Farm Life: Building Projects

P1040703My blogging friends, Marsha and Barney, have written about their home projects, pondering when the labor will be done.  Sorry to tell you, never.  Well, at least as far as our 20 years of living in this log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains foretells.  My mother has even referred to our dwelling as the Eastern Winchester Mystery House  (those of you from San Jose, CA will get the joke).  We have just finished our most recent, though hardly the last, building project: a new porch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur cabin in the mountains began just about 20 years ago this July.  We had contracted to have a log home builder construct the shell (foundation through dry-wall).  The company delivered two semi-trucks of lumber, windows, etc. and we handed them a cashier’s check, four days before our wedding day.  We spent our honeymoon in nearby state parks, stopping by every couple of days to check the progress.  The day we drove back from Rhode Island, where our ceremony and family gathering was held, we saw our builder driving quickly away.  As we approached our gate, we found a sheet of 1″ insulation board tied to our gate with “Just Married” spray painted on it.  That board went into the structure somewhere (waiting for future Marsha and Stanley type renovators to find).  We spent the next 10 years putting down floors, painting walls, constructing cabinets, and hooking up fixtures and appliances in the bathrooms and kitchen.

IMG_1380When we moved in as full time residents, just about 10 years ago, we hired a local farming family to renovate our screened-in porch into an enclosed dinning room.  They liked us and returned the next Spring to build our garage, which turned into space for two vehicles, a root cellar, workshop, and exercise room/storage space.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile they were excavating the root cellar hole, I suggested that they push away part of a hillside for calf-stalls. Another neighbor and several FFA (Future Farmers of America) students assembled the the first half one year, and attached the second half the next year.  Our goats, ducks, and barn cats happily bed down there now.

When we got Bella, our first dog, I tried my hand at building a dog house, but this did not go over enthusiastically.  We eventually hauled it out to the goat field, where the goat kids use it as a play house.  Bella preferred to sleep on the porch to guard the cabin and driveway.

100_4270Our “15 year shingles” on the roof disentegrated at 14 years 11 months.  We put up the funds for a metal roof that should outlive us.  We had talked to the roofer mid-summer.  He showed up in mid-February.  His crew had the new roof on between snow storms.  Later, we added a solar hot water system with panels on the roof.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALinda made a comment at some time about having a garden shed, while I was contemplating an outhouse.  A garden shed made more sense.  Had I mentioned that all the windows in the garage came from friends’ homes?  I had a good supply of windows waiting for renewal.  I framed these in and built the garden shed around the windows.

P1040704As we heat with wood, we need dry wood for winters.  I began to use scrap wood to make a wood shed, complete with two old screen doors for walls.  My initially plan went well, so I doubled the size the next year.  It turned out to be an L shape, not because of aethetics, but because the first year, I found 8′ long corregated roofing and 12′ the next.  What building plans?

IMG_0230About that time, I leaned on the rail to our deck to have it fall off in a cloud of carpenter ant dust.  That is when I began to tear it off and replace it with the “arbor” across our deck.  Three summers later, I hope to finish putting the rails on the back stairs.  What building code?

Then, I noticed dry-rot in the deck boards of our front porch, and that rail fell off.  Time to replace the porch.  We talked with our handyman, who painted our barn (aka garage) last summer.  He asked for some measurements.  The drawings at the beginning of this post were what I handed him.  His estimate came in about $200 less than our tax return for this year.  Time to tear off the rotting wood and start building.

P1030840Our objectives included extending the porch out from the house far enough to have a seating area on the cool side of the cabin in summer.  We wanted a roof to cover the entrance, so that I would no longer have snow side off the metal roof while opening the door, and to give the dogs a place to be out of the elements when we were at work.

P1030848Of course, living in a six sided log cabin, meant that the porch could not be square.  It began 18′ wide at the walls, ran out 18′, but converged with a 9′ width at the steps.  Because we are on a slight slope, next to the house the porch is at door level for 6′, then steps down two steps for the next 12′.  The up-slope now only need three steps.

P1040701After watching a couple of storms blow by, I figured out where to place the rain barrels to catch the water flowing off the roof.  The old kitchen sink even fit between the rain barrel and garden fence.  Now, we can rinse the garden vegetables before bringing them inside for cooking.

P1040099In case you are wondering, building projects in the country do not necessarily come with lots of forms, plans, punch lists, contracts, and bills.  One’s word is more important than paperwork to folks out here.  A sketch and handshake were what got the project going.  Half of the money up front and half upon completion.

Now, what shall I make out the left over wood from the old porch…?



About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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8 Responses to Farm Life: Building Projects

  1. The Vicar says:

    The porch is looking great. Thanks for the tour through the years of all the different changes that have taken place. Wow, 20 years, congratulations!

  2. Love this! Please – More home project posts. I know you do your farm stuff, and that is great, but wouldn’t it be fun to do a photo-essay of your home, start to finish? (a lot of work, but fun) I seem to remember great stories about how you figured out what to do with odd-shaped walls …

    • hermitsdoor says:

      We have binders filled with photos from all stages of the cabin’s life. Most are pre-digital camera. Many are technical shots, such as every wall and ceiling area before drywall went up to outline where plumbing and wires are hiding. I shall consider some “tours” of the farm in the future. Thanks for the idea.

  3. Barneysday says:

    Excellent post! I’ve kept progress pics on our restoration, and looking back, I can’t see how I made it through and still kept my sanity. (Well, maybe thats up for debate.) At any rate, thanks for sharing this, and you’ve inspired my next post on my recent addition.

    Great work!

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I think the insanity issue depends on whether you are living in the middle of the building project (such as our friends Marsha and Stanley). Most of the work on our cabin was done when we came up on weekends. We could live among the mess for a couple of days at a time. Once we moved here full time, I finished the kitchen cabinets and the crew closed in our dinning room. The rest of the projects have been outside, which we could stay away from as needed. I look foward to your post about your project. At least someone in this nations is getting something done!

  4. Mother Suzanna says:

    Hey, can’t wait to sit out in the cool afternoon breeze on the new porch! What a great idea! Enjoyed the reading about the reasons for renovations!! Time flies and nothing is forever!

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