Monthly Archives: September 2012

Wall #1

The saga of our building a foundation after we built a house continues…in this latest episode, our heroes are positioned to build a wooden wall atop the block wall that they completed in our last episode.  Will they get splinters?  Will the Mrs. pummel the Mr. because of his stupidity?  Stay tuned viewers and find out!

Building a basement wall

Ok, so we built a wall on the back side of the building.  Of course, the idea is to eventually frame in all four sides with wooden framed walls on top of the block base.  We could have blocked the walls all of the way up but we both decided that we do not like lifting blocks any higher than we have to and that I am better and faster with wood.  We added a sill plate on top of the blocks and secured it with j-bolts embedded in concrete we used to fill in the holes in the blocks.  On top of that, we used treated 2x4s to build a traditional wall.  I made the fit tight for the wall boards so it will, in fact, provide a level of support to the entire structure as well.  The bulk of the weight of the building will remain on the posts and piers but the outer walls will have additional support.

Building a basement wall

Did you know that the outer walls carry the bulk of the weight of a building?  All of the weight of the roof (in our style building, anyhow), is evenly spread between the outer walls  opposite the gable ends?  I learned all sorts of stuff building this house, and, in particular, the way loads are carried and how to balance the weight of the house.  In reality, the house is not all that heavy.  Of course, you wouldn’t want to be under it if it fell, but spread out over its base, the pressure in a given area is not as bad as I expected when I first started ciphering on this place.  There are all sorts of calculations one needs to do related to live and dead loads, soil bearing capacity and component strengths when you build a house.  I had no idea but it’s pretty interesting to read and makes sense when you even realize these things are indeed things.

Building a basement wall

Anyhow, we finished the tallest of the “basement” walls and have blocks laid for half of each side wall.  We now need to dig additional footer space at the front of the building and the remaining halves of each side.  It should not be a terrible job but it will have to be done by hand as the excavator arm will not fit under the building in the remaining spots.

Our heroes have an interesting (not really) weekend ahead of them.  Stay tuned to our next episode…”Human backhoes”


Time has been flying lately and I have been remiss in keeping up with writing about things.  Take for instance, Dralion, the cool Cirque du Soleil show we say 9 days ago.  That’s good stuff and I haven’t written about it for 9 DAYS!  Well, as I mentioned in July, Emily and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary and our gift to each other was tickets for the family to see the show.  We got incredible tickets in the second row back.  They were acrobatting right in front of us!

So, I don’t know if you have ever seen a Cirque show but they are amazing acrobatic shows where the audience is left wondering if the laws of physics apply to the performers.  I am not kidding…the performers fly through the air and do things that people should not be able to do.  And they do it every day and somehow, apparently, survive to fly day after day.

I first saw the Cirque show called KA in Las Vegas (if you ever get the chance, see the show!).  It was amazing so I was so excited to see how the kids would react, seeing this show for themselves.  As much as I enjoyed seeing the show this time, I enjoyed even more seeing the look on Abigail’s face.  She couldn’t stay seated.  She perched in her seat, she sat cross-legged.  Her eyes lit up and she smiled and frowned and clapped.  It was so much fun to see her watch the show!

Even with things being so hectic, it was so wonderful to be able to share such a cool time as a family.  I don’t figure that things will slow down in the next month or two but it’s all in a day’s work around here!  We aren’t defying the laws of gravity around here but we are squeezing more into 24 hours that I ever thought possible!


Aside from our cabin, soccer has been keeping us busy.  Isaac is on the middle school team this year, just like he was last year.  The difference this year is that I am one of the coaches.  Two of the coaches from last year had kids on the team that moved to high-school so I am one of two new victims coaches this year.  Middle school soccer is a little different from rec-league that I have coached before.  In particular, it takes a lot more time.  We practice 5-6 days a week for 2 hours at a time, especially at the beginning of the season.  I mostly enjoy the whole deal and it is a great opportunity to hang out some with Isaac and some of his friends.  It’s a good game too and I like to see the kids get in shape as they move from lazy-summer-existence to lean-mean-soccer machines.

Kanawha county makes it really though to be a volunteer though.  I do not get paid for my work which is fine.  I had to pay $250 out of my own pocket to take a 3-day  class to become a certified coach.  Fine.  I then had to pay for my own finger printing ($38), do a ton of paperwork, show a college diploma (or HS), take a drug test, take 2 hours off from work to watch a really stupid video series for “orientation”.  The only show the videos during the day at a certain time…exactly when I needed to be at my job that actually does pay money.  It sucks and was ridiculous.  It is amazing to me that I can buy a gun with less trouble and faster than I can become a coach.  I get that we need to make sure that kids are safe and that creeps are not allowed access to them, but there has to be a cheaper and better way to make this convenient for people who work and simply do this to help kids out.

