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Monday, November 7, 2011

An Alternative Home Builder's Day

The Day:  Monday  11/7/2011

6:19 AM  Actually I'm not the home builder, that's Tom Fort and his crew.  But as Tom says, "Mike, I don't know anything about all this alternative stuff.  I need you to manage it."  Building our House the Land Built is my first job during this "refirement" stage of my life.  And this Monday blog is a crucial part of that job, serving both purposes for House the Land Built:  (1) welcome family, friends and community, (2) enable the Connection.  Fortunately for me, I don't know the "rules of blogging" or I'd probably learn that "you should never keep updating the same post", as I'm about to do today.  The blog is the second thing I did today. 

First (as I sat at our cabin's little table shining a flashlight on my granola trying not to wake Linda) I did what all project manager's do: worry.  Here's the areas I'm worrying about today.
-Generator maintenance
-Masonry heater support
-Solar electric trenching
-Kitchen planning
-Wood stacking

Now we'll see what actually happens...

7:53AM Surprised to discover I'm not first on the homesite.   Pearson brothers (Electrician John and Excavator Steve) corral me before I can pull out the tractor and start the generator.  "First order of business," says Steve.  "Gun's in my truck.  Can I take a buck if one comes running over the hill?"    After making that decision in the affirmative, they gave me about 1 minute to make the next:  where do I want the electric lines to enter the house and shed?  They needed to trench in power cables from the solar panel to the house and from the backup generator to the house.  Made my decisions and they got to work.

8:32AM  Worked on moving the wood pile needed to feed our masonry heater this winter.  I'd hoped to stack the wood on the porch, but a 3 week factory delay in windows means snow will arrive before the porch is clear.  I'm now stacking the 3 cords of split and dried wood under the shed lean-to.

8:47AM  Tom the Builder called.  His crew won't be here today (no need for generator).  Made plans to visit his office after lunch to plan kitchen cabinets.  Nothing alternative here, just normal cabinets.

9:03AM  Excavator Steve wants to know where to bury the cistern for storing our harvested rainwater (no well).  Decided exactly where to bury the 5000 gallon (14' long x 8' wide x 5' deep) concrete tank off the NE corner off the house. 

9:21AM  While discussing submersible vs jet jump, excavator Steve's back cramps up for no apparent reason.  He dashes off to chiropractor. 

9:36AM  Bullets whir frightenly overhead.  Jump in Electrician John's truck, drive over the prairie to find our neighbor, Scott, and his blaze orange hunting party tracking a deer.  We follow them down to the road where they haul out a huge buck they took on the border between our Land and Scott's. 


10:01AM  Try to stack some more wood.

10:03AM  Helped Solar Installer Curt hang the invertor in our basement.  The invertor is the brains of our off-grid home (no electric line coming in, we produce it all),  controlling the flow of electricity from the solar panels to the batteries, from the backup generator to the batteries and from the batteries to our standard electric panel. 

11:13AM  Pulled trailor back to cabin and filled 30 gallon water tank.  Don't know if Mason Mike will show yet today, but if he does I don't want to be the cause of a delay on our masonry heater. 

12:21AM  Lunch.  Ahhh!  I'm a lucky man to be fed by Linda:  egg and bean burrito with pan seared squash rings.  Still we talked shop:  LED lighting (the only real option for our off-grid home). 

1:44PM  Linda and I drove to Tom the Builder's St. Charles office to plan kitchen cabinets.  Nothing alternative here.  I've gained enough wisdom to mostly just support Linda in getting the kitchen she wants.   After successfully selecting everything except the stain color, suddenly Tom asked me about some other big decisions for which I was unprepared:  downspout placement to support rainwater harvest, drilling holes for root cellar ventillation.  I borrowed some saws to cut the ventilation holes. 

4:05PM  On the way home, stopped at the bottom of our road to measure a downed cherry tree for possible use as a bathroom counter top in case the boxelder doesn't work out.

4:11PM  Returned to homesite.   Excavator Steve, feeling much better after a trip to the chiropractor, had just completed filling in the electrical trenches.  After deciding where best to place the septic tank (standard issue), we stood for a while just admiring the great job his crew had done bulldozing the grade around our house.   Not only will water flow away from our basement, but the Land now rises to hug our home.

4: 27PM Dissapointed that Mason Mike is a no-show.  All that wood is pretty useless without a masonry heater.  Stacked more wood.

5: 24PM  As the early dark descends, Linda arrives with the campsite toilet in the back of the CRV.  Together we unload into the shed what is the prototype for our home's sawdust toilet system. 

5:38PM  Hazy moon.  Almost warm enough to camp.  Linda and I gaze out our "living room windows", debriefing the day and soaking up the dream.

I'm a lucky man.


  1. Eagerly awaiting more to the story. :) Heather

  2. I don't think you are breaking any blog rules, but what do I know. I like the more frequent updates. I could get used to this! What a morning...anixiously awaiting to hear more. :) Heather

  3. I'm looking forward to further updates. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  4. Mike, who says you are not building this house!Is it not amazing the decisions needed and when they are least expected. I worried constantly that our decisions would back fire, cost more money etc.We had a couple of good "discussions" on the phone around decisions as I was in MN and Rod on site.It has been so good to be following your dream as it unfolds. Yeah to technology. Take care both of you.(PS the whizzing bullets were a nice touch)

  5. We're getting used to the crack of a shotgun. But the whir of a bullet, so near!, was unsettling indeed. Especially for Solar Curt who pretty much hit the dirt.

  6. excellent the pic of the house with the dirt all leveled out....looks great!

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