This page last updated 6/10/2003
Those of you who know me know that I was been doing my homework on domes for a couple of decades now. I have followed many of the 70's era fledgeling dome manufacturers over the years, watched them boom and bust, saw great companies change hands and then go to hell, seen scarey construction and domes I trusted with my life. Amoung the people I have talked to over the years, none have left me feeling quite a good as today's 2 hour conversation with the owner of Good Karma Domes, who tried in vain to convince me to get one of his kits. The price was right, he was great, the product was perfectly fine and probably THE MOST structurally sound and reliable of all the dome kits....I'm just someone who likes to do things from scratch, 100% MINE, from conception to move in. But I have to give this guy credit where credit is due. This guy knows his domes...and I think I amazed him with my knowledge, being a woman and all. We had a great "pro dome" conversation, more along the lines of wanting hte general public to latch on to dome construction and wanting to dispell myths about them. I you are considering a dome kit, my first suggestion is to go to www.goodkarmadomes.com and check him out. You will find that his prices are more than reasonable, he's in the middle of the country so shipping anywhere is reasonable and you can talk to the owner, not some pompous young money-grubber who only cares about the bottom line and could give a rat's butt about you, raport or intelligent discussion about what you want to do with your dome.
Although not listed in the article that follows, I have a spare set of 1/4" steel dome hubs for sale. E-mail me if you are interested. If interest is high, I can have additional sets fabricated ($400 in 1998....shipping extra)
From the first time I saw a picture of one, I knew I would have to live in a Dome home one day. I have never favored being assimilated, in car style, clothing, hair style or housing. I like to be different, not a grain of sand in the sea. I have no particularly outstanding abiltites, am more or less an average person of average abilities, fairly intelligent, moderately ambitious.....nothing special outside of an interest in geometry (that probably came from many nights on a pool table hustling for rent money). One day, I found a copy of Dome Book II which contained the formulas and construction descriptions for several types of dome shelters. I copied the formulas and did nothing with them for many years. After moving to New Hampshire in the early 80's, I finally acquired 32 acres of land and set about building a half scale model of the full size dome I would later construct. It was simplicity, once you get the hang of it. Compound angles are a bit intimidating at first but once you figure out the method, it's mostly a repetitive process. I ended up constructing a 32' diameter geodesic 3-frequency iscosahedral dome from the formula. Unfortunately, I had chosen a real city boy as a spouse and he was unable to adjust to both the work and inconvenience of building ones own home. The marriage and dome went by the wayside.
So, with new, much more adventurous husband in tow, we will soon be embarking on a new dome building experience. I intend to make this home both efficient to the enth degree and off the grid...producing all the power used by the home and we will want for no convenience. We will share the experience with you both in photos and journal form so book mark this page an return often.
May 23, 1998
We both work in Charlotte, NC and despite our desire to work from home, the US Post Office frowns on employees taking their work home with them. We needed something within a reasonable commute. I had no desire to live out on the plateau where it is really hot so West to the foothills was our option. We are both great fans of the train but unfortunately there is no such service available going towards the mountains. There were very few offerings of land over 20 acres, which was our minimum size requirement. We wanted enough area to keep a minimun of 10 acres in woods and a substantial buffer between us and the neighbors. There had to be a couple of acres that would be tillable and sufficient southern exposure with a minimum altitude of 900 feet (we lost more than half our belongings to Hurricane Danny in 1997 so we have a fear of flooding). The difficult part was finding property with a stream of sufficient water velocity to operate a small hydro plant. These may seem like a lot of pre-requisits but when you are looking for a place to spend the rest of your life, you need to be precise, willing to wait and do it right. Meantime our house in Michgan has not sold so the down payment money is still tied up in the equity so we felt we had plenty of time to look.
We finally found what we were looking for a little over an hour's drive from Charlotte, just off a new 4 lane highway with a river running as the back boundry of the property. The 35 acres has two wells and a two bedroom trailer already on it. The second well and a 20X26 foot block garage is situated on one of the many excellent building sites. The land itself consists of two ridgetops with a major slope back to the river. There is a nice "shelf" of land above the river at the base of the slope which is also an ideal building site, quietly tucked away under mature hardwood trees, virtually the only ones remaining on the property. About 10 years ago, 95% the trees were timbered and pines replanted in neat little rows. About now is when the pulp mills come through and take the pines out for use at the paper mills. We're going to thin out the pines signifigantly to give the hardwood youngsters a chance.
An attempt had been made to put in a road through the property back to the river but since no gravel was put on the nearly hauled dirt and no grass had been planted on the slope, it had huge ravines dug out from the heavy rains we had this year. It connected to what were obviously old well-used country roads that criss-crossed the back. The road up front was a disaster that would cost quite a bit to repair but was too ugly to ignore. The trailer was less than 7 years old but certainly bottom of the line in construction. A one acre lot was cut out of the front of the property for a clone trailer which was also for sale. You could be far out in the country and still end up with no control of the neighbors. Fortunately, in the center of the property, atop the second ridge, is a million dollar view of the mountains, perfect to build our dome home. The property was to be divied between 11 children and as you might quess, in fighting began. The widow, who has Alzheimers was POed because the road was put in by cutting away a hill top leaving her nothing but a drop off next to her driveway. Other squabbles ensued until it was decided that the differences were irreconcilable and the land should be sold. Lucky me. The best deals are made at divorces and estates. Sorry, but it's true. Because of the deplorable condition of the road, they had cut their own throat when it cames to showing a property for the highest selling price. But then, I have been buying and selling properties for years so I'm alittle wiser for it.
Received a copy of the appraisal from the bank last week. It's interesting....after all the states I have bought property in, after all the methods of financing, it still amazes me how different each transaction is handled. This transaction is through my credit union and involves the seller's realtor, sellers who live in Florida possessing power of attorney in what amounts to an estate settlement, and the lawyer that the realtor said handles alot of their work. I had asked the banker for a copy of the appraisal and usually that is obtained after the closing (if ever....many people never ask for a copy....big mistake). But this time the appraisal was sent with a cost estimate for closing. As for legal...I have no preference for any lawyer until they prove themselves one way or another. They are are overpaid and rarely do much/any of the work themselves....the "girls" in the office take care of all that stuff....the lawyer just has the license (to steal). When you know how to do the legwork, they might actually spend 20-30 minutes on what amounts to a $500 bill for something you have to have to get your mortgage.
Like the appraisal....you need the information but the costs are incredible. I have had the cost run from $75 to $750. This one was $275...and it has errors. The appraisal makes no mention of the 20X26 block garage with it's own well and power. It says the doors are made of wood but they are regular trailer metal doors. It compared three other properties within 3.5 miles, one a 28 year old doublewide trailer on 17 acres, a single wide on 11 acres and another single on 6 acres....all three larger living spaces but smaller lots. All sold for about the same price. Since my land was supposedly worth a total of $50,000, we're talking $1250 per acre or so. If that trailer is worth $24,000, I'll eat my hat. There are collumns of ads in every publication you pick up down here with ads virtually giving away trailers. Don't get me wrong, I am very satisfied that my land is worth what the appaisal TOTAL says, I just don't agree with the balance used to acheive it. Applying the same values, those comparison properties either have trailers on them worth $69,000-$76,000 or the land is worth $5,000-$12,000. Doesn't seem likely but, hey, I'm personally satisfied. I did alot of looking in the ads, property transaction prices in different areas so I was a well informed consumer. Bottom line, it appraised for slightly more than my offer...job done.
Let me make something very clear form the start...when I say dome, I never considered the cement covered structures that resemble bomb shelters more than dwellings. Dome dwellings have been in many cultures in many forms over the millenia. Domes need no interior walls to contribute to their structural integrity, allowing an interior design of endless options. Domes take 1/3 less materials to construct than traditional box houses of the same square footage. They are easier to heat and cool and are far less resistant to winds (such as hurricanes) than flat walled buildings.
Having built a dome before from formula, I knew I had the ability, knew what it entailed and some of the pitfalls. I had researched the market for "kit" homes for over 20 years and followed the changes in prices and designs of several of the leading geodesic dome home manufacturers in the country. I also watched the prices skyrocket over that same period of time. Unfortuantely, no kit seems to include all the requirements. I have a tendency to take a bit of this and a bit of that and combine them to meet my own specifications. I would like to share some of those concerns with you, based on my past experience and what I have seen in other people's domes.
