Sunday, July 23, 2023

What Was Your Punishment?

As a young lad I seemed to be in trouble a lot. Coming from a family of 7, with 6 other siblings, my mom and dad had their hands full. I honestly do not know how they did it. My little brother and I were the last two of the 7 and gave my mom fits. "Wait til your father gets home" were daily phrases in our house. 

What kind of trouble did we get in? Mostly not listening and disobeying. There was the occassional sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar, fighting with/teasing my siblings. We often ate supper as a family and could not leave the table until all our food was gone and we were excused. I quickly learned what our dog, Patches, liked and did not like as I snuck my food under the table. She definetely did not like broccoli, califlower, and cooked carrots. Things I rarely eat to this day. I remember going outside after supper and discarding these vegetables I had snuck into my pockets when no one was looking. I can only imagine what my dad thought when he saw these discarded vegetables on the lawn next time he mowed. 

As sweet and angelic as my brother and I were, we were punished quite often. Mom was famous for the bar of soap when we said bad words. Her other favorite was the wooden spoon. She would chase us with it swinging away as we dodged and weaved our way through the kitchen with her yelling "Wait til your father gets home!" She really was not that strong, and I remember having to fake cry as we got whacked. A lesson learned after the one time I laughed as she hit me with the spoon. I think we actually helped her with her agility as she too learned to anticipate our moves. One time I dodged a little too slow and she caught me on top of the head with the wooden spoon breaking it clean in half. 

We were often sent to our rooms waiting for the dreaded sound of the garage door opening. This signaled dad was home the real punishment was about to be administered. Dad had three weapons of choice; his hand, the ping pong paddle or the dreaded belt. All administered bare-butted over his knees. When we were up at the lake where we had a weeping willow tree, more than once I had to go select my own switch from the tree. Which is why to this day I dislike weeping willows. When I asked Barb, she said she had the exact same punishments including the weeping willow switch but minus the ping pong paddle!

I remember another incident when we were at the lake. Brother Rod and I snuck out of the house and into the tent of some girls who were visiting our neighbors. We were young enough where it was totally innocent (really), but my mom did not think so. She heard use in there talking with the girls and started beating the side of the tent with a broom. Rod and I shot out of that tent like rockets with our mom in hot pursuit with her broom!

As we got older, much to the delight of our parents, we took our misadventures on the road and terrorized the rest of the world. More than once we had the police and neighbors stop by the house to have a talk with our parents. That is when I learned something about my dad. I would be hiding in my room as my dad talked to the police when I once again ditched them on my dirt bike. One officer wanted to inspect my dirt bike to see if the engine was hot after a chase where I went through the woods to evade capture. My dad simply said "No, you are not going into my garage", thus getting me out of a tight spot. Maybe dad was not so bad after all!

My brother and I were on a first name basis with the Shell Lake police department and one day I found myself on the inside of a cell looking out. I will never forget my dad coming to get me and looking through the cell door. All he said was "How do you like in there James?" Nothing else was ever said, no punishment, nothing. I had to get out of that jam myself with a little help from mom and nothing ever became of it. 

As a parent, I carried on some of these family traditions. We did not have a ping pong table or a willow tree, but we did have belts and wooden spoons, but mostly the bare palm on the child across my knee. I do not remember using a bar of soap, but Jessica and Forrest might have different memories. Some parents nowadays would be appalled, but at times, I think we have gone too far the other way. When I am at a restaurant, I sometimes have to resist the urge to take some random kid over my knee as he sasses his mom in the neighboring booth. More than likely the result would be looking out of a cell again and being sued by some Karen for scarring her kid for life. 

But those days are over, now adays I find myself sitting in the living room taking pictures of birds through the window missing my mom and dad. We have had a family of Grosbeak frequenting our birdfeeder the last few weeks. And of course, there is the ever-tormenting squirrel to keep Zoey on her toes. 

The cattle left this week for their summer pasture. We will miss seeing them in the driveway or the pond but we will not miss the flies. Hopefully they took them with them. 

Along the driveway

Now that the cattle are gone, maybe the deer will come back. They seem totally disappear when the cattle are here. 

Our social life has slowed down a bit, but we did get together with neighbors Jim and Carmen once and a visit with some RV'ers who were passing through the area. Steve and Diane Wheeler, were passing through the area so we got together with them at the Bugling Bull in Custer. Steve is the brother of some other RV friends of ours. Always nice to talk to other RV'ers passing through. 

