i got the last bits of exterior done. the black parts started as a cheater “shou sugi ban” – i burned them with a weed torch, then they got oiled. however, they quickly faded, so we put some black milk paint on them. it soaks in, and should fade a little as well, but hopefully not too much.

every once in a while you find a double decker outhouse shaped like a boot.

chicken apocalypse

we did end up with enough berries this summer to put a few in the freezer. and, i’m still picking and drying a few raspberries for granola.

the wildfire smoke was just rolling in when we started executing the 6 week old chickens.

with the executioner’s face always well hidden.

this plucker was the only part of the trailer worth using.





south: the new berry patch – raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries pointing towards the mountains.

east: corona creek and the house orchard – apples, pears, cherry, peaches, and a couple almonds.

i don’t expect everything to survive.

north: vegetable garden. i’ll move that rhubarb some time in the future, leaving this space for annuals.

this is a more long term project. 25 pear and 25 apple rootstocks. i’ll graft survivors in a year or two.

water, deer, and voles are big pressures on young trees here. i have gotten several different water delivery systems. the voles girdle the trunks, so i’ve wrapped each tree in 1/2″ hardware cloth for the voles. i also put in some semi-permanent electric fencing to keep the deer out. you’re not supposed to put electric wire on metal t-posts, but by bending the clips a little too far on the wrong side, i can sneak the wires around a corner without grounding them. some day i might redo this fence correctly. but it’s hard to argue with the speed and cost of this setup. a couple hours was enough to fence in the entire house site.

corona creek

gus is dead now. i do not recommend vet euthanasia. he deserved a better death.

butcher block counters went in well.

all our spring break plans got cancelled. i had already taken a week off work and there was a low spot on the east side of the house where water pooled

i know some people that would try avoid the real solution. but, i think with water being water, the best bet is to scrape away the top soil

dig a big canal

move the clay to the future berry patch

recover with top soil

42 hours and 85 gallons of diesel later you have corona creek.

no one knows where the contents of those trash cans ended up. somewhere i guess.

if you look very closely you can see ben being ben.

hopefully we get some rain soon.


the exterior needs a few bits of siding, a few screws on the south gable roofing trim, and garage roof trim

the mudroom needs the other 1/2 of the tiles

the loft could use some bean bag chairs and a huge tv

the kitchen needs counter tops and a few other things

the countertops need to be installed (super awesome juniper butcher block)

first i’ve seen the mountains in weeks

the closet shelves just need to be screwed into place and finished a bit (check out my 4′ shelf – it’s just smarter)

my room needs the bed put together

this room needs a vga to hdmi adapter for a new raspberry pi to connect to an old monitor

the living room just needs lamp shades and a floor outlet

the deck needs some cables on the railing, and a new handrail

the bathroom needs a sink, shower grout and drain

head to head

it was less than 20F outside last night. we have two of these oil heaters. each costs about $1 per day to run.

we have one in the trailer (240 sq ft with 1.5″of insulation in the walls) along with 4 people, a wood stove, and breakfast cooking. it was maybe 40F in the trailer when i woke up.

we have another identical heater in the house (2,400 sq ft with 9.25″ in the walls and 18″ in the attic), hoping to dry paint, and keep the stacked up flooring dry. it was at least 65F when i walked in there this morning. very comfortable.

i am feeling like this extra insulation was a very good choice.

my little helper touching up the paint.



i often work from the truck, mostly for it’s comfortable bucket seats. today was no exception, but i was a little surprised to find out i was not alone. she popped out from just below that rock. the kids will be bummed about losing their favorite dirt pile, but they will probably be excited for their new pet badger!!!

30 minutes

you might not know this if you live somewhere else.

when you see the dark clouds gathering over the hills you have 20-30 minutes to shore things up before the onslaught. in this sheltered valley most days are pretty calm. but, when a storm breaks into the valley, and must somehow then get out of the same valley, things become pretty violent.

yesterday the outhouse was toppled. i don’t know what the wind was gusting at – 40 or 50 mph? something like that. 

today, they were calling for 60 mph gusts (don’t think it ever got that intense here). i scrambled to get my tools picked up and duct tape the awning, which had unravelled about a foot yesterday. despite being unable to open (see post in center) the wind will get under it and start to unroll it vertically. awnings are actually just sails in the right context. so, i literally, used a whole roll of duct tape on my camper.

this is what life becomes. scrambling in a panic to try and stave off the worst impacts.

they were calling for quarter size hail so i pulled the front half of the truck into the garage, pushing all manner of construction items in my path. then i went into the house to ride out the storm and see what was leaking. yesterday was a little rough:

the windows performed much better today when actually latched shut (closed is not good enough). still a few leaks from the upstairs doors i need to attend to. and that chimney skirt is still not keeping the sideways rain out, so i’ll need to go back up there sooner than later.

