Monday, June 22, 2009

More progress on the shed

After a little research, we decided not to use cement to set the locust piers. Instead, we opted for packing the posts in with gravel. Well, we don't actually have a supply of angular pea gravel handy, but we do have a large pile of small rocks and gravel as a result of sifting the first round of garden beds that we dug last year.

It was tough work on this warm, solstice weekend. We would fill the wheel barrow and push it out of the woods and up the hill to the shed a half dozen or more times. Once a pier was in place and relatively level, we'd fill the hole about four inches and then Erika would hold the pier with a level on top and keep it right while I tamped the gravel down all around it with a 2x4.

Then we'd add another four inches or so and tamp again. The tamping was done with all our strength, really packing the heck out of it. By the time the hole was full of packed gravel, the post would not budge. Half of each pier was buried. Nice and sturdy, and if we ever decide we need to remove them or something, we can unpack the gravel with a metal rod.

After setting both piers, we jacked the front of the shed up so we could pull the 6x6 beam out, move it over the piers, and measure it for cutting. Once it was cut, we set it in place on the piers and lowered the shed back down onto its new seat and called it a day.

The next day, we used some large nails to spike the beam to the piers and then the shed to the beam. Then we started figuring out how were were going to frame this floor out.

The floor needs to be on a different angle than the shed. That's just the conditions we're working with. So we've got all sorts of funky nailers in place to make this happen. We ended up adding a 2x6 flat across the beam so that the floor joists would gain another inch and a half lift at the front of the shed. We added our diagonal support in the back corner. And we managed to install four of the six joists. The last two will be the toughest because there is some old framing in the way and we'll need to find a creative (or forceful) way to deal with that.

Also, we harvested garlic on Saturday!

- John

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Return of the hammer

By now, the only people reading this are probably our own future selves, indulging in nostalgia. Hello, future selves! And anyone else who happens to be hanging around.

Though we have not posted in a dog's age, we have been working steadily. Mostly on the garden. Currently it is rocking the free world with very beautiful lettuce, cabbage and our first-ever successful broccoli crop (yeah!), as well as promising pepper, tomato and bean patches. The peas, marigolds, squashes and radishes are a little more marginal as yet, but most still have the potential for greatness. We've expanded the areas we grow in, and without much digging at all. Now we can see that the entire backyard will somebody be producing food, and this vision makes us very happy. Next up: fruit trees!

House-wise, there has been a snail's pace attack on the remaining trim painting, which involves large ladders and the need for dry weather. Ladders suck and it's been rainy all May, hence the creeping progress. It will be done soon, though. We have our eye on some front porch work, but we have to wait until the four baby Eastern Phoebes fledge before we go out there with paint scrapers and belt sanders and circular saw. They are currently occupying a very crowded nest on the top of a porch column. You'll recall that we replaced that column, but we left the top plate and the nest in hopes they'd return. And they have! The parents are always around, hunting for insects and looking watchful.

Which brings me to the shed. It's been a bit of an eyesore since we moved it--propped up on concrete blocks and twisted askew from its taxing journey up the hill. Last week we suddenly got the notion to start making it a usable building once again. And so we are. Basically, it needs to have the bottoms of its walls shored up, the foundation rebuilt, and a floor frame and floor put in. Nothing to it.

We've done the first of those four things and started on the second. Shoring up the walls meant adding various bands, planks, diagonals, nailers and plates to the softly rotted wall studs. We're using whatever lumber we have around, making our miter cuts on the back porch, and taking our time. We've both hit our own hands with the hammer. Construction takes some re-getting used to. Also, there is a nest of bees or wasps living inside on the ceiling, so we sometimes have to wait for them to calm down before proceeding.

But the shed is looking much sturdier, and we've straightened out many of its funkier aspects. The days I spent watching my dad jack this thing up must have sunk in, because we've been able to jack it and nail stuff to it without any big hassles.

Yesterday we finished step one and moved on to step two: the two posts that will support the shed's front corners. We decided to use black locust posts for this, setting them in concrete. We already had one in our wood pile, and the other came from the back of our property, chain-sawed by John out of a downed locust tree. Carried that monster back to the yard on our shoulders. And ended up sawing our post out of it with a handsaw when the chainsaw blade proved too dull. This is living!

Next up: level the posts as best we can, and pour concrete. We're psyched to have this thing ready to hold our stuff. Long live Snoopy.

- Erika