Tag Archives: positioning

A week of sun

We had 10 days with no rain, and that gave me the brilliant idea to try to move the containers from the cul-de-sac where we dropped them off, out onto the property.  That we did.  A rental forklift got the boxes up off the ground, and with the help of my neighbor Gary, we managed to get the containers all the way to the main section of our property.  The trip of about 1 mile went smoothly, with a few twists and turns, and a couple of high lifts to get over poorly placed trees, we managed to move them near to their final destination.

Now, you’ll notice I said near, but not exactly to their final destination.  As we were moving the first container into place, we decided to skirt the mud bog that had been crated a few weeks earlier when Gary tried to clear a path to lay down some gravel for a drive way.  We did skirt it, but on two occasions we almost sank the forklift into the ground.

It’s hard to describe how strange a sight that is.  The ground felt totally solid, and even though I logically understand that there’s a huge difference between 250# and 5000#, it still doesn’t prepare you to watch your machinery just start to sink into the muck that looked completely solid a second before.

We ended up dropping the first container in a reasonable location, and decided to get the second before we really got the forklift stuck (it did actually sink in to the front axel, but the rear tires were on solid ground and were easily able to pull the machine back out).  The second container was even easier than the first, with no real issues getting it onto the main flat area where it currently rests.  The lift did start to sink a little right as we set the container down, but I didn’t think anything of it.

So we decided to move back to the first container, to attempt to move it into a better position so that it could again be picked up, and moved closer to its final (now future final) destination.  That’s when the previously solid ground really opened up. I’ve never seen anything sink so fast.  One second things were going fine, the next one tire started to sink, and a second after that, all 4 tires were in up to their axels.

After an hour of rocking the machine, lifting the front tires up with the lift boom (using the container for leverage), and throwing massive quantities of log/rock/debris under the tires, we finally managed to get the tractor free.  After no deliberation, we decided that lifting the containers any further would have to wait until the summer.

And that should have been the end of this story (at least for now), but it’s hard to leave well enough alone, especially when the ground seemed so solid in most places, and sure we had managed to get the lift stuck, but we un-stuck it as well.  So, somewhere along the way, I decided it would be a good idea to try to drag the containers rather than trying to lift them.  After all, it seemed like the lift was fine so long as it didn’t have an extra 5000# hanging off of the front end.

We attached a chain to the bottom of the container, and move the forklift into position. Nothing happened.  The forklift didn’t move, and the container didn’t either.  And then, in the blink of an eye, the wheel’s started to slip and immediately dug themselves down to their axels again…..

Yep, live and learn.  But the lesson is simple.  Don’t play around in northern california clay in the middle of winter.

So we did finally manage to get the forklift out again, after copious amounts of trees and rocks were poured int massive gashes in the ground.  And the containers are on our land proper now, so we don’t expect any complaints from anyone (the only person who can actually see them is Gary, and he likes containers).

Clearly, we have to wait until it _actually_ dries out now before we can attempt to move the containers any further, so in the intirim, I’m going to continue to refine the designs and plans for the container, and some time ~ April or even early May, I’ll get back out there to move the containers into their actual location, and we’ll start the finaly retrofit.

I also still plan on getting up there to do some cistern/rain catchment work, but that may well have to wait until mid March at this point given other projects that are begging for some attention as well.

Moving the containers – II

Since the helicopter idea is a non-starter (at least not during this budget cycle), we’re going with big-yellow machinery, namely an industrial scale forklift. Often these are used around lumber yards, or construction sites to move pallets of supplies around and  up 20+ feet in the air.  We’ll be using one to at least get the containers into the property proper rather than sitting out in the cul-de-sac where I’m sure the nieghbors love their new modern art, but I’m less than enthused, as I can’t even container camp in them where they are.

