Friday, October 09, 2015

Camp Status

Happy place
I can't believe that the entire summer went by so quickly, in a blink of an eye. At least in retrospect that is. I can say for certain that during certain stretches of the summer, when it rained day after day or when the project du jour was less than stimulating, the days dragged on. Still, it was a big block of time that somehow escaped me.

It is not that there is nothing to show for that time at camp though. The list of projects was long if not entirely glamorous. The second half of the summer saw primarily outdoor projects, mostly dealing with excavation or moving material from one location to another. We brought a lot of material into camp this summer. A lot of material. All told, nearly a quarter of a million pounds of crushed ledge and gravel. all of that material and much, much more was moved with the help of my brother Chad's John Deere 4WD diesel tractor with bucket and backhoe. I got very familiar with the machine this summer and became fairly proficient at operating a backhoe, which not be a video gamer, was way harder than it looks. All told I spent nearly 70 hours on the machine over the course of a few months this summer.

Tractor time for all
In addition to the material brought in, we dug over 300' of trench and drainage ditch, completely excavated the foundation and trenched on both sides of the camp out the front law and back filled with crushed ledge. Rebuilt the road in to camp, sloping and grading the big corner and built a new, large parking area from the driveway, next to the camp. We landscaped, seeded and mulched about half an acre, numerous times throughout the summer. Half a dozen bales of hay and about 60# of conservation mix and rye to get some green growing, which it finally is.

None of that work was terribly glamorous. Digging holes and filling them in, moving and reshaping the Earth with the hope that what you are left with is more usable, practical and workable than that with which you started. That said, when the grass grows in over the bare Earth and you see the final work, there is a certain undeniable satisfaction. Things start to look neat and tidy and back in place once again. And so it does now, finally.

Finished wall and trim, sub-panel and blocking
During some of the particularly wet days this summer, I took the time to finish some of the inside projects in the basement. That included finishing off the outer, framed wall which has the entry door and a large window. This wall is 2x6" construction and is fully insulated. I chose to use 1x10" finished KD pine V Groove on it which I sealed both sides of with water seal. The basement is dry but all basements will be humid in the summer. We plan to finish this area off though and have tons of ventilation as well as a dehumidifier and heat so we should be OK. I finished the wall off the same way I did all of the upstairs in the main camp, planked horizontally.

 I also spent time bracing the floor joist, which were free floating and had never been braced up. I chose to block the 2x6" joist with pieces of 2x6" cut to tightly span the distance between each pair of joist at the mid point of the run and wedged in perpendicular then nailed in place. This helps keep the joist from tipping over on edge from the weight of the structure above. I chose blocking vs cross bracing simply because it was less work. I offset the individual blocks off the center line just enough to end nail back through the joist into the block. The end result stiffens the floor significantly and helps keep it from racking any further. I did two rows of bracing at the mid points between the outer wall and the center carrier beam.

Steep section, drive and ditch
When they built the camp, they didn't really have a good understanding of framing. This has become evident from a number of fixes I've made but none more than the end framing of to deck that made the camp floor. Not only was it not blocked up but they also didn't frame up and box in the ends of the joist at all. They simply left the 2x6" joist end and nailed the wall sheathing to it after they framed the outer wall. Typically, you would run one or two (depending on the span vs material length) 2x6" the full outer length to frame in the ends of the joist and tie them together into a single, stand alone and stable unit and keep them from racking. I have no idea why they didn't do that. It must have been hard as sin to build that way and not have the joist fall over. Anyhow, I blocked those ends up as well, which was the best option I had beyond cutting each joist back 1.5" and sliding a 2x6" up in between the cut joist and the wall sheathing. That would have entailed cutting roughly a million nails as well.

Driveway, parking and upper ditching
After blocking the ends, I cut fiberglass insulation pieces to fit the holes between the joist, along the outer wall, on top of the sill. No reason to heat the outdoors any more than I have to. I also used some more 1x8" hemlock which I ripped and planed to finish off the inside face of the PT 2x6" sill plate and 6x6" sill. This just covered it all and made it look a bit cleaner at the top of the foundation.

Another relatively large project this summer was tackling the existing 8x12' shed that came with the property when bought the place, which was the only storage we had for tools and equipment. It was small and pretty full of materials, tools and machinery. Much of the material was scrap and junk that over the course of the summer I culled out. Still, there are many hand and power tools housed there. The shed was structurally sound but the asphalt shingle roof and plywood sheathing siding were in need of help. We also needed more storage space for the lawn tractor, push mower, a wood chipper, firewood and numerous other implements of destruction. My plan was to add on to either side of the shed, extending the existing roofline.

The shed before
Over the course of a couple weeks I did just that, first on one side and then the other. I built a 5' wide deck from 2x6" PT tied to the outer shed wall on one side and blocked up on the other end. For decking I used what would become the staple for the shed, 1x8" rough, fresh cut hemlock planks from Poulsen Lumber, a local sawmill.

I used 4x6" beams that I'd taken from the camp supports when we put the foundation under it along with A braced 4x4" PT uprights as the main carrier beam outer wall to support the ends of the rafter extensions from the existing shed wall. I sheathed the roof and then, with the help of my folks, laid the new 12' long x 3' wide tin roofing sheets. Once the roof was in I framed and vertically planked the walls with more of the hemlock. Hemlock, like cedar, is swamp soft wood and is naturally rot and insect resistant.