it’s the first time i’ve sat in the house, not working, just looking out the windows wondering what will happen next.

front row seats for the apocalypse.


my first attempt to flood irrigate the south side is under way. if this successfully removes the weeds, i may be able to avoid getting goats.

a loop and compression fitting proved to be the winning strategy. the house is now pressurized.

re-rounding soft copper pipe

in general we are afraid of plastics. plastifobes. as such, i have gone to great lengths to get our drinking water served from copper pipes, rather than pex or pvc.

the well head is at least 130′ from the pipe entrance to the house. accounting for friction losses (water slowing as it travels over the surface), possibly several hoses running at the same time, and wanting to oversize everything i put in a 1 1/4″ line from the pressure tank to the house. you typically put in a thicker copper when you bury it, so this is type K. the walls are quite thick, but since it comes in a large roll in 60′ sections (you want as few buried connections as possible) it is also extremely soft. this means when you cut the pipe, you deform it.

copper fittings have a pretty tight tolerances. too much of a gap and all your solder will run out. i chased several connections for a few days before i finally lighted upon the best approach. i document here because the only other thing i found on the internet was twisting a crescent wrench around the top. the crescent wrench method does work fine on harder copper, but it merely chases a wave of deformation when working with the soft pipe. there are some specialty tools, but they are hundreds of dollars, and i couldn’t actually find one for 1 1/4″ – only 1″ and 1 1/2″. i think the are also only for L or M, not K.

my biggest punch was no where near big enough to get the insides to bulge, so i went to the hardware store. i believe this is a fitting for a plastic water main. the regular taper was the important part here. i just hammered it into the top lightly to get myself nearly back to square one. as mentioned above, there were puckers, or waves in the top i couldn’t remove with any combination of wrenches. this was about $3 and took them right out.

next, find a (guaranteed to be) harder copper coupling. the straight coupling is better than an elbow or something because you can see down inside it. looking straight down it is easy to see the gaps, and thus where it is out of round.

wiggle that fitting into place on top. it likely won’t slide all the way down since the pipe is still not round. now with your channel locks start to compress the pipe when you think it is sticking. it is important that you keep the fitting on the pipe while you’re doing this, preventing it from deforming. slowly work the pipe with the channel locks as you push the fitting all the way on.

once you have it fully seated, remove the fitting, and get it prepped to solder. your channel locks might have given you a bit more sanding to do, but you’ll probably be okay.

insulated and worthless

the people at quest insulation have finished blowing the wet cellulose (newspaper with glue) into the walls. this is a strange process to see in action, but we should end up with R30 or better from our deep walls.

they also dropped off enough roxul (superheated and spun rock) for me to put up some sound proofing around the bedrooms and office. that was a miserable day, but nice to see what it will look like with well defined rooms. here you can see the roxul on the left and the cellulose on the right.

after drywall, they will blow some dry cellulose into the attic.

sunday i spent digging. with the amount of clay we have, getting the soil to drain is imperative. and raised rows are the answer. sadly, i cannot find the correct tractor attachment to do this back breaking labor. there are industrial strawberry bedders for large operations and potato hillers that are useless in our dense soil. if only i had a welder and could make one for  myself.

i was late getting this garlic in last fall, planting it after the ground had frozen. i just place frozen chunks of soil on and around it. surprisingly, it is all doing quite well despite the initial abuse.

not everything around here is a hardy and useful as garlic.


last week i passed my rough electrical inspection – enough to close the walls in. i have been working on this quite steadily since february, and it is probably what i will remember the most about this project.

many nights in mid winter i would head out at 7 or 8pm and work till 10 or later. a mind can get stuck in weird places, carving out a room of light at a time from the pitch black, temperatures in the single digits, and absolute silence. i could have been in outer space or a tomb, but nothing terrestrial. nothing life like.

it also turns out that wiring photos aren’t very compelling. best just keep my head down.

i ended at the beginning. moving the first wire i put in to the other side of this bay, making room for a light switch in a closet.

the insulators are here today and covering all my work. hopefully these wires can all stay buried.

passers by

a couple different types of bears have returned to our part of the world. the canal is still empty with a thick clay bottom, making it easy to spot tracks this time of year.

the pit of despair

here is the well head in front, with pipe leading to an underground concrete bunker behind it. keeping the pressure system in the ground keeps it from freezing. i told the guy doing this to run a drain to day light, down the hill so it wouldn’t fill with water. he insisted that he’d never seen one fill with water and put 4′ of rock in the bottom. i knew this was stupid at the time, but i couldn’t prove it, so i backed down. 

for the second time this spring the chamber is filled with water. getting dangerously close to the electric that powers the well, pressure tank, and the trailer. what an idiot i am to not insist on a drain. i have been told by several people to rely on “local knowledge.” i officially recommend NOT relying on “local knowledge” especially when it involves less work for the purveyor of the knowledge.  this particular guy has fooled me more than once with his local knowledge. shame on me.

in happier news, the house wiring is close to done. just a few more appliances and exterior lights to do. we couldn’t find any outdoor lamps we liked, and they are all several hundreds of dollars a piece. given our patina inspired look, i’m fashioning some sconces out of some copper i ripped out of the trailer. it only takes a few minutes, is simple, and should age well.


we are now close to freezing for the first time in over a month. much of the last week has been well below freezing for at least half the day. monday morning at dawn.

