Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day 24: Transformers


It rained lightly on and off today, and we were still able to make some progress. PCEC was out again starting at 8:00 am to finish the trench for our electric line. They were also able to get the transformer placed. Pretty soon we'll have power to the site. That's when the fun begins.

In other news, we still have a bit of water in the basement, but its starting to dry out. If my plan works out, we'll finish the basement dig and start the foundation Monday. We also have a bit of green starting to pop up out in the fields.

Daily StatsHours Worked
All Time2421.520.598.5$13,496.75
Summary of 4/30/2014
Work Done Today
Underground trench for electric line, placed transformer
Materials Used Today
Who Helped Today
Contractors On Site

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day 23: Trench Number One


More rain today, which means no progress yet on our foundation. We need a good seven or eight day stretch of no rain and sun to dry things up and give us time to get the foundation in. Keep your fingers crossed for some good weather for us.

The rain didn't stop our electric company, PCEC, from getting their trencher there to put in our underground power line. We debated on whether to put in an overhead power line or go with an underground trench. The overhead powerline was free, whereas the underground was $2 per foot, and we have a quarter mile to go. On the other hand, PCEC basically puts in the underground at their cost when you buy it up front, and it's a lot more expensive to convert to underground later if you were to get tired of poles. We'd like to line our drive with trees that will, at some distant point in the future, be tall enough to interfere with overhead power lines, so we ended up going underground.

The trench starts back by the power pole next to the road. It then runs along the property line for a couple hundred feet.

 There is a 7.5' utility easement along the property line in which the power line needs to stay. The fence-line separating the two properties doesn't lie exactly on the property line. Rather, it is on our side of the line by about 10 feet and on a bit of a diagonal. This means that the utility easement is on our side of the fence for the first bit, and then crosses over to the neighbor's side of the fence for the remainder of the run. Apparently the fence was built using an old line of telephone poles, which were placed in an old easement and then abandoned. This was OK with me as it meant that the trench wasn't on our side of the fence for the bulk of the run. The neighbor was pretty understanding of us needing to have a big trench dug through his property.

 That big role of orange is our underground line, just waiting to go in the last hundred feet or so.

I also made one additional piece of progress today. I met with Brett from Bowman Plumbing to discuss our underground plumbing strategy and get his take on the house. Our house is not a typical design in terms of foundation, layout, or structure, so it's taking a bit a planning to figure out how everything is going to work. Brett did a great job of coming up with a plan for our underground plumbing and talked me through a lot of good ideas to consider for the rest of the house. I plan on hiring out the underground plumbing (under the concrete slab) and doing the rest myself.

Daily StatsHours Worked
All Time2321.520.582.5$13,496.75
Summary of 4/29/2014
Work Done Today
Underground trench for electric line, met plumber
Materials Used Today
Who Helped Today
Contractors On Site
Met Bowman Plumbing offsite to review plumbing plan

Monday, April 28, 2014

Day 22: Rain, Rain, Go Away


I've come to learn that rain and foundations don't mix. Or more specifically, rain and big holes in the ground don't mix. Unless you're shooting for a pond, in which case rain's a good thing. We were supposed to start our foundation last Monday, but our contractor was behind and pushed us to Wednesday, and then Friday. And now the rain's pushed us some more. We have several inches of standing water in the corner of our basement hole, which is having trouble evaporating since it keeps raining.

Side note: we drove up Sunday evening to look at the rain and mud, and ended up getting a a lot closer look at the mud than we'd have liked. I drove the van off the gravel and onto the clay, and immediately realized it was a bad idea. The van started sliding sideways slowly, tires spinning in the mud. Fortunately, Mandy had her mud boots and and jumped out to take some pictures. I meanwhile called Steve for a tow. I ended up being able to carefully get the van unstuck without the tow, and backed up the 1/4 mile drive in reverse.

We did manage to make a tiny bit of progress on utilities. The trencher and mini-excavator that will be putting in our underground line were dropped off today. They didn't do any work that I can see, but at least they're there. It will be good to have power at the job site. Maybe I can use it to run a small sump pump to get rid of the water in the basement.

