Construction Journal for 1996, Part 3 of 6

6/10-13/96 I went up to the property for 4 days: Monday through Thursday.

I brought two sacks of cement and a sack of lime with me on this trip, and since Mike was not there yet when I got there, I drove the pickup up to the site to unload it. (If he had been working, I would have parked off to the side and wheeled the cement and lime up in the wheelbarrow so I wouldn't be in his way.)

When I went into the trailer, I found that the water wasn't working. I went outside and found that Mike had disconnected a section of hose from the trailer so he could reach the septic tanks. The hose was draped over the pipe connecting the two tanks and running onto the ground. The ground around the tanks was saturated and soupy and I was afraid that the tanks would float up out of the ground. The tanks were a little over a third full of water and the water level was a little higher inside the tanks than it was outside, so if they hadn't already popped up, they were probably safe. Nevertheless, I put the hose into the tank to make sure.

I immediately called Mike Dickinson and left a message expressing my concern and telling him what I had done. Since I didn't get ahold of him directly, I then called Roy Dickinson at Two Rivers and asked him to radio the same message to Mike. (Mike has his CB radio tuned in to the traffic from Two Rivers.) Roy said he would and he thought it was a good idea to put the hose into the tank.

For the rest of the day, I laid up 7 blocks and filled 5 cores with concrete. In the middle of the afternoon, one of Mike's men stopped by to look at the tanks. He didn't say whether he thought the tanks had popped up, but he agreed that the hose should be running into the tanks.

After talking to Ellen that evening, I thought more about the tanks. I went to bed thinking about the situation. Since the tanks appeared to be so high up out of the ground, I became convinced that they had popped up. I woke up at 4:30 AM thinking about it and couldn't go back to sleep so I got up, did my exercises and had breakfast. At 5:30 I called Mike again and again got his answering machine. I said that I thought that the tanks had already popped up and that I thought he should come over right away and look at them.

Mike came by after I had been working for about an hour and said that the tanks hadn't popped up and that everything was OK. They were so high because he had hit bedrock when digging the hole and that was as deep as they could go. They were still plenty low with respect to the sewer pipe out of the house and he said that he could rearrange the dirt over them and make a road around them so they and the sewer pipe would be covered. While he was there, Mike called Keith Tower and arranged for an inspection on Thursday at 3:00.

By lunchtime, I had laid up 13 blocks and filled 4 cores. In the afternoon, I laid up another 13 blocks. I was just finishing up around 6:00 when Mike came back. The tanks were now full of water so Mike turned the pump on and gave me a demonstration of all the drainfield pipes squirting their rows of geysers into the air. That was a new experience for me. He still needed to insert some valves into the lines to control the height of the geysers to make them all even. He said he would do that on Thursday when Keith would be out for the inspection.

That evening, when I talked to Ellen, I decided to stay until Thursday so I would be there when Keith inspected the septic tank.

I was pretty tired on Wednesday morning because of such a long day the day before, so I didn't work quite so hard. I laid up 6 blocks in the morning. After lunch it was pretty hot out so I spent an hour or so taking pictures of the site and whacking ferns. I am able to keep the ferns down by whacking the new ones once a week. They are real easy to cut down with a weed whacker when they are in the fiddlehead stage. I think it will make a big difference in the mosquito population to keep the ferns down. In addition it will be easier to work on the logs in that area without shoulder high ferns to deal with. Also, there are a lot of small blackberry vines trying to grow in that area and I think they will do a lot better without having to compete with the ferns. I hope we can harvest some of those berries one of these years.

Later in the afternoon, when the site was in the shade again, I laid up 6 more blocks which completed the blocklaying on the northwest wall. This was a gratifying milestone. That wall has a doorway, three vents, and a girder pocket in it. That fact plus the associated steelwork makes the blocklaying more complicated and slow. When the blocks were up, I placed all the rebar for that wall as well as the northeast wall, which was completed earlier.

Placing that rebar gave me a good feeling. I went down my detailed plan step by step, going to the rebar pile, finding the correct pieces, reading off where they were to go, going up and placing them in the wall, and going back to the plan for the next ones, and repeating the steps. All the pieces were in the stockpile and they all fit exactly like they were supposed to in spite of some of them having some fairly complicated bends in them.