Not a lot of noteworthy projects the last couple weeks. We do something every day but lately it has just been putzy stuff like cleaning the garage and shed. The only big project that we did was prep the site for the grain bin gazebo. 20 tons of gravel went into prepping the site and getting it level. 
Before....                                                          Barb operating the laser level
The bin pad is now ready for the concrete forms, as is the sidewalk going out to that area.  

The weather has been too hot for us, in the 80's and 90's. I know that is nothing compared to much of the country, but it is too hot for these two. When it gets that hot, we will work in the morning and putz in the afternoon. One morning I went up on the roof and took down the DTV dish. So nice to get that monstrosity off the house. I do my roof work barefoot as it allows for a better grip, I got off the roof just in time as my feet were starting to burn on the hot metal when I got off. 
No more dish!
We had two days where it was relatively cool, so we went out to the forest to collect firewood coming back with two pickup loads. A couple more like this and we should have the wood storage area full!
In the fun category, Kevin and I had an event that we have been looking forward to for months. Total Archery Challenge (TAC) had a shoot on Terry Peak outside of Lead. TAC has shoots all over the country, typically at ski resorts where they set up very challenging archery targets. I was at one years ago with Forrest and Shane in Utah, now I got to go again!

We rode the ski lift up to the top of Terry Peak and worked our way down shooting at targets with varying ranges from 25-75 yards. 
We each bought about a dozen arrows hoping that would be enough. I missed the target entirely on the first station but was able to find my arrow undamaged. Kevin was not so lucky on his next shot when he smacked a tree dead center!
As you can see, others hit the tree as well. There were arrow parts scattered throughout the course, they set it up so you have to shoot around and through obstacles increasing your chances at losing arrows which can get costly at over $15/arrow to replace. 

We had a blast! I ended up losing 2 arrows, Kevin 4. Better than some people who lost all their arrows and had to take the Walk of Shame off the mountain with an empty quiver. 
Bedded Elk at 75 yards.
There are 25 total targets, up, down, sideways we made our way through the course. We had bet that the loser bought Dairy Queen on the way home. Kevin kept score, which I never did see, but Dairy Queen never tasted so good!

I also got a couple of trail cameras out this week. I checked one of them after a few days and found that I had captured these photos. 
Cow elk and her baby
Momma, pappa and baby
Saturday was a big day for all of us as our niece Alana came down from Spearfish with her husband Ryan and little Frenchie Sophie.
Saturday was also Alana's mom's, (my sisters birthday) so I took this picture of them having a bump in celebration of her birthday and sent it to her. It had been months since those two had a play date and they went crazy on and off for a couple of hours. They were much too fast to get any action shots but I was able to get these two. 
Barb took Sophie into the bedroom for a bit who came out looking like this. Ryan could not apoligize to Sophie enough for bringing her here and subjecting her to such humiliation.
 After that much excitement, they pretty much just zonked out. 

After a 4 hour visit, the three of them headed back to Spearfish and our two girls curled up on their beds for a much-needed nap. 
Zoey was so tired that night that she jumped up in bed, rolled on her back and started snoring. 
That's it for our boring life this week. I think I need a little more excitement; maybe I will call Kevin and see what kind of trouble we can get in. Then I will come home, self-report my bad behavior, and lay down over Barb's knees! 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Dream

 Grab a cup of coffee, sit down and enjoy the ride, this is going to be a long one. This post has been 4 weeks in the making. Well, actually years, but 4 weeks gathering pictures and putting them in order. To be honest, I would not blame you if you just scrolled through or skip this one altogether but I wanted to get our build into one post so we could look back on it in the future when we are old and grey(er). 

It started out being a post about the journey of building our house, but if I am going to do this, I need to do it right and start about 10 years earlier.

"The Dream" started in late 2007, we were both working fulltime. I was 25 years into my career and Barb was 19 years into hers at our current employers. Barb was playing on the computer and stumbled across a website titled RV Dreams. I can almost recall the exact moment when she said "Look at this, this website is about people who quit their jobs, sold their homes and lived in their RV's fulltime".

From that moment the plan was in place. Barb was 50 years old, she needed to work until 55 to get her pension and employer paid healthcare (little did we know at that time how important the healthcare was). Fast forward 5 years, we had both left our employers, sold our house and belongings and were pulling out of our friends' driveway in Spring Valley Wisconsin. 

We had no idea how long we were going to do this. Our initial thought was 10 years. The next 3 years were a blur, but one thing you will notice from the maps below our journeys kept bringing us back to the southwest area of South Dakota. It just spoke to us, and this is where we started our land hunt. 




