Burning Ball in the Sky

We’ve started taking long breaks in the early afternoon to beat the heat. It’s been in the 90s in the sun and well over a hundred in the solar shed. Our pale Seattle skin and nocturnal eyes have a hard time with direct sunlight.

We got down to the land at around 5:00 on Saturday with the car and trailer packed full of tools and equipment. We were actually dragging the safety chains on the ground as we drove, we were that weighed down. Most of Saturday night was spent preparing the camp site for our extended stay. We drove into packwood and ate at the pizza joint there (one of three restaurants in the area.) As an added treat I slept on an air mattress – a first while camping.

The concrete was poured on Thursday and the beam bases that were embedded use bolts and not nails. First thing on Sunday (at the crack of 11) we first drove into town to pick up the proper bolts and some misc. lumber for the changes we will be making to the front porch. The rest of Sunday was spent putting up the posts and finishing up the double header around the perimeter. Sunday night is when I discovered the camera hadn’t been recording for the last day and a half. At least we have pictures from the normal camera.

Monday (today) we moved most of the 2×8 lumber into the dome foundation so we wouldn’t have to haul it over the wall when we bolt in the last wall section. When that last section is installed we’ll need to use a ladder and a wood bridge to get in and out.

We measured and chopped all the posts to their correct height which involved being covered in a blizzard of sawdust. It wouldn’t have been bad if I didn’t just slather myself with sunscreen. We also built a couple of sawhorses and a table to stage all of the joist cutting. Once it hits 4:00 or so (when it cools down) we’ll start building and installing the main beams.

On a side note, it looks like the lumber company ran out of 10 foot 2x8s and instead gave us 18 foot pieces. That must have cut into their profit. It also means that we are going to have a lot of wood scraps left over.

Quick update

Just a quick update, our camera didn’t work for part of the day Saturday and Sunday, so no stop motion movies  🙁
Luckily we weren’t doing anything too interesting, we put up the main support beams and finished the double header all the way around. We verified the camera is working today (about 5 times now) so there will be a movie tomorrow!

Sore, sore hands

Our mission this weekend was to put up the permanent wood foundation walls. Those walls need to be built before the concrete pad can be poured. If we don’t get the walls finished our entire schedule will be thrown off by 3 days or so. With this in mind I snuck off work at 2:30 on Friday and drove straight to the land. Traffic wasn’t being agreeable so the 2.5 hour trip ended up taking 5 hours. Once I arrived I spent the remaining 2 hours of light getting two more pieces of the foundation wall up. Since I had forgotten both a spoon and can opener my dinner consisted of a granola bar instead of SpaghettiO’s as originally planned.

It had rained all day on Friday and was supposed to do the same for Saturday, but luckily it was just overcast all day. I got up at 8:30 or so, ate another granola bar, and proceeded to put up another 3 wall sections before realizing the measurements had to be wrong. After studying the plans I realized I was supposed to be measuring 20 feet 7/8th inches to the outside corner of the walls, not the inside. By the time I fixed the first two wall sections Mike and Sara arrived with a trailer full of food for our two week stay next weekend. More importantly, they also arrived with a Subway sub for me. After mounting the stop-motion web cam on the roof of the shed, we got to work. We spent the rest of the day Saturday putting up walls and finished with just the back extension left to go. Dinner was Phad Thai and curried rice.


On Sunday we got the back extension finished after a lot of measuring to make sure it was square. We also had to dig out another corner to leave room for the weeping tile and gravel drainage. While we were doing that the concrete contractor showed up to review the job. He didn’t foresee any obstacles and the slab will be poured on Friday. When the last walls were in their correct place we went around and put three bolts in each intersection as well as half a tube of glue. Since it was getting late we didn’t get a chance to put the additional top plate on all the walls, but that can wait until next week. Breakfast was an egg and cheese omelet and lunch was a roll with butter.


Foundation Delivered!

The permanent wood foundation was delivered this weekend. The pieces are premade and too big to fit into my trailer so we had to rent an all-terrain fork truck to ferry them up the driveway to the building site.


 The bearded guy is Jim Ashe who built the road and did the excavation. We’ll be seeing more of him whenever we need any big equipment.


The other guy hanging off the fork truck is Hugh Mayhew who owns Domes Northwest. They are the dealer for Natural Spaces Domes out here. He’s been a great help in putting all this together. Hugh will be here for 3 days during the dome raising weekend of the 21st to make sure we don’t do anything stupid. It rained on and off in the morning while the “cargo” was being transferred to the top, but it cleared up around noon.


The dome site looks quite different from when we were here last week. Jim had cut down another dozen or so trees and cleared out the building site and septic area. The excavation was finished and gravel was spread as well.


Our first priority was to get the shed finished so we could store all of our tools. I brought a new sheet of exterior paneling and some 2x4s to patch up the door hole in back of the shed and to make a new door opening in front. We managed to get a nearly identical match on the paneling with what came with the kit. The kit had a pretty poor excuse for a lock so we put on a latch that I bought.


