Cause for celebration – six week cabin update

celebration six week
1938 cabin after addition was removed, October 29, 2017, Photo by slc

Six weeks, three 18 yard dumpster loads and 145 “man” hours later, we have completed the demolition of the non-permitted, mold and rodent excrement filled cabin addition.  All that is left is the flooring and the lower level deck.  This accomplishment is cause for celebration!

What I learned from the demolition:

celebration six week
Third dumpster load, Photo by slc
  • Wear protective clothing, goggles, and a respirator.  You can never be too careful as my son-in-law found out when he opted for hiking boots instead of professional work boots and took a nail through the bottom of his foot.
  • Make sure you’ve had a tetanus shot in the past seven years.
  • Try to place the dumpster as close to your work site as possible.  Due to all the large beautiful moss-covered rocks and the slope of my property, we were unable to have it close to the addition.  This less than ideal placement required lots of walking, carrying and pushing a wheelbarrow of debris to the dumpster about 50 feet away from the work site.
  • When working remotely as we were, it was important to bring the necessary tools each day to the work site.  We often needed nails we didn’t have, so I often removed nails from the demo debris to reuse.  One day I forgot to bring the circular saw so we ended up cutting some ceiling joists with a hand saw made to cut tree branches.  We could have left our tools in the cabin but felt that it just wasn’t secure enough.

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The sign I needed

the sign
Bald Eagle, Photo by slc

Years ago my late Father visited my family in Colorado to help with a basement electrical installation.  I believe it was around Thanksgiving and while having a meal in the dining room, my Father saw a bald eagle for the very first time in the sky outside the window.  He was very moved and excited to see America’s majestic icon.

My Dad passed in December of 2013.  Several months later, I was speaking to my daughter on the phone.  We talked about my Dad and the subject of my receiving a small inheritance from his estate came up.  I told my daughter I hoped to use that special gift to purchase a piece of mountain property some day as my Dad loved the mountains.  Right then a bald eagle flew toward me on the deck and then flew over my house.  I felt it a sign that my Dad approved of my use of his gift.

Last week, I realized I needed reassurance that buying and fixing up the cabin in the mountains was what my Dad wanted for me.  I needed the sign of an eagle.  Today, I got that sign.  While driving home from a beautiful afternoon of work at the cabin, I spied a bald eagle in a tree along the North Fork of the Big Thompson River.

Thank you Dad for the sign and the gift of the cabin in Glen Haven.  I love you for it and I hope you are proud of me!

Peaceful and content – week four cabin update

peaceful and content
Highway 66 Detour, Photo by slc

October 2nd was the beginning of week four cabin renovation, but also the first day of Highway 34’s restricted usage due to the 2013 flood reconstruction project.  During the week, I worked on projects closer to home and substituted on Thursday and Friday at a middle school.

On Saturday, October 7th, it was forecast to be a balmy 70+ degrees so I headed up the cabin around noon, outside the new normal morning canyon access hours of 6:00-8:30 a.m.  Leaving at noon meant I had to go an extra 25 miles along the detour through the cities of Longmont and Lyons.  Little did I know, “leaf peepers” were also headed up to Estes Park on the same route.

peaceful and content
Fox Creek, Photo by slc

Normally, when I drive directly from my home to the cabin on Highway 34, it takes me about 40 minutes to turn onto Memory Lane.  On October 7th, it took 105 minutes (1-3/4 hours).  I tried to enjoy the fall orange and gold scenery.  The mountains had received a fresh dusting of snow.  I was not going to get stressed out by the huge delay due to the crowded detour.

Once at the cabin, I worked for about 2-1/2 hours on more repointing of the old stone foundation, picking up and disposing of tar paper, siding, and lumber into the rented dumpster, loading miscellaneous metal into my car’s trunk for recycling, and spraying a bleach/water mixture on the original cabin’s tongue and groove moldy pine ceiling.  Not glamorous work but I relished every moment in the warm gentle breeze, utter silence and the picturesque forest.  I didn’t want to leave.  It was so peaceful.

discover peacefulness
slc

Following the pilot car on my way home down the “normal” Highway 34 route (I was within the evening access hours of 4:00-8:00 p.m.), I discovered how truly peaceful and content I feel for the first time in my retirement.

