YIPPEE, Volume Seven
August and September 2004
August starts with a bang! rumble! roar!
Tractors, Tractors! Exhaust fumes galore!
September sputters, and stalls some more!
August did indeed start with much rumbling and unhealthful exhaust fumes. For Cassandra, the first few weeks of the month were largely spent surviving the constant nearby work of large dump trucks, logging trucks, haying and other tractors. "Truck Travails Today" is a compilation of emails she sent to Chris during those initial days, while struggling to withstand her circumstances and carry on with project tasks.
The exhaust fumes permeated August 2nd thru the 5th. Then, over the weekend, the neighbor hayed the field again. This resulted in a less than ideal celebration of Chris' birthday, and many more excruciating days for Cassandra. By Monday, the large trucks out front started up again.
While the volume of trucks has subsided some, loud noxious rumblings continue to be Cassandra's daily morning wake-up. Enough large trucks work nearby and pass by throughout the day to prevent her from being anywhere except tucked away inside the 14' yurt, with the windows and door shut, and the air filter running. How exactly she survives, and manages as much as she does, is anyone's guess.
Chris did enjoy his birthday in spite of the setting.
Some interesting YIPPEE acronyms have been submitted. Keep 'em coming folks!
There are fifteen people who have become prospective Team YIPPEE members! True, scheduling conflicts may not allow all to participate, but C&C appreciate the willingness to help out in making their safe home a reality.
Note: Team YIPPEE is a new section of the website. It is open to all, but will mainly include a current construction overview, and the Team updates. These updates are going out to members, regarding upcoming construction. Anyone is certainly welcome to read them online.
...and THANKS! Some More!
A big Thank You to those who have donated funds to the project. Every bit truly does help. Thank You!
Speaking of Financing
Currently, the bank is still dangling the loan. Yes, that's correct. The loan, that Chris discussed with the loan officer in a March 2004 meeting, that was supposedly being finalized on 7-28-04, is now still pending as of 9-30-04. (And C&C thought nothing could move slower than their dialup internet connection! Ha! Were they wrong!)
In late August, C+C received, thoroughly reviewed and then promptly returned a bunch of paperwork to the loan officer. Supposedly, after the appraisal came in, things were to move quickly and closing could happen within a couple weeks.
The appraiser met Chris at the property on 9-1 and was impressed; told Chris that the property will be quite valuable once all work is finished. He said he'd be submitting his analysis shortly thereafter. (The appraisal happens even though nothing has been built yet, using instead, things like project plans, site and land location, improvements to the property and view.)
So, how are things progressing with getting transitioned over to a safe, fabulous new home? Not as quickly as needed, to be sure. Cassandra and Chris are both utterly exhausted in body, mind and spirit, working 24-7 on this project for weeks and months on end, while coping with illness and work constraints. Nonetheless (and small as they often seem) advances are apparent.
The most obviously apparent advance in August was the driveway installation. After the initially chosen excavator disappeared, C+C went to the land's prior owner for help (see Volume 6's Q+A section). This guy had an excavating business that could do the work, and at a reasonable price. So, arrangements were made for him to do C+C's driveway and clearing work. On 8/9/04, the official green light was given to the excavator... Well, truthfully, no green light is involved in this story at all, official or not. So, make that the figurative green light was given to the excavators: commence driveway and clearing work! More will be told on this work later.
Additional advances were not quite so apparent, and many took until September to begin coming together. Thus, August was not so much a month of advances, as it was a month filled with hard work that eventually produced advances. Obvious advances or small bits, a lot of stuff happened!
The Payment Problem
C&C were plagued for a long while with how to pay for work that had already ensued, and how to pay for the ordering of supplies to carry the project forward.
Basically, they had two choices. Halt everything and wait around until the bank loan went through: a plan which would ensure that their safe home was not getting done 'til at least next fall. Or, they could tap whatever resources they had on hand, making sure to pay for things in a manner the bank would later approve, and reimburse, whenever that loan might come through. With this second and preferable option, they would have to ensure that no funds were spent too early for things that could be reprioritized, should the bank loan never materialize, and dire straights be employed.
C+C have finally worked all the details out, and on 9-6, decided to proceed regardless of what the bank may, or may not, do. Their construction of a safe home MUST HAPPEN, whatever the bank does. A worst case scenario, backup plan, is in place: not an appealing plan, but all hopes are that the bank loan option will prevail. Even with the presumed bank loan, it looks like C&C have to cover at least $60,000! Maybe the appraisal will come in fantastically high, upping the amount the bank agrees to finance, thereby decreasing C+C's initial financial burden. Once they are transitioned to the new, safe home, their monthly burden will be significantly lighter, despite a mortgage payment.
The Samples Solutions
All along, samples have been obtained of various parts in order to test Cassandra for safety. A necessary but arduous, lengthy and unpleasant task.
AFM products will be used throughout, to seal all wood for weather and moisture protection and for flooring protection. Plywood has been avoided as much as possible, and will only be used on the undersides of the yurt platforms. The chosen sealer was tested on a plywood board to ensure that it seals in the harmful off gassing. Sealer was also applied to a sample of pressure treated (p.t.) post, again to ensure the containment of harmful substances. While C&C would have preferred to avoid pressure treated wood entirely, the presence of carpenter ants in their region convinced them to try sealing. Since the test worked, rendering the p.t. wood harmless to Cassandra after sealing, p.t. posts will likely be used for the platforms.
