Sunday, December 23, 2007

First Guests at the Hermitage

On December 3rd I traveled to Spokane,Wa. to pick up our first guests. These were two Theravada Buddhist Monks from “Wat Metta Forest Monastery” near San Diego,Ca. They stayed with us for 10 days and Brian was able to fly in for a few days as well.
The Monks were Tan Peter, a monk of 6 rains and Tan Chris who has just completed his first rains retreat. They both felt that we had chosen a beautiful spot and one which carried good feelings with it as well. The kuti (cabin) was not completed but was in good enough order to keep a monk warm and dry. I built a small temporary structure inside the shop for the second monk to stay in. Brian and I are very pleased to have had our first visitors and look forward to many more. We hope to have two more monks in January and then a visit from Ajaan Thanissaro Bhikku, the Abbott of Wat Metta, is expected this summer. He is a well known translator, author and teacher of Buddhist literature and meditation in the lineage of Ajaan Mun, Ajaan Lee, Ajaan Fuang and Ajaan Suwat.

Brian and I are gratified and honored to be able to support these monks and their “Forest” tradition.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Window installation

As soon as I started to install the first window I realized that we had made a major mistake. Brian and I both knew better but must have gone "brain dead" for awhile. We had installed the T 1-11 while waiting for the windows to arrive but of course the windows need to go in BEFORE the siding so that the siding will lap over the windows "installation/nailing" flange. Well I certainly wasn't going to remove the siding so I cut an inch and a quarter piece of siding off from both sides and the bottom of each window. Leaving the top edge intact. I then caulked the exposed window framing and slid the window nailing flange under the siding along the top edge and then set the window into place. After plumbing and leveling the windows I secured them. I then cut some 1/2" X 1" stock and used this to fill the gap between the siding and the window frame. I used liberal amounts of caulk when installing the filler stock. All will be covered by a wide trim around each window. The pictures show 5 of the nine windows installed. The large "picture" window is ready to install but as it is to heavy for me to go up the ladder with it by myself it will remain, temporarily, installed on the inside until our first visitors arrive next week. There will be two Buddhist Monks coming to stay for ten days starting the 3rd of Dec. I will get them to help me hoist the big window into place. The other windows, one on the north side and two in the loft will wait until after they leave. The Kuti is now heated and minimally acceptable for someone to stay.
Brian is going to come for a weekend while the Monks are here as they are our first "hermits" and he wants to be part of that. These Monks will also do a blessing ceremony while they are here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Insulation and siding.

Finished the interior insulation yesterday. I used R-21 Kraft backed fiberglass on the walls. To cut insulation to fit special sizes and shapes it is easiest to use two pieces of wood each laying parallel to the desired cut line about 1/2" away. Then push down compressing the insulation and use a sharp knife or razor cutter. Place a throw away board underneath.
Today I finished installing the siding on the gable ends. I will still need to cut out the window openings when I am ready to install the windows.

Friday, November 16, 2007



Saturday, October 27, 2007

Roofing Pictures

Have been a bit under the weather for a few days but now feeling well enough to post the pictures from the last of the roofing work. You'll see Brian cutting the gable end steel with hand cutters as it is beginning to snow, installing the ridge steel while riding the horse, a shot of the west end showing the completed gable and one of the mountains to the south with a fair dusting of snow on them. Those mountains are about 1,000 ft above the hermitage so our days are numbered as far as snow pack is concerned.

