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Dropped in that wine cellar ceiling today.  Jeff Ligon, the concrete subcontractor, had to build the foundation just right.  Sticks and Stones had to to frame it up just right.  Streamline had to build it just right.  And it all had to come together today.  And it did!

Wine Cellar Ceiling Going In

Wine Cellar Ceiling Going In

Bruce, of Sticks and Stones, had put a pencil line on top of the stud wall to show where the ceiling frame should rest.  It came to less than a 1/4″ difference at the worst spot.  Amazing to me.  The Streamline and S&S folks made some jokes about the old days of timberframing where guys would claim they use a micrometer to measure, a crayon to mark, and a chainsaw to cut.  Not that they really did that, and what these guys really do is nothing to joke about.

After we got it all lined up, Mike Stubbs from StreamLine Timberframe absent-mindedly stepped out into the middle of the frame.  Now Mike is a big feller, but that frame didn’t budge the least little bit.

Mike Stubbs

Mike Stubbs

Mike is the Shop Manager at Streamline, and has (to me) become increasingly important (or at least visible)  in this project – he seems to be everywhere.  He sawed these timbers himself, he oversaw the talented timberframing crew building it, he delivered it, and he installed it.  And he, like everyone else at Streamline, is a grrreatt guy to work with.


The octagonal room at the far end of the picture in the previous post is going to be a tower, too.  In the basement, it couldn’t be anything other than a wine cellar, right?

The ceiling in that room is a timberframe and Streamline Timberframe has been waiting to deliver it.  Mike Stubbs, of Streamline Timberframe, built a jig yesterday to more or less load it on the back of one of their trucks to move it out to the farm.

Wine Cellar Timberframe

Wine Cellar Timberframe

It’s made almost entirely from reclaimed oak, having been milled from logs out of an old log cabin.  Streamline Timberframe sawed the rough logs for me on the sawmill in the back of the picture, and then built it in the building right behind the camera.  To the right of the picture, you can see the heartpine “family room” all cut up and ready to assemble.  We should be ready for that in a couple of weeks.

The room above the wine cellar is going to be cherry panelled walls, so it will have ceiling timbers identical to this, except in cherry.  The room above will be a bit more elaborate and have black walnut timbers.  Much of the walnut and cherry were sourced from dead trees on Crooked River Farm, but some had to be sourced from other local farms.  But it’s all sourced locally, cut locally, and manufactured locally.


It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t making progress.

The last pictures of the house were just of a hole in the ground with some forms in place.  We’ve got that hole pretty well filled with basement now, including most all of the framing and the first floor trusses in place.

1st floor

1st floor

Those four posts are the base of the tower which will rise (I think) 57′ feet from the basement floor all the way up to the attic (and beyond).  The main stairs will wrap around it.  The tower is all timberframe, and made out of heart pine.  Heart Pine is long-leaf pine, previously the primary pine species found from Virginia to Texas.  Because it grew so straight and true, was as strong as oak, was very rot resistant, and hard as a rock, it was extremely desirable for everything from ships masts to high end flooring.  As such it was pretty much totally cut over by 1900 and is now all but extinct.  The main source for it now is reclaimed timbers from old manufacturing buildings such as cotton mills and the like.  These timbers came out of the dismantling of the original Old Crow whiskey distillery building in KY, I’m told.   The “family room” will also be a heart pine room with all the timbers, flooring, panelling, and ceiling decking made of reclaimed heart pine.  That portion of the house should also be going up in the next few weeks, as Streamline has finished cutting the frame, and we’re just about ready for it.


Well, we poured a little bit of concrete this past week to make the basement.  17 truck loads, to be exact.  That’s a lot of concrete in one day.  The trucks were backed up.

Concrete Trucks

Concrete Trucks

The fellers who did the form work built all the forms for the basement in just a couple of days.  It’s amazing how hard they work, and how quickly they get the forms up (and down).

Pouring Concrete

Pouring Concrete

The first floor trusses have been delivered, and I’m told that I’ll be able to walk around on the first floor in just the next couple of weeks.


We did finally get the basement dug out.  But WOW!  I had forgotten how much compacted subsoil expands when it is dug out of the ground and loaded onto a dump truck.  Ryan Shortt, the operator of the excavator, figured it was about 200 dump truck loads!  And all of it was shale mixed with subsoil that wouldn’t grow kudzu even if you fertilized it.  What to do?

We used about 100 dumptrucks in an upper field to fill a ravine.  We scraped all the topsoil away first, filled the ravine, covered it back over, and replanted.  About 30 were set aside for backfilling the basement after it is finished, and the rest spread over a future roadbed.  I never figured I would have to figure out how to hide 200 dump truck loads of subsoil.  I’m sure I’m not through dealing with it.

The footers for the basement walls did get dug and poured as well as all the plumbing drains and drain field for the basement.  The forms for the basement walls were delivered yesterday.  I’m told it will take less than a week for the entire basement to be formed and poured.  So this time next week maybe we’ll have a basement?

