Hut Finishin’ 2.0: Oct 28 – Nov 1

Attention all hut builders! If you missed out on Hut Raising 2.0, this is your last chance to get some hut building action in Serenity Valley before the season ends! Hut Finishing 2.0 will be Oct 28 through Nov 1st.

If you’d like to come, drop me an email, or post a comment below (and be sure to fill in the email address field).

Note: It’s been pretty rainy lately up on Serenity Valley, and with temperatures dropping, conditions can get miserable if the weather is uncooperative. Hut Raising 2.0 may be cancelled if inclement weather is forecasted.

Journal: October 1st, 2010

I just had a delicious meal of turkey burgers with a side of corn on the cob fresh off the garden. The burger, a turkey cheese burger to be precise, was quite epic. I used smoked gouda cheese, and for fixin’s, had cucumber fresh off the vine, onions, and avocado. Mmmm.

A few years ago, I stopped eating beef (save for the occasional lapses) for environmental reasons, and started making turkey burgers whenever I felt like having a burger. Rather than buy pre-made burger patties, I make them from scratch, since it’s so easy (and much cheaper). The basic “recipe” I use is as follows:

  • 1 ~ 1.5lb ground turkey
  • 1 ~ 2 slices of bread
  • a bit of milk (dairy, or soy/almond/donkey milk)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 – 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • seasoning to taste
  • a bit of oil

I first tear up the bread in a little bowl, and pour in just enough milk to soak the bread and make it soft. The bread-milk mush then gets mixed into the ground turkey and all the other ingredients in a bowl. Make patties, then cook in a pan or grill. When grilling, it helps to make the patties before hand and freeze them. The frozen patties will retain their shape longer, while raw patties might ooze through the grills before they’ve had a chance to cook and harden. Ground turkey by itself tends to be leaner than ground beef, so you need binding to keep it from falling apart, hence the bread, egg and onion. I’m sure there are other bindings that could be used, and if you could find fatty ground turkey, that might not be necessary either.

***

In other news, I’ve resumed work on Hut 2.0 after a 3 week hiatus which was spent mostly in San Francisco. Now, I’m back, and the weather’s cleared up nicely, so I’m making slow but steady progress again. I’m still working on the roof, and over the last couple of days, got some OSB sheets up. Before I could get to the roof, I had to put up some scaffolding, which consists of four 2x4x16s nailed onto my 4×4 posts about 3 feet below the eaves, with a 2x6x16 laid across the 2x4s parallel to the eaves about 2 ft off the wall. The hardest part of it all is getting the OSB up there. Each sheet weighs probably 40lb, is 4 feet wide and is longer than I am tall, so it’s a bit unwieldy to say the least. I got one sheet up by brute forcing it up the ladder and tossing it onto the rafters. But that required me to go up the ladder without my hands, the board resting partially on my head and shoulder, then heave it with all my might over the eaves onto the rafters (I’d attached stoppers to the ends of a couple of rafters to keep the sheet from sliding off, once I got it up there). I did it once, but didn’t think I could do that again, much less 7 more times. Fortunately, once I had the scaffolding up, I found that I could toss the boards onto the scaffolding, and avoid the part where I climb a ladder practically blind and handless. Unfortunately, due to the size of the boards and the height of the scaffolding (over 8ft from the ground), I can’t exactly see the scaffolding when I’m behind the board and trying to lift it up. So I just have to toss it up with a heavy oompf, then step away in case the board fails to land on the scaffolding and decides to come back to earth.

Yup. I’m having fun.

In related news, I decided to change the location of my door, based on something I read in an architecture book. According to my original plan, my hut was supposed to look something like this (looking down from above):

  ------------------
  \                 |    \ = door
  |                +|    + = ladder to loft
  |                 |
  ------------------

The problem with this layout is that, if I wanted to keep a clear path between the door and the ladder (so that I could get down from the loft and out the door in a hurry, if I had to), that path would traverse the length of the hut and kill a lot of space.

Instead, I decided to do something like this:

  ------------------
  |                 |    \ = door
  |                +|    + = ladder to loft
  |                 |
  ---------------- \

The door is now right next to the ladder, which solves the oh-shit-get-out-quick problem, and also leaves the rest of the space completely open.