The shed after
After I finished one side, I started on the other side. That side of the shed was on a downslope so I dropped the deck a bit lower that the deck level of the main shed in order to gain some headroom and also went 6' wide rather than 5' wide and left a couple of feet of overhang, in order to store firewood under that overhang. Same framing, same decking as the first side, both with A braced corners to the door openings, which still have no doors in them at present. A project that I still need to tackle.

The old shed now looked terrible compared to the new shed additions so I sided it after installing a could of slick, super inexpensive mail order shed windows. For something fun and different I did it with cedar shakes. They look great but are expensive and very time consuming. It took a day and a half to do the one end but the result was very, very appealing.

I also needed to get power into the basement for all of the utilities as well as the build out. I chose to get a local electrician to drop a sub panel in and it was a bargain. Best money I've ever spent. Amazing how affordable things are in that area as compared to MA. Easily cost me less than a quarter of what it would have cost here in MA to have that same work done.

Finished, covered deck area and stairs
The final projects of the season were some of the biggest and certainly the most expensive. The biggest being having a drilled well put in for the camp's water source. We'd been using a dug well, which had enough water but was not potable. I'd toyed with fixing the well, which would have involved digging it up, fixing and sealing the tiles, adding another tile, sealing it all on the outside and capping, back filling and grading with the correct materials and then hoping the water was then fit to drink. It probably would have worked and would have only cost a few hundred dollars and a few day's time but there were no guarantees.

We opted to have one drilled. The neighbor only went down 180' before hitting water. The state average is 300'. We were optimistic and hopeful. Drilling costs $13/ft and steel casing (6" pipe), which you have to run from the surface until you hit bedrock in order to seal the well from surface water contamination, costs $18/ft. We knew that we were right on ledge, literally, which minimized the casing cost. The whole well with pump and installation should be in to $6k range, we hoped.

Drilling for water
The drillers showed up with a pair of very large drill rigs on Friday, just as the rain started. They tried backing up in, a mighty task, and almost made it the first shot with the drill truck but got cocked off to the side at the very top. The driver chose to pull back down and that was the start of what would come to be a complete and utter decimation of our entire driveway. I'll spare the details but the result was a truck stuck in the middle of the drive with the rear end sunk into the lawn about a foot. The drive itself had been completely roto-tilled and the truck had been in every ditch we had, destroying them all.

The rain finally stopped on Saturday and then Cathy and I spent the entire weekend fixing the driveway. I used nearly all of the stash of 15 tons of crushed rock I'd amassed. We spent hours and hours trying to get it usable again. That was a very, very low point of a summer that saw it's fair share of low points. The mired truck seemed a perfect metaphor for my summer, or at least parts of it, feeling utterly mired and sinking in a never ending list of projects that I had no chance of finishing before the season was up. Swimming against the tide or struggling in quick sand, you chose, but they all seemed suffocating.

Hot water to spare
Monday came and the drillers showed up again. They managed to get the trucks up in at the expense once again of the driveway. They drilled all day. This was a very nerve racking and anxious time. We wanted water as soon as possible as every foot they drilled cost another $13. The drill runs in 20ft lengths and they were going through and adding lengths at an alarming rate. Finally at 360' the driller, Greg, decided to pull, flush and check flow. He'd noted that he hit some water pockets. The less than scientific test showed about 2 gpm flow/refresh rate. Couple that with the 360' of storage in the pipe at 1.47 gallons/ft and we should have more than enough water.

The drillers packed up and headed out, running back through the ditches one more time for good measure. What was left in the wake was a mess of ledge slurry, mud and ruts. Everything was covered in stone dust, but the job was done. Just needed to get the pump installed and we would have water. That took another week, which gave me time to fix the drive, excavate from the well to the camp for the water line and power and clean things up. Another 20 ton of crushed ledge went into the drive and then two load or 40 ton of gravel would make a the new parking area up top. Throw in many, many hours of time brushing the sides of the road and on the John Deere ditching as well as leveling as well as running the hand rakes, not to mention seeding and mulching and we were finished.

Almost winterized
The last thing for the summer, with no time at all to spare, was the plumbing and heating. For this I got a friend of my brother, a local plumber, to install a new, 50 gallon electric water heater in the basement. This allowed me to pull out the small, 6 gallon heater that was up in the bathroom, making more space. He also moved the expansion tank from the bathroom into the basement which when coupled with the removal of the old above ground water pump from the bathroom made lots of extra space.

At present, the heating system isn't quite done but is very, very close. Should be complete this weekend. We chose a Rinnai direct vent propane heater. Simple and efficient and way more than we should need. I bought a pair of 100# propane cylinders which have direct cut over. I can easily transport them and get them filled right in town, which simplified things as compared to a big tank that would require a delivery truck, which would never make it up in the winter.

So that's where we are. Summer is long gone and a didn't get nearly as much done as I'd hoped. Still, we are way closer. I'm sure that there are a mess of small projects I didn't touch on here, that sucked up time as well. Still, this is the bulk of the major projects. It's easy to see now why I didn't get much riding in this past summer and frankly, didn't have much energy or desire for it left anyhow.

I'm still tired, more so after writing this.

Can't wait to get started again though.