It’s big, it’s heavy it’s wood!

The delays have been excruciating. The causes numerous and mostly boring and annoying to pretty much anyone reading this. But, as of this past Monday, the project is underway, again–again.

The new crew came in nail guns blazing and started retrofitting the basement structural problems created by our less than-reputable previous contractor. It took about two days to get everything lined up and corrected. Imagine the importance of that part. There were floor joists that were not in contact with the load bearing elements. Shims where there should have been perfectly measured spans. Things not quite square and/or plum. It is important to understand that a log built home weighs roughly 3-4 times that of a regular “stick built” home. A 1/16 error downstairs can result in a sagging floor or roof angle 10 years from now. This is my dream house and I expect it be here 100 years from now when my grandkids inherit it. It is a monument to all my fathers hopes and dreams about coming to America.

All of that was cool, but frankly I have grown weary of MORE and MORE work being done downstairs. But then, on Wednesday, something I never thought would happen, happened. Logs started appearing in piles near the house. They cracked open the canvas covered pallets and started moving them into place. Of course, they had to “flash” the bottom log first. Flashing is a metal, angled plate that wraps around the edge to direct water off the floor sill.

Each bottom piece has to be carefully dry fitted before being attached with lags that drive into the floor and the treated plate under the floor. Dry fitting is tedious but again, the bottom of this project must be perfect. A small error at the bottom compounds into a giant offset the higher you go.

But eventually, they were all in place.

The crew is coming from pretty far away, so they are working four tens. When they left Thursday, the five vertical pieces that make up the structure of the prow (the really big A-framed front with the giant windows facing the view were standing.

 

This morning, as I was driving away, I stopped at the bottom of our road, and turned back to see the sun hitting it from the east. It is clearly visible now from over a mile away.

That middle post is 27 feet from the ground level below it.

Tonight, we had our priest, Fr David from St Anthony’s Orthodox Church in Bozeman come to bless the house and the barn (where we currently live).

Apparently he felt the chicken and duck coop needed some holy water.

Hopefully, with some divine intervention, the problems that have plagued this project will subside.

And finally, I leave you with this. The original commercial from Ren and Stimpy’s “log”

It’s log, it’s log! It’s better than bad, it’s good.

New Year’s deck building

Things have slowed down on the house build project for several reasons, not the least of which is a contractor issue. I won’t go into the details too much, but I hired a guy to stack the logs about 7 months ago, and a ton of cash later, I barely got a roughed-in basement and a floor. I think he bit off more than he could chew, and once things got to be too difficult, he ground to a halt. He would work for a day, and then take 17 days off. Then it was “my guys didn’t show up” and on and on. Next thing I know, it was the middle of November and my basement was full of snow because it did not get dried in. Now when I walk around in there, I slip and almost kill myself every time. That ice will stay there until March when it warms up enough to thaw. I haven’t found anything I can scrape it out with. The weather hasn’t helped, not to mention everything is just way more costly than you imagine when you are budgeting something like this.

So, I have a new guy starting in probably about a week and we are back on track, I think. In order to save some money, I am trying to build the deck portion myself–and by “myself” I mean I had a little help from a couple of my buddies to get the first several 13 feet long vertical log columns in place. They had to be notched out with a chainsaw and a hole drilled in the bottom to sit on the rebar supports and then lifted up an put there.

Once the first two were in place, they had to be plumbed and then double 2×10 horizontal rim pieces were put in the notches. Some of those spans are over 20 feet long, so it actually took me, my two friends and one teenager to get them going.

We got the layout of the joist hangers marked and then my buddies had to leave. But at least we got one joist in place and a bunch of bracing pieces up so it would be stable. I spent the next two days hanging the joists, and placing the boards down on the deck. THAT part I did by myself. Some of those joist spans are pretty long and I had to put one end into a hanger, then walk up the ladder with the joist in one hand and the nail gun in the other to tack them up. I dropped more than one in that process and one of them hit my ear/neck on the way down. That was fun in this cold weather.

Here are some pictures to show that progress.

This double joist was the most difficult part. These two are the longest hanging pieces, and there are two of them stacked together in a double hanger on one end, and lagged into the sill of the floor on the other. The red arrows point to the two of them.

In case its not obvious, the reason the logs are so long and protrude so far up is they will become the main supports for the railing.