The Temperature Tribulation
A difficult problem relating to sealer applications was cursed, pondered, cursed some more, and ultimately resolved. What would normally be done (and what C&C originally planned on doing) is to construct the platform, then spray on the sealer and let it dry. For proper drying, however, the temperature must not drop below 55F for the Watershield and 40F for the Oilwax Finish. There was many a night in August with 40 degree temps, and even numerous daytimes that barely reached 60! Chris claims this year was the first in his entire life he remembers wearing a sweatshirt and turning the heat on for his birthday! (this claim remains to be verified with his mother)
C&C were confronted with rethinking their entire process. Presealing the wood parts in a controlled indoor environment, then constructing, was the obvious answer. But, where? And, who? And, oh my! What a lot of additional effort and time! Furthermore, the Oilwax Finish, which was to be applied to the 2x6 tongue and groove platform top/yurt floor, is a product meant for application to an entire floor surface, not individual beams. C&C talked numerous times to Jay the technical guy at AFM, a very helpful fellow. The end result, after various tests and numerous discussions, is that all wood parts will be sealed in advance. For the platform top/flooring, a single coat of Watershield will be applied to protect it during construction and over the winter. After yurt raising, and a good cleaning, Polyureseal BP (a compatible, water based product) will be applied.
AFM stains come in some basic colors; to achieve the desired result, some mixing may be required. C&C did not find any of the 'straight from the can' colors to be appropriate. After obtaining samples, and trying lots of combinations, the stain for the deck was chosen. The sheds will be stained also. Wood used in the remaining parts of construction will be left in its natural color, sealed with Watershield only.
The budgetary ramifications of all these choices were calculated. Coating all sides of the wood parts prior to construction is considerably more expensive than spraying on the sealer after construction. Using AFM products versus standard, 'normal' products is probably more costly in dollars and cents. But, utterly safe. And thus, far less costly in truth. Cassandra was tested on each product that will be used, and no adverse reactions occurred. AFM was far less expensive, and a heck of a lot nicer to work with, than Bioshield, another safe home building supply manufacturer. At one point, when both company's products were still under consideration, Cassandra calculated the difference between the two to be $4800. She stopped calculating after it was decided to use only AFM products. The difference could only have grown as more square feet of coverage were added.
The Proximity Puzzle
C&C are apparently attempting to do the unthinkable. But think, they have. Thinking, sketching, measuring and talking, to a lot of people, has finally resulted in a reasonable layout.
Keeping the MLA and WC apart and sticking to the project goals of optimum safety, while within a reasonable budget, has been a perplexing challenge to say the least. C&C continually asked questions like, 'What is the maximum distance ____(insert propane, electric meter, etc), can be from ___' (insert yurt, home, etc).
Electricity. Most people don't mind if the power company's meter is within a hundred feet of the house. C&C do. They'd prefer to have the meter down by the road; thus, keeping the monthly meter readers down by the road! But, that's 1200 feet away. After lots of questions and searching, C&C now know more. VEC would install two meters, one for the MLA and one for the WC. The maximum distance they'd set these from the yurts is 200 feet. The meters could possibly go up to 300 feet away, but a different installer would have to do it. And, the price goes up considerably.
Going off the grid doesn't free the distances up; it's an electricity line issue. So, whether running lines from the utility company's disconnect/meter to the yurts, or from the off grid power setup, 200-250 feet seems to be the reasonable limit. Note the word reasonable. Sure, anything can be done with enough money.
Propane. The tank is generally only 50 feet away from the hookup, and a maximum of 100 is what the local installer will do.
C&C really don't want to use propane anyway. In the early part of August they researched several options for keeping propane out of the mix. They have since decided to use an external wood burner, made by Central Boiler. This unit can be placed up to 500' away from the home, and therefore offers the best flexibility for creating the safest home. This wood burner also takes logs up to 4' in length and only needs stoking once or twice a day. It will heat their water for household use as well as for the radiant floor heating. Chris went and saw one on 8-13 and on 8-26, the decision was made final.
Cassandra's analysis of heating options showed that using radiant floor heating with the wood boiler was initially more expensive than using propane. However, even if C&C have to buy wood (which they won't), after 5 years the total costs were well below the propane option. After 10 years, the propane option had surpassed all others by nearly $19,000. C&C happily realized that removing propane from the heating plan would not only be safer, but far less expensive in the long run.
The Supply Search
"Months of searching. Countless tests and trials. And, much money spent." These phrases could be a description of Chris and Cassandra's quest for a safe living space... In this case, however, they are also apt descriptions of their quest for some new safe personal care products.
Finding personal care products that fit all requirements, including being safe for Cassandra, is a hassle that C&C thought was over. But, apparently this is a hassle they must periodically endure. In this case, suitable replacements had to be found for three products they had used for years. The company that made their body lotion went out of business earlier in the year. The shampoo and conditioner became unsafe. Astute readers may recall Cassandra's painful discovery of this change back in June.
By September (after ... "months of searching, countless tests and trials, and much money spent"), new shampoo, conditioner and body lotion were finally in use by C&C. Perhaps just as importantly, these products were now also available for use by guests in the standard safety protocol. Whew!
House, Horrible House! Mold, Malevolent Mold!
The rental house's bedroom, which C&C had vacated late last Fall, still retained some clothing and shoes in its closet. As clothes were obtained from that closet in the summer, a horrible discovery was made: these clothes had become contaminated with molds by sitting there for numerous months! The molds in that bedroom are some of the worst of the entire house and Cassandra struggled immensely. Quite soon after realizing the problem, and setting forth on the decontamination project, it was decided that Chris had to be the one to enter the bedroom and obtain items for Cassandra. She had to stay out of there! Initially, Chris brought all the clothes out of the bedroom and piled them up in the living room to await Cassandra's cleaning efforts during the week. However, Cassandra got so intensely ill that he had to put them all back into the bedroom. Each week afterwards, he brought out small batches of clothing, only enough for Cassandra to work on that week. Bit by horrible bit, throughout July and August, the time, illness and expense were expended to clean and decontaminate all the clothing. Afterwards, these items were stored elsewhere in bags, that were then put inside boxes, as protection.