9.8 meters per second

in hindsight, it is pretty obvious that these few knurls would not grip an icy rope.  

and, if those knurls didn’t grip, there is no reason to think that the auto-ascender safety would catch the rope with something pulling down on the loop. 

the chimney pipe has been installed for several weeks now, but we didn’t have the chimney cap at the time i put the pipe up. it arrived in the mail a week or so ago, but we haven’t even seen 20F since then. it was a glorious 26F, snow was calving off the south end of the roof and i was due for a 10 minute break from work.

all i had to do was get the harness on, clip into the rope, get to the ridge line, slide over 2 feet, put the cap on, locking it in place with a small twist, and come back down.

i pulled my way up to the ridge with some effort. a steep metal roof is slippery when it is dry and warm and this was neither dry nor warm. i was just about to grab for the ring at the top, but thought i should grab the rope one more time. i fiddled with this plastic cover at the top (meant to protect the rope), missed it, and then missed grabbing the rope. this all happened just as my feet slipped.

knowing there is a 6′ lead out built into the harness line (see yellow webbing) i went limp, expecting this to catch me in a hurry.

a split second later, the back of my calves hit the deck railing, flipping me upside down.

i landed on my shoulder below the front door very nearly 9.8 meters below where i started.

luckily there was some snow on the ground, and i’ve got a good portion of neanderthal dna. i got myself into the truck and cait drove me to the hospital. i lost all vision for about 5 minutes. that would have been scary if i wasn’t in a daze.

got a full cat scan and no damage to anything. just bruised my shoulder pretty well.

i’m a little surprised to be alive and still able to walk. i guess we will have to wait on making a fire in the house for a little bit longer.


beveled on the top and bottoms and mitered on the ends, i spent all of sunday charring and hanging some horizontal siding on the south side. waiting for a steel sun shade to be created before i can hang any more vertical siding above it.


new years begin with little light. the least light. not much is done in the dawn or twilight. just long shadows and reflection.

a) reflection
i had been thinking quite a bit how this has been the longest period of my life. time has stretched back to childhood levels where seasons drag. weeks feel like decades. historically, whenever i have this specific reflection — that a season or period has gone on too long — it is a harbinger of whirl wind passage. ruts dug deeply enough in my routines to carry me without thought or consequence from day to day. this is dangerous. this is when the years fly by, inertia pushing me at staggering speeds.

b) journal
then, like you, i had been keeping up on ben’s winter travel journal. all good stuff, but of course i paid more attention to the 12.22 entry as i was privy to the conversation. i mean, it was sort of tangentially about me. obviously. so here we are at the word “whim” and me, and this has all put me in a good frame of mind. in my experience there is a newness to whim – there is always an “i didn’t expect myself to do that.”

c) podcast
and then finally, i believe i have listened to precisely one podcast before today. i think that first podcast made me tear up in some wholesome way. not tears of joy, but tears of goodness or something. anyway, that first podcast was a very positive experience. that was at least six months ago. i still shun podcasts religiously. it’s just not who i am.

but a new year, caught on a whim, caught by an ad, i listened to another podcast. a michael pollan interview where he discussed, among other things, consciousness, the modern day ego and mental entropy (“whim” as defined above). this was all set against the backdrop of medicinal psychedelic experiences. definitely worth a listen.

this podcast reaffirmed many thoughts i’ve had about my sense of self, and my ego’s role in isolation and encapsulation. especially in the ego’s creation of its own affirmation through the stories it repeats to itself. these stories continuously retell themselves to me and serve to tell me who i am. they define me. and definition has it’s place, but my particular ego continues from these historical definitions and projects into the future, foreshadowing and forestalling any would-be attacks on itself. after all, what is an ego but it’s own posturing? as such, the definition it has carved out for itself is quickly used to prevent new experiences. my ego will try to relegate a future me to an already-told story. unless i view myself principally as a traveller, and i do not, my ego will attempt to keep me confined to a known story. a well defined story. and, this is of course fertile ground for addiction, depression, and other hermetic behaviors. autonomous tautology.

this is all great. cool. you’re welcome for the book report. but three things pointing to the same, nearly identical conclusions, all from different angles. whoa. trippy.

