Planting Sequoias

In which I blog about a life (hopefully) well lived.

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Farm Apartment: Framing Exterior Walls (in which Kenny and I invent our own form of marriage counseling)

As you might have seen from my instagram feed (it’s fascinating, really), framing on the apartment has begun!

My grandpa got a jump on assembling the walls before we were even finished laying the deck. The walls are assembled on the floor and then hoisted in large pieces. In the picture below, you can see a wall just waiting to be lifted into place.


Three things to note in the picture above: The large space in the far wall will be where a window will go. Grandpa also took the time to notch out small sections in each of the end walls (you can see the notches in the picture above). Later we’ll put 2x4s through them and they’ll be an anchor for the steel exterior of the barn. Last thing: the darker boards in the picture above are the old joists from the ceiling! Waste not, want not, right?

We got busy putting up the first wall when the sun was setting. It was pretty beautiful.


In many ways, the process went fast and was extremely gratifying visually. But in other ways, there was a lot of busy work that occurred too–the walls have to be precisely placed and level and then each wall section needs to be braced. We only got a little more than 1 wall up that first night. We=basically the whole fam: Grandpa, dad, uncle, Kenny, and yours truly, hanging out with the men and hoping they don’t notice.

My youngest brother and his friend put up the next wall. No worries–he does this for a living now.

And then it was time for Our wall.

Oh yeah, did I tell you that Kenny and I erected an ENTIRE wall? BY OURSELVES? And SURVIVED, marriage intact?

Because we did.

framing exterior walls


There are obviously no pictures of the project in process because I was lifting, hauling, leveling, nailing, and bracing massive walls. That’s my excuse, and I think it’s a good one.

Here’s the wall we put up ON OUR OWN. Nail guns, ladders, bracing, and everything.

framing exterior walls

And hold on. Do you see that large gaping hole in the floor? In the picture above?

That, my friends, is going to be where the stairs come up. But for now, it’s just a gaping hole. THAT KENNY AND I HAD TO MANEUVER BAJILLION POUND WALLS AROUND. Without falling into, ideally.

I won’t say there were no arguments throughout the process, but I will say that this was an excellent lesson in working together and trusting each other.

framing exterior walls

I think both Kenny and I feel pretty proud of ourselves after that day.

Oh, and I had to include this picture my sister instagrammed from the first day. Who knew construction work could be so beautiful and glamorous looking?

Framing an exterior wall.

Sheesh. Over and out.



Farm Apartment: Laying the Deck (in which I wield a nail gun like a boss)

If you’re a construction worker, this “Farm Apartment” blog series might make you go “huh?” but hopefully that’s okay because for your sake I am skipping over some of the more boring parts. It is entirely coincidental that those boring parts just happened to be very stressful to the point where I forgot to take pictures.

Which is a bummer, because a crane was involved.

While the open sky look can be quite lovely, it is not conducive for shelter during rainstorms. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can catch up by reading this post first. Yes, we’re building a second story onto a formerly flat-roofed barn.

Anyway, let’s talk about the crane, since that was the best/most stressful part. Dad ordered these fancy joists (they looked like these) that were made up of two 2x4s and some plywood. Apparently they’re very strong, and very heavy–thus the crane. The truck driver who delivered them also doubled as a crane driver which was conveniently a part of the truck itself. He hoisted up those joists and plopped them right onto the roof as if they were pick-up sticks–except with way more serious consequences if something went wrong.

Once we had the joists, it was simply (HA) a matter of spacing them across the beam and walls every sixteen inches and nailing them in. Nevermind that each joist weighed a ton apiece (almost) and were about 40 feet long.

Then came some less stressful progress–the “deck”! Apparently this platform is not called a “floor;” no, that would be entirely too logical.

Using the farm’s forklift, Dad lifted up a stack of 4×8′ sheets of underlayment and we got to building.


(Picture from my sister’s Instagram feed.)

My job was affixing everything with the nail gun, since wrangling the large sheets of underlayment into place was not my forte. Which was fine with me–nail-gunning makes one feel quite powerful.

We got halfway done the first day and finished up on the second evening we worked on it.

In the picture below you can see that half of the deck has been laid (in the foreground) and half has yet to be laid.


My grandpa got a jump on the framing of the second story by assembling the walls (you can see them lying down) before we’d even finished the deck.

With the underlayment down, it is nearly time to begin framing!


And that will wait for another post. Bwahaha.