All this delay is OK, because it gives us more time to work out the details of other undecided aspects of our build. We're finalizing the window sizes and brand. They have to be determined in advance since we're building a SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) house, which comes in large pre-cut panels with the holes for windows and doors already installed. Window shopping is hard stuff. There's a ton of info out there about a ton of different windows, and everyone has an opinion about which window is the best, but there's really no way to objectively measure them against each other. Comparing them is difficult because 1) you have to go to different locations to see actual windows, 2) prices are hard to come by for all the specific options and features, and 3) the government Energy-Star figures for windows really don't tell the whole picture about which window is the most energy efficient (surprise, surprise). I'll go more into our decision on what we used and why in a future post.

No stats today, as there really hasn't been any work done since the last posted stats.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 17: Fertilizer


Mandy's out of town at a blog conference for the rest of this week, so I ran up for a few minutes after work with the kids for a free meal and good company with Steve and Kim. Afterwards, the kids played in the dirt pile, rode the 4-wheeler and chased Bingo. Steve and I hooked up the broadcast spreader to the Mule and I put down 100lbs of lawn fertilizer on either side of the driveway. We're looking at rain over the next several days, so I wanted the rain to soak in the fertilizer with the seeds.

Here's a quick pic of the broadcast spreader:

The driveway has developed a few rough spots and bumps with the heavy trucks and settling, so I decided to try some light grading on it using the snowplow truck. It didn't work too well. The snowplow truck's hydraulics were acting up such that it was very difficult to raise the blade to the correct height. It did knock a few of the high spots down, but overall I did not have much luck in grading the drive. I think I need a tractor with a box blade and harrow. Or something like that.

This morning I met very briefly with the geothermal guys from ECS to identify the location of the horizontal loop. I also visited with the ground rough plumber about his strategy for installing the underslab plumbing.

Also, I've changed up the daily stats somewhat. As spreadsheets are typically the solution to most of the world's problems, I've started using a spreadsheet, which will allow me to track cumulative time.

Daily StatsHours Worked

All Time172120.566.5$75
Summary of 4/23/2014
Work Done Today
Spread lawn fertilizer near driveway, tried to grade driveway, met with geothermal.
Materials Used Today
100lbs fertilizer
Who Helped Today
Contractors On Site

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 15: Still Excavating the Basement


We're still digging a deeper hole. I thought we'd have the basement excavated at this point, but we're still working on it. The foundation subcontractor wasn't able to start today due to some other jobs going long, and it looks like he won't be there until Friday. That said, I'm not too concerned about not having the basement fully excavated. The hole is now fully dug and level, with just the last 6 inches or so to go, which will be done the day before the foundation starts. Seems like something I said that week. I've decided to not be too frustrated with delays that I can't control. I'll just go with the flow and enjoy the process. Being late allowed the kids to play in the hole a bit today, doing some mountain climbing.

Here's a shot of the foundation excavation from across the way. Steve is standing in the lower left corner. It's now level on the floor of the basement, with just some minor cleanout left to do.

Here's a shot of the time lapse camera that I have set up to track our progress. It's set to take a picture every 15 minutes.

 Standing on top of the foundation hole and looking down, it doesn't seem as big when using the panoramic setting on my camera.

After we looked at the hole, we headed back to visit with Grandma and Grandpa. Will flew his Spiderman kite fore a few minutes and the kids played with the kids.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 14: Happy Easter!

Sunday No work today, Sunday's a day of rest. Thank goodness. It's been a busy few weeks and I'm grateful for the chance to rest. We feel very blessed to have the opportunity to be building. It would not be possible without the help and support of so many. Most importantly, nothing would be possible without Him. Please take a moment this Easter to reflect upon our Savior Jesus Christ.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 13: Basement Excavation Continues


Saturdays are always a great working day, and today was no exception. The morning started off on two fronts, one with my activities and one with our subcontractor activities. Scroll down to the bottom for a brief time-lapse video of the last couple days' progress.