Speaking of emergency egress, the loft is actually open on both ends. While the ladder will only be on one end, I could in theory also climb off the loft on the other end, and go out a window, if, for instance, a big bad wolf was blocking the door.

***

I’ve run into power issues. Again.

My 100W solar panel, mounted on the solar tracker, is generating enough power to more than cover my needs. But, this time, it’s not that I don’t have enough power, but rather, I don’t have enough AC power to recharge the 18V batteries that run my circular saw. I’ve been plugging the 18V wall charger into a 200W inverter, which in turn was plugged into one of my 12V batteries (which in turn were charged from solar panels). But my 200W inverter inexplicably stopped working recently, leaving me only with a 150W inverter. The 150W inverter will run the 18V wall charger if it’s plugged into my car with the engine running (probably because my 40 Amp alternator provides more than enough 13 Volt power), but not off my 12V battery even when it’s full AND my solar panel is pumping in an additional 5 Amps at 13 Volts (seeing how the charger is rated at 2 Amps @ 120 Volts, or 240 Watts, I guess that’s not surprising). So, basically, I can’t recharge my saw batteries unless I run my car engine for the hour or so it takes, and that’s not an acceptable solution.

My 18V batteries should be good for another day or two, but after that, I’m going to have to go to town and buy either a car charger, or another inverter. Last time I checked, a car charger for the DeWalt 18V batteries cost over $100, so an inverter would actually be cheaper, and in some ways, more versatile. The car charger would be more efficient, since it would eliminate any inefficiencies incurred by the inverter, but then, I have a surplus of power right now (and a shortage of money), so I think I’ll just get a cheap inverter.

More thoughts on insulation

I got a lot of great comments on my recent post on insulation, so I thought I’d write another post to summarize some of the common issues that have been pointed out, and to also elaborate on my plan.

Labor

A few readers pointed out the higher labor cost of gathering more firewood. I said in my post that I was ignoring that, but I think it deserves a few more words…

Economists call it opportunity cost. When I was in college, students would queue up at one of the campus coffee shops, which served milkshakes for a dollar on Wednesdays. Obviously, this tradition, knowns as “Shake Day”, was a popular diversion among students who would wait in these long lines with their friends, socializing (or simply pondering silently in solitude) as they waited for their tiny cup of sugary molten goop. An Economics professor once criticized this tradition, by invoking the concept of opportunity cost. The professor argued that the cost of waiting in line outweighed the potential upside of buying a shake for a dollar. Instead, presumably, students should be doing homework to prepare for high salaried careers, or perhaps be peddling their time to low-wage campus jobs for $10/hour.

Of course, this “criticism” wasn’t entirely serious (I hope), but in my eyes, it represented a common perspective in our society that I find troublesome, as it is the very reason we have lots of fat wealthy people who are unhappy and unhealthy. Yes, I can be sitting at a desk, selling my time for $125/hour (or more). But if that’s what I wanted, I wouldn’t be living in the woods. For me, an excuse to get outside, be in the woods, and do a little physical work, is worth far more than what money can buy. More generally, gathering my own fuel makes me more aware of my resource consumption, and having to go out to the woods to gather fuel will also give me better insight into how quickly (or slowly) I am depleting the resources I have, and in turn, get a better assessment of how sustainable (or unsustainable) my lifestyle is.

And yes, it is also entirely possible that I’ll decide at some point that I’d rather spend less time gathering wood. If that’s the case, I’ll change something, but until I try it, I won’t know.

Insulation is for summer too

I focused mostly on how insulation will impact my life in the woods should I stay for the winter, but, of course, insulation matters in the summer too. However, as far as I understand, insulation in the winter and in the summer are actually two different problems.

In the winter, the goal is to keep the cold air outside, from cooling down the interior. Heat is transfered mostly through conduction and convection. That is, the warm air inside heats up the structure’s sufaces, which in turn conduct (and radiate) heat to the outside cold. Or, cold air gets into the structure, displacing warm air. So the common solutions are to use insulation materials that prevent conduction, like foam and batt insulation, and prevent air exchange.