After looking at dozens of properties, we found the perfect 45-acre piece in April of 2017 and closed on it later that month.
July found us installing a culvert at the driveway entrance and setting posts for the entryway gate. Our good friend Kevin owns a skidsteer and we went in together with him to purchase the auger. The ground is so rocky in our area that we had to upgrade the auger to one with rock tips to cut through the rock. In some cases, even that did not work!
Barb and Kevin setting the first post for the driveway gate.
Me, in supervisory role, watching Kevin bury the culvert
Completed gate and entryway!
Once that was complete, we set out to take down all the old, dilapidated fencing and install new. 
Out with the old.....
In with the new!
We had several visitors the first few months: Jim and Diana as well as Jim and Brenda. Jim and Brenda loved the area so much that they ended up buying the 40 acres next door to us. I remember at the time telling Jim and Brenda that we were on a 5-year build plan. Looking back, we were pretty much on that schedule. 
Our rig up foreground, Jim and Brenda in the back
One thing I should mention at this point is the prairie dogs. Our land had thousands of prairie dogs on it. As did the neighboring land to the east (the land Jim and Brenda bought) and the west. Over 100 acres of prairie dog infested land. You can see several of the holes to the right side of our rig in the picture above. They were so overpopulated the land held very little grass, only noxious weeds that the prairie dogs did not like, were thriving on the landscape. Along with Jim and Brenda we set out to eradicate. Hundreds of hours over the course of 12-16 months were needed until the last of them were gone. After that the grasses started growing, to become the lush landscape we see today. 

We spent that summer up in Canada, returning to our property in September where the work began!  

Prepping our build site!
After about a month we headed north again, but Jim and Brenda stayed behind waiting for their land to close. While waiting, they supervised the installation of our cistern and septic system. 
Septic tank
Septic drain field
Not only did Jim and Brenda oversee the installation of these systems, but they also spend countless hours clearing old fence wire and boards on our property. We will never be able to thank them enough for all their hard work! 
Jim removing boards from an old cattle corral.
These board would later become an accent wall in the kitchen, bathroom and headboard in the bedroom.
Jim hiding behind one of dozens of bundles of old barbed wire
That winter we headed for Texas and then Arizona. While we were traveling, we started working on the house design with an architect in Wisconsin coming up with our final layout. 
We did not get back to work on The Dream until in April of 2018. We started with the installation of the underground plumbing and wiring conduit. (Special thank you to our then neighbor and good friend Doug who is a licensed plumber) We had many visitors that spring, Jim and Brenda of course who were now our neighbors, one very infamous Harry the Dog Hater and his lovely wife Vicki as well as Dino and Lisa, Bob and DeAnne, Dale and Ruth, and last, but not least Richard and Linda.
The picture above is of us (back left), Jim and Brenda (back right), HTDH and his lovely wife Vicki. If you ever see Harry and Vicki on your travels, do me a favor and give Vicki a hug for me and kick Harry in the shin. 

We put each of them to work while they were here. Well, except Dino who is deathly allergic to work. Funny thing is, some of these friends stopped by this once, never to be seen again. Apparently, others were allergic to work as well!
Richard helping me get started on the underground plumbing
July 2018
One thing you will notice throughout this entire build is that Barb was an absolute beast. I mean that in the best way possible. There is nothing she would not try, even if she had never done it before. Every single phase of this journey she and I worked hand in hand every day. I know no other woman who is as hard working and focused as her. There is absolutely no way we could have accomplished this dream without her. 

Mid July, we needed a break and headed up to Canada, returning in September where we formed the concrete area, insulation and in-floor heating tubes.
September of 2018
Mid-September it was concrete time! One thing I will always remember about our first pour. The concrete truck arrived, and the driver got out, started setting up his shoot and comes around the truck to see Kevin, Barb and I standing there. "Where's the rest of your crew?" he says. "We're it!". And we rocked it! At the end of the pour the driver said he was impressed. Since then we have a dozen or so pours with that same driver and we have become friends. 

Our neighbor Doug (at the time) and his son Sam came over to help with one of our pours.
September 2018
I am on the chute, Barb is edging, Doug and Sam on the rakes, 
and Kevin on the screed
Barb, smoothing out the garage footings
Putting on the finishing touches!
After a fall in Pennsylvania and a winter in Florida, we returned in March of '19 to finally start the construction!  After helping Kevin with the start of his house, he came over, we snapped a few lines and he left for Wisconsin. We were on our own!
March 2019
Reality set in when the first order of lumber was delivered. I remember standing there with Barb after the lumber yard truck left, it was totally silent as we stood there side by side staring at this pile of lumber, thinking "What did we get ourselves into?"
That pile of lumber is our house!
Our first wall went up in March of '19. This is our west bedroom wall. I remember how excited (and scared) we were to finally begin putting up walls!
Barb, Daisy and Dakota
Our first tall wall went up in early April. Raising our first 16' wall by ourselves is probably when we were the most nervous. 