C&C generally do find some way to spin things into fun. Thus, someday,... when the Project YIPPEE benefit music CD is released, newsletter readers will not be surprised to hear the experience of this horrid moldy house transformed into a song. It will go something like this, "Bad, bad, moldy house... The moldiest place in the whole damn town...."!
Aside from the horrendous molds, there are numerous problems with the house that should truly be fixed. One is that there are near constant problems with leaking water and the washer. Cassandra is much too sick in that house to troubleshoot and resolve this problem herself. She merely copes with this as best she can during the week. Chris addresses it, as best he can, on the weekends. Even so, he has yet to resolve this issue either. One other problem, while not exactly resolved, was improved a bit. Chris made his previous phone line 'work-around' a tad more permanent, allowing for he and Cassandra to connect to the internet with less hassle. "It's not pretty, but it works."
The building being rented is disdainfully called a house. A "house" is a "building for human habitation", and that building is not really habitable. (well, ... theoretically, if it was relocated to sit in a much warmer climate and therefore not needed to protect from the cold... and perhaps if people who were utterly and entirely immune to any and all molds, no matter how toxic, were to give it a try... But, enough digression...) Having workmen actually come out and fix the variety of problems, and dealing with the landlord for all of those problems, would just be too disastrous and awful! C&C merely do the best they can, and hope it stays together long enough to move out and get their deposit back!
Additional August Stuff
Organized chronologically, here are some additional August notes:
For his job, Chris traveled back and forth between Arkansas and New Hampshire for the majority of August.
8-9-04: After meeting with the town clerk on Friday, and a follow-up call on Monday, Chris writes: "Unless we hear otherwise, we are physically located at 13 Oregon Falls Road." (please note: this IS NOT a valid
mailing address, do not use for that purpose.)
At the town clerk's office he was also told that because of the location of driveway (off a private road), no driveway permit is required. Work can start immediately on the driveway! Finally! The land's prior owner is now the project's new excavator. Chris gives him the green light to proceed.
8-13-04: Chris drives up to Langdon, NH to see the Central Boiler unit under consideration. He proceeds over the border, into VT, to investigate a potential YIPPEE truck. By the time he arrives at the C&C land, rain has started pouring from the skies. His scheduled meeting with the VT Electric Co-Op (VEC) representative at 1PM happens anyway. He also meets the septic designer. Despite the wet conditions, each man obtains the information required to perform their calculations.
8-14-04: Chris travels back out to the land and meets with the excavator that is working on the driveway.
En route, another potential YIPPEE truck is discovered and investigated. This one comes with a plow. Since brand new plows are about $3000, buying a used plow (as long as it works properly) is definitely of interest to C&C. Chris likes the truck enough to leave a small deposit with the seller feller. He'll hold the truck, pending Chris' review with the YIPPEE Project Chief.
8-17-04: YIPPEE's Volume Six newsletter is issued.
8-20-04: Chris purchases the YIPPEE truck! It met every criterion he originally outlined. C&C are now the owners of a 1989 Toyota pickup truck, V6 4WD King Cab, with a plow and work rack!
The new excavator really seems to be working out great. During the week, as the driveway was being put in, he called Chris several times with progress reports.
Today, August 20th, had previously been set as the "Go/No Go" date: the date that C&C would assess implementation of their plans and determine if they should "Go for it!" and order the yurts. Can Phase I be completed by the end of September? Can Push Week happen before the end of October? Should alterations to the plan be made?
At this point, there are so many considerations and "balls up in the air". The numerous contingencies have C&C a bit overwhelmed about determining how to proceed.
The first step was to obtain updated lead time estimates from the yurt company: "At the moment our lead time is 6 to 6 1/2 weeks". Since Push Week was slated to begin October 23rd, C&C realized they had a little more time to decide about ordering their yurts.
After much review, The 8-21-04 Decision was made: Phase I will continue on in hopes that it will be completed before snow, regardless of whether the yurts go up this year. The decision regarding raising the yurts this year, will be held open until mid next week (8-25). In either situation, construction will happen pretty much every weekend. If the yurts are raised this year, Phase II will be moved to after Phase III.
8-22-04: No matter when construction happens, it will be hectic. Chris' schedule on weekends is already very full, without the demands of doing construction. Any task that C&C anticipated doing over the next three months was considered. If it could be done in advance, then it was assigned to be done now. Many non-YIPPEE tasks were therefore completed over the next few weeks: food shopping, birthdays, purchase of masks, medical supplies, personal care and supplements.
8-24-04: Cass gets a call from the VEC engineer. The official estimate for obtaining electricity from the grid is... $25k plus some extra. A reasonable total estimate is $30k.
Meanwhile, the septic design will not be done until 'sometime in September'. The budgetary estimate for the septic system cannot therefore not be obtained until sometime in September.
This week's daytime high temps of 60F, and nights down to 40F, are a bummer. C&C had thought August might warm up a bit. But no! (refer to The Temperature Tribulation above for more on this)
8-25-04: Chris sees the driveway creation in progress. He is informed that the driveway may not be able to go up to the M.L.A. and a work around is needed. Later that evening, after Chris shows Cassandra the digital pictures and describes the problem, C&C create a happy work around. The final 100 feet or so will be a walking path. Chris will call the excavator tomorrow and ask for this.
The "Go/No-Go" decision, originally set for the 20th, and then for the 25th, gets pushed back one more day.
8-26-04: The excavator calls and says he can make the driveway go all the way up to the MLA. The work around plan is scrapped. The final leg of the driveway is being carved out.
Meanwhile, in the little yurt on Poocham Road, decisions are being made by C&C. These were later summarized in the 8/31/04- YIPPEE, Special R.S.V.P. Bulletin! By September 20th, C&C will need to have a definitive answer: either 'Yes, Push Week proceeds as planned' or 'Damn, Push Week must wait until Spring'.