In the summer, the goal is to keep the interior cool, but the main problem isn’t the warm air outside, but rather direct radiant heat from the sun. Up in my area, the air is very dry in the summer, and at 4200ft elevation, the air stays fairly cool most of the time. But the sun beats down relentlessly, heating anything it touches. So the goal is to reflect that heat away from the structure, and to prevent it from heating up the surfaces. To reflect radiant heat, you don’t need thick batt insulation; a coat of white paint, or shiny material like mylar will do the job quite well.

Granted, from what I understand, most homes don’t make a distinction between the different heat transfer characteristics. And indeed, you don’t have to. In the summer, you could let the sun heat up your roof, and then prevent that heat from getting conducted inside by using a ton of batt insulation in the roof and attic. That way, you’re dealing with conduction in the summer and winter, and can use the same insulation for both scenarios. The kind of insulation that works well in the winter can also be beneficial in the summer if you want to make efficient use of air conditioning (which I don’t have), or want to keep the structure from heating up during the day, once it has been cooled at night.

In my particular case, since I am trying to minimize insulation, I plan on trying to reflect sun as much as possible during the summer, instead of relying on insulation. I’m planning on buying light-colored roofing panels, and also lay down a layer of mylar (which I have l left over from Hut 1.0) under the roofing panels to keep the roof from getting too warm in the first place. I won’t be able to expect the structure to be any cooler than the ambient shade temperature, but that’s good enough for me (for now). If I need additional cooling, I might make a swamp cooler, but if this summer was fairly typical, I probably won’t need it for more than a few weeks each summer.

Moisture

Another issue that I didn’t really address is moisture/condensation. I considered using housewrap, but decided instead to seal up the cabin through other means (namely, by taping up seams between the exterior insulation boards, and by using spray foam insulation and caulk). However, that still leaves the issue of moisture, since sealing up the cabin will simply keep moisture from getting out, which in turn could cause condensation and all sorts of other problems.

Wood stoves too hot?

A couple of commenters also pointed out that a wood burning stove might get too hot. I guess this sort of depends on how big/hot of a stove I get, but right now, I’m leaning towards getting an old fashioned cast iron stove from the local antique shop. I have no idea how much heat those things give off, but I could see how it could get kind of warm.

An Idea

So, it seems like I have two open problems: controlling moisture, and keeping the cabin from getting too hot.

Fortunately, there’s a common answer to both problems: ventilation. Pumping fresh dry air in and moist air out solves the condensation problem, and will probably help with the heat problem too. The plan is to have an air intake (possibly with a small 12V fan) near the stove, so that the air that gets sucked in gets heated immediately. The idea is to pump more air into the cabin than the stove needs, and thereby create an over-pressure (this will also prevent cold air from getting in from undesirable gaps). I’ll have a vent at the top of the hut, where hot moist air gets pushed out. Most of this air movement will happen by convection, since the cold fresh air will rise once it gets warmed by the stove.

I should only need to actively vent air when I’m actually producing lots of moisture, for instance, when I’m cooking or drying wet clothes. At night, I’ll probably stop the air exchange to conserve heat, and while I’ll generate some moisture, I could probably dry out the interior again the next morning by getting the stove going and turning on the fans (or by opening the windows if it’s warm enough). If I decide that I need more insulation, I can always fill in the wall cavities, which I plan on leaving open for now. Adding a moisture barrier later won’t be an option, but hey, there’s always Hut 3.0.

Thoughts on insulation

When it comes to insulation, more is better. Or so they say. Of course, I’m always skeptical when people say “more is better.” More may be better in some ways, but there’s always a cost to having more, and it turns out you usually can get away with less. But how much is enough? That is what I want to know.

I’ve been doing some research on insulation, and as it turns out, it’s a rather complicated subject. On the one hand, there’s this deceptively simple formula:

H = ( 1 / R) x A x T
H : heat loss in BTU/hour
R : R-value
A : surface area in square ft
T : temperature difference in Fahrenheit

Using this formula, I can calculate the theoretical heat loss of my cabin. For instance, Hut 2.0 will have a surface area of around 750 square ft, and if I manage to wrap it all up with R-10, and there’s a 50F temperature difference between the interior and exterior, I can expect to lose (1/10) x 750 x 50 = 3750BTU/hour. That doesn’t sound like much. For instance, even a tiny stove designed for boats is rated at 3000 – 8000BTU. In fact, I can even go down to R-5, and will be under 8000BTU/hour.

