Construction Journal Entry Week of 5/7/06

5/9-11/06 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 12:25. I brought the ant bait with me so I went up and re-filled the dispenser. I'll keep my eye on it to see if it starts attracting ants. Next, I de-winterized the trailer. That's a pretty easy routine by now. It will be good to be able to shower up there again.

After lunch, I took two 5-gallon buckets of water into the woods and watered the 20 Giant Sequoia trees. The one at the top had evidently been trampled by some animal but it didn't look damaged too badly. It was lying over with the root ball partially exposed and the protective nylon mesh was lying a few feet away. It didn't look dried out or broken at all so I re-planted it and put the mesh back over it. The rest of the trees looked like they are doing well.

While I was up there I cleaned the debris from around the spring. Everything looks OK up there also.

Then I went to work on the stone steps. I got the stone cutter out that I got from Vera and tried it on a couple rocks. It worked perfectly and cut the stones in nice straight lines. I was really happy about that. It will make fitting stones a lot easier.

At one point, I saw the little Pine Squirrel that lives around there chewing on something on the upper roadway. He didn't want to leave so I just stood there and watched him for quite a while. What he was doing was chewing on the paper from an old mortar bag. I had a sack of mortar mix left over one year and over the winter it had hardened in the bag. It had been lying on the upper roadway under the eaves for quite a while and I had noticed that something had been tearing the bag apart and even tearing away at the crumbly mortar inside. Now I could see who was doing it, but I couldn't figure out why. I thought it might be for some minerals that were in the mortar, but when I talked to Ellen about it in the evening, she suggested that the squirrel might be chewing up the paper for nesting material. The squirrel did look a little pregnant to me so it makes sense that that was what was going on.

On Wednesday morning I had a really wonderful experience. I was in the privy and I saw a pretty big fly on the window. One had been buzzing around so I thought that might be the one. I stood quiet to see if it was on the inside or the outside of the window and saw that it was on the outside. But instead of sitting there with his wings folded back like a normal fly, his wings were sticking out. His legs were also extended so that he was standing out from the window with his wings in the air like he was drying them out. I wondered if maybe he was newly hatched and that was what he was doing. He didn't move at all though, and after a while I discovered that he was dead. The point of all this was to explain why I had been standing absolutely still and quiet in the privy for several minutes.

While I was standing there so quietly, a coyote walked out of the woods on the trail next to the privy. He (or she) walked slowly and stopped about 10 feet in front of me and I just kept still. It seemed like the coyote was uneasy and sensed he was being watched but he couldn't see me. The sun was shining on the window so when he looked at it, he could only see the reflections. He walked down the trail toward the cabin and stopped every couple steps to look around and listen, always acting a little nervous. Then halfway to the cabin, he turned around and started walking back toward me, again stopping every couple steps. He was looking full-face at me, but he evidently couldn't see me. Finally, he stopped, looked around, and then left the trail to amble over the top of the septic tank and then down into the woods and out of sight. That was the second time in my life I have seen a coyote up so close in the wild, the first time being when I was a teen-ager. It was a truly beautiful experience. I was really glad I had been so quiet for those critical moments, otherwise I never would have known he was there. I wondered if he was the guy who trampled my little tree.

I spent most of the day working on the stone steps. At one point, I rigged up a come-along and a couple of chains and lifted up the huge flat rock I had dug out for the Grid G1 column pad. I had thought that rock might make a nice step or landing somewhere in the staircase. The top of it had some ridges on it that I would rather not have on a step, so I wanted to see the other side of it to see if it might be flatter and better. I got it lifted up high enough to see that the other side was worse. I measured the rock and spent some time trying to figure out how to use it. I finally figured that I didn't want to use it in the staircase. I decided to leave it for some other possibility.

During the work, a pair of Gray Jays came around for peanuts. A Steller's Jay was watching and he looked interested so I threw some peanuts on the ground about 8 feet away from me. I was surprised that the Jay hopped over and took the peanuts. They usually never take peanuts from me if they can see me. I have to get away and out of sight. But this time, either this guy learned something from the Gray Jays, or he was extra hungry. I fed him two or three batches of peanuts this way. Maybe I can get those guys to be a little more tame after all.

A chipmunk also came around during the day to eat peanuts out of my hand, and at one point, there was a little competition with the Gray Jays. I fed the chipmunk with one hand near the ground and a Gray Jay with the other hand held up in the air. During one of the chipmunk feedings, I saw that several carpenter ants were visiting the bait dispenser. That was encouraging to see. The bait will start working right away. These episodes cut into my working time, but they also give me the breaks I think I need to avoid overworking my joints.

I took the advice of Dan Cress and buried the nine pots holding the remaining Sequoia trees so the dirt on the outside was level with the dirt in the pots. That way they won't dry out as much. I watered all nine trees after I had dug them in.

Before I quit for the day, I swept out and vacuumed the first floor of the cabin.

On Thursday morning, I varnished the one log between the loft windows and I varnished the vent pipe log. Then I went down to the old log pile area and dug out all the six-mil Visqueen that I had spread out under the logs. It had been under there for about 10 years and this was the perfect time to take it up. In the Fall, I had moved all the log dregs out of the way to make room for the scouts to camp. Now, the snow was all melted off and the ground was all dried out. Most of the debris on top of the Visqueen was bark, chips, and rotten wood so it wasn't too hard to get it off since it was so dry. Now the plants will have a chance to grow back in that area. The mountain blackberries have already gotten a start so I might cultivate them a little and remove their competition. We'll see.

Before I left for home, I spent some time in the cabin thinking about the loft staircase. I got a sudden flash of inspiration that got me all excited. It looks to me like I can build a spiral staircase around the column at Grid B2.5. That post meets the corner of the loft floor so there are 270 degrees to work with for the top landing. It looks like it might work either clockwise or counter-clockwise. I'll have to do some drawing and maybe make a model to figure out how to do it. I'll also have to modify the kitchen design somewhat, but it looks like I would have more room in the kitchen than the other way. The final design for that staircase has been nagging me for many years and this is the first time I have felt good about any of the options. I am eager to get to the drawing board to see if it really will work.

I left for home at 1:15 feeling pretty good about the staircase, the coyote, the jay birds, and the trees.

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