Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Got Wood?

Muzzle loader season closed Dec.19 and that was the last day I was at the hill farm until yesterday. Needed to take a break for Christmas and to spend time at home with the family. Today we woke up to a dusting of snow here in the low lands, first snow since the freak October storm. Usually we are under a white blanket this time of year.

My efforts are now on producing lumber at my flat farm. The log pile has dwindled and I need to get into the woods with the tractor and bring in some pine logs I have on the ground. My Amish friend has a couple of Larch logs that he is sawing for me to use as plate lumber for the out house I have to put up. Larch is Mother Natures pressure treated lumber, it does not rot when used as ground contact lumber. I do not see a functioning bathroom until maybe next fall and doing my business in the woods is getting old, plus if I want female help on site I better have a nice spot for the girls to squat. An out house will get a lot of use even after the bathroom is in. The one we installed at the flat farm for our music weekends gets used all the time and the house has all the creature comforts. When I am working outdoors or hunting on the flat farm it is my spot! A properly vented outhouse does not smell and the pit will last a long time before the house needs moved. The one for the hill farm is going to be a bit fancier then the one at the flat farm, insulated, heated with a small non-vented thermostat controlled propane heater, an a real door instead of a curtain!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Here is one of my shed moving projects for my Amish friend.

Things are different on the hill

It has been a while since I posted to my blog, mostly because I have not had the time or even electricity for that matter. Work on the homestead proceeds even though the weather does not cooperate. My oldest son caulked all the hemlock siding from the inside to stop any drafts prior to insulation going up and the little building took 60 tubes. Who would have thunk it? On the floor we put down 90# tar paper to keep the drafts out as the wood dries and it works well, spent several nights there so far. The wood burner does a great job even without the wall being insulated as a couple of nights got down in the 10's. Most nights I could get 6 hours out of a fully loaded fire box and still stay warm. Also getting quite good at wick trimming and using oil lamps as I have not even used the generator the last four nights.
The biggest thing I notice about staying on the farm is the quiet, very little traffic noise and no neighbors close enough to hear. At night the stars are a sight to see, no street lights or other light to dull the brilliance, make the sky seem bigger some how. Woke up one morning to 60 or so wild turkeys in the "Yard" and the camera in the truck so no pictures. If you have never been in the woods when a flock is sweeping for food the amount of noise they make will amaze you. Also a turkey on its roost sounds like a plane crash as it takes off. I wonder how they don't break their wings.
My Amish friend has commented to me how much he likes what we are trying to accomplish, the thought that has gone into orientation of the buildings, and our "green attitude." He also likes the fact that I have increased his cash flow having sold 4 of his sheds so far. That works well for me too. Our deal is I get $100.00 for a direct sale plus I get paid for delivery by the buyer, most often so far another $100.00 or better depending on the work and time involved. When ever I do any type of work for folks I am up front with what the cost is going to be and I encourage them to get other prices. Very few do not hire me and this approach saves on hard feeling.
We are chomping at the bit for spring and winter has not even officially started yet. Some small changes have been made to the original plans, mostly involving locations of rooms and such. It is nice to have frozen ground hiding the mud. My grade work has allowed the site to drain nicely, but until I get grass growing and the rest of the stone in mud will continue to be a problem. My open ditches on the high side are still running water in this cold snap. Tells me they are doing the job. It will be nice to get pipe and stone in them.
Next week I am working at the flat farm running my sawmill. The best thing is I have a cut list and will be sawing with a purpose not just making lumber. We will be adding 10 feet to the south side that will be a deck for now and closed in later. On the front of the building the plans for the entrance are drawn up. A 10'x26' combination mud room, storage area, laundry room over a basement that will serve as a root cellar and dry storage area for can goods and the like.
So for now this is very much a work in progress. I feel good when I have wok in progress!

Friday, November 03, 2006

It is home!

The Cabana is home but by no means in place yet. The weather just refuses to cooperate with this project. My loving bride tells me, "be patient," you will get it done. The driveway is now drivable after adding about 80 tons of stone. I t is much nicer not flopping around in the mud.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Worked all day yesterday on the driveway and area surrouding the new building to get a handle on the mud. I gave gravel on the property but it is time consuming to get it to where I need it and time is not on my side with with winter coming and too much to do, so I bought 100 ton of stone and spread most of it. Now I can get in and out without wearing my knee high boots all the time and without tracking mud everywhere.

The roof and chimney are installed so there is no more rain getting in and interior work can be done. The place can actually be locked up when I am not there, but I don't think that would stop a crook. Not much there to steal anyways, just some jacks, and shovels and such. I find most crooks are not looking for tools that they could use to make an honest living. I did not take any photos the last two trips up there. Don't know why just didn't, even the wife wanted to see some so after I get done with a job I am doing for a neighbor I will take a ride with my bride to show her the progress.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Workin" at it!!!

