Tuesday, December 31, 2013

(Dec 31) Prepping for Roof

Now that all of the walls were secure, we started laying out braces for the rafters. Another area where steel is a little different than wood but a whole lot stronger. In wood, you would cut a notch out of the rafter and set it on top of your top plate. With steel, we put a brace to accept the rafter on top of the top plate. No notching necessary. Steel also carries about a 2500 pound tear resistance compared to wood at about 500 pounds. Yes we're mostly sheltered in the trees but with this roof design, there is still going to be a lot of lift pulling on the walls.

We've still got to get the window and door openings framed in on the west side. The strap running at 4' and 8' heights around the interior are for attaching sheetrock to. We had thought about adding some diagonal strap too but thought that the material buildup would be too much. Besides, the OSB sheets will give it a ton of strength against racking.

Friday, December 27, 2013

(Dec 27) 4 Corners

We finally have an idea of the interior dimensions now. Having the deck finished wasn't really enough to define how it would feel but now that all 4 walls are up, you can really tell what it will look like. The 10' ceiling sure gives it a roominess.

Friday, December 20, 2013

(Dec 20) Window Framing

Seeing the window frames take shape was a big step for us. It really put perspective to the cabin and the views we would share and enjoy for years to come. Pretty simple process of cutting the steel and folding it back so that it can attach to the studs. If you leave a little extra on the sides, it slips into place over the outsides of the studs too. We clamped them into place to confirm height and level before we screwed them in. We also tilted them outward just the slightest bit. This ensures that if we somehow get water through the seals, it will not be able to roll uphill into the cabin.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

(Dec 15) Walls start to appear

Once we got all of the track in place, I couldn't wait to get our first wall started. I had been reading about framing through the week and was pretty sure of how it was supposed to go but not having done it yet, there's always that little bit of apprehension. It went very smoothly. The studs are light enough that I could stand them up and put a single screw into the base to hold it in place. Then I screwed the 3 pieces together to make the corner. Then I went back and finished screwing bottom of the studs to the track. checking for level both directions.

The rest of the studs went along just like the corner. A little slower as I had to lay them out according to where the windows were going to be set.

Once we got all of the studs for that wall done, we laid a track across the top and secured it. This is where my inexperience cost us a lot of time and extra thought. The supply house where we get the steel had 10' pieces of track in stock but I never thought to ask if I could get it any longer. Turns out I could have ordered it to fit the top of the wall and I wouldn't have had to spend the time to figure out how to splice together 2 10' pieces. I had already bought all I needed for the perimeter so I guess I'm stuck doing it this way on all 4 walls. I'll know better next time.

Monday, November 11, 2013

(Nov 11) I Love The Fall!

What a great weekend. Weather was awesome! Trees are changing and leaves are falling. Found this little Green Racer climbing in a tree by the cabin site. We also made a great lunch - hamburger meat, potatoes, sliced onions, butter and cheese. All wrapped up with salt, pepper and garlic. I placed the potato wraps on top of our little hibachi that had some local oak cooked down to coals. Cooked the meals in about 30 min. Cooked the meat, onion and potatoes for a while and then threw in the cheeses for the last 10 minutes. Onions were glazed just right and the potatoes and meat got just a little crusty on the bottom. Wow! We'll be doing this again soon!

Monday, September 9, 2013

( Sep 9) The Deck is Done

We got the joists laid out on the frame today. I'm putting them on 12" centers to give a really firm feel to the flooring.

Built a beam for the middle and then attached a piece of track on either side to accept the joists. We looked at several ways to do this before we started. One would have been to lower the piers in the center line to accept a support beam under the joists. This way they could just sit on top of it. In the end we talked to some people in the construction field and decided that putting the middle beam even with the others offered better support. Either way, we could put a grand piano in here now if we wanted. 

Put down a layer of tar paper to help keep moisture from coming up off of the ground onto the bottom of the deck.

Pretty exciting to see a deck here in the woods where there was just brush before! 

Used Advantech ¾" decking for the sub-floor. It's water resistant. Not water proof, but very resistant. Lots of examples on the web where people were able to leave it out in the weather for several years without significant swelling. We paid more for this than standard plywood but much less than marine plywood which was my other choice.