That night the power went out about midnight and stayed off until after 8:00 when I was back out working. I was afraid that Mike would have to bring a generator in order to run the pump. Larry Copenhaver stopped by and visited while I laid up blocks and he told me the power had come back on by 9:00. By 1:00 I had laid up 19 blocks. I stopped for lunch and packed up to go home so I could leave as soon as the inspection was over.

There were two problems with the inspection: one major and one minor. The minor one was that Mike didn't have enough valves with him to be able to control the geyser height. As a result, they agreed to reschedule the inspection.

The major problem was that Keith discovered that the tank Mike had used as the dosing, or pumping tank was not designed for that purpose and was at risk of collapsing from ground pressure if it was periodically filled and emptied. Mike said he will contact the manufacturer and the dealer to determine how to deal with the problem. He said that he thought that he would probably have to remove the tank and replace it with the correct one. With that, he and Keith left and shortly afterward, I left for home myself.

6/17-19/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

The weather was cool and breezy with intermittent clouds the whole three days. It was just perfect for laying up blocks, especially on the southwest wall where I was working. That wall is the most exposed to the sun and it could have been pretty miserable working if the weather had been hotter.

On Monday, I laid up 20 blocks and on Tuesday I laid up a record 31 blocks in spite of visiting with Earl Landin for about two hours.

On Wednesday, I laid up 13 blocks which finished the blocklaying on the southwest wall. Larry Copenhaver came over and visited just as I was laying up the last block. The southwest wall went pretty fast because it is a simple wall with no pipes, vents, or any other special consideration. It was also the most gratifying part of the building so far because it is the most visible wall from down below and I get a good feeling when I look at the building finally starting to take shape.

There is just one wall left to go: the southeast wall. This one has a lot of complications-vents, pipes, girder pocket, and ledger anchor bolts-so it will go a little slower. However, I have experience with these things from the northwest wall so that should make it a little faster.

When the last wall is up, I have the rather big job of filling all the cores with concrete. I have been thinking about that project, though, and I think I can make it pretty easy by using scaffold frames and planks to make a ramp so I can easily wheel concrete up to the top of the walls with the wheelbarrow.

Before I left for home, I put the lumber rack on the pickup because on the next trip up, I plan to bring the lumber for the sill and for the triple 2x10 beam. I also plan to bring up a pair of stair stringers I got from Will Vasquez. I think these will be useful for making a temporary staircase either to get to the floor level of the building, or for getting up and down the cliff in front of the building when I am hoisting logs and other material up from down below.

6/25-28/96 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

It took a little longer than usual to get up to the property because it took me a while to secure the load of 2x10s that I bought and also because there were some pretty long construction delays on the way up. I got up there about 12:30. I drove the pickup up to the site and unloaded the lumber, two sacks of cement and a sack of lime. On the way back down, I got stuck and had to jack up each rear wheel and put the chains on to get out. That killed most of the afternoon. It must have rained quite a bit the day before because the ground was pretty wet and soft. By the time I got the pickup out, it started to thunder a lot and rain a little.

I got ready to lay blocks on the southeast wall by rearranging scaffolding, stretching strings and marking the corners on the steps of the footing. It was 5:30 by the time I was done so I decided to quit and start laying blocks in the morning.

On Wednesday it was nice and cool and no rain. Just perfect for working. I laid up 8 blocks in the morning and 13 in the afternoon. I also installed three pipes in the wall. Larry Copenhaver stopped by and helped me set up the forms for the pipes.

On Thursday, I didn't have any complications like pipes so I got a lot of blocks laid. I did 6 in the morning and 21 in the afternoon. I quit about 6:30.

While I was in the shower, Dave arrived. He had planned to come up and spend Thursday night and help me with the work on Friday. We had a great visit during and after dinner and talked pretty far into the night.

On Friday morning, we were awakened at 7:30 by a call from Mike Dickinson. I don't remember exactly what he said except that he would be replacing the dosing tank, that the cost of the septic system would be around $6000, that I would have 30 days after he bills me to raise the money, and that he would see me next week. I told him that I was not in any rush, but that I did want to avoid a possible problem between him and Louie Brender when he delivers the logs. I told him I would let him know as soon as I found out when Louie would be there.