The reality, of course, isn’t so simple. I just assumed a single R-value for the entire structure, but the reality is that windows will have a much lower R-value, the door another value, and perhaps the walls, floor, roof will all have different values too. On top of that, R-values give you an idea of how slowly heat will transfer through surfaces, but that only accounts for a fraction of actual heat exchange. In a structure, one huge source of heat loss is through air exchange. For ventilation, outside air needs to be brought in, and that necessarily displaces internal air. At the very least, in order to use a stove, I’d need to suck in enough cold air to supply oxygen for the fire (and myself). So the kind of calculation I did above is useful for setting a baseline, that is, I know my heat loss won’t be any less than the calculated figure, but doesn’t produce anywhere near an accurate or realistic number.

On the other hand, I can’t afford to go and buy tons of insulation. Also, the structure is tiny as it is, so to maximize space, I’d like to keep the wall cavities open instead of filling them in with insulation. There’s also the environmental cost too, since most common forms of insulation are made of toxic materials, or at least materials that are non-biodegradable and difficult to recycle. There are “green” insulation options, but as batt or blown insulation materials, and not rigid boards that I can use. I might get away with less insulation if I decrease air exchange by using housewrap, but housewrap is made of plastic, so that’s less than ideal in my opinion. But then, if I really care about green materials, I should probably be building a straw-bale structure, so perhaps there are limits to how green (or warm) of a structure I can build out of timber framing.

My situation is also different to those of typical homes, because I live in the woods and have a practically infinite and renewable source of firewood. For me, firewood is free, so the cost of heating is also free (if I ignore labor, which I do). From an ecological perspective, I have no qualms burning dry dead wood on my property, since if I weren’t burning the fuel, a natural forest fire very well may instead. So while typical houses may be able to justify the financial and ecological cost of additional insulation by factoring in the cost of heating, for me, the cost of insulation is just that: a cost. The only consideration I have, is to make sure that my heat loss doesn’t outstrip my heating option. Though, if that’s all I’m worried about, I think an old fashioned cast iron stove that the local antique store sells for a little over $100 will probably keep my hut warm either way.

So that was a rather long way to say, I’m going to go light on insulation, and instead depend on good heating to stay warm. Stay tuned to find out how that works out come winter (assuming I stick around for winter, which isn’t yet certain).

Journal: September 13, 2010

hut 2.0 with rafters

This past week since returning from Burning Man hasn’t been too productive. It rained all day Wednesday and well into Thursday morning, which, though highly unusual for this time of year, and did rob me of my ability to heat up my solar shower, did relieve me of any concerns about irrigating my garden for the week. On Thursday, the temperature barely rose above 60F, and dropped to around 36F at night. I was hoping the growing season would last longer, but it seems likely that I’ll see frost in the not too distant future.

The sun finally revealed itself unabated on Friday, warming temperatures up to a balmy 70F. I took advantage of the nice weather to start working on the rafters. I’m using 2x4s, most of which were donated to me by Camp Warp Zone at Burning Man, and were once part of their shade structure (I love recycling lumber, and in addition to those 2x4s, Hut 2.0 contains pieces of my old bed as well). One thing that had me thinking a bit, was the spacing between the rafters. Hut 1.0 has trusses that are a gaping 36″ apart, with a 30 degree pitch, and it seemed to have done okay for this past winter (not sure how much snowfall there was). My original design for Hut 2.0 had the rafters spaced 24″ apart, but I wondered if I should do 16″ instead. I did a little research online, and found some data that seem to indicate that 24″ would be sufficient for my relatively short span and 45 degree pitch, so I decided to stick to my plans. I also paid closer attention to the 2x4s as I was cutting them and putting them up, to try and keep knots that can compromise strength away from the bottom edge, which isn’t something I’ve always done (but probably should). All in all, the whole task ended up being much easier than I’d anticipated, even working alone. After cutting each rafter, I just had to stick rafter hangers on the top-end, hammer in the hurricane ties onto the top edge of the walls where the rafters would sit, then it was just a matter of hammering in the hangers into the roof beam. (Here’s a close-up of the rafters + knee walls.)

