Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homies - Vote for Cottonwood Meadow

It is that time of year when Apartment Therapy hosts "The Homies" which are awards for the best blogs on the net. Of course I nominated Cottonwood Meadow and we would love your vote (you have to sign in to vote but they don't send you anything crazy email junk).

So don't delay and vote now for Cottonwood Meadow for the Best DIY Blog (only 433 more votes to beat the leader....yeh, right!)


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ahoy there Matey

Not sure whether it was to make the "girls" (containers) feel more at home with a little piece of their past or it was just too freaky an idea to pass up but I just acquired a porthole window for the house.

No, its not going into a wall, its going into the floor. The floor of the bedroom closet to be precise. 

The bedroom closet is situated directly over the laundry room so I thought it would be cool to set a porthole window in the concrete floor as a laundry drop for dirty clothes. 

Chips Ahoy...I mean Anchors Aweigh.....

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Last One Landed

Now we have all our ducks containers in a row. The last of the girls arrived today after two flat trailer tires on the way up. These containers mover guys don't have it easy.

The last two to arrive are 45' containers that will make up the master bedroom, closet and bathroom. So -Yeh! I have a place to sleep now.

The one that arrived today is in near perfect condition inside which is very exciting. These containers are also Yang Ming which our great neighbor, Marie, informed us means Chinese Energy Meridian Flow - which sounds very soothing and positive.

So a little piece of useless information, a 45' container is merely a 40' container with mini-add-ons on each end.....go figure, real high tech here.

The cool thing about these two containers is that they still smell of the sea. Close your eyes, stand inside and you could be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a container ship surrounded by thousands of pounds of useless Wal-Mart junk.....so magical.

The crane comes on Wednesday to settle the girls into their new mountain home where they will live out their days.

Then the fun begins with the cutting, grinding and welding. Phew, its going to be crazy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Under the Cloak of Darkness

Finally at 7pm last night the first container arrived. I guess these guys are pretty busy and heading up here with one on the truck was delayed till later in the day. But she got here and was unloaded but it was dark already so I took shots of her this morning and then again when her sister arrived this afternoon.

Ms. Ming actually just arrived from China, really she did. They were unloaded earlier this week so she is going straight from one job to another. She is 15 yo and already has a better stamped passport than I do.

Her sister showed up this afternoon and was immediately settled in right next to her. Its a pretty cool set up these guys have for hauling these things (read: I have massive truck envy). Unloading them is the most interesting part. I call it the "Bump and Dump", they literally bump the truck and trailer back and forth till the containers shimmy down the trailer and then dump off the end.

While the whole time I am thinking, this is my kitchen they are throwing on the ground - BE CAREFUL!

Looking down from the kitchen toward the second bathroom and then at the end to the laundry room. Hard to imagine, I know.

The containers placed next the foundation is a tad nerve wracking. The containers look HUGE whereas the foundation looks tiny. In fact the foundation looks so small I swear our couch is going to take up the entire living room and have an arm sticking out the front door. Seeing something laid out on the floor with the only perspective being all of mother nature around you, it throws reality off. 

I just hope they fit!

Today the trip up to the mountains took Taylor (our container guy) a bit longer. There were crazy winds in the valley, 50+mph which is bad news for a 40' x 10' empty metal container. They got whipped all over the road so he had to pull over and wait it out till it died down.

Not the most aerodynamic outfit - you can imagine getting thrown around going over the causeway.

Other things that went on today, Kyle spent some time grinding and sanding some of the rusty spots and re-galvanizing the metal. They are in pretty great shape but need a little touch up here and there. He also cleaned the bottoms so they are ready to be placed on the metal plates. 

Tomorrow the first of the 45' arrives and then Saturday the final one.....Yeh!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Today was the day - Kyle went shopping for containers. I am sure he had fun but looking at the pictures I can't say it looked too hard, they all look the same.

But apparently we are getting four of these. Specifically we are getting two 40' high cube (9'6" tall) containers and two 45' high cube containers.

They are coming from the Port of Oakland.

And yes, part of our house will have "Made in China" stamped on it somewhere. These are the 40' containers we are getting.

Look how many of these things are just sitting there with nothing to do. Prior to the recession the U.S. was bringing in 10 containers for every 2 we shipped back out. I would imagine this discrepancy has scaled back somewhat as we reduce our imports - aka junk we buy at Walmart.

Kyle chose containers with little to no rust, no holes, although they patch everything before they ship them to us and ones that have not had major, noticeable spills in them. Most of these transport dry goods so they should be in good shape. They average about 8 years old but I will get more details on the ones we get once they get here.

