I am exactly where I want to be … at least, that’s what I tell my daughter. One of the neat side effects of being a parent is that I have a daughter that asks me a lot of questions and she will not accept “because I said so” or “that’s just the way it is” as a response. My daughter is going through some academic adventures on her own right now and whenever she feels uncertain about what’s coming next, I typically tell her that this is the most exciting thing about being alive – not knowing what’s about to happen. As those words come out of my mouth, I start to thinking about the cabin project I am working on, which is getting built in a climate that is completely foreign and unique to me. When I use this as an example to my daughter, she asks me “Aren’t you scared that you’ll make a mistake?” The answer back is easy – “Of course I’m worried that I’ll make a mistake, but that’s true about everything I do. Doing a project like this is tremendously exciting and its an adventure I wouldn’t want to miss.”
Until I thought I was going to die when we were coming in to land. Seriously … I suppose the pilot thought to himself, “Let’s do a super tight bank for no apparent reason and see if we can make someone scream back in coach!”
I’ve been around snow a few times but I haven’t ever built a house in this sort of environment. I flew in to Madison Wisconsin, rented a car, and then drove North for 4+ hours to get to my project site. Everything was cold and gray, and there was snow everywhere. In the picture above, this is the “driveway” to my project. From the main road, this driveway is about 420′ long and there are approximately 2.3 bajillion trees on this site. It makes for a beautiful approach to the project site, but if you’re – oh, I don’t know – walking this driveway at night, by yourself … it’s kinda creepy.
More on that later.
One of the very convenient things about visiting my project, which is located in the middle of nowhere (part of the reason this is an awesome cabin site) is that rather than stay in a hotel that’s located in town (about 20 minutes away) is that I stay in the cabin that literally located right next door! If you look at the picture above, through al the trees, you can see the cabin where I stay. It’s red … like the color of blood.
When I got on site, I noticed this weird scoopy looking thing. I’ve never seen anything like it on one of my joists before … I wonder what it could be?
Apparently it’s only the most important tool on the job site (according to me). For those of you that are shaking their heads right now, I know what a snow shovel looks like – I’ve just never seen one actually being used before. Every day (and up here, it might even happen a few times a day) the snow has to get pushed off site. In our case, they were snapping lines and preparing to start laying out the walls for the ground floor level … can’t do that with snow on the deck.
In fact, there was snow on everything. You can’t really tell from these photos but it was snowing as I was walking around the site documenting progress and evaluating the current state of affairs.
One of the challenges we are working through is that we missed our easy window to pour concrete slabs and we are now in the “hard window” of pouring concrete slabs. This is why you see a giant plastic tent on our site … this is to warm up the ground and keep it from freezing. You can see the metal ventilation flue sticking out of the plastic in the picture above. So while the temperature outside routinely exists below freezing, it is nice and comfy warm inside the tent.
I stuck my camera through a hole in the plastic tent (we’ll say it was there for “ventilation purposes”) to look inside and see what I could see.
Nothing too exotic … a gas furnace and some construction supplies.
When I found the secret entrance, I went inside to take a closer look. It’s pretty low tech but seems to do the job quite nicely and without filling the tent with mind-altering fumes. It was actually pleasant inside and considering the snow and freezing weather outside, I thought “this is where I would want to be working.)
Oh look, it’s the working guys … actually they weren’t currently working, they were on their lunch breaks (which makes even more sense why someone would be in here.) These were 75% of the guys who were on site this particular day. The guy on the right, his name is Travis – which I only really know because I met his wife (who was my bartender) that night at dinner.
But again, that’s a story for later.
So while I’m walking around the site taking photos and documenting progress, all the inside the office contractors were standing on the deck of the progress talking about what happens next, which is actually what they should be talking about. We had spent the previous several hours back in the contractor’s office, going through the drawings, and discussing what happens next.
I thought it would be interesting to show a little of the typology of this site. Other than the 2.3 bajillion trees, the cabin sits about 30 feet above the level of the lake. While the entire site undulated up and down through its entirety, once you get about 50 feet from the water’s edge, the site drops sharply. This is about the only angle that shows this condition … unless I walked out onto the frozen lake and took a picture looking back. Considering I heard a news report driving in that said a guy died this last weekend because he and his snowmobile went through some lake and he sadly died. I’ll stay off the frozen lake for the time being, thank you very much.
This is the view that the cabin faces out onto – quite beautiful really but that’s not why I took this particular photo. It’s because the lake doesn’t look like a lake anymore … it looks like a big snowy field. I’d say “take a look a the water” but unfortunately, everything is covered in snow.
This is the cabin … at least, what they’ve managed to build so far. So I’m still walking around the site, taking pictures and documenting progress and it dawns on me that I am the only one a) not in the heated tent structure, and b) mid-calf deep in snow … and I’m the only person from not currently living in Wisconsin.
Are they scared of getting in the snow?
That’s when I had the genius idea that I would reach down, into the 8″ of perfect snowball making snow, and (I bet you can guess what happens next) I made a perfect snowball. Nobody would think that a Texan would make such a perfect snowball, one that wasn’t so big that I would have to lob it, or one that was too loosely pack as to fall apart mid-flight. It was perfect.
I need to make sure that I don’t find myself standing to close to the frozen lake any time soon.
This was a new one for me. There was a fire going on site that was using the scraps of lumber as fuel. When I asked about it, the contractor told me that this was fairly common because it is really difficult to get a dumpster up on to these job sites, and the snow doesn’t make things any easier. I cautiously asked “is this legal?” Turns out that it is legal and after a certain point (when there is snow on the ground) you don’t even have to get a permit to do this.
