Monday, May 11, 2015

New Deck for the Ship at Anchor

For a while now I've been wanting a new deck on the side of the house. A few years ago I dug down into the earth and made a gravel patio that was too small and too uneven to be of much use. Amy says she liked laying on the hot rocks in the sun, but otherwise, it just became a place to pile the various things that didn't get put away. It was too crowded to sit. You could cook on the grill, but you didn't want to spend any time out there with it.

Last year, when we first talked about the barn, we started talking about a deck as well. It was -- as we struggled to balance our money and time -- a pipe dream. Maybe in the future we'd have the time and money to build a decent deck. Maybe we'd get it done in the next five years -- before Lindsay graduates from high school.

Something got into me a few weeks ago and I was determined. We've had unusually warm dry weather this spring and winter and had occasion to spend time outside. We've gotten a lot done. Of course, whenever you do one project, that just gives you confidence -- and desire to do another.

Pinterest is evil. It makes the world seem possible. Unlimited time and money captured with peak creativity. Great for ideas, but not-so-great if you have other things to be doing.

My basement is a mess, my tools need organizing, the garage is a mess. I have things to write and things to do.

So I checked books out from the library and made some calculations and dug in.

I decided to build a floating deck on concrete "handi-blocks" that hold pressure treated 2x6 wood in four 8x8 squares. The outer squares are cantilevered out over the slope using posts sunk into the ground. If the waters rise really high, it will work as a dock.

It is not perfectly square -- nothing I have ever constructed in my life has been perfectly square, but you don't notice anything now that it is all done. Years of building things slightly out of square despite my best efforts have left me with a knowledge of how to best hide what you just bodged up.

We're still deciding if we want a railing, or perhaps a privacy screen to block the wind that comes around the side of the house. We'll live with a little while and decide.

It is a fine and glorious thing to build something useful, to watch your whole family use it and to know that it will get used for years to come.

This is what I started with. Luckily the gravel made a good base for the handiblocks.
 Under the pea-gravel is packed leveled sand. 
It went fast. After the first weekend, I got enough down where I could take a break. 
If I'd wanted an 8x8 deck, this would have been a one day job.

The back 8x16 section went very quickly.
The front section was a little trickier. I wanted to hide a few little errors while making the deck look more finished. That required framing the first and last boards and then running the other boards perpendicular to the first section. 

You can see the pattern. 

I also had a little help. Grace has her own tool belt and like being my helper. She came in handy while lining up the boards putting the spacer on one end while I lined up the other. It made things go a lot faster. She also got to screw down some boards, but said she'd rather hammer. 

I also wanted to make a path and stair up to the deck so we aren't clambering on and off it. 

I did a little gravel work for a path out of the basement to the deck. 

A nice place to relax after a hard day's work. 
I'm not sure what I'll do about railings. It looks nice open as it is, but I might want a little wind-break on the house side and some built in benches for seating and/or storage. Right now we'll use it as is. The biggest drawback -- it makes us want to upgrade our patio furniture. Oh well.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas photos.

Here are some photos of our house during the Christmas Tour of Historic Homes 2014. It was great to have so many nice people come in and share the warmth of Dun Elise. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

This Old House at Christmas

This Sunday we are opening up our house to strangers.

No snow yet, but the Christmas wreaths are up.
We don't do that often. It has been our refuge from the wide world for more than 20 years. Cozy in the winter storms and howling winds. 

This year, however, we have been asked to be part of the historic Christmas homes tour.

It all starts with a Finnish Christmas Concert at the historic Deep River Evangelical Lutheran Church on December 7th at 1:30 pm. Donations go the upkeep of this historic church. Following it is a Tour of Homes sponsored by the Finnish-American Folk Festival Tickets are $5/person and can be purchased at the church, Hair Villa, Finn Ware, and Radio Shack. We also have maps and can take donations at the house if you want to start the tour from this end. 

Our house is known as the Elsie Torpa place by locals. Amy grew up just across the fields always called it Elsie’s and remembered coming to visit and having cookies in the welcoming kitchen.

The land was first patented under the Homestead act in February 1877 by Hans P Nadresen. It is not clear, based on our limited research, what improvements he made to the property. His claim included the uplands on the other side of the state route 4 -- which was not built until the 1920s -- as well as the fields totaling 146 acres.  

We attempted to research the property in the 1990s, but records from Wahkiakum county are currently located in Olympia. Some county records have been lost to a fire. We are always looking for more information about the previous owners and history of our home. I have searched the archives for a historic picture of our home, but haven't been able to find one.

We believe the house was built in about 1917 based on the increase in tax values at that time. A few years before a young man married one of the Rosburg girls and the property was split off from the larger Rosburg holding. The property tax records increased between 1916 and 1917 and the construction of a house is noted. There was also a round roofed barn for the dairy. When we removed the original cedar siding two years ago, we found cigarette papers dated 1918.  

Many have told us over the years that the house was a “Sears house.” These were house kits that could be ordered right out of the Sears catalog and delivered to your property -- but you had to put together the pre-measured lumber yourself. While the house is similar to some of the Sears kits of the era, the abundance of mills and lumber at the time makes me think it was likely built of local materials. The cedar siding came from the Grays River Shingle Co. and the house is all built of straight grained Douglas Fir. That said, the quality of the craftsmanship is high.

The Durrah family had the property for a time, before Elmer and Elsie purchased the house in the 1940s. Henry Nelson bought the property with the house from the Torpa family in the about 1990. His daughter Amy Nelson married Ed Hunt in 1992 at the Grays River covered bridge. We moved into the house in 1993 and purchased the house -- split off from the pasture -- in 1995.

The house was unremodled, but needed major upgrades to the electrical, plumbing, windows and insulation when the purchased by the Hunts. Over the past 20 years Amy and Ed have slowly restored and revived the old house.  I did all of the plumbing and light fixtures himself. Amy spent many nights tirelessly stripping layers of paint from the beautiful wood trim and floors in the living room and dining room. I
built the fireplace mantle behind the Jotul 404 wood cook stove.

We welcome visitors and anyone who can help us learn more about this house.