As Tropical Storm Debby brushes past we are evaluating what still needs to be done here on our new off-grid homestead to completely prepare for Florida’s rainy season and possible hurricanes. We’re getting strong gusts of wind and just about swimming with all the rain. We experienced Hurricane Charley years ago, seeing first hand what a storm of that magnitude can do. We want to be ready!
Since getting the deck roof up last month we have enjoyed relative dryness on the deck area, but several problems arose. During construction of the deck roof an error was made in marking its slope. The final beams were being put in place when Silver Oak realized the error. It was getting late and a few of our volunteers needed to get home, so he decided to leave things for the time being so the crew could finish up.
During a heavy rain it became evident that the roof definitely needed more slope to keep water from seeping under the metal and dropping in on our deck. It was a huge undertaking, but Silver Oak stayed home one day and actually lowered one end of the roof eight inches. It took about 15 hours, using farm jacks and bottle jacks to brace up the beams and slowly lower them to the correct height.
Most of the day he loosened bolts and shortened posts in preparation for lowering one end of the roof. The children were kept inside because of the possible danger, and I helped as I could. The actual lowering didn’t take long. The middle and outer beams both had to be lowered, and one time as we were carefully lowering the back corner we heard a mighty crash between the house and camper. One of the temporary posts holding the middle beam with a bottle jack had broken apart from the extra weight, allowing that part of the roof to drop down onto the brace Silver Oak had installed underneath it in case something like that happened. Thank the Lord no one was near the post as it broke!
As we finished lowering the roof in time for dinner I had a splitting headache. This is not the first time I got a headache when doing something that feels so dangerous. It happened when we were drilling our well and we had to keep raising the heavy pressured pipe about 30 feet into the air (threatening to break or burst) to try again. It also happened when we unloaded our two-ton 4,000 gallon rainwater reservoir with farm jacks and a winch. I do lots of praying during events like that, and we are so thankful for God’s protection.
After dinner Silver Oak was determined to rebolt the beams and posts together and completely finish the job before going to bed. Since there were eight posts that needed new holes drilled and bolts and metal plates reinstalled, taking about 30 minutes per post, it took him around four hours. We got to bed after 1:00am, but it was secured once again!
In preparing for more heavy rains Silver Oak built a better roof over Evenstar’s rabbit hutch which houses her fiber rabbits (angoras). He also worked on rerouting water that wants to pool on our tiny house roof right above the front door and run down onto the deck and doorway during a heavy rain.
My mom helped prime the renovated parts of the big shed to protect the new siding. We also set up a real washing machine under the roof behind the camper. Doing laundry off-grid is even more challenging during rainy season, and we need a break! Since we now have a well, water usage isn’t an issue. But I’m learning a washer takes an enormous amount of electricity. We have to do laundry with the generator running.
A friend came out to help Silver Oak set up two roofs: one for Buttercup to stand under during rain, and one to keep untreated lumber dry. What a blessing! They used the tarp roofs that had been our temporary deck roof for several months. They didn’t quite have time to finish the roof for storing lumber. It was up but not completely secured. Unfortunately this wind from Tropical Storm Debby blew it over. Lesson learned: make sure something like that can be finished before starting or it may need to be done again.
There is still so much to be done! All of our buildings need to be tied down with hurricane auger anchors, and the big deck roof needs more work, including finishing the gable ends so rain can’t blow in. The retaining wall needs to be built under our tiny house so water can’t collect underneath. It is nestled in the hole we dug for it (which will hopefully become our root cellar), but until a wall is built rain naturally runs down there, eroding the soil as it goes.
Those big projects need to be done as well as installing the solar panels still sitting in their box, adding the final pieces of deck to join the house and camper, finishing fence, and installing our new windmill which will be delivered this week. The list is endless, as usual. It will get done one step at a time as the Lord allows. Right now I hear more driving wind and rain!
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