Back to the land...

This blog is an account of our experiences trying to homestead in Eastern Tennessee. We've bought almost ten acres with power and a well, and a small shed for the well pump. Half the land is already cleared.

This year we haul out 10 tons of trash from an old burned down home. We plant a large garden, and fruit trees, and build a compost bin specifically for humanure. We build a small pad for a gazebo up under the oaks, and begin building our house/barn, with grading, a stone foundation, a concrete stem wall, and the modified post and beam frame. Everything is done by hand. We also dig four thirty foot swales across the top of the clearing and plant the berms with blueberry. A lot of work, and a lot more to go . . .

I'll also cover the process of picking out a piece of land, the negotiation, and "where to begin?" phase, at least how it all went for us.

[YEAR 2] - We build the shell of a 16'x25' two story cabin from scratch . . . check out how it was built.

[YEAR 3] - We try to finish the cabin . . .

[YEAR 4] - I move up permanently to the property to homestead full-time . . .

[YEAR 5] - Rachel and I try to make it as homesteaders . . with a wood cook stove, dairy goats and a cow, finish the barn, expand the garden, fence pastures, plant more fruit trees, build a flock of healthy layers, grow our own animal food - in other words . . . WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK . . .

[YEAR 6]
'Homesteading in Tennessee' is now HOLDOUT FARM. Check out our new farm website. We produce premium quality raw dairy products from our fodder-fed goats, pastured eggs, organic fruits and vegetables, and offer a seasonal list of classes on Permaculture Homesteading.
.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Doors and Windows