i haven’t done any drugs for a few decades, but i will admit to learning quite a bit about life from them. there is some terror in the new, but newness is also the only place most people find the good moments. moments away from your ego (what pollan was advocating for more research in). moments you haven’t yet marred with your own crappy desires. moments that last for years.


d) (almost) aphorisms
there is coyote shit all over the place around here.

i have fashioned a chimney box that will look okay from 30′ because the store bought one would still look bad from an 100′.

despite his attained age, think how quickly kant’s life must have flown. the precision of his day to day circumstance must have had him in a free fall toward the grave.

if you want to be miserable, just get really comfortable.

e) the other
today is my 15 year work anniversary. i have been with cait for a couple more years than that. these have been very consistent parts of my adult history. these two facets have encompassed and defined nearly all of my adult identity. luckily, they have grown and changed just enough over time. i suppose if i evolved mentally the way my marriage and profession do, i wouldn’t mind an upcoming change. i might look forward to it. perhaps it is the relational part that keeps these things from stagnating. perpetually confronting the others’ demands and rewards is quite stabalizing without becoming a rut. after all, it can never become codified as “my” ego, if there is someone else participating in it.

and yet left to my own insular mind, i coagulate almost immediately. the perpetual unfolding at walking speed is just about a perfect sensation. it’s almost like humans evolved to be at their peak while walking.

f) the verb
oh.. right. not-depressed is walking along, terrified (or maybe not worried) and experiencing everything. psychadelics and neuvo-faux-homesteading are both flights of fancy, untethered from a reaching a destination at high speed.

“whimming” is the cracking of my ego just enough to allow new, undefined mes (multiple first person singulars) to emerge. further, this actually stretches my perception of time (if indeed it is external and immutable). whim makes my life longer. i’m trying to allow for some mental entropy, as yet undefined, a place where i have no self already, and let the seconds tick by slowly.

nailed it:

winter is coming

winter is arriving tomorrow. i don’t expect it to be as intense as last year, but even the low light hours has meant dramatically less time to get things done. i’m just trying to get as much buttoned up outside before harsher weather moves in.

don’t envy me too much, but check out the manure and straw. trying to get a new garden area prepped for next spring just south of the house. i’m hoping to inject some organic matter to fluff up the soil. i may throw in some wood chips to hold water, a little more top soil, and some cover crops early in the spring. hoping i don’t add too much nitrogen. just a little. 

the final act of kindness from stark construction – the deck is on. i just need to get some wire for the railing. we had just enough of the salvaged boards to cover it. we’re very happy with how this turned out.

the main power is hooked up, but i haven’t had the gumption to flip the breaker in the house yet. however, i did have the gumption to bury the wire, and smooth it out before we freeze. 

i think our friends have gone to sleep for the winter. no sightings or missing chickens.  

the slate hearth went in without too much trouble. but the tiles are not square and vary quite a bit in height. i need to pull a couple up and be more careful with the rest of it moving forward.

this is looking north, watching a cloud of snow envelope the valley. weather coming from the north is usually a bit more extreme. 

geriatric roofers

two of the oldest, and definitely toughest people i know showed up two weekends in a row to help me get the roof on. they artfully dodged weather forecasts and cracked social security jokes. good to know people that have nothing better to do than suffer for a couple days.

siding part 2

another week off of work, and a little more progress. i now have all of the more difficult sections done. i will need to get some other things done before i can make much more progress – like the awning and 2nd floor decking.



this is the first siding i have put up since the 90s. i remember it being easier.

this siding represents about 1/8th of the exterior surface area and about 120 man-hours of work. these are some of the harder sections, and many mistakes were made. still, there is a long road ahead of me.

the redwood boards andy scavenged for the upper deck are cleaning up very nicely.



some guy in texas had some major health problems, and postponed his building plans. this bad luck for a texan was good luck for us as it freed up stark construction to help us out at the last minute. they are just about finished and it will be sad to see them go.

these guys are amazing. their rough framing is all just perfect. everything is absolutely spot on. they generated almost zero waste from the whole house. moreover, i never heard anyone get upset once. they just plod through each step, nearly whispering to each other when they talk. they create everything with the utmost quality. we have been extremely lucky to have had access to their expertise.

anyway, enough gushing. here are the pictures.

living and dining room:

kitchen and hearth:

office/guest and master upstairs:

family room (picture is making this thing look much longer than it is) and kid rooms:

pimp deck and access to garage attic:






i have drawn more than a few negative comments from more than a few people for my lack of recent posts. hard to sum up my mood i suppose… hoarding my own experiences.

most of the windows are now set. hopefully i’ll finish the house wrapping and window flashing this weekend.

i’m going to head up to rbm in columbia falls for the siding, maybe next week. i’d like to get that up before too much more wind hits the wrap. not sure what i’m going to do about the roofing yet.


