Saturday, 21 June 2014

Turtle's pace

You are probably wondering what is going on here at Turtle Falls. It's the first day of summer already and the progress with the building is moving along at a turtle's pace...thanks to the weather!

Yes, the weather is the gift that just keeps on giving. In the fall, the snow fell fast and furiously enough to halt our construction plans by mid-December. Now, incessant rain is messing with building schedules...big time...all over the county. The wet spring has delayed all construction around this area.

One would think we are building a swimming pool rather than a house. Check out the short video of trying to keep the water out of the foundation form so when the rebar guys do finally show up they don't have to install it wearing hip waders.

It's hard not to take it personally when the trades won't show for more than a day or two before they disappear again for several. I know they are behind the eight ball trying to keep all their other clients happy as well but it still makes us want to shackle them to the rebar (is that a bad thing?) and not set them free until something...anything...has been completed. By the way, has anyone seen the sun? It's pretty much a figment of our imaginations here at Turtle Falls.

As a side note, when the sun does make a rare appearance the roads become turtle obstacle courses. I guess they get tired of all the rain too and head to higher ground, away from flooded shorelines, to enjoy a brief moment of warmth and look for a cosy(?) spot for their future hatchlings. Can anyone tell me where turtles laid their eggs before roads were built? I can't believe the distances these creatures will travel to park their abounding back ends into the gravelly shoulders of roadways countywide.

The following picture is of Ras doing her bit for the environment by moving a substantially-sized snapping turtle off the middle of the road. The turtle was not impressed with her good Samaritan ways and did its best hissing and clawing imitation to scare the living daylights out of the point that you may notice that, yet again, a turtle is falling! Rest assured Turtle was not hurt in the making of this heroic effort. Ras nearly had a heart attack...but Turtle was unharmed. After Ras finally got Turtle safely into the ditch, who's to know if she didn't just turn herself around and trundle back to her tarmacked sunning spot.
Ras: "You'll be much safer over here."
Turtle: "Get your hands off me, human!" 

Enough about the turtles. On to the building. I was hoping to have much more to report by now...but I don't. So here's where we're at while we wait for the trades people to wade through their rain-soaked backlogs...
Installing vapour barrier over 14"(35cm) of Styrofoam insulation.
All seams and plumbing protrusions need to be taped for a watertight seal.
Rain would have filled this form like a swimming pool so
we tucked the vapour barrier under the form to allow water to run out.
Installing the rain!
Un-installing the rain...again! The shovel method doesn't work with the rebar.
Forming the notch around the perimeter of the slab required drilling holes
every 5"(13cm) in 2x6 lumber to accommodate the right angle dowels.
By the way, about 420 right angle dowels were bent on site.
Ras did a few dozen. Go girl!
The form as it sits today...almost ready for concrete. A bit more forming
work is necessary. More bracing is required as well.

And now we wait our turn for the crew to return to us. Promises have been made and broken for return dates. We are doing our best to remain patient. It is what it is...

"I ain't coming out 'til the rain stops."

More later,

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Anticipation... we are in the last week of April and the anticipation of starting construction again at Turtle Falls is growing, by leaps and bounds, with each passing day. It was a long, cold, and very snowy winter and it seems like eons ago that we made the decision to halt construction until spring. There are still a few delays we must wait out before construction can begin again. Nothing says it better than a picture...or several.

You might think the most obvious of the delays would be the high water. All roads leading to Turtle Falls are under water.
This guy stopped and asked us if it was safe to go through. I said 'yes,
as long as you go slow'. From the size of the spray,
 you can tell he was not interested in the advisement of caution.
                                                                                         Photo credit ~ Holly Wykes
The other watery road leading to Turtle Falls.

The load restrictions are the main reason for not starting right away. These restrictions are usually lifted by around the 1st of May. And with the amount of concrete we need for the slab and foundation it seems prudent to wait until fully loaded cement trucks are once again allowed to traverse the waterways...I mean...roadways.

Half loads in effect.

There is one delay that we have thwarted though. Our passive house windows and doors are in our possession! Well...they're in the possession of the window dealer at the moment. They have graciously agreed to store our order in their warehouse until they are needed on site. This is all very good news as I remember the 3-month delay we had to endure for doors for the last building project we did.

We are seriously impressed with the people from which we purchased our Gaulhofer windows and doors. The product is not only amazing but Herrmann's Timber-Frame Homes, from Curran Ontario, makes the whole scary process of ordering windows from a foreign country akin to ordering your daily double-double from Timmy's. Easy peasy! They will also be installing the product when we have progressed to that point. {sigh of relief!}  One less thing contractor Mark has to worry about.

Windows arrive safely from Austria during one of the coldest weeks in January.
                                                                                        Photo credit ~ Adrian Herrmann
Passive house certified Gaulhofer entry doors and windows for Casa Tortuga.
                                                                                                           Photo credit ~ Adrian Herrmann
The whole package, including patio doors, patiently awaiting its
 journey to Turtle Falls.
                                                                                                          Photo credit ~ Adrian Herrmann

These next photos have nothing to do with any construction delays. Just high the water is in the lake at the moment.

