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This page continues the story of the construction of a timberframe cabin in the Sierra Madre Mountains. This particular page covers fall and winter of 2008/2009. You can access the previous pages through the index of my timberframe cabin pages at www.mvr1.com/timberframeing/timberframecabin.html and through the links on the sidebar.
A Mid-September Trip
In mid September I flew to Denver, rented a car and made a short 3 night visit to do as much as I could before winter set in. Upon arrival I was told that it had snowed the previous week, but the main evidence of that was frost killed vegetation and moist ground. One day was cloudy, but for the most part the weather was pleasant and beautiful.
A Solar Combiner Box
The first order of business was installing a fused combiner box to allow attachment of a small solar panel above the main panel. The idea was to face it more towards the horizon to catch more winter sun, and to have it higher on the tree so that more of that sun would get to it in December and January, when I'm afraid the main panel is largely shaded by tall trees. I had installed the small ten watt panel on the previous trip, but not permanently connected it to the circuit. Here is a picture of that:
I had fuses in the terminal box in the panel itself, but it struck me that one main box would be easier to service. So I decided to make the appropriate box with fuses for each panel. This required buying a fuse box designed for another purpose and taking the fuse holders from it and constructing a new arrangement by cutting the holders up and embedding them in fiberglass reinforced epoxy, along with terminal lugs. The result can be seen below, first in my basement and then installed on the tree. The overall result was quite to my liking and overkill where safety is concerned, since each wire (both positive and negative) has at least one fuse.
Replacing the Sink Trap
I had installed a sink in the cabin early in my project. Unfortunately the cool vintage trap had frozen and cracked early one season, before I could put in antifreeze. So the sink could not be used. On the previous trip I took out the cracked trap. It was a ball shaped device that I liked the aesthetics of and I was unhappy to lose it. Luckily a rummage through the attic turned up another much like it and I was able to install it to replace the old. I was also able to do a nicer job of running it through the floor through an exit of cast iron pipe running to a lone PEX drain line for the greywater. Now I can safely dump stuff in the sink again, so long as I either use antifreeze when I leave, or drain it through the plug on the bottom. Either method should work. Here's a photo:
Insulating and Paneling the Remaining inside Walls
Although we had paneled most of the interior last summer with rough sawn local lodgepole pine, we did not quite finish. The triangular spaces within the roof have remained unpaneled while we worked on other things. We've been eager to get it done so as not to need to store the paneling on site waiting to be used. The piles of wood left outside allow mice to hide within and I worry about hantavirus. On the other hand, storing the wood indoors uses valuable space.
So I was happy to get around to insulating and paneling the remaining walls. Since the spaces are triangular, and since each one has a window it involved more careful measuring and cutting than it would if all of the cuts were at 90 degrees to one another and if all of the edges lined up. But of course under these conditions they don't do that. Still the work went well and everything came out nicely. The photos below show one section in progress and then a shot of each end completed. The windows will still need trimming out with casings, but things look pretty good as it. The final photo also shows the indoor water tank that will hold out drinking water once I get it attached to the sink properly. 15 gallons or so should get us through a winter I would think, and in summers refilling will be easy.
Siding the Cabin Just a Bit More
If you've been following my progress, you'll be aware that the cement board siding I've been planning to use was purchased the first year and has now survived two winters. I'm not anxious to have to protect it yet again this winter, since the snows crush things (including a neighbors whole trussed floor platform). So I wanted to get as much of it installed this trip as I could. Since what was left was triangular spaces, the work is harder to measure properly. Luckily the cheap Menards diamond bladed circular saw was up to the task of cutting close enough to the line to make the work relatively quick. I got most of the West end finished and then had to be satisfied with cutting the remaining siding in half to store it better and piling it under a board. I may get it installed before the deep snows later on this season, but this way at least there should be pieces long enough to use next Summer if I can't get that done. Here's a photo of what I did accomplish.
Someone Else's Cabin Site
I'm going to start something new on the site - links to other sites with similar cabins, and timberframe info on the web. I've been getting a good number of emails from people with similar projects in mind and some of them have gotten them off the ground and put photos on the web. So I'll be adding links to their sites periodically. There is a link to a page where I'll collect them all on the sidebar, and I'll occasionally add a digression within a page when I add a new one.
The first such site is about a cabin built by Matthew McSorley up in Alaska. He's got stuff on his site at: http://web.mac.com/akmcsorley . It is a neat project and he's a much faster builder than I am!
