James Freyr

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since Mar 06, 2017
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Married, no children, and 6 cats. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades having always done my own auto and home repair and have been working in the skilled trades since 2004, currently doing hardwood floors and setting tile. My wife and I love homesteading and pursue it more each year and I love growing my own food. I enjoy books, tea and hiking in the woods.
Middle Tennessee
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Recent posts by James Freyr

So my basement has a concrete floor. There are also five posts going down the middle that hold up a joist beam that runs down the middle of the subfloor. Those posts need their own footer to bear the point load, but I also have interest in having a dry basement, and it's one of the promises I made to my wife since she grew up in a house with a basement that got wet or flooded every time it rained. She wanted me to assure her that no water will come in the basement. I decided to put a drain pipe down the middle under the gravel, so if water does enter under the pad, it has a way to get out. More on this later with foundation waterproofing, but these 5 footers for the posts also come into play here. So in the third image of the 2nd post above, you'll notice a footer going down the middle with five spots of four sticks of rebar sticking up through the concrete. I made simple wooden square forms to set on those sections of rebar and mixed sacks of concrete in a bucket and poured these little footers (see second picture). The top of these footers will be level with the bed of gravel that the concrete pad will be poured over, which allows the vapor barrier which goes over the gravel and footers to be continuous and unbroken. (Oh yeah, after my 5 footers were done, and before I brought the gravel in, it rained. again. It was a swimming pool.) This allows me to pour a single monolithic pad that once the five steel posts are set on, their load is transferred through the pad onto the 5 square footers going down the middle. The 4 inch basement pad was poured over a 15-mil vapor barrier that has panels of 6-gauge wire mesh set on 2-inch chairs. There is also an expansion joint going around the perimeter so the pad is independent from and does not connect to or attach to the block wall. This will allow the foundation wall to settle without taking the pad with it and crack it. The pad was poured the same day we filled the walls.
1 day ago
Hey thanks Kyle. I'm trying to do as much as I can that I'm comfortable with but also get this home done in a timely manner so my wife and I can move in hopefully October. I'm doing simple things like foundation waterproofing, plumbing, paint & stain, the floors & tile and interior finishes. I'm also putting a standing seam metal roof on it next week, with some help of course. They're pretty straight-forward to install, and the guy from the roofing company will be on site with the machine that rolls the panels to the right length for us (my brother, myself and a couple other hired hands) to install. I'm not an engineer, but my day job used to be remodeling houses, which evolved into just doing hardwood floors and tile now, which my heart is no longer in as I desire to do agriculture and animal husbandry. Honest Abe Log Home company has engineers on staff and one of them drew the plans. I have hired a contractor who does log homes to guide me through this process and coordinate bringing all the different tradesmen to the table to do their jobs. While also not an engineer, he has been building for close to four decades and is familiar with Tennessee codes and such. For example, if memory serves me correct, a 16-inch footer 12 inches deep with two courses of #4 rebar is code for a residential footer. The only reason this footer is 24 inches wide is because that happened to be the size of the bucket on the track-hoe belonging to the guy we hired to dig the basement. It was my choice to put three courses of #5 rebar in the footer. I've learned that just because something is "codes" doesn't necessarily mean it's sufficient or right (that's my opinion, and my contractor has a story of trusses that were engineered and built to codes that failed and sent some people to the hospital), but I tend to over-engineer things that I get my hands on. Another example is the psi of the concrete. Codes requires 3000psi I believe, for footers. I thought "if 3000psi is sufficient, 5000psi is better" so I paid the extra like $18 per yard for the harder concrete. Same thing with the concrete going in the block wall. So far a cost difference of less than $100 for the larger rebar in the footer, and about $500 for the concrete for the footer, it to me seemed to be money well spent to beef things up. For things like footers and foundations, I really only get one chance to do this right, so I was happy with the extra expense for a foundation that I know is overkill but also won't give me trouble decades down the road.
1 day ago
With the footer cleaned, the block layers got to work. I have a lot of admiration and respect for these guys. They've been stacking block and laying brick for 30 years, and they made this look real easy. They stacked almost 1400 block in two and a half days. Not only is it plumb and level, what I find truly amazing is it's square. I mean it's perfectly square. That wall is exactly 51'2" corner to corner, not even off 1/16th. So about the block and the foundation walls, I chose to have every other course be knock-out blocks, which has little rectangular 2 inch deep pieces on the end and middle that are knocked out so rebar can be horizontally laid in the wall, which will be filled with concrete at a later date. I have #4 rebar again horizontally through every course of knock out block. I then inserted sticks of #4 rebar vertically in every other hollow block cell, thus giving me a 16" square grid of rebar throughout the walls. The pumping truck came back and we filled the entire block foundation walls with another 5000psi mix. The reason I'm going through such lengths for this foundation is partly because I only get to do this once and I can't go back and do this later, and mostly because of the type of soil the cabin is being built on. Using the USGS free web soil survey, I learned that the type of soil I'm building on, which is called Shubuta by the way, is expansive, meaning it expands and contracts and requires measures to be taken into account to build on. One of my neighbors stopped by and hemmed and hawed about me building a basement and said I can't do it because the soil will bust the walls. He cited his cracked foundation, stair-stepping cracks in his brick house, and cracked sheetrock inside his house. I felt his pain for the problems he has with his home but I just smiled and explained what I was doing to prevent such events. He had his doubts my efforts will work. More on dealing with this expansive soil in another post.
2 days ago
The next step in the process is pouring a footer. Due to the location of the homesite and the topography of the land, this meant a pumping truck. I thought that was one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. I still think it's super cool that they figured out a way to pump rocks. Anyway, close to thirty yards of a 5000psi mix went in that footer. While the mud was workable, vertical pieces of #4 (1/2 inch) rebar were set every 16 inches where the block will be stacked. The block was delivered, and it being springtime, it rained. A lot. I had to pump the water off the footer, pressure wash the silt off so the block layers could start. I actually did that twice. Once in anticipation of the block laying start date, and again after they called to say they were running behind on their current job and it would be a couple more days. So it rained again in those couple days. Like another 2 inch downpour.