Next I will be picking up the windowns and installing them along with roof and wall insulation. After that will come a small set of stairs with walkway and a small sitting deck all on the north side.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thanks to Brian

Many thanks go to Brian for dealing with all of the "High" work as my legs begin getting electric shocks in them when I get up high and the perch feels precarious.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mission Accomplished

I'll let Roger post the pictures, but I'm happy to note that we finished the critical bits of the metal roof trim, specifically the ridge cap and (most of) the gable ends. It was a bit touch and go there for a while - I managed to get caught on the roof when a little rain storm came along. Thankfully the sun also came out long enough to complete the on-roof work.
At this point the building appears to be weather-tight and ready to insulate.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Door hung, 1/2 the drip edge up, 1/2 panel of T-111 up on the gable end, heater installed, and generator moved to supply electricity to the barn and (eventually) the kuti. Raining and snowing and cold and wet today, lovin' it. A decent amount of work, we celebrated with pizza inside the kuti, the first meal there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Arkansas dry-in

All the roof steel is up save the trim, which we'll do later this week. Cutting 12' panels of roofing steel with a tin-snip by hand is tedious. Now we have plastic sheeting on the window holes, tyvek on the gable ends, and the exterior door nearly mounted. Tomorrow maybe we'll put a heater in there and we'll be "dried in" It seemed like a lot of work today for relatively little result. Some days...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Roof, shopping

Woke up to rain, but managed to work in the last big sheets of roofing metal during the breaks. A bit scary up there today.
Went shopping and picked up drip edge for the eaves and some material to hook up a heater inside, and an exterior door. Tomorrow we hope to place the siding on the gable ends and dry it in using poly sheeting over the window holes. It would be nice to work in a heated space...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Metal Roof

Fabral Grandrib-3 metal roof, the standard choice in these parts. The color is "tan" which should blend pretty well with the grassland aspects of the environment, if perhaps not so well with the trees. We actually preferred "forest green" but couldn't justify the heat load during the summer as that color absorbs about 2x as much heat.
Much cursing and minor bloodspill today. We got about 2/3's of the sheets up after several hours of puttering, talking, figuring out how to do things, making mistakes and so forth. If we had it to do again of course it would take half as long.
Roger's big innovation of the day is a ladder laying on the roof, suspended by a "deadman" (seen the photo here) which acts as a counterweight. The ladder on the roof gives a relatively safe working surface, albeit one that's a bit tough on the knees, shins, hips, etc. I'm wiped out this evening.
Today's Painful Lessons:
- The flanged bump goes UNDER the bump of the next sheet, not over.

- Avoid 45 degree angle roofs (more reasons to avoid them discovered today)

- Never use OSB for any structural purpose. Even though it's "rated" for our application, about 20% of the screws went through the metal and failed to get a proper bite in the decking. Plywood would not have failed in this way. OSB is cheap to buy, but not so cheap to work with. Plus it irritates the skin when you're putting up tarpaper on your 45 degree angle roof which the designer stupidly specified because he likes the look. Fire that guy!

We'll have to order a custom fabricated metal drip edge for the eaves because of the horizontal rafter cuts, but that should work OK for shedding water.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back to Work

Winter's coming and we're finally getting around to finishing up the basics - getting the roofing material on, and (maybe) the doors and windows in. With whatever time we have to spare from those activities we'll get started on the interior.
Today we put tarpaper down on the slightly weathered OSB roof decking. I like the look of the 12:12 pitch roof, but it's tough to work on and I'm not doing *that* again. The next roof will be one I can stand on without toeboards.

Roger went out and bought a new tractor for the place, an extremely nice John Deere machine with a loader, backhoe, rock rake, and other implements. This should be good to handle all the heavy work for many years to come. Today I drove it around a bit just for the fun of it...

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Did some horse trading and finally got the right equipment for work around the hermitage.

Traded the big yellow hoe for the orange kubota and cash.

Traded the kubota and cash for the New Green Machine and attachments.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Gable end framing

Nothing special about this just straight forward framing.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Filling in the spaces.

Finally back to work on the Kuti.

