Archive | September 2012

Next Big Step!

view of another part of our meadow beyond trees, now that weeds are cleared

We now have a Building Permit! We will be starting next week with slab preparation, need to have an electrician, a plumber, and a concrete specialist for our subs before the first inspection and pour of the slab foundation. My foreman is submitting paperwork for some specialist licenses, so later work will be after those are approved. I am going to be running over to the county seat for recording every sub-contractor, as I have to list each one with the license number. It is not a bad drive, and probably won’t be too frequent. Walhalla is a pretty town.

We will also be running the water line from the meter back to the cottage, over 300 feet. The trench has been dug for that. It was a really cool machine for that. It looked like a chain saw that went into the dirt, then a worm-screw blade at the top to push the dirt to each side of the trench.

digging waterline trench

details of trencher





The water company is out by the main road now, installing a meter for the cottage. We already have a trench for the portion I will be responsible for – about 300 feet or so. It will be pvc pipe and will be protected with another pipe where the new driveway will cross it. I sure don’t want to worry about leaks. We hope the electric company will also bury the line back to the cottage. I plan to mark the trenches somehow, as I don’t know if they mark the private portion of utilities with the 811 call. It would be nice to have an idea where to dig  or not to dig. After all, this is our retirement community and we expect our memories of this will fade.

Landscape changes, site progress

site with footers dug

We had our equipment operator out to do some work while the weather is good (heavy rains Tuesday). While here, he dug trenches for the footers under the slab, and helped open up the meadow by clearing the edges where Sharon has been spraying the encroaching weeds. We now have it cleared where we want to put the driveway, and about 10 to 15 feet beyond the edge of mowed grass. We regained a lot of usable acreage, but more to go. Sharon also got some concrete curbing moved to allow access for the lawn mower to another tier of the yard. If Sharon weren’t in class this week, she’d be out spraying a little further for the next round. We had a good laugh when she admitted she wanted to do that.

probable driveway before clearing

probable driveway after clearing















We are seeing the solution to our problems with getting the permit. It has been a difficult period trying to find general contractors who are interested and relatively near budget, who have come with a friend’s recommendation, or is someone my foreman has worked with in the past. We are back to my acting as owner builder, with my foreman and his crew getting the specific skills licenses. It is still delayed until they have them, but it appears to be the best solution. I have always planned to be on site during the construction, even though I am not able to do the work, I am extremely curious. My biggest disappointment is now losing the window of opportunity to use the skills of the dome specialist to help us most efficiently erect the shell of the dome. My foreman is confident he can figure most of it from the extensive construction manual, and we can always ask questions of American Ingenuity Domes, but it will take longer. I do like having someone with a lot of experience and willingness to think outside of a box-shaped home.

I walked inside my new house

At least I walked in the dirt and knew exactly where it would go.

Doug has put up stakes and string in preparation for the dig, setup, and pour of the foundation slab. He was only 1/4 inch off the perimeter, and the manual says 2 inches is tolerable. Very good work.

It is really cool that I was able to really see how much space I’d have in each room. I can see how tight everything will be, but I am planning to have storage in as much furniture as possible, double duty is essential in a small space. Twice before I have had a travel trailer as a home, and those were 8 ft wide (exterior) and less than 20 feet long. I learned where a lot of space could be found. This is more than twice the size of those trailers, but half the size of the main floor where I live now, I can adapt. I am not bringing furniture from the other house, will stage it for sale with the furniture and use that in a later dome that will be larger.

String layout of dome

If you click the picture, you might be able can see in it where I added purple Xs in the entry – living room – kitchen – dining area at the left side. To the right are blue Xs for bedroom and a patio door. At the right front is the small dome with green X which will be the bath and laundry. The foundation pour will be to the outside of the white string, and the slab will cover it all.

Progress on Landscape

We are expecting to make a decision on a general contractor by end of this week, so glad to reach this. The land has been leveled at the site of the cottage, and it was fun to watch. Sharon and I have spent a good length of time in techie professions and enjoy seeing new toys. Of course the Bobcat with a blade was not entirely new, but we both would have loved a chance to do a little driving. We were well-behaved and did not ask. They also had a great electronic level with a laser.

Level Site

Other parts of the landscape were moved – Sharon has been using Roundup all around the edge of the meadow, and has about 10 feet or so of the weeds killed back, but because much had brambles, we are having them clear with machinery instead of by punctured hand. There is a section of lawn right behind the house that has deep ridges, so they spread some of the extra dirt there. Mowing that area will be much less unpleasant, Sharon has bounced high enough to have the switch kill the engine.

Edge Clearing

Other work yet to be done once we pick up the permit, and we will get to watch a small shovel dig the footings for the slab foundation. There is a bit of concrete curbing between two levels of yard that have made it impossible to get the riding mower onto one, and those will be moved, too. A couple of trees that came down this past year will also be moved. Power equipment is good!

This evening we also added to our mixed family. It is now 3 cats and 3 dogs, as Sharon picked up another rescue mini schnauzer. So far the cats have not met him, but he does fine with cats. He is smaller than most and is a little thin from previous situation, but a very friendly little guy. We’ll get a picture later.

Bringing in the Cats

Sharon brought the old truck back to Seneca last weekend, and I had some business to handle in Roanoke on Tuesday, so brought the cats to Seneca on Wednesday. Interesting trip, as the tranquilizers did not entirely knock them out. Buster was named Filibuster for his loud and constant complaint about riding in a car when I first got him. This trip he was not too loud, but complained long enough that his voice was still a little scratchy two days later. It was a long trip, but we are settling into the front room in Sharon’s house. The dogs are a bit too loud and excited when they see the cats, at least for Kinsey and Leo, but Buster has sniffed noses a few times with Shakti through the baby gate. We expected it would take a while. They are just happy to have my presence to snuggle against at night. I think that’s what they miss the most when I have travelled. The location is something they can get accustomed to. Kinsey is treating Leo better than ever – she never liked him – and I hope they will continue to get along in the cottage. I guess the dogs are making them band together.

We are working on a routine to let the cats become comfortable in the dogs’ home. In the mornings when Sharon is out gardening, she keeps the dogs outside and I let the cats out to explore. So far, one evening after the dogs fell asleep, the cats have been out again, but sometimes they are just fur lumps who want to sleep. At least the cats have the respect or fear to stay out of the way of the dogs, and out of sight means the dogs don’t make loud noises. There is some progress.

I like taking the route between Roanoke and Seneca that runs on I-26 between I-81 in TN as far as Hendersonville in NC. The interstate is not as crowded as I-85 and the scenery is wonderful. It is as beautiful as the turnpike in WV, but not as long. The grasses along the NC section are so graceful now, with the seed heads blowing in the traffic breeze and continuing to spread seeds to naturalize along the highway. I would like some grasses around Soul’s Ease.

I’m still looking for a general contractor, but have 2 or 3 strong possibilities now pending. I would sure like to get things started on the slab foundation next week.

The location for the water meter has been marked. We talked with the foreman for a while Thursday, making plans for the water line and power line. He had some good suggestions – nice to have someone with so much practical experience.