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote,  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

 

Funeral, repointing & another nail – week three cabin update

At the age of 100-1/2, Marguerite died on September 21, 2017 and her funeral was September 27. May she rest in peace.  Marguerite was my son-in-law’s only surviving grandparent and he attended her funeral this week in western Iowa.  I continued work on the cabin’s property cleanup and began “repointing” the nearly 80-year-old stone foundation.

cabin repointing
Stone foundation before

You can learn how to do almost anything on YouTube.com, including “repointing.” According to Wikipedia, “Repointing is the process of renewing the pointing, which is the external part of mortar joints, in masonry construction.”  I watched a This Old House video and then drove to Home Depot to buy the necessary supplies.

cabin repointing
Repointing after photo, mortar still wet

Spackling and repointing are similar in my opinion.  You are filling in gaps or holes with a compound and smoothing that compound out so it blends in.  I think it turned out pretty well for my first time at repointing.  Doing the work myself saved a lot of money by not having to hire a stone mason to perform the tedious work and it was rewarding to know I could do make the stone foundation secure again.

Demolition exposes many nails and other potentially dangerous elements. Another nail made its presence known this week, this time to my son-in-law.  He was working alone on the second story demo when he stepped on a nail and it went through his boot and into the bottom of his foot.  After applying first aid, he went back to work for several more hours but he too wondered, like me last week, when was his last tetanus shot?

cabin repointing
Second story of addition demolished, 10/1/17

As Highway 34 is only open on a limited basis beginning October 2nd, we worked hard and fast to try to accomplish as much as we could this week.  We finished tearing down the second story section of the cabin addition, tarped a portion of the roof and boarded up part of the original cabin.  Work will slow now as the weather changes and the road closure restricts our access.

cabin repointing
Cabin, October 1, 2017

Much work remains but we are making progress and who could ask for a better working environment than in the Roosevelt National Forest in Glen Haven, Colorado.

Tetanus? – week two cabin update

 

tetanus
Cabin roof (before), Photo by slc

My critical demo question this week was “When did I get my last tetanus shot?” While helping my son-in-law remove the second story windows of the cabin, I slightly ripped my work pants just to the left of my knee. I walked too close to a three-inch nail protruding out of one of the window frames.  I felt some pain at the time but I didn’t think it had done any damage until later that evening.

After a much-needed shower and putting on comfortable clothes including shorts, I was eating dinner and watching the news when I noticed a deep bloody scratch to the left of my knee cap.  It hurt when I touched it and that’s when I wondered “When did I get my last tetanus shot?”

tetanus
After Demo Week 2, Photo by slc

Working under dangerous and unsanitary conditions on this cabin rehab has been interesting and a real test of my “guts to take on a fixer upper.”  We knew we would be working with mold in the drywall and insulation.  We knew there was low levels of asbestos in the floor tile. We knew we would be working around black widow spiders as we discovered two during our inspection.  We also knew we would be working with rusty nails and wet, sagging floorboards.  We didn’t know we would be working around large red ants and removing at least eight large garbage bags of animal excrement and pinecones discovered deposited in the walls and attic space.

 

tetanus
East side of cabin (before), Photo by slc
tetanus
After Week 2 Demo, Photo by slc

Despite these working conditions, we accomplished a lot this week, as you can see from the photos.

I finally remembered I was immunized with the Tdap vaccine when my granddaughter was born in 2012.  At that time I was employed as a high school teacher and my daughter wanted to protect her newborn daughter from pertussis (whooping-cough) so I was vaccinated.  Now, that same vaccine is protecting me from contracting tetanus from the rusty nails I encounter during this cabin demo/build.

When did you get your last tetanus shot?

Newest life journey – week one cabin update

Image result for quotes keys

newest life journey
Key to cabin, Photo by slc

Day #2  This key finally opened the locked well-worn cabin door and now I hold the key to my newest life journey!