Now it's time to fill in the spaces between the rafters just under the roof and above the wall top plate. We wanted to make double sure that we are rodent proof as well as keeping out wasps, ants and other small pests. We also want to allow for some venting of the insulation area under the roof and over the ceiling. This opening is 10 inches from the top plate to the underside of the roof sheathing. I used 5/8 CDX, thinking it thick enough to resist warping. I cut one sheet into 3 pieces 16"X96". I then tacked one of the pieces flat on the wall touching the bottoms of the rafters. I alligned one end at the NW corner of the building. Using a straight edge I mimicked the width of the rafters and drew my lines for cutting at each rafter. I took the board down and completed the lines to a depth of 10 inches. I cut these out using a combination of skill saw and jig saw. Next I measured half way left to right and top to bottom of these cuts. Using a 1 5/8" hole saw I cut holes at each of these points. I then cut 3" squares of 1/4" hardware cloth to use as rodent defense and 5" squares of metal window screen fabric to use as insect defense. Laying the hardware mesh centered on the screen I folded the screen edges in and over the mesh. Then using roofing nails I fastened the screen/mesh to the backside or inside of the board and proceded to install on the building. The area will be caulked before painting or staining. Be careful and pay attention to the lines drawn using the straight edge along the sides of the rafters. If the rafters are not plumb it will give you false cut lines on your fill in board. You must compensate for warped or angled rafters.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Window cutouts

Finished with the window cutouts today.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

cutout of windows

Today I began cutting out windows were I had sided over them. It's easier to frame the windows and doors when framing the walls and then just put up the siding over the openings and cut them out later.

I used a "Sawzall" which works quite well. Being battery powered though it does go through alot of batteries.

Monday, August 6, 2007

South Wall siding

Put up the t 1-11 siding on the south wall today.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

West wall

Put up the west facing t 1-11 today. As there was no convenient place to get a lever positioned to hold the siding up I nailed a 2x4 level across the ends of the flooring beams 9foot and 1/16th of an inch below the top line for the siding. I also nailed scrap wood on top of the top plate with some overhang to give me a "stop" for the top of the siding. I lifted the siding sheets up till they contacted the stop plate and then set the bottom edge on the 2x4. This worked very well and actually made putting up the siding by myself fairly easy.

Monday, July 30, 2007

North wall T1-11

Today I hung the T1-11 on the north wall. Having no helper presented the problem of holding the siding up while running in the first threaded fastener. I solved this by using a length of 2x4 ,wedged into the cross bracing under the structure, as a lever to apply pressure to the bottom of the sheet of ply. I held the end of the lever with one hand while running in the screw with the other.

Monday, July 23, 2007

roof sheathing

Today we finally got to put the roof sheathing on. The first (lower) course on each side we held from the inside and started a nail to hold it while we checked the positioning. A chalk line snapped across the tops of the rafters made this fairly easy. We used toe boards attached with sinkers through the OSB sheathing into the rafters to facilitate nailing on the second and final course of roof sheathing. A 2'x4' opening was left on each side of the roof for access and will be nailed on last using a ladder to get on the roof and the toe boards to stand on. Then the toe boards will come off to allow the roofing felt to be installed. As a course of felt is installed then a row of toe borads will be reinstalled to stand on to then put on the next course of felt. Brian (seen on the roof) will go home tomorrow morning. I think we both will be somewhat glad of that so we can each get some rest. We have really burnt the candle at both ends for the last two weeks. I am sad to see him go though as he is a great friend and co worker. He plans to return in Oct/Nov for another round of work. Before then I have lots to keep me busy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rafters, flying rafters, tyvek, siding

A heavy-duty work day. All rafters installed this A.M. We managed to get 3 of 4 flying rafters off the gable ends of the building installed - the last one didn't happen due to bad lumber: either a sloppy supplier or incompetent work crew (that would be us) picking out the wood. We'll run to town if possible tomorrow to buy the replacement board. Despite this the frame is quite lovely at this point. Too bad we have to cover it up.

Moving right along, we put up the Tyvek housewrap. Pretty great stuff, a water barrier that lets vapor through, and prevents air infiltration. Of course the wind came up when we started working with the Tyvek, making the job much noiser and difficult, but pressing on we had it up by late afternoon.

