Photo date: December 3, 2023. See header image archive.

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Ski Run Preview v2.0

Last December I shot the first ski run preview (v1.0).

This is a full v2.0 release, with substantially fewer trees and underbrush, and I even raked part of it to expose rocks and stumps, which I then removed. With even a couple inches of snow this section is ski-ready.

The biggest pain point now: how to get back up.

A Doppelmayr quad is out of the budget. A T-bar, too. So that leaves a rope tow.

Towpro sells a full backyard lift system but it's the equivalent of about 7 seasons of IKON passes. The DIY kit is 3.5 seasons. And these are portable, whereas mine can be fixed. I may be forced to start learning about electric motors, worm gear reducers, and variable frequency drives.

Revealed: Green Island

There's some remaining building site and septic field tree removal to do, but last weekend I couldn't resist exposing more of our view of Green Bay.

A birch and an ugly poplar came down and bam! An island!

See full-size image

At the risk of sounding like a complete ignoramus, I didn't even know this piece of land existed, and I've been coming to DC for over 40 years. It's Green Island. It's 68 acres, about 9 miles from Door County and 5 miles from Marinette, WI (on the other side of the bay). Turns out, it's the only private island in Green Bay. And, it's for sale!

Now we're considering a major pivot that's more aligned with our misanthropy: sell our 5 and buy an island, which will include:

  • 9-hole golf course
  • lit driving range
  • rooftop bar
  • rooftop pool
  • rooftop helipad
  • rooftop helicopter

Truly, Fantasy Island.

See full-size image
See full-size image

High Bluff Drone Footage 2022

Right after we closed on the lot in August, 2022, our builder visited the site and shot some drone video.

I finally got my hands on it, and it turned out great. Enjoy the dramatic reveal!

Stay tuned as I've got several more from September, 2023.

Our Clearing as Painted by Édouard Manet

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I don't know how I got my phone into Early French Impressionist mode, but it's finally happened: our clearing is visible from Bay Shore Drive. Specifically from the parking lot for Bay Shore Blufflands Nature Preserve.

Our plan is to keep most of the red and white pines — seen here — because they are such magnificent trees, and still allow a view.

BREAKING: HOA Approves HOA's Initial Logo

The MVC (Minimum Viable Cottage) is part of an 8-lot development called High Bluff Estates.

We're not crazy about the "Estates" part, though anything more than 5 acres is an "estate" in Door County, Wisconsin.

"High Bluff" makes sense since these lots are on one of the highest points in the county.

Anyhow, I signed up to design the logo for this tiny development, and here's what I came up with (which was approved during the 4/19 HOA meeting).

Wait. Before I show it, I should note the objectives:

  • Simple
  • Legible on signage
  • Highlight the Niagara Escarpment
  • Highlight the highness of HBE compared to the other Door County bluff sites (hence the name).
  • With some imagination, show the surrounding area and even the eight building sites.
  • Surprise and delight, with an element not everyone will see at first, but will say "Ahhh." when they see it later.

Here's a description of each part of the logo. Very little of this will make sense if you're unfamiliar with the area. Even if you are familiar with the area you need to use your imagination as I've taken some liberties with the overall elevation (i.e., it's not to scale).

The logo has already appeared on our inaugural annual HOA billing statement, and will next show up on signage: I'm laser etching this on some of the oak I've had milled. Can't wait to see how that turns out.

Lincoln Door and Window Package Pricing

A few weeks ago I rationalized not doing *three* folding patio doors on the western elevation due to being in Climate Zone 6 and a shit-ton of giant 🦟🦟🦟.

After getting feedback from my hair stylist that we *should* do three folding patio doors — Nikki: "Bring the outside fully in!" — we pivoted and submitted our window and door package to Lincoln last week.

Now I have a new rationalization for not doing three folding patio doors on the western elevation: price.

Each one of these 10' x 7' folding patio doors is $14,332.70 (including the screen). In haircut math, that's ~286 of them (including tip). That's roughly 24 years of my wife butchering my hair in the den with a Conair w/#5 attachment, Covid-style. For one folding patio door with a screen. Nikki, I'll see you on Saturday at 1.

