Construction Completed

Thursday, July 26th, 2012


Almost exactly 1 year after the start of construction, Sam the Builder has finished work on our cabin.  He’s backfilled behind the cement wall, leveling the ground in front of the main cabin door, and leaving enough space to turn around a car. While Elizabeth and I were in Japan, the insect netting went up on the porch.  The cabin has been screened, stained, caulked, chinked, and connected, and is essentially complete.

The heat and drought has ensured that Elizabeth’s new lawn hasn’t taken over the level patch in front of the cabin, although an inch and a quarter of rain last week seemed to help green things up a bit.  The shady location, deep basement, and log walls kept things cool, even during a heat wave in the mid-90s.  While the insect netting does slow down the breeze slightly, a pair of ceiling fans on the porch keeps everyone cool, and the porch is turning into a nice evening spot to listen to frogs and crickets without having to battle moths and beetles.  


[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is The Long Wait for the Internet.]

Every Castle Needs a Throne

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Toilet in upstairs bath

After a busy 5-truck day last week,  involving plumbing and an amazing amount of window hardware, our Amish carpentry crew pulled the plastic coverings off the windows, and we had our first night’s sleep in the cabin.  We are still waiting on some plumbing fixtures and shower doors, but at least we’ve got a working trio of toilet, sink, and shower in the downstairs bathroom. After a noisy startup, our old washer and dryer have settled into their new Ohio home and have been busy cleaning tractor mud from my one pair of work jeans. Other than a balky dishwasher, another transplant from Virginia, the kitchen is operational.

Elizabeth has done an amazing amount of cleaning, unpacking, and nesting.  Days of sweeping, vacuuming and scrubbing, including hiring a pair of women with mops for a day, and putting my mom to work on a couple shower stalls, has mostly removed the thin, and sometimes thick, veneer of construction dust, mounds of glop, and piles of wire trimming.   One week ago, it was an empty building, full of cardboard boxes and dirt. Now it feels like a home.

A new place requires a huge amount of screwing. I mounted a couple of poplar 1x3s to the utility room wall (without breaking any cement screws this time), and after trimming it to size, attached a pegboard.  Then I hung up a paper towel holder in one of the relatively few gypsum walls.  There still seems to be an infinite queue of towel racks, toilet paper rolls, mirrors, lights, and electrical plates that needs to be hung, so I’ve got lots of drilling and screwing to look forward to. At least the plates already have holes.

A couple years ago, we developed a taste for metal switch plates.  We like being well-wired, and lots of walls have 2 or even 3 outlets on them.  Even before finishing all the outlets in the basement level of the cabin, our Amish electrician had bought out all the white metal outlet plates in a 3-county area.  A quick count shows that when the a shipment of plates arrive, I’ve got over 2 dozen to screw in. The electrician already hung the ceiling fans and most of the lights, so I’m not on the hook for that (Electrician: “Do you know how many light switches there are in this house?” Elizabeth: “60?”  Electrician: “65.” Elizabeth: “Is that a lot?” Electrician: “Yup.”)

Elizabeth found a swing in Coshocton that matched the color of our porch, so she sent me down on Saturday to see if it would fit in the back of the Subaru. It came with a chain, which solved one problem,  but not with something to hang the chain from.  After I managed to squeeze the swing into the back of the wagon, I went to the lumberyard in Coshocton to see what they recommended.  They talked me into a pair of screw eyes and a pair of springs.  I wasn’t sure if comfort dictated suspension, but he seemed to think the springs would be the perfect interface between the eyes and the chain. (“Do you have something for those eyes to screw into?” “They are going into a 6×6 beam.”  “That’ll do.”)

Porch Swing Spring

Dad and I decided to start with one screw eye to see how it went.  So I climbed up on a step ladder, drilled a hole, screwed the eye in using a screwdriver as a lever. Then I climbed down the ladder and we stared at it. And then we stared at the puzzle represented by the spring unit.  As it turned out, the suspension mechanism did interface nicely with the chain, although it meant pulling the chain thru the center of the coil spring, hooking a metal loop through it, and then pulling the loop and chain back through the spring.  As far as the other end of the suspension unit went, there was no way the entire cabin was going to pull through it.  There was no way the screw eye was going to pull through it. The solution turned out to be a pair of S hooks between the eyes and the springs, but the hardware store hadn’t sold me any of those. Dad found a pair in the barn, and now we’re hanging easy.

Newly Installed Porch Swing


[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Finishing the Cabin.]