A few people have asked why I have a single seam of deck boards coming together in one place instead of staggering them. Bottom line is, I don’t like the staggered look. I appears messy to me, and it has no structural value if you built the framing for the deck right. It looks like someone built a deck out of spare lumber of various lengths they had lying around.

At the point where I stopped today, this constitutes about 60% of the deck surface. I still to need to get my buddies out to put up the last three 13 footers. The other vertical logs around the right side of the house are much shorter, since the back fill slopes down over there. I can do those myself once I get to it.

Generation X turns 50

With Generation Xers turning 50 at an alarming rate now, here are some thoughts I have about what it means to be a part of this group.

Growing up GenX meant having parents who still had the sense to keep politics and other world events out of our view. We were generally allowed to be kids and enjoy it. A couple of examples of where this failed actually prove the point.

First, I remember the Jonestown suicide massacre being on the front page of Time magazine. A bunch of dead bodies all piled up next to each other. The reason I remember this is because the magazine was accidentally placed too low at the checkout stand and the check out guy apologized to my mom about it. I was too young to process what I was seeing, and should not have seen it.

Another was having Looney Toons interrupted to hear the ominous announcer proclaiming “we interrupt this program to bring you this breaking news. John Wayne is DEAD.”

John who? What happened to Bugs?

9 year olds didn’t need to see this on Saturday morning.

I remember having a president that everybody liked–even Democrats. This was partially because he was kind of a smart ass, and everyone knew he loved America.

Ronald Reagan

A few years later we got a mentally ill billionaire and his retarded retired sidekick admiral running for president and that was kind of a low point for us.

Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey do Perot and Stockdale on SNL

We also got to meet all our most important developmental milestones to the coolest, most brilliant music ever recorded. 80s alternative rock is the soundtrack to many of our lives and we could not have picked anything better if we tried. Then, in 1991, grunge walked into the room, took a big pile of steaming crap on the carpet and it all ended with a poof of dark smoke, never to be heard from again.

Our parents still had Christmas parties for the whole neighborhood. And they came. Even our Jewish neighbors who did not need to be revived with smelling salts at the sight of a Christmas tree.

We remember a world without microwave popcorn. That was just crazy.

If someone said “jeans” they meant “Levis 501s” There was no other kind of jeans. And part of the ritual was buying a pair 4 sizes too big, and washing them 600 times so they would shrink and fade before you wore them. Otherwise your new, dark blue jeans just looked lame.

501s–before and after all the painstaking prep-work.

Everyone knew who the kids from broken families were (read: divorced/blended, etc) and it was Ok to point it out, We still loved those families, while simultaneously recognizing it was not ideal. I grew up in a family like that, and I didn’t mind when people noticed.

When I would run or workout, my walkman would bounce and you could hear the cassette wobble.

We learned a bunch of stuff from John Hughes films that actually turned out to not be true at all. But they are still fun to watch.

Lies. Its all lies.

National tragedies like the president being shot, the challenger disaster and so on had no racial or social justice component to them. They were just shitty times for Americans to comfort each other through.

It turned out “The Russians” did in fact, love their children too. So that worked out.

There was this thing called “The Boy Scouts” (not just “scouts”) and the handbook had some weird ambiguous language about stuff like being gay and masturbating but nobody got upset about it.

This would be considered antisocial propaganda today.

Everybody’s favorite sitcom family was an obstetrician and his lawyer wife. And nobody cared that they were black or whatever. It was just a funny show.

Remember the one when Theo learned he was dyslexic?

And another thing. Sometime in the 90s, the generation right behind us (those we don’t speak of) took the word “whatever,” added an eye roll to it and turned it into a rude, obtuse disregarding insult.

You’re doing it wrong, morons. When a GenXer says it, he means it in the most deferrent and respectful way to the hearer. “Whatever” is the ultimate expression of the thoroughly American concept of “live and let live.” It means something like:

“You do it your way, and I’ll do it my way and we can still totally be friends or whatever”

or

“I’m not super married to this idea, so if you want to do something else, that’s cool too.”

or

“I haven’t really thought this through, so if you have a better idea, I can easily be persuaded.”

…and so on.

