Very last of the knees

The last of the knees were completed and hauled out to the front porch last fall. Then cold weather hit and they stayed there for the winter. Today was the first gorgeous and warm day of the year and with that my excuse to put the installation off was gone. I hauled out the ladder and tools and then installed the last fifteen knees under the eves. The look fabulous!

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Dan SawatzkyComment
Fifteen years in the making

One of the necessities of owning a business is having a commercial garbage container. It needs to be located in a place the giant garbage truck can easily get to which place ours right in front of the house. That simply wouldn't do. Our solution was to construct a building to house the unsightly garbage bin. Only this building looks a lot like a giant mountain, complete with a gnarly tree on top. The steep slopes have built in planters at various levels which will overflow with such vegetation soon. At the back of the mountain is another set of doors which swing open to reveal the garden tractor and all of the yard tools. We actually started the garbage bin project right after we bought the property fifteen years ago. But the location for the house and driveway were not yet finalized. We fabricated the tree and framework for the mountain and then put the brakes on the project pending a final decision of location. The mountain was moved four times before we settled on this location. After the new house was largely complete work commenced one more on the garbage mountain. Each year we get a little more complete. In the next few days the sculpted concrete sculpting will be finished and painting can begin at last!

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Twenty knees installed

We continue to work on the house, finishing small details. Our daughter Becke and Grant are having their wedding celebration in the yard this coming weekend. That event motivated the completion of many house projects. The backyard fences are now complete and all of the sod is now laid. The lawn is now about an acre in size which the grandkids absolutely love! Today we installed the last twenty knees under the eves of the house. They complete the side of the house facing the back yard. :) I still have to install the front knees which are all cut and carved. They should be painted and ready to install in the next few weeks. It's been a very long journey to get the house this far.

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Getting there

We've been working on our new house for almost four years now. Thankfully, we are down to a few small details now and I do my best to work on something each week. The house is a delight to live in and with the delivery of some new furniture is feeling a lot more finished these days. 

Today, as the sun streamed in beautifully through the large south facing dining room windows I snapped the first picture of the completed room. 

The bridge overhead separates and spans the living and dining rooms. It leads to the grand kid's playroom. In the back corner is the hollowed out tree with a 'secret' staircase leading upstairs.

Big changes

Since my last post we've been very busy on the house. Much of the trim is now finished on the exterior. The sidewalks have now all been poured. New fence separates the yard from the driveway. More rail road tracks have been laid and the driveway has been blacktopped. We also laid turf on most of the dirt, finishing off the yard. Shrubs and flowers are in place as well. The place is looking pretty good.

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There's still lots to do and we will continue working as we have time. Stay tuned for more...

-grampa dan

The wait is over.

Work continues on the house and yard but I have to have a little fun too.

Shortly after moving to the property eleven years ago I expressed a desire to buy a new barbecue but there was no patio and money was tight. Janis & I decide to wait until the new house we were dreaming of was built. I was confident it would be in a year or two- three to five at most.Janis (the realist) predicted a few years more. It turned out to be ten years.

Tonight (with barbecue season now in full bloom) I brought home the new barbecue. :)


Now I just have to get the back deck in.

-grampa dan

Smoothing the back forty

Although we are in a time crunch as we work towards the end of our current large project, during the evenings and weekends I manage to squeeze in a few hours at a time to work on the landscaping in the yard. Our goal is still to be fully landscaped by mid-summer.

The big lawn between the house and the shop is the first order of business. The shaping of this rea began back when we built our shop ten years ago. Each time a neighbor did some work in their yard and had spare soil  we added to the berm, gradually building it up to the shape we wanted. The new septic field added forty feet to the length of the berm. Once the new house was comlete we took out the old and it was time to use the massive pile of excavated soild to do the rest of the shaping. We leveled it out with an excavator, smoothed it as best we could and threw down some grass seed in the fall. We would let things settle over the winter, Some areas had been filled up to eight feet and the elevations were bound to change a bunch in places. I enjoyed mowing the rolling expanse of grass this spring but I had to go slow as the lawn was more than a little rough in places.

Last week we took delivery of twenty four cubic yards of soil to top dress the lawn, taking out the humps and bumps and filling in the low areas. The first two loads disappeared in a hurry! Today I ordered three more loads. I first haul it to where it is needed and then spread it with our garden tractor with the front bucket. Once the soild is in place I hand rake it and then jump on the small garden tractor. I have welded up a very large piece of steel to further smooth and tamp the new soil in place. The process works well and in less than three hours I have done a good sized section of the lawn. The ground is smooth enough that I no longer have to hold on to keep from being thrown from the seat of the tractor as I travel back and forth so many times. 

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With 36 cubic yards in place and the next twenty-four waiting it is my bet that it will take another three or four loads to get things right. The area behind the tractor is still very low and sloping the wrong way. This is where the bulk of the next loads of soil will be placed.

