And the road goes on forever...

Monday, May 16, 2022

We’re Camping Finally!

 

Weather after weather delay kept happening to keep us from our Northwoods paradise but we finally managed to arrive around noon on April 28th.  The first day was for setup and drinking in our views and all the possibilities. 




We set to work in the cold under cloudy skies most days, with the first order of business being to figure some layouts as we started the gargantuan task of clearing. At first, I had it in mind that I wanted the additional screening of the deadfall and broken branches as screening, not that we show up that much from the road. Even though we’ll have a stout locking gate, I’d like to be as hidden as possible going on the premise that “out of sight is out of mind” when it comes to anything of a nefarious nature.

It was burn season when we started clearing so we’d pull the trailer to various areas and proceed to pick up sticks to fill it, then haul it to where we established a burn pile. We maintained the same fire each morning early from the previous coals, for five continuous days. Quite suddenly, weather turned unseasonably warm, so they shut off burning. By then, we were about worked to death from the constant stoop-over, pick up, and haul mode we were putting our bodies through (I say we but it was mostly me!) so we figured we would make piles and later rent a chipper.





Daily I work on making piles, as Marc gets more brazen about cutting bigger and bigger trees. He used to cut lots of firewood back in the day when he was much younger and agile but now, he takes his time. However, sometimes the trees don’t fall as he wants or much more likely, get hung up on their way down since the forest is so thick here. One particularly large pine required some advance planning as he figured out to ensure it fell the way he wanted. He decided to put a chain and rope tight strain on it using the truck. It worked!


 





We’re making lots of firewood out of all these trees. It will need to season for a year but Marc set up a woodcutting “station” where he spends much time slicing and dicing things into 16-inch chunks.


Somewhere along the line I went from wanting to leave a natural look to liking the cleaned up, parked out look. As you can see in these before and after photos, it makes a huge difference in being able to actually use and get around on the property, plus mitigates fire danger, I’m sure.



In between all the woodcutting activity, we laid out the location of the garage, 24’x30’. We changed course a couple months back and decided to scale back this project from a large shop and fulltime house to just a stand-alone garage, a boat/storage shed, RV shed, and a 748 one-bedroom cabin with a 300 s.f. screened porch.

There were various reasons for our new decision. Obviously, cost is the overriding factor but also coming into play was the harshness of the winters here and the lack of shopping. In Waupaca, which sits on a major four lane state highway, either Stevens Point or Appleton is easily reached in winter with excellent maintenance of snow removal. Here, our major shopping is an hour away over two-lane highway often left to turn to packed ice in winter. We’re loving the remoteness in summer but how would we do with it in a long winter?

Making things smaller in size will also be much easier on us in terms of building. We are finding skilled labor in short supply here (one well guy we called is already fully booked for the entire year) so we suspect that it will fall to the two of us to do much of the manual labor. House systems can also be less costly, for instance, no need for an expensive propane HVAC system with all its sheet metal runs. We can use a wood stove as primary heat with baseboard electric or Cadet room heaters, saving thousands. The kitchen will be smaller, with a peninsula instead of a costly island. There will be very few interior doors (we like to use solid wood doors); again, cutting way down on cost.

We’re informed that getting power into the lot is still about three weeks away; a well can happen sometime in June, and fiber optic cable around three weeks. Septic is a questionable timeline. Camp life without utilities is a bit harder as you extended boondockers know. But each and every day I awake amazed that we own such a stellar piece of property. The property is large enough that just walking through it leaves one with nuances of difference. Areas with thicker trees, areas with towering cathedral of trees, different elevations, flora and tree species. We’re watching Spring arrive as trees bud out with their leaves. There is a special tranquility to the place that no place has ever touched me like this. I can sit and watch the lake for hours. I simply love it and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to shape it into what we want it to be, to enjoy for as long as we can. 


 

 











Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Dreams

 


Do any others besides myself find websites like Pinterest and Houzz to be both a blessing and a curse? A blessing of course, for all the wonderful and unique ideas they can give you when you’re building, and a curse, because let’s face it: 90% of the ideas shown might be out of the reach of the average person building just a simple cabin/house.