Monday, September 2, 2013

(Sep 2) Labor Day Weekend - Foundation

I cannot begin to tell you what a blessing Kim is! Here it was, 103°, and she is out there step for step clearing brush and cleaning up the site from dawn to dusk. We came out to just camp that weekend. We had 3 days and we were exhausted with planning. We both had reservations about the height that I had designed and weren't sure how we were going to build a 2 story building out here on uneven ground without any scaffolding. We talked about it for a while and came to the agreement that we would lower the expectations and the wall height. With that in mind, there was no reason not to get started. We ran to Home Depot and loaded up on concrete piers and bricks. My initial thought was a block type that had a large bolt through it that could be adjusted for height and contour or the land. These were a special order though and we are not known for our patience. So we adjusted our plan on the fly and decided we could use the bricks to level the site of the pier and then just set the pier in place on top of the bricks. As long as we left the soil in tact, we should be OK with minimum settling.

The clearing for the building starts to take shape. I can't believe how hot it is here in the woods with no breeze. We took some time to wire some plugs on the HVAC blowers we had acquired at Kim's work. They were an absolute life saver. You could get a strong breeze across the 30 foot opening. The only problem with it was the debris that it kicked up. Oh well, you take the bad with the good. 

Turns out the most useful tool was a hatchet that we had brought back from Clovis when we cleared out her grandfather's estate earlier that year. The roots were so thick that I could not dig through them with a shovel. I literally cut a perimeter with the hatchet for each set of blocks and pulled it out as a near solid plug. We had been studying how to level and square the foundation and found it was more difficult to get the batter boards lined up properly than it was to level the piers. Once

There was a lot more slope to the spot than we first realized. To minimize the rise on the back side, we buried the pier some at the tallest corner. This would reduce the need for 2 bricks on each of the 12 piers and it couldn't hurt on stability either. Doesn't look like a lot got done but this was the result of 2 very long days of work. Each pier took nearly an hour to set properly. We would dig out the roots. Lay the initial bricks/pier into place and then calculate how much it had to raise or lower to get it level with the rest of them. I must have lifted each pier 15 or 20 times before it was acceptable. As we moved towards the back, I had to place, lift and replace not only the pier but all of the bricks at each location as well. Once we got them level, we worked at getting them square. This wasn't too bad. We used the 3/4/5 method where you measure 3 feet along one line and 4 feet along the other. This should leave you with a perfect 5 feet on the diagonal between them. If your diagonal is too long, you close your angle a little. If it's too short, you open it up a bit. A couple of rounds of adjustments also meant that a couple of the bricks were now out of level so we had to fix that too as we went along. Finally we were happy with the placement of all of the piers and check the corner to corner measurements. We were less than a ¼" off between opposing diagonals. Not bad for a couple of amateurs that hadn't had a math class in 30 years. :) 

Once all of the piers were in place and level and square, we built a frame of beams, a stud inside of a track. Still only a 2x4 in dimension but incredibly strong. I decided afterwards that we could have done with fewer piers but I wasn't about to take any out after the battle to get them into place! :)

Detail of the corners of the beams. We cut and overlapped the ends of the steel and then put a corner bracket in for extra measure. 2x6 16 gauge nested together and screwed securely every couple of feet.  This easily would have held the 2 story structure that we had originally planned.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

(Mar 31) Wait a minute, Mr Postman

Spent the afternoon out here today. There were supposed to be thunderstorms moving in late in the afternoon so we didn't bring anything for a meal. Should have, the weather was PERFECT! Mid 60s and a light breeze. Not a cloud in the sky! They messed this forecast up. Oh well! We had a very relaxing afternoon. The foliage is really coming back to life. We had numerous Cardinals and doves hanging out at the camp today. We brought out a couple of new bird feeders and spent a while filling all of them up. We also brought out a bird bath. Just a 2' ceramic dish but deep enough to hold a couple of gallons of water. That should last the week between trips. Also got a mailbox installed at the road side. Don't suspect we will get anything but route junk but at least the paramedics can find us if I chop something off with a chain saw. :) Planted a Rosemary bush I got on clearance at HD for $3. Looked plenty healthy to me. I think it will be happy here.

Was bound to happen sooner or later. We had gone back to the property to measure for a security chain and got the truck stuck. I am going to have to remember that the day after a rain is not the time to be driving off of the road. Walked back to the camp and got a shovel and we were out in about 10 minutes. No, I did not want my picture taken! :)

Glad it rained yesterday. Made pounding this in a bit easier.