While I was finishing up the shed, Sara and Mike were moving all of the foundation panels and footer plates to their approximate location. It turns out the 360 degree laser level can’t be seen in full daylight from 20 feet away so we broke for lunch (backpacker’s macaroni and cheese and mixed nuts.) Once we could see the laser we started evening out the gravel around the edges where the foundation walls will be. It looks like there is a 1.5 inch deviation between the lowest and highest points. When it started to get dark we put away all the tools and made dinner (veggie burgers followed by rice pilaf.)


In the morning Mike (who wakes up first) did some trail clearing while the rest of us slept in. After that we spent a few hours fine tuning the placement of the foundation (lots and lots of measuring!) Once we were satisfied we leveled out the gravel, laid the first footer board, and setup the first foundation wall piece.  After we braced the first piece we then proceeded to tear it back down again since my measurements didn’t include the width of the plywood on the outside of the wall. Once that was figured out we put the first wall piece back up and the second followed suit an hour later. Before we could put up the third wall piece we had to do some digging to make sure we had room behind the wall for the drainage pipe and gravel backfill (it was a little tight on that side.) We left shortly after that so we could make it home at a decent hour. Since I was starting to fall asleep at the wheel, Sara drove us home.


Next weekend we will finish the foundation walls so that concrete can be poured during the week. I’m going to leave early from work on Friday to drive directly there to get a jump start on it. Mike and Sara will come on Saturday so that Sara doesn’t have to miss any volunteer time at the pet shelter.



Memorial Day Weekend

It’s 6:30 PM on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.


We came out this weekend to build a Solar Shed kit. For the most part, it now resembles a shed. We ran into a few problems (half of which were human errors.) First, our door is on the wrong side of the shed. While it appears that we got the majority of the shed build before we noticed that, in reality Mike pointed it out to me while the second wall was being assembled on the ground. I had blindly followed the pictures in the directions without considering that the words printed on the page may have some bearing. The specific paragraph was:


For added flexibility, the doors can be located on the side or tall wall. Before beginning assembly, Determine Door Location per illustrations on Page 2. Right side wall assembly shown. If building left side assembly, place wall panels on opposite side of frame.


I know exactly what you’re thinking: Why did they capitalize “Determine Door Location”? Some of the smarter people reading this will also be wondering why we didn’t just fix the door right when Mike noticed it? The answer is that, due to learning how to build things under the tutelage of my father, everything can be made stronger. So while the directions have you placing a 2” smooth nail (included with the kit) every 12 inches for the panels, we instead placed 2 ½ inch galvanized ring shank nails every 6 inches. After we glued every joist with Liquid Nails industrial adhesive of course. Now the only way to fix the door involves a Sawzall with metal and wood bits. That will have to wait until next weekend.


The other problem we ran into was with the roofing trusses. We followed the directions exactly but one end of the truss didn’t sit flush with the top header of the wall. Near as we can tell they probably cut it backwards at the factory. There wasn’t any way we could have messed it up.


Oh yeah, I also managed to screw up my brand new generator while testing it out on Friday. Since it said to fill with oil to the level of the oil cap I happily turned it on its side and poured 2 ½ quarts of oil in. Turns out they meant for you to keep it flat on the ground and fill just the bottom part of the pan with oil until it is level with the oil cap. I cranked up the generator, it ran for 10 seconds, and then it gushed oil from out of the air filter. After spending two hours to drain the oil and gas and clean out the cylinder I still couldn’t it to run more then 30 seconds at a time. I didn’t have any time to strip down the engine further to clean it so I borrowed a generator from a friend. I’ll have to fix it next week.


Back to the shed. It’s now mostly done, but before we can put in the windows we need to acquire some drip edges from the hardware store. All of the hardware stores closed at 4:00 today, whereas I pulled up to them at 4:10. Hopefully we’ll find one open on Memorial day, otherwise we can’t finish it until next weekend. As far as I can tell, the requirement of drip edges was not mentioned in the manual until page 60. I personally felt they should have mentioned it on the cover where they described the needed and optional tools.



But not all is bad. We now have a nice sturdy shed that’s mostly water resistant. The new tools (framing air nail gun, air impact nailer, and new cordless drill) got a good workout and I’ve figured out most of their quirks. We managed to haul the heaviest load yet in our trailer (right near its maximum capacity of 1.125 tons), and plenty of brush wood got burned.

What else? Lunch yesterday was Subway while on the go, and crackers, cheese, and mixed nuts for dinner. Today breakfast was more crackers and cheese, lunch was a cheese pizza (I Can’t Believe It’s Cheese Pizza! backpacker’s mix), and dinner is a vegetable stew that’s currently cooking over the fire. Since our picnic table gets crowded with all the tools and misc junk, I’m going to design an extension shelf to build and bring next weekend.


Here is a view of the completed shed – just before the dome foundation excavation.


Dome Injuries

What great project was ever executed without personal peril? Hopefully ours will be of the bump and scrape variety. Either way, they’ll be documented here in gory detail.