Category Archives: Leelanau

Up it goes!

Leelanau County, Michigan – Saturday, May 29 – Written by Jim

Our cabin has begun rising from the foundation!

©️2009 Disney/Pixar

Well, not quite like that, but we do have progress to report! Our framers showed up this week and went at it in earnest. Prior to their arrival, I took the opportunity to insulate the lower four feet of the crawl space.

Getting this much done while standing straight up made life a lot easier. The insulation is two pieces of 1-1/2” thick polyiso board. Putting it up was a fairly simple process:

Drill a hole with a 5” long masonry bit.
Insert the 4-1/2” masonry fastener.
Tap it with a rubber mallet until it is tight.

The top part of the insulation will be finished once the floor joists are mounted to the top of the crawl space wall. I will also use aluminum tape to seal the joints in the foam board. Time for me to stand back and watch the framers build!

Ryan, Paul and Richard dove right into it. First thing they did was to assemble the center beam and support it with posts. Then came the treated wood sill plate on top of the foundation walls, along with a foam strip of sill sealer between them. The sill plate is attached to the block wall below with anchor bolts that the mason set into concrete. Follow that with the I-joists that span the entire width of the cabin and the rim joist around the outside.

It was then time for me to get back in the action. With us getting our material weeks earlier, I stored all of that high-priced OSB flooring in the barn. We purchased pallet forks for the front of our tractor last year and I was able to bring out several sheets at a time. They mentioned how it really helped them speed things up. Speaking of high priced lumber: This time last year, a sheet of 3/4” subfloor like this was in the $17 range. We purchased it in March at Menard’s for less that $30 a sheet. We thought that was crazy. Well, it is a good thing we bought it when we did, as we had to purchase two additional sheets to finish the floor. The price? A whopping $72 a sheet!

The crawl space is getting dark down there. Other than whatever comes through the hatch in the center of the cabin, that space hopefully won’t see daylight for a long time! By noon the next day, the floor was complete.

As the framers started building the walls, Adam from Peninsula Excavating started backfilling. He worked all afternoon and an hour the next morning to level things out. We had some steep areas below the cabin that were difficult to mow, so he used the extra dirt to soften them. It really came out nice.

By the end of the day, we had a wall!

The next day, they assembled the opposite wall in two sections. Here is a video of one of those going up. They use an electric wall jack to raise it. You can also see these clamp-on forks on my tractor bucket.

They had me push the button on the second half, as Ryan had to be by the wall joint to finesse the two together. That was fun!

Once they completed that, they framed an end wall until the end of the day and called it a week. They will be back on Tuesday.

Even the beams for our covered entry are in place! They can be seen extending out from the wall on the left side of the photo.

This morning, we had to go to Lowe’s to pick up our flooring. As we were getting in the truck, we heard a roar through the trees:

A hot air balloon! Looks like our cabin isn’t the only thing going up in Leelanau County. 😊

That’s our update for now. Stay tuned to see how much the framers get done next week. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Making the Grade

Leelanau County, Michigan – May 24, 2021 – Written by Jim

When building a structure, one has to take into consideration the surrounding grade of the land. The last thing anyone wants is for the top of their foundation to be below grade and have water pour over the top in a downpour.The code book here in Michigan requires one 8” block showing above grade and that the surrounding soil slopes away from the building.

While our cabin site itself had only a moderate grade to it, the surrounding land varies in elevation quite a bit. We determined the high corner at the time of excavation and let that decide how deep to dig. Our plan was to have a 6 course deep layer of concrete block make up our crawl space, which would bring us up 48” from the top of the footing. After the footing was poured, we decided we wanted a bit more comfort to ensure we had sufficient runoff. We had the mason figure in an additional course of 8” block, bringing us up to 56” above the footing.

This past Wednesday was block day! Jim Ricketts and his crew showed up before 8 AM and immediately went to work laying out the foundation.

Measuring from corner to corner insures squareness. Prior to him arriving, I drove my tractor into the center of the footings and smoothed out the floor and removed the larger rocks. I will explain the reason for that later in the post.

Soon after the lines were chalked, the block truck showed up.

Of all of the varied soil on our property, that truck is parked over a vein of the softest and purest beach sand you could ever imagine. The driver took it all in stride and hung the tail of the truck right over the edge.

Before too long, the crew had the block spread out and the first courses were laid.

By the end of the day on Wednesday, the four of them had three walls complete!

Look at that smile! Diana is very happy to see walls rising. Also, in the process of adding a course of block, we discovered another benefit:

Our crawl space is now tall enough so I don’t have to crawl in it!

On Thursday, Jim and his son Chris returned to finish the last wall.

They were finished by noon. Jim and I then took a chalk line and held it to predetermined marks while Diana snapped it to mark the lines. That set the top level for the waterproofer. As Jim and Chris were cleaning up, the waterproofer rolled in and went to work.

