First Conundrom: Crossing the river Isen

Previously I had mentioned that the property has a few unique problems associated with it. The first being access to the property itself.

Forget about that for a moment.  I’m still not sure what to call the river?  Well it’s not really a river but a small stream. The great thing about this stream is that it appears to be spring fed right from the property itself. We had a bit of a drought  this past summer and I was wondering if the stream was going to dry up but it never did. I took a walk one day along the road and realized that there was no water running in the river upstream from the house. I followed the river bed back to the house and found that the water was coming out of the ground at the back of my property. Pretty cool.

I kind of like the name the river Isen. Unfortunately that is not in the Shire. The other choice is the Brandywine river. This is in the Shire and is associated with the Brandywine Bridge which I thought would kind of go with the building of this bridge that we needed to get done. So at the moment I really don’t have a name for the bridge or the river. If I’m not mistaken isn’t there a magical river or stream somewhere in Middle Earth where if you put your tired feet into it you are not tired anymore and come out of it refreshed? Well if anyone out there can help me with the name that would be nice. That might be an interesting choice.

The existing bridge was made of wood for the most part.  The original owners way back when built two stone walls along the sides of the river  and then must have backfilled them with soil. After they did that they spanned the stone walls with wood and or I-beams so they could get across to the property. This bridge was surely replaced and redone a number of times over the years. Underneath the wood decking were a couple of rusted out I- beams and a few  four by sixes. The bridge was fine to walk over but I wouldn’t trust going over it with a car and forget about going over it with a truck. (Just so everyone knows I was born in the Bronx and I meant to say faget aboooout it!). I need to get over it with a concrete truck which could weigh on the order of 60,000 pounds. Or the equivalent,in layman’s terms, of 240,000 quarter pounders with cheese! I wonder what that looks like? Never mind.

What I did not want to do was disturb the existing rock walls or the existing bridge. So I built right over what was there. I rented the smallest excavator I could and dug footings on either side of the bridge. The footings were about 30 inches wide and about 14 feet long. I dug  down about two and a half to three feet but hit a ton of stone, which was good.  I was worried that when I started to dig the soil would be poor and organic but as soon as I started digging I knew it was fine.

How did I get the excavator across the bridge? I knew someone was thinking that . That is a very good question because I think the excavator weighs in at about 8000 pounds. The span of the existing bridge is only about six feet. I brought about 12 OSHA plank and spanned the bridge deck by tripling the plank up double wide for each of the tracks on the excavator. Yes, I was nervous going over the bridge and I made sure I got the extra insurance when I rented the machine. I also had a spare pair of fruit of the looms just in case. One never knows how the body will react under stressful conditions.

I made rebar cages for each footing and created an upturned concrete pedestal to receive structural I-beams that would span over the bridge. We just pulled the concrete truck up to the bridge and poured the footings and the pedestals in one shot. To get to the far side I set up a chute on a saw horse (on the existing bridge) and just moved it along the length of the footing.

The span for the new bridge was now about 17 feet. The company I work for has structural I-beams that we haven’t used in years and are obsolete. I was able to get 4  of these and I used them to go from footing to footing. The truck we have can dump so we just backed the truck up to the roadside footing and slowly started to dump the beams. Once the flatbed was up in the air we were able to help the I-beams off a bit and got them to the other side of the bridge. I then had the driver pull forward and they came right off the truck basically where I needed them. All we had to do was pry them into position and we were good to go. I positioned the I-beams in pairs so that two each would be basically under the wheels of any large truck.  In between the I-beams I placed metal decking  so a 12 inch concrete slab could be poured.


This shows the structural I-beams with the metal decking for the concrete slab
This shows the structural I-beams with the metal decking for the concrete slab

 Once this was done it was a simple matter to install rebar and pour the structual 12 inch concrete slab. The ends of the I-beams had bolt holes which I used to pin the I-beams to the footings. This was great because this enabled me to tie the whole thing together. I put inch and a half coil bolts in the four corners to receive an angle iron railing for temporary sides for the bridge. Then we just pulled the concrete truck up and poured a 5000 psi concrete slab flush with the top of the I-beams.

Poured in place concrete bridge.
Poured in place concrete bridge.
Side view of bridge
Side view of bridge

This last photo gives you an idea of what I did and what was there. If you look closely you can see the existing bridge deck just below the orange netting. An engineer  friend of mine and I figured that this bridge should be able to take an 80,000 pound truck which should be more than adequate for our needs here. After a few trucks went over it I used a laser level to see if it sank but it has stayed exactly where we originally poured it.

Just a quick update: I hope to be applying for the building permit within the next week or two. I just have to have the architect add some minor items to the drawings that the town wants and we can submit the application.

