The 2016 Story

In January of 2016 I sent this to my clients to let them know I was ready to go back in action. Some bought it, some didn’t.

Within 6 weeks after my hip replacement surgery I was back at work on the new bedroom. I took it sort of easy for the most part. There are restrictions after total hip replacement surgery, (posterior type), the most critical being not bending at the waist more than 90° or carrying heavy weight. Keeping that in mind, the first order of business was to run the electric rough-in and then insulate the ceiling to R50. To install the insulation, I had to stand on a rolling, 4’ scaffolding. I just needed to be careful getting up and down but, while up there, I was held in place by the ceiling joist–so it went pretty well except it was cold as hell with no heat yet. I hadn’t knocked a doorway into the heated house because I wanted the room insulated first. Putting up the 5/8 sheetrock on the ceiling by myself was challenging but I just took it slow and got it done. I cut the bedroom doorway into the house by the end of February and completed all the sheetrocking, spackling and priming by beginning of April.

Two layers of insulation were used. 16″- R19 faced insulation between the 2×6″ ceiling joists and 24″- R30, unfaced, installed perpendicular to that and over the joists.

The doorway to the heated house knocked out and the rolling scaffolding I use. The pipe on the top right is duct-work circulating hot air from the wood stove in the kitchen.


I used a Rockwell, SoniCrafter tool to cut these pockets for the 4×4″ beams.

Last fall the beams were hung 12″ below the joists, then sanded and varnished. The the insulation and sheetrock was installed after that. Then the ceiling was completely sanded and painted. The beams were then fitted together and jacked up as a unit to there final position, (jacked up by my shoulder standing on a ladder). This was a big job but in the end I think a better result was achieved than having the beams in position from the start. A cleaner look.

8×8″ and 4×4″ hard-maple beams.

Throughout all this, my hips worked pretty well. I didn’t have any problems until I went outside and tackled a big project that needed to get done by mid- spring.

Ferns needed to be transplanted around the new bedroom, but before the ferns could be transplanted I needed to dig a trench through that location for my insulated heat pipe that was running from the house to the outdoor wood boiler.

I thought this would be a fairly easy job until I excavated along the bedroom foundation. Two years earlier I had buried a large culvert pipe that ran from inside the basement wall, under the cement slab dining area, to a point parallel to the outside of the new bedroom foundation. This buried pipe was intended as the conduit for the insulated heat pipe going to my outdoor wood boiler. Problem was, unbeknownst to me, when I poured the bedroom foundation wall, the pressure of the wet cement had pushed out the footer portion and partially covered the end of this pipe. So I had to spend half a day with a hammer drill, chipping away at this concrete.

On the left is the view of the old culvert from inside the basement. The middle photo is of the other end and you can see the concrete I had to chip away. The right photo is a view from the basement of the new 10″ plastic pipe connection. It was flexible enough to make the bend no problem thankfully. The big pipe is sloped away from the basement, drain pipe and stone are below the connection on the right for any groundwater to escape.

Once I got the concrete out of the way, I had to first put down a 4” perforated drainpipe and cover that with clean #2 stone. Then a 20-foot long, 10” plastic culvert had to go down in the trench, connecting to the end of the pipe, which I had just cleared of the hard concrete. I back-filled around that and then finally I ran three 1”, PVC conduit pipes on top of the culvert. These were for electric power and controls for the outdoor wood boiler. Then the trench was backfilled and I could finally start to plant the ferns over this area. All that took 2 full days. The whole job turned out to be more strenuous than I thought it would.   Whew!

The 10 inch, plastic, corrugated culvert ended here for now so I could get the ferns transplanted over the area. Continued with this job in August.

This is roof rainwater collection piping. Landscape fabric was place over the stone and ferns were planted on both sides.
With metal roofing, eves tend to get ripped off in winter from large snow slides, so I deal with the water run off this way.

I felt fine when we left that weekend to go back to the city but, while working at my TV camera job and walking around the city, my hips started to cry out in pain. Both hips- the replacement hip and the old, original hip. To make matters worse, I had to do a couple days of shooting with a very heavy camera while walking around.

