House 2.0 – front porch, plumbing, misc interior framing

As the post title says, house construction progress for this week includes: more interior framing (mostly interior doors, and modifying access under the garage stairs), the start of some plumbing, and construction of the front porch.

2016-05-15_DSC07335sThe plumbers were on site just one day, but I was really amazed at how much they got done. (Seriously, impressively fast progress. There were 4 or 5 guys, and they weren’t in the house 5 minutes before they were busy with the hole saws, and the entire house smelled like pvc glue. Most of the plumbing in the house is PEX).

Throwing in some exterior photos from the back, just because its been awhile.

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House 2.0 – interior framing and windows

House construction update for this week: Most of the interior framing is done, and all of the windows are in. The exterior door from the office and the french doors to the screen porch are in, and we have stairs in the garage to the room above.

2016-05-07_DSC07268sBonus room over the garage:

It’s a relief to be just about dried in. We’ve had a lot of rain, and it will be nice to be able to keep the water off of everything, and from blowing in and sitting on the floor. The interior walls going up made for a very dramatic change this week. That framing went really quickly!

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House 2.0 – garage and first floor framing

Fast changes on the house build this week:

2016-04-29_DSC07214sThey finished framing the room over the garage, mudroom roof, and the exterior of the house and garage is now covered in Tyvek. They also dug the footers for our front porch, which are now filled with water from all of the recent rainstorms. Our windows arrived on Wednesday. We skipped our typical daily site visit on Thursday, and were really surprised to discover that by the end of Friday, they had moved inside and completed the majority of the interior framing on the first floor, T&G loft deck, and we have stairs!

This part is going really fast, and I am getting behind on some decision making!

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Moto Photos

Its not all work and house build – the weather is getting really nice, and we were able to take a day off to go riding.

20160426_122653I only have these few moto tag cell phone photos, but right now that’s better than nothing.

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House 2.0 – more SIPS and back porch roof

The house as of today:

2016-04-24_DSC07150sLots of trimming and framing this week, and getting ready for the metal roof on the main part of the house. Major changes from the front from last week are a little harder to see. Our screen porch now has its pine T&G ceiling, and the conventionally framed roof over that section (you can see it below). The walls for the mudroom connector between the garage and house are up. Also, it was mentioned that now that we have an interior, I should include more interior photos, so here are a few:)

That implement behind the tractor below is a seed drill. Clearing the land for for the house and view was a bit of work, and its not done yet. Planting grass (and wildflowers! we’ll see how those do:) will hopefully stabilize all that disturbed, bare soil, and create a nice field/meadow.


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House 2.0 – SIPS

With the exterior walls nearly finished, the house is starting to look more like a house. Most of the SIPS were installed and trimmed out this week, including the roof, which was somewhat more labor intensive.

2016-04-13_DSC06934s(Spotted this visitor above during Wednesdays site visit).

We’ve decided SIPS construction is basically building a giant foam cooler, and then compromising that cooler by cutting a bunch of holes in it for windows and doors.

Still, the energy efficiency of this house is going to be excellent. SIPS cost a bit more up front, but the pay back in lower monthly energy usage make the initial expense easily worth it.

2016-04-15_DSC06950sSo far, the entire project is going really well; its progressing along with very few problems or delays. The construction crew has been great. This house is about quality over quantity, and thus far we’re happy with the quality of construction. We’re having a great time watching it all come together.

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House 2.0 – garage framing, SIPS, and power!

Lots of exciting progress on house construction this week. They framed the garage, and on Thursday, the garage roof trusses were installed, two semi’s arrived with our pre-cut SIPS, and Duke installed our meter and turned on the power (yay:).

These photos of Cody have been making me laugh out loud:

We brought him along for some errands, and to stop by the house. Other than checking on progress, Kevin wanted to put down some grass seed where the utility had run in the underground power line. Since its not appropriate to let your dog run around an active construction site, we parked away from the house, and left Cody in the back of the truck for a bit while we took a walk. He was not happy about being left behind, and started barking at us. He made these faces at me when we got back, and I can’t stop laughing.

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It’s not all sunshine and rainbows

While this is just a personal blog, since it’s on the internet, I don’t usually use it like one would an actual personal journal. I typically reserve this space for a few highlights I’d like to share with family and friends, which are usually easily photographed (like motorcycle trips, hiking, and most recently our ongoing house build).

While my life is currently great, some people close to me have had a really rough time lately. A friend’s Mom died this week after a mostly successful 10 year struggle with cancer, which very recently and very quickly became unsuccessful. Obviously, that kind of loss is just heartbreaking. She is currently traveling for the funeral.

Another friend had an accident with some fireworks just this weekend, and was in surgery to remove shrapnel for hours. They had to remove his right eye. (His left eye was mercifully spared, and is completely fine). There may also be some nerve damage in his hand, but the extent won’t be known for a bit yet. Thankfully, it looks like he will otherwise be ok after he has time to recover, but its going to be difficult for he and his wife for a bit.

I’m not sure why I’m posting this here, but there it is.