Hope to update within the next few weeks enjot the Super Bowl!

Finding Hobbit Hollow: Where do Hobbits live?

I just put up the Hobbit calendar I got for Christmas. January is Gandalf opening the gate to walk up to Bag End. Very inspirational. I’m going to have to put a gate up somewhere on the property. Happy New Year to all and best wishes for the coming year! Which brings me back to the title of this post.

Where do Hobbits live and where can I find a place that I can build a house for them?

When I read “The Hobbit” for the first time my impression of Hobbits were of a people who enjoyed their privacy and had homes that big people could not find. That has always been my vision of Hobbits and their homes. When I built the shed this is basically what I had in mind.  A place that  people who are not aware that it is there would walk right by and not even know it existed.  If you walked to the back of my property you would not be able to find the Hobbit  shed unless I pointed it out to you.

So the first problem I had is finding a building lot where a Hobbit house would be suitable. One of the main problems is that many of the lots that are available are in subdivisions where there are certain requirements for that particular subdivdision. One usually being that the neighbors are not interested in seeing something that doesn’t resemble a house like theirs. The second problem is that many of the sites just don’t lend themselves  to  building a Hobbit house on them. I know what your thinking. There has to be a hill, right? Actually, I was looking for a flat lot where I could bring in soil to cover the structure later. Or a lot were I could excavate the soil I needed to cover the house with at a later date. The third problem I found with many of the sites were complicated septic systems and extensive driveway and site conditions. A fourth problem was pricing. I thought with all the trouble in the houseing market I would surely be able to get a good deal on a piece of land. That was definitely not the case. It kind of sounds like the cards are definitely not stacked in my favor! I looked at quite afew lots over the course of a year or so. I eventually found this house.

Purchased this home to build a Hobbit house on this property.
Purchased this home to build a Hobbit house on this property.

This house, so I’m told, was built in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s. It is a four bedroom two bath colonial.  And it was a complete mess inside and out. The ceilings inside are about six foot three high. When you walked in you felt like you had to duck. I guess if you were a four foot three inch hobbit this would have seemed on the high side. It was actually quite unbelieveable that someone lived here up until about 2006. The owner passed away and it  was left to her estate. They were asking 170,000 for this mess of a house.The beauty of this place was not in the house but in the setting and the road it is on. A small spring fed stream runs parallel to the road right next to the house.To get to the house you have to cross over a small wooded bridge which,in my opinion, was totally not safe  even for a small car. The other nice thing about this lot is that it is on a dead end road with only afew other houses. On top of that there are no other houses that are really next to it.

When I first walked into the house there was a table with a gazzillion real estate cards on it. The listing for the house was very interesting and I was told that this place is” A diamond in the rough”. It is,the only problem is you have to build a bridge to get to it. That ,I guess, was the sticking point for most of the people who looked at the house. Not only do you have to build a bridge and renovate the house but the stream, it turns out,is a spawning stream for trout. Which further complicates the bridge building process.

When I brought my wife to look at the place she loved it and said that this would be a perfect spot for the Hobbit house. When she went on to say that she would live in a Hobbit house on this property I knew I had found the right spot. The only problem was buying it. You would think that after trying to sell it for five years the estate would be interested in making a deal. The short version,I thought I paid to much and they thought they got to little.

That was over a year ago.  Every time I stop by the property I am struck by what a special place it is and how special it is going to be!

This is a photo taken during the summer of 2012
This is a photo taken during the summer of 2012

Enjoy the rest of your day! I hope to be back in afew weeks to explain the bridge building process.

The Hobbit House: An Unexpected Journey

I hope all is well among the free folk of Middle Earth. I for my small part hope to build a Hobbit house in the lower reaches of Dutchess county New York. I invite anyone interested in Hobbit construction along for the ride!  I for one know nothing of the blogisphere or of blogs per se, I would  say this is part of my unexpected journey. I say this because this blog will be a work in progress ,I will not post every day or week. I hope to post things as I complete them. Please have patience with my writing style too. My grammar,puctuation, and spelling are not what I have ever been known to excel at.

I am going to see “The Hobbit” tonight for the second time with two of my sons and my daughter. I must say Mr. Jackson did a heck of a job! Before the movie came out I was a little worried that it would be to hollywooded. I always like the references to the elder days. The Shire and Bag End always remind me of a place where I would like to live. Simple folk with simple lives just happy to be alive and enjoy life. This is one of the main reasons I am building this home. Creating a simple functional home with all the comforts that Hobbits hold dear to their hearts.

I am running late right now but I hope to post within the next week and explain what has been going on with the project over the last year since I purchased the property.  See you soon!