Amish Barn Raising

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

The second floor, trusses, sheathing, and a metal roof, matching the cabin, went up during the first week of December, followed by 3 pairs of windows on the dormer on the north side, over the garage doors, and on north face of the lower level.

The floor and an apron in front of the barn was poured  at the end of December, and a stairway was built between the upper and lower levels at the back corner.

A pair of garage doors were installed during Elizabeth’s last visit earlier this month. We compromised and decided to put an electric opener on one, but not the other.

We still need electricity, lights and fixtures, and (along with the cabin) it still needs gutters. Other than that, the barn is pretty much done.


[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Cabin Heating Up.]

Masonic Order

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

During Elizabeth’s last visit to the cabin site, the masonry crew was just about finished.  The dry stack veneer, applied to the outside off the chimney with various degrees of enthusiasm by several apprentice bricklayers, had reached the ground on the face and corners and was almost complete on the sides.

Although most of the chimney is covered with Dutch Quality Stone dry stack, which is not stone at all, but an artificial stiff apparently made with cement and cinnamon sugar, Elizabeth had asked the mason to incorporate a couple pieces of the shale that were dug up last summer from the foundation excavation.

In the living room, the hearth stones and the veneer is complete on the fireplace, which had several test runs before the heating system became operational.

We decided to go with a low hearth for the woodstove in my office, with the same drystone veneer as used on the exterior chimney.  The barn board is already in place over the poured cement walls of this basement room. These pictures were taken just over a week ago, so I’m hopeful that the last few bits have been completed now.

[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Amish Barn Raising.]

Christmas Cabin

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

No, we’re not spending the holidays at the cabin, but yes, that’s a plume of smoke coming out of the top of the chimney. The heat pump has been delayed by a supply chain problem on the part of the manufacturer, so in the meantime, our carpentry crew decided to warm up the inside of the cabin with the fireplace. Elizabeth dressed up kitchen door with a Christmas wreath, so even though the cabin will be spending its first Christmas alone, at least it looks festive.

My parents report that the cement has been poured under the front porch, and yesterday they watched the cement crew putting the finishing touches on the barn floor.  Once the doors arrive and are installed, we can finally park the Kubota inside. My parents also report that the Killbuck has flooded again, closing Route 60 again. The TV meteorologist says that Cleveland is 10 inches above its normal rainfall, an unprecedented level of rainfall that is likely a once in a lifetime experience. Let’s hope so.

[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Geothermal: the green cabin.]

Exterior Work

Friday, December 16th, 2011

One of the disadvantages of having the final grading work done so late in the year is that grass is unlikely to root before Spring. During her previous visit, Elizabeth cleaned Moore’s out of their remaining 2011 grass seed, spreading 150 pounds worth around our sprawling cabin site.

To maximize the survival and sprouting likelihood, and to reduce the potential for winter erosion, Elizabeth spread 20 bales of straw around the cabin site and along the side of the driveway.  On some of the steeper mud slopes, we unrolled excelsior mats, which Elizabeth attached to the ground with biodegradable pins.

The driveway gravel has never been extended beyond the nearest corner of the cabin, so we stopped in at Holmes Redimix and scheduled Dianne to bring us yet another truck load of 1&2 crushed limestone to spread across the back of the cabin, and what little turning area could be excavated into the hillside.  Dianne ended up spreading about half the load at the top of the drive, leaving several tons in a pile for me to spread with the Kubota tractor.

Ranging from baseball to softball size, the 1&2 limestone is nearly impossible to move with a shovel, and a huge challenge with such a small tractor.  I spent a couple hours last Thursday and Friday nibbling away at the last of a pile that was left in the meadow in July, spreading it over some of the subsiding areas in the drive where a new culvert was installed last month.  The new pile was easier to spread because it hadn’t packed down yet.

On the theory that ground would be frozen during the next 3 months, I took the opportunity to polish up some of the earth moving.  The back fill around both the cabin and barn has already started to visibly subside, so I used the blade to scrape up more clay and pile it around the foundations.

 The driveway drainage seemed on track towards creating a new stream through the side door of the barn, so Sheldon put in another culvert, with a drainage basin and grate located in front of the side door of the barn above. After 4 weeks of continued wet whether and pickup truck traffic, a ridge of clay appeared between the drive and the drain.  I used the tractor to scrape off the top of the clay, filling in a deepening puddle between the driveway and what I hope will soon be the cement floor of the barn.  I also dressed up a couple other drainage problems along the drive, and hope that it will last until spring.  Dianne should have arrived some time this week with a load of smaller limestone, either #4 or #57, to spread across the length of our gravel sinkhole.


[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Christmas Cabin.]