The first matter to address is the connector method. A geodesic dome is an assembly of triangles that may meet in different configurations. How these sides come together is the major difference between the different dome styles. One manufacturer has a welded connector, another assembles all the triangles and then bolts them together, another uses a double width wall system for added insulation value. My home made connector was straight out of the Dome Book II while the smaller storage shed dome connectors were drilled 1/4 inch thick steel discs. One thing I did not address with my first dome was the need for air flow along the outer skin of the dome so there would be no moisture build up. We visited a locally constructed dome by the manufacturer whose connector system I like the best. It was clear that he had had moisture problems that had begun showing themselves in the form of damp sheetrock pulling out and away from the nails it was hung by. This maufacturer's design does not include the necessary air pocket between roof and insulation behind the interior walls. I have seen another manufacturer address the matter by cutting V notches in the strutts to which the outter skin of plywood is nailed. Although this is better, I am still not satisfied.
The connector kit that I have been leaning towards has really gone up so high that it is almost impractical to buy it now. Knowing that I can make perfectly adequate connectors from one sheet of 3/4" plywood, it is hard to justify $7900 ($10,195 as of 5/1999!) for the welded ones. Even fabricating larger steel plates would be infinitely cheaper. ( I have done just that, had my own hubs fabricated)
Since the concept I have for creating an air space would slightly increase the outer diameter of the dome, I would probably end up figuring out the dimensions of the outer sheathing anyway. I will probably take advantage of the architects used by these manufacturers though. And since the site we have selected is on a hillside, I will hire out the construction of the walk-out basement as cement work is not my forte.
It finally happened. In all the years I have been dealing with real estate, I have never taken longer to close. I suppose the banker could have been dragging his feet waiting to see it the house in Michigan would sell before giving us another mortgage to handle but...we made the offer in March and closed June 15, 1998. But at least we closed. It is so good to be out of the motor home. Our 4 year old was so thrilled with the space that he ran up and down the hall until we thought there would be a path! But with the space comes the work...
We had been on vacation until the day before we closed so there was no preparation time for the move. The first must do was to remove the urine stained carpeting that still reeked in both bedrooms. Judging by the strange transitions, I suspect that there used to be carpeting throughout the place but the hallway and livingroom carpeting was previously removed and replace with a peel and stick tile that is the one I hate most. Anyway, we found a very cheap short nap carpeting at Lowes for about $5 a linear foot (12 foot wide) so I bought 21 feet for both room. The padding was another $2 a foot but was only 6 foot wide so it came out costing about as much as the carpet. I just tacked it down along all 4 walls since I was not going for esthetics and needed to conserve both time and money. It took about 2 days a room with both of us working full time at our regular jobs. The improvement was tremendous, even better than the carpet that originally came with the place (it was under the top layer of soiled carpet).
Of course not everything goes according to plan. I am writing this not because I have the time to update my webpage and get things accomplished, but because I found myself with an afternoon free while my car is in the shop. What started out looking like a leaky radiator cap turned into a new radiator (which did not fix the problem) and now a leaky manifold gasket...a 7 hour job at my newly discovered Chevy dealer. No doubt I will have the priviledge of paying them a small ransom too. Hopefully I will get the car back today so I can get to the 4 bags of cement in the back of it before I go home.
I learned long ago that when there is a tool you need and will use off and on for some time, buy it instead of renting it. And as far out as we are, it's more of a hassle to rent anyway. So I bought an electric cement mixer for $250. It'll do two 90 lb sacks at a shot and with the lack of sidewalk, driveway and footings, it will get plenty of use. The footings for the shed are the first projects but I found digging in the North Carolina clay to be best accomplished in the middle of the night when I come home. There is a "street light" installed on the telephone pole next to the site of the shed and it provides plenty of light. It is so bright, in fact that we cannot do one of our favorite nighttime things....star gazing. As soon as the shed is up, I'm running an area of fence and getting a dog so that I can get rid of the light. I spent the morning putting the mixer together then a few minutes before the sun reached noon, rigged up a tarp/awning over the front door to keep out the intense afternoon heat. Made a world of difference though it may be more of a pain come the next big thunderstorm. Had one come through yesterday afternoon that had Joe ducking for cover. You could hear the tiny crackles of a nearby lightning strike. Yet Joey never woke from his nap. He was exhausted from playing with the slip and slide my aunt gave us while we were on vacation at her house.
The barrel for burning trash disappeared at come point so we are using the remnants of an old one we found. Joey delighted in helping his father with such important work. Joe has made separate bags for the non-burnable trash. With no trach pickup, everything needs to be separated and sorted. And we still have to find out where we take it. The plastics are the big problem. I can do something with metals and papers but plastics, unless usuable in their original form, are a waste i would rather not have, someday soon.
Since everything in the trailer is electric, our first priority is to get things off the grid as soon a possible. I have researched my options for many years and believe that in this application, a solar water pump will best suit the need. It's bad enough to do without electricity for whatever reason but to have no water....that's unimaginably foolish.
We will replace all the appliances with LP and have a large tank brought up. We are on a heat pump and it is nice to have the option of air conditioning when it can get so stiffling. Because the triler's front side faces west, I am considering putting in solar panels to both sheild the roof and provide power.
Before we can begin work on the dome, we need to secure access to the back. I need to contact my neighbor down the hill to gain a mutual right of way for the road through the back.
Joe is anxious to begin work on gardens, both decorative and edible. I am very glad he enjoys growing things because I certainly enjoy the fruits of his labors. He has a form to use with concrete to make walkways that resemble stones. I don't want to spend too much time improving around the trailer when we will be building further back.
In the priorities for living, there were the chiggers to deal with. The place is crawling with them and Joe and I spent most of our vacation recovering from the last attack. my father had always sprayed our yards with sevin and we never had flea or chigger problems. Joe went over the yard with the water-mix method and I didn't notice any while working outside. But, probably co-incidentally, we found our futon and bedding coated in winged ants when we went to bed the next night. The only thing we had on hand in the house was a hornet spray which worked quite effectively. We found where they were coming in and have had hundreds more corpses since spraying the hornet killer in the crack. Works fine, lasts a long time.
I moved into the country because I am not a particularly social animal. That is not to say that I can't BE social, I just don't want to be. When we first looked at the property, there were no other homes but the mobile home on the adjoining acre. By the time we closed, there was a modular put up directly across the street...an acre lot carved out of his father's acreage from what I can see. With the home comes trouble. They have dogs...one part Chow, another mostly boxer, and a third doberman/rottweiller mix. All are fond of coming on my property, swimming in the river and perusing the garbage. After the second episode of garbage strewn across the yard, I called the owners up and got their answering machine (it was July 4th) and complained that I would take drastic measures if necessary. The results were...odd....to say the least.
In the midst of the NC summer heat, we were moving in....U-Haul truck backed up to the front porch. Joe had just laid down for a nap with Joey, waiting for alittle cooler weather in the evening. He was awakened by a beating on the door. He opened it to find a rather scrawny figure of a young man with an earing in one ear....
"Do you know who I am" he started the conversation
Santa Claus was not on the list of guesses. It was the modular neighbor...what an opening line. And a fine 'how dya do' to you too, bucko. Anyway, the bozo said that he would take care of the dogs and apologized for the rocky start to the neighborhood. He then left without offering to help unload. Oh well....young people these days.
A few days later, I saw the boxer when I drove up the driveway at 1 am after work but was not successful at running her over with my car. When I got up the next morning, there was garbage everywhere. I took pen in hand a wrote our new neighbors a nasty-gram, stamped it and put it in their mailbox on my way to work. When you are working 7 days a week and are unable to move in your house because of an overwhelming sea of boxes and the average daily temperature is too high to work outside, tolerance is lacking and I am not known for my special abilities in that department anyway. The letter was not rude, just to the point....how we moved out there for the wildlife and privacy but the dogs were chasing off the wildlife and being barked at in my own driveway was far from privacy. Besides which, the dogs were bigger than my 4 year old and I considered them a threat. I told them if I found the dogs on my property again, they could rest assured they would not be coming back home.
At 10:30 that night, when all lights and signs of life were gone from the house, Mr. Earring comes beating on the door waking Joe from a dead sleep to announce that Joe's wife's letter had upset his wife. And he was telling this to Joe why???? Joe said that if she had a problem with me, she should talk to me. He said that she would never come over here. If we could only make his animals feel that way. He said that he was putting up an invisible fence....now get this....across the front of MY property....to keep the dogs out. Now, mind you, I have 35 ACRES....more than a mile of perimeter, and he's gonna put invisible fence up across the front because his dogs are "used to roaming". A couple days later, he comes by to announce that the job is done. A couple days after that, here comes the dobie, trotting up in my yard just hours before the UPS guy arrives to deliver my 150 lb cross bow. Let the games begin....