Along the way we put up 3 siding panels on the east end, and our beautiful frame is now obscured. Before the end of the day we managed to get one siding panel up on the the North side.
Plan for tomorrow: Put up enough siding to stabilize the building (probably one or two more sheets,) then affix the roof sheathing. If we can get the sheathing on by the end of the day then most of the remaining work can be handled by a single worker without much trouble - the heaviest two-man work will have been accomplished.
We're exhausted, completely spent. Tyvek is way harder to put up then we thought, it took hours, with lots of running the ladders around the exterior to tack it down, tape the seams, and keep it from blowing away in the gusts.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ridge beam, rafters, software saves the day

We had a little bit of a panic (or at least I did) when I checked over the design this morning in anticipation of putting up rafters - with the last re-design I had less than 6' clearance between the bottom of the eaves and the top of the finished floor. In other words you'd be hitting your head on the eaves when walking on the deck outside the building. Furthermore, shortening the eaves to get a proper clearance meant cutting all the metal roofing, which we had already had custom cut to a specific length. On top of all this I suddenly realized that I'd neglected to order the edging pieces for the steel roof (gables, eaves, ridge). Much woe and cursing and gnashing of teeth.

Fortunately a bit of brainstorming and yet another redesign in the software yielded an acceptable solution: the eaves will now sport horizontal cuts.

Now the steel will fit and the clearance is adequate.
Work today (after the intensive drawing session) consisted of cutting the rafters to length with the proper angles, chopping out "birdsmouth" notches on the rafters, fabricating the ridge beam from two 2x10 x 12' boards, putting up temporary ridge beam support, and installing 3 pairs of rafters.
Just 3 rafter sets and it's starting to look like a proper building now...

Today also we discovered a neighboring property is for sale and had a longish discussion about easements and views and rural economics. We could hear the annual stock car races roaring tinnily in the distance. We chased a herd of open range cows from the property, Snoozer was quite annoyed with them. Hermitages can be complicated.
Lesson of the day: Check headroom early and often in software, and especially before ordering materials. Plan in haste, regret at liesure.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Remaining walls, loft

The last two walls went up today, and after squaring the frame we put on the joists for the loft.
The two of us managed assemble and erect to put up a 12-foot wall with 1 window in about an hour, with the pieces all pre-cut. Squaring the whole building took about 3 hours as we fumbled between trying to get it square and trying to get the walls plumb. All the compromises eventually ended up within reasonable tolerances.

If fortune continues to smile upon us tomorrow we'll proceed with tossing up a temporary loft deck and putting on the ridge and rafters. The main goal is to have the roof on before end of day Monday - which gives us three work days.

Snoozer apparently ate too many wood chips and gave us a surprise delivery on the deck this afternoon. He prefers to conduct such business on freshly cut or painted lumber rather than lowly dirt or grass.
Rain puddled in the SW corner of the deck and so we're planning to put in a small floor drain to carry away any future water buildups that might occur.
Today's lesson: Measure twice, cut once. I made a $8 board into a $4 board by mis-cutting this afternoon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rain, more shopping

It's been raining on and off for the last several days. Seems a bit wet for July.
Today we made another trip to town for materials. Lots of talking to lumber-yard personnel, store owners, clerks and so forth. Eventually we got it all loaded and back to the site.

At this point we have everything to get the building dried in. Budget-wise we're at about $5900, and we have foundation, floor, frame, siding, roof, and top-bottom insulation. Yet to come: doors & windows, interior finish, counters and cabinets, appliances and furnishings. We're unlikely to make our original $10K budget, but we might hit the recently revised $12K number.
When we got back on site it started raining again so we set up in the barn and cut pieces for walls for tomorrow. Snoozer decided to take a nap beneath the saw table as he's happiest underfoot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Raising Walls

Our wonderful visitors departed this morning and after a big lunch we went back to the site with hammers in hand, pounded togther and raised the two long walls. It rained all morning, and several times in the afternoon. Temperatures ranged from mid-80's to maybe low 70's - a very beautiful day.
With help from Snoozer we got it done.