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House 2.0 – upstairs sub-floor and ceiling

House construction update for this week: The noticeable progress includes the sub-floor for the upstairs, and we have a pine T&G ceiling on the second floor as well. We noticed other details like hurricane straps, and other small changes made in preparation for SIPS arrival (hopefully next week). The power line is also run underground the entire way now, although we don’t have a meter yet.

Kevin and I enjoyed walking around the upstairs for the first time, and you can really start to picture the finished spaces now.

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Posted in Dog Blog, Home Improvement, House 2.0 | 5 Comments

Wait But Why on Elon Musk’s Companies

This week’s obsession has been with this long format article* on Elon Musk, his companies, and why they matter. If you are at all curious about what the big deal is about Tesla and Space X, or even just abstract consideration of the future of humanity in general, this is a must read. Its fantastic. Don’t let the Musk worship put you off, this is really, really good stuff.

*Long format may be misleading. This series is really a small book. Don’t let that deter you. Bookmark it, and read it in small chunks (or, you know, do what I did and binge read until you look up and realize bedtime was 3 hours ago, not that I recommend that), but make the time to read it. He goes into excruciating detail. Stick with it, its worth it.

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House 2.0 – timber frame day 4

Day 4 of frame raising was really only a half day. Otherwise, the frame would have been completely finished by the end of the week. Right now, its just almost finished. Still impressive for basically 3.5 days work.

Duke Power also installed our transformer this week. No power yet, but they are running service underground, and it looks like they’ll finish next week.

As expected, neither the framing crew nor Duke power worked on Good Friday, so this is where the house stands as of the end of the week:

2016-03-25_DSC06705sDid I mention we’re really excited?

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House 2.0 – timber frame raising days 2-3

Did I mention how exciting it is to see the timber frame go up? This really is the coolest part.

The first floor was assembled in 2 days by hand, and on day 3, the crane arrived to start placing the second floor:



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House 2.0 – frame raising

Frame raising started today. This is the really exciting part:)

Kevin and I both noted that it feels a little strange to be on the job site, but not working. I felt a bit useless standing around taking pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we’re paying good money for experienced timber home construction crews, and neither of us have the time to run the house project, nor the specific expertise to be as good as the general contractor we’ve hired. Even so, Kevin is usually the one running the job site. We’re so accustomed to managing projects ourselves, that leaving something so important to us in the hands of other people is taking some conscious thought on our part. Thankfully, most of the time, its a huge relief. Every little problem we notice that needs to get solved, we think; “not our problem, we’re paying the GC for that.” And then we leave and come back later to find it taken care of. Its great!

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House 2.0 – first night

Does the first night at the house count if its in a tent?


The weather is really warm for March right now, and we seem to be finding any excuse to be outside. Also, we’ve talked about camping on that property since we bought it, but never have. Since we own what amounts to the World’s Most Expensive Tent Pad right now, last night seemed like a good night to picnic and spend time at our future home.

This shot came out kinda neat. Kevin was playing a bit with long exposures:


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House 2.0 – Frame Arrival

As promised, our much anticipated timber frame arrived on Wednesday (3/2/2016) this week.



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House 2.0 – backfill and garage slab

The correct foundation materials for the garage arrived this week (a few pieces were wrong, and had to be re-made – no big deal, and I’m pleased with how the situation was resolved). Today, they back-filled the foundation, and poured the garage slab.

2016-03-01_DSC06463sWhen we were finishing the garage floor of our current house (which we built ourselves), the troweling machine broke. Since concrete doesn’t wait to set up until you can fix your tools, the garage floor ended up being a little rough. We like to think of it as a non-slip surface. I’m looking forward to a garage floor finished to a higher standard:)


More exciting news; we received confirmation yesterday that our much anticipated timber frame is loaded on the truck, and is on our way here:


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House 2.0 – Foundation and Subfloor

I went out of town for four days, and everything happened on the house project all at once. I am amazed at what was accomplished while I was gone.

After a brief, one-day weather delay caused by enormous amounts of rain, the Superior Walls foundation materials arrived on site on Thursday:

By Friday, they were already working on the sub-floor, which stretched over to Saturday. That crew essentially finished the framing and sub-floor in two days:

The crawlspace has a concrete slab floor, which is nice.

The last set of pics is from Sunday, when no one else was on site. We enjoyed walking around and inspecting the progress, and sitting on our future screened porch and enjoying the view in beautiful 65° weather. The foundation system seems really impressive, and really does go together incredibly fast on site.

Also, our builder had a really neat surprise for us:

2016-02-27_DSC06421The video from the drone:


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2016 Ski Park City UT

I got to go skiing at Park City UT again this year, and it was just as fun. An annual trip would be fine by me.

I’ve only gotten three days on the slopes this season so far, but given how warm it is, that may be all I get.


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House 2.0 Foundation

Here are a few foundation prep photos from January 31. Lots of earth moving work and gravel happened during the first week of construction. Seeing the foundation laid out and new section of driveway created was really exciting. Since then, not much has changed as we wait on the Superior Walls concrete foundation to arrive. The delay is not a big problem, I just wish the expectations for delivery had been more accurate to begin with; longer lead times are less disappointing than shorter lead times that get missed.  The delivery date has been moved back by a week twice now, so hopefully the foundation materials really do arrive this week.