I asked if I could get a full-time job up here as a fire builder – all that was missing was a brisket or some ribs.
Do I even have to say it? While it might not smell like a port-a-potty that’s 110°, I don’t even want to think about the nightmare that would involve me pulling down my pants for any length of time when it’s like 7° or something. Have you heard what happens when you get frostbite?
I need to let you know that I am a grown man and I don’t get scared too easily. When I was a kid, that was a different story but there were always some special circumstance. Like most kids, I didn’t like being outside in the dark – who knows what sort of creepy terrible type things are out there just waiting to attack you?
One of my chores as a child was to take the trash out. I didn’t mind walking from room to room collecting all the trash, it was taking it out to the alley that I didn’t like. Of course, I would always put off collecting the trash for as long as possible but eventually I would have to cross the gap between our well-lit carport, and the dark abyss known as our driveway. I knew for a fact that there wasn’t a werewolf (yes, werewolf) at the end of the driveway, hanging out in the alley, just waiting for me to bring the trash out, so that he could try to take a bite out of me – duh. I totally knew that werewolf’s didn’t exist … however … wouldn’t it suck to be the first person to ever get bitten by a werewolf while taking the trash out? I mean, someone’s got to be the first, why couldn’t it be me?
At any rate, I told you all that so this next part would make a bit more sense.
When my wife asked me how it was staying by myself, out in the middle of nowhere, with no one around, I told her “the murderers could take their time”.
The last night I was in town, I went out to eat with the owner of the construction company and his top guy. The restaurant/bar we went to was called “The Bear Trap” … exactly the sort of name a place in the North Woods of Wisconsin should be called. The food was good, the drinks were good – and our bartender is the wife of Travis (remember Travis?). Basically, she was serving her husband’s bosses and the architect of the project where her husband is currently working. So yeah, the drinks were terrific.
So when the night had ended, I had the contractor drop me off at the end of the driveway to the cabin where I was staying. The evening was pretty crisp and I felt like getting in a short walk. The important part of the story is this: A cabin that’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s night-time and there are zero lights out, and there is absolutely no sound.
It had been snowing the entire time that we had been at dinner and as I was walking down the driveway, my shoes making a crunching sound with every step I took. It was so dark that I had to pull out my phone and turn on the flashlight just so I could make sure that I didn’t wander off the path and fall into a ditch. I’m walking down the driveway, light pointed at my feet to see where I’m walking –
… and that’s when I saw a fresh pair of footprints in the snow. What the $%&#!! Why are there footprints out here?! There’s not supposed to be anyone out here. Why are there fresh prints in the snow. WHY!! I stopped waking and listened.
I started following the footprints because according to every single murder story ever written, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. The footprints led to the side of the barn and disappeared behind a pile of firewood … naturally. Now I’m thinking, if I was a werewolf and I wanted to change in to my animal form, I wouldn’t want to do it out in the open, like a common animal. I would want some privacy … like behind this pile of wood.
Luckily, there was no werewolf, or any murderers waiting for me that night. As it turns out, the contractor had sent someone over to this cabin because they are doing some work here and they are going to build a wood deck to lift all the firewood off the ground and someone needed to come by and take some measurements. It seems perfectly reasonable to do something like that at night, what was I thinking?
It’s only January 7th at this point and I think I’ve already avoided getting killed about 8 times. New Year, and New Adventures (that just might kill me).
I’d like to dedicate this month’s ArchiTalks blog post to my friend, Rusty Long, who is dealing with a family tragedy. Rusty is an Architect based out of Portsmouth, Virginia, whose son Matthew is fighting for his life. Here is Matthew’s story, as told by his Dad:
Matthew Long was born May 29th, 2013, happy, and seemingly healthy. Less than two days later his mother and I found ourselves in an neonatal intensive care unit waiting room, listening to a rushed intensive care doctor explain how our son needed immediate dialysis to save his life. The disease, he briefly explained, was one of a group of disorders called Urea Cycle Disorders, which impact the way the body breaks down protein. We later discovered that Matthew’s particular variant is called OTC Deficiency, a particularly severe form of it in fact, which results in a rapid rise of ammonia in the blood, called hyperammonemia, resulting in devastating neurological damage. This form of OTC is so severe, Matthew has virtually no peers who have survived it. Once the immediate crisis was arrested, we came to find out more about the disease and the impact of this initial event.
You can also read the other members of the ArchiTalks community who are also dedicating this months blog post to help Rusty and his family. I doubt any of them will be like mine (thank goodness).
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
New Year, New Goals
brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
New Year, New Adult Architect
Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Little Premature
Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
new year, new [engagement]
Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
New Year, New Business
Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn)
New Year, New Perspective
Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
New Year, New Business
Nicholas Renard – dig Architecture (@dig-arch)
New Year, A New Hope
Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
New Year New Desk
Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
New Year, New Goals
Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
New Year New Office
Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
New Year, More Change
Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
New Year, New Office Space
Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
New Year, New Reflection
Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
New Year, New Direction
Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
New Year. New Gear.
Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*)
New Year, New Casita
Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
New Year, New Underwear
Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
New Year, New Community on Business of Architecture
Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
New Year, New CAD
Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
New Year, New Adventures
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
new race new year new start
Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
New Year. New Budget.
Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
New Year, New Era
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“new year, new _____”
Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
New Year, New Plan
Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
New Year, New Adventures
Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
New Year, New Life!
Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
New Year, New Home
Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
The New New
Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
New Year New Reality