Friday, April 30, 2010

Deck extension at Hackamore

Today I worked on the extension on the deck on the back of our house in NC. Alex pressure washed the driveway, while I worked on the railing of the back deck. It is hard to work all day in the sun, even though the temperature was in the low 80s. Alex put her hand on the exhaust of the pressure washer and got a pretty good burn. It will be a couple of weeks for her to heal. I don't know if I will have time to finish the project this weekend.
This is a picture of Becky and Dinny, in the back yard taken on 4/14/2010 when they came out to see us. You can see the unfinished deck over their shoulder. I am trying to finish the railing. Sloooooooooooooow.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Off for a few days

I have been a big baby for a few days. I have had a tooth ache for about a week, and finally decided to go to the dentist. A couple of visits, and a root canal, and I hope to be back to acting my age. Alex will be glad of that. I inherited good teeth from my dad and after 60 years, I get a tooth ache, whats with this? I'll be back soon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Loft or Upper Floor


After I finished the walls of the lower part of the barn, I didn't know if I would want to have a loft or something else. After some thought, I decided to go with a second floor. That would allow me to have a lot of storage area for hay, grain and what ever. I bought some 2" X 10"s X 12 and some 2" X 12"s. I made a beam of 2X12s stacked 3 thick and 48' long for a beam down the middle. I put the 2" X 10"s for floor joists on 2' centers and nailed 3/4" plywood for a sub-floor. Joshua ran the bucket on the tractor with Alex and I placing the floor joists on the beams. It was a trick to hold the beam up and nail the joists to them and put the steel columns under the beam. It took the three of us. The next week I hired Chicken Gary to help me nail down the 3/4' sub floor. I call him Chicken Gary, because he is a land owner in the area, and his chickens are always on the road eating grasshoppers when we drive by his place. He keeps to himself, and doesn't bother anyone. He put a gate and fence up, with a No Trespassing sign. He built a small building out of used material, about 12 x 16, on blocks. He is up on the ridge, where the cedar and pine grow. His stuff is kind of hidden in the trees. All the other owners in the area complain that he must be in violation of some rule or something. Maybe growing something illegal. I then had a lot of exposed lumber that needed to be covered before too much rain could damage it. I asked some friends and family to come and help me put up the walls to the second floor the next weekend. My oldest son, Lou Jr., and Alex's oldest son, Brahm, Randy Mellor, and Alex met the next Saturday morning and we spent the day building walls and bracing and putting them up, for the second floor. I had found some used trusses that were 27'. That would give me about an 18" overhang on each side. I had to fabricate a few to complete the job. Brahm came the following weekend and helped me and Alex to put them in place. Joshua, Alex and I worked to put the steel roof panels on. We made Joshua use fall protection harness to help with the silicone on the screws. He loved climbing in the trusses like a monkey. I think Joshua was about 8 at the time. It took us 2 weekends to finish the roof. I placed some screen wire between the trusses at the eves, in an attempt to keep out the birds. By 2008 it had failed. Birds had vandalized the barn. By the time that we had finished stuccoing the outside of the barn, it was 2003. The only thing that I hired a trade to do was the stucco. I thought that is something that I should hire out, because my dad is dead. He was a plasterer by trade and I spent my youth watching him with a hawk and trawl. It is an art that takes a lot of practice to master. I wanted it to look good. I boarded up the doors, and use it to this day to store my tools, and some things that we will use for construction of our house. In 2008, we had to return, and seal the sofits from the birds. I have attached some pictures of Brahm and I working on the sofits. Lou Jr and I did the south side the week before and we didn't have a camera to take pictures.

After completion of the stuccoing, before bird vandalism.

Brahm and I putting up steel sofit panels in 2008
To be Continued

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pictures on the Ranch

I worked 10 hours today,(Saturday)and just looked at some pictures of the ranch in Colorado. It helps. These were taken a couple years ago.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wall Lay Up


The walls went ok, Alex and I would work till our elbows hurt, and stop. Alex worked with me the whole time.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Backfilled and Graded

