Back Building at Mesilla Valley Habitat for Humanity: Week 1

For most of the 3 and a half years I’ve been writing this blog I’ve been a couple months behind in posting but I’ve recently caught up which puts me in a unique position. Previously I would summarize something like a Habitat for Humanity build, each of which are 2 or more weeks, but now that I’m blogging about things from the previous week I have the opportunity to provide a sort of running commentary on experiences such as builds that span a longer period of time. This means you all get more details on the progress of the homes and what all us Care-A-Vanners are doing, like it or not!

To begin: We returned to Las Cruces last Monday for 2 builds, the first lasting 2 weeks and the second 3 weeks. We had spent 8 weeks here in January, February, and March of this year building houses that have since been completed; this season we’re working on 5 homes located across the street. You might be wondering why we spend so much time in Las Cruces as opposed to traveling around more, but the answer is simply that Mesilla Valley is our favorite Habitat affiliate to build with – we absolutely love working with Construction Supervisor Pete and Assistant/Team Leader Dyana – in addition to the fact that we get to see many of our favorite Care-a-Vanner volunteers here and also some amazing local volunteers we’ve become friends with. And though I’ve begun building in other places over the past year, Las Cruces will always hold a special spot in my heart too for being the first place I volunteered with Habitat 3 years ago, and the place that Tom and I met. We love volunteering in other places too and are scheduled to go to Louisiana and Texas beginning in January, but we’ll always come back to Mesilla Valley whenever we can.

Anyway, we are obviously excited to be back. As I said, this season the affiliate is building 5 houses, the first started at the beginning of October and the slab for the 5th just poured last Tuesday. Because we’re here earlier in the construction season than previous years we’re doing mostly framing and roofing for now, with the goal being to have the houses dried in (weather-proofed) so that interior work can begin after the Christmas break. For the past week most of our efforts have thus been directed at the 3rd and and 4th houses, which are moving along at a startling pace. For example, our first day we were raising trusses on the house that I subsequently helped build and raise interior walls in, nail on top plates, and then paper the roof on – all by the end of the week. The 3rd house has also had it’s walls built and raised this week (this is the house I made wall plates for, cutting lengths to fit to plan and marking studs, doorways, etc.) as well as the roof sheathed. Both the two houses have had fascia work done and gables sheathed. Hurricane clips, soffit painting, nailing off the roof, furnace stand construction, and rat run installation has also been going on. I know there have been a handful of other projects too but it’s easy to miss what’s going on at another house when you’re caught up in a task.

I’ve been impressed with the skills, knowledge, and dedication of my fellow Care-A-Vanners on every build I’ve been on, and this group has been no exception. We’ve worked with two of the couples in previous seasons and it’s been a real pleasure to see them and work beside them again but it’s been just as enjoyable to hammer beside the Care-A-Vanners we’ve just met, learning from their talent and experience. As always, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of knowledge during the past week and had the opportunity to raise my game, specifically working at improving my framing skills and hopefully increasing my success rates with regards to getting those pesky 16 penny nails in.

Some of the first trusses going up: Jake and Angela secure them from the middle after Pete swings them up and Tom sets them on the right

Some of the first trusses going up: Jake and Angela secure them from the middle after Pete swings them up and Tom sets them on the right

Trusses being carried in

Trusses being carried in

Interior walls being built right after trusses are up

Interior walls being built right after trusses are up

Home owner Amorette and Care-A-Vanner Paul putting in the rat run

Home owner Amorette and Care-A-Vanner Paul putting in the rat run

Mary doing her beloved hurricane clips

Mary doing her beloved hurricane clips

Chris and Tammy painting soffit

Chris and Tammy painting soffit

John working on fascia

John and Tony working on fascia

Tom, Paul, and Brenda working with me to make wall plates from the layout

Tom, Paul, and Brenda working with me to make wall plates from the layout

Making wall plates

Making wall plates

Rick, Dyana, and Tom trying to persuade the wall to stay while Jerry screws in the angle

Rick, Dyana, and Tom trying to persuade the wall to stay while Jerry screws in the angle

Me nailing interior walls together

Me nailing interior walls together

Angela and Jake sheathing the gables

Angela and Jake sheathing the gables

Me top-plating the walls

Me top-plating the walls

Doug top-plating the walls

Doug top-plating the walls

Jake decking the roof

Jake decking the roof

Kit and Doug putting on fascia

Kit and Doug doing fascia

So many volunteers on site Saturday made the work get done

So many volunteers on site Saturday got the work done quick

Pete surveying his domain

Pete surveying his domain

Angela and a volunteer from Souder-Miller decking the next roof

Angela and a volunteer from Souder-Miller decking the next roof while we paper

Finally, below is a photo of the first rays of sun reaching the mountains, take on our morning dogwalk:

Sunrise on the morning dogwalk

Sunrise on the morning dogwalk

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