Thursday, November 10, 2011

Five miles. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways.

OK, so, don't think I mentioned...our 'driveway' is a dirt road, incorrectly built and poorly maintained, shared by four to six households, depending on how you count them.  We're about 2/10 of a mile in from the township maintained gravel road.  That's the road that goes up and down the hills.  It's another mile or so to the hard road.  So if the road wasn't icy or snowy, my co workers would pick me up at the end of the gravel road.  If the road was icy, they picked me up at the hard road.  Which meant that when the weather conditions were worst, I was walking the furthest.  But it was good for me, I should be walking that much now.  And having to beg rides into town meant that we didn't spend much money on anything but food and laundry...and gas for our kind were able to save up the money for a vehicle in about five months.  Got an ancient Chevy S10 for way too much, $1300...and discovered a couple weeks later that the frame was all but rusted out.  Oh, well.  We drove it gingerly and no more than necessary, and it lasted over a year...was still driveable (barely) when we sold it, making the new owner promise to part it out and crush the remainder.  So, anyway, saving for the Chevy and then saving again for the Jeep we have now meant we couldn't spend any money on building materials, or at least not as much as we would need to do the job right.  So instead we turned to making this space more livable.
  We still had stuff in storage in Columbus, so we decided to build an 'addition' of a kind of lean-to shed on the side of the house.  We also decided that electricity isn't necessarily evil, even if it is produced by a coal burning generator, so the circuit breaker box would go in the shed.  OK, so, find wire and dig a trench from the pole to the shed, simple.  Riiiight.
Actually the wire wasn't a problem.  I just asked around, and one of my co workers has a brother who works construction, I said what size and length I needed, and he happened to have exactly that.  Imagine the coincidence!  He also threw in some scraps of wiring for in the house. Turned out to be plenty.
  But when it came to that 'digging the trench' part...whoa, there, Nellie. Remember, you are Old, you are Fat, you are Sedentary by nature, you have Smoked for Forty Years.  You have two back injuries to your credit, plus chronic sciatica and carpal tunnel.  And you want to do what, again?  Dig a trench.  How wide?  18 inches or so, OK.  How deep?  Three Feet?  hmmm.  OK, how long? HOW long? 130 feet?  Excuse me while I guffaw.
We did actually manage to do some of it, but hired the strong back of a man twenty years younger to do most of it.  He's a nice guy, needed the money, and it was three hundred bucks very well spent.  (It took him a little over six weeks, working one or two days a week.  It would have taken us another three months, working at it every day.  Seriously.)
And that's about how much we spent on the shed.  We went a little more 'high class', since we did have some cash...the only trees we used from the woods were three poles and two headers. The rafters and floor stringers and joists and sheathing all came from a lumberyard.  Even the roofing was all new tarpaper and rolled roofing.  Again, two layers of tarp for the walls, which means that the west wall of the house has four layers up to the roof of the shed.  Oh, didn't mention, the shed is 8 x 12. I even have a picture of the house with the shed, let me see if I can get it to load.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Home Furnishing

  OK, so all four walls are on, everything's sealed up nice and tight...but what's inside?

  One of the neatest things about climbing out of such a deep, dark hole is that every tiny improvement on the living condition seems HUGE and WONDROUS!  Like, a HARD ROOF!