That hot tar will hopefully keep the water out. As you can see, our finished grade will vary quite a bit! Within a half hour of the waterproofer finishing up, the inspector rolled in and approved the foundation. His words “Let the fun continue” were music to our ears!

Part of the mortar-making process involved having coarse sand on hand to mix with the cement. The block supplier brought two huge containers of it and dumped it outside the perimeter of the foundation. There was quite a bit left when the job was complete, so I had a plan for it. To help explain, here is a photo of a conditioned crawl space:

The walls get 3” of foil-faced foam board applied to them and the dirt floor is covered with a thick plastic membrane. This completely seals out any moisture or radon coming up from below.

The edge of our footing is a little wider than 3”, so our friend Rod suggested piling dirt against it to soften that sharp corner. A sharp edge could tear the plastic membrane. That left over sand was just what I needed. I scooped it up with our tractor and dumped it inside. I then used my dad’s favorite shovel (he preferred using it to shovel snow) to spread it around the edge. I still had quite a bit left over, so I spread it out over the smaller rocks on the floor.

In addition to all of this, we’ve found time to play a little. One day, we took off and visited several of our favorite places in the area. One of those was Suttons Bay Ciders.

In addition to enjoying a flight of cider on their deck that overlooks Grand Traverse Bay, we purchased a bottle of their maple syrup. Some of the maple sap from this syrup comes from our friends John and Julie’s property. We’ve also had a harvest of our own up here on our hill:

It’s Morel mushroom season! We are blessed with a decent sized crop of them.

We’ve also enjoyed the daffodils, tulips, iris that Diana planted last year, along with the peony that her mom and dad gave us quite a few years ago. It was planted at our first house in 1990 as a housewarming present and has moved with us. During our time on the road, my sister Judy cared for it at her home. She also kept some of Diana’s aunt’s lily of the valley for us. And our friend Mary gave us some forget-me-not and some rhubarb, both of which are doing well. This is all in addition to the explosion of wildflowers in our woods. Leelanau doesn’t have an overpopulation of deer, so we have a LOT of trillium!

With all of that, we are ready for the framers! We will wait to backfill the outside until after the main floor is constructed. That will brace the block walls from the external pressure exerted on it by the soil piled against them. Stay tuned for our next post as our cabin rises up from our property. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Let’s Build a Cabin!

May 13, 2021 – Leelanau County, Michigan – Written by Jim.

When we last wrote, we had hopes of exploring a few new spots to us on our way back to Michigan. The weather had other plans, as we had a large snowstorm headed in from the west that threatened to block our path. We picked up the pace and left the southern Michigan storm in our rear view mirrors.

Once we were on our property, we hit the ground running. Our goal this summer is to get as much done as we can on our new cabin! We have been in touch with our subcontractors all winter, and it wasn’t long before Vince and his crew from Peninsula Excavating broke ground.

This is the last photo taken before that took place, about 5 minutes before he showed up. When he walked what we had staked out, he was concerned that the slope on the east side was a bit too close for the walkway we had planned on that side of the house. While he and I were scratching our heads, Diana headed to the other side of the house and eyed the copse of trees that was mostly leaning toward the building site. We quickly decided to get rid of them. Vince pushed one over with his loader and left the rest of them for us to deal with. That allowed us to move the house west 3 feet.

Within a few hours, we had ourselves a big sandbox! Most of it was a sand and gravel mixture with a couple pockets of football-sized glacial rocks.

We even found a large Charlevoix stone! This is actually coral from when Michigan was covered by a shallow sea. This rock is between 250 million and 450 million years old! We think it deserves a place of prominence in our cabin.

Once Vince headed out, we started cutting those trees. There were 11 of them of various sizes, and my intention was to fell them onto the driveway.

Since they were leaning away from the driveway and the wind was blowing from the wrong direction, 10 of the 11 ended up in what will be our bedroom! As the tallest of them was a diseased ash tree, it was a wise move to get rid of them.

Next up was our mason, Jim Ricketts. Here he has our footings formed up and ready. The inspector came first of the following week and approved the open footings, so we were ready for concrete…

…which is now complete. The next step will be for Jim to lay 7 course of block on top of these footings, which we are hoping will take place early next week.

The other thing we’ve been doing is bringing in our materials.

With the price of lumber being so high, we debated painting BRINKS on the sides of our truck! There were several loads like this. We did have the doors and windows delivered, along with the floor I-joists and framing lumber.

It sure is handy having forks for the bucket of our tractor! Those I-joists are 34 feet long and fill our barn from back to front. They just clear the overhead door’s safety beam.