The next weekend I went back to the country and transplanted all the ferns- it had to get done now or wait ‘til next year, hip pain or not. Now it was. This wasn’t too painful and I thought maybe I was OK. So I go back to the city and the pain gets as bad as it was before the operation- in both hips. Every step I took had painful consequences. I couldn’t see how I was going to work as a cameraman let alone finish my house. Social Security Disability was the way I was heading at this rate. SSD is not easy to get and for the most part you can’t be able to work or at least not make more than $1K/mo for 6 months. In my research I found that you need documentation to back up your case. So I went to see my PCP and gave him all the details. Dr. Mele, who knew about most of my issues was on board and helpful. When I went to see my hip surgeon, Dr. Ranawatt, he told me I had 6-monthitis. It happens to everyone except in my case it happened at 5 months. I told him I couldn’t see going on with my career in this pain and that I needed to document this for SSD. He said that wouldn’t be a problem. I said I wanted to wait on replacing the right hip for a year in order to know what to expect recovery-wise from the replacement hip. I am not going to go ahead with replacing the right hip if the left feels as bad as it does, (pain in the thigh not the joint area). I told Dr. Ranawatt I thought the pain was from carrying around 50 lbs of camera equipment and it was unrealistic at my age to think I could continue with this kind of work. He halfheartedly agreed. Hip Surgeons want successes not failures. I told him I was going to have to start taking pain meds at work if things didn’t get better. On the way out he gave me a script for Tramadol for pain and Diclofenac/Misoprostol, a Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug with a buffer for people with GERD. I then asked Dr. Ranawat if it was OK to ride the stationary exercise bike? He said, “I would try to take it easy for awhile.”

After filling the script I took one tablet of the Diclofenac. Within an hour I walked outside and I noticed immediate improvement. In the morning we drove upstate and I was able to walk around the property pretty much pain free. The next day I gave the body a big workout transplanting the rest of the ferns and had no problem. What is this stuff? I can’t believe it- my life outlook totally changed. I can look forward to the future again with a positive outlook. I never had to take the pain meds.

The photo on the left shows where the ferns grew wild outback in the meadow. On the right is the transplant. Dirt was placed over the seams to help it all grow together. I couldn’t do things like this without my Backhoe. Because of the fern root system they are pretty easy to dig out in slices, 3-4″ deep  by about 2′ wide, 3-4′ feet long and they remain intact.

This photo was taken early in the summer. Ferns really like this mountain.


Bizarre story: One day in late Spring I was placing a big slab of a rock, 4’x3’x5″ thick in front of the new entryway. I was using the back hoe to hold the rock up enough so I could use a shovel and move some dirt out from underneath and let it sit better. I couldn’t get this small, 6″ rock to move out of the way so I reached in to grab it with my bare hand. It moved but so did the whole boulder, crushing my hand between the two. I was pinned there and could not get enough leverage to raise the boulder. The pain was too great to bear and I was trapped so I just pulled my hand out  ripping a deep gash in the skin. I walked around in pain cursing myself for 10 minutes. This picture was taken after I had washed it off with hydrogen peroxide. Getting beneath the skin flap was no fun. Took awhile to heal but OK now.

With the ferns taken care of, I could go back to working on the bedroom. I didn’t plan on finishing the job until the fall but I was so excited about its development that I plowed ahead. I got the hardwood maple window jambs in, everything primed and painted, the laminated cork flooring put down, closet doors in, king bed platform built and installed. The room was ready for sleepers- but that didn’t happen till late fall.

May- Click-lock, cork flooring was used to cover the bedroom radiant heat cement slab. Easiest floor I ever put down- nice and tight. Feels good underfoot. Very happy with it.

Of course after the bedroom was finished Deb was like- “Now finish the floor in the kitchen.” She didn’t want me to go outside and start the pavilion until the kitchen was taken care of. I was hesitant to start the pavilion anyways because I was worried my other hip would give out and I would have to get that replaced at any time. If things got bad and I had to stop working at least most of the kitchen would be completed and we could start to use it.

We picking out the tiles was a yearlong journey. In the end Lowe’s Home Improvement had what we were looking for, “Aspen Sunset,” porcelain tiles in a combination of 12×12” and 6×6”. The tiles were to be laid on a diagonal, with a pinwheel design. This would be the biggest tile job I had ever done at 300 square feet, consisting of three offsetting rectangles. These rectangles included the kitchen, dinning area and a short hallway.

Bosch GTL 2- Laser Level and Square, $38

I was more than a little concerned about this tile job. The issue was the pinwheel design, a 12 x 12” tile, surrounded by four, 6 x 6” tiles on each corner. This design made it difficult to keep everything going in a straight line because offsetting tiles interrupted the lines. Also, I wanted to change layout directions so I wouldn’t back myself into a corner. Luckily I stumbled across this advertisement for an inexpensive Bosh laser square. It was for floors and walls and shot out two laser beams at right angles. I was worried that after changing directions and then eventually meeting up with the old layout my grout lines would not line up. Or worse, that the tiles wouldn’t fit and would need to be cut down- a disaster.

This Bosh laser saved my butt. Only in two, far corners did I have to fudge the size of the grout lines a little and you would never see this unless you were looking very closely. The reason I had to fudge these tiles was not becasue my layout had strayed but because I inadvertently bought a different production batch of tiles and they were about 2 millimeters bigger. I saved these for the corners. Something to be aware of for a large tile job. In hindsight, the only thing I regret is I took a little too much grout out of some of the joints as I wiped away the excess. No one else noticed or cared.

