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We sold the condo…let’s build this puppy! September 22, 2006

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Back in late 1999, my accountant told me “you’re an idiot if you don’t buy a house immediately.” It was the usual throwing away money at a rented property situation and he was dead right. So two months later I bought a condo that was completed in June 2000. I told myself (and those close enough and nice enough to listen to me) I’d sell it and move into a house in 2 years.

And then I met Heather…

Okay, it wasn’t Heather – it was the fact my business took a major hit. And I went on a long hike. And I met Heather.

Okay, it really had nothing to do with Heather.

Regardless, 6 1/4 years later, the condo is now sold. And we have a nice down payment on our new house. Thank God. Speaking of whom, l’shanah tovah!

Great, enough of that stuff. Let’s spend that money!

driveway entrance with curb cut

So the rough driveway’s in place with the curb cut perhaps 1/2 complete. It looks to me that there’s still a lot more dirt and rock that can be taken out of the rise near the street and the slope is still a bit too steep. I spoke with our builder while I was onsite and we’ll meet early next week to figure out how to finish the rough in this area and what pitch we want the driveway to have. No matter what we do, it’s going to be a good slope. But there’s a flat at both the top and bottom of the driveway and the slope of the drive will get southern sun, so hopefully it won’t ice up too much in the winter.

Looking down roughed in driveway

Looking up roughed in driveway

The drilling equipment was either dropped off this afternoon or will roll in and get put to use on Monday. Ralph’s expecting that to be done by the end of Tuesday. And now that we have a driveway-like-thingy, they can get to the spot in the backyard where the well’s going to be. Remember that the house faces directly away from the road to we get southern sun, so the backyard is the road-side of the house.That make sense? Good. Nah – you’re just humoring me. But I’m okay with that.

Our front yard treeI mentioned tripod tree #1 in my last entry. That’s the huge oak directly in front of the house, about 75 feet away from the southern face. It’s a beauty. On property today, I was able to see the height of the Sept sun at 11am on what will be the southern face. The good news is that we have a decently open sun field in place so that the passive solar design of the house will help heat things up in the cold season. The bad news is that I’m pretty sure more trees will have to come down, but we’ll deal with that after we move in and can watch the actual shadows on the house. No matter what, this tree is not coming down!

It doesn’t tax the imagination to see a driveway and house here September 21, 2006

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Driveway newly cleared of treesThe timber removal is complete! I visited the site at eight this morning and Mitch, Kevin and Matt were just finishing processing the final logs. This picture was taken from a spot about 40 feet from the street, looking down the driveway. You can see where the driveway will swing to the left around the house. There’s a outcrop in the middle of the driveway right now, but that’s a good thing – it’ll reduce the amount of fill we need to bring in. Some of that fill is luckily coming from the curb cut – that’s one of the next steps.

Put house hereThe house clearing is pretty mindblowing. We knew we were putting the house in the middle of the best stand of timber on property, but I grew so attached to those giants over the last year! This photo is the house site from tripod tree #2, on the outside of the driveway turn. There’s about a 70 foot sun-field open on the near (south) side of the house and in the distance you can see the rock walls that will run behind and on the side of the house. The actual house location is generally where the group of stumps is in the fore-mid ground of this photo.

100 year old...stumpAnd then there’s the the one we loved but had to come down. This giant (my quick count has it at 100 years old) red oak would have been about 15 feet behind the house…leaning directly at it. Who knows – it might have lived for another 100 years! But when it finally fell, it would have absolutely destoryed the house. I picked up a wedge of the oak from the chainsaw cut. It was about a square foot of wood, up to 5 inches thick and it was incredibly heavy! To think of how many tons that tree must have weighed, we really only had too choices here. More the house or cut down the tree!

The good news is that we have an even bigger one that’s being used as tripod tree #1. That one’s on the far side of the septic field and will be the view out the front of the house.

Next step is pushing some dirt, pulling a ton of stumps…

The Ents are getting a bit annoyed with us… September 19, 2006

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Skidder & Chipper/Trailer in useQuick update. Mitch’s timber clearing crew was at work this morning and should be done by tomorrow. The skidder is dragging the trees from their resting spots on the driveway up to the entrance clearing. The clipper operator picks the trees up and positions them so that the millable logs can be cut off by chainsaw. He then stacks the logs and grabs the remaining portions of the tree and feeds them into the chipper. I watched the chipper handle chunks up to 18 inches wide and don’t know what the max capacity is – but I was staying WAY away from it! The chips are blown into a full size tractor trailer that’s parked in the driveway entrance.

