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.
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tennessee in July - Our Last Month

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While Patty's up we visit the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, something we'd been meaning to do ever since we bought the property. The above shot is at the trailhead.

Here's the view at the end of the rim trail overlooking the Big South Fork:

There are ripe blueberries everywhere off the trail, and the area is rather fascinating upland forest.

We hike along the Big South Fork to go see some falls. Along the way we find a cliff with a huge coal seam:

Here are the falls, pretty modest actually, a little chute of rapids:

We're not overall that impressed with the bottomlands along the river and the trail's sort of boring. But the Big South Fork is a huge area - we'll try different trails.
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Here's us at the 'falls':

Patty finishes up another pair of moccasins, the colors and design ordered by the customer:

We've made moccasins for over 10 years, and continue to ship moccasins all over the world. It's become slightly more lucrative than it was in the past, as we've raised prices, but each pair of fully beaded still takes a month to make. It's hard to put a reasonable price on that.
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In the future we'll focus on plain mocs and DIY kits, though we'll still always offer historical replicas of Native American beading designs - it's just hard to make any money on so much work. However, it's one way we could support ourselves up on the property, so we keep plugging away at it. For a look at our moccasin business, go to Sunbright Originals. There are also several photos of our moccasins on the left if you scroll down.
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Here are some interior shots of the cabin.
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Facing the kitchen and large crank window:
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The area beneath our bedroom loft, where the kids are sleeping for the moment. This area will ultimately be the bathroom:

Here I've put in a temporary kitchen counter where the kitchen will go. It's made from scrap boards and 2 sheets of OSB:

Here is Annie, the stray dog who showed up in May and who has no plans of moving on:

A lot of people drop stray dogs off back here, thinking they'll 'live off the land' and be 'free'. Dogs are not cats. These dogs can't take care of themselves. They'll either go begging from door to door to be taken in, or bond with a feral pack and raid your garbage. Or starve to death.
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Annie showed up all wet and shivering one night and we pitied her and gave her food and water. Then I figured she'd move on. No. She growled constantly at Mishka (who's a big pushover), and tried to keep him from eating or going near the gazebo. We tried not feeding Annie for a day or two, to see if she'd move on - no, she wasn't going anywhere. So we started basically taking care of her.
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Her all-night barking was torture right off the bat. We contemplated dropping her off at the park in Wartburg, but didn't have the heart to do it. We just did not need another dog to take care of at this point, especially as we're about to go back to Atlanta and live in a dingy little apartment. There's no pound in Morgan County, and even if we went that route they'd euthanize her within a week. Especially with her game leg. This of course was out of the question.
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She's actually not a bad dog, good with training and a real tagalong [outside of the all-night barking at nothing]. Our plan for the moment is to leave her here when we go back to Atlanta, and assume with her pushy personality she'll get another neighbor to take her in. We talk to one neighbor who's known for taking in strays but they've got too many dogs at the moment. If she stays I guess she'll be 'free', and up here every time we come back (which will be frequently), and the girls can see her. I know our next-door neighbor would take her in as he's fed many strays before.
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Here's a shot of the cabin dried in for now [I do get that last window in right before we leave]:
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We visit Atlanta for the 4th of July and stay with my parents in Roswell. We actually look at a few homes, as Patty's convinced it's a smart thing to buy a fixer-upper in Atlanta, have a place to stay we own when we're there making money, and ultimately turn it over and with the profit pay off our land in Tennesee, and truly semi-retire. Of course I feel a great deal of ambivalence about this and hate Atlanta - any big city for that matter. It's not where I wish to live or raise a family, even though we've both got guaranteed income there and family.
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For the rest of July in Tennessee we're basically broke. I thought the cabin shell would take 3 months, and it actually is completed the last day in June - right at 3 months. Pier foundation work is more labor than cost, so I decide to start working on the foundation for the sunroom addition.
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I have to take an axe and cut a few old stumps back once I've done the site work and pinpointed where the piers will go. Then there's the digging, the concrete mixing, laying block, etc. It all goes fine as I've done it before. Here are a few shots from different angles:
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I've only got enough surface bonded cement to do 1 pier, considering how high they are. The stuff costs a fortune, is a pain to put on, and is probably totally unnecesary. I may skip it for the others:
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Once this is done, we are truly totally out of money, so I begin digging out behind the barn. Remember last year when I dug out the 10' aisle beside the barn to give me fill to build up the driveway? Well now the back needs done too, so the land is sloping down and away from the building at all points. This 10' swathe is nearly 50' long, and tons of dirt need removed because the hillside is higher here. It is an incredible workout with a pick and shovel, and sometimes I'm working all day in the rain. I dump the dirt at the edge of our clearing, and create a 100 yard planting berm between the woods and the clearing.
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I finish this job just before we leave, but Patty's taken the camera for her moccasins so I don't get any photos.
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We also move the gazebo back up to its pad under the oaks, and totally clear out the barn to get it ready for construction. The next step is putting the upper floor in over the joists. I'll deck it then seal it, and when I have the chance begin the gambrel roof framing.
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As we move the gazebo, it's hard to imagine having lived in this for months, as we now stay in the spacious bug-free rain-free cabin. The first year we were in tents, then the gazebo with the kids in the back of the truck, and now the cabin. That's really starting from scratch.
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Our garden is full of melons this year. We hear coyotes yip and wail every night - sometimes they're so close I swear they're on the property. The power line in front of the cabin which I thought would be such an eyesore, is actually a great perching place for birds, and we can watch them from the windows - goldfinches, mourning doves, etc.
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The week before we leave I make the rounds and go visit all our neighbors. It's interesting. There's actually one young couple from Texas raising chickens and goats.
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When we pack up to leave Annie's bedded down beneath the building, and I don't have the heart to leave her. I feel like she'll stay and die under there. So I go talk to my neighbor's wife, and she thinks I shouldn't leave her, especially with her bad leg, so I guess Annie's coming with us. She's infested with ticks which we haven't been able to eradicate, with tons in her ears, and who knows what we'll do with her in Atlanta.
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On the way down we camp the night on Pigeon Mountain. We go visit our old thatched hut and hike the trails. The autumn olives are in in huge quantities, and we gather a pot-full. The rain begins just after we set the tent up.
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Doors and Windows