.
Putting in all the doors and windows, especially those on the second story, was not easy. It's kind of a 2 person job - somebody outside on a ladder checking the window's position, with someone inside shimming it out and getting it right. Or somebody outside just holding the window and keeping it from falling out.
.
Rachael, though only 11, did a pretty good job of holding a window from the inside and doing any necessary shimming. The rough openings were pretty good, so little shimming was necessary. Like a friend of mine said who's also a contractor, and put in hundreds of doors and windows, though plumb and level's important, what's most important is that the doors and windows operate properly.
.
I had a few 'new construction' windows from Home Depot with fins, the upper story 2x3 sliders, that were very easy - outside of the fact I was high up a ladder. The fins around the window are pushed flush up against the wall, and nailed every other hole or so with large-head galvanized roofing nails. Then you're done. Pretty simple. Though I did keep forgetting to caulk behind the fin before I put the window in - and caulked it after. It's amazing how much caulk you need for doors and windows . . . buy it by the case.
.
The only hairy part was when Rachael passed the window out the hole to me while I stood high up the ladder, and had to fit in there from the outside. I'd framed the rough openings pretty tight. The 2x3 sliders weren't too heavy . . . but the 3x4 windows were beasts.
.
Unfortunately most of my windows did not have fins, and were screwed through the frame into the rough opening. They had little fins, almost a lip, to go over the trim, then a 3/4" slot behind the lip for the trim to fit into - so the window was set 3/4" out from the wall. They're really replacement windows, to go in flush against the siding. But since my siding isn't in, I have to estimate.
.
The 3x4 windows were rather cheap at $89 a pop, double glazed, argon filled, etc., but they didn't operate that great even before I put them in. The single-hung windows were hard to shut, and when fully opened, didn't want to hang level. So it's hard to check for good performance once they're installed. I did the best I could. It was probably no surprise such windows ended up in a surplus store.
.
One window was a definite replacement window from Home Depot, with the expandable header at the top. It was really a mis-buy . . . we were looking for a certain size, and didn't realize it wasn't 'new construction'. But since Home Depot is an hour away, I thought I'd try to make it work.
.
What I did was put a large piece of flashing to shed water away from the sill, since there's no fin or lip:
.
.
But the more I messed with it, and talked to builder friends, they all advised I try to exchange it and get a 'new construction' window instead. And that's what I did. Home Depot gave me no problems at all when it came to returns and exchanges. I guess if you look at the outrageous cost of the windows, the cost of returns is built in.
.
As far as the tarpaper, I used a double overlapping layer method that Patty downloaded from This Old House. It might have been overkill, but I had plenty of extra roofing felt - why not?
.
Here several windows are in:
.
The three at the rear are the giant 3x4 heavy windows - very, very heavy. The ones on the lower story I've put up a homemade drip edge over, made from flashing.
.
The windows on the left side of the building are the kitchen windows, a 3x3 in the same style as the 3x4's with an interior grid, single-hung . . . and the large window with the cranked-out panes is our best window, a wood frame, vinyle clad, like 3x5 . . . a great find at the surplus store and only $109. I had to countersink screws through the wood frame into the rough opening and shim it perfectly, so I didn't pull the frame apart - but it went well, the panes crank shut and lock properly.
.
The front door we got from a salvage place. It came already hung, brand new, fiberglass, with brick mold on the outside, for about $190, free delivery. I tried using the This Old House method for installing it - but it was too complicated. So I followed the advice of a contractor. My floor was dead level so this was a big help. Once I got the door shimmed out where I wanted it, I fastened the brick mold to the sheathed walls with finish nails, which were then countersunk.
.
The disaster was when I walked in and tried to open the door. I couldn't get it to open. I'd removed screws from the trim piece over the door, but missed a screw at the jamb, right where the door hardware goes, screwing the door shut. It was an incredibly stupid mistake that could only happen to someone that's never put in a door before [i.e. me], and even then I think rarely. I had to choose between prying out the brick mold, removing the door, and taking the screw out - in other words starting over (probably what I should have done), or cut the screw with a reciprocating saw.
.
Cutting the screw was not pleasant. The blade constantly jumped into the gasket sealing the door, tearing it at one spot, and the shaft of a screw is incredibly strong, nothing like a nail. It took forever to cut through. I opened the door, did more shimming, then screwed through the jamb into the rough opening. I tried to hide the screws behind the gasket in the jamb, which worked well.
.
Installing this door was already a nightmare because I'd actually had to move the door opening over 6" from its original position, to center it under the window opening above. Then when I came to put in the expensive Shlaag hardware in the door, I found my old cut screw was in the way of fastening the hardware to the mortise in the jamb. So I had to drive the screw in at a steep angle - ugly. Then the hardware itself was missing a piece (a critical pin in the lever handle assembly), and I had to drive all the way out to Home Depot to exchange it.
.
After all this, here's a photo of the door in from inside:
.
.
It brings a lot of light into the kitchen.
.
A week after the door was in and done, we found the door would lock itself if we turned the knob the wrong way while shutting it. I inspected this thoroughly, and sure enough there's something wrong with the knob assembly inside the door - it's not disengaging right. But there's no way I'm taking all this hardware out and driving to Home Depot again, and it's getting to the point that the holes where screws need to go are getting stripped out and I won't be able to reinstall it. So I've decided to half-ignore the problem, and later just remove the defective part and send it to Schlaag to be retooled or replaced. Supposedly it all comes with a lifetime warranty. Needless to say, it's all very irritating. Some days as a novice owner-builder, I'm proud of what I've accomplished. And on others, my lack of experience shows.
.
The pre-hung exterior french doors were far more difficult to put in, just the size and weight alone, no brick mold, etc. And as usual, once I'd plumbed up the hinges on one side, and shimmed and plumbed the other, the doors didn't meet right in the middle at all - touching at the top, huge gap at the bottom. I guess they weren't hung right in the first place.
.
I did the best I could to shim the bottom in, pull the jambs out at the top, even going so far as to insert cardboard between the hinge and the jamb on the bottom at one side to lessen the gap - this was the advice of a friend who's put in a ton of doors (the cardboard's not visible). The finished installation was fine, looked good, the doors operated well, and I guess I give myself a B- overall. I've got a lot to learn when it comes to hanging doors (hanging windows also for that matter):
.
Here several more windows are in:

One of the fixed glass windows in the triptych had water damage - not just condensation, but a pool of water between the panes. We'd stored the windows outside when we'd first got them, before putting them in the pumphouse. That obviously was a bad idea. But Builder's Surplus in Atlanta was not only able to locate the exact same window for us, they exchanged it for free! It just took a while to get the window.
.
Here's a shot of the cabin behind the sunflowers:

Here's the garden, as of late June:

Here is the barn, with most of the tents removed. We no longer need them for storage. The grass has just been mowed - the driveway's settled in nicely:

Here's the fireplace, near the pool. We use it as a place to hang out and set dishes and towels:

Here's Brooke washing dishes:

The dogs hanging out, Mishka and Annie:

In general they get along well, and Mishka of course wants to play constantly. Annie's all-night barking has still not stopped.
.
Here Rachael's trying to train them with treats:

Brooke's found a turtle:

I find 2 box turtles down by the creekbed one morning and bring them up for the girls to play with. Turtles would make great pets. But we have to keep Mishka away from them. He'll bite hard over them so they're locked in their shells - that happened once camping up on Pigeon mountain. Very sad.
.
Here are our blueberries, the grass mowed, the weeds kept back with decaying boards, and little blocks used to keep the weeds down and hold in moisture. It's not the best mulch certainly, but it's what I have an abundance of at the moment:

Here's the area in front of the cabin, our new 'front yard', which I reclaimed from the weeds and saplings with the mower. To the left are our autumn olives I planted over the winter which have done fabulously well. They're already miniature trees, with stout trunks:

Here is the barn, all cleaned out, the gazebo empty, the area sort of abandoned for the moment, as we now spend all our time in and around the cabin:

We've got to get a roof over this framing ASAP. That's the next step, before I do another thing with the cabin. But for now we're out of money, same old story, and our time up here is drawing to a close.
.

No comments:

Blog Index

10/30/08

BUYING RAW LAND

11/8/08

TRASH CLEANUP

11/10/08

WINTER IN ATLANTA

11/12/08

SPRING IN TENNESSEE

11/14/08

STARTING A GARDEN

11/15/08

BUILDING THE COMPOST BIN

11/15/08

THE FROST

11/16/08

GRADING THE BARN

11/18/08

DIGGING SWALES

11/19/08

PLANTING FRUIT TREES

11/19/08

BUILDING A STONE FOUNDATION

11/20/08

THE CONCRETE STEM WALL

11/21/08

BUILDING A SMALL 12'x12' PAD

11/21/08

THE GARDEN

11/22/08

BUILDING A DRIVEWAY

11/23/08

INSTALLING THE SILL PLATES

11/23/08

THE MODIFIED POST AND BEAM FRAME

11/27/08

FRUIT IN THE GARDEN

11/28/08

THE BARN FRAME

11/29/08

AUGUST IN TENNESSEE

11/30/08

HANGING THE JOISTS

11/30/08

CLEARING THE LAND

11/30/08

COUNTRY NEIGHBORS

11/30/08

THE HARVEST

12/1/08

PLANS FOR A CABIN

12/14/08

THE LAND IN WINTER

12/22/08

BARN UPDATE

12/29/08

WINTER PLANTING

1/4/09

EDIBLE PLANTS

1/10/09

WINTER TREES

1/12/09

WINTER TREES II

1/21/09

CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER

2/11/09

THE STRAW BALE CABIN

3/26/09

THE STRAW BALE CABIN II

4/2/09

1880 FARMHOUSE

5/6/09

HOMESTEADING / THE CABIN

8/13/09

THE POST AND BEAM CABIN

8/22/09

RETURN TO TENNESSEE

8/25/09

SITE WORK

8/30/09

DIGGING THE FOOTERS

9/4/09

THE PIER FOUNDATION

9/10/09

911

9/11/09

FINISHING THE PIER FOUNDATION

9/12/09

THE GIRDERS

9/13/09

FRAMING THE FLOOR

9/16/09

DECKING THE FLOOR

9/17/09

THE POST AND BEAM FRAME

9/19/09

THE RAFTERS

9/20/09

INSTALLING THE METAL ROOF

9/21/09

FRAMING THE WALLS

9/26/09

DOORS AND WINDOWS

9/27/09

TENNESSEE IN JULY - OUR LAST MONTH

10/2/09

TENNESSEE IN OCTOBER

10/10/09

THE BARN FLOOR

10/15/09

PIGEON MOUNTAIN

11/10/09

NOVEMBER

11/16/09

PERMACULTURE: ANOTHER ROUND OF FRUITING SHRUBS

11/22/09

DRIFTERS

11/30/09

THE BARN ROOF BEGINS

12/20/09

'DRIFTERS' PART I

12/30/09

WEATHER

1/1/10

NEW YEAR'S IN TENNESSEE

1/25/10

DRIFTERS: PART II

3/2/10

MY SISTER'S WEDDING

3/21/10

FERTILIZING WITH HUMANURE

3/28/10

THE ADDITION FLOOR

4/19/10

THE ADDITION

5/11/10

RUNAWAY

6/13/10

FINISHING THE ADDITION

.........................The Timeline.........................