This house will have a concrete crawl space foundation, using a Superior Walls precast concrete and steel foundation system. We had considered a basement, which would be somewhat unusual for this area of NC, but the significant price increase was not worth it to us.

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Industrial parts as cheese shop

If Monty Python sold industrial equipment: (But instead this is real life!)

The set up for today’s work related shenanigans – Went to the manufacturer’s website. Quickly found the exact part number and accessory part numbers needed. Added the parts to the online shopping cart, like every other online purchase. Except it’s not really a shopping cart, because you can’t actually purchase online. It’s just a bill of materials. Parts must be purchased through a distributor.

Phone call 1
Found the phone number for the local distributor on the manufacturer’s website. Called, number was disconnected. Googled for another number.

Phone call 2
Local distributor – Can’t find that part number from manufacturer’s website, found something close but not the actual thing needed, call corporate number

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“Progress of any kind is always at variance with the old and established ideas and therefore with the codes inspired by them. Every step of progress is a change involving heavy risks.” – Ludwig von Mises

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House 2.0

Its almost hard to believe at this point, but I think its finally happening. As of January 26, 2016, we have officially broken ground and started construction of our new house.


These are the earliest pictures I can find of our property, during a walk with Cody in fall of 2014:

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Posted in Dog Blog, Home Improvement, House 2.0 | 4 Comments

Happy New Year 2016, and a PSA

Ok, fine, 10 days in, and no “traditional” year end wrap up post and outlook for the new year, or fun pics. We’re hard at work here at casa de AmyTracker. 2015 was another good year for us, and we have a whole lot to look forward to in 2016. We continue to be excited and hopeful about our future. I expect I’ll have some exciting content to post here soon.

However; I think I’ll start out 2016 with a PSA (I expect Kevin is tired of hearing me complain, so I’ll do it here instead:) –  If you are thinking about upgrading to Windows 10, don’t. Just don’t do it. I didn’t know I could dislike Microsoft any more than I already do, but once again, I am disappointed. I’ve been using Win10 now for approximately 3 days, and the buyers remorse is strong. Windows 7 was working great, I should have left it alone. The shortlist of my “upgrade”, which is not exhaustive:

  • My desktop icons re-shuffle into a random order and position on start up, or on returning from sleep mode, or sometimes just randomly DURING USE. Sometimes they re-shuffle on top of one another (yes, seriously). This is turning out to be a lot more obnoxious than I would have guessed if I hadn’t experienced this in person.
  • I had to pay $200+ for Quickbooks, because the version I was using wasn’t compatible on the newer OS. This happens, I get it, but I’m tired of being forced to pay for software upgrades so often. This isn’t the only app I’ve paid for several times already. It also took me half a day (yes, seriously, about 4 hours) to get that one specific app working properly on windows 10, including a tech support call. This app was the worst, but I’ve had trouble with many others. Again, software compatibility problems are expected, but this round was the worst I’ve ever experienced. (Edit – after I re-booted, it stopped working again. I can’t fix it. I need it to work. Intuit programs are obnoxious enough to begin with, but apparently Intuit + Microsoft = the ultimate combination of suck.)
  • Windows forgets I’m using a multiple monitor set up, and won’t detect my other monitors. I can fix it through the control panel, but I shouldn’t have to.
  • Once again, all kinds of settings have been moved, and I have to google where to find them. I also have fewer settings, and can’t fix things I could have before (why is the handling of a multiple monitor display so terrible? really? why can’t I adjust how the screen saver displays so its not stupidly displayed across all three screens?? etc., etc.)
  • My laptop often won’t wake up from sleep mode, and I have to re-boot, which causes my desktop icons to re-arrange themselves, my external monitors to stop working, and a bunch of settings to revert to some other state.
  • The sound doesn’t work. As in, the test sounds from the control panel work, but there is no audio from any sort of media file or online video, etc.
  • My wireless keyboard is flaky. This might be the new laptop, and not Windows 10. I dunno. It’s the same keyboard that worked great with my previous PC.
  • Insert long list of other stuff that broke here, but am too lazy to type out.

Windows has been around for what, 30 years? You suck at your job Microsoft. I’m going to try for another couple of days, and look for more driver updates and such, but if I can’t get a more stable system soon, I’m going to throw out a day and half of work, and go back to windows 7 (and install all those apps, again).

Edit 01/12/2016: I give up. I still can’t get some apps (including Quickbooks to work), or the sound, or any improvement on other generally buggy behavior. Its decided, Windows 10 is a STEAMING PILE OF GARBAGE, and I’m going to back to 7.


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Comic of the Day

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Woodsons Mill

Back in October, we took advantage of a beautiful sunny day to ride up to Woodson’s Mill in VA, a historic, working grist mill with two waterwheels.

We talked to the owners about various technical approaches for converting this micro hydro site to produce electricity. Hydropower at this small scale is very hard to pay for, but depending on their interconnection requirements with the utility, they may be able to justify some expense to produce a little power. Mostly, both of us think old grist mills that are still working with shaft powered equipment are neat, and I wanted to share a few photos.

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