8-30-04: "@*!#! Palm Pilot!" The YIPPEE project spreadsheet file got corrupted in some unknown way and cannot be opened by Cassandra. The backup copy she had stored on her card is also un-openable. A different backup from 2 weeks ago was obtained. But, since then an enormous amount has changed. Cassandra has a lot of tedious work to do updating and recreating the data.
8-31-04: YIPPEE, Special R.S.V.P. Bulletin! is issued.
Also on 8-31, 200 signs were ordered, for the property borders, bright yellow plastic w/custom text. Why? Eventually, Cassandra will be able to hike on her and Chris' land. This means that keeping other hikers, snowmobilers, ATV'ers, etc off the YIPPEE land is imperative. Philosophically, C+C wouldn't mind sharing the use of their land with hikers, at least. But Cassandra is so disabled by the laundry and personal care products used by most people, that accidentally running across someone or even near to someone would be very detrimental. Exhaust fumes from snowmobiles and ATV's is offensive, regardless of health conditions. So, Chris had calculated the number of "no trespassing, no hunting/motor vehicles, atvs, snowmobiles, private property, 'hunting safety zone'" type of signs they'd need to post the entire property boundaries. Cassandra had searched online. Chris reviewed the results, and the order was placed.
SPUTTERING AND STALLING IN SEPTEMBER
Setting aside the ongoing background annoyance of Palm Pilot issues, September started off well enough.
Chris probably had no specific intention of starting the month off with humor, and this truly has no relevance to yurts or building a safe home. But, this did happen on the 1st of September, and a sidebar of unrelated humor is often good for the spirit. So it was that September launched with a bit of confounding humor. Chris emailed Cassandra a 'Gem from George', as follows: "I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe....I believe what I believe is right." - GWB July 22, 2001.
Well, C&C believed that they should go ahead and order their yurts. Delivery of the yurts would be much easier in the fall than in the spring, due to mud season. Besides, if implementation proceeded better than expected, the yurts would be available. So, C+C began the ordering process on September 3rd at 7:30pm and finished at 1:30am on September 4th. Brief breaks had been taken for dinner and showers, problems with the Palm Pilot spreadsheet did get annoying, and at one point, another 15-20 minute break happened because Cass was too bad off to continue. Nonetheless, all the choices (such as color, window placement and doors) were considered carefully, chosen and then reviewed carefully again. Only after the yurt dwellers were confident with all the order's specifics was the order placed and a deposit paid for the 20' and 30' yurts.
Later on the 4th, C&C realized it was Labor Day weekend; a weekend considered by many Americans to be all about partying and barbequing. Therefore, the weekend-warrior neighbors, who come up to their Baker Brook cabin to ATV about four times per year, might be tempted to use C&C's in-progress YIPPEE driveway! Oh-no! Chris traveled over to the land and roped off the driveway entrance; an unfortunate but necessary two hour diversion from other tasks.
The septic designer remains one of the most professional, thorough, easiest and best people C&C have worked with so far. True to his word, his septic design arrived in September! C&C reviewed it on 9-6. This was not as simple as it sounds. Because much of the design was larger than the usual Ziploc bags that Chris puts paperwork into for Cassandra, Chris took numerous pictures of the design. With the camera plugged into the TV, C+C viewed those pictures as they read through the normally sized, and normally bagged, notes section of the design. After a few emails back and forth with the designer, to make sure C+C understood and agreed to everything, Chris submitted the design to the town with the appropriate fee for obtaining a septic permit.
Prior to purchasing the land, for budgeting and bank financing purposes, C+C had cobbled together rough estimates regarding a septic system. Absent a design, contractors had been reluctant to discuss prices and gave only general parameters. Now, after the design's completion, Cassandra called a few places right away, with the aim of obtaining an actual quote and installation schedule. Her phone calls and voice messages remained unanswered. On her third time making phone calls, a few weeks later, she happened to catch one guy while he was in the office, and made arrangements. Chris delivered the design to him on the weekend. The quote was faxed back during the week. Chris saw the quote when he was home again on the following weekend. By the time all of this transpired, it was the end of September/beginning of October. The septic installation quote was $9,750 over C&C's budget estimate. Worse than that, the installer wouldn't have time to do the job until Spring. Big sputter and stall. Accommodating the higher cost of a septic install could be rather easily done, since the bank loan was still pending and the appraisal had come in higher than expected. While waiting to have the septic system installed in the Spring was a large setback in many ways, at least it would not outright inhibit construction.
On the other hand, delays from the excavators on the driveway and clearing, did inhibit construction. And a great deal, at that. As September's days numbered higher and higher, without completion of the promised excavating jobs, C+C probably even sputtered a bit. Throughout the month of August (or any time for that matter), over at Poocham Road, "...bang! rumble! roar!" and "Trucks and tractors! Exhaust fumes galore!" was quite unhealthful. But over at YIPPEE-land it had meant progress was being made. C+C were happy then. Cassandra, of course, did not see implementation firsthand. Chris cheerfully took pictures. A driveway! Yippee! By the end of August, the final leg of the main driveway had been carved out. C+C were billed for the driveway work done so far, and they paid that bill promptly, in the first week of September. Chris made arrangements for the equipment to be moved to the bottom of the property for the weekend, in preparations for having Cassandra onsite. On the 11th, both C+C visited their land. Together, they refined the MLA site, staking the location of the deck's corner points. They waded through brush, up and down hill, to review, finalize and mark the WC site and wood boiler position. Leaving bright flags, stakes and bugs behind, they traveled back to the little yurt at Poocham, where Cassandra has been ever since. (304 days and counting!) Chris promptly reviewed the flagged locations, and remaining work, with the excavator. One such job was for the wood boiler's clearing, pickup, transport and leveling. Since the excavator planned to do this within a week or two, C+C quickly finalized related decisions on their end. On 9/16/04, they paid for the wood boiler and made arrangements with the retailer for the excavator to pickup the unit. And then... Well,... September sputtered and stalled! No, September actually carried on as it does every year, immune to the dramas of mere mortals. Perhaps the large excavating equipment, sitting listless on C+C's property, had sputtered and stalled? Unlikely. Well, whatever, or whomever, caused the stalling, the excavator was not returning Chris' phone calls and no further progress was made on the long list of promised work. Thus, September saw no significant advancement of the driveway and clearing work. As of this newsletter's writing (admittedly, a supremely late issue, in July of 2005...), much of the unfinished work at September's end, still remains undone. The wood boiler unit has been sitting at the retailer's place, paid for, and awaiting pickup, for almost as many days as it has been since Cassandra has been on the YIPPEE land!
