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I Forge Iron
KevinJohnsen

Returning home to Alaska in a few weeks.

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I am moving back home to Alaska after 15 years, this coming month. Bringing my blacksmithing stuff with me. I sadly will not get to do much blacksmithing for a while though, as only own raw land up there. So when I get there, getting a roof over my head will be a vastly higher priority then pretty much anything else, hopefully I can build a house mostly myself, with some help of my roommate, before winter comes. I will have enough money for all the materials to build a house, just not enough money to pay someone to build one for me.

I am only a beginner in blacksmithing, but I am really looking forward to trying to attempt to at least partially make a living doing it when I get to Alaska. Though will be also trying other crafting, such as woodworking. Not sure what all I will do, will try to find a gap in the market somewhere and see if I can help fill it.

I am moving east of Palmer, up the Knik River valley. 

Will be joining in any Blacksmithing and other such groups as time allows this year.

 

Kevin

Crazy Bear Forge

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Kevin: Not thinking small I see. Do you have the lot picked out? How far up the Knik R. valley? Prospects for a paycheck job? While I think most everybody getting into blacksmithing would like to make a living at it, very few do. Ferriers tend to be as close as it comes in the beginning, shoeing pays well and is a specialty of the blacksmith's craft its hard on knees and backs though. I also don't know any ferriers who have been at it few years who don't want to get into ornamental or architectural blacksmithing as a trade. Knees and backs again.

I'm not trying to discourage you but it's a tough row to hoe. Give me a shout when you get here and I'll introduce you to the club. Next meeting is May 12th. in Palmer. 

I cleared the land, made the grade and built our house. It was a lot of fun and we get to live with the mistakes, some provided by a "professional" builder. Don't try to cheap out.

I look forward to meeting you, we're about 40 minutes west of the Knik R. Valley, a tad closer than Anchorage, you're welcome to come over and talk or beat hot steel.

Frosty The Lucky.

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We own a lot about 9 miles from the old glen. 

When our house sells down here, it will pay off that lot there and leave us with enough money for the materials for a nice size house. We are building using the REMOTE system designed by the university of fairbanks. Will be renting a backhoe when we get there and be doing most all the clearing and everything ourselves. Only things currently we are planning on paying to have done is the actual pouring of the concrete into the forms we put up. And the well and septic. 

Our house down here closes on May 15'th, so will be more like the 27-28'th when we finally pull into Palmer. Have two horses that are coming with (one who was born to the other, when they lived in Alaska last time)

Roomie gets SS retirement and also owns some oil rights, so he brings in around $2k a month total on that. Would be enough to keep the lights on and food on the table, but I will likely have to get at least part time work this coming winter to help finish off stuff and get us a little more ahead. We are very willing to live exceptionally frugal lives, so will not take much to keep us doing well. With no mortgage and no car payments, only thing we have to worry about is my health insurance and trying to keep ourselves above water. :) 

We also have an emergency fund of $22k that is somewhat hard to get too, but obtainable, if we get into a bad spot in an emergency. 

This whole thing will be a major aventure for sure. If it does not kill us, we should be ok. :)

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Good, sounds like you have the basics covered, we see a lot of dreamers with no real plans. 

The technique I like best for land clearing is as large an excavator with a thumb as you can rent. Push the trees over, lift and shake the dirt from the roots and drag it to a clearing with the excavator. Ground guys with chain saws  cut the roots off and limb if you can's strip the limbs with the thumb. 

Once the clearing is a little cluttered use the excavator to stack the logs in their pile and the roots and limbs too small for fire wood in the burn pile. 

Let the concrete guys set the forms, they're licensed and bonded so if it's not right THEY have to fix it. You don't want to screw up the foundation and you aren't going to save much setting the forms yourself and the wood isn't really very usable afterwards. Let them buy the form boards. 

Building yourself, having a pro do the foundations and roof is a good way to go, let their insurance pay for the mistakes. It's cost and time effective, honest been there did the arithmetic. 

Yeah, you have to have the septic system put in by the certified to get it to pass inspection. Too many xxxxxx made systems around to let folks just wing it. This is a good thing. honest you don't want to have to have a failed septic fixed, it's a LOT more expensive that way. 

I loved building the house even camping here to keep the thieves away was cool. You might consider buying a camp trailer for temporary housing. If you're driving up you can get pretty good deals in the lower 48.  Better than here in spring for sure. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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The Knik R. Valley can be pretty windy most of the time. Have you considered wind power? It's one of the places where it's actually practical, payback time is pretty reasonable.

Frosty The Lucky.

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We are going to use ICF forms for the footings and crawlspace foundation wall. Snap together like Lego blocks and they are permeant parts and of the foundation.

The lot we bought is heavily wooded, mostly cottonwood. The lots on all sides are also wooded. It would take quite a good tower to get above the trees enough to get reliable wind. When we were there last June, was a nice steady wind from the glacier, but was dead clam in the middle of the lot.

There is not much topsoil on the property, only a few inches before we are to the glacial till, I don't expect it will be very hard to push the trees over. The plan you mentioned was basically what we were going to do. If the backhoe isn't strong enough on virgin trees, figured I could take a few scoops on my side of the trees to destroy the roots to help get them out.