My activities started with buying grass seed and fertilizer. I wanted to have more "lawn-type" grass on either side of our long driveway, so that I could mow it in the future. I just love to mow, so the more lawn the better. I went down to Grass Pad and asked for a hearty mix that could survive without being watered. I came out with 150lbs of "Macho Mix" seed and three bags of fertilizer. After swinging by the house to grab the kids, I took them up to the land. The kids played with goats and road the four-wheeler while I grabbed the tractor and seeder. I first spread some of the Macho Mix with the broadcast spreader attached to the Mule while Steve worked on the tractor. Emmy helped by riding in the back of the Mule and regulating the amount of seed put out by the broadcast spreader. Abby helped by riding in the tractor with me for a few minutes.

I then used the tractor and seeder to finish the pasture seed in our field and put down the rest of the Macho Mix. FApparently I was having so much fun that I forget to take any pictures of myself. Where's Mandy when I need her?

The other front was handled by our subcontractors, Vanderford Construction. They continued the excavation of the basement. I thought that it was all roughed in yesterday, but after shooting it with the laser level it was found to need a couple more feet of depth. This meant a long more dirt coming out of that hole. The picture below was taken from the tractor around noon while I was seeding (you can see the disturbed soil from the seeder in the bottom right of the picture).

At around 1:00 pm I had to leave for a church responsibility. I came back around 7:00 PM and found the hole to be a few feet deeper. This also meant the level area behind the house had grown, as that is where the dirt had been placed from the basement excavation. Steve came out with me to check the progress.

I had Steve take a picture of me standing in the hole to give it some perspective.

Here is a view from the big hill to the south. It shows how the back yard is getting wider and deeper.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 12: The Basement Excavation Begins!


Today the excavation for the basement began. They used a front end loader to cut into the side of our hill to form a notch in which the basement will reside. Today the rough cut was made to get most of the dirt out. We hit hard clay fairly quickly. We used the clay to build up the back yard so that we have a flat area behind our house instead of a slope. It's exciting to see dirt move and the house footprint in real life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 11: T'was the Night Before Excavation


This evening I met with our basement excavator and walked the site to show him how we wanted thing. He'll start digging tomorrow. It's exciting to actually break ground, literally, for the house. He should have it finished up by Saturday evening. Our foundation guy will be starting on Wednesday of next week, so the excavator may leave a foot or so un-excavated in case it rains (it's not good to set the forms in mud).

While I was there I took a few pictures of the house site prior to the basement hole being cut. I should have more pictures tomorrow of a hole. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 9: No Work Today


No work today, but I did go up to the site with Will and Abby to check on how the driveway held up to the rain. It did quite well. It's starting to pack down, and will get better as we drive on it more.

I took a couple of quick pictures to get a record of how the site and land looks before the pasture grass starts coming up. The pictures are taken looking west at the house site, and then panning to the  south.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Driveway Timelapse

We wanted to track our progress via a time lapse camera, so we picked one up and tested it out with the driveway. Unfortunately, it ran out of batteries before the last day, but you can see the first few days of work.

Day 7: Rain


No work today, but we did go up to Steve and Kim's for Sunday dinner. While we were there, I checked out our land. We had a lot of rain overnight and throughout the day, and I wanted to see how the culverts held up. The rain seemed to have helped with the seeding of the pasture grass. The seed was worked in well with the earth, and wasn't being washed away.

On the way out to check the culverts I saw a friend walking out in the field. He was a big one. Could have been turtle soup if the right neighbors had been over. He was a big snapper. The bottom picture has my foot in it for some perspective of size.

Once I left the turtle, I checked out our culverts. The dirt work seemed to have done the trick, as all were draining correctly. It had been a pretty big downpour, so I was pleased to see that the runoff was fairly minimal. Most importantly, we had enough fall all the way down the hill to get the water to drain to the big culvert. There were no areas where water was running over the road. I'll do a little touch up by hand, but things are looking good.

