Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Week of Firsts!

Last week of course was our first Thanksgiving at the J-B, now this week we had several more firsts. Our most surprising was our first Christmas card received at our South Dakota address! We have not received a Christmas card in years so when we got the mail this past Tuesday we were thrilled to have gotten a Christmas card from our good friends and neighbors Jim and Brenda who are wintering in Florida this winter. Thanks guys!
Rather than go into detail about our next first I will just post this picture…..
Our first fire! Actually, we had our 2nd, 3rd and 4th fires as well but the first fire was a very special moment. 

After having it set in place late last week we were anxious to actually get it operational. The biggest challenge to accomplishing this goal was punching the 10” pipe through the roof. Scary! But fear not, we have Kevin here! We started it late one afternoon. We put the firerock in place, stacked the pipe from the fireplace up and punched a hole through the vapor barrier and insulation. This is where we received our first stroke of good luck. The pipe went directly between two trusses so there was no need for an offset or any other adjustments. The next step was to install the insulation shield which is quite a bit bigger than the actual pipe and offers air space between the pipe and the insulation or anything else that might come close to the pipe. Once that was done, Barb lifted Kevin up to the roof with the basket on the skidsteer. Good news/bad news up there. The bad news was that the roof was covered with about 2"'s of ice and snow. The good news was that the penetration point was only about 3’ up the edge of the roof. So for that day we just cleared off as much snow and ice as we could and called it a day. The next afternoon we went back up there and as we had hoped the sun had cleared off any remnants of ice on the area we had cleared. Kevin laid down a section of rubber-backed carpet, jumped up on roof and started cutting. An hour later we had the pipe through the roof and we were ready for our first fire!
Next step, build the frame up to the ceiling
Another first was the first time (and hopefully the last) I was in our cistern. For the past year or two our cistern pump was temporarily hooked up to an outlet out by the RV parking area. But over the past couple weeks I had been building the parts around the pressure tank showing our neighbor Doug (who is a licensed plumber) how I was building it. 
Ready for water!
Once that was done it was time for me to jump down into the cistern and hook the well pump into the pipe going underground into the house and eventually into the pressure tank. I had been waiting until the cistern was almost empty as I did not feel like jumping in a 2500 gallon tank that was half full!

I wrapped the legs of our ladder in clean plastic, put on my waders and scrubbed them with a water/bleach solution and was ready to head down into the depths of the cistern! One problem. I did not fit! Between the ladder and me donned in waders there was not enough room to get my fat @ss down the hole. After thinking about it for a few minutes I came up with the perfect solution and pulled the ranger up as close to the hole as I could, made a loop with the winch rope stuck my foot, through it and had Barb lower me down into the cistern Batman style! It worked like a charm. The only problem is that Barb was thinking of putting the lid back on and having me "take a timeout". Luckily she could not lift the concrete lid and the only thing I had to worry about is whether she was going to lift me back up. She must love me as she brought be back up and a few minutes later we had water in the house! We had a few drips on some of the connections around the pressure tank. It started out with about 8 areas that were dripping, but one by one I eliminated each one. 
Down I go!

Help me!

Barb thinking of putting the cover back on!
Speaking of Doug our neighbor, he has spent two days over here running water lines and sewer pipes. He has the entire upstairs bathroom plumbing done and just need the waterlines tied off up there and we will have an operational bathroom! No sheetrock on the walls, but it will be operational. It is called an open concept bathroom.

With less than two weeks left we have a checklist of things we would like to get done before we leave. Most of it is around finishing off walls as we hope to have a sheetrocker come in while we are down south. I needed to do the ½ wall in the bathroom...….
1/2 Wall in the downstairs bathroom
The ½ wall for the dog wash. This wall also serves as the water supply and drain area for the washing machine as well. 
Before

Still need add a stud and run waterlines 
 Soffits around the boiler venting and plumbing pipes.
Soffited and ready for sheetrock


And last but not least finish the closet in the upstairs bedroom.
Bedroom closet, done!
We just need to finish the rest of the waterlines and we will be ready for sheetrock!