  Oh, bet I forgot to mention...I got a job, started the first of September 2009, as a baker at a local mom and pop donut shop.  That paid for a lot of the finishing why the tarps on the front of the house all match!  It also paid for the gas to run back and forth to Columbus, bringing down bits and pieces of our former life.  
 First of all, there are NO interior walls.  A space this small didn't need to be divvied up any further, and after 30 years of marriage, we're not shy around each other.  We started with a donated carpet that we put down in the 'bedroom' third of the structure.  It's a nice hunter green.  One of our country neighbors donated an ancient metal kitchen table (HUGE) that we kept plastic table cloths on, it held my small wooden spice cabinet, dish pans, water jug and various and sundry clutter.  Oh, and we put a full length mirror sideways along the top of the table, and a kerosene lamp.  The mirror reflected the light.
  We have a very old freestanding wooden cupboard that we bought at a second hand store so long ago I don't remember exactly when.  That's where our two burner propane camp stove went, with dishes and canned goods in the cupboard itself.  Dry goods and pots and pans were kept in big 'rubbermaid' type tubs under the table.  We had a cooler we used to keep a very limited amount of cold food cold....hauling ice was problematic sometimes.  So that was it for the kitchen, to begin with.  No wind blowing out the stove burners!!! No rodents all over the table every night!  WOW!
  With that evidence of the tightness of our construction, I bravely let go of the tent.  (we were still sleeping in it, inside the structure, till I knew I wasn't going to have mousies in bed with me)  We took our futon out of the tent, took it outside and used it for storage.  The futon was centered with the 'head' at the east wall.  During the day or for company it could (can) be folded up and covered with a quilt, for a low seat or just to create more floor space.  (it's not on any kind of frame, just the futon on the carpeted floor.)
  One of the first things we brought down was our Mother Earth News magazine collection, and the wooden boxes they live in.  They're about
15" x 15" x 28", and fit nicely under the windows to the south, lying 'long way'.  We brought down my dad's chest of drawers, my grandma's oak bookcase (and the BOOKS that go in it!), and Bob's mom's mudroom wardrobe.  Joy!  Rapture!  no more digging through a duffel bag!  Something to READ!  So the wardrobe and chest go in the bedroom third, the bookcase in the living room third. Oh, we also brought down all the rest of our oil lamp collection, which brought us up to four standard hurricanes and a tiny brown one that we used as a night light.
  About this time my boss recarpeted the restaurant, and gave me the leftover scraps of carpet, a nice speckled dusty blue indoor/outdoor.  It wasn't enough to actually cover the floor, but it was enough to do the open floor area.  Ooo, warmer tootsies!  
  We quickly recognized the need for more storage, and thought about options.  One was to put a second pole across the south at the height of the north wall (roughly seven feet) and run 'rafters' across, then some kind of planks or plywood to support storage.  We got as far as the pole and one rafter, at the bedroom divider point.  Turns out that's all we needed.  Four boards of tongue and groove 'car panel' wood 8' long on the south side created a really large (26 sq. ft) storage area for off season clothes, suitcases, things like that.  Wow, look how much less clutter!  We can move around!  A country neighbor salvaged an apartment full of furniture and said "I want this, this and this, the rest is going on the bonfire next month, take what you want".  I salvaged and repaired a small bookcase, and we were able to liberate a few more of our poor friends stuck in a dark box in a damp basement.  We put up some shelves above the bookshelf in the living room for general storage (read 'clutter').  Brought down another small bookshelf that we use in the bath room to hold medicines, cleaning supplies, denture tablets, things like that.  I made a curtain to cover the front.  The bathroom itself was a bucket for pee, a bedside commode for poop, the end of the kitchen table for washbasins.  No more hiking to the outhouse except to empty the bucket! No more bathing outside!  Sweet!
  We brought down a small oak bedside dresser, used it in the kitchen to store silverware, cooking utensils, wraps and bags, and water bottles.
No more rooting through a plastic box to find a knife!  Excellent!
  We set up a small, corner type wire stand (I guess it was intended to be for potted plants?) in the kitchen, to have a place to put a hot coffee pot or tea kettle, and store the can of coffee and cocoa and creamer and sugar.
  We have a small wire patio table that we had been using in camp, brought it and a couple resin chairs in, covered the table with a round tablecloth, put a lamp in the middle, some cushions in the chairs, bits of new indoor outdoor carpet from my boss...presto!  Someplace to sit in comfort, eat a meal, read a book, do a crossword puzzle!
  It's at about this point that the ancient old Plymouth Voyager finally gave its last gasp.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Shelter from the Storm