It was also fun to see some water filling up the pond. Just a few feet in the bottom, but it's a start.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 6: Growing Grass


Today was the last day for the excavators to be out working on the driveway. They touched up a few spots for a couple hours. It looks really nice, and I'm pleased with their work. While they were there, Steve had them dig a small pond in the back of his lot. We're hoping it fills up soon!

I also cleared a place for the electrical transformer to go. Reed helped by driving the stake from PCEC into the spot to mark it for the workers.

The big event of the day was planting the pasture seed. Steve had borrowed a seeder from one friend and a tractor from another. We're blessed to have good friends to loan equipment to amateurs like ourselves. He had bought pasture seed from the local co-op, and we were ready to go to work. The seeder took a little effort to get it adjusted just right.

Once we got everything lined up with the tractor and seeder, we filled up the seeder hopper and Steve seeded his pasture. The seeder is basically a heavy roller with spikes on it, with two smaller spiked rollers in front of it. There is a hopper above the rollers with a small auger that trickles seeds out onto the rollers. The rollers disturb the earth, allowing the seeds to fall into soil, rather than just fall on top of it. Steve did about 8 acres behind his place with around 200 lbs of seed. He had some help.

After Steve finished, it was my turn on the tractor. I did about 8 acres with 250 lbs of seed. I started at 7:00 PM and went until 9:30 PM. By the time I finished it was pretty dark and the front tractor lights were out, so my lines might not have been the straightest. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, so we were hoping to get the seed down before the rain hit. I have about 2 more acres to go, but we ran out of seed.

I also finished the last 10 ft of fence repair. Reed was a big help with this small project. We had to clear the brush next to the corner post that we set on Wednesday and then tie a piece of goat fence from the corner post to the next line of fence heading south. I pounded in another steel post, and Reed got to see a manual post driver for the first time. He was pretty impressed.

In between these tasks I cleared out some brush from the front part area. It had a lot of downed limbs and thorn bushes, so it was slow going.The kids helped by picking up sticks and tossing them onto a future burn pile. They worked hard, avoiding the thorn bushes and locust tree branches. Will wasn't into picking up sticks, so I had him pick up big gravel rocks along the side of the road and throw them back onto the road. This worked pretty well, until he started throwing them over the road. After a bit of retraining, he did a pretty good job, until he decided that drawing in the dirt was more fun.

Somewhere in the evening, we took a quick break and had a picnic dinner. It was our first meal at the new house, so to speak. We even walked to where the dining room will be to make it official.

Daily Stats:

Work done: touched up driveway, finished fence, trimmed front park area, planted pasture seed
Hours worked (me): 8.5
Hours worked (friends/family): 6 (Steve, Reed, Emmy, Abby, Will)
Hours worked (contractor estimate): 8
Contractor: Grishm Farm and Construction
Materials used: 24" x 20' doubled 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day 5: Finishing the Driveway


Mid-morning I received a text from the excavators stating that they were ready for the next round of geotextile fabric. If I could hurry and get it down, they'd be able to unload the gravel from the dump trucks directly onto the fabric instead of dumping it in piles and spreading it with the loaders. So I hustled up to the site and texted a friend who happened to be off work that day (thanks, Preston!). We were able to put in the last 1,000 or so feet of fabric in about an hour and staple it down. After the fabric was laid, the gravel was placed by the dump trucks, with a little help from the uniloader.

The work continued throughout the day with several more loads of gravel. By the end of the day the gravel was placed all the way to the end of the driveway. We didn't go quite up to the house site since we'll be moving some of the dirt at the top of the hill when we dig out the basement.

This afternoon at 1:00 I also met with the engineer from Platte Clay Electric, our local cooperative electric company, do discuss bringing power to the home. We reviewed two options: overhead vs. underground. The advantage of an overhead power line is that it will be installed at no cost. Free is always good. The disadvantage is that the poles would be running along the fence and would be an eyesore. The overhead lines would also be in the way years down the road when the trees that will eventually line the drive get bigger.

The advantage of underground is that it is out of sight, out of mind. The disadvantage is that it is not free. The co-op will put it in at their cost, which is a bargain, but it is still move expensive than free.

