Monday, November 16, 2009

Moved Onto The Land! Wahoo!

I moved out here last weekend. I don't have reliable internet yet so no pictures at the moment. Suffice it to say I'm loving the peace, quiet, and dark sky surrounded by my big green trees. More later.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Moving Today - Not So Much

Didn't get moved today. Fortunately, I did some prep and testing of the RV's water pump system before leaving the campground this afternoon. At least this way I found the burst main water line from water tank to pump inlet before I was out at my place with no other water source.

Did I mention that the refrigerator decided to die yesterday morning? Please cover the eyes of young children and parental units...


and while I'm on the subject...


OK, I feel much better now. I think I can get to the tank input line from the top. I'll grab a few feet of the right size of hose tomorrow on the way home. If I can't, I can just use a bit more hose and a 55gal drum next to the RV for a temporary water tank. It just has to work until I get the pressure water working from the well. I'm guessing this will put me 2-3 days back on moving. I've gone through the manual's diagnostics on the refrigerator. All the inputs appear to be there and the controller board appears to be putting out all the right voltages. That tells me that something in the evaporative cooling circuit may well have let go. Rather than trying to fix an 11 year old RV refrigerator, I'll just replace it. It is an old discontinued model so I'd rather swap it out than pay a tech to come out and tell me I'm better off chucking it. Fortunately, the opening is a standard size so I won't have to recut the cabinet to fit a new one in there. I might pay one of those mobile-RV-repair guys to come by and install it. Something about trying to lift a 150lb refrigerator into a cabinet just doesn't sound like a lot of fun. I'll do a bit more experimenting tomorrow evening and then make a decision on what to do about it. About the only thing I really need to keep cold is my mountain of Diet Coke and some adult beverages. I can do that with a cooler for a week or two.

Sigh.. Not happy.. I'd be less happy if I'd found the burst line after moving out to the place.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keeping Out The Brrrrrrrrrrssss

Time for another blog update. Twas a busy weekend.

As promised, here is a picture of the trailer in much better light. I measured it at 13ft long and 6ft wide to the beaver tail. Overall it is about 16ft long. Just the perfect size for what I want. I'll drop a new deck on it and rewire the brakes. Just on a quick look underneath I found one broken wire in the brake circuit. It appears to have brakes on both axles so that is a good thing.
We're coming into the season where things can get a might bit chilly. We also get this thing called "snow" that my family and friends from the south may not be familiar with. All together, wall like below can lead to a nasty case of the "Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrsssss".
Given that I'll be storing lots of stuff in here and using it for a temporary workshop, I figure I'd rather not freeze my butt off. A more regulated temperature and humidity environment will also be much better for some of the items to be placed in here.

So we start with one of these. It is a kit with a compressor, brad nailer, finish nailer, and stapler. It was under $300 and makes things go MUCH faster. I've used a compressor before, but not on a big project. Why the heck was I still pounding nails manually for big jobs? This thing rocks! I'll probably buy a framing nailer and a longer heavy duty hose to complete the set.
Also for the party we need a little bit of insulation. As you can see, it is a wee bit bulky. The insulation here is for the shed and the pump box.
After a few hours, the inside walls of the shed now look like this. The air stapler makes this process go very fast. It takes longer to cut the batts and press them into the stud cavity than it takes to staple them in.
Of course the international conspiracy of home improvement suppliers strikes again! I was out of daylight, just finished a package of 7 batts, and had 2 stud cavities left to go. The fiberglass poofs out to at least twice original size when you open the package. I'll wait to open another package until I've got some other stuff to do that can use the rest. Or maybe go by Lowe's and just get 2 batts.
The following afternoon, after getting parts for the next project, I got about half the ceiling done before I ran out of staples. I went through 1000 staples just doing the walls and half the ceiling. I'll do the center of the ceiling once I add some additional framing that is part of my nefarious plot for total world domination.
There you have most of what I got visibly done over the last week. I should be moving out there this weekend whether I've got the water system done or not. The RV has a freshwater tank and a pressure pump. I can't wait!

Feel free to leave comments and questions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Back from Traveling. Back to work.

