Shangri La

Shangri La

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Checking In - March Edition

The snow is melting, the mercury is rising, and I'm slowly recovering my enthusiasm to get back to work. Looking at everything to be done, however, is a little overwhelming: Well, Septic, Landscaping, Electrical, Plumbing, Flooring, Wallboard, Cabinetry, appliances, fittings and fixtures, the remainder of the siding, front porch, back porch, deck, etc., etc. Easy enough if you're either made of money or willing to take out a loan. I'm not and I'm not, respectively, so I'm being forced to to scale back last year's end-of-season dream of hiring a contractor to do the rest for me. So what to tackle next, and how?

Mulling this over for the last month, I've decided on three priorities for this year:

1) Finish last year's work. This includes completing the interior wall framing (furnace room, bathroom and closet), completing the loft catwalk and installing stairs, and finishing the exterior siding. All of this can be done for less than $1,000 as I have half the materials on hand.

2) Get power to the cabin. I've been in full research mode on wiring, and I've concluded that 80% of it is work I can do myself. I'll hire an electrician to inspect the work, wire the load panel, and hook up to CVPS. Including materials, about $1,500.

3) Drill a well. Once we have water available on the property, the prospect of staying there won't be so daunting, even if the 'real' plumbing isn't yet in place. I also want to know for a fact that I have water before I invest in septic. So what's involved?

There seem to be 3 well drillers in the area, and I drove up today to meet with the one who's name I've heard most frequently. 'Ed' from Green Mountain Well Drilling met me promptly at 11 am, confirmed that he could get to the well site with his drilling rig, and then settled onto a stack of wood in the cabin to fill me in on the process. My notes:

  • Most drillers will drill the well, line it from the surface to the bedrock, test the water, install the pump, run the water and power lines to the house, install the pressure tank, and tie into power and plumbing if needed. Excavating for the power and water lines can be done for an extra fee.
  • Ed has done a number of wells in the area, including the one across the street. He expects that the lining will need to be about 40', and that we should hit adequate water at about 250'.
  • The worst case scenario is that we miss the water entirely and find we've got 400 feet and nothing to show for it. If that happens, I can do 'hydrofracking' (breaking new fissures in the bedrock by injecting pressurized water). It's expensive at $2,200, but he guarantees we'll get water.
  • All said an done, the job will be somewhere between $3,500 and $10,000, although he expects my job will probably work out to about $5,000.
  • Shangri-La's heavy equipment prohibition means we can't do the work until May 15th, although Ed noted that the lack of snow means the roads will likely be passable by late April. The work should take about 2 days in total.
  • He also noted that we may find that my water is high in minerals - particularly magnesium. If so, we may need to add a filter to the system.
It was a nice conversation, ranging from the business at hand to solar energy, the state of American manufacturing, local agriculture, and cooking. It occurred to me that it was the first time I had had the opportunity to invite someone inside the cabin to talk, and so - even though it was a professional call - you could argue that we've had our first house guest.

"This place is way overbuilt," he said, looking around. "It ain't gonna fall down, that's for sure."

"That's the nice thing about building it yourself," I replied. "You can do it the way you want to."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Checking In - February Edition

Ran up to Shangri-La on a Saturday morning in mid-February to talk with a CVPS field technician after receiving a letter informing me that poles need to be replaced in my right-of-way this year. I wasn't opposed to the work, but I wanted to understand how they would access the property and what the work would involve.

Remembering the winter before, I expected to have a hard time walking the property, figuring there would be 2 -3 feet of snow on the ground. I reality, there was less than a foot of very hard snow. I got there about an hour before we were supposed to meet and spent a little time in and around the cabin before walking the right-of-way down the hill to where our road meets the state highway. There were lots of animal tracks - including what looked to be moose tracks - everywhere. Living up here should give The Boy a good education in fauna to supplement his self-study in mushrooms.

Dave pulled up in a CVPS truck about a half-hour ahead of schedule, and we spent some time down at the new pole they put in last spring for my power feed talking about the work. Some notes from our conversation:

  • The company plans to put in heavier lines to protect against falling limbs and ice storms. This is going to involve adding a third pole to the right-of-way, but it should benefit us, as problems with any portion of the line will kick out power at the bottom of my property, meaning we lose power, too.
  • The company will access the property where the right-of-way meets the state road. They have equipment that will climb right over the stone wall, so no new curb cuts will be made, and no additional trees need to be felled.
  • They access the property the same way about once every 10 years to clear the undergrowth in the right-of-way. All brush is chipped and left on the property. Any trees cut can be chipped, but they can be cut into fireplace length and stacked if the homeowner prefers.
  • The connection to the cabin will need to be 16' off the ground and 3' away from the loft window. This is going to be close - I'll have to bring a measuring tape up next time to see if this will be possible. My other option - as discussed previously - is to go underground at considerably higher expense.
  • Dave noted that he has lived his whole life in southern Vermont, and had never heard of Shangri-La until he was assigned work here.
  • Dave's wife has people in SW Connecticut, one town over from where we live. Consequently, he's familiar with the area. Doesn't care for it, though - too many people and too crowded. "I'm a country boy at heart." Amen, brother.