It's been a year...

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Blog entry by NinjaAssassin posted 12-28-2020 03:33 AM 406 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch more ways than one. I suspect that’s true for pretty much everyone.

Quite a bit has happened since my last blog post about a year ago. Some good, some bad. So buckle up because this is going to be one of the most over-hyped, underwhelming, and far-too-verbose blog posts to date!

In my last post, I mentioned a 10×16 shed build that would be starting in the spring. Well, we had some unexpected medical events that left us with some meaningful medical bills about a month after that post. Needless to say, the shed funds were redirected to resolve those bills. Things happen – what can ya do?

My wife and I turned our attention to building the beehives we received as part of a grant from the state the year prior, in preparation for the bees that were due to arrive in March. Over the couple of days we spent building and painting, we lost a few of our pet ducks to predation (though, one was hit by a car right in front of us after escaping its pen. That was a tough day.). Eventually, the bees arrived and we got them set up in their hives. While I’m not the biggest fan of insects, they don’t really bother me. Unless there’s about 30,000 of them all on top of each other. And they sting. Anxiety went up a notch or two while setting them up.

A couple weeks later we had some good fortune and found ourselves in the position to realistically look into building a garage. Jumping ahead a bit, I found a company that sold pole barn kits that would work for my budget so long as I built it myself. In October, I placed the order for a 24×40 pole barn garage kit with 10 foot eaves and scissor trusses (because I imagine one day I’ll have a lift and set up my dream garage). More on that ordeal later.

The good fortune we had was quickly tempered by the impacts of The Rona™. My wife’s aunt contracted the virus and passed away several days later. She had several conditions that placed her in the high-risk category, but it was shocking and devastating all the same.

As spring and summer stretched on, things were pretty slow. I set up the ducks, chickens, and pigs with an automatic watering system which works pretty well. We collected a bunch of eggs from our chickens and hatched 16 of them which was a really neat experience, though I don’t recommend doing that in your living room. Or inside your living space at all if you aren’t ultra excited about the smell of chicken poop.

We took a family vacation in August and, upon returning, found we’d lost a couple roosters. I tend to keep only one rooster and process the rest for food once they’re big enough, so these guys were destined for the freezer. That said, I don’t like losing animals to predators. I think I’m faster and inflict less pain overall than any fox, racoon, or bird of prey.

Finally, in October my permit for the garage was approved and I ordered the materials. I scheduled 2 weeks vacation for the first two weeks of November, when everything was due to arrive. In the mean time, I had to get the site leveled, layout and auger 18 holes, and get an inspection before stuff showed up. The plan was to hire out the leveling and augering as I had some room in the budget. I also have no experience leveling an area and the holes needed to be 18” in diameter and 44 inches deep. Not something I wanted to do by hand. Aaaaand, as I’ve come to expect, another financial adventure pops up – my daughter needs braces. My kids will win that contest every time, so I took most of the “wiggle room” from my budget and got her braces. Now what am I going to do?

I’ll tell you what I did. I used my little 22hp sub compact tractor with its loader and hacked away at the site until it was kinda sorta on the same plane. I bought a Bosch laser transit level to figure out what needed to be removed from where…and to eventually confirm my suspicion that my inexperience and that little tractor did a serviceable-ish but not great job. In any case, the site was within 3-6” of level from the highest to lowest point. Not great, but apparently someone planted a lot of rock seeds years ago because that’s what most of the area ended up being. Rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. From pebbles to things the size you’d use to build a stone wall foundation for a house. Fortunately, I had enough “wiggle room” left in the budget to rent a bobcat with auger drive and 18” bit for two days, so getting the holes to depth wasn’t a problem. Clearing out the holes with the clam shell post hole digger was another story. My wife and I have massive shoulders now.

Anyway, the holes passed inspection which allowed me to pour the 8” concrete footers for the holes. Now, I’m not sure that was actually necessary but the engineered plans called for it (which were drawn up with no knowledge of the site’s soil conditions) so I did it. A week after that, the materials arrived. My brother came down from PA for the two weeks I was off in order to help me get as much done as possible. In hindsight, there was no way I was going to accomplish some of the tasks without at least one other person.

The materials arrived on a Friday morning. The guy who unloaded the stuff was awesome and laid it out exactly where we wanted/needed it. While going through the materials to confirm we had everything, we found the company hadn’t sent the uplift anchors which the engineered drawings called for. I used permacolumns and the manufacturer makes uplift anchor brackets that are bolted to the bottom of the precast columns. It’s just angle iron with a 1/2” through bolt. It was a whole thing that delayed us to the point that, once we got the anchors, some bad weather came through thus delaying us for several more days. Our entire first week was lost.

The second week, we moved surprisingly fast and got the whole frame up – poles, skirt boards, girts, headers, trusses, purlins, bracing. No machines to help lift things. Just two guys working from sun up to sun down using our backs (and sometimes our brains) to move heavy things to high, awkward places. Our two biggest motivators to not quit were that we’re competitive so if he’s still working, I’m still working and vice versa. The other was that it wasn’t as hard as when we were in boot camp all those years ago.

At this point I’ll spare you the details of most of the build and summarize. Neither he nor I have built anything this big before and most of the work we did was new to us. There was a surprising lack of detail in the building plans for the kit so we had to figure things out as we went. We made some mistakes, many of which could be corrected and some that couldn’t. Nothing terrible though anyone with experience or someone who looks too hard will spot the errors. It’s structurally sound and close enough to right that the aesthetics look pretty good to this point. I’m proud of the work we did in spite of the flaws. At the time of this writing, the building has a man door, three walls sheathed in sheet metal, the roof is finished, and the concrete slab is in (poured Christmas Eve). One more wall, soffits, and corner trim to do and it’s finished. Anyway, in the end I wasn’t happy with the company I ordered the kit from for a number of reasons (which I won’t go into) so I can’t recommend them. Moving on…

A couple of weeks ago, as my wife and I were super stressed about the garage not being finished yet, Christmas rapidly approaching, and probably a billion other things, her grandmother contracted the virus. She passed away a few days ago which crushed us all. Not much more to say than that.

Life is great and really shitty all at once sometimes. I guess that’s how it always is and how you handle it is what matters. I’m hoping all of you have a fantastic 2021 with as few bumps as possible!

-- Billy

5 comments so far

View Andre's profile


4297 posts in 2815 days

#1 posted 12-28-2020 04:28 AM

Well, not much a guy can say but Life is Life and must go on. We take the good with the bad and try to take the right path, condolences and congratulations!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View NinjaAssassin's profile


656 posts in 2734 days

#2 posted 12-28-2020 02:25 PM

Thanks Andre!

-- Billy

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17227 posts in 3628 days

#3 posted 12-28-2020 04:59 PM

Agree whole heartedly, re: looking forward to 2021! Chin up, Billy, and we’ll all get through the rough times!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View duckmilk's profile


4451 posts in 2334 days

#4 posted 12-30-2020 10:53 PM

Thanks for the story Billy, sounds like you did a fine job on the garage. I’m sorry for the loss of family. I’m not sure 2021 can be any worse than this one. (Hope I didn’t just jinx us)

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View NinjaAssassin's profile


656 posts in 2734 days

#5 posted 12-30-2020 11:07 PM

Thanks Smitty and Duck!

-- Billy

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