Wide view of the kithchen tiles. The center island was removed for this. The tiles took 5 days to lay and two days to grout. Well worth the effort to go diagonal, pine-wheel layout.

John, I hear you asking, why do you make things so difficult to begin with? Why lay tiles on a diagonal or use two different sizes of tile in a pinwheel layout? The answer is in the results- doing something pedestrian verses doing something special. I don’t have any kids, but this dream, “Wildcat Dreams,” is the creation that will outlive me.

A kitchen tin ceiling was installed back in 2015 but the a cove molding surround was added in July of 2016 to complete the look.                                                                                                                                              Product purchased from American Tin Ceiling in Florida.


If you have every installed cove molding you know it’s no cake walk. I do not have an expensive chop saw to make perfect compound miter cuts so I make them by hand. I find MDF board is the nicest to work with becasue you can make easy fine cut adjustments with a coping saw or utility knife. If you have a high ceiling wood putty can hide a lot of sin. Also, MDF board is more dimensionally stable than real wood so your joints won’t separate with the seasons.

Cove molding joint with wood putty and paint. MDF molding.

With the kitchen tiles down, the island cabinets and counter could be put back in place permanently. We could have moved in at this point, but didn’t because it was getting warm again and we still loved our old little place. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t ready to move across the street to the new place- it didn’t feel like home.

Oddly things changed one day in July when I was scratching my back. Something was stuck to me and I pulled it off. It was a big engorged tick!

This tick from my back must of been ready to move on because it came off easily when I scratched my back. Note the tiny piece of skin in it’s pincers. Strange lime green color but if you look on the internet this is what a blood engorged tick looks like.

I had never seen an engorged tick before. I looked at my back in the mirror and I had a big bulls-eye there. This freaked me out. I saved the tick, taking it to the Doctor later in the week. He looked up pictures on the Internet and we both agreed it looked like a deer tick. So he put me on a 14-day course of antibiotics but he also sent the tick to the lab for testing. The next day the Doc called my cell phone and told me to stop taking the antibiotics because it turned out to be a wood tick- they do not carry Lyme disease. The bull’s eye continued to weep for a few weeks, which didn’t reassure me, but I felt fine and now it is gone. Over the 19 years I have been working on developing my property I never once got a tick bite that I know of, nor have I seen that many. I have spent hours outside in the forest, meadows, springtime, summertime and fall. Deer and mice were all over the area but no tick problems. Believe you me; from now on I am going to pay attention.


So- back to why I eventually moved across the street to the new house. At night I tend to wake up to go to the bathroom and usually can’t go back to sleep so I read. Deb doesn’t like the light from my Kindle so I get up and lay on the bedroom floor carpet, reading till I am ready to fall back to sleep. The problem was I realized later that Deb would take her clothes and shoes off and drop them right where I lie down and read. These were the clothes she had worn out in the fields when she collected blueberries and whatnot (weeds that supposedly had healing purposes).   I was lying next to these clothes for two nights in a row till we went back to the city. I figured that is where the tick came from (maybe). So I told Deb- “Why didn’t you take off your dirty field clothes and leave them in the back room like I do my work clothes?” I told her I wasn’t going to sleep in that bedroom again till she vacuumed it all out, thoroughly cleaning it and washing all the bedding. Well she was not into taking orders from me, so that didn’t happen and I moved across the street at night, sleeping in the upstairs bedroom alone. After two nights of that she came over during the third night and silently climbed into bed with me. We smiled at each other in the dark.


We began to really appreciate the new place and even after Deb cleaned out the old bedroom we didn’t move back. That is how we came to get used to and enjoy our new world. Once the nights started to turn cold, though, we moved back to the old house, (we still cooked and ate there anyway). We had a wood stove in the little house that could easily take the chill off with a quick fire. It is a very cozy place.

Not very sophisticated architectural drawings but it was good enough for the Truss Maker.

Back to the building of my small town. After I spent seven days tiling and grouting the new kitchen floor I noticed some of my old spinal stenosis symptoms were coming back. Symptoms that for the most part had gone away with the sit-ups and leg marches I had been judiciously doing for the past couple of years. My stenosis symptoms were strange sensations in the tailbone, buttock region and much more frequent leg numbness. I had started swimming laps in a pool once a week and slacked off the PT a little. Thinking maybe that was the problem I religiously started back to doing the crunches and leg raises. In spite of this “come-back-to-haunt-me” issue I plowed ahead. Throughout August I worked on excavating the pavilion area, installing drainage pipe, stone, gravel and cementing in the 6×6” pressure treated post that would hold up the roof.