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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What I did was put a large piece of flashing to shed water away from the sill, since there's no fin or lip:
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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.
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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?
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Here several windows are in:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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After all this, here's a photo of the door in from inside:
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It brings a lot of light into the kitchen.
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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.
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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.
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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):
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Framing the Walls

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The first step in framing the infill walls is rough openings for all the windows. I'll pop in studs around them to fill out the space, either 16"o.c. or 24"o.c., depending on the size of the gap. Since the frame is post and beam the walls are non-load bearing, and there is no real weight on either the doors or windows. So I don't need large headers over them. A doubled top plate will suffice.

Patty's been buying windows and bringing them up every time she visits. Once we've decided on a general layout for the interior of the cabin, we place the windows. The above rough opening is for a large vinyl clad double-crank window that will go in the kitchen.

Below is a rough opening for a 3x4 window that overlooks the garden:

We've got all the windows for around $80 to $90 a piece from a builder's surplus store in Atlanta. They are all new, vinyl, most open, they're doubled-glazed, argon filled, and some have low e glass. So they're modern efficient windows. I personally prefer wood casement windows that crank open . . . but they're hard to find at a reasonable price, so in the future I'll build my own. This project is about speed - getting it done.

We tried several salvage yards for windows and found the windows were either junk, inefficient, ugly, inoperable, or overpriced . . . used windows are a little problematic when you're going for a thermally efficient building. The modern window is pretty hi-tech and expensive. We've gone with a lot of windows for this particular building because the footprint is small . . . we don't want it to feel like a shack. There are great views in virtually every direction, and we wanted to take advantage of that. We also wanted the building to have a lot of natural light, crossbreezes and ventilation, as well as some passive solar heating when it's cold out.

Here are the kitchen window rough openings in:

This particular wall is southeast-facing so it has a lot of glazing. The opening on the right, though it appears small next to the crank window's on the left, is actually 3'x3'. These openings start at 3.5' in height - a kitchen counter will go in at 3' beneath them.

Here's the rough opening for the french doors that will go out to the addition:

I go with a small header here to fill the space. We actually find a deal on a set of exterior french doors afterwards, $330, free delivery, but I have to bust out this frame and expand the opening to get them to fit.
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Once the wall framing is finished on the lower story, I begin putting up the sheathing. I use standard OSB 7/16ths wall sheathing. This gives the building great lateral strength, as well as instant walls, a weather barrier.

