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Blondie’s Dog Cabin in the Woods

Originally published Jun 24, 2016

When Cochise first came to live with us we erected a quick sleeping shelter out of a wire fence panel, a tarp and an old barn door. It was shaped like the top of an old west covered wagon using the door as a floor and the fencing hooped over to support the tarp. Cochise quickly decided it was lots of fun to jump on top of his wickiup and flatten it out. This required that I crawl inside to push it back into shape with my neck and shoulders. It didn’t take long before we decided we’d best move on to a permanent structure.

dog cabinSo Marie and I built Cochise a sturdy wooden cabin with a shingled roof that hinges up for cleaning the interior and an entry vestibule separated from his sleeping area by a wind baffle.

That cabin served him well until he became a full-time house dog. Then it served many other foster dogs. Some of these were none too gentle on it and repairs were made over the years, but it still stands and is quite solid … and very heavy.

Play Yard Fence Project

Originally Published Sept. 27th, 2014

Piney Mountain Foster Care is a fancy name that Marie and I have adopted for the efforts we make to help save dogs. All of our funding has come from our own pockets. The shelter or rescue the dog comes from provides needed medications, we buy the pens, dog houses, crates, bedding, dishes, treats, and toys. We also erected fencing to provide a contained space for training and play.

The Current Play Yard

play yardOur current foster play yard is the space that also serves as the driveway to my workshop loading dock and lumber yard. It serves the purpose of giving the foster dogs some space to run and play. A place to work at training that cannot be done in their 10 x 10 pens. We installed Critter Fence along The Ridge to keep them in this space and that serves the purpose – as long as they’re not too determined in finding a way out. It can be thwarted! I amended the original wooden fence and gate across the driveway to give it enough height to keep the leaper/climbers in.

play yardThere is some grass, but it’s mostly gravel and slope. They don’t seem to mind: they’re just happy to get out of their pens and run a bit. A 10×10 covered pen with a dog house is better than they’re used to, but even that gets confining if you have to stay there.

play yardIt does get mucky out here when it rains, so I built a boardwalk to keep all of us out of the muddiest part.

Currently we have two pens. As I sell off the lumber piles, we’d like to add more pens, but that would eat into the play space. So we have a plan…

Making and Installing Top Netting

Today I’m making up and installing top nets on kennels #1 and #2.  Kennel #3 is already done, but because I was up against a deadline (inbound dog) I rushed that one and it’s not done as neatly as these are coming out.  But it does serve the purpose of keeping (escape artist) Sable in her kennel.  She has been up standing on top of her dog house to get a closer look at that net, but she hasn’t found a weakness yet

To keep things from falling apart should a weld break while I’m installing the net, I secure the end strands of wire. When I cut the fencing, I cut down the middle between vertical strands so I have tails to work with. Most of these I just fold over to hold things together, but the two at the end corners, I wrap around tightly to hold that joint together if that weld fails.

With two 10 foot runs of fencing cut and ends wrapped, I lay them side by side. Each run of fencing is 4 feet high (wide) so together they just cover the 8 foot wide kennels.

I stitch the runs of fencing together with 3/8″ hog rings. I install one every third juncture, and I install them diagonally – alternating directions of the diagonals so as a whole, the sheet of fencing is locked together and the two pieces cannot slide past one another.

Grave Digger

Today I continued my task of digging a grave.  A grave for a snake.  A big snake: the infamous Drainaconda!  But I wasn’t working alone, oh no, I had plenty of “help”.

We didn’t all show up at one time.  My crew straggled in one or two at a time, beginning with Callie and Lennon, who wandered over to see what I was doing as I was setting things up and positioning the wagon for dirt hauling.

When I started digging, Sable stood and watched me for the longest time!  I’m not sure if she was impressed by my digging prowess or amazed by the mess I was making.

Installing Chain Link Panels

Work on the new kennels progresses.  I spent yesterday afternoon figuring out how to cut down a 10’ wide door panel to be exactly 92¼” wide.  I ran the math three times to be sure it was right because I only get one shot at this.  If I mess it up I buy a new panel: or have one built to the correct size.

I started out cutting the tubing with a metal blade in a saber saw.  A reciprocating saw would have been better, but I don’t have one.  Almost immediately, I broke the blade.  I had more, but it was clear that this was not going to be as easy as I hoped.  The only way to do this – in this manner – was to run the saw around the tube, not cutting across the tube from one side to the other.