Today, I pulled thistles, raked and picked up bags and bags of small tree limbs and dry tall grasses before my son-in-law arrived to help with grass trimming around the 3/4 acre property.  He also removed cabinet doors from inside the cabin.  We wanted to open up everything so we could set off a Raid Max Deep Reach Fogger before we left for the day.  Several unwanted creatures live in old, abandoned mountain cabins.  Mice and squirrels have left signs of their visits to my cabin but the most unwanted creatures right now are the black widow spiders; we found two today.

newest life journey
1945 Magazine, Photo by slc

We also found a treasure today: an August 1945 edition of the We The People of North Carolina magazine.  In it are some pretty interesting articles.  One titled “Teachers’ New Salary Schedule” describes “minimum state salary schedule adopted for payment of all teachers next year, both white and Negro.”  A teacher with a graduate degree and two years experience would receive an annual salary of $1,487 which “includ(es) the $120 war bonus.”

Other articles titled “An Overall Picture of War-Time America” and “Federal Spending Down” reflect America’s history back in 1945.  The magazine was in good condition and made for fascinating reading at the end of the day.

Day #3

newest life journey
Permit, Photo by slc

I didn’t get up to the cabin today but I did attend a gathering of Big Thompson Canyon residents to pick up a permit.  The Canyon will be closed October 2nd for winter CDOT construction projects which are necessary to repair damage sustained in the 2013 Big Thompson River flooding.  According to CDOT’s press release the permit will “allow canyon residents living within the closure boundaries access” during the “large-scale closure.”

My cabin happens to be on the other side of the road closure but I was able to get a permit so I at least have limited access through the Canyon.  I can also access the cabin at other times but by a much further route through Lyons and Estes Park.  This closure will cause us to halt most work on the cabin as contractors will charge more to deal with the closure/permit situation.

The Canyon road, Highway 34, will reopen Memorial Day weekend 2018.

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“Do you have the guts to take on a fixer upper?”

Joanna and Chip Gaines begin their hit show Fixer Upper on HGTV each week with that question.  I love their show and others which depict people taking on a fixer upper property and making it into something wonderful.  You might say I’m addicted!

taking on a fixer upper
Photo by slc

So, to answer the question, “Do you have the guts to take on a fixer upper?”  My answer is yes, I do!  This week I successfully negotiated a contract on a fixer upper in the mountains about 40 minutes from my home.

The original cabin with a stone fireplace was built in 1938.  It is a one room structure built on a stone foundation.  In 1989, former owners crudely built an attached two-story addition to the cabin.  This addition was not permitted and later deteriorated beyond livability.  The cabin has electricity but no running water or septic.  It has a primitive outhouse up the hill for the owner’s convenience.

So why am I buying this property?

First, I can afford it and it is a good investment.  The property was listed “as is” for $98,900.  I offered $85,000 and the sellers accepted.  Other fixer uppers we have looked at have been listed around $200,000 with major work needed. Mountain properties in the area typically go for $120,000 and up for smaller lots and cabins.  Once I fix this property up as now planned, we could probably list it for over $200,000.  The financial risk of taking on a fixer upper at this price is fairly minimal.

Second, it could become a source of income.  I am hopeful demolition, rebuilding and restoration will be completed by about August 1st next year.  At that time, I would like to offer it as a Vacation Rental By Owner, VRBO.  The property is near the Estes Park area and I would market it to people who are looking for a quiet place in the woods for their short-term stay.

taking on a fixer upper
photo by slc

Next, the thought of being the general contractor on this project is exciting.  I have already learned a lot from visiting with the planners at the county building department, a structural engineer and visiting websites on codes, permits and even sealed vaults for septic.   Designing the new structure will probably be my favorite part of the process.  I have already drawn a rough sketch of the proposed layout of the new addition.  Fun stuff!

Lastly, I have always (since about seventh grade) wanted a home in the woods.  Since moving to Colorado over 20 years ago I have wanted a  cabin in the mountains.  Since I have a passion for taking on a fixer upper and I have always wanted a cabin in the woods, this one is a pretty good fit.

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