We had hoped that a friend from work would be the successful bidder on the adjoining mobile home acre but while he waited to find out, the new owners announced their arrival. The first introduction was Beavis and Butthead come to life...out worst nightmares realized. My 19 year old son was in the yard having a smoke when the first yahoo trotted over asking where the property lines were (after all, it is so hard to see those bright PINK ribbons tied around the trees.) A couple days later, one came up to Joe while he was mowing the lawn to declare that he, our new neighbor, was unemployable due to some injury, that he was shacking up with his girlfriend and that his white daughter was moving in expecting an illegitamit child by a black guy. Now all we need are the beer cans and dead cars in the yard and the white trach picture will be complete.
Meantime, back at home, my oldest son fried my husband's modem by leaving
it hooked up during one of the many electrical storms we experience here
in the mountains, lost one of the bolts for the crossbow before I ever got
the chance to fire it, hit a car the second time he ever got to use it, burnt
his baby brother to a crisp the first day he took care of him. After
4 weeks of the mixed blessing of having him here and running up the 800 telephone
bill (we have a toll free number but he believes no one actually PAYS for
the calls...200 dollars later), he left to go back home and "make some money".
He'll be back...the real world will swallow him whole. And I
miss him like crazy. He was a tremendous help putting together the
"shed", which we decided was of suitable size to be a cabin (16X10 feet)
should we decide he needed a place to crash in the future. He was a
great help with his brother, did the dishes and smashed cans....like having
an elf around. Just when we got back into the rhythm of living with
one another, he left. Except for the $400 in phone bills he left me
with )that he promises to pay but Mom's kn ow about promises from their children)
the Pepsi cans in the woods behind the house as well as paper cups, except
for the modem, the
the lost crossbow bolt and string that
now needs to be replaced and I have never touched the thing and its mine!),
there wasn't a problem!
With the neighbor dogs getting into the trash, and my decision to get rid of the $9.50 street light that obscures the fabulous views of the milky way, the need for "guard dogs" increase. I mentioned at work that I wanted a pair of dogs, not puppies to fit the bill. I mentioned it to the right person, who happened to have two female Blue Tick Coon Hounds he felt bad about keeping on a chain. I said I wanted a fence and he thought we may have a mutually agreeable exchange. So using the shed as a boundary, I dilligently drove stakes into the merciless clay soil. The metal stakes holding up the 2"X4" rectangular mesh fence with surprising rigidity. Because the back yard is defined by the thick overgrowth of honeysuckle and blackberry bushes, the green mesh disappears into the foliage. The dogs were polite to point out every fault in the fence. Any place not properly tethered and out they went. At first I had no gate and the dogs are way too large for me to heft over the fence so it was clear I would have to sacrifice the 1 by 4s I had on hand and made a mighty fine gate using the newly constructed garbage bins to hold the stinky non-burnables until we make it to the dump....being out in the sticks, "We ain't got no garbage pick-up out cheer". The bin provides an extension to the large shed and gives about 48" of fence length and being anchored to the corner, provides avery rigid base for the wooden gate. I didn't have the hardware for the latch so I figured a hunk of wire would do the trick. The dogs showed me just how foolish an idea that was. Two escapes later, I put on a strong screen door spring (with a five year old, you have to assume he'll leave it open) and a spring latch. I've already put too much time into the animals but they are bright and full of life now that they are not so overfed and they get more exercise. They greet me each night when I get home and Coolie can make this neat sound like her teeth are chattering when she is really excited. I've her Mandy do it once too....it's really neet.
I had thought from the beginning that I should be able to negotiate a right of way deal with the widow who owns the adjacent bottom land that she leases to a farmer (tho it sounds more like a rifle range than a farm). The farmer had said she was a nice lady and others had said the same. I went down to the courthouse and looked up her address. I sent a rather lengthy letter explaining my need to access the backside of my property while her tenant was basically tresspassing on my land everyday to get to his field. She had a guy name George from the same realty company that sold me this property, and he call me. She had been gone for 3 weeks and I was giving up hope when he called the Friday before Labor Day. He indicated that he had suggested to her that the right of way may be of mutual benefit and wanted to see what I was talking about as far as the road vs. property line goes, would I be available Monday. Labor Day. The last big blowout holiday before school starts. We had plans. When he didn't call all that week and the next, I called the widow and asked about him. She gave me his phone numbers and I hounded him three days running. The fifth day, I was not home and forgot to plug my answering machine back in. Chances are he called. Meantime....
I am happy to announce, with little fear of Murphy, that we have finally sold the house in Michigan. You missed out on a bargain. Lost our asses on it. Took 15 months to sell and if it were in another neighborhood, would have been snatched up right away at twice the price. Well, not TWICE.....but it was a great re-work....and a great learning experience. I learned that contractors are only good for grunt labor. They are lousy with paperwork and timing and are not nearly as picky as me who is not as picky as the building inspector. We closed on 9/25/1998 so it's ahead with the dome plans!
I had been hoping to work out a right of way agreement with the widow who owns the bottom land on the soutn line of the property. Since the road onto her property crosses onto mine, it would have eliminated the need to try to make something of the road the previous owners had started in the center of the property. But she was not willing to split her property by having a right of way through the middle. I can understand where she was coming from so I dropped a tree across the road at the property line and the farmer put in a new road along the line on his side. I get along fine with him, there was no real problem. Now I have a nice piece of bottom land for a garden next spring.
All the trouble I have had trying to contact my neighbors hoping for a ready made road into my land and Bozo, the neighbor across the road, epitamized the picture of a stupid southern redneck. I had just come back up the hill from the river when I heard a motor I KNEW was on my land (it echos so bad up there sometimes its really hard to tell). As I reached the clearing at the top of the hill, a Jeep with three occupants stopped to inspect the steam billowing out from under the hood. The driver didn't see me at first but a passenger did. Two of the guys were sporting white beards and the driver looked vaguely familiar. he hollered "Whatcha doin?" to which I replied "Walking my property, What are YOU doing" We made made identification and he told me that he had just been taking out the gate that separated my land from the neighbors. His mother-in-law used to own my land and the gate was in the wrong place and the neighbor was riding his butt to take it out. He had used his jeep and mangled up his passenger fender. They were all reeking of beer so I am sure reality had it's own slant. Then he tells me he's taking the short cut to the farmer's locked gated field! A tresspasser AND and idiot!
The story didn't set well and I kept thinking how that gate allowed access to my land to the dirt bikers so I thought I'd let the neighbors know what was going on. The woman called me the next day and said that her husband was deathly ill on dialysis and he has been too sick to hound anyone about a gate. In fact, she didn't know who this guy was or that there was even a gate anywhere. Let the games begin!!! She thanked me profusely for having informed her. Hey, if it was my property, I'd want to know.
At least the drunk had the name of a guy with a bulldozer who came out to look at my road. With the right-of-way issue now moot, I have no choice but to get that road in shape. I hope he's sober.
The woman's husband appeared at dusk on a Friday night. He was a fairly short, slight man that I could easily have arm wrestled and won. He was very to the point, having already gone onto his 15 acres and examined the broken gate. He said that it had gone up several years ago and he had asked the women living in each of these trailers if they knew who put it there. Both denied knowledge and he let it go at that. Then he mentioned that someone claiming kinship to the Civil War soldiers buried on his properly asked for permission to visit the grave. He ended up giving them a key to the chain that blocked entry to His neighbors land which lead to the gravesite. I have a feeling that Bozo the neighbor was the final recipient of the key as we can figure no other way that he could have gotten to the top of my hill without dropping the chain on that road.
It was a pleasant meeting tho it got dark during the conversation and I was feeling the night chill. To insure that the newly missing gate would not become a highway, I dropped three trees near the property line. He told me that I should give him a call IMMEDIATELY if I know that the neighbors were dirt biking on his property. He was livid about the tresspasing and still upset that they had drilled the well next door on his property, and in fact, half of their drive was on his land. We discussed my previous letter concerning a right of way across his property on the very road I had dropped the three trees on. He said he would be happy to extend the right of way except that the road did not start on his property....he could not grant what he did not own.
It seems there was no longer the possiblity of gaining a free ride from the neighbors....I would have to put the aborted road back into usable shape.