We only had on "incident" on our very last wall when it slipped off the hooks as I was raising it. Luckily Barb was standing in between some studs and only received minor scratches and bruising. We were able to repair that wall, but I see that constant reminder every time I go into the garage as it has a few extra "repair studs".
We spent a few extra dollars and bought weather resistant flooring, it was well worth it!
We worked like dogs for 4 weeks, 8–10-hour days building walls, living out of our RV. 

We had almost daily phone calls with Kevin giving him progress updates and seeking advice. He also came out once a month or so to make physical inspections and giving us next steps advice. 

May is an unpredictable time here in the hills, we had weather in the 60's and snow all in the same week! More than once we had to shovel out our construction area. 
By the time Kevin returned in late April we had the entire house framed. Now it was time for trusses!
April 27, 2019
May 31, 2019

June 1, 2019, Guy and Barb on the roof
By the first of June, Jim Belisle and I were installing windows and house wrap!
June 2019
Forrest and Lily flew out in July of 2019 to help wire the house. Being an electrician at the time Forrest knew just what to do while Barb and I helped him pull wire.

Lily drew on the concrete with chalk, now her artwork forever encased in our house under the flooring. 
Lily helping her dad pull wire July '19

September 2019
Once the wiring was done, we started insulating in October. We were pretty excited as when the insulation is done and vapor barrier up maybe, just maybe, we could move in!
October 2019
One of my favorite memories of this time was listening to Barb insulate while I was deer hunting. We would work all day and quit about 5:00 when I would go out hunting. My hunting spot is about 300 yards from the house and as I was sitting there, I could hear Barb up in the house stapling insulation to the ceiling. I am not just talking any ceiling, I am talking about a ceiling that is 16'-22' in the air while she had to stand on scaffolding! Man, did I marry over my pay grade or what?!?!
November 2019
We officially moved into the house in late November of 2019. It was pretty rough but inhabitable. At first it was just a blow-up mattress on the floor, but we had everything we needed having just gotten water and heat in the house that week!
November 2019
We had our first Thanksgiving in the house that year with Dan and Bonnie, and Kevin and Cheryl. The kitchen was pretty rough, with a borrowed fridge and stove from Dan and Bonnie. 
We got the TV installed the day before Thanksgiving because it is just not Thanksgiving without football!
November 2019
By Christmas of that year the fireplace was operational, and we had the house decorated for the holidays!
December 2019
While we were away for the winter, we had someone come in and install sheetrock in the bedrooms and upstairs bathrooms. 
January 2020
January 2020
When we returned, we moved up to the loft where we had an operational bathroom, and we could finish the downstairs.
Later we primed and painted each of the rooms ourselves.
February 2020                                            January 2022
We spent most of that summer sanding, varnishing, and installing tongue and groove. Board by board it went up onto the walls and ceiling. 
March 2020                                                    July 2020
March of 2020 the windmill fan was installed!
March 2020
In November of 2019 we added 18 more acres to our oasis when our neighbor to the west offered to sell us a piece of their land. We jumped at it and now had 63 acres to call our own!
The red lines are the additional 18 acres.
For the rest of the build, I am just going show a timeline of specific areas starting with the exterior. Our goal was to make the house as maintenance free as possible. The steel was bought from Bridger Steel just outside of Rapid City.

I was able to install the short steel myself but needed some assistance for the 16' pieces.
March 2020
April 2020
The siding was a long and tedious process. We could only go so far until putting siding on pause and moving onto the porch. With hip roofs on each corner of the porch roof those needed to be done before we could finish the siding. But before we could do that, we needed to get all the sidewalks done!
October 2020                                                   October 2020
With the sidewalk done, we could finally start the covered porch!
July 2021
The 8'x8' posts and beams were cut at a local sawmill. Kevin taught me how to do mortise and tenon joints using 6" and 8" screws to hold them together. 
August 2021
Again, we could only go so far before I needed another construction lesson. I had never framed a hip roof before. Kevin came over and framed the first one then cut me loose to do the other 3. 
August 2021
In November of '21 Barb sanded and stained each of the posts and beams. 
Once the hips were framed, I could put up the porch roof and finish the siding!
January 2022
The wood storage area was not planned, but a result of left over concrete from the garage pour and 3 left over sheets of steel from the roof. It could not have worked out more perfectly!
October 2021
January 2022
Next up was the framing and ceiling of the porch. 
In June of 2023 after returning from Ontario we pushed hard to finish the soffit, facia and stonework!
And as many of you have read, last but not least was the rock on the outside.