Surely, there was some success in September? Somewhere, somehow?
Searching, Setup and Solar in September
Much of the month involved making preparations for tasks that lay ahead. In other words, lots of searching and setup summarizes September.
- For example, construction would require a generator for power tools. Renting a generator for the project's duration was an expensive notion, and ruled out immediately. Ideally, one generator could have been purchased to use for construction as well as backup for the off-grid home power system. But this turned out to be impractical as the two jobs are very different. The busy hurricane season was making the purchase of any type of generator significantly more difficult than anticipated. C+C kept searching.
- Hats are not capable of powering construction tools (at least not any hats C+C know about). But, the people that operate the power tools might find hats useful. Besides, Team YIPPEE members were promised a hat! So, although hats are not necessarily crucial to construction, (C+C doubt anyone is volunteering to help simply for the hat), hats on a budget were found and ordered. At that time there was no project logo. Even if a logo could have been finalized quickly, the realization that logo printing was too costly for their budget, meant a plain text hat was chosen. On 9/29 payment was issued to the NH vendor, a company which had agreed to waive the setup fee, and be listed as an official YIPPEE sponsor. With prompt friendly service delivered, C+C can recommend Max Recognition for anyone's logo/design stitching needs!
- Perhaps a more important promise (than promising hats to Team YIPPEE volunteers) was one C+C made to themselves: to make fun. The grueling conditions of their life make for difficult times, but they would continue finding fun where they could manage it. Hence things like silly songs, haikus, the acronym challenge, hats and mugs. No logo ideas had been submitted in response to that challenge issued in August. But, while reviewing options for the hats, C+C stumbled across an appealing idea. Cassandra got to work sketching. By the end of September, a drawing was chosen and in the process of being refined. Eventually this was uploaded to the website and put onto mugs, stickers and postcards.
- Would naked constructing be fun? This has actually been suggested by a few friends. Whether these people properly gave the notion through consideration is doubtful. Biting bugs, hammers, drills and cement do not seem quite conducive to nakedness even after thorough consideration. Wearing clothing, while using tools (power or otherwise) and being in the woods, is a very good idea. Wearing clothing that is free of laundering chemicals, personal care and fragrancing preference products is a crucial part of the YIPPEE project plan. To prepare for having all helpers properly attired, Team YIPPEE clothes were ordered on 9/21/04, after exasperating work by Cassandra. A lot of patience is required to use the internet via a Palm Pilot and dial up connection to begin with, and many clothing sites are incredibly slow to load because of all the photos. Some readers might wonder why Chris didn't just go buy the necessary boxers, socks, pants and shirts locally. Firstly, Chris isn't home very much as it is. Secondly, clothing that has been in stores is not always safe for Cassandra due to possible use of air fresheners and/or other chemical containing fragrances stored nearby. Also, if other people have tried on the clothing, that clothing may have retained that person's personal care/laundering chemicals. This is not mere hypothetical speculation, rather something C+C learned through trial and error. There is at least one store locally that has been a source of safe clothing on a few occasions. However, they would likely not have had all items C+C needed for Team YIPPEE. And, Chris doesn't have excess time to be driving around finding clothing. Anyway, even if that one store did have all the required clothing, the project's budget called for clothing Team YIPPEE as inexpensively as possible. So, online orders were made and clothing en route.
- Back onto the subject of power tool necessities, choosing the right hammer drill for doing footings was important. Many of the footings will be secured into the rock ledge. Not all, but many. And considering that there are a total of 104 footings to be done, a sturdy dependable machine was required. Throughout September C+C searched and inquired, leading up to a hammer drill purchase on 10/9.
- With 104 footings to do, the concrete mixing would be done how? Cassandra searched a bit and on 9/28 an OdJob mixer was ordered. This neat little device allows for mixing small batches of cement easily.
- How many bags of cement do 104 footings require? What specific items go into creating a footing anyway? For each of those items, how many of each should be bought? These are the types of questions that had to be answered for every little aspect of the entire home's creation. Much of this work had already been done in order to get a basic budget in line. Every time a new choice was made, or new information obtained, Cassandra created more columns, rows, sheets and formulas to analyze the options involved. The YIPPEE spreadsheet became rather massive in the process of compiling data for all the options C+C had considered. Now that actual order placement was pending, some refinement was required. For example, the budget heretofore had only specified a percentage allocation for hardware. Simply telling a building supply store to give you some hardware is not good enough; they would inquire as to exact types, sizes and quantities. So, throughout September, one crucial preparation was finalizing what materials were required, getting quotes from local vendors, then compiling comparisons and choosing the vendor. By mid-September, a decent list of materials had been prepared for Chris to submit to three local vendors for quotes. Each vendor had questions which Cassandra fielded. By the end of September, the quotes had been finished and delivered back to C+C. Chris bagged them for Cassandra's review and entry into the spreadsheet for analysis. The analysis and decision happened at the beginning of October.
- In all cases, delivery of building supplies to the future home site in Vermont would have required the addition of sales tax. Having already determined that the wood would be stained and sealed prior to construction, and that the place to do the staining and sealing was Poocham Road, C+C were thinking the supply deliveries should be done in NH anyway. Purchasing supplies tax free was just a good "bonus" that allowed them to keep closer to their budget.