Anyhow, I am done with all of the paperwork (not really, I just got a new form Wednesday night, but it is simple) so I should be able to enjoy the actual coaching part.  The teams are great this year and it is of course, more fun to win that lose (though I can handle it either way). When I was in school, I remember playing in the snow on several occasions.  I hate that global warming is upon us, but if there is a chance that we won’t play in the snow, I guess I have to accept that benefit!  Anyhow, cheers to soccer!

Check out this huge mushroom!

We were out at the land this weekend and Emily happened upon this huge mushroom!  I do not think I have ever seen a mushroom this big before.  I have seen shelf mushrooms on trees and hen-of-the-woods before, but of traditionally shaped mushrooms, I do not think I have ever seen one bigger!

Large white mushroom Large white mushroom Large white mushroom Large white mushroom

I looked through my mushroom books and nothing caught my eye so I do not know what sort of mushroom this is.  Does anyone else know?  It had seen better days but I loved the little triangular ridges with the yellow triangles inside.  It looked sort of pretty which I know is sort of strange to say about fungus.  I don’t know about you, but I am continually amazed at the diversity of life that I have in my little corner of the world.  Simply amazing!


Edit:  I think this is a Calvatia cyathiformis

You mean the foundation comes before the house?

I know, I have been posting way too much about the (slow) progress we have been making on the deluxe deer stand.  Sorry but that’s been a large part of what we have been doing lately.  So, we have been digging and concreting and cussing like mad to build a foundation under our already-built house.  Originally, we built the place on a post-and-pier foundation and that will remain the true foundation but we decided to add a traditional foundation (sort of) to give us some storage under the place and to cut the wind/cold in the winter.  So, we have been adding footers and new concrete block walls.  The first day of concrete, Emily and I mixed around 3200 pounds of concrete which I had to carry, bucket at a time, from the mixer (electric…thank goodness) to the footer form we dug/built.  We double handled the weight and that was a drag…

Messy shirt after pouring concrete
I was a mess!
Storm coming in on the cabin
Isaac was more inspiration that perspiration

Those of you who know about foundations know that the footer is traditionally poured in one pour so there are no joints. That was not an option for us and since this isn’t a true foundation (except we are building it to spec aside from the joints), it should work for us.  We will have a few cold joints but they will be connected by rebar and buried well below the frost-line.

Grandpa laying concrete blocks
Emily’s granddad…87 years old and hardly slowing down!

Emily’s grandfather, Emily and I set the corner last weekend.  The corner blocks have to be level/square/plumb and can be a pain the the hind-end.  So, it took us 5 hours to lay 5 blocks (also, see cussing mentioned above…there were a few missteps), but our corner is excellent!  Emily’s grandfather is 87 and worked every bit as hard as we did.  He slung block around and stood in the ditch all day helping us get things right…it was amazing!

The rainbow had to be good news!
Laying block
Emily cleaning up the joints

This weekend, Emily and I went back and laid 50-some more blocks and got the bottom third of the footer above grade.  I have to tell you, if I had it to do over again, I would definitely build my foundation before the house.  I am still quite pleased with the post-and-pier foundation but traditional foundations should definitely be built where there is plenty of room to work!

Laying block
We got a lot done before we finally stopped

Setting block is tough work and I cannot wait to have this part done.  It’s hard and I wish I had dishpan hands!  Concrete is hard on my delicate digits!  I’ll show some more details of how we plan to enclose this bottom part later but I promise to get off of this kick for a little while…bear with me?

I can dig it!

My buddy with the excavator came out again the other day.  He was able to dig some of the foundation out for me (more on that soon) but had to run to another thing he had going on.  Bravely, he left the excavator for me to use to dig additional footers for my pump house.

Digging a footer with an excavator
It is so dry!

I have run an excavator exactly one other time and that was somewhere around 2001…and that was only for 20 minutes…and it was on flat land at our place in Nashville.  Here in West-by-God-Virginia (the one true Virginia…sorry East Virginia), there is nary a piece of flat land to be found.

Running an excavator
I promise I was sober!

So, my buddy left and I went to town.  The basics of running an excavator are not hard but the devil is in the details.  I guess I ran the machine for about 3 hours and dug an ugly but usable footer for the pump house and was able to move a little additional dirt out of the way.  I had a good time doing it and didn’t get bored for even a second.  I also felt like I was still on the machine 8 hours later, swinging the arm back and forth bumping and bouncing.

Running an excavator
Some success!

I think one thing I have learned in building this house is that folks who do any sort of construction work are probably under-appreciated.  It’s hard to run an excavator well.  It’s hard to make sure walls are plumb and it’s hard to cut miters.  I think that is why Emily and I are building this ourselves and why we are particularly proud of how things are turning out.  I also appreciate that I do not have to do this every single day!