With the foundation back filled, it was time to grade the area around the outside of the barn. I just wanted to be able to walk around and get to and from where they had left the pallets of block, with the least amount of work.
During this time period I was working only on the weekends and usually sleeping in the back of the 1985 Ford pick-up that was my dad’s before he died. As I am writing this blog the sequence of things are difficult to remember. My dad, Glenn W Cripps, died of an infection in his pancreas that could have been cleared up, if he would have went to the doctor/hospital sooner. That was the way he was. He talked like it was too much money, but I know that it was that he could not deal with doctors and hospitals. He would not, could not, go to visit the ones who he cared very much for, when they were in the hospital. That includes his dad and brother before they died. I understand. He died in July, 1997. My Mother died in November, 1987.
To be continued

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Goals for the next year

My boss sent an e-mail meeting request to talk about goals for the next fiscal year, which begins in July. That made me smile. My Goal for 2011 is to sell my home, leave Charlotte, NC, and move back to the ranch, possibly in a small RV style trailer. I don't think that is what he wants to hear.
Continue the ranch update story
Now it was time to buy some concrete blocks. I went to the manufacture in Pueblo to price the 8x8x16 blocks. Now we had to make a decision. Do we lay the block just as far as the finished grade, or go farther up. I would need to go four rows to get above the frost line. It would take 105 blocks for each course. Also; in the back, it would have to go several courses more to get to finished grade level. This would require me to stagger the side, if we were planning on a stick build first level. It seemed easier to plan on just building the entire first floor from cement blocks.
I ordered 2000 whole and 100 half blocks. I thought that would get me started. At 108 blocks per course, that would give me 18 courses, not including the openings. That‘s 4 courses below the grade on the west end and 14 courses above grade. It was time to get back to work.

I cut a piece of 8” PVC and poured concrete around it to make a hole in the west end for a drain pipe to go through later. When I completed the 4 courses that would get me up to grade, it was time to do the backfilling. Taking the tractor to the creek bed, I had a free supply of gravel. It would take over 120 yards of gravel to fill it to grade. I was having fun and sleeping well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


It took most of the day yesterday to get caught up on e-mail from the weekend. My job requires that I respond to most of what I get. This blog is not about my job since I will not be working in the city much longer. I hope more of my readers are interested in my homestead.

Back to about 1999.

I thought that I would try to build a barn to be able to store equipment in until we could build our home. After talking to some people that build roads, and getting a cost of crossing Horse Creek, we decided to talk to San Isabel Electric Coop get an estimate of the cost to run power across the creek. The cost to build a road that went down into the creek and up the other side and end on the other side of the creek was $5000. This is called a Texas Crossing. The problem with Texas Crossings is that you cannot cross when water is running, and it does run after a rain. San Isabel said that to run underground power more than 200 feet would require running High Power and putting a transformer near the site that you are going to build. The cost of this would be $10 per foot. I concluded that I could not afford to build too far from the road. It would boil down to the fact that the farther from the road the less money to build. We decided that there were not that many pieces of property past ours on the access road. All property past ours must pass ours, as there are no other routes in and out. The conclusion was to build next to the road.
The next step was to decide what kind of building to build for a barn. The terrain is on a slope away from the road toward the creek. The road is to the south east of the ranch, running northeast by southwest. Notice we are now calling it “The Ranch”. We decided to build into the bank and have a 2 story barn with a loft above the animal stalls. We thought that this would allow us to more easily load hay and feed into the loft from the high side of the terrain. In other words load from truck directly into the loft. I felt confident that I could lay cement blocks well enough to build a block foundation and possible the entire lower level.
I had been looking at used tractors every since we bought the ranch. I didn’t know much about them except my memory of my uncle Doc’s Ford 8N that he used on his farm back in the 1950”s. I found a man that was into buying old tractors, fixing them up for re-sale. After looking at his Fords, he showed me a Massey Ferguson 65 that had a bucket on the front and he could get me a box scraper for the rear. He said that it should be able to do the job I wanted it for. So I left his house $5500 later with the promise that he would deliver the tractor to my house in downtown Denver. As soon as my check cleared his bank, this huge tractor was setting in our driveway, at 2356 South Gilpin Street, Denver Colorado. That is about 2 blocks from the University of Denver. The next thing was to rent or borrow a trailer to take it to the ranch. In the mean time I had to drive it around the neighborhood, you know to get gas and so forth. I scrapped some of the dirt and grease off of it and started painting it. Mrs. Sutton that lived across the street called the code enforcement and they came to see if I was running a paint shop for farm equipment. When I showed them the brush that I was using, they said there was not a problem. Mrs. Sutton is a whole chapter. So after a couple of weeks at the house, I borrowed a car trailer and off it went to its new home on the ranch.