The next step is to add a couple of diagonals to the roof beam to firm it up, then start laying on the roofing. I’m just going to use OSB, then lay insulation on top of that, then Ondura roofing panels will go on top of that. I’m planning on completely finishing the roof before working on the lower parts of the hut, since it’ll be easier to hang scaffolding off the sides of the structure if the walls aren’t there yet. Also, now that it’s rained hard twice, it seems like getting the roof done sooner would generally be a good idea.

In other news, my garden is in full bloom. Yellow squash that were finger length when I left for Burning Man had ballooned into giant fruit almost the size of my forearm. I’ve also got more green beans, and a decently sized cucumber. I also have a few egg plants on the way, and giant green tomatoes that have stubbornly refused to ripen so far, but hopefully will soon. The corn has also matured, but the ears are quite small. Planting corn this year was definitely a mistake, though they did a great job of providing shade to the beans, which was a minor unexpected benefit (I alternated rows of corn and beans, and the rows of beans that got good shade from the corn did much better than the rows that were more exposed).

As winds start blowing (or raining) hints of autumn through my camp, I’m increasingly thinking more about my next steps. I’m starting to run low on cash, so I’m rapidly approaching a point where I need to make a decision. Do I go back to work in the city, or do I have other options? We’ll find out soon…

veggies!

Update: August 26, 2010

A quick update while I’m waiting for my laundry to finish…

Progress on Hut 2.0 has been slow. I’ll be honest. Working alone means every task requires at least double the effort, which in turn requires double the motivation. Which means everything takes at least four times as long, or, if it’s 96F in the shade like it was yesterday, about 16x as long. So… since my hut raisers left, I’ve gotten woefully little done. I’ve added diagonals to all the 4×4 posts, put up a couple of posts that’ll hold the roof beam off of which the rafters will hang, cut the roof beam, measured out the places where the rafters will go… and that’s about it. Oh, and I read a book.

In other news, the garden is starting to mature, and I’m slowly starting to harvest some vegetables. So far, I’ve gotten some decent sized green beans, and it looks like I’ll have a yellow crooked neck squash ready for harvest in another couple of days, with plenty more on the way. I have an egg plant on the way too, though I’m not sure how big it’ll be. The tomatoes are still green, and taking their time ripening, but they’ll get there soon, presumably. I also just noticed today that I have some cucumbers on the way, which is exciting. The corn is also maturing, though the stalks aren’t nearly as tall as they should be, so we’ll see how big the cobs will be. Over all, it seems like most of my vegetables will be small in size and yield, but I’m happy to be getting anything, seeing how this is my first year growing a garden. I’ve learned a lot, and perhaps I’ll do better next year.

Next week, I’m off to Burning Man, which basically means packing up my camp and bringing it to the desert in Nevada. I wasn’t planning on going, but decided a few days ago that it’d be fun to hang out around crazy people for a change. I’m planning to organize an ad hoc gathering at my camp for people who want to (or think they want to) go live in the woods and/or build huts and cabins, to talk about my experiences and share information. We’ll see if anyone shows up. If there are any Burners out there reading this blog, keep an eye out for a flier on that board near center camp where such things get posted.

Hut Raisin’ 2.0 Write-Up

Turn out for Hut Raisin’ 2.0 was an entire 33% higher than Hut Raisin’ 1.0, for a grand total of 4 people. Josh and Keith, last year’s helpers, returned, and this year we gained another Josh. We got a total of about a day and a half of building in, and I’m quite pleased with what we accomplished in a relatively short time.