High School Graduation, 1989

There’s plenty more to reminisce about our experience, maybe some comments will bring it into focus. Anyway, relax for God’s sake.  Just listen to this song from the greatest era in music history. You will be feeling nothing but love for everyone and everything around you by the time the soft synth hits at around 2:37. Or whatever.

Scott and Mychaels advice for marriage and romance

We are slowly dipping our toes in to the world of marriage advice. This is the exact text and photo from a joint FB post we did…

Scott and Mychaels advice on marriage and/or romance.

Folks often look to the things we post on our blog and FB page and make very lovely heartfelt comments about how inspired they are by this thing we have. We’ve been together for about 13 years and yes, the stuff we post is real and true. We are absolutely crazy for each other. Here are some thoughts that apply to both men and women. We don’t want to pretend to be experts though. Scott is divorced. Mychael had a child out of wedlock before we met. Both of us could be considered failures in this area, and we both have tried to come to realistic grips about those shortcomings. Maybe, in fact, that is point number one. –Knowing that you are not perfect.

Next. We see a lot of posts from people, right after a break up that declare something like “this next time I am going to hold out for [fill in the blank list of qualities]” Stop doing this. Why in the world do you think you are entitled to a person like that? This is the boneheaded “soulmate” canard. The idea that God (or the universe or whatever) has someone out there built just for you and you just have to trust that He will deliver that person to you. How self-absorbed do you have to be to think that way? Instead work on MAKING YOURSELF INTO SOMEONE THAT A HIGH-QUALITY MATE WOULD WANT TO MARRY. If you are a woman, ask yourself “what kinds of things to men really like” and the opposite if you are a man. The world does not owe you a good spouse.

(Note: Here’s a quick way to assess your willingness to engage with the previous point. If you post a lot of stuff about how “stubborn” and “hard headed” or whatever you are, and that everyone needs to just deal with it, you probably should work on that)

Next. Stop comparing your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend to someone else’s. This is step one on a multi-step journey that ends in infidelity. “Why can’t you be like so and so? He loves her sooooo much!” That is a dead end street that will, in almost every case get you on the path to cheating and destroying your relationship. Again–get back onto yourself. Love them the way you want to be loved. Do it when they don’t “deserve” it. Do it when you don’t feel like it. Do it when you are mad. Whatever. Its easy to be sweet and loving and attentive when things are going well.

“Love” is not something that strikes you like a lightning bolt or cupids arrow out of nowhere. It is an effort you make every day. It’s no secret we believe in lifelong monogamous marriage. So, for the married–if you are hopelessly romantic and you want the fireworks all the time–GREAT! God has given you a spouse to pursue that with, with every ounce of energy you have. Marriage is the moral context for the pursuit of a great romance and sex life. You have the opportunity to rediscover the sparks and chemistry with him/her every single time you wake up in the morning.

Related to the point above–you may NEVER entertain the stupid, marriage destroying thought “maybe I married the wrong person.” You are married to the right person. Now work out your romance with that person. The end.

Stop watching romantic comedies. They are entertaining and cute and simultaneously have no moral or intrinsic value for how to develop a deep, lasting love.

Next. Your obligations in marriage exist even if the other person is not meeting theirs. Read that again.

If you went to bed angry, you better put it to rest in the morning. Get up and say to yourself “how can I make his/her life more bearable today?” Be the reason they come home every night. Not their enemy.

Forgive every single little thing they do that annoys you. Because you have a bunch of annoying habits that they overlook constantly.

Make out and be affectionate in front of your kids. You don’t have to be gross about it. But they need to see it.

When the other person is sick or not able to show up for the fight with 100%, make up the difference. You will be sick soon enough.

Do not keep score on the previous point. Assume that the other person brings everything they have, every day. You will drive yourself crazy telling yourself they could have done more.

Related: When the other person does something you don’t understand, assume they did it for pure reasons. When you ask them about it, believe them when they tell you how they meant it.

For serious, Christian married couples: Marriage is not about you. Its not about fulfilling your needs for affection, companionship or whatever. It is a lab for you to explore just exactly how much love and devotion you can pour onto another, imperfect person. It provides an example to the rest of the world for how Christ loved His church even unto death (the man to the woman) and how the church faithfully follows the lead of Christ wherever He says they are going, even when she disagrees (the wife to the husband).