Added a couple of new feeders. So far, they've been emptying 2 every week. We'll see how they do with 4.

Sure hoping the ceramic holds up to the freezes. Should give them plenty to play in 'til we get back next week.

New bird feeder. Maybe the layers of Sunflower and grain will keep them all coming back for more.

Rosemary. I'll bet this is 3 feet across by next winter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

(Mar 27) X marks the spot

Brought some stakes and rope to mark off placement of the cabin. Originally 16x20 with a 8' porch on the front and a 10' deck on the back. After messing with it for a while, I think we settled on a 12' deck on the back. We're pretty set on the front edge of the porch so we will need to extend the deck back from where it is now. May go ahead and build the deck first. This would give us enough room to camp on and get up off of the ground as we move into the rainy season. We have 3-4 live trees to remove to clear this area. We will also probably set all of the piers at one time to ensure all are level. Estimate cost of the 12'x20' deck will be ~$1000. Need to work up a diagram for placement of the piers and beams. Hoping to get money to electric company next month to get started on estimate for running power lines to building site. Need ~$250 for this. While clearing some leaves on prospective bldg site, I uncovered a mound of sand that had been dug up. Looked like a gopher mound. I started raking it down smooth and hit something hard that moved. It was a turtle! About 3" front to back. I cleared the sand off of him and took a few pics. Covered him back up and staked the spot so we wouldn't step on him. Too cute! He should be waking up pretty soon. Supposed to be in the 70s this week and the 80s next. Also looks like we could get rain 3 or 4 days over the next week. That will be nice. We planted a couple of Southern Wood ferns by the driveway. We'll need to hold off on planting anything much more exotic until we have a steady water source. Talked to the owner of Hooten Landscape in Emory. Great looking plants and trees! Really nice guy. He asked if we had slept on the property yet. Told him we had, one night. He asked if we had heard something like a woman screaming in the middle of the night. Now I was curious. Without prompting, he goes on to tell us of reports of a mountain lion in the area. Said we would know if we heard it. Told us the game warden had admitted it's presence. I am now considering carrying my pistol while on the property for a while. Wouldn't be a bad idea with snakes waking up for the warmer weather also. I've been working on informing Kim as to the difference in good snakes and the poisonous ones. So far, no signs of any yet.

Small turtle buried up over winter.

Southern Wood Fern. Going to start planing these throughout the property. Drought and freeze tolerant. What else can you ask for in North Texas.

Monday, March 25, 2013

(Mar 25) Groundwork

Didn't make it out this weekend. Rainy on Sat, cold and windy on Sun. Talked to the appraisal district today. Confirmed our new tax liability for 2013 will be set when statements come out in April. Found out they value storage sheds at about $8 per foot. That puts a 100sf shed at $16/year in tax liability. I talked to the district clerk's office also and confirmed that we do not need a building permit or any inspections. We are responsible for our own building issues as long as construction is outside of an existing city limit. Also talked to environmental speciaist for district. He said that we would not be required to have a septic system. That a composting toilet would be acceptable. WooHoo! We can build whatever we like, however we like!

Proposed building site for cabin.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

