How much does a free building cost?

October 31, 2009

This all began early last summer when my friend Les Parrott suggested that I should acquire a 20 X 40 portable shelter which was sitting unassembled in Richmond. At the time I was overwhelmed with renovations on two houses and had no time for further confusion.

But things change. This week I visited Lorna Hyland and we loaded the pieces of the building onto my trailer. It was a whole lot of galvanized truss sections, some long pipes with strange triangles in the middle, and two very awkward rolls of white plastic. It made a good load for my new trailer, and I happily hauled it home.

After determining a location for the edifice, I decided that the grade needed to rise a bit, as I had no desire to have the floor covered with ice all winter. The lady at the Sweet’s/Tackaberry quarry listened to my tale and recommended a triaxle load of 3″ crushed limestone, most likely followed by another of 7/8″ to make a smoother floor.

I remembered the guy on the triaxle truck from his last visit to the farm during the runup to the Plowing Match. He led a fleet of trucks into the woodlot to construct a road for the tour wagon. Apparently among the Tackaberry staff “The time we backed into all those maples” is the stuff of legend. “They all said we couldn’t do it, and we did,” he told me proudly.

It had been a tight fit working the trucks backwards out of brilliant sunlight into a very dark, forbidding wood among the towering maples. At some points the clearance between the truck’s mirrors and the trees was no more than a couple of inches, total. And there were turns. Then, of course, they had to unload the gravel, and a triaxle dump truck needs at least 20′ of clearance for the box. Fortunately we had lots of overhead space, the canopy hovering at about 90′ in this area with few lower limbs.

I had dumped quite a few trucks while working on construction during my student days, and I figured we could drop the aggregate on the work site and save an enormous amount of work by eliminating the need to carry it in with a front end loader from a central pile.

The worst part for the drivers was backing out of the sunlight into the dark. They were blind for about fifty feet and had to trust my directions until their vision recovered. Then they discovered that the footing was indeed solid, if irregular, and that there was space for their mirrors and even space to turn, if they were careful. They were careful, indeed. Nobody touched a tree. The mirrors of all of the trucks emerged intact, and a couple of hours with the scraper blade behind my tractor and we had roads over the mud holes for the IPM tours.

Anyway, this time the guy came in heavy and was concerned about driving across the sod to the dumping location. Turns out the ground was pretty firm and he made the spread successfully and went on his way. That left the task to my tractor to grade the pad. A serene morning with the Massey left the 3″ limestone level and packed. The lady at the pit was right. I would need finer stone to provide a smooth floor for the garage, so I ordered another load. The 7/8″ material was very nice to work with the scraper, so I spent another hour playing in my sandbox.

After completing the pad (45 tonnes of crushed stone) I asked Bet to park her car on it and then to return it to the house. She landed the Lexus in the spot and then backed out awkwardly onto the driveway (nasty little upward slope there) so I started cutting into the bank with the bucket of the tractor. The loader is quite strong, but old Massey Fergusons only have one hydraulic line, and I needed to switch it from three point hitch (to hold up the scraper) to the loader each time I lifted something. This is not a precise process, as sometimes the pump loses its prime and must be encouraged with adjustments on various levers on the right side of the seat. The loader works really well for individual lifting jobs around the farm, but it’s no bulldozer. For any real work in the future I definitely need a backhoe.

The cost of the free building continues to rise.

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