A hobbit-hole in my backyard? It may sound crazy, but I can tell you that my kids love it. It is the coolest playhouse ever. Plus, they can enjoy the grassy hill for sledding in winter and water sliding in summer. This was all my wife's idea. She dreamt it, and I got to be the one to bring it to reality. I'm not a construction expert; this was a total do-it-yourself job by a complete amateur. It has turned out rather nicely, I think. Here is the story of how it came to be.

Since this is in blog format, the posts are in order from newest to oldest. To read this in chronological order, start with How it all Began and use the "Newer Post" links. Or click on the links under Blog Archive, in order.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

It is finished!

Well, the outside is at least.  We had 1500 square feet of sod delivered the other day, and today, with the help of my kids, we laid it all out on the hill.  The result is stunning.  You know how a room looks that is all finished except that the carpet is not in, and it looks so, well, unfinished?  Then you install carpet and it transforms the entire room?  Well, putting sod on the hill is like that.  I worked like crazy today to get this all done, and when I finally stopped, all dusty and sweaty and pooped, I sat down and just stared at it, laughing and exclaiming, I can't believe it!  It's done.  Look at it!  When my wife got home, she just stood and stared, realizing that her dream had come true.  Her vision for a wonderful grassy hill in our yard for the kids to play on, combined with a playhouse underneath--an actual hobbit-hole, had come true.  She is not one to show emotion very much, but she teared up as she admired the completed hill.

Here are some more pics of the finished hill and the work in progress:



Now all that is left is to finish the inside.  I say, all, but of course, that will still be a fair amount of work, because it is currently at about the state of an unfinished room, with the walls framed in, and the wiring and insulation done, and the floor is done, but the walls and floor aren't finished and the fixtures are not installed--oh and the electricity circuit is not hooked up yet.  So that will keep me busy this fall.  

Topsoil on the hobbit-hole




We got a big load of topsoil to cover the hobbit-hole hill, so that it wouldn't be rocky, and so that we could shape the hill a bit more and extend it out a bit at the bottom.  I was going to get some neighbor boys to help, but I got carried away a couple of Saturdays ago and just shoveled it all and raked it all myself--about 10 tons of it.  I subsequently shoveled another five tons from a secondary pile to shape it a bit more.   As you might imagine, the pounds are coming off as I work on this project.  When I started, I was hovering close to 200 lbs.  Now I am down to 179.  (I know I don't look like it in this picture, but my t-shirt is hanging down, making me look fat.)  So, I guess you could say I have discovered a new weight loss secret.

I unfortunately did not get a picture of it with the topsoil completed before I started laying the sod, which I will tell more about in my next post.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sprinklers installed



I installed the sprinklers.  Here is a picture of a few of the sprinkler heads during their maiden test.  Next step: topsoil.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The road goes ever on and on

"I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains! And find some place quiet where I can finish my book."  My sentiments exactly.  Yesterday, I had three things I wanted to accomplish: work on the hobbit-hole, go on a hike, and write in my book.

I live close to mountains, so seeing them is not something I have to wish for, but what I don't do often enough is get up into them.  In fact, sometimes I get so busy with the day to day that I hardly look at them, and I begin to feel like I might as well be living in the Great Plains for all the attention I give them.  I love hiking, but I don't get much of a chance to do it, mainly because I have a hard time convincing the rest of my family that hiking is fun, and because I would feel guilty taking off for hours on end without them.  Yesterday, it had been long enough since the last time we hiked that the kids had forgiven me and forgotten about the tiredness, the sweatiness, and the soreness.  So I managed to coax them all into the car, drive for 45 minutes, and hike a four mile round trip to a waterfall.

Before we left, I did get a chance to make a little progress on the hobbit-hole interior, getting it prepped to put up the paneling that will cover up the corrugated metal on the inside.  Normally, my habit would be to plug away all afternoon and evening until the sun goes down, but I disciplined myself to stop, for the sake of spending time with my family.  They may have been happier if I had kept working and spared them the hike.

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.  The kids had a great time; the kids had a lousy time.  We all had fun; we all thought it was lame.  In the end, we were all tired, sweaty, and sore. But most of us were glad we went, even if we might not choose to do it if we had to start over again.  My wife and I, at least, felt like we had accomplished something significant, and we found ourselves drawing numerous parallels to life in general.  It was character-building, but don't tell the kids that.

For their part, the kids wished we would have hung around at the trail head the entire evening, where a decades-old amphitheater made of stone sits decaying among tall pine trees, reminiscent of an English castle ruin.  The kids played pirates and Romans and medieval knights for an hour before we headed up the trail. And in spite of all the tiredness, and the setting of the sun, they begged to play there again after the hike was done.  We finally got them to agree to come away from there and pile into the car on the promise that we would return in two days.  After all, we have paid the national forest fee for a three-day pass, so we might as well take further advantage of the six dollars.  The hope of a return to their hidden fortress, and the Wendy's value menu on the way home, were enough for them to forgive us again and wash their memories of this latest hiking ordeal.  Still, I'll give it some time before I attempt to drag them on another adventure.