Footers

Footers


We dug the trenches this week for the geothermal heating and cooling system.  The idea is that you bury hundreds of feet of pipe several feet underground, and pump water through it.  When it comes out the far end, it will be at the temperature of the ground, which around here is something like 55 degrees year ’round.  That water has a lot of heat in it.  Extract the heat from it, pump it back out, and the ground will heat it back up.  Rinse and repeat all winter long.  Basically, it’s a solar water heater – it just doesn’t rely on the sun that particular day, but the average sun all year long that warms up the earth.  Somewhere around 70% of our heat will come from the sun through this system.

A closed-loop geothermal system like this does require a good bit of land, though.  We had to dig 5 trenches 6 ft deep by about 150 ft long.

Geothermal Trenching

Wouldn’t you know we would have to put the trenches in this small field next to the house.  The Healing Harvest folks and myself spent hundreds of hours clearing this field, which wasn’t a field at all when we bought the farm, but a tangle of pines, roses, ailanthus, and dying locust.  We had BIG burn piles going pretty much all summer and fall here last year.  The topsoil is a good 12 inches deep, and we did everything we could to preserve it.  When we finished clearing it, I planted yellow blossom sweet clover on it and had a really nice stand going when it was decided to dig it all up.  So we decided to first scrape all the precious and beautiful topsoil away into a windrow first, and then dig the trenches.

Next week, we’ll lay the pipe into the bottom of the 6′ trenches, cover them with 2′ of subsoil, lay another run of pipe, and then fill in the ditches with the rest of the subsoil, compact it all down, then cover everything again with the topsoil.  I’ll then disc it and plant it again, this time probably with a mixture of annual rye, three types of clovers, and timothy, as this field is likely to become horse pasture.


Coincidentally, we broke ground on the house today, 3 July, exactly one year to the day of having purchased the farm.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is we hit solid shale only 2 feet down.  This was a surprise as we hadn’t really encountered much other than boulders to date, and the trees in the area hadn’t been growth stunted.

Breaking Ground

Breaking Ground

Michael immediately called Caterpillar to see about getting some pointed teeth for the excavator to see if that would break it up.  Of course they were closed for the holiday.  Ah well.  We’ll go back on Monday to try to make little ones out of big ones.


Floyd is very blessed in one respect with water – all that flows into the county flows in from the sky.  If we collectively work within the county to preserve our water, we are masters of our own destiny.  We have a big problem, though, and that is that all the water in the county comes in from the sky.  And there hasn’t been much of it over the past couple of years.

Water can be very iffy right now.  Our spring all but dried up for the first time ever last June, producing only 75 gallons gallons per day up through late fall at least.  I was hauling water in a 250 gallon tank in the back of my pickup truck a couple of times a week.  Neighbors all around have been similarly reporting drying up wells, springs, and ponds.  Despite being right on the river, Crooked River Farm has only a couple of springs on the whole 200 acres, so I’ve been worried about the availability of water.  Reports abound of people drilling 600 ft, 800 ft, even 1100 ft deep dry wells in Floyd of late.

We picked a general spot that would be convenient to the house, but also 100′ or so from the area the septic field is expected to go in.

We hired the Eversole Brothers, Terry and Mike, out of Max Meadows, VA to drill the well. First off was the dowsing.  This may seem anachronistic, or even superstitious, but just about everyone around here does it before drilling.  Scientific research says dowsing is much like Ouiji boards, but it couldn’t hurt, right?  Mike cut a fork of a cherry tree, and held it in his outstretched palms while walking around the site near where we picked.  The fork pointed down along a line that Mike said indicated a seam of water that was quite narrow.  So he stuck it in the ground where he found the seam and he and his brother Terry spent several minutes positioning the well-drilling machine directly over the stick and then commenced to drilling.

Well Rig

Well Rig

The first 60 feet or so of drilling just came up with first clay and then sand.  Then we hit granite.  Surprising to me, Terry said that he loved hitting granite.  It’s slow boring, but it’s consistent.  A well driller’s nightmare is hitting limestone, as there are often caves that will then take all a water seam will later give.  Or sand that just keeps collapsing into the well.

At about 140′, we finally hit our first water – about 2 gallons per minute.  Hurrah!  That’s almost 3,000 gallons per day!  Here’s a pic of the water coming out of the well at this point, along with a big pile of pulverized granite:

Water and Granite

Water and Granite

We drilled down until we got to 300′ – the maximum amount of pipe Terry had.  This builds a reservoir to draw upon – about 150 gallons for every 100′ of pipe.  We ran into two more streams of water in the process, so the total yield of the well is about 5 gallons per minute or 7,000 gallons per day.  The well reservoir is about 200 ft, or 300 gallons.  If we ran the well dry, it would take only about an hour to refill the entire reservoir.  Whew.  I can’t even say how important this is.  Like the old song says – you don’t miss your water ’till your well runs dry.  Looks like we should be good for water volume.

But on top of it all the water tested out just about perfect – no iron, pH just about neutral, and less than 10 parts per million hardness, which is considered *very* soft.  Couldn’t be happier. Terry asked for a thousand dollar bonus, but sadly he didn’t get it.  Great guys to work with, though!

Terry testing the water

Terry testing the water

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