Dome Floor Plan Evaluation
I have been drawing floor plans for domes since about 1975. Most I managed to lose over the years, one I used on my home in NH. Most of my drawings are nearly as good as an architech's, no easy feat having fifteen sides and angles to deal with . The biggest difference is in a dome plan, you have to visualize where the headroom line is when using the second floor or a smaller dome where no riser wall is used. Interior room divisions can still use the standard 90 degree corners or not, it really doesn't matter. Many times I will look through the plans from manufacturers and modify what I feel are the "wasted spaces" and heat loss areas. I minimize hallways, maximize storage and open spaces for natural convection. Dome naturally lend themselves to good circulation but if you block off all the avenues of air flow, you shoot yourself in the foot. On the other hand, sound travels REAL well too.
I had come up with two basic floor plans, on a cabin-type plan and the other a full size home. The smaller two were of the 25 foot diameter and 35 foot diameter size. These have about 425 and 900 square feet of floor space (respectively) on the first floor. Both had the same floor plan, just there were bigger areas in the larger dome. The second floor plan was for 45' diameter home which has 1490 square feet on the first floor with a potential for 3 floors, so quite a large home. The design came from an idea for a particular manufacter of dome home kits who offers a $25 floor plan evaluation by an architech. I sent them my plans and a month later finally received my "evaluation" and the estimated cost of a complete set of plans for each. I was appalled. Maybe i shouldn't have been but I was. The architech found nothing wrong with my plans beyond sightly narrow stairwells and bathroom...easily remedied. If I wanted a full set of plans, the 25 footer would cost me $2900, the 35 footer would cost $3900 and the big one would cost $6000!!! For what?!?!?!? I designed the dang thing from a drawing they already had on computer (for which they sell a complete 14 page set of plans for $175!!!) and they were charging me like they had to think the whole thing up!
Well, obviously I'm not the type to pay that kind of money for nothing. Instead, I ordered the plan for the dome I took the design from and will submit my alterations...and infinitely easier process. The complete set gives electrical/mechanicals, foundations, etc. required by the building inspector and we'll go from there. I am anticipating a fight over this anyway because it is out of the norm.
After all the attempts at right of ways, I was forced to get the aborted road restored, and help came from the least likely of places...Bozo across the street. Repentant from his tresspassing, he came by the next day with a guy that had a bulldozer to give me an estimate. Bozo had boasted that the road could be finished for $400 and I knew that was not a realistic figure. The dozer guy looked the job over and decided that he could do it in about two days for $50 an hour...for $900 at the outside. Said he could start Wednesday. I decided I needed something to compare. One company represented by a VERY portly guy said $1200 for a driveway and to doze off a clearing across the ravine form the trailer so that I wouldn't need a road, I could live on the surveyed acre. Another said $4000 for the road and the driveway and clearing. Neither quote was appealing. But $900 to doze the road....that didn't sound too bad. I gave the go ahead.
Wednesday came and there was no dozer all day. I figured I had been paid back for having turned Bozo in for the gate-pulling incident. But about 4PM, there he was and by 6pm, he had the job well under way. Judging by the amount he had accomplished in such a short period of time, I figured he would have it knocked out in no time. And he did. The finished project cost me $550. Still, I needed it graveled, and the sooner, the better. It had not rained in some time and with my road being 99% sand and not compacted, there was a good chance of it all washing away, despite the excellent drainage ditches and nice crown the dozer guy had given it.
I knew I didn't want to end up in a situation like the farmer down the hill where he took delivery of a pile of gravel and was tasked to spread it himself. He had the equipment, I did not. I needed it delivered and spread, the RIGHT stuff delivered that was going to work on the road. So I tried to get contractors to come out and look at the situation. They don't "look" at gravel jobs. And every number I called asked if I had called "Thompson's" yet. What the heck, I can take a hint. I called Thompsons. What a good idea.
The lady on the phone gave me a little insight into how much a truck held and how far it would go at what depth. I will share that information with you. The tandem axel dump trucks hold about 15 ton. A ton of "crush and run" also know as ABC, is a combination of granite rock about the size of a golfball and granite dust which, after compacting from simply driving over it, will turn to something similat to concrete when mixed with alittle rain. At $10.50 a ton, it sounded affordable. She guessed that I would need 6 trucks for the estimated 1000-1200 foot run. If I needed more, I would simply tell the driver and they would bring out more while they were at it. She set me up but they didn't know how soon I could get my stuff, I was put on a list that they evaluated on a daily basis depending on the number of trucks they had, how much time it would take, etc. I guessed a week and crossed my fingers that it would not rain till then.
The very next day I got a call from a hunter friend from work who was coming out to look the property over for hunting season. I had told him he could hunt without guns if I got the skin (and hopefully some of the meat). The drive from Huntersville would take him about 2 hours. Fifteen minutes after talking to him, Thompsons called and said they were on their way. By the time my friend arrived, I had half a gravel road. By the time he left two hours later, it was all done! It is a glorious relief to have a topping on the road. And the price was even better. With estimated from $1200 for virtually no work to $4000 for the works, I had the road bull dozed for $550 and the gravel cost me $970 for a grand total of $1450!! And they did a nice job too. They put it 3 inches thich for the most part and put nearly a foot at the bottom of the hill where water would be the biggest problem.
We will still have problems with the road as it is very narrow and without a working culvert at the bottom. The old one had been filling with sand but didn't seem to ever have worked. The sandy sides will easily wash away without cover and I really have nothing to cover tit with until we can get something to grow next spring. We can only hope until then.
Meantime, Joe rented the equivalent of the DR Brushmower and did an number on the overgrown thickets of berry bushes and what appears to be wild climbing roses. He cleared the front of the trailer so we look civilized, went around the old garage and up the ungraveled pre-existing road to our hilltop building location. He had cleared most of the site when a puff of blue smoke killed the mower. It didn't look good for the machine which had oil where the air filter is...not a good sign. I went down the back road to the river and trimmed away the tree branches that scraped the paint. Many of the renegades were apparently locusts, whose two inch thorns would go right through my thick soled leather work boots. There are a couple places int he road that could use smoothing and gravel, two places that need mowing but I have taken my Lumina APV down there a half a dozen times. Lordy it's wonderful!
11/13/1998 With the road in, the prospects of turning the old garage into a workshop was more of a probability than just a POSSIBILITY. I called the local power company, a rural co-op, to find out just what it would take. They told me I needed to call the building inspector to have the wiring approved. I secured an electrical permit for $25 knowing that I needed, at the very least, to put in a main breaker box and improve the teetering mounting for the meter. After checking with everyone I knew at work, I decided to play it safe and call in an electrician. $185 later, I had a main box and a happy electrician as this was a very simple job for him. It took him about 2 hours and that was with a trip to the hardware store for anchors for the meter box. I had already arranged for the inspector to check it out on the 11th, not realizing it was Veteran's Day. Oddly enough, it was also the day I decided to go get a permit to use the county dump...$60 a year, not bad. But when I got to the dump, it was locked. No inspector, no one answering the phone at the inspector's office either but still it did not occur to me until I asked my husband if there was any mail, that it was a holiday.
The nearly deaf inspector slipped by the trailer to the garage but I thought I heard him drive down the road and was on my way in no time. He was particularly fascinated with my 5 year old who helped distract him from the potential voiding of our plans for the garage if he had seen the corners of the building slipping away. Being a concreete block building on a 4 inch slab with no footings, there was little in the way of support left under two of the four corners. I had begun to dig out the corner to jack it up and pour cement footings underneath but decided I really would be happier using the electric cement mixer than attempting to do it by the bag so lost interest. Now that it is okay for power, all I need is the $200 deposit required (because I have not had service with them for at least a year) and they can put in the pole to string me up. I will use half the building for storage and the other half for a workshop. I thought sure I would catch it from the inspector because there is no header over the garage double door too but 5 year olds have their purpose, believe you me.
I did receive the blue prints from the dome manufacturer. Now I have the task of using it as my template to alter the design of the floor plan. There really is not that much to change but I was not going to pay over four grand for the changes when the plan was $175.