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1992
-MAY . . . for Patty and I's first date, we skip school and go to the Pinnacle - a wooded overlook off the Susquehanna River.
-SEPTEMBER . . . I leave our hometown of Lancaster, PA for college - Penn State in Reading, 45 minutes away.

1993
-FEBRUARY . . . Patty and I both drop out of school, and camp in some woods behind a grocery store in Lancaster.
-MARCH . . . Patty steals her mother's credit card, and with it we take a train to Utah. We ultimately end up on the Northwest Coast, living in Port Orford, Oregon.
-APRIL - OCTOBER . . . We join a traveling carnival and work in it for 6 months. We sleep in the back of a Ryder truck, and go through California, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. I run the guns, and Patty does the goldfish. We save $9,000.
-NOVEMBER . . . We return to Lancaster and are arrested for stealing the credit card.

1995
-OCTOBER . . . We bike from Lancaster down to Charleston, South Carolina. Patty wrecks in North Carolina, and a friend drives us the rest of the way. We live in Charleston for 2 weeks.

1996
-JULY . . . Our first daughter June is born in Lancaster, PA.

1997
-MARCH . . . We sell everything in our apartment, and hike out of Lancaster with backpacks and our 9 month old daughter. We reach the Susquehanna River.
-APRIL - JUNE . . . We get a canoe and paddle 500 miles up the Susquehanna River to its source. We camp on islands. We get a ride to the Erie Barge Canal and paddle west.
-JULY . . . We are arrested in Little Falls, NY. Our daughter is taken, we're charged with neglect, and we fight the courts for months. We are cleared of all charges, but never get her back.
-SEPTEMBER . . . We take a bus out to Ruidoso, NM and camp in woods just out of town. We return to Lancaster and camp in the Brickyard for the rest of the month.
-OCTOBER - FEBRUARY . . . We live in an apartment in the Amish community of Strasburg, PA. Amish go by in their horse and buggies every day.

1998
-FEBRUARY . . . Our second daughter Rachael is born. We try to deliver her on our own at home and fail. Patty ends up in the hospital with a c-section.
-MARCH . . . We get a ride from a friend down to Covington, Virginia. We stay a week, and look for places to camp in the surrounding national forest. We find nothing, and go to New Mexico.
-MARCH - MAY . . . We camp in the Gila National Forest, north of Pinos Altos, a mile from the nearest trail. We camp above a spring with an infinite view west. We start building a hogan.
-JUNE - SEPTEMBER . . . We live downtown in Santa Fe, NM. Patty markets her paintings, and I get a N.Y. literary agent for my first book 'Flesh Aflame'.
-OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a house in Crescent City, California, on the Northwest Coast, a mile from the ocean, on the edge of a bird sanctuary. It's great until the rains begin and we run out of money.

1999
-JANUARY - FEBRUARY . . . We camp in the Uwharrie mountains of central North Carolina, and look for a place to build a winter home.
-MARCH . . . We get a canoe and paddle the Holston River down towards Knoxville, Tennessee.
-APRIL . . . We get dropped off in the Smokies and paddle Fontana Lake. We stash our canoe at Chambers Creek and hike in to the Smokies for a secret camp. Patty paints the creek, and we stay 3 weeks.
-MAY . . . We live in a trailer just off the ocean in Myrtle Beach, SC. The sky is beautiful after storms and we love the pelicans.
-JUNE . . . We camp in the Brickyard back in Lancaster, PA, saving money for an apartment.
-JULY - DECEMBER . . . We live in Lancaster and save for our trip back out to New Mexico. We also buy the jeep.