Doing our best American Gothic pose while the last ice floe goes by.
The amount of flotsam, jetsam and zebra mussels on top of the deck tell us
the deck was 'under' water for some time.
                                                                                                               Photo credit ~ Holly Wykes
The debris removal crew is hard at work.
The conservation authority made us build this deck above the high water line.
That high water line used to be about 4 feet (1.22m) lower than it is here. 
This picture is from last fall. Note the water level. If we had attached the
floating dock with the water as high as it is in the previous photo,
 we would have to walk 'up' the ramp to get to the boat.

We had every intention to get the dock in place during the Easter weekend but there was no way the boat was going in the lake as the ice was still pretty solid at either of the boat ramps we can use. So much for an early dock season! We'll try again next weekend. That will be the same weekend we attempt to de-mouse poor Priscilla...ugh! What is it with the love affair mice have with RV's?

That's all I've got for now.
More later,

Friday, 20 December 2013

Famous last words

Here's to hoping there are no more 4 month delays!

That was the last line I wrote in my previous post. Famous last words!

One should never think or write such ridiculous words at the end of November in this part of the country. What was I thinking? Mother Nature has a way of getting the last word in...always. Here's what the building site looks like now...

Whiteness as far as the eye can see!

...and it's snowing again as I write this!

The foot-deep blanket of snow looks lovely and I'm sure when the house is finally built I won't be so disappointed by its presence. Really, it is a gorgeous wintry scene here at Turtle Falls and that's all it will be now until spring...or at least a time when temperatures are conducive to pouring concrete. Along with the snow came the frigid temperatures, so we decided to close the site down until the thermometer and the concrete can play nicely together again.

So...until there is something else to report, and who knows when that will be, here are some fun photos, from prior to the snow, of the plumber making tracks in the foam for the plumbing bits that need to be below the concrete.

Cutting trenches in the foam with the trusty chainsaw.
Clearing trenches with the trusty hammer.
Setting the pipes with expanding foam.

Maybe I shouldn't push my luck with the hoping, but here's hoping you all have a wonderful time with family and friends during this Christmas holiday.

More later...much, much later,

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Let the building begin!

I can't believe it was the 2nd week of July when I last posted. A lot of life has happened since then, but not a lot of building. Until now!

We were hoping to be well into the project by this point, with not-so-distant visions of enjoying Turtle Falls in something other than a mobile mouse house. Poor Priscilla! She was neglected so much this summer that the vermin vacationed there more than we did. Why such neglectful behaviour towards our beloved Priscilla, you ask? The Reader's Digest version goes something like this....

Ras with her new, but gently-used, water toy.
On the very same day we were madly in the midst of buying a boat by text message...yes, we really bought a boat using only our opposable digits...a call came in from the hospital in the city to inform us that Ras's dad had taken a bad fall while out-and-about. The bad news...broken hip. They forgot to mention the unicorn horn growing on his forehead, the first point of impact during his fall. Fast forward to the partial hip replacement surgery, then a second surgery 5 days later, as a complication of the first surgery...oh, and did I mention Ras's dad, Lou, is 88. Anyway, he healed up pretty fast during his 2 months in the hospital and is now doing very well in his new long-term-care digs out near Turtle Falls. Needless to say, it was a hectic time (3 months in all) of hospital visits, organising 24-hour home care after the hospital stay, visiting and choosing long term care facilities, packing and moving Lou to his new place and clearing out his previous apartment. And hence, the reason Priscilla was left to fend for herself against the menacing mob of mice for the majority of the summer.

But why the delay in the building, you ask?

Let's just say that we lost the race against time to have Contractor Mark start our house before he had to start the next house in his queue. It all worked out as it should have though. The delayed start date for us gave us the chance to help Lou through his recovery and get him established in his new location. Lou loves his new joint...ha...I meant his new place, but I'm sure he probably loves his new and improved hip joint too!

Onward and upward...passive house Casa Tortuga is finally underway! It all started with one little truck loaded with high density geofoam for the sub-slab insulation. Then 2 more truck loads followed the next day. Smaller trucks are the only option for the winding driveway into Turtle Falls.

Here's what the excitement of the last few days looks like.

The first load of foam arrives at 4pm on Thursday.
Two more loads arrive mid-afternoon on Friday. And then we had a
weekend of high winds that lasted through to Monday night.
Nicer weather and the crew both arrive Tuesday, bright and early.
A chainsaw...with a foam-cutting blade?
Two layers of 7-inch (17.8cm) thick sheets getting assembled.
Seams are off-set to lessen thermal bridging.
14 inches (35.6cm) of high density, foot-warming, thermal-breaking
insulation for under the concrete slab.
Foam install almost complete.
The frost has no chance of getting into the ground now.
Next up is the plumber, so until he gets here the foam has been
covered with tarps to keep the wind and weather away.

