Journal: November 14th, 2010

It’s been a productive week here on Serenity Valley. I picked up Kelly in Sacramento on Monday, and we got back to my property on Tuesday. It was raining when we drove through town, but the rain switched to snow just a few hundred yards down the paved road from my turn-off. The snow continued to fall all night, silently and tentatively. We woke up to a silvery glittering morning, the white coat of snow twinkling in the bright morning sun. The scenery melted back to the autumnal hues of brownish-yellow, and the weather remained fairly clear for the rest of the week.

Clear, that is, but also cold. Temperatures at night have dropped down solidly into the 20s. We moved my futon mattress and comforter into the back of the car, and have been sleeping in those cramped but moderately insulated quarters. It still gets cold enough inside for condensation to freeze on the windows and door frames, but the thick comforter has been keeping us quite warm.

Despite the cold, we’ve made good progress on the cabin. Since Kelly came up, we’ve managed to cover up the loft knee-walls and gables with OSB and rigid insulation boards, installed the 3 loft-windows, and have started working on the lower levels. Down below, we’ve got 5 window support frames up, as well as one 4’x8′ OSB sheet. Forecasts for the next week also seem clear, so I think there’s a good chance we’ll have it all enclosed before wet weathers return. The plan is to get it enclosed with OSB, and install the windows and doors as quickly as possible so that we can start living in the structure. Rigid foam insulation boards will go up next, covering the OSB and thereby providing a waterproof layer. I’m planning on leaving the rigid insulation boards exposed for a while, rather than put up siding right away, so that I can add more if one layer proves to be insufficient.

I’m feeling pretty good about Hut 2.0 so far, especially with the planned 2.1 upgrade. Maybe it’s my background as a software engineer, but I’m reluctant to commit to huge projects. I like to start small, and then make incremental improvements if –and only if– the initial efforts seem sound, but otherwise leave open the option of a major “rewrite” (as we call it in the software world). At this point, I’ve gained enough confidence in the structure itself as well as my abilities, that I’m feeling more comfortable investing in various improvements. For instance, I think it makes sense to shell out the cash for a proper chimney, even though the frugal (or just plain poor) part of me is tempted to get by without it. I’m also thinking of putting in another floor on top of the existing one, and filling in the space between with blow-in recycled-cellulose insulation. The 2.1 extension is obviously another “incremental” upgrade that only made sense to me once I saw 2.0 standing. Every now and then, someone will post a comment saying how I didn’t seem to be planning ahead, as if that were a problem, but I think it’s just a different approach to solving problems. You can do a lot of upfront planning and design, and perhaps that’s the norm in architecture. But then, for my own purposes, minimal plans coupled with flexibility and adaptability seems to work just fine.

Other than that, our lives have fallen into a nice routine. We’ve been getting up consistently at around 10:30am SVT (7:30 PST) shortly after sunrise. After warming up with some coffee and toast, we’d start working on the cabin, and continue working until close to dusk with a brief lunch break in between. As the sun sets beyond the hills, we’d utilize what little light was available to enjoy a bit of free time. We’ve gone on walks, sat at the rocky ledge to watch shadows creep up opposing hills, or spent some time alone, Kelly reading in a hammock, and I doing some gunsmithing and shooting. After dark, we’d retreat to Hut 1.0, where our combined body heat, a propane lamp, an oil lamp, and the propane stove keeps temperatures at a balmy 50 to 60 degrees. We’d cook dinner, usually some variation of rice and vegetables, then inhale our food like a couple of starving puppies. With our bellies filled with warm food, we’d then sit contentedly, and read a book or two while nursing a nice warm drink. Most nights, Kelly would take out her violin at some point to practice, the melancholic (or experimental, scratchy) tunes of her strings reverberating out through the thin walls of the hut, and out into the silent starry darkness. After a few too many yawns have been exchanged, we’d brush our teeth, turn off the lamps, close up the hut, and crawl into our frigid bed in the car, wishing we had a nice furry husky to warm up the bed for us.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting experience, sharing this life in the woods with another person, even if temporarily. Kelly probably will be moving on in her travels before too long, but for me, it’s been an interesting preview of what life could be up here, if I were to ever find a partner who’d want to join me more permanently. Who knows if that’ll ever happen, though. Hell, I don’t even know if that’s what I want either. But, well, such are thoughts for another time and place. For now, there’s work to do, and a house to build.

(See the full photoset on Flickr.)

4 thoughts on “Journal: November 14th, 2010

  1. .hey, just a thought. If you are going to get a woodstove do it now. Small models like sardines and such would be a perfect fit for a place of your size. If you do get a stove install it now. If you need to 1 one sheet of full install ( outside wall, insulation) then with the rest of the place just vapor barrier it in along the structure and create a seal for the structure and seal with tuck tape ( or gorilla tape ) will be airtight enough that the heat will stay in and will heat up..more anyway..or a small kerosene heater. You have somewhere to sleep if nothing else. Once the outside is sealed in then cut away portions of the vapor barrier and fill with insulation, once again reseal with tuck sleeping in a car and if you are going to get heat do not wait! Kersoene is also cheap and you can be up and running for vapor barrier, kerosene heater and kerosene for under $300 more sleeping in your car and you need almost everything anyway..once the woodstove is in you can sell the kerosene on craigslist. With a place like that the heater would only need to be on for 30 minutes every 3-4 hours to keep the heat comfortable..maybe a little more with just vapor barrier and with running it that little your kerosene costs would be low too. just so thoughts..I needed to jump in there when I saw the frost..I used a kerosene heater for 4 months in a 600ft camp while I waited for a woodstove install..a little heat goes a long way

  2. Planners can get weird when they think *you’re* not following “a plan.” And while I agree it’s good to have a plan for some things, what you’re doing is LIVING, not planning. Keep on doing what you’re doing. Making tweaks as you go is all that’s necessary. The new hut looks great. You and Kelly stay snug and warm.

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