in most matters we strive towards the simplest possible solution. the shape of the house was no different. we proposed something along these lines to lucas and he ran with our minimalism.

the biggest draw of this box-with-a-hat look was just for the clean, simple lines. but, it also allowed us to keep building costs lower, so that we could splurge on other things that lucas, and the master carpenter, guru, savior andy pushed for, like double stud construction.

this is nothing you will ever see. walls are 9.25″ thick, and will get us around R30+ with very little thermal bridging. we are excited to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

and yes, the bathtub did arrive at a convenient moment.

nearly dried in

i put the 700 lbs. wood stove in the house before the windows are installed (kitchen window on the left, main entry on the right): 

hopefully the bathtub arrives before the crane comes back for the house trusses. i helped a friend carried a cast iron tub up a flight of stairs and i’m not looking to repeat the experience.

looking west (those are “attic trusses” over the garage):



the cupboards of kindness

keeping things organized and hidden in such a small space is crucial for sanity.

most things on this adventure have made some sense to me. one still unanswered question is why darren was so kind to us. he made us these incredibly nice cupboards and drawers, outfitting the entire trailer. there are still more not shown. cait likes them so much she is requesting them for the house. these are all custom sizes, and i’m not sure what we would have done without his help.


also, there has been a bit of house progress. more on that later. 


i hesitate to post pictures of my work that do not correspond to the architect’s specification as he, like you, is an avid reader of this blog. he spec’d a dimple membane or bituthene 3000. well, this is montana, and the wheels of commerce move slowly. i assume the “waterproofing” material i did find is somewhat like a columbia sportswear jacket that claims to be waterproof, which is to say, a lie after 5 minutes. so, sorry lucas. if it’s any consolation, it sucked to apply, and i think i lost a pair of (black!) carhartts to the project. i did get the legit xps and i will order ahead of time from now on. the glue for the xps is a joke… hence the boards. good thing it’s never windy here and i have lots of scrap plywood.

the neighbor’s cows have arrived, and look happy. the bull keeps smelling the cows’ butts. deeply smelling. the boy asked if i thought the cows were annoyed by this practice. i replied, “most likely.”


an old friend stopped  by a week ago. pretty sure he’s going to get himself a tractor now.

it was feeling like spring, and there were boxes of plants that needed to get in the ground. so, we put in some fruit trees, raspberries and strawberries.

we took him over to the bison range, and the bison were actually down in the valley by the road – i’m sure the grass grows down here first – and shedding their winter coats.

this weekend i got the perimeter drain in (still some drain rock to go over the top) and the radon mitigation stubbed out. that sucked, but it is behind us now.

we haven’t had a frost in a week, and no more freezes are in the forecast, so i think we may have that behind us. i’m still not putting any summer stuff out quite yet.

i am pretty sure this will be a difficult gardening situation for me. i’m leaning towards a deep mulch situation going for water retention, weed control, general soil building, and to even out the daily temperature swings. slugs are less of a concern here, though i did see one just yesterday. it has been a while since i’ve had to pay attention to this stuff.

headed north

the north wall is leaning north about 3″ from top to bottom. not sure what happens next, but not a good start.

EDIT: an actual engineer has said this should have little to no impact on the structural integrity of the foundation as the corners are plumb and the corners provide most of the strength.

perhaps the wall is just attempting to escape the smell of the rotting cow pile to the south.

basement walls

i am known for my optimism. concrete work has begun and it is stressful. if it’s wrong, it’s going to stay wrong, and everything else will suffer down the line. i’ll rest much more easily once i can throw a tape on it.



i’ve been trying to finish up some little things before planting starts in earnest.

a few seeds are started, others are ordered, and others need to wait for the garden to dry a bit.

ladder blocks: i got the last piece of ridge cap up on the shelter, which meant i could pull down my ladder blocks.

i’m usually working alone, and i’m not much for heights. these were amazingly effective stabilizers.  i’m not sure if they are standard practice for professionals, but i’d never heard of them.

these shade screens roll all the way up and were pretty easy to get installed. i’m confident we will lose them to a gust.


i doubt you could get a (light) 4×4 tractor stuck with just a single bad decision. luckily, i made many bad decisions. i can assure you the tractor is still right here:


siberian proverbs on the vernal equinox

it’s official – we survived winter. and, aside from the annoyances of frozen pipes, keeping fires going overnight, and bad roads, we had a pretty easy time of it.

to paraphrase my siberian friend – it doesn’t matter how tough the man is, but how thick his coat is.

i don’t think any of us were ever really cold this winter, due to these few things:

  1. down:

there is a nasty practice of live-plucking birds and we wanted to stay well away from this sort of thing, so all of our down came from patagonia, ikea, or used. i lived in this vest for 4 solid months before it was repurposed by delphi: 


cait and i shared a king sized ikea down comforter and each of the kids had their own. blankets were often frozen to the windows, the fire would go out, and the pipes would be frozen solid. yet, i can’t remember anyone ever waking up cold. i never had the need for it before, but now i know. down is pretty amazing.