The machine that makes it all possible is my 1980 Case 580C. You can’t time your breakdowns and this big dipper cylinder blew it’s hydraulic packing just as I was digging up my driveway near the pavilion. This excavating made the driveway impassable. I had to shoot some hydraulic oil around for awhile till I could make it passable. Then I played mechanic for a day to remove and install it.  I took it to a guy nearby who is a heavy equipment mechanic and he replaced the packing at an unbelievably great price. Lucky for me.

Finally by the middle of summer I got the 1 1/4″ duel insulated heat pipe run. 70′ from Pavilion to basement.

4″ PVC and 2″ stone (stone in the bucket) surround the slab for good drainage. Drains to daylight.

This was right before the pour. 1/2 rebar was installed at 16″ centers as well as extra bar around the perimeter and wire mat in strategic areas. 4ml plastic was used to control curing, The pour was done in three sections with 2×4″ screed guides in place.

By September 10th I was ready to pour the slab. The insulated heat pipe had been run to the basement, all the rebar and forms were in place, time to getter done! The night before the pour I started to have doubts: 7.5 yards of concrete, 352 square feet that need to be screeded off and floated, with 3 guys. My strength, back, and hip issues concerned me and I wondered if I would be able to step up and go big for the pour.

The cement truck showed up 20 minutes early and one of my two guys was missing. This driver was all business, no small talk just, “How do you want it- wet or dry?” I could tell he wasn’t too happy about seeing only two workers for a pour that big. With only two guys it would take longer to pour the cement, which meant the truck would go overtime and he would be late for his next delivery, backing the day up for everybody else- on a Saturday no less. I usually prefer a dry mix- not as much water- it’s stiffer and harder to work with but makes for stronger concrete after it cures. But this wasn’t a road I was building, just a parking area. I said, “Wet!” with a strong sense of relief and resignation. The driver jumped back in the truck to put more water to the mix, gunning the engine and making that big drum rotate like crazy, mixing in the extra water. Pronto he backed up the truck, didn’t ask if we were ready and just let ‘er rip.

It was 7:40 AM, Rich and I just stood there looking at the cement pouring out the shoot for a few seconds, watching the work accumulate before our eyes. Inertia had us stuck for a moment. Snapping out of it, I went to work with my shovel and Rich with the rake, pushing and pulling the mud around. Archie showed up, jumped into his rubber boots and pitched in to help. I was so glad we went with a wet mix because it made our work so much easier. When it came time to level off the cement with a screed, it was no harder than spreading soft butter over toast. HA! Rich didn’t even pop a bead on the first pass. The whole thing got poured in less that an hour so the driver didn’t charge any wait time and drove off lickity split.

September- the cement crew. Archie, Rich & John

After being paid Rich and Archie, my two helpers disappeared in a flash and I continued with floating the wet slab. Nice job!
Not being a professional concrete contractor, ahead of a pour, there is something anxiety inducing about knowing the finality of hard concrete and the things that could go wrong, that when it’s over, I get a strong sense of relief, satisfaction and optimism for the work ahead, because the hardest part is behind me. So much planning and work goes into the prep for the pour and for me- second guessing, so when it’s all over you just say- YES!

Eagle Acid Stain from Home Depot.

This is my review on
I recently used Eagle Acid stain for concrete in olive color. The concrete slab is going to be used for an outdoor pavilion and was only floated a couple of times with a hand made wooden float. I never touched the cement after the float but when it got firm enough to walk on I sprayed it with water and covered the whole job with plastic. Leaving it covered for 7 days. I waited 28 days for the cement to cure before using the stain. . It took 1.3 gallons for 360 sq. ft.
First I misted water over the entire slab to make it damp. I used a garden style sprayer and went to work spraying the slab. As I went I would stop spraying and broom in the acid with a shop broom working it into the cement evenly. I highly recommend a damp slab to start and brooming the acid in as you go for even coverage. They recommend a sprayer for acid stain but mine was not and I think the brass tip and tube of the sprayer effects the stain somewhat if you stop and it sits- reacting to the brass. In hindsight I recommend using a plastic garden sprinkler watering can. Have a helper do this as you work the acid around with the broom.
The next day I rinsed the slab several times and broomed it with lots of water. Then I mixed 16 OZ. of ammonia with 5 gallons of water, flooding the area and brooming the neutralizer mix in. I did this twice then I rinsed the slab thoroughly again.
I waited a week to seal it and I used Behr Premium Low-Luster Sealer, $28. This produced the look I wanted and took the curse off the olive color. If you want a darker wet look- use the Behr Wet-Look Sealer. Eagle makes a good sealer which I have used in the past also. I was very pleased with the Eagle Acid stain and the Behr Premium Low-Luster Sealer.

The Pavilion October 2016

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