The turkeys and deer visit us daily. In fact it has gotten so the turkeys don't leave at all spending most of their day under the birdfeeder waiting for the other birds to drop seeds down to them. 


In the meantime we have also been busy getting ready to leave. High on our list is emptying as much as we can out of the 5th wheel so it is ready to sell once we get down to Arizona. Here is a link to our ad if you know anyone who might be interested.

We have not picked a departure date yet, it depends on when we get everything done here and are all packed up. We are thinking by the 16th at the latest. Looking forward to the warmer weather and happy hours with our Quartzsite friends!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Thanksgiving, Great Friends and Great Progress on the House!

The past two weeks has been a whirlwind of activity and a whirlwind of weather. We went from 50's to teens pretty much over night, but it is so beautiful!
Entrance to our driveway on a cold frosty morning
We were trying to get the finishing touches done on a couple of things in the house before the snow and before Kevin and Cheryl arrived on the 23rd. And we did it!

We got all the vapor barrier done and sealed up and we got heat! 
Look at all that vapor barrier!
As promised the heating contractor arrived on the 16th and finished up the job, turned the system on and left. He said it should take about 24 hours for the system to get up to temp. When we woke up the next morning and went into the house it was 72 degrees! And for most of you that know us 72 is like a sauna. So we dialed it down a bit and love the new system. For those of you who have had in-floor heat before you will know exactly what I mean when I say I don't know why we did not do this in our other houses, it is the best heat that we have ever experienced. It heats the entire house, the concrete, the wood, the walls, the furniture and it stays heated without running for long periods of time. 

With our old forced air systems it would be hot while the furnace is running but as soon as it turned off you could slowly feel the temperatures dropping. With this system you don't feel that at all and you don't hear it. It makes a noise comparable to a refrigerator. The one thing I don't like about it is that you should pick a temperature and leave it there both day and night as it takes so long to get to the new temp. This means no turning it down to 48 at night. We have found that 67 is the optimal temperature during the day while in the house working but at night I am hotter than hell at that temp. I am trying to get used to it but so far it is not totally working. 

Speaking of that we bought a bed and are now sleeping in the house. It is just a temporary blow up one but we figured it would be nice to have when/if the grandkids come to visit. 
Still a construction zone but we have a temporary bed! (torn screen in the background)
We also got the remaining soffit and fascia up and boy was that a chore! The final day I had to get it done as Kevin was arriving and was going to repossess his skidsteer, The problem was not the work itself, it was the 20-30mph winds that kept trying to blow me off the rack  and even blew off soffit panels after I put them up. One particularly strong gust blew 6 panels off in one gust and of course one of the panels hit the bedroom window ripping an 8" gash into the screen....frustrating! In the end I got it done.

While Barb was busy inside and I was busy outside the dogs would just sit in the rig and wait for us to take breaks or be done. This is what they looked like before we went out to work a couple of mornings, just a rough life! 


They do have a rough life don't they!
We had ordered some 4"x12"x8' wood from the local saw mill and had it drying in the garage over the past few months. Now that it is drier and lighter we cut them into 42" stair treads! When we are close to finishing the house these treads will be sanded, stained and varnished.

Once Kevin and Cheryl arrived it was like putting it into overdrive workwise. We moved all the equipment over to their place and got to work. They had not been here since September when we did our roof and only had 7 days this trip to get as much done as they could. Barb and Cheryl worked on insulating their bedroom while Kevin and I buried a gas line, installed the barn doors in the stables, worked on the fireplace, framed the upstairs and did some electrical. It was 50 the first day, 40 the second and after that no day got over the low 30's. Chilly to say the least. But we did get a lot done.
Hand made barn doors out of rough sawn pine

First fire in their fireplace!
Thursday, Thanksgiving, was not a day of rest for us. We worked at our place framing in the corner of the living room for our fireplace! Barb drove to Spearfish on Tuesday (in a snow storm) to pick it up. Our neighbor Doug and his son came over to help us carry it into the house, at over 500#'s it is a beast.
Before.....
Just getting started....
By the time we got the platform built to put it on Dan and Bonnie had arrived and Kevin, Dan and I got it up on the platform. Enough progress for the day, time for turkey!

Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of my favorite holidays of the year. Our Thanksgiving tradition over the years, like many others, is to watch football, eat way too much and spend time with friends and family. There was only two wrinkles in this plan, we have no family in the area and we do not have TV! Or do we?
Not done but we got the platform done! And the TV up!
Barb was able to solve the TV dilemma by calling DirecTV and having them come install a dish on the house. I won't go into great detail about what a fiasco that was but after she was gone an hour I came in the rig to see how it was going. She was on hold and when I asked her how it was going I got an earful! She went told me she had been transferred 5 times, could not understand 1/2 the people she talked too and was getting absolutely no where. This is the tame version of what she actually said to me and a few expletives were thrown in there as well.

Well apparently she was not on hold and the operator was listening to our entire conversation. After hearing Barb's rant she waived the $300 equipment and installation charge, gave her a $70 dollar credit and had the installer out the next day. A supervisor even called to make sure she was satisfied. I guess it pays to rant when you think you are on hold!
Dish being installed!
Barb cooked a turkey on the Pitboss, made two pies (pumpkin and key lime), and all the fix'ens. It was a great meal and great company. Certainly a Thanksgiving I don't think we will ever forget. It was so nice sharing it with good friends.
Dan, Bonnie, Barb, Cheryl and Kevin
Our house is really becoming a home, we are falling in love with it more and more as make progress on each area. We cleared a couple trees in the front that really opened up the view down the valley. One day we had beautiful sunset.....
The next day we had an incredible snowscape complete with deer walking within yards of the house!
Kevin and Cheryl were supposed to leave Sunday but they closed I90 Friday night and all day Saturday so they thought it might be a good idea to let the roads clear one more day so they are going to leave on Monday. That give us one more day to make progress on both our places. Who knows we may even have our fireplace operational by our next post!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Coming to an LTVA Near You!

What’s coming to an LTVA near you? Well, several things but first for those of you who don’t know what an LTVA is…… It is a Long Term Visitor Area; BLM land that offers long term camping. Before we went fulltime we had no idea what an LTVA was but we quickly relied on them as one of our main camping locations in the winter. 


Some are free, some come with a fee. We typically buy the multi month permit for $180 which is good for multiple LTVA’s as you travel around. Shorter term 14 day permits can be purchased for $40.


You can get information on BLM campgrounds at their BLM Website.


So what is coming to an LTVA near you? In just a few short weeks we are! We are headed to Quartzsite Arizona for a much needed break. Our favorite LTVA down there is La Posa South mainly because that is where all of our friends stay but we also like the fact that it has fresh water and a dump station. 


When we bought our rig in 2014 we did so specifically with boondocking in mind. Which is why we equipped it with 900 watts of solar as well as dual pane windows and the arctic package. We run everything we need on the solar except run the air conditioner and fireplace. We also carry (2) Honda 2000 generators in case we need to run the AC or it is cloudy for multiple days but we have found that we rarely use them. 
We also made another huge decision in the past week! 

We had originally planned on taking our Lance pick up camper on this journey but since we listed our Cardinal 5th wheel for sale we thought this would be the perfect place to show it off to like-minded RV’ers and hopefully sell it.  