2. fire:

we ordered a “little cod” from navigator stove works 2 years ahead of time. this was actually the first thing we did that committed us to the whole adventure. we ordered this before finding the camper or the property. the stove is very well made (on orcas island), though a bit challenging to get, and keep a fire going. bigger is always better, and this thing is small. being small is it’s point, but it does create a challenge.

we went through 2 pallets of north idaho energy logs . these things were really what kept us afloat and comfortable. one log would stay lit for 2-6 hours, depending on how hard we were running the stove . they’re easy to handle, with no real overhead – the wbc would drop them off for free, under the shelter with a forklift. at $225 a pallet they were more than wood, but not much more, and well worth it – no labor, 100% recycled sawdust, burn hotter and longer. i’m a fan.

3. socks:

my mother got me 2 pairs of bison down socks a few years ago. so hot that in oregon they would just make you swear. here, i lived in them all winter. especially slipping into a cold boot left on the porch overnight, these things were markedly warmer than very thick wool, and let me stay outside as long as i wanted.

4. gloves: 

after trying several different pairs of gloves that were either too cold or not enough dexterity, i found the polar penguins. i think fit has a lot to do with staying warm, but i can’t say enough about these things. warm enough to work for hours at 20F with enough dexterity to grab a screw out of my pocket. at 15F i’d get about 30 minutes before trading them out for a warm pair inside. at 10F i’d usually just call it a day and go inside for a cup of coffee. still, save a few particularly cold days, these things let me work all winter.

5. ears: 

when inside a small camper for hours at a time with small children, it’s always good to have some ear buds to drown them out. i just leave this pair on me all the times now and pop them in whenever a scream starts up. crucial for me to stay sane. i suggest for any parent, in any living situation.

6. oil heater:

we got a 2 plugin oil heaters. they look like radiators, but they are filled with oil. i’d never owned one before, and i don’t know how i knew they were the right thing for the back room, but they were. i have one sitting next to me in my office right now. they give off a slow but consistent heat.

7. fat:

(picture removed)

i drank plenty of beer to stay warm. it really works. i’m missing my brew operation, but there are some decent things around here. draught works scepter head is the driest/best i’ve found here.

also, we went to biga pizza every friday after our shopping trip and ate till we hurt. we’re lucky to be able to spoil ourselves like this and let our guard down for  a few minutes a week.

office progress

several posts combined here.


cait decided i wasn’t busy enough, and requested “a large rustic table.” so, i put together my very own ana white table: ana white table .

luckily this will match the ana white outhouse you may have seen in the first post below. we are now ana white saturated, and i feel this is at the very limits of my craftsmanship. ikea from here on out.

i got the window in my office:

i’m not going to say it will be waterproof, but i didn’t put an outlet underneath it, so i’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. the window is facing due south, but if you crane you neck, and have a rare break in the clouds, you can just see the southern end of the missions. 

as noted before, computer-working in the trailer hasn’t been too bad because no one is here during the day. however, everyone will be here during the summer days and an in-house office will likely be the last thing to get finished. we’re also sorely missing space for freezers and bulk storage. so, i’ve been pushing through the cold weather, and i’m now pretty close to done. there is still a little drywall to hang, and it will probably get some siding and trim.i doubt i’ll ever mud it. laziness is a powerful motivator.

the back wall isn’t crooked. it must be your screen.

i was just going to go with a single door, but found the window and sliding doors from the rebuilding center in missoula on the cheap, both in pretty good shape. i’m pretty glad i did go with the slider as it is nice and light in the office, even if it looks a little funky. maybe it’s great looking. i can’t really tell yet. i’m just glad to be close to done.

48 sq ft

it occurred to me about a week ago that i have spent 90% of my time over the past 6 months in this 6’x 8’space:

sure, it is glorious!! decked out with luxurious cats, hand painted mountain scenes for the 95% of the time you can’t see the actual mountains, warm fire, nice home made organic latex pillows, a super warm wool blanket from norway my mommy gave me, spots to stash your coffee cup to avoid spilling, and a good variety of large birds sitting in nearby trees.

still, it is about 48 square feet, roughly a queen size bed.

the office isn’t done so i work here. the booth is just barely too small, so i eat here. it folds down into a bed, so i sleep here. this is the couch, so i hang out here before and after work. i am here basically whenever i’m not outside. i am here right now.

a mobile home is a sedentary home.



i worked on getting the office wired today. it was a pretty cold morning and being soft, i got a late start waiting for double digits.

