Tag Archives: Construction

A Week on the Farm – 7/27/18

Summer is going so quickly and the weather has been so strange this year.  A foot of snow in mid April after spring like temperatures in February.  Rain and more rain in early summer, making putting in a garden a challenge, then hot and arid.  Then the rain returned, along with insect pests in the garden, first Japanese beetles eating the leaves off of the Raspberry bushes, then they were joined by bean beetles and together, they decimated what remained of the first bean crop.  Then the blister beetles arrived and defoliated some of the tomatoes.  I hand picked them, dropping them in soapy water then sprinkled diatomaceous earth on the ground around the plants to try to kill off any that escaped to earth during the hand picking. The plants are alive, not putting out new growth, but fruit is ripening.


The tomatoes are being frozen whole but there are so many in the freezer now that I will pull them out, slip the skins off, and begin canning them this week when the rain resumes.  The cucumbers that I planted this year for pickles are small and greenish white, interesting mild smooth flavor raw.  Most of them are being lacto fermented into sour dills thick slices.  Maybe a jar or two of spears too.


The silicone nipple lids and glass jar weights make the fermenting so easy.

There were two partial days off the farm this week in Colonial costume working with children, demonstrating the fiber arts and teaching drop spindling.  Working with kids like this rejuvenates me.



Today, since it stayed dry yesterday and since tomorrow we will resume deck destruction, to take down the rest of the framework, I tackled cleanup.  One task that I had promised eldest son that I would get done, was to move the scaffolding that we were not using for the deck back into storage.  When we built the house, instead of renting scaffolding, we purchased it, knowing that it would be used repeatedly with staining the logs and other jobs.  On occasion we have loaned some of it out to friend.  Most of it was stacked against the house at various points and had been there for a year.  It is now back in the back of the huge garage until needed again.


More the rotting deck wood was burned off in the burn barrel while I was working outside.


There will be another burn tomorrow, I am sure.  To finish the jobs that I said I would get done this week was to stain the logs that were stained during construction then hidden behind the deck.  They got a coat of diluted stain today and will probably get another coat, less diluted tomorrow.  After tomorrow, we get another round of rain, so I will have to hope for a dry couple of days to get a third coat on before the new deck goes up.


This is the last day lily bloom of the season and for some reason, it is lopsided.  This one is called Sear’s Tower and gets quite tall.

Last night while we sat on the front porch in the cool evening, a tiny ruby throated hummingbird visited the feeder.  That is the first one I have seen that really had the vivid red throat.  This morning, another little hummer decided the feeder was all his/hers, came for a drink and then sat on the crook neck to guard the feeder, not letting any of the others near it.  It guarded for about 10-15 minutes, feeding then guarding, finally flew off.  The photo isn’t great, taken from inside the house through the screen and enlarged, but you get the idea.


The header photo and the teaching photo were taken at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum camp and used from their site.

Olio – 7/21/18

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Mid week, we walked down the west side of the property along the fence line of our south west neighbor then across to the south east neighbor’s property to see what was going on with the fracked gas pipeline that is being put in between us and the house south of us. This photo is a shot of all of those properties from satellite showing the 125 foot wide scar that is being dug across our beautiful county.



The tan square in the center of the picture  with the “tail” reaching up is our farm, our house is above the green fence line through the middle.  The jagged tan line near the bottom is the pipeline track. Thursday, they began burning the piles of tree parts that weren’t logs to carryout and sell.  There were at least two directly behind our farm.


The past couple of weeks have been hot and arid and very busy, some deck deconstruction in preparation to rebuild a smaller deck that is made of ground contact pressure treated wood and Trex boards, hoping to make it more permanent, though less green than the original version.  The deconstruction is creating a pile of rotting wood, some still containing nails, screws, and bent brackets.  Not wanting to burn this wood on the ground where we might drive the riding mower or tractor, or even an occasional car and pick up a tire popper, we picked up a large metal barrel, but it still had a sealed top with a bung hole for pouring.  To make it a burn barrel, the top had to be removed.  Our schedule had us leaving early Friday morning to drive across the state to meet our newest granddaughter and eldest son arriving late Friday night to work on the deck today, so he needed the burn barrel.  Thursday evening, we stopped and bought a cold chisel and came home and attacked the top, Jim and I taking turns banging with a 22 ounce hammer until our arm was tired.


An hour of hard work and we got the top off


Another 15 minutes, a ground out drill bit, a little more cutting with the cold chisel and we had 4 vents around the bottom.

The negative was that the barrel had contained some sort of urethane and the first burn in it produced a very irritating smoke for son and grandson.  After a burn or two in it, he says the smoke is just construction smoke.

We did take off early for a drive that should have been just a tad more than 5 hours, took 7 due to construction in the Williamsburg area and the standard gridlock at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.