The dilemma was that we wanted to bring our Ranger UTV with us as well as there are so many good trails down there. We had a couple of choices…. 
  1. Drive the 5th wheel down from South Dakota (19 hours/1300 miles) to Quartzsite Arizona drop it off and turn around and go get the UTV. Seems ridiculous but we were seriously considering it.  
  2. Drive the 5th wheel and the Jeep pulling the trailer with the Ranger.
  3. Not bring the 5th wheel, just take the camper and pull the trailer with the Ranger in it. 
  4. Forget the Ranger altogether and just take the 5th wheel and try to sell it.
After talking (or listening) with Barb is quickly became apparent that the Ranger was coming one way or another. So option #4 was out. 


We had taken the Jeep/Ranger combo unit in the past with a smaller Ranger and trailer so that was an option. But a quick test drive on the roads in the Black Hills showed that that was not really feasible. Just not enough power to pull the bigger Ranger/Trailer set up so option #2 was out. 


We also decided that we really wanted to bring the 5th wheel as there is probably no better place to sell a set up like ours. So that eliminated option #3.


That left only option #1; Drive the 5th wheel down from South Dakota, drop it off and turn around and go get the UTV. Ugh! I really did not want to do that! That would be 2,600 additional miles, almost 40 additional hours and about $1,000 in extra fuel.


That’s when we came up with option #5. Tow the Ranger/trailer behind the 5th wheel! Crazy I know but we have seen lots of people do it. A quick check of the states we would be going through showed that it was legal plus it accomplishes everything we want. Problem is our hitch on the 5th wheel is not big enough. Well, $500 later and a visit from a custom welding shop in Custer and we are ready to double tow saving us both time and money!



We will take it slow and easy and I am sure it will be fine. Plus, with luck it will only be one way. We plan on getting flyers made, posting them on the LTVA bulletin boards as well as others throughout town. If anyone has additional suggestions let us know and if you know anyone looking for an awesome rig give them this link and send them to La Posa South! We are very motivated sellers!


On the home front, we are still plugging away on getting things buttoned up. 

The insulation is all done and we are working on the vapor barrier. For anyone wondering putting a 20'x30' sheet of plastic on the ceiling is not a 2 person job, but we got it done!
Barb hiding behind the ladder

Me getting frustrated 
The soffit took a back seat while we tried to wrap up the insulation but I have about 1/2 of it done. 


And the heat? They said they would be back this week to finish up. Today is Friday and they called this morning to say they would be out tomorrow, we shall see!


I have a really cute trail cam picture to share …. Plus I got a deer! (warning dead deer picture below really cute bunny picture!)

Hopefully the sausage will be done in time for the happy hours in Quartzsite!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

A Tale of Insulating, Heating and Soffits

Last week at this time we ended our blog with this statement: "With luck our heat will be installed and this time next week we could be fully insulated and heated!"

Well, it thrills me to say that……. Hopefully next week at this time we will be fully insulated and heated!

What happened? Some, but not enough. Everything just seems to take longer than anticipated. Barb has been going crazy on the insulation and I have been working on the soffit.

One of the things that stresses us out about building a house yourself and that is the fact that we cannot do everything and need to have to subcontract out some things.  Relying on other people to come when they said they would and do the work they promised (and sometimes paid in advance for) is very frustrating!

The first was the garage door guy who was over a month later than promised. We were really stressed with him as he wanted $5,000 in advance to pay for the materials then would not return our calls or texts. He finally got the job done but it was literally more than a month after he said it would be done.

The second was our heating guy. Although he did not ask for any money up front he was over a week later than promised, And again, very poor at communicating; why he missed the scheduled date or when he will be out. Calls, emails, text go pretty much ignored. I get there may be delays but at least communicate them! He did not show up last week as promised. He finally did show up this past Thursday morning unexpectedly and got most of the installation complete.

That is one drawback of not using a local and well known contractor is that you are on the bottom of the list and their bread and butter customers get put ahead of you. We dealt with that on another house that we built where we did not do any of the building but acted as the contractor subbing out the installs so we were aware of delays but it still raises the blood pressure!