Improvements over Hut 1.0 are numerous. We got off to a great start on Saturday, by laying down a “foundation” that is both square and level. The foundation was the part that I was most unsure about, but things worked out beautifully. We laid down two rows of cement blocks, and once we got them spaced and lined up, we got each individual block leveled. The terrain is inherently sloped and uneven, so instead of trying to level all the blocks in relation to each other, the 4×4 blocks that were placed between the 4×6 beam and the cement blocks were custom cut to compensate for the various height differences. At the end, we had two parallel beams, and then two 2x6x8 boards were attached to the end of the beams. To make sure everything stayed square, we calculated what the distance between the opposing corners of the beam should be, using Pythagoras’ good ol’ theorem, and checked it often, making minor adjustments as necessary. After that, we put in floor joists, then after squaring everything up one last time (and breaking for lunch), laid down OSB sheets that’ll act as the floor for now.

Then we started building up. The 4×4 columns were next. While the corner posts were held up vertical by temporary diagonal supports, we started working on the loft walls, working late into the night. Just about everything went according to my original design, and the only improvisations I had to make were diagonal supports, of which I used many. The next morning, we continued putting up the remaining loft walls, and finished off by putting up the loft floor itself, before everybody had to leave.

There’s still a ton of work to do, obviously, but I’m very happy with what we built. Most of all, I’m particularly pleased with the foundation. With Hut 1.0, I didn’t bother to level or square the “foundation”, and that naturally caused all sorts of problems later on, least of which was the tendency to roll in one direction when sleeping in the loft. This time around, the foundation feels solid, it’s square, and level. We also made sure the 4x4s were vertical when we put them up, and I’ve been using plenty of diagonal supports to make sure it stays that way. Though, all the diagonals are currently up top, so at the moment, the joint between the 4×4 columns and the floor are completely unsupported, thus allowing for some wobbling. I’m sure it’ll firm up once the siding goes on, but I’ll probably add some diagonals at the floor level too.

I’ll be working on the hut alone for the next few weeks. With the loft in place, I should be able to start working on the roof on my own. I should also be able to put in the windows, put up the first layer of siding and insulation, and then I might try and get more help to put up the exterior siding. I still haven’t bought roofing, so I’ll need to figure that out too. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish everything by the end of September, well before the rain and cold. So if you missed Hut Raisin’ 2.0, you might still make it to Hut Finishin’ 2.0 in September. Stay tuned for details (and for updates on the hut, of course)…

Also, check out the other photos from Hut Raisin’ 2.0 on Flickr!

Hut 2.0 Progress Report

I spent this past weekend down in Chico hanging out with my friends Keith and Stephanie (and their 3 cats), and designing my new hut. On my way down, I spent a few hours at Lowe’s (which had the best prices and selection in the area) gathering item numbers and prices on building materials I might use, then started a spreadsheet to keep a tally on how much of everything I’d need, and how much it’d cost. While designing the hut, I tried various permutations on building materials, and hut sizes, to try to minimize cost while maximizing HAI (Hut Awesomeness Index).

The hardest part was deciding on the dimensions, partially because it’s difficult to imagine how a certain amount of space would feel like. The best I could do was to picture myself in my current 6’x8′ hut, and try to imagine what it would look like if that wall were pushed back 4 feet, and that other wall was set back 2 feet, and the ceiling was 8ft high, or maybe 7ft high, with 2×4 trusses instead of 2×6, and if the window was there, there and there, with a ladder to the loft here, or maybe there… Yeah, it’s impossible. Our perception of space is affected by so many factors, including lighting, head room, colors, and little details like how many 2x4s are jutting out, that, at least with my lack of experience, it’s very difficult to try and anticipate the feel of the space.

At the end, I settled on a an 8ft by 12ft hut, with a 4ft by 8ft porch out front. There will be an 8ft by 8ft loft, set 8ft off the floor. I considered lowering the loft to reduce the overall dimensions (for lower cost and wind profile), but having extra headroom will make the place feel more spacious. The loft has “walls” about 16 inches high, and the apex of the 45-degree-pitch roof will be a little under 4ft above that, which means I should almost be able to stand up in the loft if I’m in the middle (one of the benefits of being relatively short, at 5’7″). The loft will have 1’x4′ sliding windows on 3 sides, for light and ventilation. For the lower level, I wanted to try using 4x4s spaced roughly 4ft apart, instead of the more typical 2×4 construction, since the studs would be exposed inside and having fewer bigger columns would look less cluttered than having 2x4s spaced 2ft apart. In general, I used lumber sparingly, hoping that my intuition would be right, though I’ll improvise as I go and add reinforcements where I feel would be needed.