Once they get the driveway cleared, Mitch will take down the remaining valuable lumber within the house site by hand. They’ll drag it up, process it the same way, and get the timber equipment off site. Then Dave Richard goes to work again, doing the curb cut and forming the rough driveway perhaps Wed. afternoon or Thursday.

Hey look – Dirt! September 16, 2006

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Making way to skid the timber outDave Richard brought in the digger today. You see, we’ve got this 400 ft+ driveway going in and it’s currently filled with trees. Not those nice vertical trees that you’re used to, but ones that have been cut and stacked and need to be skidded out of there. So today’s job was to get the driveway entrance ready for the skidder and logging trailer & chipper. Dave dug out all the stumps and then leveled the ground for about the first 50 feet.

Milk bottle dug up near streetI got to hang out on site for a couple hours, talking with Ralph Kenney, our builder, and watching Dave work. One of the cool bits was seeing a milk bottle from a local dairy that got turned up unbroken! You watch this machine rip stumps out of the ground, dig out rocks bigger than I am and turn rocks to dust. Then you find an unbroken bottle it gently picked out of the earth? Crazy stuff. The ElmHurst Dairy in West Millbury. I wonder if we can return it…

Our friend Beth came out to the site today with Cole & Quinn. Quinn was fussing a bit, so it was a short stay, but I got to give our 3 year old godson Cole a boost up into the digger and the skidder for a look around. It was the first of many visits for him over the next few months!

Done ’til Monday, we think. Then they’ll do the rest of the site clearing work and get the trees out of there. Also scheduled for next week will be de-stumping the driveway, drilling the well, and hopefully getting to work on the foundation hole!

We also got the news that our condo sale closing is on schedule despite the radon rediation work we need to have done, so the financial stuff is rolling right along as well. On top of that, our painting estimate came in at a good number, so for the first time we’re able to reduce a number on the project continuation sheet!

You’ll never believe what just happened! September 14, 2006

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Timber harvesterIt’s been, ten weeks since we looked at you,
Cocked our hands to our checkbook and said, “We’re ready.”
Nine weeks since you laughed at me you said,
“It’ll be a year, come back and see me.”
Four weeks since the the last site photos,
I realized its nobody’s fault, but couldn’t tell you.
Yesterday the machines came though but
it’ll still be a few days till the house is ready…

-Bare Naked Ladies and Jeff Lerman. Don’t make me sing this to you.

Hey look – machines on the property! The timber harvesting started yesterday and was mostly wrapped up by this morning at 10am. They left about 8 of the big trees standing to be taken down by hand, I assume. All the lumber is stacked and ready to pull off site – in fact it’s stacked on the driveway path, so I still had to walk through the copious poison ivy to check out the work!

Name this machineAnyone know the name of this machine? The next move will be to do the ‘curb cut’ – that’s pushing the raised mound of dirt near the driveway entrance down the hill about 50 feet so that it fills the void a bit. That should be enough to consider it a rough driveway and get whatever equipment they need down to the house clearing.

House site - front of houseSpeaking of the house clearing – this is where the house will go. The stump in the foreground is 10 feet from the left front corner of the house and the huge leaning oak is about 10 feet past the middle of the back wall.  There were a couple trees we hoped to save that were taken, but all in all it was a clean job.  It feels SO much different with all the light coming into the clearing!

Driveway EntranceSo that’s a heck of a 24 hours! 10 weeks of waiting followed by a whirlwind. Time to get back to work and coaching and seeing what happens next!!!

Well, we didn’t break ground, but… September 4, 2006

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There was progress. We signed a contract with our builder saying that he’s going to build this thing and we’re going to pay him. That’s a good step, right? There was talk of moving the site clearing equipment in on Friday or Saturday but it never quite materialized. You know where that leaves us right?

You got it. Next week. It will happen next week. And while we’re talking about that, let me just state for the record that next year will be The Year for the Red Sox. Again.

The real good news of the week was getting an offer on the condo under contract. As much fun as it’s been playing with 3 different properties, both Heather and I are incredibly psyched by the idea that we can knock one off the list and get back to just the apartment and the House. If all goes well, that deal will close later in September.

And by then, the house will be WELL underway.

Stop laughing.