So, before everything fell apart, we bought this bit of land out in the hills of southeastern Ohio, near some friends' properties, intending to build a little something and retire here, someday. Thirty-four acres of mixed hardwoods, hills and rocks, deer, bunnies and ferns. We had power run out to it, and a meter up, but it wasn't connected to anything. No well, no sewer, no paved road, just a dirt 'driveway' shared by four or five property owners.
That year we spent many weekends here, establishing a campsite and beginning construction by clearing trees, cutting and peeling trees for posts, digging the holes for the posts. We leveled a spot for a little dome tent, set it up and stocked it with tools, then covered it with a triple heavy tarp. That little tent survived all kinds of weather, sheltered those tools for several years. Its partner sheltered US for seven months, five of them in the campsite. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
So, eventually, it happened. Neither of us had a job and the money was gone. So we started selling stuff. Sold two cars for way less than they were worth, traded down for better gas mileage with the third. Sold, threw out or gave away/donated 2/3 of 24 years' accumulation of 'stuff'. Funny thing is, I miss very little of it. Some of it was very painful, especially things like books. We begged storage space from friends with basements and eventually, after the house was repossessed, moved into one of those basements in exchange for scraping, reglazing and painting the sunroom on their Underground Railroad house, built in 1841!! A lot of old paint on there. Pretty sure we hit whitewash.

It's at this point that the van broke down (brake line disintegration, total replacement needed) and we were pretty much stuck in that basement for six months waiting for the local industrial arts high school to fix it cheap.
Finally, we're out here 'for good and all'. April 1st of 2009 we moved out, set up our campsite, and settled in, then almost immediately moved into our neighbor's hunting lodge with its woodburning stove...April that year was COLD. We were making sporadic money doing dog sitting jobs back in Columbus, and visiting the food pantries while we were there and gathering donations of building materials from friends, then we'd come back out here and apply them.
The structure we currently live in, originally conceptualized as a storage shed, is about 12' by 20', give or take a foot either way. Eight vertical poles (four to the north 6' tall, four to the south 10') support 20 foot headers. Many, many, many peeled poplar saplings gave their short little lives to my need for rafters. Roof sheathing is mostly recycled plywood, some waferboard, mostly leftover tarpaper and roofing tar and some new, some leftover shingles and roll roofing, some new. The end result looks a little like the gentle waves on the ocean, but it hasn't leaked a drop in two years (knock wood). The floor we first leveled with gravel out of the wash behind the house, then put down pallets we salvaged from an electrical supply company, fitted to the space and 'filled in' and connected together...then covered them all with 3/4" waferboard (OSB), which we bought new,along with the screws that we drove by hand. Blisters.
The walls were built up gradually. One of our neighbors gifted us with a small woodburning stove, so our plans included venting for that. We started with poles on the diagonal between the upright poles on the north, east and west walls. We did not support the south wall this way because it was to be mostly windows and door. Then a 'chair rail' series of poles was attached all around the inside of those three walls. The keyhole for the stovepipe and the window in the north wall were then framed out by notching (using chisels and mallet)the upright poles and the diagonals to accept 2x4's (recycled)and the window (recycled) and the stovepipe keyhole (new). The same framing was done for the window in the East wall. Then we started covering those three walls. The inside of the north wall and the lower section of east and west walls are covered with a heavy, vellum colored vinyl wall covering that we nailed to that 'chair rail' pole and the uprights. The east and west walls above that vinyl are tarp, as is the entire outer layer. We left an area in the floor near the center of the space without any pallet or OSB, and filled that space with red bricks, for a hearth for the stove. Once all the elements were installed, we used GreatStuff to seal things up, especially where inner vinyl met floor.
OH, I forgot, we got some used accoustical ceiling tile (the kind used in a suspended ceiling system) and nailed them to the rafters, giving us an airspace of insulation above, and almost had enough to finish the job. The rest is covered with a piece of old carpet.
The south wall went on last. We moved in pretty much as soon as the pallet floor was down and the roof was on, but we still slept in the tent, just under that lovely hard roof! We had a huge tarp over the south wall that we'd put up on tent stakes when we were home, drop down when we left or for rainy weather. I would laugh and say I always wanted to have a diorama, but I meant a miniature, not one I lived in! But eventually the windows went in and the door went on, the stovepipe was installed,and the 'house' was officially Done.