Of course color or the name of the shipping company emblazoned across the side is irrelevant as the outside will be be covered with insulation and siding and the interior will be re-painted with Benjamin Moore (AF-70) Battenburg in semi-gloss and 2012 color of the year Benjamin Moore (HC-143) Wythe Blue in eggshell. Just kidding, I have no idea what the inside color will be, we are a long way from that point.

The first container arrives tomorrow and frustratingly they will be one delivered per day unless they can swing two trips in a day....(I will keep my opinion of that to myself). So stay tuned for delivery pics tomorrow and then next week the CRANE comes to position them.

Drill Showdown

One of the best Christmas presents ever was this drill set from Kyle and to this day it is still my favorite but recently Kyle (apparently jealous of my fabulous DeWalt set decided to get himself one.

But he, being a Milwaukee man, went with the Milwaukee equivalent of the mini DeWalt set.

So its been interesting to compare the two. The battery life seems comparable and the umph about the same. What is different is that the Milwaukee is slightly heavier. Not a big deal for Kyle but for me that is the main decision maker for a drill. So now not only do I not have to share my toys with Kyle but I know I have the lightest drill set I think that is out there. Worth every penny!

Friday, February 17, 2012


It seems like every great idea I have for the house I get shot down with one of two responses.
                                               "You can't do that its against code"
               "You can do that but we would need to add 12 more footings and 8 pieces of steel"
                                                     (for a doggy door, really?)

Well its quite obvious that this guy didn't build his house in El Dorado County!

So the next house I build will be in some remote spot of a developing country with little to no building code. Or Tuolomne County, CA, same thing;-)

The containers will be delivered next Wednesday, you can thank President's Day for that and then Tom our Crane guy will be up with a few volunteers to position the containers into place. This will be the point when we will start fielding the phone calls from our neighbors......hehehe!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In the Meantime

While we are waiting for the containers to be delivered I came across a little container inspiration.

This house is fantastic, a totally unique placement that we hadn't thought of before. Have to keep this in mind for the next container house;-)

Check out more pictures and details of this great French creations HERE.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Something happened that I didn't really blog about at the time and that was that Kyle and I got married. YEH!!

October 1st my mom was out visiting for one of her usual trips and we had persuaded Gary and Maureen (Kyle's brother and girlfriend in-law) up to meet my mom and hang out in the mountains. 

They arrived and we went headed further into the Sierra's to Bassi Falls to go hiking and check out the waterfall which is AMAZING. If you want to check it out on Google Earth go to 38.5333N 120.1950W, its at about 5,500ft elevation.

And at the top of the falls Kyle popped the question. I was completely surprised as was my mom and we were even more blown away that Kyle had, had Gary an official justice of the peace to perform marriages in the county for 90 days. Maureen has smuggled up flowers and a T-shirt that said Bride for me to wear. 

It was the most perfect day and I couldn't have dreamed in my wildest dreams that my wedding would be so amazing. Kyle went to so much planning and effort and both Gary and Maureen were amazing partners in crime for him, they are fabulous.

It was windy way up there so we all look a little blustery but from left to right is my mom Jo, me, Kyle, Gary and Maureen.

Of course my mom was over the moon, she adores Kyle, and was texting all her friends before we even got off the dirt road from the falls.

We had a fantastic dinner that night at the Sequoia House including our own personalized Wedding Cheesecake and some great Champagne. I think I was pretty quiet the whole day, just so stunned that we were actually married. I guess that is what it takes to shut me up.

My mom took more formal pictures the next day which is shown above. She also very generously got us a great wedding present.

Yes, we got a backhoe attachment for the tractor. Kim Kardashian eat your heart out, bet in your multi-million dollar wedding you didn't get a backhoe. Every girl's dream#(*$&@)$&#)

So now fast forward and we are in the thick of the house building so needless to say I will be cashing in on that postponed honeymoon as soon as this house is finished! 

Second Concrete Pour

Friday was another bright and early morning meeting a concrete truck or two to pour the floor for the crawl space, and the walls and floor for the well access to the crawl space.

Not that this is the most exciting process but it provides us with a lovely smooth surface to try out some concrete finishes so we can choose what we want to do to the final floor surface on the house floor.

Hard to see but I engraved Ziggy, Denali and Wolf initials in the concrete. We will probably do their paw prints in the back patio concrete later on.

Then the floor was poured, this part is pretty cool. It looks like glass when its done, such a satisfying process.  

Tricky part is grooming the concrete till your stuck in the corner.

So now you do the big reach....

and then the long pole comes out.

Then you can kick back and admire your hard work and hope to goodness a dog doesn't come along and jump in - goodness knows they tried!

So next step is .....drumroll.......the part everyone has been waiting for. The containers!!!

I think Kyle found the best ones so we just need to get a few more pipes and drainage installed and give the concrete time to set up and then we can get them delivered and get the crane to place them.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


There is action at the building site, just not visual changes. The footings are in and sealed and the drainage is placed around the foundation perimeter.