First off, a public service message: I don't even remember what they call it. "That's No Moon. It's a Cheeseburger!" would be appropriate. Do not attempt to eat a cheeseburger that is the length of a big steak knife in height and as big around as a hubcap!!!!! This is at "The Home Plate" outside Taunton, MA. Three of us challenged the humongo burger. None of us succeeded. One of the guys cheated by asking for his with no veggies or other stuff on the burger. He still didn't finish it. I made it through 3/4 of the burger and about 1/4 of the fries before I decided that I didn't want to hurt myself that badly.

In homage to a true American classic film - "That isn't a water tank."

"This is a water tank."
Did I mention there are two of them?

Each tank has a total capacity of 1500 US gallons. That is about 5700 liters for my international friends. To allow for expansion, I'll set the float switch to cut off around 1300-1400 gallons (~5100 liters) for each tank. These were the missing item that was holding up the pressure water system. These should be fun to get all plumbed in! I picked up some fittings and valves at Lowe's on the way home so I can start filling them. My pump puts out around 112gph so to fill both tanks would be a continuous runtime of around 25 hours. Needless to say, I'll be doing it in smaller steps of a few hours at a time.

The only factory installed fitting is the 2in female threaded outlet fitting a few inches up from the bottom. I will have to drill holes for the inlet, vent, and float switch in one of the tanks. I may put float switches in both tanks and wire them in series so they both have to indicate more water is needed before the pump turns on. Since the tanks will be plumbed together in normal operations, they should always equalize to the same level. Putting a pair of float switches in series means that a switch failure won't start the pump.

Each pump will have an independent shutoff vales mounted as close to the tank outlet as possible. Those are some of the items I picked up today. Since the tanks expand/contract a bit due to both the water level and temperature of the tank, I'll need a flexible section between the tank outlet and the buried hardlines running to the pump/filter cabinet. The flexible section keeps from cracking the hardline piping as the tank flexes.

They put large tabs on the tanks to allow tying them down. At 500USG in a tank, it will weigh 4000 lbs. What do they expect is going to move these tanks? About the only things I can think of are an earthquake or a bomb blast. In the case of the former, I want them to move a bit so they don't rupture. In the case of the latter, I think the location of my water tanks is going to be a long ways down my list of priorities. We don't get many tornadoes in Washington so I won't consider that one likely. If the tanks were going to be empty for a long period then it would make sense to tie them down.

I picked up a trailer today. It is a 16-20ft (I didn't measure and the guy didn't recall) tandem axle. The GVWR is probably around 10-12Klbs which is perfect for my needs. It needs a new deck and the wiring for the electric brakes cleaned up. The existing deck will work fine for picking up lumber, insulation, etc from the store and hauling light equipment around. Fixing the brakes is just a wiring project.

It was getting dark when I snapped this pic so I'll take some more tomorrow and post a couple of better ones.

Tomorrow morning, I'll pickup a 1-man auger at the rental place. Now that the tanks are in, it is time to dig the holes, install the fence posts, and get the pump cabinet built. Oh, I suppose I might actually put some fencing on the fence posts too. While I've got the auger, I'll likely also make holes for a mailbox and some new gatepost holes down at my back gate. Time permitting, I'll do a few more in locations I want near-term future posts. Friday I'm picking up a trencher from the same place. That is to trench for all the water lines I have to run.

I'll try to update as I do things tomorrow and Friday if I can still lift my arms after all that.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bart comes home

I've gotten a few questions about wildlife in the area. I can say with 100% certainty that there are deer. :D I've been seeing fresh scat every time I've been out there, but this is the first time I was there when they came down. I was actually driving some screws with a power drill when I turned around and saw them. Even when I was looking at them and pulling out my camera, they didn't spook. These are Black-tail deer.

I was able to get pretty close to them before they trotted off. Especially given that they didn't spook when I was using power tools, I think they consider people a part of the landscape as long as they don't get too close. It appears to be a doe and a couple of yearling fawns. They came back twice more before I left. I don't think they ever moved too far off. Their bed-down area is probably back in the trees on my place.

I'm sure there is a law somewhere that says if you have acreage, you have to own an old flatbed to help with chores and drive to town occasionally. It will also be nice to have a 2nd vehicle. If my other truck is in the shop, or I have one of those "oh @#@#$" moments and realize I need another tool/part while working on it myself - I've got something to drive to work or the autoparts store.