After breakfast, Dave and I went to work. We laid up 14 blocks. Dave helped by mixing mortar, cleaning up tools, setting up blocks, rearranging and disassembling scaffolding, and other helpful chores. When that work was done, we spent some time taking pictures, watching chipmunks, smelling flowers, and just enjoying the view and the weather.

Before we went home, Dave took the chains off my pickup, which were still on after getting unstuck, and he helped me take the lumber rack off the pickup. It was a little after 6:00 by the time we left for home.

7/1-3/96 I went up to the property for three days: Monday through Wednesday.

The weather was hot and sunny and as soon as I got unloaded at the trailer, I went to Two Rivers and bought a pickup load of sand and pea gravel. They still hadn't made any more 3/8ths pea gravel, so I scooped it up off the ground by hand again. It completely filled my sand bin and filled the pea gravel bin to between half and three quarters full. Fortunately, I got the pickup back down without getting stuck. Afterwards, I laid up 6 blocks.

There were a lot of carpenter ants with wings in the trailer. Most of them were in one window apparently trying to find a way out. I must have killed about a dozen of them within an hour or so. They seemed to be coming out of a crack next to one of the windows, so I squirted a little bee and hornet killer in the crack. I didn't find a single winged ant after that so I think that stopped them. I also shot some of the killer in the hole where the sink drain pipe goes through the floor. I had seen an ant near that hole and I suspected they may have been coming up through it.

Last week, Dave and I heard what sounded like gnawing coming from the ceiling. This week I heard it again and did quite a bit of looking around inside and outside the trailer to see if I could find a mouse hole. I didn't find any. It doesn't sound like the gnawing of a year ago and it may be some animal on the roof. I will have to keep checking on it to see if it is a problem.

On Tuesday, I mixed three mixer loads of concrete and filled 7 cores. These needed to be filled before I could erect the vent frames and install the ventilation pipe. This was finished in the morning along with placing some rebar and installing the ventilation pipe. After lunch, I whacked ferns and then laid up 5 blocks and one vent. It rained off and on all afternoon but never very hard.

On Wednesday, I laid up 6 blocks and one vent in the morning, and another 6 blocks and a vent in the afternoon. That completed the next to last course of blocks on the southeast wall and was without a doubt the slowest and most complicated course of the entire foundation. It contains three vents in addition to the deck ledger bolts and a girder pocket. I put most of the bolts in the vertical mortar joints and since the 5/8ths bolts are wider than the typical 3/8ths inch mortar joints, I had to do a lot of work and juggling to get the blocks to fit in the wall. It was a good feeling to get that done. The last course will be pretty easy.

I must have miscounted or miscalculated or something, because I don't have enough bond beam blocks on site to finish the job. I need to buy 11 more and bring them up next trip. If I get time, I may go through the paperwork and try to figure out how I made the mistake. Then again, I may not.

7/5/96 I bought 4 steel brackets at a garage sale which looked to me to be ideal brackets for use in anchoring the main floor beam to the foundation walls. I hadn't really figured out how to anchor it and some time ago I discussed the matter with Tom Hammond. Even so, I still wasn't comfortable with any solution. I had asked Tom how to build girder pockets into the walls and still accommodate the bond beam rebar at the top of the wall. He said not to do it that way. I suggested building pilasters to support the beam but he ruled that out because the footings hadn't been built to support pilasters. Tom suggested using beam hangers that would be nailed into the mud sill. I didn't like that idea so I built an opening in each wall to accommodate a girder pocket just in case I decided to do it that way.

After seeing those brackets at the garage sale, and after thinking about it some more, I came up with a girder pocket design that I feel comfortable with. The brackets are 'L' shaped and I will imbed the short legs in the concrete wall. The long legs will stick out of the wall and lay against the sides of the beam, one on each side. The beam will be fastened to the brackets by two bolts at each end of the beam. I felt good about this design and spent the better part of the next two days building forms, integrating these brackets, that can be clamped to the foundation wall in order to form the girder pockets. I also felt good about being able to use nothing but old salvaged materials, in addition to these brackets, to make the forms.

