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The year is off to a slow start. Deb had her right hip replaced on Jan 2, so that has really limited our time on Serenity Hill. The hip replacement was a necessity though, as she was no longer able to get around well enough to help. The last couple months before the surgery she was using a cane to get around. Fortunately, the surgery went well. Her recovery is going amazingly well from my perspective, excruciatingly slow from her perspective.
I did manage to get 1 good weekend of work. After working 12 hours on a Friday and getting off work at 6 AM, I spent most of a Saturday at Serenity Hill. I cleaned up some storm debris and cleaned up the footing trench. I managed to get 1 foundation footing poured. Initially I planned to go buy 12 more bags of concrete mix and put in another footing, but by 3 PM and I ran out of juice. Might have something to do with having been up for about 24 hours.
Deb Returns to Serenity Hill!
The following Sunday Deb went out to Serenity Hill for the first time since mid-December. Hard to believe it had been that long. We stopped by a neighbor’s and spent some time talking with them and checking their progress. I parked by the road because their drive is way too rough for our car. They didn’t put down any base, just gravel, and it has rutted up very badly. I really think a part of the problem is that the month after the electric utility ran their power they had a $200 water bill. Perhaps all that water caused that really big soft spot in their drive. Based on their experience, I’ll run my water in after the electric utility runs my power. They managed to cut the water main in the area 4 times while burying their cable.
Our neighbors live about 20 minutes away and both work days, so they come out to their property several days a week when they get off work at 3, and they are out every weekend when the weather permits. Needless to say, they are a lot further along on building their garage/efficiency apartment than we are! As she told Deb though, lots of people will be negative when you are doing something yourself that is outside their experience. Don’t let it bother you, stick to your dream and do it your way. That’s what the other 3 couples building in the area are doing.
Another month off to a slow start. Due to work and weather, not much going on. The creeks and rivers are all up, ponds are overflowing, and more rain is forecast for the month. Weather has been fluctuating between False Spring and Polar Vortex, all in the same week! It has been rough on the upper respiratory system. The remainder of the month promises to be wet and dreary. Looks like all I’ll be getting done is cleanup. Too muddy to work in the trenches and too cold to do concrete work.
What a wet start to the year! At least I no know for sure that the property has good drainage, and my driveway culvert can handle deluges of near Biblical proportions. No signs of flooding, no standing water. These are good things. The drainage ditch I dug for the footing trench has paid off nicely. No more pumping out 18″ of water!
I rolled 5 days of vacation over from 2018 and had to use them before the end of March or lose them. I’m not losing vacation days! The week of 18-22 extended forecast showed promise, with the only possibility of rain being on Wednesday. I was able to finish out the footings on the South side and the NE corner before my car died on me Tuesday. Spent a cold, rainy Wednesday waiting for a part. Lost most of Thursday dropping Deb off at work, then repairing my car. Went out and confirmed measurements and position for the NW corner and started digging.
Due to the fact that we decided to make the house 44′ long instead of 40′, the footing trench on the North side is of no use, other than to catch water. It will be worth it in the end, because that additional 4′ by 32′ provides us with a larger Master bedroom and a second bathroom. We decided that a second bathroom was a necessity when we were both suffering from a stomach bug the same weekend. Now I have to dig holes for 4 of the footings on the North side. Fortunately, the rainy weather has the soil soft enough that it is fairly easy digging except for the last foot. At that level there is a lot of gravel and the soil is packed quite hard. Fortunately, it is not expansive so I won’t have issues with water content causing the house to sag or buck.
The Sable saga
For more months than I care to admit, the Sable has been throwing up an error code about misfire on cylinders 1 and 2. It needed an ignition coil module, which is oh so conveniently located under the intake manifold. Since my truck isn’t back on the road yet, the Sable has been pressed into duty hauling tools, building materials, and 720 lb loads of bagged concrete mix. Well, on Tuesday Sable barely got me from Menards to Serenity Hill. On the way home, it went from bad to worse. Poor Sable seemed to be running on 2 or 3 cylinders instead of 6 and backfiring horribly. I limped it to the Dollar General and my Dad gave me a ride home.
