Friday, March 29, 2019

1 Year, 11 Months in the Making.........

What an exciting week, after years of dreaming and planning we finally got our first wall up on our house!  April of 2017 we bought our 45 acres in the Black Hills, that fall we had the septic and a cistern installed as well as the building site graded, the summer of 2018 we put in the underground plumbing and a few weeks later concreted. Now, we have our first wall up!

It is going to be a long slow build as we are doing everything ourselves and as we can pay for it. After our 3 week apprenticeship at Kevin’s we felt dangerously confident. Thankfully before Kevin left we squared out the building perimeter with chalk lines.
Squaring up the building
He even went as far as laying out each of the interior walls so we know exactly where to put each of the walls. We followed that up by marking each of the corners with permanent marker in case the rain washed away the chalk lines.
Laying out the walls
Idiot proof right? Well, lets hope so! One confidence builder was the fact that all the plumbing lines I installed last year hit exactly in the walls like they were supposed to!
All the plumbing pipes fell into the 2x6 wall, Whew!
Our confidence rapidly dwindled as soon as we started on the first wall. Luckily Kevin is just a phone call away and his house is just down the road so we can run over and answer many of our questions just by looking at what we did at his house.
First wall up! The girls are looking through the bedroom windows
After we got this first wall up we called it a day not wanting to push our luck or our temperament. Do you know what it is like building a house with your wife standing over your shoulder watching you pound every nail? I would not recommend home building as part of couples therapy. We have had a few incidents (okay more than a few) but overall we work pretty well as a team.  

That night and the next morning we just could not help looking out the back window of the rig at our one lonely wall. So far our bodies are holding up the only thing that is giving us trouble are our hands. Both my and Barb's hands are tingling pretty much constantly, probably from overuse, we will have to deal with it as that is not going to change anytime soon.

The next day was Two Wall Tuesday when we got the wall between the garage and house up as well as the wall between the bedroom and bathroom!

Wall between house and garage

Bedroom wall up
Wednesday we worked all day on the plumbing wall in the bathroom. It was a slow and tedious wall.
The bathroom looks like a long tunnel!
Thursday we worked on doors and closets putting in the door frames for the bathroom and bedroom as well as the closets in the bedroom.
Bathroom and Bedroom doors

Bedroom closets
By the end of the day we are pretty tuckered out.
 I collapsed right on the foundation while the dogs at least wait until we got back inside.

Over the next few months we will continue to chip away, wall by wall hoping to get it weather tight by winter. Here is a peek of the blueprint and although we are making some minor changes along the way this is pretty much what it will look like when it is all done in...….. God only knows!
The highlighted areas are what we got done this week

Loft overlooking the great room
On one of our ventures out we stopped by the neighbor who is a cattle rancher. He informed us he will be moving the cattle into the Jordan’s pasture which abuts our property. Knowing there was a wire down on the fence Barb and I set out to repair it before the cattle arrived. Finding the break I grabbed one end of the wire, pulled it and reached out with my other hand grabbing the other wire so I could pull them together and splice them. One thing I did not consider…… was that by grabbing a wire in each hand I completed the circuit of the electric fence that I forgot was on!  After screaming like a little girl I promptly drove the 4 wheeler over to the fencer, turned it off and completed the repair. On the bright side, Barb really likes by new afro!

All work and no play makes from a grumpy couple so made sure we got out and did something other than build. Barb chose fishing so off we went to our favorite fishing hole. Although we did not get skunked, the fish did not really cooperate so there was no trout for dinner that night!

Even though the trout weren't biting, the scenery was beautiful!
Friday was forecasted for rain  and snow so we ventured into Rapid City to Black Hills Builders Home Show where we walked each of the aisles getting some ideas...… For some reason she kept gravitating towards the hot tubs, we now have brochures from every hot tub vendor that was there.

But she did get a couple cool ideas and we saw a display of a log that showed how many boards they can get out of it that was pretty interesting.
She wants this in our laundry room but thinks she can make it
Pretty cool huh?
We are thrilled with our progress after 4 days, tomorrow the weather improves so we will be back out there and start building again!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Barndominium Build Continues!

Three weeks into Kevin’s build we are making great progress! Beyond learning a lot about the building process we have realized far more. It is something I guess we knew but never really put a lot of thought into it. This realization is that there is no better feeling than helping someone be successful or realizing their dreams. It is part of what energizes us. Whether it be at The Farm, Pasha Lake or now helping Kevin build his house. Helping someone you care about be successful is very rewarding. Yes, the work can be hard but it is well worth it.

A little over a week ago we had all the first floor framing up along with 3 of the 4 garage/horse stall walls.
Over the past two weeks we started the walls and decking on the 2nd level.....
First section of the 2nd level!
Kevin putting the top plate on

A section of trusses going up!

2nd level decking down
Next up was trusses and roofing on the wings......

Unfortunately we did not meet Kevin’s goals for his 3 weeks here. Cold temperatures and 2 snow days really hampered progress.

This is where the house sits today, roofing and waterproofing on one of the wings and the rest of the house ready for trusses  and roofing. If we had those several lost snow days back we would had all the trusses, roofing and windows in but now we will have to wait until sometime in April.

Speaking of snow, in the past 10 days we went from a winter wonderland……
.…to a muddy mess with very little snow.

So what does one do when you run across a road covered in water? You plow right through it of course! 