The best story of the start of our build was when we received a call that our cabinets were being delivered. They weren’t supposed to come for another month, so we had to scramble. With the way the supply chain is so hit and miss, we felt it was wise to get them ASAP. They are RTA (ready to assemble) from Lily Ann Cabinets, in Adrian, Michigan. They actually had a showroom in Clearwater, Florida that we visited this past winter. When the rep from the trucking company called, he thought we could easily transfer them from their truck to our trailer. (The trucking company typically delivers curbside, as they are full sized semis). When the actual driver called, he was a bit worried about that idea. Doing that at the end of our driveway was not an option, as our road is on a hill. So we looked for a parking lot. We ended up at Leelanau Fruit Company, a local fruit processing plant. A gentleman walked out with a puzzled look on his face and I explained what we were needing to do and asked permission to use his parking lot. Just then, the truck driver pulled in. The man then ended up talking to the driver, and it was decided between the two of them that he would instead unload them at the dock with a forklift. Once that was completed, he used the forklift to put them on my trailer. These were three pallets of heavy cabinets!

How cool is that? And who was that man? None other than Glenn LaCross, President of Leelanau Fruit Company. Another gentleman who worked there also helped out, and he just happens to live just around the corner from us. Both men have family ties that date back to the mid 1800’s in Leelanau county. We offered to pay him for his time and efforts, but he refused. We made it a point to purchase some products in their online store instead. If you are in the mood for some delicious dark chocolate covered cherries, check out Leelanau Fruit’s website here. They are pretty darned good!

And last but not least, we received our trusses! You may recall last year when we built the barn, the driver wouldn’t attempt to come up our driveway, so she slid them off by the side of the road. We brought them up one at a time with our tractor, as shown in the photo below.

Those were 30 feet long. Well this year, our scissor trusses are a full seven feet longer! Kudos to Barb, the driver from this year, for walking the driveway with me. She really wanted to attempt getting them up the hill with her semi, but she realized she couldn’t make it when she saw the curves in our drive. So, we rigged up the tractor and went at it. Here is a little video of how we started out:

The little John Deere that could! The process of standing the trusses up onto the tractor was everything the two of us could handle (and a tad dangerous), so we came up with Plan B.

I built a 2×4 rack and screwed it to the front of our trailer. That made it so the trusses could clear the back of my truck. Definitely much easier and safer!

I was able to drag them on and off quite easily.

Hopefully we will be able to show some cement block and lumber going up in our next post, so be sure to stay tuned for that! Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Autumn Maples in All of Their Splendor

September-October 2020 – Leelanau County, Michigan.

Written by Jim

Knowing we had a lot of things to do to wrap up our summer in Leelanau, we set a mid-October departure date. Not only would that allow us the time to finish up our projects, but it would provide us the treat of seeing our trees in all of their autumn splendor. Hopefully we wouldn’t push it too far to where we had to descend our steep driveway in the snow!

One of our projects was to take down four dead trees that could have posed a problem over the winter. The last thing we wanted was to arrive in the spring to a tree across the driveway.

We will have plenty of campfire wood next year!

Diana built a compost bin and has been filling it for the last month or so.

We should end up with some good mulch from this!

We also found time for friends and family. Lane & Patti and Rod & Mary joined us for happy hour, and Diana’s cousin Debbie came up for a weekend. Diana’s cousin Jerry has visited three times over the summer and cousin Reed visited twice. Our friend Tim also visited while he was in the area on vacation from California. We failed to get photos every time!

Also, our friends Terry and Diane came up from Grand Rapids and were our inaugural RV guests for a night! We had a great visit with them.

One of the interesting discoveries on our property was an old split rail and barbed wire fence that runs ten feet inside the west property line. We did some research and found out who owned the property in 1870…the earliest we could find. That family continued to keep the property into the 1970’s, making it a centennial farm. There were two other owners between them and us.

The fence is much older than 1970, and we have made contact with the family who originally owned it. More on that in another post. We are most interested with who may have put up the fence and also who planted the apple trees. A few of those are still producing fruit, despite their advanced age.

Most of the fence had fallen down, so we are installing metal posts on the hidden side to keep it off the ground so it won’t rot as fast. It’s not intended to act as a barrier; it’s more for asthetics and history.

It wasn’t long and Leelanau’s leaves started changing color.

We were hearing from the locals that it was the prettiest fall they had seen in a long time.

The trees were ablaze with autumn hues

Scenes like this, no matter which direction we looked!

Even the sky got in on the action. 🙂

A caramel apple, cinnamon donut and some hot apple cider would complete this scene.

Here is the view looking down our road towards Grand Traverse Bay. The bay can be seen in the distance, along with the bay’s eastern shore near the tip of Torch Lake. A mere 15 miles as the crow flies; it takes an hour to drive the 46 miles around the bottom of the bay to get there.

And with that, we bid adieu to Leelanau for the winter! Our cottage is staked out, plans are drawn and we hope to start our build in the spring. We are currently in Alabama, and we are headed to warmer latitudes to sink our toes into the sand…and to check out some cool rocket launches to share with you. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!