Well, at least the boiler is installed and hopefully he will be back next week as promised for the final hookup. The system itself looks great! It is a combination fire tube boiler for heating the in-floor heat and a tankless hot water heater for our domestic hot water needs. Kevin said he has installed a lot of them over the years and are a good unit. The specific one we got is a new model and is supposed to be more efficient and have a longer life than its predecessor.
The unit itself is about 4'x2' so you can get an idea of the overall size
There are a few things one does not think about when it comes to having systems like this installed such as venting and getting a gas line to the system. Well, we actually did think of the gas line and had an idea where we wanted to run it. We also had them install a run for our stove while they were at it. The venting was another story. Because the main unit was being installed under the stairs, they could not go straight up into the floor space and out the side of the house. Instead they had to go out sideways into the laundry room then up into the floor. It will require me to soffit around a small section of pipe but it is in an area you will not even notice it.
He was able to stack them so they took up less room
As I said, Barb has been busy insulating the ceiling. She has the entire loft area done and is now working off the scaffolding in the great room. I have yet to even touch a piece of insulation, she seems content to do it all on her own. She has had to google a few things and call Forrest and Kevin a few times but it is all going well. For example; How do you insulated around the can lights? Well, there are a couple kinds of can lights, some you can insulated right up to (type IC), others you have to build a box around. We did not consider this when picking out and installing our lights. Luckily the ones we picked out were the type that allowed for insulating right up to them and she carried on.
Barb sitting on the job again, 16' in the air!
She only has had one mishap, well actually two. When she was using the staple gun to tack the insulation to the ceiling she accidently hit her thumb. It hurt enough that she quit for the day but she was right back at it the next day and within an hour or so she stapled one of her fingers!

The soffiting is going well. Putting up the F Channel and cutting the soffits to length were a little more time consuming than I anticipated. For anyone doing this in the future I would recommend a corded circular saw. Cutting steel with the battery operated DeWalt burns through the batteries pretty quickly.
Yes, I am wearing safety glasses
Once the F Channel is up and soffits cut to length, the actual putting them up goes pretty quick. Especially when your neighbor has a staple gun that punches through steel that he offers to borrow you!

The hardest thing, or I should say the most strenuous was putting up the high pieces of firerock between the house and the garage. It is only 8 upper level pieces but really hate doing it so I have been putting it off only doing 2-3 pieces the last few weeks. Now that we are almost all the way insulated I need to get it done. The problem is that I have to cut the pieces to fit the roof angle then position the sheetrock at the base of the ladder, push it 12’ up the ladder while trying to climb it.
A 12' x 4' piece of 5/8" sheet rock weighs a little over 105 lbs.
Up we go!

1/2 way there!

Almost lost it!

Success!
As if trying to push it up the ladder is not hard enough, then I have to get it onto the 5/8” ledge of the piece below it, slide it into place then screw it to the wall. Strenuous and nerve-wracking all at the same time!

The weather cooperated this week with 40's, 50's and even a day in the 60's! But the bottom is falling out the next few days.

Funny story of the week comes from our daughter Jessica. For the past few years every Halloween she buys back some of the candy her kids get for .25 each. In year past they get so much that they would be on a sugar high for weeks. Well this year was another banner year for the kids especially when they went to their neighbors who work at Hersey and dumped an entire bag into each of the kids candy sacks! She ended up buying back over $30 worth of candy .25 at a time from EACH of the kids and they still had plenty left over for their sugar high!

Our disgusting story of the week happened just tonight. I wanted to get the tanks dumped before the couple of cold days. Since we have a dump station right in the garage it is not a big deal. Well, I hooked up the hoses, pulled the black tank only to find out of the hoses had a huge hole in it! Ugh! I shut it off but it was a little late. Nothing a little bleach and water won't fix.

On the deer hunting front, the big one is still eluding me but I did get a picture of one of the little guys ripping up one of our pine trees!
And I saw this guy a couple times, he is big bit still not big enough!
Well, we are full of water and ready for the cold snap, we did not winterize this time as it looks as though we can survive single digits. Wish us luck!