Every Room with a View
Having no income since September and putting in the road, funds ran out quickly, forcing me to engage in more physical endeavors that cost little or nothing. The one thing that has beckoned me since the first time I laid eyes on it was the need to clear away some of the reforested pines to open the view to the nearby mountains. With weather in November (98) being unseasonably warm, I took advantage of the opportunity to cut out the main offenders. But it seemed that with each tree I dropped, there were 3 or 4 more in a row taking it's place. Finally, the view from what would be the front door of the house was revealed in breathtaking splendore. The few scattered old hardwood trees had lost all their leaves and provided prefectly placed framing for the view. Of course, in my lust for the view, I was just dropping trees, not cutting them all up for later use. But I haven't felt very well lately and was more concerned about the property value should something happen to me. I feel that by revealing the view, I nearly doubled the property value. I had to sit down in amazement and just look. I have seen hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of property in my time, but none compare to this. There are still dozens of trees to clear because we have a 360 degree view. Our "Mt. McLaney" is the highest point looking east where we can seen a signifigant amount of Rutherford County. To the southeast are the mountains of South Carolina, to the west/northwest the mountains that hide Asheville and the Biltmore Estate.
I made a pleasant discovery the other day, on top of an unpleasant one. The neighbors were out bright and early one morning with strings and things running from the road to the woods anong the property line that divides our joint clearing. It was apparent that he was stringing the line ON the property line. Having no wish to convey property to him by default because his fence came over the line nor be obligated to build a REAL fence within my own property line (and then try to mow the "no man's land" in between) I thought to make a suggestion to the ditz. I suggested to him that he move in one mower width so that no matter who build what where, it could be mowed instead of becoming a weed wall and it APPEARED, at the time, that it made sense to him... until later when I went to check the mail and couldn't help but sight down the line...the line that he had PLACED the fence ON. Except for one post. He had put up a 6 foot tall wire fence...the kind with 2 inch by 4 inch rectangles, uncoated so that it should rust nicely. He only had enough fencing itself to go halfway across the yard. So the portion in the woods is fully fenced but out in the middle of nothing, the fence stops. Lord knows how long it will stay like that. But, the good part is the bozo has located all of his corner pins so I could use the far corner to try and track my far lot line. I knew where one other point along the side was but I could not locate the end point at the river.
So I set out along the line, marking ribbon in hand. I was pleased to find that not all my land was infested with this pulpwood pine forest. There are many old hardwoods tucked away behind the relatively shallow growth of pine. My dead reconing was pretty accurate because I came out right on the one known point along that line. But beyond that was basically guesswork. I headed off in the general direction, mindfull that the line took a minor shag to the left at some nearby point. The line of pines was my guide as there was another fresh stand at a slight angle. I was alittle concerned when I came upon a deer blind and began following the deer trail down to the river, baring slightly to the right of my original guess. In a few moments, I came across the familiar orange flags used to mark the pins and property lines. To my surprize, I was about twice as far down the river as my original guess had the corner. The bonus with this added distance is that all the pecan trees I had found this summer are on MY property, not the neighbor's.
After several revisions,finally completed all the modifications to the dome plans and had them printed up for submission to the building inspector guys at the county. Before I can do that, I have to get a septic permit, at the mere cost of $100. The building people use a formula for their obscene charges...so much per square foot....I figure another $500 bucks. and THEN we can start arguing about my design and plan. I am sure I will here plenty form them, since I am neither using known framing techniques nor am I using a kit connector. However, I don't think the 6 inch diameter hubs I used before will be adequate on a much larger diameter dome particularly since I have decided to go with 2 X 8" struts for the walls and ceiling. That will allow for 6" of insulation and still leave a nice size dead air space behind the insulation. The first of the two domes we will be erecting will be placed on a poured concrete crawl space while the second will be on a full-sized basement. Given the financial circumstances, it is the more reasonable way to go, paying out the least possible. Still to come are the well and septic, at a tidy $3000 each, that ain't chicken feed so the more we can keep at home, the further along we can get on the project, particularly until someone at the Charlotte Post Office comes to their senses...HAH!!!!
Since the weather has been unusually mild this winter, we have begun gathering green things for the outside gardens. Joe transplanted about a dozen healthy dogwoods from the woods to more organized areas around the lot. The local hardware stores have begun stocking trees and we picked up a fine looking peach tree that we have to bring indoors at night until it stays warm enough at night. But it is in good company with the strawberries, raspberries, peonies, blueberry, lettuce, onions, balsam, thyme and oregano seedlings also waiting to go out. I tried using those crushed peat pellets this year and the seedlings really love them. I had much better succcess with them then I had just sprouting in seed starter or potting soil. But with Joe's Grandfather's tiller in the shop (nothing like waiting till the last minute to repair it), it will be a while before we can have the soil propperly ammended to grow anything decent. The "soil" up on the hill is basically clay and sand so we have to truck in the peat and nutrients. The real fun will be when we have to mound for such crops as carrots and potatoes. We found a lone MacIntosh apple tree sitting in front of Winn Dixie so we promptly adopted it for our little brood. We also picked up a weeping willow for the river. I loved to see them along the banks when I was a kid in Iowa. They looked really neat...not that my river bank needs a dern thing as is...just nostalgic.
With a nice tax return and Joe's success in landing a couple of regional accounts, my lack of income is slowing being covered. One client gave us $500 for no reason more than being pleased with Joe's work so we were able to turn the power on at the garage so I can set up my gigs for cutting dome parts and find a used freezer for these incredible meat sales they keep having!! But with a substantial amount of natural resources available, at least we can continue to work on rabbit hutches, chicken coops and cut a new road down to the field.
We discovered the hard way that the steep back hill that finally leads to the river was fine to drive the Lumina wagon down to the river but in coming back up, the steep grade and coating of pine needles makes the red clay slick as snot. Got the van stuck when taking a friend and her daughter on a tour of the property. It sat back on the hill for three days before we decided the only way to get it home was to drive it down to the farmer's field....a trick in itself since neither of the two roads were passable. One road had an insumountable ravine carving into it and the other had ditched carved at the bottom...most likely the result of the farmer taking his tractor to the side road and piling the debris half way across the road. We dug it out and smoothed the path down enough to drive on but that was not the end of the problem. The farmer's road was the only way out and the gate across it was locked. I left the car at the gate and headed up the hill on foot to collect tools to remove the gate and oput it back on when the car was out. On the trip back with the tools, the farmer's helper who lives just up the road (NOW I know) drove by and unlocked the gate. We decided that any further trips by auto to the river would need to be made using that lower road that we came down. That means a new road would have to be carved from the garage to the field through a relatively short and fairly level stretch of woods. I have already gone through two chains so they both need sharpening and I am made very aware of how important a spare saw and chain is....while one is defunct, work does not have to wait.
When I did this year's taxes, I came out with a couple thousand in refunds so we immediately decided that part of the money should go towards the continued building of our road. I called the gravel company, with confidence this time because I knew what I was talking about. I figured that it would all go as smoothly as the first time and would be over in a matter of hours. It had been raining for a couple days but I figured that there would be a delay before the trucks could get to my job. They came that afternoon. I stood by the road as the first fully loaded truck rolled in and gave directions to the driver who had been there before. I instructed him that I wanted the road continued, to put the gravel where the last load had left off. That would cover all the exposed clay areas. The rest of the hill had been graveled at some point in the past and although it was overgrown, it was not a problem to traction as it still had adequate gravel underneath. So I told the next truck to start at the top of the hill and work his way down, laying a fairly thin layer of gravel instead of the 3 inches left on the clay surfaces. As the trucks passed me on the way to their appointed dumpsites, I was taken aback when I notice a wave being created immediately in front of the rear tires as they passed. Clearly, the ground was still very wet from the rain and the weight was drastically displacing the roadbed. I held my breath hoping that it would hold through 6 truckloads.
The first truck with the experienced driver dumped just fine. The new guy went to the top of the hill and returned in short order. In his zeal, however, he had neglected to set the chains on his tailgate and ended up dumping all 15 tons within a 15 foot run, as opposed to the 125 feet he should have gotten. That put an end to any further dumping from the top down as the road was now impassible and the trucks would not be able to turn around at the top.
Plan B was to continue the side road that lead down to the shop. It had been soggy and puddled at the lowest spot which was always in shade. I specifically instructed the experienced driver NOT to turn at the bottom of the hill but to go to the next turn then back the truck into dump position. But me being a mere woman, he obviously decided he knew best and attempted to make the turn at the bottom. It only took moments for the front end to get buried up to the axle. To make matters worse, another loaded truck would have to come to pull it out....creating even more damage to the beautiful road that was by now becoming severely rutted. Needless to say, by the time the trucks had left for the day, the road was in far worse shape than if we had not done anything. The ruts were so deep that I could no longer drive my chevy down it.