With the forklift, we’ll be able to at least get the containers close to their final destination, and given that it’s been nice for the last week and a half, I am hopeful that the soil may be more co-operative at this point, and may even let us move the containers close to their current destination (note, I still have hopes of eventually moving these containers to their “final” destination on the other side of the wash in the future).  However, I’m also thinking ahead to the potential eventuality that either we can’t lift them directly into place (which would be one of the benefits of the use of a forklift of this scale), or that for whatever reason, we still need to drag them into their final resting spot, to which I’ve designed a sled to lift the back of the container off of the ground to hopefully simplify the process of moving the containers around.The stacked 2×6 beams should provide enough clearance for most of the obstacles I’m trying to get over, and the 2×4 beams across the back provide both bracing for the skids and a “cleat” to catch the back of the container.  The actual positioning of the cleat and the angular cross beam and front cleat will depend on the actual container construction, so I’m not yet convinced that this is the right exact model.  But I believe that this is a solid enough solution to keep everything together at least for a drag across the ground.

The 20′ containers that I purchased also have forklift pockets (I was not able to find a forklift locally with tines that can spread wide enough to fit in these, but that’s what they are there for), but my intention is to string a heavy chain or a lenght of tubular webbing through the pocket, and around the front cleat on the sled to keep the sled oriented in the same direction as the contaienr, and to help it get over any rough ground more efficiently.

Well, enough planning, I’m heading up to the property on Thursday evening to see if we can’t do what we weren’t able to do a couple of weeks ago…

Containers next week end!

An un-expected business trip and a long weekend have combined to create what may be a perfect storm.  The plan is to have the containers delivered next Monday (the 17th) assuming that the teamsters work on MLK day.  If they do (which I will find out tomorrow), or if I can get them to deliver the containers on Saturday or Sunday (again, we’ll see what the Union has to say about that), then we should have them in position by Monday evening.

This does lead to one interesting question: How do I best provide a foundation for them?

Given the location in and amongst a beautiful oak grove that I don’t want to destroy, the only way short of heli-lift to get them in place is to drag them to their destination. This is certainly feasible but it means that I can’t easily lift them to put them in place. The area is tight enough that even the idea of getting them in line and then pushing then lifting them just a bit isn’t going to work either, as there isn’t enough room to have the container next to a foundation.

Actually, as I’m thinking about it. I have enough room for two containers in line.  Just barely.  As I think of this more, it looks like were going to have to push the containers into place, then jack them up (possibly manually), and we’ll likely then just set them on cinder-block for the near term.  Longer term, I expect we’ll jack them up another 6 inches, dig ~1′ deep holes, put in short footer pilings (using the cardboard piling tubes), and pour 4 level posts/container, and then let the container back down on the posts.

The other question is wether to try to level the location first (or provide an almost level but sloped downhill spot). The thought is that it would dramaticaly simplify the install and leveling of the container if I don’t have dramatically different heights on each corner to deal with, but I also like the ~zero land impact of just setting the containers there and worst case poking some regional holes in the ground.  I think we’ll have to see how uneven the soil really is when I get something flat and “level” in place.

At this point, I’m planning on acquiring a couple 8′ 4×4 posts that will be cut down to 2′ lengths to provide a crib under the lowest corner so that we can get the container approximately level before placing it on the cinder or concrete. We’ll be able to re-use these as posts for the decking that will sit in front of the containers by the end of the spring. I’ll also pick up 12 6×6 cinder blocks and a few of the 6×12 cap-stone pieces to set up the foundation.  Worst case scenario, there’s actually a home depot ~30 minutes away, so it’s not impossible to go pick up some extra bits.  Once we’ve gone through this process, I’ll put together a concise list of what we really used, as next time, we may not have a large building store so near by!

Current materials list:

  • 4x 8’x4″x4″ (for cribbing under the container)
  • 1x 8’x2″x6″ (for jack suport, etc.)
  • 12x 6″x6″x6″ cinder-block (for temporary foundation)

Current rental list:

  • Large tractor (we’ll find out tomorrow how big we can reasonably expect to get up to the property)
  • Chains to move the containers around with
  • 20 ton jack

Lastly, if there are folks that might be available to help with the install (either with experience, or just to experience this), leave me a comment, and I’ll get in touch with you about the particulars of exactly when and where to meet.