insulation #1:

while up on the ladder i noticed the melt pattern coming off the framing members. there is only 1.5″ of roxul in the trailer, so this picture should not lead you to believe that there is great insulation, and it is just melting where the ribs are creating a thermal bridge. rather, it should illustrate that there is only 1.5″ of roxul (about r4 if i remember correctly) and the trailer is just cold. we are staying pretty toasty in the front, close to the stove. but, all the windows ice up inside each morning. my glasses were frozen into the condensation on the window sill this morning. we all have thick down comforters and have had no issues. pretty nice to wake up, warm, and have a sheet of ice 3″ from your head.  

insulation #2:

i got over anxious for some progress on the office, and inexplicably, put insulation and drywall in before wiring. now, i’m battling insulation and  drywall… because i put it up before wiring. i’m now about 2/3 done with the wire stubs for the office. maybe one more long day to get it finished up and get the window in.

frolicking bison

i probably should have waited on the last post, until i knew the full extent of the situation. new stuff has come to light.

  1. the steal frame of the airstream is an excellent thermal bridge. keeping the pipes from freezing inside the trailer, including the p-trap under the shower has been an ongoing challenge. a small heater under the sink and a heat lamp outside under the shower have gotten me through, but i’m a bit surprised that i didn’t consider this when putting the trailer together.
  2. you probably didn’t notice the tractor tire in the last post was flat. neither did i. i drove on it and quickly unseated it from the rim. after some good advice (thanks andy!!) i jacked it up, and used a ratchet strap to make it bulge enough that my compressor could get air into it. before and after: 
  3. the driveway still isn’t plowed, as the tractor wouldn’t start. which stinks because we’re supposed to get more snow tonight, the driveway is in a bad state, temperatures are supposed to drop significantly for the next week, and i’m worried the tire might deflate again. i spent an hour with a heat gun and heat lamp but eventually gave up. tomorrow i’ll be trying to purchase a block heater.
  4. friday morning the truck wouldn’t start. i think the cold slightly ruptured a fuel line. after an hour or so of messing around in the darkness and rain i found i just needed to pump the fuel filter a few times to pressurize it, which was a nice quick bandage, but will need a long term fix in the near future.
  5. we got above freezing for a few hours friday morning and had some rain. this rain came off the roof and directly on to the propane regulator. temperatures dropped a few hours later, freezing the regulator. this cut off my access to hot water. it took a while to figure this out, including getting a full new tank (the other tank is frozen to the ground, so i had no way to know if it was full or not). but then i just used the  heat gun to warm and dry it up. i was able to cook on the wood stove throughout, which was a very nice option to have.
  6. beer on the porch is slushing up somewhere near 15F, but is not exploding. it takes an unfortunately long time to thaw out in this state.
  7. on my way into town i watched some bison chasing each other in the snow. they looked extremely happy. it was one of the more appealing things i have seen in a long time. most critters have some sort of nest or den for the winter. bison don’t. it occurred to me that to thrive in this environment, without a  shelter, you literally need to be built like a bison — huge, hoofed, and covered in thick wool. the rest of us have to carry on making fires and fixing leaks.

all in all this has been a relatively minor cold streak, and i’ve spent most of my non-working hours just trying to keep basic things functioning. the fixes have all turned out to be relatively easy, but now i’m expecting to babysit them for at least another month. needless to say, i did not get that rustic farmhouse deck table built for cait today.

despite this list, i should note that my spirits have been reasonably high throughout. we don’t really have any other options. it’s too cold to be sad. i guess the only thing appealing about the situation is the struggle. and, unlike the summer heat, this is a surmountable struggle.


the forecast over the christmas weekend was for a couple inches of snow the night before departure and one overnight low to be 6F, with the rest somewhere around 20F.

despite getting more than a couple inches of snow we thought, no big deal, left two heaters on for the cats, and drove away.

from a distance we watched the temperatures drop to less than -10F. we saw days not breaking out of single digits. when i finally arrived here tuesday morning it had climbed to 0F. the trailer was frozen solid and the cats were pissed. if not for our neighbor checking in, i certainly would have needed to come back over.

the water line has heat tape on it, and never froze. however, as soon as i had unstuck the ice plug coming in the copper joint started leaking pretty badly. i had to quickly re-plumb the water to the sink: 

since then i have been trying to get the rest of the lines unfrozen, and i did have a little success, only to have the outflow pipes freeze. i dumped a bunch of salt down the shower, and i have a seedling mat strapped to the exterior pipe now, but my hopes are low. the temperature is supposed to keep climbing to the low 30s in the next few days, which should help. though, i’m feeling i will still need to get a little more creative.