I was shotgun for most of the trip and spent the time knitting on the sleeves of the sweater than I spun the yarn for and want desperately to get it ready for the Agricultural Fair in August.


Between the trip down and the 7 hour drive back today in pouring rain, the sleeves are almost finished.  Maybe tonight I will finish them and return to the body.

Yesterday we had a delightful afternoon and evening with our youngest son and his family.  We played in a park, had a seafood dinner, took a drive over to a new outlet mall, and got lots of kid and baby snuggle time.


This morning was pouring rain, we stopped for bagels, cream cheese, and OJ and headed over to their house for a couple more hours of family time, more hugs and snuggles before our trek home in the pouring rain.

Prior to our trip, I discovered that the garden has Blister beetles devouring the foliage on my tomato plants.  I did some handpicking, sprinkled diatomaceous earth around the plants.  This week I will have to be diligent in the battle to save my plants.


I am getting enough tomatoes to begin to freeze them to peel later and begin to make salsas and sauces for the winter.


When our house was under construction and due to having a heavy timber roof, thus cathedral ceilings, we knew we were going to need scaffolding.  The contractor that did the log erection and rough carpentry used a Skidsteer with a platform that his crew stood on, but our eldest son was doing the finish carpentry, stone mason work, floors, doors and cabinets with his partner and whatever other crew they could pull together. He priced renting scaffolding, but realizing how long this would take, it made economic sense to purchase our own.


The 12 sections are stored in our barn when not being loaned out or used by us.  We have had to haul sections down to repair a ceiling fan and a few other repairs.  One of our Farmers Market friends used it to build a washing shed on his farm, but mostly it just leans up against a wall.  We are going to need it for re-caulking the logs and re-staining, so today while hubby and grandson went to a movie, I started hauling it down to the house.  First wrestling with the utility trailer that occupies the same barn bay to get it on my car.  The car won’t fit under the top edge of the bay and the floor slopes downhill slightly and is littered with decades old dried manure chunks.  Somehow I managed to wrestle it to the hitch and pull it out of the bay.

Then the fun began.  The 24 sides, as many of the cross tie bars, the feet and pins were loaded in the trailer and hauled down to the house.  Unfortunately, there is another load of walk boards and more cross tie bars waiting in the barn, but I am too tired to unload the trailer, much less go refill it, so it will sit until help arrives home.


Fortunately, we purchased all the remaining necessary supplies, including a 2″ x 12″ x 16′ board to use as a connector walkboard today, so tomorrow we can unload and reload the trailer.

Oh, broody hen is still sitting on an empty nest regardless of my efforts.  I wonder if she would sit on and raise the 15 meat chicks due tomorrow?

We Wish We had Known

For our homestead, we wanted and built a log home.  After much internet research, visiting a log home show and attending as many of the workshops as we could squeeze into one afternoon, we sketched a rough floor plan and started looking for the log home company from which we would buy our home kit.  It turned out one of the companies was only three towns south east of us and it would save us a ton of shipping costs.  This company would take our floor plan and work up the plans and then put together the kit.  Once the plans had been adjusted to fit furniture, add a coat closet and a few other minor changes, the kit was ordered, 4 tractor trailer loads.  We probably would have saved more money if we had hired a company that put the kit together and built the house.

We had hired a local contractor that our son who general contracted for us had located and interviewed.  He wasn’t our first choice, but  the first choice required that the crew would have had to be picked up each morning and returned home each evening, almost an hour each way as they are Amish and then they didn’t have a truck.  It turns out that the one we hired had never built a log home and he was a master at spending our money, trying to get us to add more and more to the house.  He also had no experience with a water catchment system that we wanted for animal watering.

He made so many mistakes that have cost us.  The house design has a dog-run dormer on the back side.


This design gives us much more living area upstairs in our loft, master bedroom and master bath, but it results in a steep metal roof that is set back from a narrow metal roof.  The water catchment system involves gutters with downspouts that feed into pvc pipe around the foundation of the house and leading over to three 1500 gallon concrete tanks joined together off the southwest corner of the house and downhill.


Part of the problems are not his incompetence totally, but he didn’t have the foresight to envision some of the problems that his techniques would produce.  Instead of subcontracting out the roof installation, he decided he could do it himself, more money in his pocket.  He failed to put snow spikes on the upper roof which isn’t an issue except once or twice a  year when the snow piles up on the roof then slides off the offset upper roof, hits the narrow lower roof, taking out the lower gutter which shouldn’t even be there as most of the rain hits the upper roof and the downspouts from the upper gutter should feed the tanks.  The snow then slides off the lower roof and crashes on the heat pump unit.  After having it repaired 4 times in one winter season, our son built the shed roof over it.