We are going there in two vehicles, one is a pickup with the horse trailer, and the other is a greyhound bus that we pulled all the seats from inside. Mostly will be a moving van, but will also have a place to sleep and cook in there. So summer living will not be great, but will be covered.

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Yeah, that's cottonwood country bummer, I'd stack it all in the burn pile. Well. . .. unless you carve cottonwood bark. 

You'd be surprised how much difference 20' - 30' elevation makes in wind. The new generators are really efficient and barely need a breeze but are fine in a hurricane. 

Glacial till is good but might need some help to get the leach field to pass the perk test. I recommend a tracked excavator over a backhoe loader because excavators are one of the most heavily armored pieces of equipment out there. Trees just bounce off as do bucket loads of rocks and . . . stuff. How much experience do you have felling cottonwoods? They're probably the most dangerous tree to cut in Alaska, not maple but full of nasty surprises. Heck 3 weeks ago our Pastor was helping one of the congregation cutting a few trees. The other fellow had only started the undercut and the cottonwood just shattered. Rick got clotted by a flying limb and knocked cold. he was a good 50' away. When clearing timber with an excavator keep buttoned up and buckled down. I don't know anybody who's run backhoe that hasn't thrown a bucket of mud in the window. People watching laugh at you and you have to wash out the cab. WHILE they laugh, they don't stop for years, love reminding you every time you take the seat.

Ah, an old school Alaskan RV! A Greyhound will pack a heck of a load and makes a decent RV. A place out of the weather to eat and sleep and do office type work is a good thing. Makes it home fro the start. 

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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I have done some cottonwood clearing back some years ago, we have trees kinda like them down here, but I tended not to cut those down as they were not useful wood here either.

Wanted a Backhoe because we also need to grade the long driveway and level land for the house, not just digging holes and trenches. Pretty much all the excavators I have seen, that even have any kind of blade, have a very small one that will not do much material removal.

Making a U shaped driveway on the property, probably going to be 600 feet long total. Plus moving material around the property, maybe digging a pit in one corner so we can use the gravel there to raise the driveway grade, without having to buy large number of loads of gravel to be delivered.

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A backhoe is better for making grade on the driveway but not a lot of protection for taking down trees and you have to pay for damage. Before I decided renting an excavator is THE way to take down forest I wished I could use det-cord on cottonwoods rather than a chain saw. Finally I refused and let someone else on the crew do it.

The blade on excavators isn't really for pushing dirt I think they're there to keep you from driving over things that might damage them. Oh okay smoothing a just filled trench maybe but that's kind of sketchy. 

If you have good gravel in glacial till terrain you're golden but it's a maybe thing, till can be gravel looking but too much silt to work well.  Personally I'd like to own a backhoe and lose the truck plow, great machines. I just discovered I can do a weeks worth of backhoe work in a day with an excavator digging or a 988 loader moving material and making grade.  It all depends and what you like makes a huge difference. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Been INSANELY busy the last couple months up here. Amazing how much money we have spent so far, and how much work we have done, and still waiting on the concrete guy to come put in the first footing on our first building.

We have really solid glacial till gravel here. Very complete mix from ultra-fine to large watermelons, here is a link a picture from the bottom of my trench we made for our water line. Approx 11 feet down. It was NOT a good place to be. The overwhelming feeling that your life is hanging by a thread while down there. 

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1QkQDcpLaVwX8t9tEARSUqpVvfYxS3E7kHQ

VERY glad the digging portion of our property is done now. 

Hopefully the guy that is supposed to do the ICF foundations for us will actually come this week.

Not that we are without stuff to do. Built a shelter for the ponies this weekend, so if it does ever rain here, they can get out of it. (Been amazingly dry and sunny here most of the last two months) 

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We're in the Rio Grand Valley and you can pour concrete directly on the ground as basically there is no soil where I am; just subsoil.  When we dug the trenches for my shop's foundation it ranged from deep pure sand in one corner to a rock that the backhoe had trouble moving in another place.  At least no lava flows---yet. 12 miles up the road is guessed to be the most likely site for New Mexico's next volcanic eruption---I keep hoping that here on the Socorro Magma Bubble we can have some fun too!

Hot and dry here too; Though we're up to almost 2" of precipitation for the year so far...

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Glacial Till can be a serious PITA but but it's excellent to build on, your trenches look good. I'm going to be trenching between the elec. meter and the shop sometime this summer myself. I'm really tired of running power to the shop with a 10 ga. extension cord I WANT 220! 

I'm going to have to dig out the BBQ and cooler and hopefully bribe some of the guys in the club with burgers, dogs and adult beverages in moderation to come over and lend a hand. I have 4  good sized beetle kill trees to split and stack in the wood shed. And clear stuff on the "tree island" in front of the house so I can clear and grade a nice place to park Deb's RV. We had a lot of mud last breakup so I need to do some mud/drainage amelioration there too. Once things are cleared of . . . stuff and the woods rounds are split and stacked it'll just be backhoe work and I can go slow for a weekend rental. They're closed Sundays so I'll have an extra day for the money. I REALLY want to get the most for the money too. ;)

 Frosty The Lucky.

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18 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

Labor day?

Whenever it happens, yes.

Frosty The Lucky.

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