Once my preliminary design was done, my spreadsheet said I’d need $1212 worth of supplies to start building. That didn’t include a few “optional” materials like a couple of windows I wanted (but didn’t need), or roofing panels (which they didn’t have in stock), and some small things like nails and brackets (which I could also get at the local hardware store). I printed out the final list, and headed to Lowe’s.

Fortunately, the sales manager was at the counter, instead of his minions. I asked him about discounts, and he told me that I could get a 10% discount if I got a Lowe’s credit card, or 20% if I was a business. I thought about it, and decided that I could call myself an independent contractor, and apply for the business account. Though, as I was filling out the application form, the manager offered to give me 20% off even if my application wasn’t accepted. Score! But, wait! That means I can reverse all those cost-cutting trade-offs I’d made! I can get more stuff! I hurriedly scratched out the app (I didn’t actually want the credit, if I was going to get the discount anyway), then started revising my order. I’d get treated lumber for the “foundation”. Hey, I’d get one of those windows on clearance for $90, which would now be $72. Actually, make that two windows. Oh, and let’s throw in more lumber. And a few 5lb boxes of nails. It turned into a veritable shopping frenzy. I was practically frothing at the mouth, as I rattled off item numbers. At the end, including tax and delivery (which alone was $139), the order came out to around $1350. Not bad.

I should get the delivery on Wednesday, though that’s no simple matter either. Since I don’t have a street address, they only put in my nearest town, and the driver will have to call me for precise directions to the dirt road (hopefully the driver will have a GPS, and I can give him the coords). The delivery truck almost certainly won’t be able to come up the last stretch of the dirt road to my camp, so I’ll probably get the driver to dump everything a few hundred yards away, and we’ll haul it the rest of the way by hand (or perhaps on the roof of my car).

Getting the materials ordered (and getting a nice discount), and knowing that they can deliver to my property has taken a load off my shoulders though. As long as the delivery goes smoothly, I can spend most of this week finalizing the design, working out the details, and relaxing for a bit before my friends show up on Friday. And then the real fun will begin. I’m excited.

Journal: August 14, 2010

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. I was in San Francisco for a week to see friends and move out of my apartment, and got back up to Serenity Valley last Wednesday. My garden was still mostly alive, though the water container was still half full, and some of the corn was starting to look a little parched. The soaker lines didn’t seem to be dripping too well, so I went around opening up the pores by squeezing the tube with a pair of pliers. That seemed to work a bit too well, and ended up draining the remaining half a tank (over 20 gallons) in a day and a half. Ooops. I’m finally starting to see more fruits of my labor though, and it looks like I have some zucchini, egg plant, beans and tomatoes on the way.

The hut raising is next week, and I need to order building supplies tomorrow to get it delivered next week, but the design hasn’t been finalize yet. In fact, I haven’t put anything down on “paper” (by which I mean Google SktchUp), though I think I have most of it figured out in my head. I’ve since managed to pick up a couple more like-new vinyl windows at salvage shops (one hanging, one sliding), and also got some very nice scavenged argon-filled Low-E glass from a friends’ dad today. I think I’ll buy one or two more windows that open, but I already have 5 opening windows (all Low-E, double paned), in addition to the 3 aforementioned panes of glass. I’ll also be buying a framed door this time, if I can afford one. Balancing cost vs quality is a challenge, since I want to build something that’ll last and I don’t want to repeat the mistakes from my first hut, but I also need to save as much money as possible. Do I go for the R-5 insulation board for $13, or the R-2.9 ones for $7.50? Is $100 worth the extra insulation? Probably, when I consider the long term benefits. So perhaps I should build a slightly smaller hut, but then, I also don’t want to build yet another hut next year when I decide that this year’s is still too small… On the other hand, the whole point is an experiment in minimalist comfort, so I don’t want to go big just for the sake of it.

The adventure continues…