The outside seemed like it took FOREVER! One thing had to wait for another which had to wait for another. But item by item we slowly checked them off our list until we got to where we are today. 
July 2023
The inside of the garage was a slow journey as we decided to leave floor dirt and spend our money on the house instead. One of the most single exhausting things of the entire build was hefting these 5/8" sheets of drywall up the ladder. to this day, I do not know how I did it without dropping one. 
One day, Kevin said "You want to pour part of your garage next week?" That was in November of 2020, we were finally getting some concrete in our garage!
November 2020
April 2022                                                   September 2022
In October of '22 I decided to build a workshop in the back corner of the garage. 
We finished the inside with white steel, an epoxy floor, and the outside of it with rough cut.

If you are still with us, we will move to the inside, starting with the living room. The sidewalls are 16' tall, the peak is about 21-22'.
December 2019                                                     February 2020
December 2020                                                    December 2020
The flooring took about a week to install. We started in the south side and worked our way north. Once we got started, Barb did most of the installation while I worked in other areas of the house. 
July 2021
July 2020
July 2023
The stairs are made from 4"x12" rough cut lumber sourced from our local mill. 
Initial treads installed, no more ladder to the loft!
October 2020
Treads stained and pine installed February 2021
March 2021
The loft has an open area, small bathroom and bedroom. 
July 2019
December 2019
January 2020

                                                                    February 2020
February 2020
July 2023
Moving onto the kitchen, we started out pretty rough with a free fridge, stove, a laundry tub and a couple of folding tables for countertops. 
July 2019
January 2020
March 2020
We ordered our cabinets from Don's Custom Cabinets in Rapid City. After waiting 6 weeks for them to be made, we went to pick them up. Kevin and I installed them, and Barb set about organizing and setting them up. 
January 2021
Island and Microwave are in!
Next up was the countertops, leathered granite with a chiseled edge. Since Barb spends so much time in the kitchen, (and I am the benefactor) we just got whatever she wanted.
January of '21 countertops are installed!
The accent wall was made from those old corral boards that Jim and Brenda took apart in '18. The wall was a 3-part process, straightening edges, planing, and varnishing before installing them on the wall. The perfect rustic wall for our kitchen!
Accent wall up March 2021
The last thing to be done in the kitchen was the backsplash. Kevin did all the tile work in the house as tile is one thing we did not want to mess with. 
August of '21, backsplash done!
July 2023 
We tried to make our house as handicapped accessible as possible. This meant 36" doors throughout the lower level and a walk-in shower. I did all the waterproofing and got the shower ready for Kevin to tile which took place in August of '21.
July 2021
August '21, floor tile done!
October 2021, shower tiled!
July 2023 
In the laundry room, the main features are the dog wash, bench and the sliding barn door. Barb made the bench all by herself, we worked together on the barns doors and the dog wash was a combined effort with me building the walls and waterproofing while Kevin did the tile. Barb carved out the dog paws with a tile saw.
January 2022
December 2019
February 2022
March 2022
December 2021
We had been doing our laundry in the laundromat since we hit the road in March of '14. We saw some pretty interesting things in laundromats across the country. That all ended in April of '20 when she got her new washer and dryer. 6 years of laundromat life is now behind us!
April 2020
The last item on the main floor is our bedroom.
November 2019
January 2020
January 2022
The last item in the bedroom was also the most difficult, the built-in dresser. The walls were not exactly square with the mud build up from the taping of the sheetrock there was a half inch difference front to back. This offered some unique challenges as the drawers had to slide along these sides. Several calls and messages to Jim Belisle, who was a cabinet/furniture maker in his previous life were needed to overcome several obstacles. 
January 2022
July 2023
Barb made the headboard out of those same fence boards as the kitchen wall.
If you made it this far, you are a better person than I am. It's been an incredible journey. Do we wish we were still traveling fulltime? Part of us, yes. But we were glad to have a home base during the craziness that was the world the last few years. Plus, land values and building material costs have gone up so much we could have never afforded what we have if we were to try to buy it at today's prices. 

We are truly blessed. We did so many things we had never done before, we made it through without any major injuries, we made it through without marriage counseling and threats of divorce.  We could have never done without Kevin. His knowledge, support, advice and equipment. And a special thank you to all our friends who stopped by to help, we will never forget it. We are beyond proud of what we have accomplished and never, never want to do it again!