The truck driver could only advise me to get someone with a grader to come smooth it out. There was rain in the weekend forcast so time was of the essence. I called dozens of numbers but got a reply from only one company. They tried to talk me into getting someone else because they were several miles away. I finally convinced them of my urgent need and they agreed to come out in the morning. About noon, a truck with a tractor with a grading attachment drove up for the $100 minimum job. He did not take too long to smooth everything out but in the process, much clay was revealed and gravel thinned in areas to fill in the ruts in other areas. It is clear that we will have to re-gravel the entire road after it has had the chance to bake for a few weeks in the summer. But we dare not attempt it until then. In the meantime, we keep our fingers crossed that the damage does not get too severe.
After a 5 week wait, the power company showed up to install my pole to get power to the shop. The crew was curious about whether I was related to the infamous neighbor, Louis "the Liar" across the street. It was clear there was no love loss btween them and their former co-worker. Anyway, the pole raising took, surprisingly, most of the day. They seemed to be moving right along at a good clip while I was down there watching but they seemed to slow significantly when I left. Oddly enough, immediately after putting in my pole, they put one in at the neighbor's yard and it only took them about an hour to accomplish. And as Murphy would have it, while they were there, all the power in my trailer dimmed to the point the TV kept trying to kick itself back on and the LED's on the clock radio were so dim they were barely lit. After a couple hours of low voltage, the power finally went completely out as a Duke Power substation failed and killed power to the whole area. It finally came back on after a 7 hour outage. The failure at least alerted us to the fact that Duke Power was the primary power provider for our area and should it fail in Y2K, as may well be the case, we would have no power here at our place. Something to look forward to....
We had a premature spring this year, as the weather has been anything BUT odd for quite some time. The next few months are supposed to be the peak sunspot period, just in time to coincide witht he Y2K bug. But life must go on so we turned the kitchen of the trailer, with it's southern sun exposure, into a miniature nursery for pea, cucumber, bean, tomatoe, brocolli, even dragged a peach tree in and out of the house to save it from frost. WE now have a garden with twelve tomato plants, six peper plants, several lettuce, brocolli and pea plants. We have onion sets of vandalia, scallions and some Yukon Gold potatoes that we do not see coming up....I don't think they like the clay soil despite the peat ammendments Joe dutifully added tot he soil.
You should see Joe. So totally unlike my first husband, Joe is so in his element when he is in his gardens. Covered with filth, dripping with sweat and half exhausted, he staggers back into the house after toiling inthe sun until his skin is pealing from shoulder to elbow, he smiles ear to ear with delight. He accounts for every new bud on his trees, how his transplanted Dogwoods are budding, that two of them are even blooming. I get daily reports on the progress of his maples, pecans and clematis vines. He is a proud Pappa, indeed. I have never seen him happier. Despite the long drive to work and back each day, the extra hour of daylight from daylight savings time has afforded him the opportunity to inspect his crops each day and give them a healthy drink of water before retiring for the night. Of course, that has meant alittle side work for me, installing an outside faucet. The well has a big green cover which is a pain to flip up and down in order to get to the handle for the hose faucet. I decided to install an outside access for water and put two spigots to allow two separate hoses for the two gardens. Dragging around hundreds of feet of hose in two directions is cumbersome, to say the least. But what ever brings such joy to my sweeties ' face, pleases me to do.
As nature would have it, since putting in the crops, an artic wave has come down to send us surrying for every box, pail, pot or other means of keeping the tomato plants warm. Three of them have already been through a frost that burned off all their leaves but they fought their way back to health with a whole new set of leaves. They have new healthy buds so soon we will have the first fruits of our labors. With 12 plants, we will certainly have all we can handle. I hope to have plenty for home made ketchup.
Joe ordered 2000 plugs of Zorsia grass plugs to help stem the erosion on the edges of the new road. 2000 plugs sounds like alot until you put them in...then they don't really cover that much. Still, between the hay he put down over the grass seed last year, that sprouted on their own this spring, and the amazingly think grass that shot up around the areas where he planted tulip and daffodill bulbs, we have had dome success in stemming the washing clay-sands. I am also hoping that the honeysuckle will spread across the hillside as prolifically as the blackberry bushes. In fact, the blackberry bushes have come back where they were mowed down around the garage that I will be forced to spray an herbicide to keep from getting chewed to pieces.
I put an outdoor plug behind the garage so that I can have the camper plugged in out of the way for the summer, making it a nice guest cottage for visitors and unsuspecting working recruits. I hope to hook up a solar hot water system from PVC and black paint to take advantage of the black roof of the garage and install a shower which will drain into the surrounding woods, since there wil be nothing toxic in the run-off. If I could afford it, I would put a composting toilet in down there. The Health department inspector, when he stopped down to check if there was, indeed, septic system installed down there as Louis the Liar had claimed (there was not), suggested that this would be the prerfect application for such a toilet, if not a privy, because of it's low use. Having experienced the joys of a two hole privvy in NH, I can tell you that even if the smell does not get you, toughing it out in the heat when it may take a while to finish your business is not something you want to repeat.
I have been putting in some time geting the garage together to make it functional. I installled a couple new electrical outlets in more condusive to working. I hung six dual flourescent bulb shop lights and put a stud wall skeleton down the center of the garage dividing it into a storage half and a work half while adding strength to a severely lacking roof structure. The hornets and wasps were back again looking for nesting areas after being sprayed and driven away late last year so I found someone who sells nylon screening to cover the ceiling with a protective barrier. The previous occupants had started the job with aluminum screening which only subjects you to punctures when you handle it so I opted for nylon....easier to handle and cut too. It took about 4 25 foot rolls to sufficiently patch the gaping holes but it was reasuring knowing the wasps were not going to come visiting. To insure that the garage did not become an easy bake oven during the summer sun, I installed two turbine type exhaust vents in the roof, one front, one in the back to allow the air to circulate. The roof was constructed of rough cut 2 by stock but there was no ridge vent to let the plac air out. That is probably why the wasps were so happy to live there where there was no air flow. I noticed that shortly after installing the vents, the wasp population declined. Permanently, I hope.
I also invested in a well pump that would handle the shallow depth of the lower well to provide working water, if not showering water for the garage. Having a refridgerator in the shop, drinking water is readily available in bottled form as I don't even drink the water from the upper well. I clearly need a filter but cannot afford the reverse osmosis type necessary to elimitate the type of impurities I would like removed. Of course, now I have to figure out to put that in...never having seen the set-up before, let alone put one in. I did notice that in the well down there, there are two PVC pipes running into the well and there may well be a pump already down there. there is a coil of wire atop the well house that probably provided power for such a pump but since the well house roof is so low, it would require removal of the roof and pulling the PVC up from it's depth to discover the truth. Since the well is uncovered, I have a fear of someone falling in so I do not wish to undertake such a task alone. And with limited funds, I am certainly not going to hire someone to come out and tell me something I could have figured out myself.
Going home one night on the three miles of gravel road, I came across someone who was on my side of the road coming around a curve. In order to miss the ninny, I ended up in the ditch with my Lumina. After a week with no transportation, I borrowed $2500 from my ather-in-law for repairs and a unsed pick-up truck. I found a 1973 Chevy stepside short bed with a 305 V8 for $1000. I put another $400 in it at the Chevy dealer and it still needs the steering gearbox replaced. I found a used on on the internet for $75. I have already taken the truck in for two loads of lumber for the chicken house. I fenced in the clearing I made across the ravine with 300 feet of chicken wire topped with 7' deer mesh to keep the chickens fairly safe. I decided to order from Murray MacMurray Hatcheries, especially since I keep getting their phone calls...our 800 numbers are 1 digit apart. Anyway, being a brown egg eating family, I did not want to raise white egg chickens. I decided on a South American breed that lays variations of green/blue eggs. I also ordered their "rainbow layers" selection with alittle bit of evreything. Hard part was that there was no way to tell which was what breed. Now that they are about 3 months old, we can identify for sure the one Silver Wyandote, two New Hampshires, we're supposed to have 13 Araucanas, two pearl white leghorns and two buff orphintons. Thirty eight of 41 birds made the trip into adulthood. One was stepped on by accident by my son (Oh man was he upset), one was accidentally trapped under the feed container lid and died a regretable death and the final one was munched by one of the Collies who managed to get in the chicken yard. Arriving in early March, we started out with the little peepers in the kitchen under work lights clipped to the side of a large cardboard box. We put a thermometer on the bottom of the box so that we could monitor the temperature but it would have to be washed frequently becasue apparently, it looked like a bathroom to the chickens! After a couplke weeks, the smell started to waft into other parts of the house no matter how often I cleaned their litter so they were moved out to my big wooden shed. It has power and they still needed temperature control so there they stayed for a couple more weeks before being moved to Joe's tool shed that was metal and readily warmed by the sun each day. At about 6 weeks, temperatures outside were getting very reasonalble and I moved them out to the henhouse where it took them a little while before they ventured down the ramp from their high-rise house. One night I came to check on them and had left the window propped open and there were at least 20 chickens crowding into the 3 foot space. So stubborn were they that each bird had to be picked off the window and placed on one of the several perches I had installed but apparently not given adequate instruction on the proper use of.