(Mar 16) Spring is here

YEA! Spent our first night at Point! Weather was perfect. Highs in the upper 70s. Came out late Saturday afternoon after a window tinting job in Arlington. Ate at the Chinese Wok in Wills Point. It was OK. Dishes big enough to share in the future. Got to the land about 5:30 and set up the tent. Started a fire in the chiminea. Went to Emory to get some groceries and ice. Brought back hummus, flat bread and wine. Sat talking 'til 10:00 o'clock or so. Dragged the mattress out in front of the fire and enjoyed the stars and the glow of the fire. Wonderful feeling! Woke up in the middle of the night and decided to move back to the tent. It was getting a little chilly, about 60° and breezy. Woke up about 8:00 and got some breakfast started. Bacon and scrambled eggs, mango, orange juice. We cleaned up and got started clearing land to put the cabin on. Several dead trees to deal with. Chopped up a few with the chainsaw but the blade is really dull. Will replace next week. Haven't touched it since we were working on the land at Lake Whitney. Need to see if they can sharpen it or if it's beyond improvement. Broke for lunch around noon. Cooked pork steaks with sautéed zucchini and bell pepper. To die for. I don't know if it's the work, being outdoors or what, but meals are so good when you're camping. This was exceptional. We took a walk around the perimeter of the property for about an hour after lunch, trimming poison ivy and low lying branches as we went. Confirmed that the plants I have been suspecting were poison ivy truly are. Leaves are starting to poke out on all of the plants. Verified that the vines and plants I was seeing throughout the winter were the 3 leaved poison ivy. Ugggh! 12 acres, covered in the stuff. I've got lots of work cut out for me over the next 3-4 years. I think I can have it controlled by then though. Going to get a backpack sprayer by Spring's end. Then I'll be dangerous! Need to mix some food color with the roundup to see where I've sprayed. Was really excited to see that almost all of the trees that are standing are alive. There were a handful towards the back of the property that were dead but most were alive and starting to bloom out. Cannot wait to see what it all looks like in it's full glory next month. Really scary buying property in the winter. Not quite sure what you're going to get. Now that we've started burning large quantities of wood, it's also clear that we have a huge task ahead of us to clean up the property. Saw a couple of termite nests and a small scorpion as we were dealing with some downed trees. Really pushes me towards using metal to build the cabin! We have settled on 16'x20' for the size with a covered porch on the front and a deck on the back. The porch for hot and rainy days. The deck for cool days and clear nights. We're going to face the front of the cabin towards the drive, about SW. That will put the rear/deck facing NE. Kim want to see the front of the cabin as we drive up each day. :) I suspect most of our nights will be on the back deck anyway. That will shield our view from any neighbors and their infernal street lights. Never ceases to amaze me that people want to get away from the city but they insist on bringing the light pollution with them. Guess they're just insecure. Truly wish we had internet service out there. I would set up an IP camera on the bird feeders. There was a Cardinal couple at the site all weekend. Both bird feeders were empty when we arrived. The 5 lbs of sunflower seed left on the ground from the fire on our last visit was almost gone too. I poured out some new bird seed just on the other side of the camp and it didn't take long for the Cardinals to find it. At one point the male was taunting me by landing in a tree about 10 feet away. Of course I had just put the camera away 2 minutes before. Need to identify the cute little blue and white bird with the tuft on it's head. VERY noisy singer. :) They like eating out of the feeders while the Cardinals are ground feeders. We left most of the tools there this time along with the camp stove. I'll be really sad if any of it gets stolen. Really hope the neighborhood is safe! Now that we know where we are going to have our cabin, we can call and get an estimate for service installation from the electric company.

Grilled pork steak and veggies.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

(Mar 2) Just a work day

Came out to work today about 1:30. Stayed til dark clearing and burning brush in the new tank. It's working out nicely. Leaves are starting to come out on many of the trees and shrubs. It's really looking like Spring. Can't wait 'til we can spend some real time out here. Some day . . . .

Burning brush and enjoying the warming weather

Sunday, February 24, 2013

(Feb 24) Burn, Baby, Burn

Came back with Riley and the girls today. Andrea brought a friend to spend the day with. (Lets just say that was a disaster and leave it at that! Nuf said!) We decided to fire up the new burn tub, our 4' wide round water trough. I fashioned a wire screen as a topper and we loaded it up with logs and brush. Soon after we lit it we had a roaring fire. Wow! I had about 8 - 4' logs plus loose timber packed in. We had failed to appreciate that the 1000° fire would light the leaves on the ground around the giant fire pit. I quickly raked the debris away as we realized the enormous burning power. No more chopping branches into 8" pieces so they would fit in the chiminea. We would be burning entire branches by the dozens. 50 years of neglected woods had left a lot of downed trees. Yes, we would keep much of it for heating fuel but there was lots to deal with. I'm not one of those that wants the land cleared. Hell, I don't even want to rake the leaves if I don't have to. I just want to clear the debris and fallen branches so it doesn't look like the aftermath of a storm all of the time. We reloaded the pit several times and finally let it burn down to a pile of embers about 2' deep. Realizing it would be a long time before these all burned out we decided to stop feeding it. Even after the flames had died down, you couldn't sit any closer than about 10' away. Kim brushed her shoe against the pit at one point when repositioning the screen and watched the front bumper of her shoe melt away. Eventually, when the bottom has burned out of this trough, we could use this as a burn "ring" to get rid of tree stumps that are in the way. The wife has seen plans for some of the really large ones. Hollow them out and use them as planters or use them as small café tables in the woods. But face it, most of them have to go. Put the ring around them, build an inferno for 2-3 days (attended burn) and move on to the next. Better than paying $100 each for stump removal or putting up with them in the way for years.