- Recall that in September, C+C did not yet have a bank loan and/or any security of acquiring that loan. September 6th they decided to proceed with making purchases, in accordance with their backup self-financed plan. This plan had broken apart their purchases into three phases, separating the costs. Breaking apart some things, such as the AFM staining and sealing supplies, made no sense due to high shipping costs and quantity price breaks. But the building supplies could be kept in three stages since the delivery fee was only $55. This worked out for the best anyway, since accommodating the space needed for such a large order might be tricky. C+C decided that the AFM product would be put in the house's bedroom, and the building materials would be put either in the garage or in front covered with a tarp. However, after Cassandra did a rough space calculation based on building material sizes and quantities, the driveway was deemed the only practical space. The garage was kept available for yurt storage. The only downside to breaking apart the building supply purchase into three separate deliveries was that the 10 percent discount only applied to the first delivery. This was a small factor though, and ruled insignificant.
- Much like specifics had to be hashed out before placing a building supply order, C+C had to choose a specific stain color, and calculate the stain usage for the deck and sheds, before placing the AFM products order. Samples of the stain colors maple and cedar had been ordered on 8-30. Those never arrived and were believed to be lost in the mail. Without any stains to see firsthand, the stain color choice could not be made. Without a stain choice, ordering of the AFM products kept getting pushed forward. Not good. So, on 9-8, C+C told the AFM sample department not to worry about resending the lost samples. Instead, they paid for a store to overnight some quarts so that C+C could sample and test the two stains over the weekend. However, the maple stain, that looked desirable in the picture C+C had seen, came out very very orange on their test. Think bright pumpkin orange. Good thing they tried it first. After verifying with AFM that this was not an error, and that maple does come out orange, C+C were back at the point of being unable to place their order, and holding up construction. So, on Monday, they made inquiries with the sample department about ensuring that another order of samples would arrive by the weekend (recall that Cassandra does not handle mail or deliveries and Chris is only available to do this on weekends). An order was placed for samples of AFM DuroStain Clear, Birch, and Oak. After their arrival on the weekend, unpacking and routine testing happened. Then, Cassandra got to work mixing and trying many variations, using all of the stains now on hand. She and Chris reviewed these and discussed options. Cassandra played with tests a bit more on Sunday and entered the resulting data into the project spreadsheet for calculation. On Monday, 9/20, a list of the total gallons of each AFM product was compiled and emailed to the vendor's sales representative. After some discussion back and forth, the order was actually placed on 9-22, using Cassandra's credit card to pay for about half. On the 24th, Chris sent a check for the balance. The only thing left to do was to prepare for and accept the delivery on 10/1.
- Maybe not quite the only thing. Preparations for an area in which to do the staining and sealing took place throughout September. This area was later termed, "Cassandra's Staining and Sealing Emporium" (or, CSSE). On 9-6, C+C decided that the house's living room was the best available space to use for staining and sealing. First, Chris' schedule was not conducive to doing the required preparations, and Cassandra could do most of the preparations there by herself. Second, although spending any time at all in the house made her ill, the living room was significantly less harmful than the bedroom. The preparations began with Cassandra doing a bit of clean up; taking down the plastic covering the windows (since they would be used for ventilation during sealing), and removing all the assorted tape and twine leftover from visualizing sessions. This area, and the furniture in it, had been used for taping out measurements and visualizing to create the 30' yurt diagrams. General straightening was in order as well since the living room had not been lived in for eight months and was in considerable disarray. Next, some air flow and contamination containment testing was in order. Some what? Well, C+C had run across a problem the summer before where opening certain windows, or sets of windows, caused the otherwise contained dishwasher, bathroom and/or laundry chemicals to be drawn into the living space, causing Cassandra illness. C+C desired to avoid that problem now. Hence the 'contamination containment testing', as follows. Chris temporarily taped up a sheet of plastic, as a wall, to separate the living room area from the rest of the first floor. The window in the living room was opened, and a bit later, Cassandra was tested in that space and in the rest of the first floor areas. Once reasonably sure that having that one window open would not be drawing kitchen/bath/laundry contaminants out, to make Cassandra's daily trips into the house worse, living room prep continued. Chris obtained some safe boxes for Cassandra. She dusted and packed the books and cd's. The furniture was cleaned and moved to the dining room section, over by the kitchen. The inversion table was moved upstairs by Chris. Cassandra cleaned the 'room'. By the time the first weekend in October came to a close, the area was ready, set for sealing and staining work to commence that Monday. Sheets of plastic had been taped to the floor. The CSSE 'room' had been officially formed by stapling the sheet of plastic up, ceiling to floor, to create a dividing wall between it and the rest of the first floor. There were actually two sheets of plastic used, and an overlapping section created a doorway to enter the CSSE from inside the house. Supplies could be brought into the CSSE from the outside, through the living room's sliding glass door. The plastic wall was put up such that access remained to the house's front door, outside of the CSSE; Chris would now enter and leave the house via that front door. The space between the kitchen and stairs was now filled with stacked furniture and boxes, leaving a walkway for access to the front door.
- Another preparation for doing the staining and sealing was to translate the materials lists into instructions. Which boards needed what stain and/or sealer? How many coats? Did any of those materials require cuts beforehand? These questions were all answered in the sets of cutting, staining and sealing instructions created by Cassandra on her Palm Pilot. Chris printed out those documents and bagged them for use in the house and garage.
- The boxes stacked in the house resulted from C+C's preparedness and hope. Knowing that construction would be hectic, and suspecting that Cassandra might be pretty sick then, C+C chose to expend the time and illness to prepack, now. C+C weren't using the house to live in anyway. Why not get prepped for moving ahead of time? Cassandra could do a tiny bit at a time, giving her body a chance to heal before doing a bit more. The living room packing was of course done in preparation for the CSSE. But also, most of the kitchen supplies were packed, scaling back to bare necessities. Clothes and shoes were cleaned and boxed up, after scaling back to basics for regular use. The box spring was cleaned off and wrapped in plastic. The sauna was left as is, and merely covered. The entire downstairs was reviewed by Cassandra. The upstairs and garage were reviewed by Chris. If an item would not be needed for day-to-day existence, it was packed for moving. No matter when that move might happen.