So Thursday after dropping Deb off at work, I took my tools and ignition coil module and attempted to rescue Sable. Unbelievably, I actually had exactly the tools I needed for the job! After just under 2 hours, Sable was running better than it has in a long time. It didn’t die at 224,470 miles! Maybe I can make 300,000 with it. Unfortunately, the backfiring did create an exhaust leak that I now have to repair. Now, to get my old truck back on the road.
April – June 2019
More rain, followed by chicks and tiggers, as my great-grandson calls them. Weather permitting, we continue with footing work. I bought 18 blackberry plants to replace those that were ripped out when I had the logs and brush cleared from the tree line. I also planted 3 apple trees in the clear area on the south east corner of the property. They are the antique apple collection from Stark Bros. The combo included a Golden Delicious, Orleans Antique, and Cox’s Orange Pippin. They are visible from the road, but since the roads here are not through roads I’m not real worried about pilfering. I’m actually more worried about the deer than anything. By the time we start to get apples from the trees I’ll probably have a fence up.
During this time period, I managed to get 3 sides finished, now just the 4 footings on the west side left to put in.
More rain, and it finally got hot. Down to one single solitary perimeter footing left, and that will hopefully be finished on the 19th. On the 20th I’ll start the concrete block piers on the corners. That is going to be exciting. It is so much work to lay out, dig, and square holes for footings, especially since the sun beats down pretty hard on the area we cleared for the house. Since we cleared for the drive on the south side of the house, there isn’t any shade on the house site until mid afternoon. Hope that doesn’t come back and bite us too bad.
The blackberries on the west road ripened and I managed to pick 2 quarts for a blackberry cobbler on the 12th. It was so delicious. We shared it with Dad and Lou for Sunday lunch. Hopefully I can pick some more berries this weekend, than they will be done until next year. Next year we might get some berries from the tame brambles I planted this spring, but I’m thinking year after next is more likely.
A lady bought the property next door a couple weeks ago. She was out walking it with a friend and she stopped by to introduce herself. It will be interesting to see if she sticks with it and actually builds something on it. She wasn’t able to find the corner we share, so I told her what to look for. One of the projects on my long list of projects is to put a boundary fence on the east border of the property. Think I’ll move that up a bit. I’d like to do woven or welded wire, but I’ll have to see what is in the budget. I’ll start by putting T-posts painted white every 50 feet along the border. It will be interesting because with the heavy trees you don’t have a good line of sight from one corner to the next.
Deb has been having health issues. Lot’s of pain in her belly, and lots of pain and nausea when eating. She has an umbilical hernia and gallstones, so another surgery is just around the corner. She’s been a trooper with helping me out though.
Deb’s surgery was a success and she was back at work 2 weeks later. Back on the hill helping me out 3 weeks later, although I’ve been very leery of letting her do much that would require lifting or straining. I’d rather give the hernia surgery a full recovery period first. We finished all the footings and are now putting piers on the footings. So far we have put piers on 11 of 18 footings, and hope to finish up over the Labor Day holiday. That means, work schedule permitting, that we will have piers filled with concrete, final level, and be ready to start putting up the timber frame by the end of September or mid-October. It has been a long, slow road, but we keep plugging along.
Work continues with pier work. After the Labor Day weekend we have 16 of 18 piers with concrete block on them. We spent most of Labor Day weekend camped out at the property with the dogs. THAT was interesting. They are spoiled, pampered pooches. They love being outdoors, but when it gets warm they love being inside soaking up the AC, lounging on the couch, and sleeping on the king size memory foam bed. Needless to say, they didn’t enjoy being out in the heat and didn’t understand why we didn’t go back home. They adjusted and enjoyed meeting the neighborhood guineas. When the grey fox began barking at 3AM, pandemonium ensued.
Camping for the weekend is something we will definitely do again, preferable when it cools down some. We are able to get a lot more work done without the travel time. Bringing the dogs, while interesting to say the least, saves a considerable amount of money. We don’t have someone we can rely on to come by 3 times a day to let them out and feed them, and the kennel is expensive for 2 large dogs for a weekend. Taking them with us lets them start feeling familiar with the place.
As the weather cools, I’m going to start going out to work a few hours 3 days a week before going in to work. At least, that’s the plan if it ever cools down. The weekend of 9/14 it is going to be around 90 with high humidity.