This week the interior of the foundation was leveled and filled with gravel and the crawl space was prepped for its concrete pour. After our second county inspection this morning we are set to pour the floor of the crawl space and the well area that will provide access to said crawl space. Such exciting stuff......

One thing that we run into again and again with this building adventure is certain people's refusal to do things differently from what has ALWAYS been done. I understand the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" but in reality much of it is broke and does need fixing. Yes, most of our homes keep us dry and somewhat warm but they could keep us a lot warmer for a lot less work ($) and they could be built a lot stronger and last a lot longer will less maintenance.

When we started this process one of our missions was to use as many resources that were located close to home, on the divide, in the county, certainly in the state, as possible. We ran into many people right off the bat that didn't want to do any work for us - too weird. Even to the point that one structural engineering entity in the next town over told we COULD NOT BUILD THIS HOUSE, it was impossible. Well, you just chuckle and say thank you very much and move on to prove them wrong.

As much as we want to utilize local resources, we also want to be green and use better building products and processes and when locals aren't up for it we are forced to move further afield. We have accepted it, but we did offer it up to our neighbors first. It is a shame that so many just won't think out of the box and take on a different challenge. We are aware that it might cost more or take longer - use us to try it out, what else are you gonna build right now?

On the other hand we have been lucky to use locals quite a bit to date. Our surveyor, geologist, engineer, excavator, and concrete guy have all been locals and they are great to work with. They all know each other, work well together, are very laid back and easy to get along with. Up until now our concrete has been sourced locally on the divide but they aren't really thrilled about some of the concrete selections we have for the slab and ICF walls (fly ash and lightweight) so we will have to say goodbye to them and move a little further afield. Such is life.

And though our windows are manufactured in Colorado (not many California manufacturers to choose from for windows) the ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) blocks are manufactured in Bakersfield, CA! Yeh, B-Field! I will do a resource post soon and list where we got everything.

The entire building process is a real eye opener and there is no way anything can prepare you for the real thing. Like the county that wants to inspect the tissues you use to blow your nose, do the holes in a french drain face up or down (thanks Google!) and how many pizzas do you need to order for the entire concrete pumping team? It's all the little details, small decisions to make everyday and dealing with me constantly changing the house design and being told I can't put a door there because it is a bearing wall......UGH!

So another concrete pour tomorrow - stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Our Neighbors

When we first moved to the property there was a project that was just getting underway in the El Dorado Hills area. It was touted as a very green, prototype house that was utilizing ICF for both walls and floors. I found their website but at the time it was in its infancy and there was little information.

Fast forward to 2012 and a few of the guys working on our house mentioned this project and have worked on it, multiple times.

So if you have a spare moment check out our neighbors, technically not neighbors but you can see this house from our place.

http://www.casabellaverde.com/ - its something else.

Picture from Casabellaverde.com - artist rendering

Monday, February 6, 2012

No Turning Back

When its been set in concrete there is a certain finality, point of no return. You can't sell a piece of land with footings for some random house that most people wouldn't want finished let alone with all this work to do yet.

So Friday morning dawned with a feeling of full force forward as we watched the first concrete truck rumble down the driveway - only to have it stuck in the mud 1 minute later. Oh, the joys of building in the winter.

Fortunately everyone moved quickly and we got gravel under the tires and it was able to haul its own immense weight out of the deep ruts it had made. So on we go.

Along with the concrete trucks themselves we had a concrete pumper, here is the pumper above.

Of course what else do you call yourself when you are a cool concrete pumping dude, his real name is Ed and he rocks. Its amazing to watch this thing in action, Denali was very scared of the big black hose that seemed to have a life of itself as concrete pumped through its entire length.

Working with concrete is a bit stressful on the day as its a combination of wait, wait, wait - MOVE, MOVE MOVE. It took a small army of guys moving through the forms and multiple layers of concrete, so they went around the whole foundation a few times.

A little snippet of it all happening.

The hammering you can hear is their version of vibrating. You need to vibrate concrete in a form to get rid of air bubbles and make sure all the concrete settles evenly. With a big area like this they just hammer the sides of the forms to settle the concrete into place.

Here is the finished product and below are the footings for the mid-wall that will run between the living space and the second bedroom. And you can see Jim from Precision Concrete trowel finishing off the top of the footing walls.

The next morning the forms were removed and beautiful concrete walls were exposed. They really came out well.

After the walls were cleaned and removed of excess debris, Kyle coated the exterior walls and the interior drainage wall with dry-loc as an additional waterproofing before the gravel and drainage pipes are added around the exterior and on the interior wall where there is drainage.

Next step is adding the drainage and concreting the floor of the crawl space. Then the containers!!!