The rest of the pricing is in the table below, and it's all pretty reasonable. I've researched a bunch of window and door options and landed on Lincoln for the following reasons:

  • It's based in Merrill, WI. Merrill is on the way to the MVC. We can pick this order up on a trailer.
  • It's based in Merrill, WI. It's important to me to support either the MN or WI economy.
  • Good value. If price was no object, we'd probably go with H out of Ashland (WI), but Lincoln beats H on value.
  • Good vibes. I toured the facility about 18 months ago and the place and people were classic Wisconsin laid back.
  • Good recommendation. An architectural power couple — that's *way* out of our price range — lives 6 doors down and they're using Lincoln on a couple of projects. That alone is good enough for me.
  • They have what we want. We love the folding patio doors, the casement windows, the cladding and paint options, the grill profiles, and the hardware.

Qty Description Price Total
1 3' x 7' door 2,475.17 2,475.17
4 30" x 36" casement window 1,048.38 4,193.52
2 24" x 24" casement window 906.40 1,812.80
2 42" x 48" casement window 1,225.18 2,250.36
1 66" x 48" French casement window 3,018.37 3,018.37
1 30" x 48" casement window 1,141.18 1,141.18
TOTAL 13,891.40

NB: This total includes zero glass on the western elevation. We're still deciding on what to do now, and of course will post the grand total here soon.

First Look: West Elevation

About two weeks ago I met with our architect for a deep dive into wall height, roof pitch, and what makes a cottage a cottage.

We couldn't figure out that last one — cottage architecture is all over the place — but we did agree on abandoning our original 10/10 plan (10' wall + 10/12 roof) and pivoting to an 11/11 approach. In short, to make the MVC more Silvernailsy.

I pulled the idea into SketchUp and I think this is where we're going to finally land. I love how this looks.

Glazing galore

Why all the glass, you ask? The view! We want to see it as much and as often as possible. This is the front of the house. The money side. The entire reason why people pay a hefty premium for escarpment lots in Door County.

We're putting folding patio doors in the center bent to connect the indoor and outdoor spaces, and also enlarge the size of our mere ~850 square feet. If we weren't in Climate Zone 6 and at ~45° latitude and have a shit-ton of giant 🦟🦟🦟, I'd put these doors in all three bents and have them open all the time.

One thing I did discover in doing this was SketchUp's new Live Components. So cool. This feature is clearly MVP — there are so few LCs — but these windows and doors are all drawn with components built by and hosted at SketchUp, so they can be configured live and presumably updated with new features as the SketchUp team adds them. My favorite part was playing with the window and door openings to see how things look open, closed, and in-between. SketchUp team, if you're reading this, kudos and please add way, way more.

So fun!

First Look: Floor Plan

The best space in our current Minneapolis house is this den. We spend countless hours here in front of a fire watching Dateline, 48 Hours, and 20/20. On network.

The 🐕 🐕 love it, too.

The coziest room in all of Edina. See full-size image

A key objective of the MVC (Minimum Viable Cottage) is to recreate this space, except with a view of Lake Michigan. On paper it's somewhat of a success. Our current den is 12' x 13' with an 8"6" ceiling. The den on this floor plan is 12"4" x 11' with an 8"6" ceiling (once the loft is built).

See full-size image

Taking two feet from such a small room turns out to be a 15% reduction, but it's not a "hard" 11 feet because there isn't a rear wall. At least this is the rationalization I am going with.

The rest of the floor plan needs a lot of work, but it's pretty simple: 1 bedroom, 2 baths, 2 lofts (not shown yet), galley kitchen, laundry/mechanical room, puzzle table, and 3 garage doors to the western (view) elevation. Much more to come.

Everyone has an opinion on floor plans. Lay them on me: dack@dack.com

First Look: Topographic With Volumes

Here's the first look at the parcel, with the property lines and dead-end road draped on the topographic, and the three volumes placed about where I think they'll go.

The first build, which we are trying to get started in summer 2023, is the 36'x24' structure on the far left of the image (the northernmost volume). This is an "expandable house plan," where we will add on the larger 72'x24' house and the 30'x24' garage later, and everything will be connected via conditioned breezeways.