Good way to wash off the mud!
Good news bad news. It is nice to have the warmer weather but there is mud everywhere! We cannot get up our driveway without 4 wheel drive and some of the roads are totally flooded. 
One of several muddy spots on our driveway
We have had a couple heavy truck deliveries at our place the past week. We had 1250 gallons of water delivered for our cistern, our first two loads of lumber for our house build as well as a 500 gallon propane tank. We try to time the deliveries for first thing in the morning when the ground is still frozen but that is not always possible resulting in huge ruts in the driveway. 
No more running to town for propane every couple of days!

The lumber trucks certainly did not help the driveway!
The cool news is that our water hole that has been dry the last couple years is now totally full of water! I doubt it will stay long but it is nice to have for a little while. We are going to look into lining it with bentonite so it will hold water year round. 

With Kevin now gone things have quieted down a bit and we did get out on one adventure when we stopped by a small school house/church/cemetery from the 1880's out in the middle of nowhere. The surrounding area is virtually untouched and you could almost imagine kids walking from the surrounding hills to go to school
An inordinate number of headstones just said "Baby Smith" or some other last name.  Times must have been very tough back then. While many of the dates on the headstones were from the late 1800's and early 1900's there were a couple as recent as the last couple years.

We are going to take a couple of down days and then start our house hitting it pretty hard. As a whole, the thought of taking a pile of lumber and building our own house from the ground up is overwhelming. But we are going to take it wall by wall taking our time so it does not become too daunting.  By our next post we should have a couple of walls up!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Jim and Barb Build a House!

Boy, what a difference a week can make! It was less than a week ago we were in Texas walking the trails of Palo Duro Canyon. Two days and 700 miles later we found ourselves in the frigid snow country of South Dakota.

I thought this blog post was aptly named since our last one was titled Jim and Barb Go on a Hike. But before I get into the house building I want to take you back a couple years, 5+ years actually when Barb and I were both working and living in western Wisconsin. We long had a dream of moving out to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We also have a good friend Kevin who had the same dream so two years ago we both started looking for property out here.

The Black Hills area, containing Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave, Custer State Park and Devils Tower, is actually a lot bigger than most people think. Stretching over 100 miles north to south from Spearfish to Hot Springs and east to west almost 80 miles from Rapid City to near Sundance Wyoming.  So what were the odds that we would find property near each other? Pretty good actually since being within ½ hour of Kevin was part of our search criteria. In the end we ended up within 15 minutes of each other when Kevin found 22 acres just east of Pringle and we found 45 acres just south of Pringle.

We both decided to build what some call a Shouse (Shed/House) and others call a Barndominium defined as a type of house that includes living space attached to either a workshop or a large garage. Some are constructed with large poles like pole buildings and others are stick-built like conventional houses. We both decided on the stick-built option.  So maybe I should have titled this post Jim and Barb Build a Barndominium. 

But since Kevin builds houses for a living perhaps it should be titled Kevin Builds another House. But I think a more appropriate title is Kevin Builds a House while Jim and Barb do What Kevin Tells Them to do. Kevin’s wife, Cheryl will of course be part of the crew as well but could not make it out this trip. Whatever you call it, the four of us (and anyone who makes the mistake of stopping by) will be building two houses this spring and summer.

Day one included clearing the snow off the concrete foundation we poured last fall. Then it was on to snapping lines to square and layout the building. After two days several of the outside walls were up. Progress appears to go fast when constructing walls as it goes from nothing to a partial building.

A good start but a long way to go!

View out the kitchen window
There are challenges to building in the winter that one does not really think about. A lot of the boards have ice or snow on them and need to be dried off before adhering them to the concrete.
We used a propane torch to dry off the boards
Barb attaching sill seal to the bottom plate
Then there is the snow, when we pulled in thanks to our neighbor, our place looked like this....
Two days later after getting 5 "s of snow it looked like this.....

But the work must continue. The three of us spend 2 hours shoveling his foundation after this storm so we could continue. Kevin is here for 3 weeks so we need to get as much done as possible. We are working from about 10am to 6pm each day. Most of the days the temps have been in the 20's, one day it only it 17 and one day it actually hit the mid 30's!

Bathroom wall going up
Bathroom all done!
The building itself has an 18' center living area with outside sidewalls at 9'. The "shed" part of the building is actually 1/2 horse stalls and 1/2 garage with the same heights as the house.
18' gable end going up
Standing up in place
Then it was onto the mudroom and kitchen walls....
Mudroom closet
We cannot complete all the outside walls yet as we need the skid loader to lift the upstairs walls and a few beams in place. For the smaller posts and beams we are hand carrying these 200# beasts up scaffolding and ladders. 
Setting the first post in place
The first 8x8 beam 
The 2nd 8x8 beam
First set of beams in place!
Barb and I are learning a lot. Kevin will layout a wall, I will build it, he will inspect it and we put it up. I am learning a lot about building headers, wall partitions and corners. All of this will definitely come in handy in a few weeks when we start our place!

It is hard to visualize from these pictures but in the coming weeks I will continue to post pictures of our progress and it will all make sense.

Speaking of our place, Barb picked up the building permit yesterday. A whole $350, a fraction of the price we would have paid in Wisconsin. Plus the clerk helped her fill out the paperwork and handed her the permit right over the counter. Gotta love small towns with no red tape!