Though that solves the problem, it could have been avoided with the snow spikes or having moved the heat pump unit around the corner to the west side of the house.

His solution to the water catchment system had an overflow pipe that was a full 18 inches above the top of the water storage tanks and there was no way to get water out of the tanks.  This resulted in us digging the tops of the tanks out a few summers ago and our son redesigned the system, we drained the tanks and he climbed inside the southern most one to drill a hole in the lower southeast side to install a water line that we ran in a trench more than 400 feet to a downhill yard hydrant that is gravity fed.  He also drilled an overflow hole in the upper southeast side to install an overflow pipe that drains off to a rock pile on the edge of a low spot that is outside of our hay field area.  That solved that problem at additional expense to us.

Other issues on the inside of the house, I have blogged about previously, such as putting the water to the utility room on the sheltered north wall instead of the sun basted south wall and hall wall that had to be shifted a foot by our son so that the stove and refrigerator did not touch in the kitchen.

When we bought the logs, they had a special that gave us a “free” garage.  “Free” meant the logs, not the slab, roof and extra door.  We thought this might be good to have, but we virtually never parked our cars in the garage, instead it stores tools, coolers, ladders, etc. most of which could have been stored in the basement that he also talked us into adding.  The basement has finally been converted into a rec room and a 4th bedroom, but there is still a huge area that houses the heating/cooling and water heater and that area could have been fitted out with shelving and a workbench for the tools and coolers at a much lower cost than the “free” garage.

Hindsight is 20/20 but many things would have been done differently if we had known.  If you ever plan a house, try to envision the problems that design can cause and check references on your contractor.  We are fortunate to have a son that could see and repair some of the issues.


I have posted a number of times about various topics related to the construction of our home on our retirement homestead.  The house is a log home, pictured at the banner of this blog at various seasons.  The site work, log erection, and rough carpentry were performed by a contractor we hired and later banned from our site. The interior carpentry and stone masonry were performed by our eldest son, his wife and an assortment of “helpers” from grad students at the nearby university to neighbors to me.  The finish site work was contracted by us after we had lived here for a couple of years to a neighbor who finally got the drainage around the house right, repaired/constructed a driveway that didn’t threaten the oilpans on our vehicles, and smoothed the septic field so that it could be mowed without feeling that you were about to be bucked off the tractor.

Our son visualized many of the problems that had been wrought by the contractor, some where he blindly followed the blueprints from the log home company without seeing the issues those plans would have caused.  Some of these issues were corrected by our son after the contractor was off the site, some are still issues that we can not deal with such as the water pipes in the utility room (last week’s post entitled Deep Freeze and the Thaw) and the water that somehow seeps below the metal roof to run down the logs on the front of the house where the 8 foot deep porch joins the house.  Eldest son was a stickler for detail.  Several times work that others did was redone by him later.



One of the issues he caught and fixed was that the hall wall made the kitchen so narrow that the stove and the refrigerator would have touched.



He deconstructed the contractor’s wall and moved it over far enough to put a narrow drawer cabinet between the appliances.  This also gave us a narrow upper cabinet that is perfect for the storage of oils and vinegars used in cooking.



All of the upper cabinets were hand built by him.  My vision was open shelves on which to store the pottery dishes, glass jars of colorful beans and grains, cookbooks and space above for seldom used large objects such as the roaster, wok and some larger pottery pieces.  He took my vision and built the cabinets, lined them with cedar, trimmed them with oak and hand oiled them all.  The only upper cabinet that is commercial is the one over the microwave that hides the ductwork and provides storage for cleaners that I want to keep out of the reach of grandkids.





Two of his challenges were the dormers and the doors.  The house has 3 dormers on the front.  The right hand one as you face the house is in our master bedroom, but the other two are off the heavy timber cathedral ceiling in the living room.  After all the work had been done installing cedar, pine and log siding on interior walls, we couldn’t bring ourselves to install cheap commercial doors, so he hand built each of the interior bedroom and bathroom doors from a sandwich of yellow poplar, aromatic cedar siding and local red cedar trim.  I helped him with the last of these doors and realize what a labor of love they are.

Son is not formally trained in the construction field.  He finished high school with honors, entered The College of William and Mary and was graduated in 5 semesters in English, again with honors.  He spent the next several years learning construction as a helper then independent contractor and learned the stone mason skills the same way.  After finishing most of the house, he enrolled back in college and earned his master’s degree in English and he now working on his PhD working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.  He still comes home for parts of summers and holidays to do projects, such as the stone fireplace in the basement prior to the finishing of that area as a recreation room.



And to change out a light fixture over the dining table and installing a fan with light as recently as the past holidays.  We wouldn’t have this beautiful retirement home if it wasn’t for his effort and his attention to detail.

Life is good on our mountain farm.