In the future, we would like to write some of these that are gender specific, but that might prove to be too much for many. So we might skip that part.

(Picture is from a friends wedding we went to way back when were a brand new couple).

That one time when…

I was trying to organize my desktop and other folders tonight, and got distracted by the family photos. So rather than continue working on something productive, I thought I would caption some of the weirder ones for my own amusement.

That one time when I completely shaved my head right before I deployed to Afghanistan and my daughter wasn’t even three yet

That one time when open carry became legal in Texas so I took my son to the feed store to see if it was true.

The time when I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation so I celebrated by taking Mychael out all dressed up in my uniform but not before tucking in my cat Eric for bed

That time I bought Mychael a gun and took her to the range but all I really wanted was a picture of her from behind

That time when I was a college professor teaching a class on substance abuse while wearing a gun in a war zone

There was this one time when Mychael had just finished an elliptical workout and then put her muck boots on to go rake leaves

That one time when blogger Cane Caldo brought his family to our house and we went to a farm to make scarecrows and pick pumpkins and Mychael posed with it, holding an egg

That time I hired a limo to go wine tasting on Mychaels birthday and we were totally drunk by the time we took this picture

That time when the Serbs were getting really annoyed with my son for interrupting the soccer game after church

That time when the rabbit joined me for watching TV

That time when my daughter was playing a game and it was really important for me to hold the parasol for some reason

Anyway, a slightly humorous and mildly entertaining look at life around here. More house pictures to come, but its kind of at a spot where it doesn’t really look different from day to day.

Another main beam and huge section of floor joists

Yesterday, I was told that this window was too big, and needed to lose some size in order to make room for a main beam across the prow.

There have been a number of setbacks on this project because I am acting, in essence as the general contractor. Probably not the smartest thing in the world, since it is a very complex luxury log home. I had a roughly one hour conversation with the designer, the architect and the guy at the mill who actually cuts and ships the logs, and it was determined that the best way to solve the problem was to cut the window out, re-frame it and use a 6×6 treated piece to create the pockets on both sides of the prow needed to hold this monster:

Note the 6×6  it is sitting on. I did most of that prep work this morning, before the crew got here. The other side is basically the same configuration. I got to operate the boom while these two guys guided it into place. It weighs about a thousand pounds.

You see, the prow section of the house is about 40 feet across so a second load bearing element (you see the first one next to the guy on the phone held up by the character log) must be present to hold the giant spans. Once we got this thing into place, the joists went in pretty much without issue.

Its a really big house. Almost 4,000 sq feet. This photo may give readers a perspective on the footprint size.

The middle section is going to be the most difficult for several reasons.

Fist, I changed the basement floor plan in midstream, and unbeknownst to me, that actually completely reconfigured the load bearing qualities of the center. We had to order another GL (“glue lam”) beam at a length of 16 feet in order to make the middle span. It will hold the weight of all the joists in the center section. It is also the section where the stairs go, so it will get a little tricky.

The GL beam is en route and will arrive Monday. If I have time this weekend, I may put some more sheeting on the front of the house, just to completely close it in. But other than that, we are at a stopping point until the beam arrives.

Labor Day Weekend home building

One of the ways I am saving money on this log home build is I offered to “help” the main construction contractor (the one “stacking” the log package) whenever I can. This weekend, I was home alone, and all the materials and contractors equipment was just lying there on site. So, I decided to try my hand at framing.

The basement of the house is a walk-out style, partial concrete system. The front–including the complex prow with huge windows is framed, and is therefore load bearing. When I started, about 1/2 of the front of the wall was done, with none of the prow. I spent some time on the phone with my contractor and my friend Marc (the architect who designed much of this home) and away I went, starting on Friday.

Here is what I built, by myself.

Not bad for one guy, who 5 days ago knew nothing about framing to do over a long weekend. But, there’s more. I also stacked the three main “character” logs on their ends, in the precise location where they will rest. I had to do that with a gradall (a huge crane like forklift) which I did not know how to use either. I just starting pulling levers until I figured out how to raise/lower the boom as well as extend and retract it. I had to cut them straight on the bottom, and they still needed a little shimming.

I was home by myself, and I will admit– I dropped one. It was not attached to the strap, and I tried to just muscle into place. It started to fall, and after a second of trying to stop it, I just ran and let it drop. That was close. They probably weigh 1000 pounds.