Everyone, meet Bart. Bart, meet everyone. Bart is a 1978 Chevrolet C30 1-ton dually. The rear axle is a full-floating 14-bolt GM corporate with the huge (and very desirable) 10.5in ring gear. While he was originally born with a 454ci (7.4L) V8 engine, a life-saving transplant was performed at some time in the past with a 350ci (5.7L) V8. The transmission is an SM465 4-speed manual with granny-low. The body is in decent shape, but a little rough.

Beyond the imminently practical uses and reasons for buying it, this is a big truck of the same age range as my first cars when I was a teenager. It is from a time when you could still work on vehicles and engines without needing $10K in computerized test equipment, a degree in plastics technology, or an earlier life is a midget acrobat to reach anything. It will just be fun to work on.

The biggest body issue is the wood in the flatbed. You can see it very well in the closeup. The good part is that there isn't anything particularly special about the wood in the bed. Most likely, I'll replace the wood with pressure-treated 2x8s while I decide what to do as a more permanent solution. I'm debating between 2 layers or 3/4in plywood sealed up with CPES and Elastuff120 (more RotDoctor stuff) and a topcoat of bed liner -OR- using some salvaged 4x12s with a stained/sealed topcoat. It is rough-and-ready vs. beautiful. The 2nd option would be stronger and beautiful, but a lot more work. I'd have to lightly sand the varnish each year and reapply a couple of topcoats. I'm not sure how dinged up the varnish would get in a year. I'm open to thoughts and suggestions. Please free to leave comments.

Earlier, I mentioned the lifesaving transplant of a 350ci V8 in place of the original 454ci V8. A 350 is a great engine. Probably the most common Chevy V8 produced through the years. However, the good Lord did not intend a C30 dually 1-ton to be powered by a 350. A 1/2-ton pickup or a 4-door sedan are much more common and acceptable applications for a 350.

So, Bart and I went for a little drive today. I found a 454 on Craigslist that ran before it was pulled yesterday. The same seller also had a TH400 (heavy-duty 3 speed automatic) transmission for sale. I bought the two together as a package. Since I was buying them both together, the guy cut the frame crossmembers of the motohome (being scrapped) with the engine and transmission still attached. That gave me a pair of good solid rails to rest the whole thing on the flatbed. Otherwise, they would have been resting on their oil pans. It made it easier for the seller and definitely easier for me. A win-win for all! :D

You'll also notice the tires and wheels on the flatbed. Bart currently has 16.5in wheels shod with old bias-ply tires. There is a bit of dryrot already starting on the sidewalls of the inner rear tires. 16.5in is an old wheel size and only a few manufacturers make radials for that size. The selection and availability is thus highly limited. The most common solution is to change over to 16in wheels. The LT235/85/R16 is an almost exact size match in width and overall height to the existing bias-ply tires. That is a tire size that is much more common and available in a wide variety of styles. Given that it is most often used on dually trucks, the most common load-range is E. That is exactly what I need. The seller, his brother, and I were discussing the truck and the tires/wheels in particular. The seller pointed out that he had a full set of 6 from the motorhome. I paid a grand total of $60 for the set. The best price I'd found online for a set of 6 used 16in wheels for a dually was $200-250. I consider that another big win!

Here is a closeup of the engine. The AC hardware will be making a very quick exit as soon as I get it on the engine stand. The distributor itself isn't damaged, just the cap. It got cracked as it was being removed. I'd replace the cap anyway so it isn't a big deal. This is the size of engine that is required for this size truck. Well, "required" by me at least. The guy I bought the truck from used it to deliver firewood. I'd hate to drive it with a 350/4-spd trying to deliver 3 cords of firewood.

I can't do a lot of construction here in the winter. Rebuilding the engine and transmission will be one of my winter indoor projects. Not only books, but also instructional DVDs are available for both the engine and transmission. I've never done it before, but it should be a good challenge to wrap my head around and get me off the computer for a bit.

That is about it for this update. Hopefully, there will be painting, installing of water tanks, and other more construction-related stuff next time.


Technical Difficulties: Please Stand By

Got distracted looking up some data and working on something else. Full and complete update coming Sunday night.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shed Construction Day

And so it begins....

The pile of pieces and parts on the back of the truck can't really become a big shed can it?

