An Update on Mountain Brook Build Days

We’ve been waiting for more certainty around our family’s vaccines before committing, but with the anticipated announcement of younger folks having access to at least one kind of vaccine, we decided to take the risk and order our building kit. So, it looks like we’re doing it this summer! This has been a dream of ours for a long time coming. I’m nervous, but mostly I’m just excited for the possibilities.

As I wrote previously, my family loves to head to the Catskills and camp and hike. We’ve always been campers and hikers and wanderers. But a few years back we started thinking about having a place our daughter could know as her place, and hopefully grow with and beside. The relationships we cultivate with wild spaces inform our thinking and shape our perspectives in powerful ways. Our hope has been that steady exposure, familiarity, and a sense of responsibility and accountability will underlay the fun and rejuvenation we experience when we’re there.

We are now planning on putting a kit together, a small shed 12 x 20, beginning the last week of July and running through mid-August. I’ve updated a countdown clock to coincide with our expected delivery of the building kit. Here is a photo of a structure similar to what we are planning to build:

photograph of a 12' x 20' shed with a small porch and an overhang roof above the porch. The building's short side is frontward, with a door centered. There is live edge siding, as you'd find in the first few cuts of a milled log as you work to square angles.  The roof of the building is metal (green).
12 by 20 kit with live-edge siding

We’ve put down deposits on helical posts (instead of pouring concrete pillars or a slab) and on the kit, itself. Orders run about 12-14 weeks out to delivery, so if it was to happen this summer, we needed to get going now.

I’m still awaiting a permit, but I don’t expect that to be much of a problem. We’re also working through all the logistics and making a thorough plan. Things get tricky when you try to do anything other than camp without power, water, or easy road access. But I’m confident we can be safe, fairly comfortable, and get this built in the time we have to do it.

I believe I have all the tools I’ll need for site preparation and for the build, itself. The few things I’ll need to acquire I have on order. Not needing to mess around with concrete is a really positive development. The environmental impact of six steel posts is much less than concrete, and paying a trained and certified installer not only spares my old back, but it means we can avoid bringing an earth mover onto the place, altogether. These posts have a light impact and they take to building on a slope so no need for heavy excavation.

I will need to take down a number of small trees to ensure the safety of the structure over time, and as a basic fire preventative measure. I wish I could have done the tree work this past winter, but getting back to the place when snow is down or during mud season is tough to do. Also, there were some state to state travel restrictions during the times when I might have tried. Last, I really want to have someone else present when I’m doing chainsaw work, and I didn’t want to subject my family to hard camping during 10 or 15 degree days, and colder nights.

So I’ll be doing the tree work this month and next, and probably a bit over the whole summer. One thing I’m doing to be especially cautious is I’ve bought chainsaws, a timberjack, a cant hook, a pole saw, bow saw, wedges, and an axe that I’ll only use on site. The spread of some tree diseases happens when you fail to adequately clean tools between sites. While our woods in NY don’t have any oaks to speak of, the oak wilt that is spreading quickly across Pennsylvania is a concern to me. I want to know, with certainty, that I am not transporting any animal or microbial pests from place to place. This also goes for the spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect that has spread unbelievably since its introduction to our area in Pennsylvania in 2014. So, I plan to be extra careful about my forestry tools and any equipment (like my trailer) that might harbor invasive species. If you store it outside, inspect it closely. I’m going so far as to have separate hammock straps for PA and NY.

Other things I can work on independently in advance of deliveries are some road work and trail work to make it easier for folks to get around. I really do hope folks will come up and visit and help as they like. I’ll have more information about our social plans in a future post. And there are six or seven points during the build when I will certainly need a hand or two. I have some help lined up, I think. But I will be sending out a call with more specifics here in a week or two, once I have a couple more things in place. In that email and post, I’ll give a lot more information about the area, things to do, lodging and restaurants nearby if you’re not up for rough camping, and some more precise dates of when different work will likely happen. If you don’t know this part of the Catskills, you’ll find a lot to do and some great restaurants. If you want to start looking around Bovina, Andes, and Delhi, let me know and we’ll chat.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d give this update and maybe post a few more pictures of this beautiful spot to maybe entice folks to want to come up.

I also plan to blog about nearly every step of the process from here out. No so much as a how-to practice, but as an assistive memory exercise. I’ve dreamed about doing this since my twenties, and I want to document this for myself and for my family. I also really hope to do some radio broadcasts from the mountainside. I think the cellular signal is strong enough that I can use izicast for some short updates, soundscapes, and music on my station and maybe on #ds106radio. We’ll see! Anyway, counting down…

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