I finally got the bungalo moved to the property last week. My son Tom, my friend Jack, the Amish Craftsman, neighbor Jim, and I Dragged it down the street and into place. Tom drove my four wheel drive deisel dump truck in low range and pulled while I pushed from behind with my loader and helped guilde it all down the road. When we got it to the driveway we pulled past on purpose and hooked up from the other end with Jim's small dozer. Then we pushed/pulled it to the site I had prepped. The move went better then I could have hoped for, just a couple of wires across the road had to be pushed up out of the way and one of the skids broke, but it did not stop the move. All in all it went well.

The weather has been crap around here, rain for the last three weeks and if I waited for things to dry up the Bungalo would be setting up the street until spring. I have dug drainage on the high side of the hill and stopped the water from pooling near the site. I still have to get it up higher and set on cribbing to finish up the foundation. Spent the day there today but gave up on trying to jack the building because of the water dripping off the roof, will attempt to get it done tomorow. I did get some more grade work done and that allowed puddles to drain away. The ground is so soft from all the rain, lucky to get anything done at all.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


I am going to try and post a picture of the bungalo.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


When did I get so smart?

It seems that everyone I know calls me to give them the solutions to all their problems. After taking my bride to the grocery store yesterday I planned on sneaking off to the building site and spending a pleasent day just doing site clean-up with my tractor and chainsaw. One quick stop at the Amish Craftsman's place to tell him we are going with a High-Tech insulation system under the metal roof and give him a time frame for delivery, he asks me if I know anything about the reel mower he pulls with a horse to mow his lawn. Spent the next two hours configuring a sharpening stone, sharpening, and adjusting his ancient piece of equipment. It now cuts like a dream and he says he will take my labors off the bill. Sounds like a fair tradeoff to me.

I can not keep my nose out of it!
If it's mechanical, horticultural, or involves a thought out solution something inside me kicks in and I have to get involved even if it should not be my problem. Is this self distructive behavior or just unbounded creativity?

My wife has turned me around!
For years she has been telling me I should be charging people for my time, that if they knew what to do they would not have called me. Turns out she is right. People do not mind paying when the problem goes away. To this day I have a hard time taking money from neighbors and friends, but not from most of my relatives. The exception is the neighbor across the road from my present location, they are users if you let them be. This "Don't mind paying" theory has proved itself true over and over again, Call Backs! I get plenty.

I should change my name!
Maybe to "Jack" as in "Jack of all trades", or maybe "General", as in "General contractor", or "Mr. Goodwrench". There is not much I won't have a go at, electrical, plumbing, foundations, carpentry, weld fab work, equipment repair, underground work like sewers, French Drains, utility buries, driveway installs, and I love "From the ground up" projects!

OK My Point!
Over the years I have amassed a huge collection of tools and equipment and every hobby I have tried ends up making me money. So I have decided to not fight the feeling, if someone wants to throw cash at me I am playing catch. I barter my skills for things I want and anyone who deals with me comes away happy. No better feeling for me then figuring it out and fixing it, whatever "IT" may be.

Friday, September 22, 2006

It Is Happening!


The site prep work is almost done and the building is getting its roof. Yesterday I went to my Amish Craftsman with my machinery and pulled the building outside to get the roof put on as it was getting to tall to stay inside. Dropped off the windows and doors for installation then went to the site and did grade work. I have photos of all this and when I get it figured out I will post them.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Three steps to Heaven