We just need to get a place up there ASAP, and a MVC — Minimum Viable Cottage — is the fastest, most direct route. Plus, we'll (hopefully) make all of our biggest mistakes on a very small house.

The long property lines (~800 feet) run exactly east to west. This is a view to the northeast. See full-size image

In order to make this drawing, I had to painstakingly trace elevation lines from the Door County map, elevate each of them, and then in SketchUp choose Draw > Sandbox > From Contours. Then I placed the three volumes.

It took hours but was totally worth it. Having spent a fair amount of time on the parcel, the satellite elevations are incredibly accurate. I completely trust that what's on this drawing is what's in real life.

Please note the vintage Ford pickup that's in my future.

Also please note, this plot not only provides a pretty awesome view of Green Bay, but a challenging ⛷️ run as well.

Here is another view of the drawing, with the view. This is aiming due west, and the SketchUp horizon (the blue part) is the bay.

See full-size image

'Driveway' & 'Parking'

One of the objectives of the 8-day Door County stay was to create a "driveway" and "parking" on the lot so I didn't have to keep parking on the side of the road. And on the 8th day, mission accomplished. It felt great to actually drive onto the building site. It suddenly somehow felt more "owned" than before, getting a truck in the space where the tennis courts will go 😉. It certainly was much handier accessing gear, and beer.

See full-size image

Before heading back to Minneapolis I put all the timber I plan on milling on makeshift stickers so they're not rotted by direct contact with the earth. Even using wood-moving techniques taught in The Bible, and with the help of a cant hook, it was a lot of work. I also destroyed all evidence of any laughably amateurish felling cuts. There were a few decent ones (but nothing great yet). I kept those visible for any stump readers who might stop by.

I can't wait to get back and start exposing part of the view (hopefully in October). I'm also excited about the possibility of placing the structure between a giant white pine and a giant red oak, where the oak would be the centerpiece of a circular driveway, while the pine would ideally sit between two windows on the western elevation. I need to bring the measurements and compass readings into SketchUp to see if it will work out. The results will be posted here.

50-yard field goal attempt. Photo taken to the northeast, from the far south end of the lot. See full-size image

'And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper'

As you might imagine, clearing a wooded lot has generated mountains of brush. In my case, three 8'-9' tall stacks, along with several dozen 3"-6" "trunks" of underbrush and small trees. On Saturday I rented the Bandit 75XP and fed everything into it.

On its face it seems pretty low-effort: grab some pre-stacked brush, stick it in the chipper, and repeat a few hundred times. But at the end of the day it was the most wiped I'd been all week. It's also extremely loud, even with good ear protection. I'd be fine not ever doing this again.

See full-size image

My new neighbor John stopped by to help for a couple of hours, and his wife Gretchen even sent along some homemade cookies. They are setting the High Bluff Road neighbor expectations bar, way, way too high. (John and Gretchen, I hope you read this.)

Here's a video of my kind of chipping: insert a long piece into the chipper. Stand around for a few seconds and have time to shoot a video.

Our 5

For anyone following along, it's going to be important to see the plot of land on the high bluff where the cottage will be built.

It's 785' from east to west, and 355' from north-ish to south-ish, for a grand total of 5.05 acres.

The lot is on the Niagara escarpment, which runs from about Fond du Lac, WI to, you guessed it, Niagara Falls, NY.

Below is a parcel map from the Door County site, with 2-foot elevations. The highest point on our lot is 798' above sea level, and the lowest is 644', for a 154' vertical drop. Niagara Falls' vertical drop is 160'. All we're really lacking is the Niagara River.

(I can't mention vertical drop without dropping a long-range property goal: Door County's only ⛷️ run. It's a blue-black with a big steep at the end, where the red lines are really close together.)

The yellow dot indicates the spot where the header photos are taken from, aiming straight west. See full-size image

As you can probably tell from the image, the best buildable area is in the southeast corner of the lot. That's the spot where the header picture will repeatedly be taken from, aiming straight west. Right now it's just trees, but at some point in the next few months a pretty killer view of Green Bay will be revealed. Stay tuned.