We also learned several good lessons today. Embers burn a long time and should not be underestimated, and walkie-talkies are more reliable than cell phones. Kim had decided to empty out the ashes from lunch the day before in the chiminea. Problem was they were put in a paper sack and set on a pile of leaves. Yes, I know, sounds ridiculous now but that's the way it happened. It had been long enough to cook and finish hamburgers for lunch. Delicious, I must add. We decided to take a walk through to the back of the property. Sabrina was asleep so we left her lounging an a chair.  As we were returning to camp from our walk, we heard Sabrina yelling for help. As I ran closer I could see her running back and forth out to the path and waving for me to come. I see a tower of smoke near the camp table as I near. I grabbed the rake as I ran by and found a burning ring of about 12' at the edge of our camp. There had been some embers in the sack of ashes from earlier that morning.  They eventually burned through and ignited the sack and a pile of leaves spreading fairly quickly. A felled tree nearby was also burning but had acted as a stop for one side of a live tree. Sabrina had awakened to the smell of smoke and the fire already going but was unsure how to stop it. She worked at it a bit with a shovel but the soil was not very loose and she didn't have much luck. She tried calling me but my phone was in the truck charging. She tried calling Kim but we were out of cell coverage. The fire got our brand new camp table we had bought that morning, a bag of bird seed and a couple of tools. I worked for about 30 min making sure we had contained all the burning material into a central pile and putting out the log. We realized how close to disaster we had come and we worked on a plan for future ventures. (1) Don't put anything from the chiminea in a paperbag (duh!) being extra careful with ashes and such! (2) Keep a large pump spray with water available along with numerous gallon jugs. (3) Showing the kids how to deal with fires. Rakes work better that day than shovels. (4) No fires on windy days. This was pretty calm by any measure but it was a good wake up call.

Firing up the new burn trough

Saturday, February 23, 2013

(Feb 23) Mi Compadre, Jorge

My dear friend Jorge has found out that he has cancer, a very large tumor pressing outward in his abdomen. It has broken 3 of his ribs so far. He has finally made arrangements to get treatment at an out of state facility. He'll be leaving next week and I wanted him to see the property. We took him out to dinner last night and on the spur of the moment we decided that he needed to come with us to spend the day in the woods. We also brought my girls and Riley. Jorge kept making jokes about the sheer volume of supplies I was packing for a day trip, asking if we were really coming back home that night. We stopped in Terrell and bought a 160 gallon water trough to use as a burn barrel. He kept hinting that I needed to buy more Cokes but I didn't catch on until later when I found the bottle of rum that he had stashed in our supplies. I will just trust on blind faith next time he suggests it. We had taken down a wind damaged awning at the house last week. I salvaged some poles and canvas and we designed a small tent from it. We decided to take it to Point to use as an outhouse. We had packed it as well as the kids bikes. After we set up the new latrine, with no roof mind you, we settled in to relax the rest of the day with Jorge. We cooked some steaks on the chiminea and enjoyed a few rum and cokes. After that we enjoyed some rum. :) He was in a lot of pain from the near 3 hour truck ride from his house to the property so we didn't get much in exploring done. I just wanted him to have a day of his own and he said he was now in heaven. He told us over and over how special the day was and how much he enjoyed being here. We all laughed as he showed us where he would put the sign for the Merrett & Mendez Ranch. Told us that "this" would be a good spot for his nuevo casa but that we could still have a little piece of land back in a corner for a cabin. We didn't laugh anymore when he teared up and asked me if I would let him be buried here if his cancer treatment failed. That way he could be here every morning to say hello to us. One way or another, I promised him he would find a home here - either in retirement with his lovely Maria or eternally as a monument in the woods. Via con Dios mi amigo! We wait for your return.

Spending the day with Jorge for his Baptism in 2008

Jorge with Sabrina - Christmas 2010

Jorge and I spend the day at Cowboy's Stadium to watch Mexico v. Brazil in soccer.