We'll likely go with underground. Even though it is a bit more expensive now, it will be a better value in the long run.

Daily Stats:

Work done: final grading, placed geotextile fabric, placed gravel
Hours worked (me): 1
Hours worked (friends/family): 1 (Preston)
Hours worked (contractor estimate): 15
Contractor: Grishm Farm and Construction
Materials used: 1,000' geotextile 4oz fabric, gravel

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 4: More Driveway Fun


Today we continued with the excavation. The final grading of the remainder of the drive was almost finished. The highlight of the day was deciding that we didn't need three culverts after all. We had planned on needing three culverts: an 18" tube towards the middle of the drive between two hills, an 18" tube at the three-quarter point of the drive between one hill and a small rise (picture below), and a 24" tube in the ditch (discussed yesterday). Prior to today, the 24" tube had already been placed. The first 18" tube was placed this morning.

The third tube was to be placed today. Fortunately, once the grading was complete, our excavator noticed that we were pretty close to having "fall", or a decline, from the top of the hill all the way to the 24" tube at the ditch. We looked at it a little closer and agreed that if we took a bit more dirt off the rise (near the wood fence posts in the right of the picture) then we would likely be able to channel all the water down to the 24" tube. We'll verify Friday with the laser level.

Daily Stats:

Work done: excavation, placed small culvert
Hours worked (me): 0
Hours worked (friends/family): 0
Hours worked (contractor estimate): 16
Contractor: Grishm Farm and Construction
Materials used: 18" x 20' doubled walled plastic culvert, gravel

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day 3: I Finally Get to Help, and Get Help, Thanks to the Goats


Up until now I've been a spectator, watching the excavator guys do their work but lifting nary a finger myself. Today I was finally able to get my hands dirty and join the fun.

The excavators had graded and compacted the first 400 feet of driveway and were ready to start placing gravel. This meant that I needed to get the geotextile fabric in place. I had been warned that it was a very difficult thing to do when windy, since the 12.5 ft wide fabric turns into a sail and can easy pull you down the field. Hence, I was wary and thought I'd need some help.

Fortunately, Steve and Kim's goat (my in-laws/, the goats aren't my in-laws, but Steve and Kim are...the goats I guess do count as neighbors) had twin babies the night before, so many of the relatives from the area headed up the farm for the evening. After getting their fill of baby goats, they were easy recruits for lending a hand.

Our first task involved laying the geotextile fabric in place and rolling it out. I had the kids on hand to help stand on it since it was so windy, on the off chance that they might be able to get a birds-eye-view of the land should the fabric be carried airborne and the kids be lucky enough to hang on for the ride. Unfortunately, it was much less eventful in practice. We rolled out about 10 feet, stapled it to the ground with landscaping pins, and rinsed and repeated. The wind never got a chance to carry it off.

After we got the fabric down, the loaders came in behind us and placed gravel on the fabric.

After getting about 500' of the fabric down, we unrolling for the day as the grading was not complete for the remainder of the road.

We then moved on to the ditch area, where the large culvert was placed. A corner of the hill was removed to make more room for the road. Unfortunately, there was a fence on that corner that had to be torn down. Since the farmer next door keeps a horse and a donkey on that pasture, we needed to get the fence back up as soon as possible. Fortunately, Paul, Matt and Mike were willing to help out with the chore. We loaded up the post hole digger behind the mule and headed off.

It took until 9:00PM, but eventually we got the corner post set, two more wood posts, and four metal posts. We then uncoiled the barb wire (not a fun chore at night) and put it back up. It now looks better than new.

Daily Stats:

Work done: excavation, placed big culvert
Hours worked (me): 5
Hours worked (friends/family): 12 (Steve, Reed, Abby, Will, Emmy, Mike, Paul, Brody, Matt)
Hours worked (contractor estimate): 9.5
Contractor: Grishm Farm and Construction
Materials used: 400' of 12.5' geotextile 4oz fabric, gravel, fence posts