The chickens have been far more of a delight than I could ever have anticipated. They may not think I am Mom but they have certainly adopted me. I would greet them everytime I arrived with "Hello girls"...thinking I had all pullets like I ordered. They would come running everytime. It wasn't long before they were identifying the sound of my footsteps coming up the hill before they could even see me. The white one would set off the alarm and everyone set out for the gate. They love it when I make white rice with grits and beans. It is the best entertainment since the beginning of television. I walk in the yard with a bowl and fling a spoonful in one direction and 38 chickens all run after it. So the next spoonfull I fling another direction and there they all go like a marvelously voratious wave. And every once in a while, out of the corner of your eye, you'll catch a glimpse of one chicken running full bore from the far side of the yard heading directly towards a hen she has already chosen. Without missing a stride, she'll snatch the food right out of her opponent's mouth and continues on to the far side of the yard, leaving a dumbfounded hen looking all over for what she swore was just in her mouth. It is really funny to watch.
Being new at chicken-raising, I couldn't tell you the sex of a chicken if my life depended on it. I figured the hatchery took care of all that and sent me all hens like I ordered and that I would have to locate some roosters for the group. Not any more. Apparently I have two roosters who have been passing themselves off as lesbian hens. The jig was up when the cockadoodleing started. He needs work but one of the two is really a great looking guy! He's solid black with excellently red combs. If I were a chicken, I'd go for him!
I started letting the chickens free-range when I walked into the pen and found that they had totally devoured all the honeysuckle that was everywhere and had started on the elm saplings. They still come charging up to me at the gate and walk with me until I start foraging and they follow suit. Some like to eat the wild blackberries, some love the bug-eaten strawberries from my garden and Joey is great at eliminating grasshoppers from the garden in our chicken disposal unit.
Back on Track
It's been quite a while but we're finally back on track. I had a little tiff with the Post Office (I'm a whistle-blower, ya know) which cost us our second income and three years on the project but fortune has been on our side. My dear sweet, wonderful husband has made up for my lost income so that I could continue homeschooling my beautiful, talented son. The land prices in the area have sky rocketed, in part thanks to equestrians from other places. Some rich guy from Atlanta is rumored to have purchased a very large chunk of the other side of the road....3 miles worth, and has all kinds of riding events down there. Anyway, he paid about $5000 an acre for the land which bumped the value of my property up for appraisal purposes. With interest rates at rock bottom....the bank says they have a floor of 6% and that's where they are at. So we decided to re-finance with a twist. Because the value has so increased, we can "hold out" a few of the acres to be ours, paid for free and clear, and then refinance the remaining acres, pay off the existing mortgage and still ahve money left to do something for housing. So we are holding out 4 one acre parcels...one on the road, one on the river, one at the peak building site and one right behind the trailer so it can get moved off the property in the near future.
The appraisal came back almost double the purchase price only 3 1/2 years ago...and that is with the 4 acres removed so we made out quite well. We have all of our ducks in a row but have been waiting 4 weeks for the surveyor to come out. They came out last Friday, late, to look over the job but my tiny piece can't compare to the pricier jobs they get from developers. At $425 per acre, my 4 acres are nothing more than an annoyance. So we wait.
Meantime, hubby has decided on the large economy size dome. he wants a 49 footer with thick walls like Natural Spaces domes have. Unfortuantely for me, the 49 footers need to use a 4 frequency dome or the struts are too long and decrease the stabilty of the domw, not to mention making skinning one a patchwork affair. So we are going to go thru Natural Spaces for their connector kit and cutting instructions but we are still doing the job ourselves. I have a carpenter friend on the Gulf coast who is interested in moving up here so I have offered him an dhis wife (my best friend) an acre in exchange for his helping build this and other domes on the property, including one of his own. The other domes will be smaller and I will be able to build them with the formulas from Domebook 2.
Speaking of which....I went to ebay looking for my own copy of the book and found the original dome builder's handbook...one of the predicessors of Domebook 2 as well as the book in question. I lost the first copy to another bidder but struck up a conversation with the winner who has proven to be my twin sister (in soul). Right now there are 3 copies for sale and I hope to own one tomorrow when the bidding of one ends. With both books in hand, I will be able to give my contractor friend a first hand look at the information instead of looking at scanned pages. Maybe I will even figure out 4 frequeancy domes myself.
Back to my dome plans....I am having Natural Spaces "convert" my 45 food 3 freq plans into a 49 foot 4 freq dome with 12" thick walls. The design has remained the same...kitchen, living, dining, utility, master bedroom and 2 baths on the first floor, 2 bedrooms and full bath on the second floor. I'll keep you posted as to how much they end up charging me for the "conversion"
March 1, 2002
REceived a couple of books from ebay and brousing and now I have figured out 4 frequency domes. Waht a cinch....it was pretty easy to figure out once I got Domebook 2. I have designed 4 frequency hubs, laid out the struts, figured the angles and am ready to go. I fiured a 49 foot outer dome with a 47 foot inner dome so that I can have the extra thick walls like Natural Spaces domes. BIG difference is I will guess that 2 sets of 4 frequency hubs will probably cost me about a grand...saving me at least 6 grand that I could use on other things like skylights or the basement. Found some excellent websites for figuring out the strut lengths without getting out the calculator. Check these great sites out:
Oh, in "We are in" I mentioned that it took forever to close on the property....turns out that it is the banker that took forever for no real reason that i am aware of because we went thru the same people to refinace the property and what he called a 4 week process on 12/20/2001 has yet to close and we are waiting for him...I know because it was MY job to gather together alll the appropriate documents and agencies this time around! Augh! I camped out on the surveyor's doorstep to get my 4 acres cut out of the main body of the 35 acres. I know I bugged the guy to death and that they are very busy with surveys for much larger more lucrative properties but Jim King did a fine job for me. He's a really neat guy from Forest City's Burnt Chimney Surveyors and was interested in domes himself. My 8 year old son took his first surveyor lessons from Jim as he followed him over just about every inch of the job, talking on the walkie talkies and all! The most wonderful part of the experience was the final price...which I had nightmares about. Taking to other surveyors, it sounded very much like the job was going to START at 3500 bucks! Jim's bill (he was out on the property 4 or 5 days, including a Saturday and a holiday!) was only $1200 so we are taking him and his wife out to dinner. And I can go ahead and pay some bills instead of keeping all the money I can out for closing costs. Now...the LAWYER may charge more than his $500 fee last time because we have 5 lots to file on at the courthouse. Since the bank hasn't sent the lawyer their packet yet, we can't set a closing date and I am really getting ticked......
Well, well, well
Here it is the middle of July 2002and soooo much has happened, both on the project and off
We finally got all the paperwork taken care off and got out from under a mountain of debt left over from losing our butts on a remodel in MI, leaving us very little of the money. We had vowed to make certain purchases drawn up on a "wish list" which were given priorities. One thing we wanted was a golf car....mostly for Joe to haul water up the hill to his azalea plants. I like to use it to haul 50 pound bags of animal feed to far off places. It's electric, of course, and so quiet, when I can get my 8 year old to shut up, that we sneak right up on wild turkeys. We also got an automatic chicken plucker....5 seconds, that's all the time it took to pluck a chicken! It was awesome. Who'da thunk it! Pricey tho, sucker cost me over $700! WE paid for my drawings via natural Spaces, who took as long with the drawings as it took the bank to close on the deal. It's just me. people cut me off in traffic too....I'm used to it. It was kind of a military thing....hurry up and wait. What else.... I bought Joe a very expensive but incredibly awesome digital camera....a Nikon Coolpix 5000....top of the line but it has built-in wide angle and you can zoom down to a zit on yer nose (if you are so inclined)! I don't know how to use it but I can get into playing with the pictures on the computer.