2000
-JANUARY - JUNE . . . We camp and travel all over the Southwest, from the Gila, to Organ Pipe, to the Weminuche in Colorado. Brooke is born in February in a motel in Deming, NM.
-JULY . . . We stay in condos with a friend in Aspen, Colorado. I do concrete work. We then go to California, and look for a place to live in the Russian River area.
-AUGUST - OCTOBER . . . We rent a small house in Tesuque, NM, just outside of Santa Fe. We hike up into the Pecos Wilderness. We become vegetarians.
-NOVEMBER . . . We visit a friend in Tucson, AZ, then drive to Crescent City and the Northwest Coast. The beautiful weather is over, and the rains have begun. We don't stay long.
-DECEMBER . . . We return to Pennsylvania, and live out of our car in the Philidelphia area while Patty works at a restaurant. We sleep in parking lots and rest stops. It's the coldest December on record for the area, with the wind chill it's -10.



2001
-
JANUARY . . . We head south for warmth, try the Chatooga area of South Carolina, then camp in the woods of northern Florida.
-
FEBRUARY - JUNE . . . We live in Asheville, NC, in the middle of the Southern Appalachains. We spend nearly every day out on the trails, hiking, and learning plants.
-
JULY . . . We get mountain bikes for touring, and bike the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smokies.
-
AUGUST . . . We camp in the Weminuche Wilderness of southwest Colorado, and do a 6 day fast.
-
SEPTEMBER . . . We stay in Loveland, Colorado with a friend. We climb Long's Peak on the day after 9/11. We then drive to Vermont, and look for a place to live in the Burlington area.
-
OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a house in Tucson, AZ, and try to become raw fooders.

2002
-
JANUARY . . . We hike in to Jordan Hot Springs in the Gila.
-
FEBRUARY . . . We bike in to Turkey Creek Hot Springs. We stash our bikes near the mouth of the creek, and hike the rest of the way. Many of the pools have been ruined from floods.
-
MARCH . . . We go to Vermont again, this time the Bennington area of southern Vermont. It's way too cold.
-
APRIL - JULY . . . We rent a house in Asheville, NC again. This time we have a large garden, and become 100% raw fooders. Every day I'm out hiking the trails gathering wild edible plants.
-
AUGUST . . . We cash out all our credit cards, and move up to Shining Rocks Wilderness in the Southern Appalachians, camping at over 5,000 feet. There are blueberry fields everywhere, and blackberry, and wild cherries. Not only are we mono-raw fooders now, much of our food is wild. I hike barefoot everywhere. We bathe in the pool below the falls.
-SEPTEMBER . . . We visit a friend in Atlanta, and on a night full of alcohol I break my foot in 3 places. I'm told I'll be crippled with arthritis, and ultimately never walk again.
-OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a furnished condo in Tucson, AZ. I cut my cast off prematurely with tin snips.

2003
-JANUARY . . . We camp off the Gila River at Box Canyon, just up from the city of Gila. I'm still on crutches. We meet Jabber-Mike, and Vet-Mike, and Doug. We trade juniper berries for Doug's black walnuts. We're still 100% raw fooders, and Doug teaches me the local plants.
-FEBRUARY - MARCH . . . We return to Atlanta for free medical care so I can learn how to walk again. PT is hell.
-APRIL - MAY . . . We go back to the Gila and camp off the Gila River. We gather cattail, nettle, primrose flowers, and harvest prickly pear pads. We find the most perfect hot spring in all of the Gila, man-made, at Brock Canyon.
-JUNE . . . We fall off our raw food diet, and camp up at Black Balsam again off the Shining Rock Wilderness. We gather wild strawberries. We then camp above the Amicalola Falls in north Georgia for 2 weeks. We become committed to the idea of buying land.
-JULY - SEPTEMBER . . . We live in Woodstock, GA, just north of Atlanta. I do a 14 day water fast.
-OCTOBER . . . We paddle Fontana Lake in the Smokies, on our way to Nova Scotia. We find a great camp and gather wild persimmons, but ultimately abandon the trip.
-NOVEMBER . . . We go back to camping off the Gila River at Brock Canyon. I begin 'June'. We run totally out of money, and gather and clean 10lbs of desert willow seed to sell to a local guy in Gila. He gives us $20/lb, and we use the money to get back to Georgia.