End of Season Work
In mid-October we drove up for a quick trip to finish up stuff we wanted done before winter and to cover up what needed to be covered before the deep snows hit. As luck would have it about the entire state was supposed to be hit my major blizzards that weekend. So we had to park the van up by the road and walk back and forth most of the time. Lucky for us we only got about an inch of snow and the cabin kept us plenty warm. So the planned work got done and the snow gave us a chance to limb some more trees and burn the slash without much worry of fire.
The first order of business was finishing the siding of the gable end triangles. You can see the result of that in the picture of the porch in the top jpeg on this page. And here are a couple views of the back side.
Next came installing a tank for drinking water inside the cabin and using PEX tubing to plumb it to the sink. The idea is to let gravity feed the right tap with drinkable water, brought in in jugs for now, but once we get the springbox water tested, pumped from the springbox below the cabin. In winter it will freeze solid and have to be melted by heat from the snow below. Thus lines will need to be drained whenever we leave. You can see the valve for that in the photo of the sink in the photos below.
Interior Trim Work
There was also time to do some interior trim work around the windows. The more details that get done the nicer it looks inside.
Limbing and Burning
Meanwhile, Jenny gathered up slash from trees limbed near the cabin and burned them in a barrel surrounded by the safely snow covered ground outdoors. It took many hours.
Then with the major work done, we loaded up the van, covered the generator and job box for the projected crushing snows, and headed out until a projected ski trip once the snow allows it.
A New York Times Cabin Blog
This isn't weather to be working on my cabin so updates may be light unless I can get up there just to check out the snow for a few days, perhaps soon. So to satisfy the insatiable demand for content on this site (right!) I'll be adding more entries to my links page . The next one is from the New York Times website and should evolve relatively rapidly as the project is going on throughout the winter.
The 12/11/2008 Times had an article by Lou Ureneck on his cabin project in Maine. And it said that Lou would be blogging about his cabin as he worked on it at http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/from-the-ground-up/ . The first two postings are up now. At this point he's put in concrete piers for footings and has posted a small plan of the intended cabin. Construction will be timberframe and he too is on the edge of a national forest but in the East. His cabin is going to be significantly larger than mine and will have a room for him to write in (he's a journalism professor). It should be fun to keep track of his progress.
A Beautifully Photographed Montana Cabin Blog
Bob at wolfcreekcabin.blogspot.com/ is beginning a timber frame cabin project in Montana. His photos are exceptionally nicely composed (The above comes from his site). As the photo also reveals he seems to be even more of a hand tool enthusiast than I am. You can find links to Bob's site at the page of other people's stuff linked at the sidebar and also linked here .
12/17/2008 - 45 inches,
. . . and 9 degrees . . .
What more can I say, except that I want to see what it is like up there with the sun low in the south and the snow accumulating. Hopefully I'll get a quick visit in next month some time.
Yet Another Cabin Blog, This One in Idaho
neuwave at Timberframing a North Idaho Cabin is well along on his project in Idaho, even while he is working on a group timberframing project with some other folks. The quality of the work and flooring is very impressive and it seems he has a bit more space than I do, but not huge amounts. I especially like how neuwave was able to use boards for the ceiling for a much nicer look than the underside of the plywood I used to sheath my roof. I believe you can see it in the photo above and you'll see much more on his site if you click the link here. The related group project is at http://pceiwriterstudio.blogspot.com/.
Winter Pictures From Neighbors
My Neighbor Mike sent me these pictures from a visit that he and Alfred made to my cabin site when they were up staying in Alfred's place in January. I Was very glad to get them since I'd been wondering if all was in order. So far so good, judging from these photos. The solar panel is still on the tree, the chimney is still there (with an odd snow protuberance) and the cabin looks solid. Looks like the small auxiliary solar panel is getting some sun even when the sun is low on the horizon. Hopefully I'll be up to see it for myself soon, though my work life has not been cooperating.
A Winter Trip In February
My colleague David Henderson was kind enough to accompany me up to the cabin on snowshoes and skis this February. We started in mid-morning on a Saturday after renting David some skis at the Trading Post in Riverside. Because the trail was packed by snowmobile tracks, and because the rented skis did not have metal edges it took a bit longer than it would otherwise have. Still we were in by mid afternoon and found the cabin as depicted in the photos immediately below.
Here are a few photos of David from that first arrival:
I was happy to find that the electricity worked and that the small extra solar panel had seemed to be doing its job when the sun was low on the horizon. The batteries had gotten somewhere around 400 amp hours of charge and were above 13 volts. The propane heater came to life quickly. And we soon had a good fire going in the stove - enough to maintain the cabin at 55 to 70 degrees throughout the visit. As light faded we made a quick dinner and read and talked some. We also got some nice views of the clear night sky.