7/9-11/96 I went up to the property with Chuck Kleeberger for three days: Tuesday through Friday. We brought the two girder pocket forms, four sacks of cement, and the 11 concrete blocks up with us. I figured out that I had entered a purchase of 10 blocks twice on my log of block purchases. That, plus using one of them for an unplanned purpose accounts for the error. No big deal; we got the blocks we needed up there in time.

We got the pickup up to the site, unloaded the blocks, cement, and girder pocket forms, and got it back down again without getting stuck. The roadway was dry, and with Chuck directing me down, we had no problem.

About that time, Earl Landin stopped by and gave me a picture of the property he had taken from the air in his little airplane. He didn't stay long, but we did have a conversation about tree species identification.

After Earl left, Chuck dismantled some scaffolding and one of the big tripods, put nuts and washers on the inside of the deck ledger anchor bolts, and mixed mortar while I laid up the last 16 blocks in the foundation walls. In the afternoon, we got a good start on building a wheelbarrow ramp from the doorway up to the ramp on the northwest wall.

On Wednesday morning, we finished building the ramp and then built scaffolding and ramps around the three high walls and connected the ramps to the one on the northwest wall. With these in place, I can push a wheelbarrow full of concrete from the mixer outside the building all the way up to the tops of the three high walls.

In the afternoon, we used up two and a half sacks of cement making concrete and pouring it into the cores. One of Mike Dickinson's men showed up in the afternoon and pumped most of the water out of the old tank that Mike is going to replace.

Mike showed up with the new tank at 8:30 on Thursday morning. I moved the pickup and the cement mixer out of his way so he could go up and replace the old tank. While he was doing that, Chuck and I used up the remaining two sacks of cement and poured concrete into the cores. I think that we did about a third of the core pouring job in the two days. It worked pretty well with Chuck doing the mixing and me doing the wheeling and pouring. Neither of us had to wait for the other very often or for very long.

Chuck and I finished around noon and by that time Mike had the new tank in place and was hooking up all the plumbing that goes inside of it. He said that he thought that he could get it inspected and finished yet that afternoon. Chuck and I were a little rushed getting out of there because we wanted to get the pickup out of Mike's way. As a result, I forgot my watch, a couple of muffins we wanted to take with us, and I forgot to check the propane tanks. I think they may be nearly empty so I will probably have to get them filled up there on the next trip.

7/15-17/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

Mike Dickinson and his crew were at work on the septic system when I arrived at the property at about 11:30. Mike said that the system with the new tank had passed inspection and all that remained was to cover it up. He expected to get that done by tomorrow. I drove the pickup up to the site and unloaded 6 sacks of cement that I had brought along, and I was able to back the pickup back down without getting stuck. The roadway, and the weather, were both dry.

I spent quite a bit of time preparing rebar and when that was done, I mixed and poured 1 sack's worth of concrete into the cores before quitting for the day. Before I went in, I walked the trails to the spring and discovered a lot of evidence of a bear having visited. There were numerous rotting logs that had either been moved or else torn apart. There was also a big pile of fairly fresh bear scat in the middle of the trail. It made me somewhat more alert after that as I walked the trails.

On Tuesday morning, Mike showed up at 6:30 with a small cat bulldozer. I had to scramble to get my pickup moved out of his way so he could drive the cat up to the site. After breakfast, I mixed and poured one sack's worth of concrete. At that point, I was out of pea gravel and it was about noon. I went to Two Rivers and scooped a pickup load of gravel off the ground. They still haven't made any more 3/8ths pea gravel. Kurt didn't charge me for it because he overcharged me for the last load which I also scooped up off the ground.

Mike had just finished with the septic system and was just driving his cat back down the hill when I got back with the gravel. I unloaded part of the gravel, had lunch, and then got the rest of it unloaded by 3:30. Next, I did some chiseling of the blocks in the southeast wall so I could mount a girder pocket form onto the wall. Then I mixed and poured another sack's worth of concrete into the cores. This finished up the southwest wall and also the girder pocket in the southeast wall.