Oh, and my book?  No, I didn't get a chance to work on that yesterday.  What is it about?  That's another story.  Believe it or not, it is not a fantasy.  Well, the idea that I could write and publish a book may be a fantasy.  I should finish the hobbit-hole first.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Underhill

Finally, the hobbit-hole has a hill over it! A fellow hobbit came over with his hobbit-sized loader and moved tons over it.  Now it really looks like a hill--albeit a bare, rocky one.  I'm going to get some local boys to come over and help me shape it, clear off the larger rocks, put topsoil over it, and lay sod. Oh yeah, and I need to set up some sprinklers somewhere in there so that I don't just grow a yellow weedpatch. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Maze

Our yard has unlimited fun potential.  Besides the hobbit-hole, the trampoline, the mother-of-all-sandoxes, and the 35 ft. cherry tree, which is great for climbing and affords the "aerial views" of the hobbit-hole, we also have The Maze.  "Dad, when can you mow the lawn?" My daughter asks. "Cause when you do, I want you to make The Maze."  The grass, often neglected due to hobbit business, could really use a trim.  Note to self: Go get gas for the mower.  Later, as I don my boots and my Outback  hat, my son yells, "Hey everybody, Dad's gonna mow!  MA-AZE!"  I usually have ready helpers to clear toys, sticks and other obstacles, plus one or two tag-alongs forming a little train behind me.  Other kids perch on the porch railing or in the cherry tree, waiting for me to mow it high, then mow the twisting, turning pathways low to create The Maze.  When I'm finally finished, they wear themselves out playing tag.  These were taken from the top of the hobbit-hole:



Monday, May 10, 2010

All put together again

Well, the remodel of the front has turned out great.  It is so nice to have everything put back together again, after having it all dug up since last fall.  Now I am finally ready to cover the top with dirt, and start prepping for laying sod.  It will be so nice to look out and see a grassy hill instead of an ugly metal pipe!




Saturday, April 24, 2010

Back to work

Spring has arrived, and so did part of a Saturday without rain!  So I made some progress today.  So far this year, I have only been able to do a few little things, during breaks in the cold and wet weather.  Now I feel like the season of hobbit-hole construction has finally arrived, and I will have many more opportunities to work on it. I hope I won't be too busy.  I also hope that we can continue the pattern of the past week, when it rained during the week and then was sunny for the weekend.  That is the opposite of last year, when it was sunny week after week except weekends.

Today, my focus was on the finishing touches of the exterior.  With both front and back reinforced with concrete retaining walls, I just need to finish the front wall with a nice stucco look over the raw concrete like I did the back, and then add a final moisture barrier for good measure, and then I can bury the thing.

Today, I finished sealing up the seam between the metal pipe and the concrete retaining walls using roofing pitch.  I will add some concrete sealant along the entire surface to be facing the dirt later--hopefully the next chance I get.  Also today, I prepped the remaining surfaces of the front wall that need stuccoing, and stuccoed one of those surfaces.  I have several more to go, but hope to be able to get that all done the next time I work on it, perhaps on a weeknight this coming week.

I can't wait to get the dirt over it, and the sod.  It's going to be so nice to have an attractive green hill out there, instead of an ugly metal pipe and a pile of rocks.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My daughter's way of encouraging me...

More than a year ago, my daughter painted this picture to inspire me to finish the hobbit-hole. I'm still not finished, but this is the year! The painting has helped to motivate me. It captures the essence of what I am trying to achieve: a peaceful, green, little mound of earth enveloping a special place. Don't you want to open that little green door and peek inside?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

So I Lied

In my last post, I said winter had put the freeze on any hobbit-hole construction until spring. But, yesterday the temperature rose to a balmy 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and I couldn't hold myself back. I slogged through the melting snow and dismantled the eyesore that was the wooden form used to pour the front retaining wall. It already looks a lot better, though some may beg to differ. Unfortunately, the rough exposed concrete is going to bother me until things dry out and warm up enough to stucco it like I did the rear wall. I also want to put some pitch along the seam between the concrete and the metal pipe, and some concrete sealant where the concrete will touch dirt--as an added measure to block ground water from getting in. Apparently, a huge storm is headed this way, which is dumping tons of rain on L.A., so I don't know if I am going to be able to get to that before Groundhog Day.







Monday, January 11, 2010

Last look before the long winter

I took these pictures just before Thanksgiving. They show the state of the hobbit-hole before the onset of the long winter. After my success with the back wall, I decided that I would pour a similar concrete wall on the front, just behind the facade. The idea is to give the structure on the front the same kind of support and protection from groundwater as I now have on the rear wall.

I took much of the same material that I had used to build the form for the back wall to construct the form for the front wall. You can see here what that form looks like. I had to partially remove the terra-cotta retaining walls and dig away a bunch of dirt to make room for this. It was a big, muddy job for about three days, dismantling, digging, then building the form. Finally, I was able to pour the concrete, which I was able to do just after Thanksgiving, and just before the snow began to fall and the freezing temperatures began. I had to stick a space-heater out in the hobbit-hole in order to prevent the still-wet concrete from freezing.

It has been cold ever since then, and snow that fell before Christmas is still on the ground now. I knew I would have to take a break from construction, but it has been hard to wait, especially when I look out and see the ugly form still there, the retaining bricks stacked haphazardly, and that ugly corrugated metal still exposed. I had hoped to get that covered up with sod this year. Next year it is going to happen!

Here is the best view of it as it looks now (except now it is covered in snow). It has sort of a disemboweled look to it, especially the 2nd and 3rd photos. In the second, I make a cameo apperance. Doh! In the last one, you can see my construction site in all its glory. Usually, I clean up for pictures, but I was going for realism here.

I can't wait to take the form off, finish off the concrete, and put things back together. Then I will finally be ready to bury it.