Monday, October 29, 2007

Snoopy takes a ride

It was another epic weekend at our house. John's post recounts the fact that our heat system is now up and running, which is a milestone as big as when we finished the bathroom and moved into the house. It's huge and wonderful. As if that weren't enough, this weekend my dad came to help and we moved our shed!

A little background: One of the many items on our work writeup, which is the to-do list we agreed to so the bank would finance our renovation, is to tear down this shed that sat several feet behind the back corner of the house. We're not sure how old it is, but it's a nice little frame structure with a high metal roof, wooden siding, and a picture of Snoopy gone fishin' painted on one side. Its rock foundation that had gotten very wobbly, and all the wood around the bottom (floor and the lower parts of the walls) was in very bad shape. Because of that and its proximity to the house, the bank required for safety reasons that we tear it down.

Well, we didn't want to. We know we're going to need a shed, so if we tore this one down we'd just be building or buying another one within a year. Other than the floor and foundation, it's in good shape. We decided to build new foundation posts for it in a different spot, up the hill at the edge of our yard, and move it.

And so we did.


It was raining, raining, raining. We could hardly complain, since this rain ended a 6- or 8-week drought and got our creek flowing again, but it did make it interesting to dig the holes at the four corners of the new shed location. I was home from work that day and procrastinated most of the morning in the dry house, but eventually had to put on the rain gear and get out there with the shovel and do it.

I'd found out that the frostline locally is 16 inches, so I was aiming to dig 20-inch holes so that our foundation posts won't move around when the ground freezes and thaws. It felt really good to dig into our soil--made the idea of gardening on this property much less abstract. We do have many rocks, but the soil is nice. I used the fork to loosen and the shovel, until it wouldn't fit down in the holes anymore, then got on my knees and scooped dirt out with plastic containers. Pretty messy.

After a couple of hours I had three nice holes. In the fourth spot, there is a giant rock that I couldn't move, or even find the edges of. Probably fine just to leave it and let the shed sit right on it.

Saturday and Sunday

Saturday started out grey, but soon became a warm, sunny day with rain glistening on the trees. What a gift for this outdoor project. Dad and I got to work on what would be a long couple of days' worth of shed wrangling.

I won't recount this whole project step-by-step, which I can't reconstruct in my memory anyway. How do you move a shed? The basic idea was to first reinforce the structure with some nice big planks nailed like a band around the bottom of the building, plus some diagonals for stiffness. We dragged out all the old boards and other stuff that was in there, including big rocks that may have been part of the foundation at some point, but were now totally loose. Then Dad used a couple of floor jacks and the yellow hydraulic jack (familiar from our beam weekends) to levitate the shed all the way off its bumpy foundation. Then we inserted skids (2x4s and other random pieces of lumber) under the two side walls, then rollers (lengths of iron pipe) under those, then more skids under those. Now the shed was, literally, ready to roll.

Of course, it had to roll uphill, so we ran chains between a couple of the wall studs and up to a point on the middle of the uphill wall, then hooked two big come-alongs between the chain and Dad's truck, which he parked up at the edge of the yard. This would be the mechanism for dragging the shed up to its new spot.

Sounds fairly simple, but we fought for every inch of ground we gained. The shed is funky and the ground slopes diagonally across our intended path. So nothing happened in straight lines. Many, many times the shed fell off its rollers. Continually, as it moved uphill, it turned toward the downhill side. It also tended to drag its back end on the ground, making the pulling harder and causing more turning. So the pattern was basically this: get the rollers and skids all set up--hoping nothing crashes down on you while your hands are under the jacked-up walls--then let the jacks down and winch the shed uphill 8 or 12 inches until it falls off the rollers again. Then start over. Dad's considerable experience with engineering this kind of ridiculous project was much in evidence--I did a lot of just watching and handing tools while he buzzed around at light speed, digging and winching and jacking and putting in rollers and skids.

Long story short, we got about halfway up to the new site on Saturday. That put us off the old foundation and onto the grass, which was an improvement. Sunday, we moved the truck and hooked the come-alongs to a couple of trees instead, and got the shed to the point where one back corner is right over its final resting point. The other three corners will have to pivot into their correct positions, though, and we left that for another time. It was 3pm and Dad had to start driving home, plus we were exhausted. So it was best to just stabilize the shed where it was and call it a weekend.

The journey of Snoopy left a wake behind it: small pieces of wood used as shims, divets in the lawn where we dug out to fit the floor jacks under the structure, a trellis that used to lean against the shed, and a pile of rocks and dirt where the shed used to be. Our yard has opened up nicely and, minus a few odd angles, we can sort of see what it'll be like when the shed is squared up and in place. Snoopy stares into the woods now. If he could talk, he'd say, "Thanks, Dad." Well, maybe not, but I'll say it.

- Erika

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