Jorge at Andrea's Birthday party

Kim, Jorge and I in Fort Worth

Saturday, February 16, 2013

(Feb 16) Good to have some help

Stephanie (Kim's daughter), her husband Dave and Kim's grandson Riley came out on Saturday with us. Dave really got busy on clearing the drive way. We spent much of the day burning off the cuttings in the chiminea. Really need to get a bigger fire going. I just don't feel comfortable until we have some source of water. Need to put an ad in for a water trough to use as a giant burn ring. We stayed until dark and then had dinner at Don's. Was good as it was before. Hopefully we can all camp out there as the weather gets milder. Nights were still down in the 30's this week. Just a bit chilly with no option for heat. Kim and I stayed in Emory at the Best Western. Really nice room for $80/night. We got started early and stayed until 3:00 the next day and finished clearing the driveway all the way to the road down the middle of the property. Got to use the chain saw for the first time out here. We are still undecided as to where to put the 1st structure instead of the shipping containers we had originally thought. Just no way to get them back into the woods without clearing a lot of trees. Now we're considering a Tumbleweed style house on a trailer for the first. That way, we could move it as we are working on different areas of the property. Also, shouldn't be counted as permanent building and incur taxes. Need to locate a trailer to start with. Really trying to keep the initial cost around $1000. Found some goose-neck trailers that would do nicely. Just need to find something in the price range we need and a size we can transport. Really torn between this and a little cabin. Still have plenty of time to work it out.

Stephanie staying warm by the chiminea

Sunday, February 10, 2013

(Feb 10) Howling good time

Headed back to Point after a break for a couple of weeks to let Kim heal, (no pun intended :0  ) The girls were tired and wanted to sleep in and stay home today. We restocked the first aid kit and were on our way. We picked up some more stakes and decided to mark out the driveway extension. We found a pretty good path and were able to keep the opening at least 14' wide while avoiding taking out any large trees. We also brought out a couple of bird feeders. Really looking forward to Spring and the increase in wildlife. We stayed until well after dark just sitting and listening to the coyotes howl as the the moon made it's way across the clear skies.  I imagine it will be a nightly affair. In fact, I'll be sad some day if civilization encroaches enough to run them off more than it has already. Sounds like they're about a 1/2 a mile away. Close enough to be loud but not close enough to see their glowing little eyes. The coyotes settle down after about 3-4 minutes and night settles in. Sound travels really well in this still cold air. You can hear cars several miles away and every plane that comes overhead. Thankfully there are not many of either.  The moon is very bright and creates heavy black shadows that slowly move across the camp. The warm glow of the chiminea draws us closer as the temps fall into the 30s.

Moon rising at about 9:30. Very bright tonight. Not too bad a shot considering we didn't have a tripod.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

(Jan 27) Snap, Crackle, Pop

Came out today to show the property to the girls. The girls started to set up camp while Kim and I were walking a proposed drive way extension connecting to the little road in the middle of the property. We had been there a couple of hours when Kim fell and broke her right elbow as she tried to brace herself. We have been very conscious to bring the first aid kit and have some preparedness for emergencies. This was the reason. Got a sling out of the kit, an ice pack, and ibuprofen. Took us about 10 min to get everything packed back up and get on the road. She said it stopped hurting so bad once the ice pack was on it for a bit and the medicine kicked in so we decided to make the 90 mile trip back to Arlington for treatment. We took the girls to the house and drove to MCA hospital which is only about 10 min from the house. Spent the next couple of hours there. They x-rayed her elbow, put her in a soft wrap cast instead of a hard one, and set her up with an appointment to see an orthopedist the next day.  Finally, off we went with prescriptions for pain killers and such. It hurt worse the next couple of days but the Vicodin helped numb it a bit. At least then she didn't care about the pain so much.  Guess we won't be entering the 2 person lumberjack events this winter!

Kim with the chiminea, before the fall

Saturday, January 19, 2013

(Jan 19) Here kitty, kitty

Kim and I came out for the day. We wanted to mark the property lines so we knew where we were while exploring. We brought out a 100' tape and marked the front 90' width. As I was walking the front property line I met one of the neighbors. He and his wife had bought the 4 acre corner that was cut out of the original 16 as an investment. They lived across the street. When they divorced, she moved into the 4 acres and he stayed on the old property. They must get along OK since he was heading over there to get his dog that she was watching overnight for him. He told me of how his German Shepherd had been killed on our property about 5 years ago by what they suspected was a mountain lion. Said there were claw marks down the dog's side that were as wide as a man's hand. They haven't seen anything since but said there were several reports of giant cats in the area. I haven't seen any tracks or signs as of yet but will be sure to watch for them after the rains. Kim and I got to the task of finding the edges of the property. We placed survey stakes along the west and north boundaries. I'm still pretty good with a compass. We ran stakes back the entire 1000' along the north property line and we were only 3" off when we got to the back fence.  We also scouted several building sites. We will really need to spend some time here and get to know the land. How it acts when it rains. Where the winds blow through. Those kind of things. Right now we're thinking of west of the little road we found running through the middle of the property. This is west of the creek and to the north of the little road. Afterwards, we set up the chiminea and started our first fire. We took the rest of the day off and fed the fire for about 3 hours. It's amazing how hot it gets. It's not like a camp fire. The opening creates a forced draft and the chimney effect pulls in large volumes of air. After it was warmed up and going, there was never a bit of smoke. It burned very clean - much like a rocket stove. Need to remember the marshmallows next time!

