Saturday, December 8, 2012

A new season

Dec. 7
Winter is finally here with the first snowfall of the season. It has been an incredibly dry summer…good for working outside but it also resulted in very few days off from the project to rest and catch our breath. That was maybe a good thing. The last of the heating system was finished and hooked-up yesterday just before the snow. Had there been more rainy days we might not have made this deadline. We are ready for the cold weather and will be able to work inside now for the whole winter.
 Interior partitions are going up and door casings made and doors hung. Sam has begun to hang sheet rock for eventual plastering in some of the rooms and the whole place is beginning to look like a house…at least on the inside. We’ve moved most of the needed building supplies inside for the winter to avoid having to drag them through the snow. It is all still a daunting task and we probably have two more years of work ahead of us before the project is completed. On the coldest days we will be in the basement cutting stone for the arches that will go over each window and fabricating decorative cedar shingles that will cover the second floor exterior. Sam also has to strip many of the interior doors to prepare them for stain or paint. I think we both look forward to the respite that the holiday season will provide.  Jim 

Yes, winter is here. Work has not stopped, and there is more to do than I remember yesterday. The insulator asked, and I agreed to do some work for him a day or two a week. He too is pressed to finish projects before severe cold really sets in. This house has really given me an interesting perspective of the seasons. The seasons must dictate and kindly direct our habits. Cold is to be prepared for as well as warmth. Each invites us to gather what blossoms or withers with equal respect and measure. Many of my generation live for the now. Now it is hot, or now it is cold. Rather I am broadening my view to see that it may be warmer or colder. Cycles and patterns exist, and I must observe, plan, and prepare. Gather the wood for heat now, for tomorrow will be cold. Dress the stone today for it may be warm to lay tomorrow. There is more planning that is to be done that I am not aware of. I observe and quiz Jim for he has seen many more seasons than I. We have paced ourselves to each season. Each dictates and directs. In each we build this structure to enjoy and prepare for the next. Sam

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sand After September


Oct. 10
It has been quite a month! Coming into September I was wondering if we’d be able to get the house sealed up before winter hit. There was so much to do. The plumbing rough-in had to be completed, the furnace hooked-up,  The radiant heat tubing laid out and covered, the insulation sprayed in, the gas and electric lines laid, the remaining windows installed  and finally the brick chimney built up through the roof. As of today, everything is done except the chimney, which is nearing the attic rafters and the electrical hook-up of the furnace. Looks like we will make it but it still keeps me awake at night. While the insulator was at work we laid some of the finished stonework at the front entrance, which is a great improvement over the concrete block. I’ve alerted Sam that I plan a 2 week hiatus from the place as soon as it is ready for winter. Then we’ll have to plan the interior layout and prepare the walls for thin coat plaster.  Jim

I just want to be happy. I want a big flat screen television with very high definition and hundred pixels. A large freezer with dozens of hungry-man meals, and a fine microwave oven to cook them instantaneously to boot. Enough of this stone lifting, sand toting, cement mixing, and near constant drudgery. I could have my feet up on a plush faux leather sofa, remote in hand watching how people move supplies and build houses. Instead I keep my head down, watching my shuffling feet. At the end of the day I have something more than cheeto stains, and a sore remote. I have mud on my shoes, and a pile of stones.  Sam

Friday, September 7, 2012



The electricity arrived today. Hook-up was completed just after the noon hour to our great relief. All windows and doors are in, and the plumbing rough-in is done. We are now preparing for the insulator to arrive and seal up the walls and ceiling for winter. We still have to get a chimney up for the heating plant but that should only take about a week. When the gas pipe is laid, we will be able to get the fill sand we need to get the radiant heat piping into the first floor. I am waiting patiently for the day when the house is sealed-up in preparation for the winter. I plan a two week hiatus to recover from the work, the summer heat, and all the pressures that come with racing against the weather. We will have a long winter to work inside framing partitions, hanging wall board and building staircases, but right now, I need a break! Jim

Indeed a lot has happened. Today, while the electricity was run and hooked up, I was up on the cupola roof finishing up the shingling. Thankfully the weather has been improving. Sam
My uncle requested that we post a picture of what the finished house will look like. Below is a link to the Hudson, WI house that will be very similar in size to ours:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Grunt and groan

Aug 3

The heat here has been enervating. We’ve had only two days of normal temperatures in the last six weeks. Every other day in the period has been in the upper 80’s and nineties. But, by far the humidity has been the worse problem. We sweat just standing still. The afternoons are often unbearable. As a result the progress is slow. We have the sheeting up on four of the eight walls. A rudimentary staircase is in to the basement and the second floor, and I have begun to frame out the interior walls on the first floor. Today the electrician stopped by to begin wiring the exterior walls and to set the electrical panel. The cupola is framed and six of the eight sides are roofed. We have also begun the stone facing in order to prepare for the setting of the electric meter. This has been one of the hottest summers on record here and has delayed progress by at least three weeks. We are hoping for a long cool fall in order to catch up. Jim

A real pattern has set in. In the morning I grunt, Jim groans, and we decide to start the day working on the house. Depending on the humidity we are able to work until ten o’clock and have a tea break. A few complaints from Jim about the weather and arthritis, and I smile, nod, and wipe the sweat from my brow. After we are recuperated, we head back to the worksite to either continue on the task we had left off on, or as the sun turns full bore from behind the maple and hackberry that shade our site shift to a shadier spot and start a new task. A groan from Jim to show he still moves. I grunt to acknowledge and move in the pattern of our day. Sam

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spinning our web

There are spiders in our house. Some are big some are small. Most spin webs others do nothing at all. They weave in the basement. They crawl up to the cupola. From the bottom to the top there seems to be no crevasse that they do not take up. This has been made their home more than ours. They have appeared from nowhere and disappear out of sight. They weave and toil all through the day and night. I saw and I hammer until heat or dark ushers me home. They ignore both and spin, spin, spin. I do not quit, each day anew, I toil and nail until this building is through.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


July 12

The heat and humidity has really slowed things down here. It was a whole week in the 90’s and outside work was only possible for a few hours in the mornings. We did get a two day break and managed to get the cupola framework up and in place. The roof will have to wait as the heat has returned. The final shape of the house is now visible and it is quite a show stopper. We have also begun to get the sub-floor in over the kitchen and some of the second floor. Jim

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The roof

June 16

The roof is almost on. We are now able to keep the plate dry in the rain that comes every couple of days. After tomorrow we hope to begin to put on the wood sheeting on the second floor walls. That will entail installing the first windows on the building and should provide a hint at what the finished structure might look like. (With the roofing in place the third floor attic looks a bit like an Indian teepee.)
The days are becoming hot and humid and we should be able to work inside in the shade once the roof is complete. There is still so much to get done before the weather changes in the fall that the mind becomes numb contemplating it all. Overall the shape and size of the building is pleasing to the eye. In order to install the electrical hub at the back of the house we will have to complete a small portion of the stone facing. It will be interesting to see how that changes the appearance of the house as a whole. Jim

I told Jim that I have nothing to say. What is there to say? There is morning cool and work. There is afternoon heat and work. There is evening shade and dreams of more work. I cannot look too far forward or I may become overwhelmed. I cannot look backward for that is a pit where no salvation may be found. I look down at hammer, nail, board, and am work. Sam