was quietly muttering expletives of disbelief. Then turning into Sis Porter Rd I met Jeff, my over-achieving excavator, on his way out in his dump truck with machine in tow. I rolled down my window. You're not going to believe this, I said, Lewis just told me there was nothing wrong with the road. That one of his guys was just here looking at it. Jeff: "I know. I just fixed it. With all the rain we're going to get this week it would have been bad if the road had stayed the way it was." Of course, just yesterday he didn't tell me he was going to do this. We got a good laugh out of this, and I went on to look for myself. I called Lewis back to tell him that he was off the hook. Weasel that he is, he made it clear that he had shown up to do the work. In other words, don't expect to see any money back.

Later in the afternoon, I met Bobby Gray at the site to talk about plumbing. We mapped out a rough course for the near future. He also told me that he would install our solar hot water system at cost since they've never done one before. Our house would become an example for their work.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Just Your Average Sunday

After two months of waiting and begging to get the most basic work done, I hire a guy who's on the job at 7am on Father's Day. By lunchtime we had the phone conduit rerouted, a new conduit for bringing power back into the house from the meter, the rest of the pad up to grade and compacted and the foundation footing excavated and ready for concrete forms. Not bad for a Sunday morning. I have perhaps a day of work with a shovel to get everything squared away for setting up all the forms.

It looks like rain on and off for the rest of the week. It'll give us a little time to get settled in to the new house. We're going to try to unpack as little as possible to get by for the next five months. Michelle's displeasure with the new rental was assuaged by the discovery that this house does, in fact, have DSL. Moderately assuaged. Though we have a fair amount of tolerance for filth, it has to be our filth, and this place is still pretty filthy despite the owners assurance that it would be cleaned before we moved in. At least we won't have to worry about leaving it spotless when we leave.

This week I've got to try to get in touch with the electrician to set up power. And I've got to press Lewis Tapley to do the right thing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Well On Its Way (Part 2)

I got a call last night from Mark Taplin. He'd be there at around 10am to drill our well. I went on a quick search for a friend's divining rods because I changed the initial site by about 20'. Couldn't find them. So this morning I left myself in the hands of the water gods and stuck a stick in the ground and said, "Drill there." I watched for a while and decided it wasn't much to watch. It could be hours after all. So I cut some trees down. Rototilled some garden space. Ran to the Bagaduce lunch for a fish sandwich. Rototilled some more. Went to Chris and Anna's for some water. When I came back, he was capping the well. I had missed it. We did well though. 160' deep and 10 gallons a minute. Perhaps all those years of water conservation had pleased the water gods, and this was our reward.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Finally? Part 2

I arrived at the site this morning to find Jeff Grey already at work. I had asked him to order a culvert for the morning so he could continue prepping the house site. The culvert had been delivered but not without drama. The truck from Granville got stuck in the driveway. After heavy use from Jeff's dump trucks over the last few days, the fix applied a week ago was showing serious signs of inadequacy. Just another half-ass job from our nemesis, Earthworks. I thought I was finally done with Lewis Tapley, but the more I thought about it the more I couldn't just let it go. So I called him again to let him know that yet another delivery truck got stuck in our driveway. He's so tired of hearing from me. He actually tried to blame the delivery drivers. He actually asked me what I wanted to do. Isn't it obvious. Come and look. Make your own assessment and fix it. I wonder how long it will take him to show up this time. Jeff thinks that he won't be pleased to see another excavator on the job. If I get a call from the well driller and it's still not fixed, I'll have Jeff do it. We're probably talking about $500 in material, not something that's going to hold me back from moving forward. At this point it's more the principle of the matter. I didn't get what I paid for, and it's set us back about six weeks.

On the bright side, the electrical conduit is in. Jeff did the rest of the digging, and I glued up the conduit. There was about 150' of trench running through Chris and Anna's property this morning, and by the end of the day it was hardly noticeable. Under the circumstances neatness counted, and Jeff did a far neater job than I could have done in a fraction of the time.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Moving Along

We're 95% moved into our next rental thanks to help from my parents this past week. We've got a week left before we're completely kicked out of the Hamilton house. Things are also moving in a positive direction at the house site. I was there for most of the afternoon working with Jeff Gray to set the transformer pad and map out work for the next couple days. We'll be there tomorrow installing culverts and digging the rest of the trench for the electrical conduit. We should be in pretty good shape by the end of the week, and before long I'll be setting up the concrete forms. If I could have a foundation poured by the end of the month, I'll be happy.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Here's a quick entry to everyone out there who's on the edge of their seats. Will he or will he not deliver on his promise to fix our driveway? I drove there today with a rototiller in the back of the trailer wondering whether or not I'd be able to use our driveway. Imagine my surprise when I was able to drive all the way to the house site and, more significantly, drive out.

It's about time.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

June 1st

Way back in December when we sold our house and had this vague plan to build another one, we rented a house on the water until the middle of June. We thought that by June we'd have some sort of structure up. Something at least to put some stuff in. This was a wild guess based on our progress building the last house. We started in March and moved in at the beginning of June. There was a framed structure with a roof and tarped-over windows. We had a dry place to sleep and kept the mosquitoes at bay with a net. This time around we envisioned framing the house quickly with the help of Richard Warfel. And while the place wouldn't necessarily be habitable with Chloe and Hazel running around getting into unimaginable trouble, at least there would be SOMETHING there. A shell. Well on its way to housedom.

Now on June 1st we don't even have a passable driveway. (We've got a mailbox though!) The path that led us to this point is chronicled in what I've written over the last several months. Long snowy winter. Road posting. Road building incompetence. This last one has been by far the most damaging obstacle. One that even with hindsight couldn't have been avoided.

We've rented another house to take us through the summer and fall. Once we get beyond the site work, I'll be more in control of the pace of things, but there are too many variables to guess what we'll have accomplished come November. We'll just have to roll with the punches. A call from Lewis Tapley yesterday promised to fix our road first thing tomorrow morning. It's a start.

There is a silver lining to all these delays. We've had more time work on our house plan. It's gone through uncountable changes, and now we're both satisfied with the space. It's going to be a beautiful little house. Our home for a long, long time. If I ever get to drive that first nail.