After deciding to end the work day after the 2nd wall was up, a hummingbird came and hovered over the deck for a few seconds - clearly a blessing.
Today's screwup: Interior wall nailing surfaces don't actually face each other. Easy to fix, but a bit of a puzzle how it crept into the drawings.

Today's Lessons Learned:
  • Avoid warped lumber on top or bottom plates. You can crank out the warp with pressure, but it creates a lot of work places for errors to creep in.
  • Laying out top & bottom plates can be done in a single pass with plates aligned face up on the deck.
  • Be careful to get the wall oriented correctly before doing layout ( I had inside/outside reversed)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Quick re-design

No photo today, not much to show.
Spent most of today on the computer redesigning the North and West walls, at my Dad's observation that the view would be better if we made the entrance on the North side and put a view window into the West window. So, the re-designed North wall is all that got started today, and not finished enough to stand it up. Finished the last of the deck and ran a bead of caulk in all seams.
Also we had to order the metal roofing today in order to have it on hand for this weekend, and the process of detailing the roof to get the exact measurements took a couple of hours this morning. Hopefully I've ordered the right stuff. Made another design decision to make the eaves vertical rather than square for the sake of hanging future rain gutters. Included in the order enough accessory metal (trim around the gable and eaves, and ridge cover) pipe boots, sealant, and fasteners to tie it all down. Putting the order together took another 2 hours to figure out what was needed and how much. Fabral, the metal roof manufacturer, appears to make a good product but their installation guide could use a bit more editorial polishing.
Cooler today, only 89 max, and a few actual sprinkles of rain.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Decking Installed (mostly)

1 1/4" tounge & groove plywood subfloor installed on top of the joists. Another tough day. Got on site at 5:00 and primed the plywood, then took a breakfast break. When we tried to assemble the deck we discovered that the T&G didn't mate properly, leaving a 1/2" gap between sheets. So, we had to pull them apart and shave off an 1/8" of shoulder from the tounges to get them to fit. At the end of the day we had all but one sheet installed, at 49 screws per sheet. My dear old dad dropped in to oversee the operation for a couple of days.
Lessons of the day:
  • Don't trust T&G, measure the tounges and grooves to see if they'll actually fit.
  • Just because your diagonals between corners are equal and thus your perimeter is square, doesn't mean your joists are also square and parallel. ( I had to sister a 2x4 to one of the joists to get the edge of one sheet on a nailing surface due to a non-parallel joist).
  • Align subfloor at a snapped chalk line at some reliably straight/square edge.
  • Bessey clamps rule.

  • Chalklines are quick and easy for aligning arrays of screws.
  • Edge stapling the fibreglass insulation backing paper to the floor joist edges just makes installation of the subfloor harder, and gets all torn up when shifting sheets around, may not be really worthwhile.
  • The squareness of every step (e.g. the posts, beams, joists, rims, etc.) adds up and contributes to the sqareness of subsequent steps. Corrections become more difficult as you go along
  • Start square, strive for square, stay square as much as possible. Don't compromise your square. Think square, live square, be square. Square is good.
Tomorrow: Walls, with any luck.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Deck Rat wire, tyvek, insulation

Spent an entire day installing hardware cloth on the underside of the deck, then a lining of tyvek housewrap, then R21 insulation. Tomorrow maybe we'll start with the actual decking.
Lessons of the day:
  • Rat wire takes much more effort and time to install than seems reasonable.
  • Everything takes longer than you expect. Four hours always turns out to be eight hours, if it's the first time you're doing something.
  • Opening up a bale of fibreglass insulation by cutting the plastic cover with a knife involves a sudden explosive expansion of volume, resulting in bats of insulation lying face down in the dirt, unless one is quite careful and anticipates the popcorn effect.
  • Puppies are very cute and playful and fun, but at a work site they get bored and start stealing your work gloves and chewing on aluminum cans and generally getting underfoot. Bear this in mind and allow for it.

The Work Crew

On site, early in the morning: Brian, Roger, Snoozer