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It is my hope that I can begin the seeding of the new lawn on the weekend. It won't be long until I can cruise of the new green grass and go to my happy place once more. Stay tuned as we wait for the green...

-grampa dan

Concrete day

This morning bright and early we taped plastic around the bottom of the rockwork around the porch area. it was to protect it from stray bots of concrete that were bound to splash up. It happens even though we had one of the best concrete men in the business. The concrete crew and truck arrived just before eight to begin the job. 

The concrete was dark brown in color, rich and a perfect match for the heavy trees that line the front of the house. We opted for extra strength and with a fine fiber to minimise cracking. With the eight feet of well packed gravel underneath this driveway shouldn't ever settle and crack. We had left the concrete unfinished through the fall and winter just to allow extra time for packing.

The three man crew took their time wheelbarrowing the concrete into place and carefully pusing it with their hand trowels to the edge of the uneven rock and tree border. While their extra time and care will undoubtably cost me extra we happlily paid for we were much more interested in a good job than saving a few dollars.

By lunch time they had the concrete in place and it was triple trowelled to a smooth finish. They then sprayed on the retarder and took a well earned break.

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I had to leave for the jobsite but when I got back after work they were just putting the tools into their trailer. The concrete had been lightly exposed and looked fabulous. We'll have the expasion lines cut in tomorrow and then our concrete man will come back to clean it one more time and acid wash it before adding the sealer and 'shark's tooth' to finish off the job. The 'shark's tooth' is a ground glass it make it non-slippery.

This coming weekend I'll remove the forms and grade the gravel and bark mulch around the concrete to finish things off. I can then measure up the trim needed for around the door and get that into production to finish this side of the house at last. Stay tuned...

-grampa dan

A matter of form

As the better weather of summer approaches we are beginning work on the outside of the house once more. Our goal is to have everything done by the beginning of August. It's a tall order - as usual.

Today Peter and I built the forms for the front sidewalks and patio area. The sidewalks will curve gently around the planters. They stop short of the front gate to allow the train tracks to cross on their way around the yard.

Tuesday, our concrete man will place the concrete and this will finish off the front deck, carport and front sidewalks. 

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After a few days of curing I will apply the sealer. Then I can measure up the trim around the front door. and put it into production. Final landscaping of this area will polish the entry off. Then we'll work our way around the back of the house to finish off those areas next. Stay tuned...

-grampa dan

Featured in Belgium

The house was again featured in an international architectural magazine - this time in Belgium. I ran the copy through the google translator and it is a French translation of a similar article printed in South Africa. Our favorite house is getting publicity world wide it seems.

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All this attention (and the warmer spring weather too) makes us want to get busy and finish the outside very soon.

-grampa dan

Featured in South Africa!

Janis & I designed and built our house to suit our needs and tastes. We built it for ourselves to live comfortably and enjoy.

There is still plenty to be done, primarily to the outside before we are finished. We still need to create some outside trim. The concrete porches, sidewalks and patios are still to be poured. The landscaping isn't even started. Even so, the house is getting lots of attention. Late last year I did an interview with a writer from England who was working for the makers of our routing software. Tonight, as I was sourcing the hits to our website I found a link to an architectural Magazine in South Africa. Our house was one of the featured projects in a current issue of the magazine.

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It seems that if we simply follow our passion one never knows where it may travel.

-grampa dan

Last area to get tile

It's been a little more than two months snce my last post on this blog. In the shop we've been crazy busy on a very large project. Two workshops and tho international trips have also taken up my time. Even so we have been workng on the house a few times each week as time permits. Mirrors have been hung and shelving has been installed.The painting through the house is now largely complete as well.

With Christmas now quickly approaching we promised ourselves to put the push on to complete a few of the last areas of the interior. One of these areas is the tile work in the front entry. With the last of the trim in place and the painting done it was time and I had some time. It will take a few days, Today I laid as many of the whole tiles as I could.

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In the next while I'll cut the edge tiles and fit everything into place, then glue the last of them into place leaving only the grout to finish things off. I'm sure looking forward to that very last tile!

-grampa dan

HEARTS! Everywhere.

The crew is split these days with half trying madly to finish off the major parts of the outside trim. The others are beginning the new project, now five days in. I keep busy at the welding table, fabricating the structural steel for the features. At the other end of the shop the ladies are busy painting with every surface stacked high with heart trim blocks. They are in the last stages of the painting and the shop is getting colorful to say the least,


Next week the hearts and trim will all be put into place on the house and the crew will switch gears to concentrate on the theme park project. Everyone is more than ready after weeks of painting trim piece after trim piece. I can hardly wait to see all fo the trim in place! Stay tuned...

-grampa dan

Final trim

The last area of the inside of the house to get it's trim is the entry. After weeks away on other projects the Boughen boys are back for two days of the final work. I had precut and routed the larger pieces, leaving the final fitting to Brent and Jesse. With the windows on either side of the door being oval it is pretty tricky work, but things are looking great already.