I did get the first three cuts done that way, but it took a long time and was nerve wracking – and not especially neat.  Then the bulb lit up.

I went in the shop, put my metal cutting blade on the chop saw and dragged that saw outside.  I’ve used this many times to cut the steel tubing I’ve used in trellises.  I used that to make the inboard cuts and it went MUCH faster and did a much neater job: just needed some work with a file to remove the thin scruff that is left on the back of the cut so the splice tube fits over the pipe.

I also found that I was able to re-use the retainer clips that hold the end rod (it fits along the ends of the chain link) to the vertical pipe and the ends of the mesh.  These bent steel bars use a special tool to form them around the pipe and fold a tab over the rod, kind of like a giant staple.  I don’t have that tool.  But I have a big pair of channel locks.  I was able to unbend the part that folds around the rod and pop the clamp loose.  Then after I cut the tubing and reassembled the frame with splice tubes I unstitched a run of the chain link to remove the excess, inserted the rod in the end loops of the mesh and pulled it tight by hand while I popped the clamp strips back in place.  Folding the tabs back over the rod with channel locks and securing the top and bottom of the mesh to the rails with fence ties finished the job.

Kennels Coming Together

Now that the exterior new construction of our Big Doins project has been completed, it’s time to start bringing the kennels back together … well, almost.  There is one more step to complete first but it’s not construction so much as destruction.

John Kaprocki brought his concrete saw and is cutting doggie doors.

Cutting concrete makes a LOT of dust!

We set up a big fan to help blow the dust out.
VIDEO

With outside and inside cuts made and the block removed it’s time to pretty things up.

Holes made, rubble removed, wall and pad power washed.

Wall painted and panel mounting hardware installed.

Kennel panels going back in.

Rocky and Blaze move into their new rooms.

An idyllic cabin in the woods for homeless canines.

Roof, Roof, Roof!

John Kaprocki of Great Smoky Mountain Woodworks and I spent all day yesterday and half a day today framing up the roof for the new kennels in our Big Doins on Piney Mountain project.  John is an expert at this stuff, I just try not to get in his way.

Actually John did comment on how much faster these things go with two people than with one. And it is not as physically straining.  Let’s face it, tossing a bunch of 16 foot long 2x8s (in Southern Yellow pine) up on top of the beam and ledger is rough enough with two of us horsing them around, doing it all day long single handed would be murder.

Building Inspectors

Blaze and Rocky watched us work both days and were not disruptive at all, they seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing.  Maybe Blondie has explained to them that Robert, Terry, John, and I are building them a new house.  I think Blaze LIKES that idea!

I have ordered the metal roofing and it should be ready to pick-up on Monday.  We should be able to get a fair bit of that done Monday.  The big issue will be how fast it warms up up there on our hot tin roof.

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I’ve Been Slabbed!

Robert Gann and his assistant, Terry, put in two days of hard work this week.  Okay, okay, I’m sure they put in more days than that this week, but two of them were here on Piney Mountain.

On Wednesday, Robert and Terry set up the forms and partly filled them with gravel.  One corner of the slab will be 14 inches deep!  This is because of the slope of the land where the pad sits.  They pulled back the gravel around the edges so concrete will go all the way to the ground around the outer edges.

On Thursday a front-discharge concrete truck trudged up my steep driveway and wiggled in to disgorge its load through a nose shoot like a great mechanical elephant.

The chute is powered so the operator can raise and lower it and swing it side to side from inside the cab.

By pulling up close then backing away from the pour, he can deliver concrete to all parts of the slab so Robert and Terry didn’t have to move it around in wheelbarrows.

They used gravel rakes to spread it in the forms.  The pour went pretty quickly.

These amazing trucks are popular in this area because they are all-wheel-drive, so they climb slopes like a mountain goat (albeit a fat, heavy mountain goat) and they have wide tires that help them navigate unpaved roads without getting stuck or rutting up the surface.  In fact, my driveway is now smoother than it was because the wash-boarding done by UPS and Fed Ex trucks as they spin tires has been mashed down smooth again.  Bonus!

Then Robert and Terry set about making it smooth and pretty.  That took the rest of the day as they tooled it with floats and formers, waited for the concrete to set up a bit, then finally put a light broom finish on it.