When I was done, I snapped this one on the timer.

Today, the crew showed up and they seemed legitimately impressed, as I had, in one weekend moved the project forward enough to where they could start the floor system for the main floor, which now looks like this:

I’m no journeyman, but it is pretty satisfying taking such a huge role in building my own dream house.

Retaining wall is the DEVIL!

Got up and did the animal feeding and run thing this morning. Then it was down to the construction site to build my retaining wall. The wall is a requirement since the basement is dug into the side of the hill. Without it, there would be no level area for the front door (on the ground floor) and dirt would eventually run over and cover one of the huge windows on the basement prow.

The concrete guy made it really easy for me to start by pouring a rebar reinforced footing for it–about 30 feet long it total.

But lets not get all excited and think there was anything “easy” about today’s job. I estimate these stones to be about 60-70 lbs each. They are way heavier than the 45 lb -plates at the gym, and super awkward to move. I had to place about 160 of them today, to make the bulk of the wall come in at a 4 feet high. It gets really difficult when the stack of stones is getting low, and you have to lift them way up to your chest, and leverage them right into position.  The guy in the Youtube video I watched said it took him several weeks to build a retaining wall, using the same technique, same materials, same height and length. He said he would not recommend pushing too hard, and stacked like one layer at a time and would rest for a few days. He was like 15 years younger than me. I did it in one day.

There was a little cutting involved too…

I noticed when I got to about the 4th stone high, the wall started to feel like it was going to collapse over. It occurred to me that this is because they are designed to be stacked in a stagger, so they push against the dirt behind them. No dirt pushing back, and they tip. So you have to back fill as you go.

In the end, it took me pretty much all day. I started at around 0830 and was not really done until after 1600. Here is what it looks like:

My biggest fan sat with me while we looked at it.

Hardest work I have done so far on this ranch. Pounding over 200 t-posts into decomposing granite? Digging post holes and pouring concrete in them for the pasture corners? Pulling 1700 foot wire lengths off those stupid fence wire spools by hand? Digging out  of 6 foot snow drifts? All of that stuff was rough, but I am going to be pretty worthless for a couple of days after this.

The one where I am referred to as “this giant I married”

Finally getting a moment to do an update on a couple of events of interest to some.

My daughter was in San Diego, California for an etiquette training camp for a week in early August. And yes, you can still find those. She learned traditional manners and lady-like behavior with a small group of other other kids whose parents still think this stuff is important. The last day was a recital of sorts, consisting of all they had learned, including some ballroom dancing.

The woman who runs the etiquette camp is named Julie Dern:

It’s all about etiquette

Our daughter is still reminding us of all the rules of table manners, and the finer points of etiquette.

At the end of the week, I flew out to meet them and we had another week together. We stayed in a cool little AirBnb in Carlsbad, where the weather was perfect the entire time.

We did the zoo thing and also got to see Mychaels Grandmother in Palm Desert. The opportunity to bridge four generations is always a treat.

When we got back the pouring of the slab on the basement floor of the main house finally got done.

That little sidewalk looking thing protruding from the side is actually the footing for a retaining wall, which I will be tackling myself tomorrow. Hopefully it will go as easily as the video I watched.

It was also my youngest sons birthday, during which Mychael posted a picture of us, referring to me as “this giant I married.” I am just a wee bit larger than her, and some pictures really show it.

Finally, I snapped a few shots after the rain the other day. One of my boys riding on the four wheeler with me and one of a rainbow that looked like it was shooting straight up into heaven off the farthest mountains you can see from my porch.

I’ll try to remember to snap some shots of the retaining wall build tomorrow. Its about 192 blocks, for a total of 26 feet long and 4 feet high. Pretty good workout, I figure.

 

Road trip

Me and Scott are returning from our Summer vacation and he sent me this flirty text and pwhile sitting right next to me.

E1A7750E-DCDD-4B8D-ACC8-EA4F92FAB5E5

11791C81-D5CC-4D78-9F44-DDBEF10C0A84

He still catches me off guard and makes my face turn red. And yes. I go out of my way to wear stuff he thinks is cute. I fish for compliments from him that way. It obviously worked this time,

We hope everyone is having a fun summer. We’ll have some more pics of the house build up soon.