I have a plan and the wheels are turning. My house is being built, off site by an Amish craftsman even as I type this post. It is compact little place 32x20 built on skids and will be dragged down the road and placed on the foundation. The house is rough cut hemlock, post and beam. This is my interim house, where we will live while the real house gets built. It has two 20x10 sleeping lofts on each end and is open to the roof in the middle. Downstairs will have a bathroom, kitchen, and small living area. I love High-tech low-tech marriages and this little place does that well. The south facing outside wall is all argon gas filled windows with a long overhang to keep the sun off them in the summer and invite the sunshine in all winter long. The windows are a re-cycle from a sky scraper up-date, that my guy Marc got his hands on. The roof is steel in red with rigid stryfoam four inches thick all mounted over white pine sheeting, planed smooth on the inside face as it will be an open roof with a skylite over each loft. They have blinds to control the sun. Two sides are getting covered porches to expand the living to outdoors and to give me a place to strip off my dirty duds as I am a SLOB. In my area outdoors is the place to be nine months of the year, the other three can be a real mother as we get winter in all its glory.
For heat I am using an outside wood burning water boiler and radiant heat in the concrete slab under the house with a small propane furnace back-up so I am not a slave to the system when we are not home. The boiler is oversized as it will be used to heat a portion of the barn and the new house that is going to be built into the hillside will use it when it needs it.
A large amount of the materials I am building with are salvage or my own creation. The reason I went to the Amish craftsman was time considerations and his price is right. So we did a barter for his work, I have trees that become logs and he has a mill that makes boards so a deal was struck. I provided the doors, windows, roofing, fasteners, electrical supplies and he is doing the building. My freind Jack is going to help me do the plumbing, electric, and finish work.
This place will provide me with shelter while I build my home and will become a guest house for company when my place is done. The clock is ticking on my working for the man existence, 14 months until I pull the plug. We brainstormed many ideas on how to make this all happen and this little shelter made the most sense to me as we now live 40 miles from the property and a commute seemed like a waste of my resourses and we will have a nice addition to the homestead after the wash is all hung out to dry, for about what I would have spent in fuel to travel back and forth.
The target is to have this livable by spring, move my saw mill to the site plus all my barn lumber that is already cut. The critters will need a barn before I need the real house so here is the progression. The Amish built love bungolo, a small shop to house the tools, the barn and then the real house.
Water? This is a problem I am still pondering. Do I spend money on a drilled well that will eventually not used ? The property has an artisean well on it but it is 4,500 feet away from the house and I am going to create a water feature that uses this supply and also feeds my needs. The property also has a spring fed stream that runs clean water most of the time and three ponds. Right now I am leaning towards drilling because of the time factor and cost of piping the water 4,500 feet at this time. My water feature will be done without a lot of conventional plumbing and be multi-functinal so I do not want to waste my energy doing things twice.
The real house! Wait until I tell you the plans we are going underground! But that is for another post and another day.

It feels good

I never really fit in. The blame should be squarely placed on my upbringing . My parents taught their children to think for themselves and I took the lessons to heart at a very young age. I am the son of an immigrant mother and a bohemian father neither who did things like everyone else. Politically I am off the map, the elephants and donkeys are spouting the same message from both sides of the aisle, send us your money and we will set you free! Bullshit, the only thing you will be free from is your money. Being a simple man I believe in family first and will do whatever it takes to protect and take care of all that are near and dear to me. Local Puffed Suits hate to see me coming anymore as I do not take anything they try to shove down my throat at face value. The farther up the food chain politians climb the better liars they become.
For too many decades I tried to fit my sqaure ass in the round holes everyone drilled, it never fit right. As I age, less and less of my energy is spent on fitting in as I work towards my visions of how I want my world to be.
For the longest time I was convinced that I must be some sort of freak for not wanting the greenest weed free lawn,(I don't even want a lawn) not wanting the largest square foot house in the nicest suburban neighborhood, not wanting a mini van or a soccor wife, or for not wanting to wear anything besides T-shirts and jeans. Well I have come to realize that I am not alone, it is just that that people that tuely think like me build farther off the road and tend to keep to their own kind.
Now my eyes are open and I once again learned the lesson well. My new house is being built way off the road on a south facing hillside of hard scrabble that won't grow grass. I get bonus points, mine is the only property on the road.
As for keeping to my own kind, thank God Al Gore invented the internet so we can talk. Did I happen to mention that my barn is going to be 12 times the size of our house?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Do it in an election year!