These guys are like the brain surgeons of backyard storage construction. They are all business! Not an ounce of humor in them. :D All kidding aside, they were thoroughly professional and know their trade very well. They worked as a team quickly and efficiently. There was a perfect amount of good-natured ribbing between them that made it rather funny to hang around and watch.

In the above picutre, you can also see their floor joist methodology. Rather than treated lumber base joists, they use galvanized steel. Combined with the drainage of the gravel pad, I think this will work well.

End Walls up and front wall going in. All told, it took them 2 hours to get the rails down and leveled, floor decking in and screwed down, all 4 walls stood up, and the door header installed. I was impressed to say the least.

In less 7 hours, it was all done. Here is the front view.

Here is a view from the right side so you can get a better look at the overhang. I'll add some framing around this area for firewood storage. The overhang is 2ft so it will cover regular 16inch cut firewood. I'm guessing I can store at least 1.5 cords here.

There was another event today, but I didn't get pictures. It was dark and rainy by the time we got back to the ranch. You'll just have to check-in tomorrow to see what that one is. :D

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Things Starting To Happen Quickly

After a short hiatus enforced by work travel, I'm back at it.

1) My shed gets installed tomorrow. It is a big 10x20 TuffShed. I had them put a 2-foot roof overhang on one end for storing firewood. I'm wondering now if I should have gotten the 2-foot extension on all four sides.

Before the shed can be installed, it needs a solid level surface. While they say it can be placed directly on level ground, I wasn't too keen on that idea. One of my neighbors runs an earthmoving business on the side. So I had him come put a couple gravel pads in. It is the first time I've used him, but I'm very impressed with his work. Both pads are very well compacted and it looks like he probably used a laser to level them.

2) Water Tanks - The DC water pump system doesn't produce enough pressure to directly drive a normal pressure tank based well water system. Thus I'll need to pump into storage tanks and then use a boost pump (also DC powered) to pressurize the system. I'll be using a pair of 1500gal water tanks. At a weight of 12000lbs each, I definitely need a good pad under them as well. Here is that pad

3) Lumber and man-tools. I want to put a fence around the water tanks just to screen them visually. Given the wet weather here, wood rot is a huge problem. I'm using a product called CPES from RotDoctor as a starting point. I'll likely also fill the checks in the fir fence posts with epoxy/sawdust putty and then paint them with a good polyeurethane coating. Likely Elastuff120 and a topcoat of RhinoTop also from RotDoctor. The so-called "pressure treated" lumber can rot quite easily here. I avoided it and went straight to green fir. The CPES/L&L/polyurethane coating should be far superior. I want to get started putting coats of CPES on tomorrow. That means a big load of 4x4s for fence posts.

Just in case you want to count them. Yep, 24 8ft 4x4s strapped down to the DiamondbackHD. I'm definitely getting some good used out of that. The bed is currently full of other manly implements of construction and destruction.

Time to get some sleep. The crew is supposed to show up between 0800 and 0900 tomorrow morning. Elysium is about an hour from where I'm living at the moment. There should be a big update late tomorrow evening.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Diesel Powered Equipment - grunt! grunt! grunt!

There are lots of places on my property I can't get my truck into. I also need something to mow the place. I could get a lawn tractor or a full-size tractor. Those can't get into the tight places. Besides, they aren't nearly as fun.

Arctic Cat 700cc 4x4 Diesel ATV. They were made in 2007 and 2008. Due to the changes in the diesel power vehicles regs, they weren't made in 2009. They are coming back as 2010 models. Developed in conjunction with Roush Racing, they were targeted at the military and farm/ranch markets. All those markets primarily run on diesel. A diesel powered ATV means they don't have to stock and maintain another fuel supply. I found this one still in the crate as a closeout at a local dealer. It was their last one. I did a bunch of research and digging online (shocking, I know). Everything I could find about them was positive. I also found 3-4 others for sale used. Those used units were the same price or more expensive than this brand new unit.

Needless so say, I'm a happy guy. In the picture, it is sitting on top of the bed of my truck. The DiamondbackHD bed cover is designed for exactly this use. The shiny things in the center are the ramps. I just drove it up there and strapped it down. Now another short work trip and then I can get to work!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

In the beginning, there was a place..

Welcome to the blog. As I work on my new place, I'll be updating here at least once a week or more. I will post as many pictures as possible so everyone can follow along as my new home takes shape.