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Tomorrow the boys should be done with our painting crew close on their heals. Once they are done I can lay the last of the tile. I'm sure looking forward to that! :)

-grampa dan

Not straight or narrow.

As the last details are added to the front of the house it was time to start getting serious about the first stages of the landscaping. The final grades were first established and then we dug in the planter areas. No straight lines were allowed.

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Once the edges were established we carefully placed the bark mulch. It sure cleaned things up in a hurry! The ginat trees looked like they had been growing there forever.

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The concrete sidewalks, patio and carport and paved driveway will wait until spring to allow everything to properly settle. While we may put in a few of the major shrubs in the next weeks, much of the planting will wait until spring as well. In the meantime the weeds are gone and things look a whole lot neater.

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It's looking less and less like a construction zone all the time and it sure feels good!

-grampa dan

First landscape

Back when we bought our small acreage, a little over ten years ago it was basically flat, and sloping very gently to the rear. We were determined to fix that. The driveway and shop parking lot were the first to be put in. We piled the original soil down the center of the property and hauled in what seemed like endless loads of gravel for under the shop, parking lot and the long driveway all the way out to the road - four hundred feet in total length. After the shop was built we shaped it to become a long sloping ridge. In the next five years we became collectors of good fil, every time somene built in the area. We knew when we built the municipality would require us to have the floor level four feet higher than the road because we were in a flood plain. 

When the time came to build we piled this soil to the side and then hauled in another thousand cubic yards of gravel to raise the house. In the last weeks the soil (and another forty loads of fill) was leveled out and shaped to extend the hill that started at the shop all the way to the house. Last summer we relocated a number of the trees to extend along the top of the newly formed hill. Friday we did the last of the raking and then Phoebe and I pushed the grass seeder back and forth to sprinkle the seed.

Today as I mowed the remnants of the old lawn I couldn't stand the look of the neglected landscaping, especially the ratty looking bark mulch round the trees. I went to the tool rack and dug out the lawn edger and set to work. By supper things were looking satisfactory once more around at least a couple of the trees.

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Now the landscaping fun begns for real. Stay tuned...

-grampa dan

Closing in on the finish

Today Peter and the crew made great progress on the plasterwork on the house, finishing off the back walls and one of the two remaining tres as well. Only the window sills and the back wall of the lawnmower room remain. It is looking fabulous! 

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Janis had requested hearts be hidden in the tree (which did happen) as well as a feature heart with J+D just for fun.

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With the return of cooler temperatures and a little rain it was time to seed the lawn at last. It is just a quick pass with final grading and overseeding to come after we put in the sidewalks. We put in the gravel for under the sidewalk and decided where all of the fencing is going to go. It's going to be nice to see gren lawns instead of the bare dirt we've been looking at for so long during construction.

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Inside the tile work is done save for a few tiles in the entrance. Those are waiting on the finish carpenter who is waiting on some custom routing by me. That is also being done today. By tomorrow nonn I'll be ready for him. He is suposed to come next week which means paint will follow after that, then the last few tiles...  and then...  then we are DONE!

-grampa dan

Creative concrete

As we work our way around the back of the house we continue to design and work out details of the various parts. It's the same way we did the front and sides of the house. Today, Peter did  the last of the wall plaster work. That leaves only a little rock work along the bottom to finish things off. 

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One area we needed something imaginative was around the dog door. The door needed a roof over it to prevent water splashing in. Peter came up with the idea of building a miniature version of our patio. Yesterday we fastened in the steel framework and shingled the roof. Today Peter did the surrounding plasterwork and the rocks along the bottom of the wall. I'll be designing a faux round window and trim which will be routed in one piece. We'll paint it up and then install it. The tree trunk supports will then be sculpted in place after the concrete deck is poured.

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It's all a bit over the top but in good fun. Why not?

-grampa dan

Two more rooms tiled.

Over the last week I've been busy each evening, cutting the last of what seemed like an endless amount of tile for the mudroom area. The tile had to be fitted around the legs of the bench, around the cabinets and up the walls in the bathroom. I knew we were cutting it close with the light colored tile, but figured there would be plenty. As I fitted the final tiles around the sink I opened the last box of tiles. There would be six tiles left over (out of more than fifity cases).

The last two tile to be cut were tricky however, as I had to cut a three gang switch out of the center of one and a plug out of the other. Surprisingly, I did both cuts on the first attempt - without breaking the tile. But as I laid the tile today I realized I had cut the holes a little low in the tile - too low to fudge. So it was time to cut two more. It took five tries to cut the two tiles, leaving only one spare tile. That was far too close for my liking but we did have enough and that is all that counts. I'll polish off the grouting tomorrow.

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Now, there is ony the small bit of tile by the front door to complete and that has to wait until the finish carpenter installs the last of the trim. I can hardly wait!

-grampa dan