2004
-JANUARY . . . We go to north Florida, and check out the sinks, and the aquifer springs, and paddle the Wacissa River.
-FEBRUARY . . . We paddle the Suwanee River in North Florida. Patty makes a basket out of greenbriar.
-MARCH . . . We camp in the pine flats of Apalachicola National Forest. We make baskets from grapevine, cordage from the retting of Spanish Moss, and a mat from palmetto. We camp here for 3 weeks with no money while we wait for our tax refund. We're 100% raw fooders again.
-APRIL . . . We camp off Owl Creek and paddle the river. There are free hot showers in a nearby campground. There's a great trail with wild blueberry, and we gather the new shoots of bracken. We later camp in Tate's Hell.
-MAY . . . We camp at Sand Creek in the Ocala National Forest, an hour east of Atlanta. I gather cattail in the Beaver Pond. I edit and type up the 'June' book at a nearby library for a literary agent.
-JUNE . . . We drive out to Oregon and camp off the Illinois River in the Siskiyous.
-JULY . . . We camp in the Adirondacks off Jones Pond.
-AUGUST . . . We camp in the Jemez Region of northern New Mexico. We gather wild mushrooms, and sell lobster mushrooms to chefs in Sante Fe. We camp at San Antonio Hot Springs for a week, and Big Tesuque Campground outside Sante Fe.
-SEPTEMBER . . . We go back to the Gila and camp at Brock Canyon. We gather desert willow seed again. We swim and play games in the river. We see tarantulas. I gather prickly pear fruit in baskets we've made from willow. We take a trip up to Turkey Creek Hot Springs.
-OCTOBER . . . We camp in the Oconee National Forest southeast of Atlanta, under persimmon trees in a field. We also camp up on Pigeon Mountain near Rocktown.
-NOVEMBER - JANUARY . . . We live in Atlanta.

2005
-FEBRUARY - MARCH . . . We move to Portland Oregon. We paddle the Wilamette River, and go to the nude beach at Sauvie Island, just after Mt. St. Helens erupted.
-APRIL . . . We return to north Florida looking for land to buy. Everywhere is flooded, and there's been a lot of damage from the previous hurricane.
-MAY . . . We camp up on Pigeon Mtn. The weather's perfect, and there's more wild food here than anywhere else.
-JUNE . . . We go to Arizona, and camp in the Hannigan area of Apache National Forest. We ultimately try to get back out to Oregon, but car problems make it not possible.
-JULY . . . We return to Pigeon Mtn in Georgia. The blackberries are in.
-AUGUST . . . We stay in a campground off the ocean in Jacksonville, Florida, while we look for jobs and a place to live.
-
SEPTEMBER . . . We move back to Atlanta.
-
OCTOBER . . . We abandon the jeep with 320,000 miles in a motel parking lot.

2006
-MARCH . . . the girls and I camp up at Pigeon Mtn, in a secret camp we've made.
-JUNE . . . the girls and I go back to Pigeon and camp longer, this time starting a wigwam from red maple saplings, muscadine vines, and grass I collect naked in the field with a small knife.
-AUGUST . . . the girls and I camp up at Graveyard Fields off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Every day we gather the wild blueberries and swim in the pool beneath the falls. We hike all the trails, and establish a secret camp in a grove of juneberries.


2007
-FEBRUARY . . . We look at property in north Florida.
-MARCH . . . We look at property in Asheville, NC.
-JUNE . . . We look at the 10 acres in Sunbright, and make an offer.
-AUGUST . . . We close on the Sunbright property, and take the kids to Disneyworld.
-OCTOBER . . . The girls and I camp up on the property in Sunbright, and clean up the trash from the fire. I build a fireplace out of old concrete blocks.

2008
-APRIL - SEPTEMBER . . . The girls and I camp up on the property. We clean out the rest of the trash, build a compost bin for humanure, plant the garden, and fruit trees, I dig the swales, do the stone foundation for the barn, and the stem wall, and the post and beam frame. We build a pad for the gazebo.

2009
-APRIL - JULY . . . The girls and I camp up on the property again. We build the 2 story cabin from scratch, plant another garden, and more fruiting trees and shrubs.
-OCTOBER . . . I put the upper story floor in the barn.
-NOVEMBER . . . The girls and I begin building the barn roof.