As I try to simplify my life and put some order into the things I do there always seems to be some fool that wants to tell me what I can or can not do on my own land. Let me tell you about three places I own all in different towns. The first place is where I live and we call it the homestead, eleven acres in a small hamlet. The place has a large barn that I built in classic style, Gambol roof, high ceilings, full second floor, this is my garage workshop. Why? Because if I called it a barn the zoning laws say I could not build it. The next building is my stable where I keep my two horses, have had two horses in this building since 1969, but had a town official try to have them removed because the stable is not 75 feet from the side line of the property. He failed and my horses became "GrandFathered", go figure my two mares are Grandfathers. Third building on this property is the house and what a grand old house it is. Build in the early 1800's, moved to it's present site in 1920 and placed on a full basement. My wife and I have done our homework and docuemented the history of our house. It started out as a grainery for a hotel that serviced the wagon trade route from Buffalo New York to Erie Pa. As it turns out we live one day's freight wagon ride from the city of Buffalo. The "Johnson Hotel" also kept oxen to pull the wagons up the hills formed by a gorge on the route. Well, as it turns out no good deed will go unpunished! As a direct result of our own research the town fathers decided that they needed to tell me just how any renovations of "my" old house could proceed, because of historical values. WTF? The place was falling down when I bought it and they did not have a lick of trouble raiseing my taxes after we got the old girl looking good. It is a cool house, Federalist style, very tall, massive post and beam construction, designed to hold the weight of grain bags and freight. This house is a blog all it's own.
Place number two is the family farm plus fifty-four acres. My dear old mother left me the family farm after she died and my youngest son lives in the house, rent free. The rent free part is not what I had planned,but the boy has a mother I have to live with. Both of my parents were collectors, dad collected outside, my mother collected inside. What did they collect, you ask? Some of each is the best way to discribe it. The house was home to six children and when mom died I doubt you could find room for one extra person in the house. Dad was a hard working man who had a love of all things made of metal. Dad has been gone twelve years and I am still finding things on the property. The fifty-four acres is a piece of land that I bought in 1972 that butts up to the family farm making the whole place 75 acres. As you know I am a hicktified, rednecked, country boy at heart, so what would I do with 75 acres? Either further my father's "Collection" or clean up the whole place, put the acres back into production, and build a new barn to house my crops and animals. I choose the later. Well guess what? Here comes the calvery to protect me from myself,"You can not build a barn there because it is too close to the property line," says the building inspector. The property line to the fifty-four acres that I also own. WTF? So here I go more reseach, buy a copy of the zoning laws, he is wrong, so I point this out to him. The wise building inspector says," That rule only applies to agricultural zoning and your place is now zoned residential, we changed it when your mother died." So I now have the biggest back yard in town to hear him tell it. So this light bulb comes on over my head, "Hey I'll get the zoning changed back to agricultural",I say to myself. Now just to clarify why I would think that this should not be a big deal, my two properties, that I could make one for a small fee,$250.00, are surrounded on all four sides by am agricultural opportunity zone. No way, no freaking how can I change it back, I am told.Well tell me no and I catch an attitude, comes from being the youngest of six kids, so again I start the education process. I research the legislation the creates the Ag. zone I am surrounded by. There is a line in this law that says the "Town" will facilitate agricultural start-ups inside the zone, Hey that's me! What I found out was the "Town" is given a pie from the state and this pie is sliced up so all the farmers get a slice. If I take a slice everybody else will get a smaller slice. Got to love my wife, as she boldly proclaims, "Let's see what Hillery Clinton(Sen. from New York) has to say about all this." When I stopped laughing she got on the phone , made a few calls, and the "Town" clerk called to say that I could build my barn and that when I get some free time to please come down to the town hall and fill out some papers for my Ag. exemption. That was three years ago and now I am a home boy even get invites to the farm meetings, and the taxes are about half of what they wanted me to pay. By the way I built the barn and it is a beauty.
Now 40 miles away.....
One day I was driving around and noticed a realtors sign in the ditch in front of a large field, so I stopped my pick-up and took down the phone number and called the lady. I asked if she had a listing for this property and was informed that the listing ran out three years before. I asked if she could find out if the property was still for sale and if it was could she send me some details. She did, It was, and she did. I made an embarassing low ball offer for 89 acres of the nicest valley I had ever seen. The owner a 90 year old from 100 miles away took it! I paid ten percent of his original asking price so I take this as a sign that this was meant to be. We are on track to build our home on this valley and make out last move.
Remember I told you I was an old Hippie? Well now I am going back to those roots with a twist, we are building a total "Green" home and going off the grid. Employing solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and maybe wind. No septic system, composting toilets and a grey water recovery system. So having been hit in the head with a hammer so many times I put on my hard hat and headed to "Town" to get my permits in order. Now I have several bruises from pinching myself,not only were these folks helpful they encourgaged me! WTF? I now have friends the work for the local government and the county after the county health inspector listened to my plans for waste. He was honest, he had never heard of the system I am going to use, even after I showed him that the county allowed the system. I have since sent him reems of info on it and he has taken this knowledge to the next level, showing me some things I did not know. We have the driveway in and a power pole with a meter. My site prep is well o its way and the building inspector, who is a neighbor has been helping me with his brush hog. I think I am going to like it there.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Off Topic Post

Here in Western New York we have an escaped convict on the run. His name is Ralph Bucky Phillips and he went from a drunken drug using four time felon to a cop killer on the run today. This guy escaped from a county jail 5 months ago, shot a troper on the New York State thruway last month, has stolen several cars and traveled all over western New York, Northern Pa., and was even seen in Kentucky. Two days ago he ambushed two troopers from a tree line with a 308 rifle and today one of them died, the other is comatose and has lost a leg. He has a stash of weapons and ammo he got from breaking into a gun shop and is hiding in some rugged country. He has vowed to kill as many police as he can and not be taken alive! Bucky has made it to number 1 on the most wanted list and the reward is up to over 1/4 million him. I hope that he is stopped real soon.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ok I am back and I want to update my blog. I got spammed like crazy while I was away but hopefully this crap can be stopped and I can go on with my story .