- C+C had promised that, by September 20th, they would say either 'Yes, Push Week proceeds as planned' or 'Damn, Push Week must wait until Spring'. The answer is obviously a no-brainer now. But back then C+C still retained a blind desperate hope. In an effort to make a decision based neither on blindness nor desperation, they considered, pondered and reviewed. If a whole bunch of things went fantastically right (and that was a stretch), could they realistically still get Cassandra out of the hellacious Poocham Road conditions before winter? See, that was their motivating factor. Living in the conditions, day in and day out, they were bound to be desperate and also incredibly motivated to exit the Poocham Road experience. Other people apparently were not similarly motivated to keep their word, to help out with the exit plan, or stick to promised deadlines. Take the various excavators and the bank for examples. But, probably most people who are building their own home are not doing so in order to escape dire circumstances. It's not exactly the speediest of escape routes after all. Probably most people do not absolutely need to build their home for reasons of a health condition, and would have some place tolerable to live while constructing. Probably most people building their own homes are not thinking about how, once they're done, they will be saving at least $550 a month on health related purchases, that are only being spent in their current condition to keep them surviving on a day by day basis. C+C did think about these things because they did not have a tolerable situation worked out at all. Remember that the YIPPEE project itself was started because no better alternative, to creating a tolerable living situation, had been found. Desperate times are said to call for desperate measures. But C+C had always attempted measures infused with large doses of reason, logic and level headed-ness. Even now, writing this tale of events, they cannot bring themselves to believe that the most desperate and screamingly insane approaches would have made the bank, excavators, or anyone else, move faster. Perhaps overcompensating for so many other people moving so slowly and going way past their promised deadlines, C+C finished this one decision, about Push Week, well ahead of schedule. And, so, the one and only prematurely completed task of the entire project was rolled into the initial Team YIPPEE update, issued on 9/15/04.
- As the initial Team YIPPEE communication indicated, even though Phase III did have to be pushed far into the future, there was plenty of work to be done, and as soon as possible. One Team YIPPEE guy said he'd be glad to help out, if his lack of transportation could be resolved. C+C had anticipated this problem and given the matter some thought. Jeremiah had been helpful to C+C before, in creating the platform for the 14' yurt at Poocham Road. Then, C+C had paid for a rental car. If he was available to help now, and he was saying that he was, renting a car every weekend was not practical at all. The decision ended up being to have Chris modify his travel routines and loan the Geo to Jere. Chris was not keen on driving his Xterra back and forth to the airport, but it could work. He set up very careful safety routines to keep that vehicle, the one Cassandra travels in, safe. Jere was added to the insurance policy for the Geo. He would benefit by having transportation during the times he was not visiting C+C, and as long as the mileage wasn't ridiculously extensive, C+C were happy to provide that benefit in exchange for the Team YIPPEE contribution. Getting Jeremiah to Poocham Road to pickup the Geo, a 2 hrs drive, turned out to have an added bonus too. Sarah agreed to drive down, with Jere in tow, for a visit Friday night. She was taking classes on Saturdays, not too far away, to become a paramedic. (Since graduating school and passing her certifications, she's become ParaSarah! Kudos!) And so, by the end of the first weekend in October, the Geo keys were handed over to Jeremiah. Geo Power!
- Not too long after the YIPPEE property appraisal had happened, C+C emailed the bank's loan officer to inform her of Chris' availability in September and October. Supposedly, after the appraisal came in, things were to move quickly and closing on the bank loan was going to happen within a couple weeks. That is why C+C thought it prudent to remind the loan officer that Chris was normally only going to be available on Fridays, and sometimes not in the morning, and in that particular September he had to work one Friday. This didn't end up mattering, as closing happened much farther in the future. But C+C would have made good Boy Scouts: they were prepared. In addition to scheduling considerations, they prepared the Power of Attorney needed. Chris would attend closing alone and sign for Cassandra as he had done before. So, the attorney mailed a form, C+C took care of completing it and sending it back. In general, when one person is only home on weekends and that person must handle all the mail, things do take longer to complete than what people with daily access to mail can do. All the same, C+C went into October fully prepared to close on the bank loan. The fact that it didn't happen until November was none of their fault.
- That Friday Chris had to work in September left him with only one day home on the weekend of 9/18. Nonetheless, YIPPEE related tasks were crammed in. One of which was a second trip to visit fellow yurt dwellers in Vermont. The people who had originally opened their yurt home to C+C for a tour, had agreed to review their electric and plumbing installations with Chris.
- Plumbing in a yurt is apparently out of the norm. While the fellow yurt dwellers mentioned above were fantastic about offering help and such, their system was much simpler and different than what C+C were attempting. So, despite lots of diligent searching, efforts to locate a plumber to assist in design had gotten nowhere in September. Eventually, their efforts would lead to help. But not for quite some time.