We are facing some tough choices with this build. For ourselves, we don’t need things too fancy or extravagant and we are purposely keeping this place small. The reality though, is that it will not be our final home (unless we die prematurely), given the harsh weather. I somehow can’t imagine being mid to late 80’s and wanting to plow snow for six months of the year and feed a wood stove every day. At some point this home will come up for sale, so to some extent we need to be mindful of its resale value in the choices we make. 

Thus, the conundrum of the granite kitchen. We got the quote from the stone yard and to do both the perimeters and island (rough quote as we don’t have exact size of island as yet) is around $8000! Man, that’s a lot of money when an equally serviceable laminate could be had for probably around $2000 or less. We could do just the island for about $3000 so that is in contention, but for now, the granite idea is tabled while I’ve sent away for all sorts of Formica and Wilsonart samples to play with.

We made it up to the property for a quick trip yesterday; Marc wanted the Mule left there in our storage unit to be able to work with as we tackle the beginning work of clearing. The ground was still soft and there were still spots of snow in the trees and totally filling the boggy portions of property and the lake is still frozen. 





We stopped in and obtained library cards, stopped by the post office to arrange for them to determine where our mailbox will be set, and visited the county building offices to obtain the application paperwork for our initial permits for both the RV storage shed and our pole barn. Ya gotta love small Wisconsin towns: all accessory buildings over 80 square feet require a permit and the cost is only 10/cents/square foot. Even the house will only run 22/cents which means the permit for that will be under $300. Compare that to Bend, OR where last I heard a building permit ranged around $30,000+. Insane. Plus, there’s no taking six months to acquire it either; they will be ready in less than two weeks once submitted. I guess some municipalities actually want to foster building more houses and then enjoy the future tax benefit that accrues to the county, rather than find all sorts of impediments to throw in people’s way in the form of high fees and cumbersome rules and regs. 

Back at the property, we were finally able to do a full walk-around to better visualize placement of our buildings. In addition to the RV shed, house and shop, Marc wants an 8x10 shed and maybe also a small wood shed/lean-to. We had purchased the property under snow so this was the first time we saw what we actually purchased! It was a very windy day so it was nice to hear the wind passing through the tall, swaying pines. We did determine where we want to set our RV this summer to enjoy maximum beautiful views, which will allow the large picture window in the RV to look out at this:




We definitely agreed that the current stairway has to go! It is very uneven, has huge distance between steps, no handrail and is a terrible accident waiting to happen. Marc will tear it out and build a normal house style stairway, making them much less steep and far safer.



Our bog area is still snow covered so we didn’t venture to lake’s edge. We determined we’ll need waders to fully explore it at a later time if we wish and probably would be better served taking the boat down the shoreline to try and find our property pin. We have 1000 foot of shoreline. You may recall that the bulk of our property is in bog, with probably around three acres out of the fifteen sitting on top the knoll as the usable portion. This works perfectly for us because it allows us the 360 degrees of total privacy we were looking for with no other building around us possible, and also three acres is plenty for us to maintain and care for.




This is the lower end of our dry portion which then joins the bog.





This is the area where the pole barn will likely go; yes we have a ton of clearing to do! 



And here’s where the RV shed will go; we kind of want it tucked unobtrusively into the trees: 


We have an appointment with the power company field guy on April 26th so we’re hopeful to move up to the lot around the 23rd. The library has free highspeed internet but we won’t have access to much from our lot all summer. My phone will do a hotspot but I don’t have many gigs of use and we are shutting down our cable internet at our home since we won’t be here much at all. I’ll plan on doing updates to the blog as I can so thanks for following along! This should be fun!








 

 




 
















Thursday, March 31, 2022

Still No Go

Winter was supposed to have turned to Spring a few days ago, but it didn’t get the message here in Wisconsin. Our temperatures continue to run about ten degrees below normal and I sit gazing out at falling snow this morning with more possibly to come late this week.