I asked that they not make it too rough because dogs will be pooping on the slab and I need to be able to clean that off the concrete to keep the environment sanitary — but I don’t want it to be slick when wet so that I risk falling and hurting myself.

The slab turned out well.  The only glitch in the process was when the wind picked up and blew Redbud blossoms all over the concrete.  Robert said, “No extra charge for the decorative concrete”, but then set about trying to remove them with a leaf blower.  In the end it was a losing battle because the breeze kept blowing more onto the wet concrete.  That is a minor problem and I’m not bothered at all by it.

I’m pleased with the outcome.  Robert will be back in a day or three to remove the form boards, smooth out some of the  damage to my driveway, (it was muddy up near the slab) and move a little rock around for me.  I appreciate all his hard work and look forward to getting started on Phase 2 of this project.

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Ready For Concrete

As the next step in our Big Doins kennel renovation, I spent the afternoon yesterday pulling out the remaining kennel/fence panels and cleaning things up.

I started by spraying the cinder block wall with green gunk remover (AKA bleach water).  I let that set for about a half hour and power washed the wall.  That took care of the green gunk, mud splatters, and some of the paint.

While I was waiting for the bleach to work its magic I pulled out the remaining kennel panels that had been serving as fencing and gate.  This also cleared the wall for cleaning, since the rear panel hit the wall four feet in from the back.corner of the garage.

I have to be careful now to remember that these panels are gone.  I have been allowing the dogs to follow me into this space when I went in to work there.  But now that it’s wide open all dogs must stay behind the Krazy Fence unless leashed.

While I had the power washer out and gassed up, I decided to clean up the dog houses too.  I used my Concrete Weasel tool, which swirls a single jet of high pressure water to blast dirt and gunk from a surface.  My friend, Willard Overstreet, introduced me to this tool during a church clean-up project and I had to have one.

I’m sorry about the strange picture: I forgot about the vibrations the Weasel makes when I mounted the camera to the wand, and the camera’s shake-canceling software did strange things with that. But you get the idea.  This thing works really well even on a small power washer.  Put one on a commercial grade washer and it will strip paint!

When finished I set the dog houses aside, along with the kennel panels, where they will be out of the way, and hopefully stay clean until needed again.

All impediments have been moved out of the way, the block wall cleaned, and the foundation timbers dug up.  We are ready for concrete.

Since we have had some nice weather, Mr. Gann should be gaining on his back-log of work and our job should be creeping up on his Jobs To Do list.  All I can do now is wait.

John K, Mike R, and I have been discussing roof construction, materials, and costs.  But I can’t do anything about that until the concrete slab is poured and cured.  Once we can walk on the slab I *could* start on the roof, but since I don’t have the money for materials yet, I’ll go ahead and cut down the kennel fronts and assemble the three kennels on the slab.  That way I can open up for fostering again.  We can work above the dogs when the funding is available.

That gets you up to date.  The final step in Phase One will be the pouring of the slab.  See you then!

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Moving Kennel #3

As part of the Big Doins at Piney Mountain, I moved Lennon’s kennel today.   This was Phase One Step Three.  Not that that matters.

The thing is that this kennel could not be taken apart and moved one piece at a time.  Noooooo … this one had to be moved fully assembled (except for the 4×4 timber foundation, those I moved separately). Blondie and Lennon supervised.

If it were possible to get three other people with sound shoulders and strong backs who could all show up here at the same time (that’s the hard part) we could have each taken hold of a corner and trundled the thing around to its new spot in a matter of minutes. Sort of like this but on a much smaller scale:

But I don’t have such a labor force, so I did it by myself and it took all afternoon.

It’s moved now, and tied down on its foundation, which I put under it again once the kennel was where I wanted it. I need to get a few bales of wood chips to put in there to keep Lennon out of the mud when it rains, but otherwise it’s good.

And, the work area around the slab is cleared.  Well, almost.  Now that Lennon’s kennel is moved and the Krazy Fence is buttoned up tight I can take out those last three panels and clear the work area completely.  That will take less than an hour … but I’ll do that another day.  Today, I’m tuckered out.

We want to avoid going into debt with a second mortgage to pay for this project so we’re taking it on as we accumulate the cash to pay for it. If you’d like to help us speed that along, your donation would be greatly appreciated. You may make a donation on-line with the PayPal button below or you may mail a check to:

Doug Bittinger
1198 Piney Mountain Road
Newport, TN 37821


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