The big thing we got was a well. I had the original folks who did our existing 75 foot dug well come out and take a look at the lay of the place and told him what all I wanted to use water for. Mind you, I have always lived in drought conditions and the 5 year drought here has only made me even more conservative than I was already. We have about a dozen 55 gallon barrels positioned all over the place, anywhere there is the potential to catch water and like to use the catch for watering plants and animals, etc. But the 75 footer was getting down to the point that one short shower and a load and a half of wash later and the well was dry. We had debated what to do about it. We could continue to be ultra conservative and get used to the bouts of dry well and drill the new well at the building site up the hill. The well guy assured us that we could get a well with sufficient water to cover the trailer, the dome behind the trailer (future guest house), the big dome on the hill, the garage and studio AND water all the garden boxes we could put together. Furthermore, they don't hit water, we don't pay. We decided to put it near the old well. We would have them plug into the old well plumbing and wiring to save a few bucks but had them tie in the old well on a breaker box with the new well so the savings went out the window.
I don't know what they charge in other places but the deal here was $8 a foot for the drilling with 50 cents a foot off for paying within 10 days. We were about to declare the deal a dry well when we were almost to our mental 550 foot depth. Hald way thru the last section, we hit water at 15 gpm. When all was said and done, the water came to within 60 feet of the top of the well's 545 foot depth and at a gallon and a half per foot, we have about 500 gallons of standing water at any given time, meaning I don't have to get a holding tank to make myself feeling like I won't run out of water during a project like a mass watering or washing the truck or something. It is really great having water but man, was that drill noisy. And messy. The tailings ran down the hill across the drive that goes to the back of the property....the same road that the gravel company folks have screwed up 3 times, the same road you can't TELL that we have put thousands of dollars into. Teh tailins clogged up the nice side ditches, about the only good part left to the dern road, and cut a bit of a gully across teh roadway.
That leads us to another purchase we made....My Uncle Richard Simecek died last Christmas and amoung his estate items to be sold off was a very old but fully functional Gehl skid loader (circa 1973). Richard was in Florida, I am in NC so transporting it if I wanted it was going to be a problem. No one had a trailer I could rent that would handle the loader. Richard was a steel man, had built a lareg trailer to haul steel with his pick-up. I eneded up buying it too....the loader for $2500 (I felt ripped off....the excutor of the estate was a former girlfriend whose daughter and family cleared out all the good stuff and charged us up the yingyang for things Richard would have let us have for nothing) and the trailer for $500. I knew the trailer would be used for at least 2 other trips....to take my daughter's abandoned Blazer up to my brother and to haul my husbands dead Fiero to a reputable mechanic to see if it truly was dead. Uhaul wanted $500 for the weekend use of a trailer to haul the blazer so I figured that trip alone paid for the vehicle. Hey, my brother DID give me gas money.....I ate the rest of the cost, of course. Anyway, the trip back from Florida with the sidder was the most nerve-racking event I have gone thru in some time...first time hauling with the pick-up, first time with two vehicles I knew nothing about. But everything went great....the trailer was a dream to haul. Unfortuantely, I almost didn't get the skidder as we could not get it to go into gear.....low tranny fluid, we had to purge the air out of the line. Two fo the tires only temporaily held air...they are clearly the original tires whose outdoor living has taken their toll. Now I have to find new tires as these are just too dry-rotted for even fix-a-flat. I've been told that the tires can go as high as $1500! Augh! for a 30 year old machine. But I really need it....or a tractor, which I cannot afford....not at $25,000+! So that has gone at the back of teh list for now.
I also went to work on a fence...to keep the chickens on the property and the neighbors' critters, if not them themselves, OUT. And not just any fence....I carried the privacy lattice theme across teh front. I managed to fence around the driveway and down to the middle drive and back up and around the area where the henhouse is. I probably put up 25 sections of fence, digging each post by hand with a post hole digger, before the sunbaked earth took it's toll and gave me a horrible case of tennis elbow. For weeks now I have barely been able to lift a bag of groceries! But babying it will only make it worse so I have cut down on certain motions but still don't sit idle. Too much to do!! Anyway, the fence has been at least mostly effective tho some of my chickens could find their way into a locked footlocker, I swear! But it also means I have 3 gates to deal with now and I have to be able to recognize when there is someone at the gate who needs to be let in.
We had a guy and a gal come out and cut down the pines that remained in the front yard and cleared out enough room behind the trailer to start a two dome guest house behind it. I was going to start working on this dome since the huge one that Joe wants requires a basement and that means contracting out the work and when they see 20 sides, they are going to want to scalp me, evn tho every angle is 18 degrees. I would do anything to get out of this trailer! I had been trying to convince Joe that we should make the smaller adjoinging dome on the hill then work out of it to build the larger one but it never seemed to sink in. Well, it finally did and he agreed that we can get started on that. Eventually we wioll need to put a well in up there but I don't need that much water there to build. I only need water for the concrete footings, that don't have to be deep at all here in the Carolinas. Additionally, we don't need any sort of permit to build a "barn" with no water or electric....which is how they will all start out! then we convert the barns.
I also finished buying the tools that would make the project easier.....an air compressor, radial arm saw, 21v drill ( don't buy the clones off e-bay...the battery and charger self-destructed way quick), taller step ladder (18'). I also doubled the size of the henhouse and purchased a huge netting to put over the henyard...which had become the hawk and falcon swoop-in. Teh net wasn't cheap but I also bought twice as large as I needed...and no doubt will use it later anyway. I also decided to add some features to my place to catch the neighbors "in the act" of some of their antics. The trailer is now surround with mini-cameras that sweep, pan and tilt. X-10 had them on sale to feature the pan tilt thingy, at an incredible price so I snatched them up for $79 each! I love their cameras....and now I can see EVERYTHING that goes on when I leave home.
New Neighbors! There may yet be a God!
The date is now March 9th, 2003 and finally things are off and running. Windter has been too wet and cold to do much work but there is much to update you on. The best part first....we have lost one of our peskiest neighbors. The trailer that we can't help but see next door has changed hands. Jim was so disgusted that they would not pave our road that he sold his acre to his sister, who works at the post office in Charlotte (can I never really get away from that place?!). She is never home and her husband, professed father of 22 (OMG...and you should see this little troll-like person...are women THAT desperate?) is originally from Montana and at least a bit civilized in realistic terms. He chawed my husabnd's ear off for about 3 hours while he was working his garden so we know everything but the man's social security number.
Another accomplishment was that we got the "low road" to the river bulldozed and seeded with rye grass since there will not be alot of travel on it and most of that will be in the golf cart which doesn't tear things up like a truck. We got the top of the hill cleared off of all the blackberry bushes and seeded with rye grass. I put up a pole barn that is partically enclosed to house the generator and lumber for the project but best of all:
I STARTED THE FOOTINGS!
I used five cement blocks representing the five pentagon sides that the dome circumference is basically broken down into. First I dug out a hole about 12 inches deep (frost line around here is 2 inches...eat yer heart out!) and put in a nice concrete base for the blocks which I oriented as best I could visualize how they window and door spaces would work out. I used rebar, tape measure and strings and line levels to lay out the right circle and I will tell you this...it's not a job to do alone. By the time you back to the original point, you are invariably off by a few inches here and there. Fortuantely, the way I intend to lay out the decking, it shouls make little difference. Didn't have a problem with the first dome I built and I am going about this one the same way. Anyway, I put a second course of concrete block on the first one to get the height above the highest point on the hill where footing will have to be. There is a slope but not that great for most of the dome tho the side facing the woods will end up about three foot above ground. My first dome had drastically more slope but because there are so many supports, the weight is transferred nicely and you don't have to worry about a "corner" sagging like you would in a house set on the standard corner posts. The slope makes a nice storage area under the house and easy access to plumbing problems. The underpart of the dome with the narrowest access is good for a root cellar (like the one under my grandma's house) or a thermal mass for passive solar heating.
The second course is setting up and when it is good and solid, I have a nice plywood template to put over it to use for lining up my other outside supports. The weather promises to be agreeable for most of the week so I hope to use the afternoons to full advantage between egg deliveries.
That was another misadventure we had to overcome. I bought a few new Muscovy ducks from a private individual and the ducks were wonderful in bringing a illness that devastated my hen population down to 8 layers. After treating the survivors (thank-you NC dept of Agri for diagnosing the problem and referring me to those who had the meds), I set out to replentis