Yes, this has greatly hampered the start of our endeavors on the new property, especially since the climate up north is even worse by 5-10 degrees and much more snow than we have here in our “banana belt”. 

So, there’s not a lot of progress to report as yet, other than the fact of as one friend put it: “You’re building your house from inside-out.” Say what? You see, Marc worked on getting our laundry room cabinets built for our current home and since has moved on to tackling those in the less important areas of our new home. He started with the utility room, which will house our washer/dryer, heating system, water heater, pantry, and freezer space. We’re putting uppers above the washer/dryer just like he did in this house. 




In fact, much is being copied from this house, including the vanity sizes of the bathrooms. He moved to that next. He is now working on his “hobby/office”, where he intends to have a built-in desk/table with huge drawers running the length of one entire wall. I am still contemplating how I want mine set up and once I know, he’ll likely move on to that if there’s time before we go north.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, he ordered and received delivery of an RV storage building from Versatube which he’ll be erecting shortly after moving north this summer. We decided rather than take up shop space, the RV would be better in its own home where he wouldn’t have to constantly dance around it in the way. It now sits on Marc’s large flatbed trailer, awaiting transport north when the snow clears.


In trying to get some major decisions about the kitchen chosen and out of the way, I’ve spent too many hours perusing the internet and studying ad nauseum different countertop possibilities. I’ve never really faced this before, always having Formica or tile in our previous houses, but for once, and since this could well be my last hurrah, I wanted something more luxurious and am finally willing to spend the money to get it. My first choice and last would be soapstone but when we visited the stone yard, Marc wasn’t onboard with that at all. He doesn’t care for the way the edge detailing is very limited since the stone is prone to chipping due to its softness.



I’ve never been one to care for the business of granites, but low and behold, they have come up with some really novel choices and I may now be ready to consider it. We came across a really interesting piece they had on display as an island bar (yes, they have a real gratis bar set up in the stone facility with craft beers on tap, wines, and high dollar booze.) which was dark and done in a leather finish with a chiseled edge. It comes in browns, gray, or black. Marc loved it. It did feel silky to the touch, with interesting divot texture and I too, loved the chiseled edge which lends a rustic touch and something you don’t see all the time.



One of my objections to granite has always been the highly polished surface which comes across as too foo-foo looking to me, so this was a refreshing change. This had a slight gloss to it, which is actually the sealer they put on which is guaranteed for 15 years against stains and damage. One can choose not to have this though and this photo shows the three samples I received; the two larger ones being the natural surface after leathering without the sealer and the square piece having sealer applied.


To make this choice even more agreeable, this type of granite is very dense so more indestructible and on the lower end of the pricing scale. We’ve drawn up our kitchen layout (more on that in a second) and will take it back to the stone yard soon for a price quote. They can hold the stone indefinitely with a deposit and right now have good selection so I am thinking of locking in the price now even though we likely won’t need it for a year. Shipping costs are supposed to continue to go through the roof and this stuff is all imported.

Being math challenged, I was having a hard time playing on a small scale with our kitchen layout so Marc finally helped me out by making full size replicas in cardboard that we could lay out on our current kitchen floor with taped exterior measurements to see how everything would fit. Unconventional, but it worked, and we were finally able to put into place all the desired items in their rightful placement! What’s comical about these photos is that you can see what I’ve lived with as an “island” for seven years! We never did get around to figuring out what we wanted and by the time we had it figured we were thinking of an up north place so at this point, it won’t get done. Islands are expensive and the next buyer can figure out if they want one. We were moving these pieces around though to try and figure out our new house island, which will incorporate our butcher block (minus legs) and be large enough for seating for four. The new kitchen by the way, will stretch to the wall behind the table/chairs and over to where my current cabinets sit to give an idea of the size. 




Coming up, Marc has an appointment with the power company field guy on April 24th to ascertain how power will be brought into the lot. We’re some distance from the main road and the poles. By then, we hope the ground is thawed and we can get going on installing the gate, drilling the well and putting in the septic. We’ll haul the RV there as soon as we can and it stops freezing, to live in this summer. There is SO much to do; our plates will be full, full, full.