The next morning after breakfast I did a bit of snow management around the cabin. One task was to dig out under the solar panel. Though it was about seven feet off the ground, the snow was now within a foot or two of its bottom edge. Shoveling underneath gives it a better chance to keep clear as further snow comes. I also worked on getting snow off the roof of the cabin where it was about 4 feet deep and packed into a relatively solid mass of heavy frozen weight.
Though the cabin trip was partly to melt the bond between the snow and roof so as to take some weight off, at no time during our trip did the snow slide off completely.
Here are some action shoveling photos:
Because of the snow not much other work was to be done. That meant we could take a short hike over the snow-covered landscape in our snowshoes. These photos were taken as we headed North by Northwest from the cabin site, across the stream and into the national forest:
Along the way we saw a few tracks which we took to belong to pine martins, though we saw none on this particular trip. They often frolic in pairs as these tracks would confirm if we were right to identify them as martins.
Slogging Out In A Storm
Sunday night the NOAA weather radio predicted 1-3 inches of snowfall, so we went to bed with plans to get up and leave for the 6 mile trek to the car early in the morning. By the time morning came around there seemed to be 12 inches of snow on the ground. Snow was still falling heavily and the predicted 30 mph wind gusts came and went. We decided to leave ASAP.
After cleaning up, returning things to their places in the cabin, and shutting off the water, propane and power, we started the almost two mile ascending trip to the (closed for the season) road that would allow us to descend another four miles to the car. As the snow was deep and the climb was steep, the trip to the road took well over an hour, with many rest stops for general panting.
Once we hit the road we put on our skis and continued down. We had some trouble getting the bindings to work properly as the wind picked up and blizzard conditions chilled us relatively well. Persistence paid off, and we continued down as the wind howled and visibility came and went, though not so as to separate us visually. Still it was hard not to think that we would have made rather pathetic early settlers or mountaineers. I kept thinking of the chase scene in McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Our outfits were not nearly so picturesque, but I'll bet we were warmer.
David was a real trouper throughout the trip. Not only did he stoically suffer through bad tracking with his skis so that he had to showshoe even downhill, but he quietly suffered through a bout of kidney stones on the 12 hour drive back to Lincoln.
With snow at somewhere between 6 and 8 feet deep, a trip in mid-March presented an opportunity to limb trees to a higher level on the trunk than it would otherwise be easy to do. And as luck would have it Alfred was planning a trip up as well. After driving the 600 miles to the parking spot I was able to ski up and meet him at his cabin all in one day. After a night's rest we snowshoed down to mine and I spent the next two days limbing trees and hoping the snow would come off the roof as the heat from the inside would melt the snow's bonds to the roof. The photos immediately below show how that turned out. The first is how things looked when I arrived and the latter was taken as I left:
Limbing was harder work than it would be for someone with decent strength in their upper body. It didn't help that snowshoes were too awkward to get near the trunks of trees so that I wound up having to stand on the fallen bows of the already limbed parts to get as high as I wished. Still it cleared quite a bit, making progress on meeting the rules for fire defensibility, and also giving me a bit more of a view of my surroundings. I expect we'll be able to see more distant wildlife as a result. Here are some photos:
While I spent the second night in my cabin (where all was as it should be including the batteries, propane, wood and food) I did snowshoe back to Alfred's to make dinner that evening. Snowshoeing back in the dark night and wondering how much I would look like a deer in the dark to a cougar had its moments, but I was happy to get back to the cabin in time to read a bit of a Nick Hornsby novel I'd brought along. After more limbing the next day, it was back up to Alfred's for dinner and a night's sleep before skiing down to the car and driving home on the 4th day. (This means that the photos above are out of order in the sense that they are shots after both days of limbing were finished or nearly so.
Not sure when I'll be back . . .
115 Inches of Snow and Counting
On April 1 according to the Snotel monitor nearby. I guess technically the date makes it spring so I should be starting a new page. But it sure seems like winter and this is the snowy season. I wonder if the snow already on the cabin slid off in the days after the last visit when we had a warm spell. If not, I wonder how the roof is holding up.
The Waiting Is The Hardest Part
After getting up to 128 inches on the snow monitor at one point, things are now melting off. But it goes slowly as far as I can tell. AS of today (May 17)there are still 84 inches of snow at the monitor site. Weather is warm, but Memorial Day Weekend, the usual day to open the road is less than a week away. Ib m not sure theyb ll be doing it by then this year. It doesnb t help that the weekend is a bit earlier than usual this year. Oh well, we got our tomatoes in.
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