On Wednesday it rained lightly off and on the whole day. I didn't wear a raincoat and didn't get too wet. It was actually more pleasant working in the rain than in the hot sun on a hot day. I did some chiseling in the northwest wall and mounted a girder pocket in that wall. After that, I mixed and poured 2 sacks worth of concrete into the northwest girder pocket and the cores on the southeast wall.

When I stopped for lunch, I whacked the new ferns that had started growing and discovered that there is a nice patch of blackberries near the compost pile. The berries are still red so they should be ripe next week. I hope I can get to them before the critters do.

On the next trip, I will need to get more sand because the sand bin was almost empty when I finished the concrete work just a little before 5:00. Then I cleaned up, packed up, and left for home.

7/19/96 I went up to the property just for the afternoon with Bob and Pat Burton in order to take delivery of two truckloads of logs from Louis Brender. Louis had called me at 8:00 in the morning and said he planned to deliver the logs late that afternoon. On the way up, we stopped at Zeke's and had ostrich burgers for lunch.

We got to the property about 3:00 and had a nice visit until 6:30 when Louis and the logs arrived. He brought me a lot more long logs than he had previously said he would bring. This is better because it gives me more options on how to make use of the logs. He brought a long logging truck, a short truck and a log loader. There was barely enough room for the vehicles to maneuver and barely enough room to stack the logs, but Louis was able to get the logs unloaded and stacked in about a half hour. I paid him the remaining $4960.99 that I owed him on the logs, then he left and we left at about 7:00.

Seeing those logs lying there in the pile makes the job of moving them up to the building site seem a lot harder than it did when I could only imagine what they would look like. They make my winches and cables seem kind of puny by comparison. That night, I woke up at about 4:00 AM trying to figure out how I was going to get the job done. I couldn't get back to sleep until after I got up and fixed myself some hot milk. I still don't know exactly how I am going to move those logs, but this is the kind of challenge that makes this project so fun and interesting, and so gratifying when I finally do figure something out and get it done. I will be as interested as anyone to find out finally what scheme I will use to move those logs.

7/22-24/96 I went up to the property for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

I brought 6 sacks of cement with me and since it was so hot and dusty, I decided to wheel the cement up to the site in the wheelbarrow rather than go through the hassle of getting the pickup up and back down in the heat. It worked out pretty well. After getting my gear into the trailer and unloading the cement, I went to Two Rivers and hand loaded a load of sand and pea gravel. It was 3:30 by the time I had this shoveled into the bins.

Next, I stripped the girder pocket forms. This was gratifying because they were fairly intricately put together with screws and designed in such a way that they could be removed after the concrete was set. They worked pretty much according to plan and I am happy with the way the girder pockets turned out. By the time I finished, it was about time to quit but before I did, I picked a dozen or so ripe blackberries and counted the logs. There are about 108 of them. Every time I look at them, I worry and wonder about how I am going to manage to lift them up to the site. I have figured out lots of schemes and I will just have to try some of them to see what works. The real gratification comes after you figure out a solution to a problem that at the outset seems impossible. I am eager to reach that point with these logs.

That evening, I learned that my mother had had a stroke. I spent most of the rest of the evening on the phone.

On Tuesday I started early because it was going to be another hot day. I used up two sacks of cement in the morning pouring concrete into the cores, and I finished the southeast wall. It got really hot around noon, so I took a long lunch and siesta. I went back out at 2:30 and used up two more sacks of cement. That did about half of the northwest wall.

On Wednesday, I used up another two sacks of cement and almost all of the sand and gravel I had bought. At one point the pulley wheel on the mixer came off because a set screw was loose. I didn't have an allen wrench to fix it, so I borrowed one from Mike Tutino, fixed the pulley wheel, and resumed mixing.

Three different times, I chased a mouse out of the cores when I poured concrete into them. The first time, the mouse came up to the top, looked at me, and then went back down inside. I didn't know how to get him to come out, so I just poured the concrete in slowly and gently poked a piece of rebar down the hole. Pretty soon, a cement drenched mouse scrambled out and took off. The other two times, the cement soaked mice just jumped out and ran away the first time.

By 12:30 I finished pouring all the cores. The foundation is now ready for inspection and I will schedule that for next week.

1996: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Entire Journal by Year: 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

Go To Home Page

©2003 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.