- Heating for the yurts progressed further in September. Once the wood boiler had been determined as the best source of heat, the radiant floor heating system required updating and alterations. In discussions with the vendor, Cassandra was given a suggestion for a better way to handle heating two separated locales (MLA and WC) with one heat source. Instead of having pipe from the wood boiler go to two separate water heaters, there could be only one water heater with pipe going to each heated building from that point. While the vendor worked up another revised quote, Cassandra got to work on revising the piping costs. Instead of purchasing the specialized wood boiler's piping, C+C would need to insulate some tubing suitable for domestic hot water/radiant floor heating, to be buried underground, in Vermont, for two runs of 500 feet, and another two runs of 150 feet. Ecoflex had been recommended, but locating a retail sales department, turned out to be impossible. Cassandra tracked down an equivalent type of product, Perma Pipe Preinsulated Pipe, and obtained a quote. The version with PVC was ruled out immediately. The HDPE version, at over $10K, was ruled out based on price: it cost more than the original piping from the wood boiler, before the design mod! C+C decided to try a do-it-yourself version, to purchase the water piping, insulation and outer pipe individually. The Insulation Guy turned out to be their man! Or 'Guy'. But his name was actually Steve. Anyway, a sample of the pipe insulation he recommended, based on their stated needs, was obtained in order to test Cassandra for safety and try also wrapping it around the water pipe sample already obtained. The numbers were plugged into the YIPPEE spreadsheet. So, at the end of September, the heating system was pretty well worked out; and this major revision had reduced costs by a couple thousand dollars from where the plan stood at the beginning of the month.
- Getting as far on the water source was not going so well. Well? Yes, a well. Even though C+C preferred using uphill springs as a water source, they thought it prudent to explore all avenues and be prepared. Whether or not one is a Boy Scout, "be prepared" is a good motto. So, in early September Cassandra called around to well-drilling companies. The one she ended up talking with in person, had recently drilled a well for the neighbor and said doing up a quote for C+C would be easy and not require a site visit. Unfortunately, the information was not sent as promised and a reminder call was required at the end of September.
- Dashed hopes led to additional preparatory tasks in September. Once C+C had accepted that they would not be escaping the rental house before winter, they began taking steps to prepare for living at Poocham over the winter. For one example, a supply of biodegradable cups, plates and bowls were ordered for the next 120 days. At least one preparatory task involved a bit of fun though. Facing up to winter at Poocham was so deeply disturbing that Cassandra threw caution to the wind and ordered them a hot chocolate maker. It wasn't that expensive, so not exactly a dangerous decision. But having hot chocolates would help C+C cope much more cheerfully with the looming winter. The previous winter, C+C had ended up giving up hot chocolates entirely because Cassandra gets sick in the house, and spending 20 minutes or so in the house, making hot chocolates the old fashioned way, was not wise. With the new hot choc maker, the machine mixes and heats while other normal in-house tasks are completed. Much quicker and healthier! As an added bonus, the hot choco maker uses less energy than the stovetop method. C+C know this because they have spent lots of time compiling data on their energy consumption.
Which brings the story to...
GWB was saying things like, "We need an energy plan that encourages consumption"... But, C+C ignored him. Big surprise there, eh?
C+C continued on with their efforts to create a self sufficient energy plan of their own. They continued reviewing their energy consumption and sought ways to lesson it, not encourage increases. In late August, the VEC engineer had given them the figure of $25-30K for getting electricity to the home site in a traditional on-grid manner. C+C then spent a good portion of September planning what an off-grid, or self sufficient, power system would provide and cost. Once all the quotes were obtained, scrutinized, and compiled for review, C+C would be ready in October to compare the two types of power systems, and decide how to proceed.
In hindsight, the stress C+C felt, to make the decision about a power system as soon as possible, seems silly. But in early September, it was a very big concern. Waiting too long to make this decision meant risking having to wait until Spring for power. C+C were still hopeful about getting utilities installed, with all heavy equipment finished and off the land by winter. The on-grid power system was already known. VEC required their $25k up front, and there was a 6-8 week wait for installation. If C+C wanted to go that route, and get done by winter, they should have been finding the money and scheduling the install as soon as possible. They truly preferred an off-grid system. But, if an off-grid power system ended up being significantly more than the VEC estimate, they just might have to settle for on-grid power. If C+C waited until the off-grid system was completely planned, and then found out that they needed to go with VEC, by that point, it might be too late to get installed before winter. And that was just not desirable. Since the VEC engineer had said they do usually work through November, C+C reached for deciding by the end of September.
In C+C's preliminary research the prior couple months, two companies had been of interest. One had only given a rough estimate based on phone discussions. A site visit, to make a system quote specific for C+C, happened on 9/3/04. That quote was then supposed to take about a month to compile. But, as explained above, C+C were anxious to have the information sooner and on 9/15, emailed to see if the vendor was far enough along to provide the basics, such as estimated cost and daily/monthly production via PV panels. Luckily this was not a problem and on 9/18, the full quote was received. C+C reviewed it the next day and by the 21st had emailed a bunch of follow-up questions. These were answered promptly, and thus, one quote was prepped and ready for analysis.
The other vendor had already made a site visit in July, with a subsequent quote, and various questions had been reviewed after that. On 9/15, C+C contacted this vendor to see about reworking that quote. The YIPPEE power needs were greater than any system that vendor had previously installed. C+C had concerns about this vendor's design not getting them enough power, and requiring excess dependence on the generator for meeting daily needs. While they ideally desired to be off grid, they did not want to be highly dependent on the generator and burning lots of fuel. The vendor happily agreed to revisit the parameters and come up with a revised quote. A meeting was scheduled (no easy feat given Chris' schedule at home) and on 9/24, Chris met with the vendor at their office. The revised quote was not quite done at the end of September. But by then, C+C had relaxed a tiny bit about making their power system decision, and knew it would be OK to wait another week or so.
Chris and Cassandra do their happy best to be less stressed, and stay connected. This is especially important with Cassandra isolated and Chris traveling for his job.
Where was Chris in September? For the week of Labor Day, he was home working on YIPPEE. Then, he started at Bowie State Univ. as the technical lead on 9/13. Due to rebookings and reschedulings, his Universite de Montreal CR Demo was rescheduled to 9/17. So he went from Bowie to Montreal, then came home the night of 9/17, and was home for a day, then went back to Bowie for a typical M-Th work schedule for the rest of the month.
September comes to a close with lots of struggles and stress, but also after having completed much setup for tasks ahead.