I first try cutting the rough openings out of the sheathing before I put it up, but quickly move to the standard method of putting up the sheathing whole, fastening it, then cutting out the window gaps. For this I use a reciprocating saw . . . crude, but quick work. The sheathing is put in vertically, as all my carpentry books say that is the best way to run it for maximum lateral strength.
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Here's looking toward the NW wall, what will be the bathroom and possibly stove area beneath the loft:

Here the sheathing is finished throughout the lower story, and the place really feels like shelter:

I use 8d ringshank nails to fasten the sheathing - they have a good hold, and the nails won't migrate out. I'd bought a case of these nails at the local hardware store - they happened to be galvanized, and I thought it wouldn't make any difference. Was I wrong! The galvanization process severely weakens the nail, and unless I hit each nail with a perfect stroke it lays right over. Putting up sheathing with hand-driven nails is a lot of work, and hard on your arm. In my situation it is exceptionally tedious, finding where all the studs are in the custom framed walls.

Here's Patty sitting beside all our windows in what will be the kitchen. Though she looks serious, I bet she's reading a kid book:
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Here the framing and sheathing has moved on to the upper story:
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I'm using one of those 3 in 1 ladders, which so far is great - very stable:

Here the loft walls are up, and the girls have moved in to their future bedroom:

Our first night living in the cabin is truly awesome. There's something about moving in to your own place that you've built by hand that is a very good feeling. But moths still come in through the window holes for the lights as we read at night. And wasps are still thinking about nesting in the rafters.

Here's the view out our 3x4 bedroom window, overlooking the garden:

And this view is out the side of our bedroom towards the valley . . . the window will be a 2x3 slider:

Here the entire building is sheathed:

Remember when there was nothing there?! It's sprouted up like a mushroom.
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This is the rear of the building, the northeast side, facing the garden:

The 3 central vertical windows are the only ones that are fixed glass - they were about $40 a piece. They're the first windows we bought, and were originally going to be the clerestory windows on the south side. But they're so small . . . and they don't open. We thought sliders would be a better choice for the bedrooms. So I went for a 'triptych' look with them instead, going for the big view overlooking the property.
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Here is the southeast side, facing the driveway, and woods, and the blueberry grove:
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Here is the front of the building, the southwest side, facing the road, and our little yard with the autumn olives:

It looks a little weird and out of proportion, but that's because the upper windows are 2x3 sliders that will serve as clerestory windows. The large addition will cover everything below - the french door opening will connect them. And as far as the pier foundation . . . it will be concealed with a lattice.

Here is the northwest side, facing the power pole, and a very lush valley, which would be a good place for planting some fruit trees, especially plums:

The next step is the housewrap. I found I could save $50 by going with a cheaper homewrap than Tyvek (every builder told me it was all the same stuff - you were just paying a premium for the DuPont name).

The wrap is heavy and 9' tall. If I had another adult with me it would have been nothing. But alone it was somewhat complicated. The lower story of course was no big deal:

It was the upper story that was rather challenging. I had to unroll some wrap and clamp the tube of it to a window opening, fasten the wrap quick with a tackhammer, then pop in several buttoncaps, and move on to the next stretch, unrolling the wrap and clamping it to the next window. I had a few wrinkles in the end, but otherwise it went okay.

Wrap is reported to be an important part of the thermal performance of the building - it's like a breathable jacket (i.e. GoreTex) around the structure, keeping out cold yet allowing moisture to exit.

Here's a shot of the kitchen side wrapped:
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There's a special tape for the seams, but it's very expensive - $12 for a small roll. I use it for all the wrap on the wrap seams (or wrap on wrap), but for the bottom and top, where the wrap is on wood, I use a red duct tape, and staple it with the tackhammer to make sure it stays down.

Here's the rear of the building:

I ran out of wrap at the end, and had to put in a few extra pieces with large overlaps to cover the gaps.
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And the front, later to be mostly covered with the addition:


We still plan on bricking these walls to the right and left of the french doors to store heat in the sunroom. The weight will be distributed right across the piers.

Next step - doors and windows.

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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.........................

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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
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JANUARY . . . We head south for warmth, try the Chatooga area of South Carolina, then camp in the woods of northern Florida.
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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.
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JULY . . . We get mountain bikes for touring, and bike the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smokies.
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AUGUST . . . We camp in the Weminuche Wilderness of southwest Colorado, and do a 6 day fast.
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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.
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OCTOBER - DECEMBER . . . We rent a house in Tucson, AZ, and try to become raw fooders.

2002
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JANUARY . . . We hike in to Jordan Hot Springs in the Gila.
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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.
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MARCH . . . We go to Vermont again, this time the Bennington area of southern Vermont. It's way too cold.
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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.
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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.
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SEPTEMBER . . . We move back to Atlanta.
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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.