Groundbreaking at last!

July 20, 2004

After all this time, (4 years of looking for land and 5 years of trying to get it together to build a house) WE BROKE GROUND this week! We have had so many false starts...promises that it would happen when it never did, that I was not saying anything to anyone for fear of jinxing it again. Then we got a late night call from our builder, Mike, saying they would be breaking ground in the morning!

Fred and I threw some food and clothes in the car and drove out there to spend the night so we would be there first thing in the morning when the excavators arrived.

Believe it or not, I am actually SMILING at 7:00 a.m. as I took the first shovel full of dirt with my gold shovel! I was SO excited! I even cried...but they were happy tears! In case you wondered, the hard hat is NOT Cleveland is Syracuse University...nice touch, huh?


The track hoe had been there the day before to repair the drive...which was pretty much impassable. We had been having trouble with the last part of the hill before the clearcut...everytime it rains, the water from a spring there makes the corner mushy and then people try to drive through it and sink in...either getting stuck or leaving big deep ruts that are too deep for my little low-slung car. So they dug that all out and laid some kind of fabric down that would prevent the mud from seeping up between the rocks. On top of that they put big rocks so the water can flow through it and UNDER the drive...and on top of that they put a very fine, powdery stone that gets hard like cement once it gets wet. We should never have trouble again!

Then they dug out the culvert that is in the stream. The first culvert we had was about 12 inches in diameter and in a storm the water ran right over the driveway. Our son, Rick, replaced it with a 24 inch in diameter culvert and believe it or not, in a storm, the water ran right over the drive again! So this time they put in a 36 inch in diameter culvert! We hope THAT does it! They also changed it from 12 feet wide to 40 feet wide. This is more than we will ever need, but they were worried about the big trucks carrying trusses and beams being able to get around that sharp corner. Now they can swing real wide to make it around the corner and turn back into the woods.

While they were there, they also pushed down a few trees to make more room for the trucks. This was very painful for me. I love each and every one of those trees....but I am trying to be flexible because I want to build this house! So when Fred and I arrived that night, there was a huge tree lying in the middle of the driveway! It was our job to cut it up into logs and move the logs to the woodpile (Fred did this part) and I fired up our chipper and chipped all the branches and leaves....shooting the chips into our fire ring. It is SO soft now! Considering the work we were doing, it was a lovely day....low humidity and about 70 degrees...Thank God! As it was I was soaking wet with sweat from working so hard...I can't imagine what it would have been like if it had been high humidity and the temperature 90 degrees!

First, the excavators strung string around the posts the surveyor had placed marking the corners of the house. Then this guy -- his name is Stanley -- followed around with orange paint and spray painted the string to mark the ground where he was supposed to dig.


If you look closely, you can see the orange line in this photo. After he had all the lines painted on the ground, they removed the string so it would not get caught up in the track hoe.

Then they had to remove all the stumps from the site and drop them in a pile out of the way of where they had to dig. This guy (I don't know his name, but he was missing his thumb and index finger on his right hand....said he lost those fingers in 1982 working in the oils fields) cut the stump off this big tree while Stanley held the tree up off the ground with his track hoe so the tree would not pinch the chainsaw. After they got the stump free from the tree, it was up to Fred and I to cut the trunk into logs and chip the branches and leaves.


Then Stanley picked up the stump like it was nothing (!) and deposited it off behind the house site! It was so amazing to watch. Handy piece of equipment to have in your backyard! LOL

In this photo, you can see the track hoe actually take the very first shovel full of dirt to begin the excavation! It was SO exciting!


Then they began digging. Stanley ran the track hoe and his partner used a laser to tell Stanley how deep to go. He would stand down in the hole with a big measuring stick that had part of the laser attached to it and when the laser beeped, he could tell how much deeper Stanley had to go to reach the correct elevation for the basement floor.

In this picture, you can see "thumbless", with his laser measuring stick, down in the hole while Stanley does the digging.


It is hard to see it in this photo, but behind the track hoe, the basement is pretty much dug and Stanley has turned around to do the side closest to the driveway.

Here you can also see the remnants of the tree that Fred and I worked on ALL DAY! We are getting too old to do this kind of manual labor! We need some of Ray's new Marine friends in Boot Camp to come up here to help! Maybe their Drill Instructors would consider it good conditioning excercise....all it did for me was give me sore glut muscles!

Now you can begin to see the outline of the basement. Stanley is digging the footers in this photo, which are deeper than the basement floor because they have to be below the frost line. The footers go all around the outside edge of the basement floor and will support the walls that will be poured on top of them next week.


Late in the afternoon, Mike, our builder, arrived (He is the one in the white shirt with the blonde hair) to check on "his boys." He also pointed out to us that there was going to be a problem with the remaining trees. Because the trees were so close to the house, Stanley had to pile the dirt right next to the edge of the hole, which was going to be problematic for the bulldozers and the cement trucks. On top of that, he convinced me that if we leave a lot a trees real close to the house, especially trees that were not young and strong, that we risk one of them falling on the house. AND, if the trees are too close to the house we will have trouble with dampness and mold on the siding and even inside. So he walked around with Fred and I and we chose trees we were willing to let him cut down.

They are almost done now. The back right corner you see in this photo (where the laser is sitting on the tripod) is the corner of the big family room/office that will be behind the kitchen. The back left corner will be the Master Bathroom, and in front of that will be the Master Bedroom. The foreground is where the kitchen will be. To the right (not yet dug) is where the garage will be.


Now imagine that I swung the camera to the left and now the kitchen is to the left and the guy is standing in the octogon shaped living room....the family room and Master Bedroom would be just out of the picture to the right.

Looks pretty big, huh? I think I am going to LOVE this house! No problem having enough space for this big family at Christmas/Thankgiving/Easter/ Birthdays any more!

Footers - July 26, 2004

This is the carnage of trees I was so depressed about. It is looking better today than it did at first. Fortunately, my precious little dogwood (which will be between the driveway and the entry) still looks like it will survive. To the right of the dogwood, you can almost see the footers. Most of the trees you can see in the background will have to go (but will be replaced by an approximately 7 acre lake).


To the far right, you can just see the back corner of the garage (which is on the main floor level). The footer just to the left of that will be under the basement wall. The footers to the left will be in the center of the basement, where there is one step down.

This is the footer under the basement wall that is under the octogon shaped living room on the main floor. In the background is the back corner of the house (under the master bedroom and bath. You have to use your imagination, but the lake would be to the left side of the photo.


In this photo, I am standing at the edge of the octogon, looking toward the back of the basement wall. There will be a poured basement wall where you see the earth cut away and the garage will be on top of that earth.


Once the footers are cured (3-5 days) they will pour the basement walls. And then they will start framing!!!

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