I’m just happy we don’t have to walk from joist to joist (in mortal peril) anymore. I have great balance, but it’s somewhat unnerving to step over gaping holes into which you could quite possibly plummet with any misstep.

Also–can I just point out how great the view is from our construction site? Nothing like looking out over the fields at sunset!

Anyone else want to share their nail-gunning experience? Or desire to learn? I am basically an expert now. 🙂


Farm Apartment: First Things First (in which we remove the roof in order to raise the roof)

When remodeling old things to make them new and useful once again, you often have to take a few steps backwards before you get to the fun stuff.

In the case of the Farm Apartment we’re building (YES! For real! Click here to catch up), we needed to remove the roof in order to raise the roof. I know, I know, it seems backwards to me as well.

But in order to support the weight of the ENTIRE SECOND STORY, we took the whole roof down. Did I mention that we’re DIYing the whole thing? THRILLING.

Let’s jump right in with a picture. Believe me when I say that this was a WEIRD, WEIRD feeling–being in the building and yet completely outside.


Oh, but it wasn’t as easy as the internet makes it out to be. I just decided to spare you of all of the hard work and the two GIGANTIC dumpsters worth of debris we chipped off that old roof. That, and I forgot to take pictures. The roof was the tar type with about an inch of accumulated tar over the decades. We would use a sawzall to cut through the tar and then we’d chip it off in large-ish chunks with a nifty shovel/prybar thing meant for this type of work. I obviously don’t know the real name.

Once we removed the tar, we removed the roof boards. In today’s construction, 4×8′ sheets of wood are used, but when this barn was built the used individual boards that were about 8 inches wide and a half-inch thick. Since they were all tar-covered and filled with nails, into the dumpster they went!

Next we removed the old joists–in this case, long lengths of 2x8s. In the picture below, you can see one of the two beams that helped support these joists.


Now THOSE we could keep and reuse–which meant removing HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of nails. But not having to PAY to get rid of them and not having to purchase new wood means it’s worth it! They won’t be reused as floor/ceiling joists, as today’s code requires better support than that, but they can be used to frame the second story outer walls.

Oh, and let’s back up a sec and dissect that picture above. YES, that’s my dad using a CHAINSAW to get that huge beam down (the beam was actually made of three side-by-side 2x10s, not solid wood). We couldn’t reuse them, so the billion pound beam pieces went into the dumpster.

We replaced the 2 old wooden beams with one custom steel beam and three supporting steel poles. Oh yeah, and we had to take out the concrete floor and pour new concrete supports for the beam poles. Currently the floor looks like Swiss cheese–the rest of the floor will come out eventually and be replaced with a fresh new concrete slab. The old slab was too thin and rough to keep. In essence, all we are keeping of the old barn are the cinder block walls–and even those have to be raised a bit to create 8″ ceilings.

Obviously this is all very exciting, and Kenny and I are racking up the miles (and gas $$ used) driving the 35 miles to and from the farm. We’re loving it.


The Big Project: Farm Apartment (in which we make plans to raise the roof…literally)

Since Kenny and I live in a 670 square foot apartment, we frequently escape those confines and head to my parents expansive farm.

ESPECIALLY now that they’ve embarked on a very exciting, very big new project.

You might remember the master bedroom makeover we gave my parents for Christmas?

Well, this project is on the farm, but it’s not in the house at all. Let me explain.

There are a bunch of barns on the farm, all with different purposes. Some are older and some are newer. And one such barn (an old one) needs to be remodeled for a new purpose. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have received several sneak peeks of our progress…

Let me introduce you to “the workshop,” which is what we call this barn. Each barn has a name–the yellow polebarn (that, incidentally, hasn’t been yellow in 10 years), the sheep barn, Grandpa’s barn, etc.

Here it is, on the very righthand side of the picture. The one with the flat roof.


And here’s another, summerier picture–it’s on the right again.


My guess is that this barn was built sometime in the 1940s or 1950s (though my mother can correct me). In it’s lifetime, it’s been a garage, a chicken coop, a shop for wool wares, and a woodworking shop.


It’s time now for the barn to get rebuilt. The plan is to raise the roof (literally) and create a gambrel roof (more of a traditional barn look). That will then create a whole second story worth of space, which we’ll divide into an apartment and a studio for my mom’s hobby, weaving (with gigantic looms). The first story will continue to be half shop, half woodworking area.

All photos were taken from my mom’s farm blog, which you should click over to read. And check back Monday for a progress post–we’ve already started work!