I wanted to make sure that the building was facing as closely to the compass points as possible, with a long side facing south. So the next step was to walk around and decide where to start. With stake and hammer in hand I found a spot about 100 feet from the road and a little to the north of the top of a small hill in the road, I drove the stake into the ground. I thought that if we used the top of the hill as a driveway, we would not have to worry about a culvert to divert water in the rain. It also gives sight to traffic on the road in both directions. I loved just being there.
I remember that day; I just walked around loving the quiet open air with just my thoughts racing in my head. I wanted not to move too fast and mess anything up. At that time I would sleep in the back of the Pick up on a foam pad and a sleeping bag. Sandy and I made a fire and we cooked some hot dogs and heated some Pork n Beans for dinner. We remembered the first time that we had slept out on the land. We had got there late and had bought 2 hammocks and planned to hike up to the top of the ridge and stretch them between trees. We hiked up, and by the time we got there it was dark. We wandered around looking for the perfect spot, and with a flashlight, we tied them up to the trees. We worked in the dark hoping to get settled in before the flashlight batteries gave out. When Sandy climbed into her hammock, she rolled around and fell out the back, ripping the netting. The hammocks were the kind with bug netting that zipped around to enclose the whole thing. Just as we got settled into our hammocks, it began to get light out. It was nearly a full moon rising in the east. We were both up and running around watching this beautiful moonrise. What a great memory.
This time we slept in the back of the pickup though. We slept in sleeping bags on a foam pad. By now we looked forward to dark so the sky would light up. When the sky was lit from the stars, with stake and hammer in hand we wanted to mark the north line from the North Star. I sat on the ground and Sandy walked with a stake and hammer. Every 10 feet or so she would line up a stake with the North Star and the first stake and hammer it in. We could have done it a number of other more modern ways, but not any better or more fun.
Now that I marked the north/south line, we decided on a building with outside dimensions of 24ft by 48ft. That seemed to fit with construction material. We thought that we would have horse stalls on one side approximately 12ft by 12 ft. Then the other side we would have a door on the west side so that we could drive a tractor into to muck out the poo. If it was to have a loft there would be a stairway on the back end, opposite the large door. On the east end of the loft, we could have a door to load grain and hay into the loft. That was the plan in my head at the time.
With those thoughts in mind the tractor work began. I used the box scraper to drag the dirt from east to west, down the slope. I found that it took a combination of the scraper and the bucket to get the job done. After several weekends of tractor work, I was satisfied with the depth of the dig. I got the bottom as level as I could. The next step would be to put in some batting boards and run some string. With a little additional digging with hand tools, I was able to get it level and square. I then bought 24 - 2”x8”x12’s to form the footing. I also bought enough ½ “ re-bar to use as vertical reinforcement.
We were ready for the concrete truck. We ordered the truck to meet us at Exit 77 on I-25 so the truck could follow us to the spot. The day we poured the footing there were three of us there besides the truck driver, Alex, Stephanie and myself. I ran the wheelbarrow, Alex had a piece of 2”x4” to screed off the top, and Stephanie put in the re-bar at 8”intervals. Did I mention that when we got home on Sunday evenings in Denver, we slept well?
To be continued!

Monday, April 19, 2010


This blog is to be a few lines to describe my life, hence life lines for a title. I hope to describe my future plan for building a small home on the acreage that I purchased in 1996. I am writing this blog to have a record of the building. It is amazing how easily we can forget the dates and years when you don’t write a record. This catch up narrative is from my memory, and it’s not getting any better. I do not have all the pictures that I have taken during this time ether. I may add/edit as I find them. Some of the pictures are not good, but record the story. It is my desire to live light on the earth, and build a homestead that is as energy efficient as possible or affordable. It is also my desire to respect others and follow the standards that are set out in the Bible for our benefit. This blog will not be a platform for my religious beliefs, and as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, it is not difficult for anyone to get this information. We will deliver it to your door, or you can find it at .

History of building the barn
It started in the Fall of 1996 when I put a down payment on some acreage in southern Colorado. My wife and I were looking for somewhere to go when we retired that would be away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. I grew up in the city, but have fond memories of a small farm that my Great Aunt and her husband owned near Derby, Colorado, now part of Commerce City. This picture is one of the earliest pictures of the property. I later purchased an old farm tractor and was picking a spot to begin building a barn.