2 days ago
I've been building a little log cabin this year so come along with me as I post about this project from start to finish. I briefly mentioned what I was doing over in the log cabin day thread here: https://permies.com/t/87923/Log-Cabin-Day-Jun#722683 and I was asked to keep the folks here at permies updated, and I'm home today so I thought I would start this thread. I'm not felling trees, debarking and hewing and stacking logs. Not that sort of log cabin, but I do fantasize about doing that. That's the kind of thing I would enjoy doing. My wife and I purchased some farmland last summer to go pursue our homesteading dreams, and we've both wanted a log cabin, and since the farmland had no livable dwelling on it (there are two old cabins on it with roofs and walls caving in) we met with a few log cabin companies, and settled on an Honest Abe log cabin. We met with a sales rep almost a year ago now, and drew on a scrap piece of paper what we were looking for, and they came back with a rendering, which we liked and after 6 or 7 renditions they proceeded to manufacture the home. It's a CAD drawn, machine cut house. Everything fits together with little guesswork.

I figured I'll start from the beginning, with groundbreaking. When I went back to pick the photos I'd share here, I got a chuckle out of this first one. It's so typical of construction: one guy doing the work and three watching. We excavated for a full basement in the second pic, and the third is digging the footer. There's a 24 inch bucket on that excavator, and the footing is about 18-20 inches deep. I then put three courses of #5 (5/8 inch) rebar in the footer set on three inch chairs.

Feel free to ask questions. I'm happy to answer them if I can.
2 days ago
Hi Phil! I can offer a couple suggestions since I make milk kefir also. How much kefir are you making per batch? I make a pint a day, and drink a pint a day, and sometimes I forget to drink a jar and yes, it can start to pile up in the fridge. I am familiar with surplus kefir. For storing the kefir grains, I put them in a mason jar with enough distilled water to cover them, then put them in the fridge. They'll keep for months. As far as things to do with surplus kefir, I haven't tried making kefir cheese, but I've heard of it. I've made kefir bread, and my wife likes to make kefir fruit smoothies.

Here's a couple links to other threads here on Permies about kefir which you may find helpful.

General information on how to make kefir: https://permies.com/t/71212
Kefir Bread: https://permies.com/t/66185
2 days ago
I love corned beef reubens! That is one of my most favorite sandwiches. Nashville used to have a Jewish delicatessen I frequented called Goldies, which closed approaching a decade ago that made a righteous reuben. Man I haven't thought about that deli and their reuben in a long time. Anyway, yes the reuben is one of my favorites. I've also come to really like a good Vietnamese Banh Mi, which I only discovered a few years ago. My wife and I hardly eat out anymore like we once did, but once in a while we treat ourselves to a sandwich out somewhere at lunchtime.
3 days ago
I just want to add a comment regarding growth. I learned this back when I used to listen to the news, and I heard this from an economist on NPR (the guys name is long forgotten, but the statistic stuck with me). An annual economic growth rate of 3% means it doubles every 23 years. If we turn back the clock to, say, 1900, then in 1923 the economy has doubled (assuming 3% was met each year), then it's 4x the original in 1946, 8x in 1969, 16x in 1992, 32x in 2015 and so on. According to the economist being interviewed, this rate of growth is absolutely unsustainable on a planet with finite resources that are dwindling.

I really believe that a sustainable thriving economy can last, and the pursuit of this kind of growth is futile.
Hmm. Battery age would've been the prime suspect but since it's been replaced, there's another possibility. Is it a standard lead-acid battery with two caps across the top? If it has caps, pry them off and look down the three holes on each side. They should be filled up to the bottom of the hole with liquid. If you can see metal plates down the holes, add distilled water. I once bought a brand new car battery and when I brought it home I popped the two caps off just to check the electrolyte level, and all six cells were way low as I could see the metal plates.

There's a few other possibilities too. The alternator may not be charging the battery. That could be as simple as a blown fuse, or the alternator could be bad. The easiest way to check this without an ohmmeter is once the engine is running, disconnect the black wire from the battery pole. If the engine keeps running, alternator working. If engine dies, something's up with the alternator. Another possibility is some electrical short somewhere, and chasing those down can be extremely difficult. The solar trickle charger ought to keep the battery maintained if there's some electrical gremlin somewhere.
1 week ago
Amit, how old is the battery?

Also, I think David's advice for a solar trickle charger is most excellent.
1 week ago