Next up...the plumber will carve out the necessary water/waste lines in the foam before the slab gets poured.

Here's to hoping there are no more 4 month delays!

More later,

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

We're finally adding, not subtracting...and a small visitor

Finally, we have reached the stage where taking stuff (trees, excavated soil) off the land has ceased and adding stuff (gravel fill) has begun. This is a welcome stage and the anticipation to see the beginnings of a house is as big for us as Christmas morning is for a 6 year old. But until then, here are a few photos of preparing the pit for the foundation.

Geotechnical engineer (in orange) checking to see if we are down
 to the bedrock.
Scraping down to the bedrock. You can see the area the geotech engineer
was in, to the right.
The first load of the "adding" phase.
Each load of gravel gets compacted before another is added.
Lots of packing. Adam's arms were probably vibrating in his sleep
for the 3 days he worked on this project.
Geotechnical engineer testing for proper compaction.
A nuclear surface gauge measures the density of the packed gravel.
Perfectly packed, level, and ready for the foundation.

With the many loads of gravel that were trucked in, the driveway took a brutal beating leaving ruts a foot (30cm) deep in the rain-soaked ground. Several loads of gravel needed to be spread along the winding drive into Turtle Falls to rectify this. Ras went right to work smoothing out her "reading room" section in front of Priscilla. Who needs a bobcat when you have Ras? Check out her cool technique in this short video.

Last but not least, after the noise of the machines (and Ras) had subsided for a few days, we had a little visitor. Right near the area where the entrance to the house will be, we spotted a turtle. Most likely, it was looking for a good spot in the dirt to lay her eggs but we take it as a good sign that the turtle approves of the soon-to-be Casa Tortuga. Not long after I took this photo, the turtle headed off...and promptly fell into the foundation hole! What's with the turtles around here? They fall down the rocks, they fall into holes...I guess we got it right with the name Turtle Falls.
The stake with the orange tape is where the entrance to the house will be.

Oh, and just so you know...turtle was unharmed by the fall into the foundation hole. Good thing...a hurtin' turtle would not have been such a good sign!

More later,


Saturday, 22 June 2013

Watt's been happening in June?

While we wait for the building to start, a few things have been happening at Turtle Falls. Here's a pictorial summary of the activity over the last couple of weeks.

The second phase of excavating, in the area for the garage and screened porch, revealed more fantastic landscaping stones. There will be no shortage of rockery with which to restore the "natural" surroundings.

That's one monster rock. Makes the digger look not so big.

I love this picture...Ras doesn't let the noise of the excavation work dampen her joy of reading a chapter while soaking up a few rays of sunshine.

Relaxing at Turtle Falls means a whole different thing this year!

At the moment, it looks like a meteorite has landed and ripped a hole in the forest...certainly not the cozy, woodsy feel to the place that we enjoyed last summer. The remaining trees that needed to be removed came down as well. A huge pile of the brush was burned in the foundation pit. And yes, we had a burn permit...newly issued from the township the previous day!

Looks somewhat crater-like.
Ras gets busy helping with the tree removal. 
Alistair gets busy burning the brush. This photo was taken with  
the TurtleCam webcam, hence the blur.

Some of the excavated material had to be moved off the site.

photo credit: Mark Raison

The well has also been drilled. We ended up with a 150ft (45.7m) well with a very excellent flow rate. We got lucky as many wells in the area are double this depth.
The truck with a rotary drill gets positioned. 140ft was drilled with this truck.
photo credit: Mark Raison
The cable tool, or pounder, was then positioned over the well site.
The final 10ft was drilled with this truck.
photo credit: Mark Raison
It's a thing of beauty, especially after 2 years of collecting rainwater at TF.

The dock got delivered from its protective winter storage spot on the other side of the lake. The guys had it installed in no time. The swimming hole is finally open!


Nothin' but blue sky and treetops up there!
And last, but not least, I made another trek to the top of the internet tower to install the cell phone signal booster. We've had enough of the "can you hear me now" and the dropped calls...or the no calls at all! Internet phone options, like Vonage or MagicJack, leave a lot to be desired too. We can't depend on the phone companies to get around to improving the cell service in this area any time soon, so we took matters into our own hands. An online search resulted in finding a commercial grade signal booster. They guaranteed an easy install, excellent reception and a full refund if we weren't completely satisfied with the product. Who could resist such promises? Amazingly, the install actually was a breeze, just like they claimed, although my legs were a lot!...wobbly after the climb, two times. The promise of excellent reception was also true. We've gone from no bars to full bars on both our phones. That's one antenna providing improved service to two phones on different carriers. How cool is that? It helps that the tower is tall enough to get the antenna above the treetops, for now...

Hallelujah, we can hear you now!

I'm hoping that's the last thing we have to install on the's getting crowded up there!

More later,