Our first day with the chiminea. I am really going to like this. Well worth the investment!

Monday, January 14, 2013

(Jan 14) The work begins

I came out and spent the day on the property, clearing the driveway from the road all the way back to the big stump. I brought the little hibachi and lunch to cook - hamburgers and beans. It's so peaceful here. Still really quiet. Not a lot of wildlife moving around yet. Temp was pretty cool, stayed between 35° and 39° today. I layered my clothes but soon found that I only needed a T-Shirt as I was working. Feels like I got a lot accomplished. I got all of the driveway cleared of brush and Mesquite trees. Hate those things! I also dug out the water meter. Confirmed it was never used. Just a small reading for the water they washed through it. Otherwise still new. It was completely buried in mud. Disturbed a frog that had been wintering in the housing. I'm sure he will find shelter somewhere. I can't wait to see this place when it's in full bloom. I'm thrilled with it in the dead of winter. It will be very exciting to see all of this come to life in the

Front Driveway
There's something special about cooking and eating outdoors. It always tastes great!

Water meter. Won't be starting a golf course here with a 5/8" pipe! :) 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

(Jan 10) CLOSED!

It's done! All of the paperwork approved and signed. Title insurance. Bank loan. Release of Lien. It's ours now. My parents and my sister Missy were up her for the funeral of dad's first wife, Julie. She will be truly missed! They decided to spend the day with me. I'm sure the title company was impressed when the 5 of us showed up to sign paperwork! :) Kim met us at lunchtime and went back to work. We continued on to the property afterwards. It all had a very special feel today. The trees looked a little taller. The dirt a little more fertile. The pride of ownership! It's my baby now. Mom and dad loved the property. We walked to the back and dad kept saying, "wow, I didn't realize 12 acres was so big! This is a lot of land." We spent a couple of hours just walking around and examining trees and the creek. Got a really big rain over the last couple of days, about 4 inches. I was really excited to see that there were only a couple of places where water was standing. The creek was full but hadn't overflowed. Plans are to dam up the creek, one level at a time as this will be the main source to fill our cisterns with irrigation water. We could probably pull 10,000 plus gallons from a rain like we had this week. That would go a long ways in helping water the trees during July and August. Dad was kicking around in the dirt by the front driveway and found a water meter! WOW! A water meter! We were told there were no utilities on the property. Guess the previous owner didn't know either. Didn't look like he ever spent any time here. It was just an investment for him. Thanks dad! Just saved us $1,200 and the embarrassment of having 2 water meters! LOL

My parents and my sister, Missy
Creek after big rain
Like money just laying there in the leaves! Was sure glad to see this.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

(Jan 2) We now have an address

Yes, maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit but I wanted some progress! I called the Council of Governments office today to file for an address. They are the governing body that assigns such things so there is no confusion at the local county level. Very nice lady! Worked with me on where the exact location of the land was and how to assign a street address. She and I pulled up Google Maps to make sure we looked at the same thing. She then pulled up a 911 map to overlay. She eventually picked an address based on the other addresses around us. This will be submitted to the 911 database for Rains County. We are official. I really wanted this completed before we started working on the land in case someone is hurt and we have to call emergency services. Feels like progress even if we can't stay on the land yet!

(Jan 2) Loan papers

All of the title work has made it's way to the bank. They are now ordering loan documents. They have to work up a proposed mortgage with payment schedule and title work. Then it all has to be sent to a lawyer for approval. Then we need signatures from seller and we can finally close. Proposed date is set for Jan 10. Nothing like letting it slide to the last possible day. I think we would all spontaneously explode if we had to push the close date again.