UPDATE: with a few good ideas — siphon+boiling water and a heat lamp under the trailer water is once again exiting the trailer.

roof almost finished

during a gloomy, gloomy week i chipped away at the roofing and the electrical setup. we’re now fully covered, i just have the gables and one last ridge piece to slip into place. i will be glad when the roofing part of this is completely over.

we also go the sub panel installation finished up. the trailer is now able to consume a full 30 amps. we can run an oil heater and the instant pot at the same time. i also fed an additional 20 amp outlet for general outdoor use.

we’re letting a neighbor use our west field. he turned that over with a huge tractor. it took him 5+ hours to plow (4 bottom plow) a 14 acre field with a 200 hp tractor. he’ll still need to disc and probably drag harrow it. i’m glad it wasn’t me doing it.

we’re not sure what he’s going to do with it yet, but the soil looked pretty good, despite a little clay higher up.

garlic planted

we moved some leftover topsoil into two rows. i don’t have a disc harrow for the tractor yet, so we just piled the soil pretty deep. hopefully this extra deep bed holds the grass back in the spring . 

afterward, we put in a couple hundred heads of garlic.

we are a garlic heavy household, so this is probably just enough for personal consumption, plus seed for next year.

i will note that it was quite nice to be planting stuff, rather than building stuff. building is a miserable, anal retentive chore that i am not very good at.

conversely, providing potential for things to grow is a hopeful experience for me. even if i don’t do something perfectly, the garlic is probably going to be okay. i’m generally not optimistic about anything else, but i’m pretty sure the garlic will grow.


we received a passing grade on weathering the first colder nights.

the overnight temps got close to single digits. i slept with just a single wool blanket on, not the big down comforter, so i could wake up every few hours when the stove needed feeding. this system worked just fine and we all stayed plenty warm. that part of the situation went as planned.

however, the reasons for a c-:

  1. the ash levels in the stove pipe built up enough to nearly stop the draft going up and out. a little smoke got in the trailer, so i turned on an (powerful) overhead vent to suck the smoke out. that created a very strong draft down the chimney, but we didn’t realize why the draft was flowing down the chimney. each time i would try and light a new test fire, the stove would fire out the front of the stove and blow soot into the trailer. i’d have to dump a pan of water on it to put it out. these cycles of smoke and ash entering the trailer encouraged me to leave the vent sucking air out of the trailer. after an hour of troubleshooting, in deep dusk, and temperatures already in the teens we cait figured that we probably should turn the vent off. i guess that is only obvious afterwards? i dried out the stove and lit the fire.
  2. despite the heat tape and insulation, the water supply froze one morning. i had to thaw it with my heat gun. likely the small leak at the top from the crappy rv part (everything in here designed specifically for rvs is a piece of junk) is what froze and created an ice dam. i’m going to re-plumb the connection to avoid any of the rv hookup. i’m also going to back fill the spot where the line comes out of the ground a little more in case the problem was down there.

after this i think we will be ready for 0. -10 with some wind still has me a little concerned.

steps. office. larch.


added steps this weekend. what a hassle, but now we can get from one place (down) to another (up) without adding an inch of clay mud to our shoes. i broke down and bought pre-fab stringers from the hardware store. i had to cut them in several ways. they are pressure treated and do represent the first bit of decay resistant material on site. these were supposed to go the full length of the bay, but i realized i’d be exposing the concrete piers to too much weather (frost heave is a major concern), so we made a last minute decision to make them narrower. grassy knolls to follow on the sides.



i was planning on a storage container office. when i called for delivery, they said, “it’s gone. won’t be back for a year and a half.” i’m alone all day, so i haven’t really been missing it. but, i do want (a bear proof) room for at least one chest freezer and more office options. so… we are improvising. here is the finished end of the deck, and office floor. my father came over to assist and we made pretty quick work of it.

it’s insulated underneath already. i’ll just need to frame in the last two sides, cut a window, make a door, run some wires and get the freezers into place. should be trivial.


and finally, there is a clear band, delineated by elevation, maybe 4,000 – 6,000 feet that the larches grow. they turn in the fall and add some much needed color to an otherwise drab and featureless landscape. maybe cait will get a better picture uploaded in the coming days.

cat door

gus is a motivated hunter. even at 13ish with a chronic illness he’s bringing in 1-2 mice a night. some he eats, starting at the head. some are for presents, and some are just to pass the time. either way, i’m sleeping a lot better now that i don’t need to be involved. as promised, here is the luggage hatch cat door.

2017-10-12 shelter porch, part 1

took thursday off work and made good progress on a front porch.

i like to go quick n’ dirty with things, and this is definitely that. i should get the last 8 feet in this weekend, if my back allows, and then get the top boards on.

this should run the full length of the trailer on the south side and will be a huge upgrade over the current mud patch i have installed. you can see below that it will be under half polycarbonate and half regular roofing.

we have high hopes for lights and even heaters on this deck. i also purchased a cat door today, to be installed in one of the rear luggage hatches after the deck boards are in. obviously a cat door would warrant it’s own post, so look forward to that.